HOPE Point @Wesley Memorial UMC
October 22, 2017
1 Samuel 16: 1-13 (CEB)
The Lord said to Samuel, “How long are you going to grieve over Saul? I have rejected him as king over Israel. Fill your horn with oil and get going. I’m sending you to Jesse of Bethlehem because I have found[a] my next king among his sons.”
2“How can I do that?” Samuel asked. “When Saul hears of it he’ll kill me!”
“Take a heifer with you,” the Lord replied, “and say, ‘I have come to make a sacrifice to the Lord.’ 3Invite Jesse to the sacrifice, and I will make clear to you what you should do. You will anoint for me the person I point out to you.”
4Samuel did what the Lord instructed. When he came to Bethlehem, the city elders came to meet him. They were shaking with fear. “Do you come in peace?” they asked.
5“Yes,” Samuel answered. “I’ve come to make a sacrifice to the Lord. Now make yourselves holy, then come with me to the sacrifice.” Samuel made Jesse and his sons holy and invited them to the sacrifice as well.
6When they arrived, Samuel looked at Eliab and thought, That must be the Lord’s anointed right in front.
7But the Lord said to Samuel, “Have no regard for his appearance or stature, because I haven’t selected him. God doesn’t look at things like humans do. Humans see only what is visible to the eyes, but the Lord sees into the heart.”
8Next Jesse called for Abinadab, who presented himself to Samuel, but he said, “The Lord hasn’t chosen this one either.” 9So Jesse presented Shammah, but Samuel said, “No, the Lord hasn’t chosen this one.” 10Jesse presented seven of his sons to Samuel, but Samuel said to Jesse, “The Lord hasn’t picked any of these.” 11Then Samuel asked Jesse, “Is that all of your boys?”
“There is still the youngest one,” Jesse answered, “but he’s out keeping the sheep.”
“Send for him,” Samuel told Jesse, “because we can’t proceed until he gets here.”
12So Jesse sent and brought him in. He was reddish brown, had beautiful eyes, and was good-looking. The Lord said, “That’s the one. Go anoint him.” 13So Samuel took the horn of oil and anointed him right there in front of his brothers. The Lord’s spirit came over David from that point forward.
Then Samuel left and went to Ramah.
How many of you know what it feels like to be excluded? How many of you have experienced the agony of being picked last for a sports team? You may have watched as one by one the taller, stronger, more athletic, more “popular” people were chosen as captains. How many teenage girls know the pain of being the one who is not asked to a dance? How many males know what it’s like to be bullied by the bigger, older boys? Most all of us can relate in one way or another, right?
As adults we may know the feeling of being passed over for a promotion as others move on up the ladder. Perhaps a friend has had a get-together where he or she invited everyone except us. Whatever the exact details, these kinds of situations have a way of making us feel small, unimportant, overlooked, not as good as. Any of us who have been the victim of a social pecking order carry scars that run deep. People can have a tendency to leave others out; to judge by outward appearances, to leave others behind. Thankfully, this is not the way God does things. This is not how the Kingdom of God works!
Up until 1 Samuel 8:1-5 God had ruled the nation of Israel, raising up leaders as they were needed. This is how things operated all the way from the time of Moses through the days of the Judges. But we are told in 1 Samuel 8 that the people asked for a king to rule them, “such as other nations have…” they cried. Why does the grass always look greener on the other side? So, the Lord told Samuel: “they have rejected me as their king. As they have done from the day I brought them up out of Egypt until this day, forsaking me and serving other gods…” God warned them that putting a person on the throne would bring political corruption and trouble. Still, the people didn’t listen. We humans have this terrible habit of thinking we know better than God, and so we move forward with our own plans. The thing is, God is right. And God was right back in the days of Samuel. Israel’s kingship ended up being nothing but a string of trouble.
Saul was the first King. Saul was a giant of a man. He was good looking and charismatic. But, he let power go to his head. He turned away from following God; he became corrupt.
He conquered territory, made himself rich, was unjust toward the poor, and corrupted the worship of God. In the eyes of the world, Saul was successful. God, though, had a different perspective.
So, “The Lord said to Samuel…I’m sending you to Jesse of Bethlehem because I have found a king among his sons.” So Samuel went, expecting to find another big, strong, charismatic leader—this time among Jesse’s sons. And Samuel thought he immediately saw the right one in Eliab. “That must be the Lord’s anointed right in front,” Samuel thought. “But the Lord said to Samuel, ‘Have no regard for his appearance or stature, because I haven’t selected him. God doesn’t look at the things humans do. Humans see only what is visible to the eyes, but the Lord sees into the heart.’” What a relief!?!
