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the Eyes of God"
1 Samuel 16:1-13
If you were to put together a list of the major figures of the Hebrew Scriptures, who would be on that list?
One name that I believe to be unavoidable is that of David, the second king of the united monarchy of Israel, the author of many of the psalms, the hero of that favorite Sunday School story of David and Goliath.
And of course he was also known for his scandalous behavior with regard to Bathsheba.
But from where did David come, and how does he fit into the history of the Israelites?
Well, let’s back up to the Exodus. The children of Israel made it out of Egypt, wandered for a long time in the wilderness, and finally made it to the promised land.
Once they arrived there, they needed some means of governing themselves, so they had a series of judges. Unfortunately, the judges did not work out, and the people demanded that a monarchy be established. They insisted that they needed kings.
The first king was Saul, but he really did not work out, and he was upsetting to many, and God knew that. Which brings us to our text for this morning.
In the opening verse to the sixteenth chapter of First Samuel, “The Lord said to Samuel, “How long will you grieve over Saul? I have rejected him from being king over Israel. Fill your horn with oil and set out; I will send you to Jesse the Bethlehemite, for I have provided for myself a king among his sons.”
(Did you ever wish we could have divine intervention in contemporary politics? Or, maybe you believe that we already have it.)
God has all the details worked out for Samuel. God knows exactly which family to go to. And he probably even knows, already, which of the sons he will select. But notice God’s words: “I have provided for myself.” There is almost an air of defiance in God’s words, as if to say, “This time, we’re going to get it right!”
So God is saying to Samuel, quit fretting and get to work. When he tells Samuel to fill his horn with oil, he is telling him to prepare for an anointing. That is how kings were consecrated. Indeed, the word “messiah” means “the anointed one.”
“Samuel said, “How can I go? If Saul hears of it, he will kill me.” and the Lord said, “Take a heifer with you, and say, “I have come to sacrifice to the Lord.”
Now, it’s bad enough that Samuel and Saul don’t get along anyway; but if Saul thinks Samuel is out to find a replacement for him, Samuel is in deep trouble. So God gives Samuel a cover story. Samuel doesn’t need to lie. He just won’t be telling the whole truth.
God’s instructions continue: “Invite Jesse to the sacrifice, and I will show you what you shall do; and you shall anoint for me the one whom I name to you.”
I suppose I shouldn’t be critical of God, but this almost strikes me as paint-by-the-numbers leadership. “I will show you what you shall do.” But then, on the other hand, maybe that was what Samuel needed. Maybe that is what many of us WANT much of the time. Maybe we WANT our decisions spelled out for us!
And maybe Samuel was so afraid of doing the wrong thing, of making a mistake, that God was just trying to calm his nerves, trying to let him know that everything would be all right. And that’s not such a bad thing. I think that many of us need that much of the time.
So, “Samuel did what the Lord commanded, and came to Bethlehem. The elders of the city came to meet him trembling, and said, “Do you come peaceably?”
Let me try to translate that. Cities in those days were all walled. And the gates to the cities were guarded. So when the guards saw Samuel coming--and he was well-known--they sent word to the city government saying, “This may be trouble.”
Now this does not mean that Samuel himself was a trouble-maker, but his relationship with King Saul was so bad, they were afraid that something might happen that might bring trouble to their town.
For those of you who remember western movies, this was like having a gunfighter show up in town. Whenever one did, the sheriff always wanted him gone as soon as possible. Because if two of them showed up at the same time, they were liable to be shooting at each other.
So, Samuel replies to the elders that he comes peaceably. “I have come to sacrifice to the Lord; sanctify yourselves and come with me to the sacrifice.” And he sanctified Jesse and his sons and invited them to the sacrifice.
I suppose that if you were to have a business lunch, a power lunch, at which you negotiate a really big deal, this may have been its equivalent three thousand years ago.
Samuel has supposedly come to Bethlehem to sacrifice a heifer to the Lord. But in the meantime, he’ll be doing some other work.
Actually, God’s work can take place in some of the most unexpected events. And in some of the most unexpected of of circumstances.
I don’t mean to trivialize the story in this text, but I am reminded that my father met the woman to whom he would be married for 57 years at a roller rink.
She skated considerably better and faster than he did; but he was so attracted to her that he got word to a friend to “please try to catch her so I can meet her!”
Think to yourself: have momentous events ever taken place in your life at unexpected times in unexpected places?
Getting back to Samuel, “When they came, Samuel and Jesse and Jesse’s sons, Samuel looked on Eliab--one of the sons--and thought, “Surely the Lord’s anointed is now before the Lord.”