In her recent book: American Girls: Social Media and the Secret Lives of Teenagers, Nancy Jo Sales talks about the “culture of social media.” “We’re on it 24-7,” she quotes a 13-year-old-girl in Montclair, New Jersey, “and it’s ruining our lives…It’s all we do.”
“Beautiful,” “Hot,” “Gorgeous,” “Sexy,” are responses given to selfie pictures in the culture of social media, “responses which many girls seek as they spend minutes or hours of their day preparing themselves to be photographed and photographing themselves to their best advantage,” writes Sales. “For many girls, the pressure to be considered ‘hot’ is felt on a nearly continual basis.”
In the book a 12-year-old girl is quoted as saying: “How you look is all anybody cares about anymore…Being beautiful nowadays is seen as way better than being smart…If people aren’t pretty nowadays, they’re done with their life. Like, I’m not pretty, I can’t live.” This is the bill of goods our children are being sold. This is the hell they are living in. But what a lie this is! Sales writes: “Social media creates a heightened sense of competition and inferiority.”
They didn’t have social media when Samuel was trying to discern which of Jesse’s boys God had chosen to be the next king, but folks did judge each other by exterior features. Saul had been judged that way. Among this family he had never before met, Samuel had nothing else to go on as these young men stood before him, and we know for a fact that Samuel was taking note of their physical stature. After the seven sons of Jesse have passed before Samuel and all have been rejected, Samuel finds out that there is another son. “There is still the youngest one,” Jesse says, “but he’s out keeping the sheep.” It had never occurred to Jesse to call David in. It is very likely that David’s family never expected much of anything to come of David. It may have been they figured that tending sheep was all he would be good for…this would be his lot in life. It’s like they thought of him as the “runt of the litter.”
While the other boys are being paraded in front of Samuel, David is out in the fields doing his humble job. As a matter of fact, Jesse doesn’t even mention David by name, he simply refers to him as “the youngest.” But Samuel says to Jesse: “Send for him.” And sure enough, when he walks in, “The Lord [says], ‘That’s the one. Go anoint him.’” And we are told that, “The Lord’s spirit came over David from that point forward.” His community, even his family, might not have thought much of David, but God saw something different. And for all his flaws, unlike his predecessor, David always remained faithful to God. God saw David’s heart. So the one rejected and passed over by the others is the very one picked by the Lord! The first book in the New Testament, Matthew, written over 1,000 years after David was anointed King, begins with this in the very first verse: “A record of the ancestors of Jesus Christ, son of David…”
We all must be careful how we assess those around us and we must be careful how we assess ourselves. Last week, we reflected on God’s call of Samuel and the fact that sometimes, following God’s call is really hard. What we see today as we look at God’s call of David is that God doesn’t see us the way the world does. God calls even those that the world may reject. We might look at some people and think that God couldn’t possibly use that person. We might look at ourselves this way. It’s not true. David wasn’t perfect by any stretch. In a lot of respects, his time as King of Israel would be a complete disaster. He was a moral failure.
Nevertheless, God saw David’s heart. God saw that underneath all the weaknesses and shortcomings, David had a love for God that was unparalleled. David was fully devoted to God, and because of that, God could lead Israel through this man. The Bible is filled with misfits and so-called throw-aways whom God calls and uses in mighty ways. God sees purpose in our lives where we might see none. God sees potential where we might see nothing but failure or flaws. God sees strength where we might see weakness. God sees unimaginable beauty in each and every human being who has ever lived. That includes you. That includes me.
In the Psalm we read earlier in the service, the psalmist pleads with God to “change [his] heart.” Sometimes, we can get things so messed up. We look for approval and satisfaction in all the wrong ways. We lift up so-called “leaders” for all the wrong reasons. It’s a “tale as old as time.” Our world is obsessed with outward beauty. Children are taught that the most important thing is how they look. But friends, this is not what life is about. We have seen the terrible consequences of such warped thinking. What would we do without the hope of God who lifts up the lowly?
For all those who have, at one time or another, found themselves to be the last ones picked in gym class. For all those who have been picked on, overlooked, made fun of…For all those who have ever been made to think that they are less than…Remember David; a little shepherd boy whom, to everyone’s surprise, God chose to be king!
Stand tall, hold your head up high: “God doesn’t look at things like humans do.
Humans see only what is visible to the eyes, but the Lord sees into the heart.”
Yes, my friends, God has a plan for you. God is calling you.