As we will learn later in this passage, Jesse has eight sons. In those days, for determining inheritance, sons were ranked by age, with the oldest having the highest rank. Eliab was likely the oldest of the eight sons, which may be why Samuel is thinking, “Surely the Lord’s anointed is now before the Lord.”
And maybe Samuel thought that this would be a really simple process. After all, God seemed to talk as if all the details were completely under control.
“But the Lord said to Samuel”--and at this point I need to inject an editorial comment.
I consider this verse to be not only the most important verse in this passage, but also one of the most significant verses in all of scripture.--”Do not look on his appearance or on the height of his stature, because I have rejected him; for the Lord does not see as mortals see; they look on the outward appearance, but the Lord looks on the heart.”
Well, if the shoe fits, wear it. We look on the outward appearance, but the Lord looks on the heart. We are frequently very superficial creatures.
When we have difficulty understanding the world, maybe we need to ponder that statement, “the Lord does not see as mortals see.” God does not judge as mortals judge. God’s time is not our time. God’s wisdom is not our wisdom.
“Then Jesse called Abinadab, and made him pass before Samuel. He said, “Neither has the Lord chosen this one.”
Now, put yourself in Jesse’s place. Jesse is not hearing these messages that Samuel is receiving from God. And Jesse may be wondering, “What? You’ve rejected my two oldest sons?” He may also be thinking, what on earth is Samuel looking for?
You’ve probably experienced this sort of thing at some time in your life. Somebody else got the job you wanted. Or somebody else got the promotion you wanted.
Each year in the drafts for the National Football League and the National Basketball Association there are college athletes who complain that they should have been drafted earlier. Or, maybe they didn’t get drafted at all, and they complain about that.
United Methodist pastors have what we jokingly call the passover experience. When we want to get moved and are not, or we do not get an appointment we think we deserve, we blame the bishop and the district superintendents for passing us over. However, I had a district superintendent a number of years ago who explained it all. He told all of his pastors at the beginning of the conference year that all of our appointments had been made by God. So now, if you are not pleased with who is preaching to you this morning, you know who to blame. It’s all God’s fault.
“Then Jesse made Shammah pass by. And Samuel said, “Neither has the Lord chosen this one.”
Three down, five to go.
Well, while we’re waiting, in the New Testament after Judas committed suicide, there was a need to replace him. So do you know how that decision was made? Two men were proposed: Justus and Matthias. And then, the disciples cast lots to make the decision. Matthias won. I wonder whatever happened to Justus? I wonder if he wondered, what kind of decision-making process is this?
“Jesse made seven of his sons pass before Samuel, and Samuel said to Jesse, “The Lord has not chosen any of these.”
At this point, Jesse may be thinking, my family may have flunked out! Samuel may just go somewhere else to find who he is looking for.
But then, “Samuel said to Jesse, “Are all your sons here?”
What an innocuous question! Well, all of his son’s were NOT there. But we’ll get to that shortly. In the meantime, there’s something else going on here. Jesse has assumed that all of his sons who MATTERED were present.
And notice, that since Samuel was looking for a king and not a queen, women were not considered.
My point is this: too often we make assumptions regarding that in which God may be interested, and be totally wrong. It can be so easy for us to overlook what might interest God. Often it is by accident that we discover gifts that are pleasing to God.
Often we underrate talents which may be pleasing to God. We need to be constantly reminding ourselves that God does not see as mortals see.
So Jesse replies to Samuel, “There remains yet the youngest, but he is keeping the sheep.” And Samuel said to Jesse, “Send and bring him; for we will not sit down until he comes here.”
Jesse seemed to think that his youngest son, who was off keeping the sheep, wasn’t worth showing off.
A number of years ago my parents went shopping for a poodle. The kennel owner brought out a purebred black poodle that struck my father as rather dull and lifeless. So he asked, “Is this all you have?”
And the kennel owner answered, “Well, we have another, but he doesn’t have papers, and he’s something of an offbreed, gray instead of black.” And out came a little poodle who was a livewire, a ball of fire. Dad said, “We’ll take him.”
“Jesse sent and brought his youngest son in. Now he was ruddy, and had beautiful eyes, and was handsome. The Lord said, “Rise and anoint him; for this is the one.”
I think we have a winner. God was looking for something that God could not find in David’s seven older brothers. And scripture at this point gives us absolutely no clues as to what that something might be.
“Then Samuel took the horn of oil, and anointed him in the presence of his brothers; and the spirit of the Lord came mightily upon David from that day forward. Samuel then set out and went to Ramah.”
Well, David did not suddenly become king, but the wheels have been set in motion. God has made a choice, an unlikely choice, but a choice. And I say unlikely from a human point of view, because we do not see as God sees.
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