Thru Mortal Eyes
Message Delivered on June 14, 2015
1 Samuel 15:34-16:13
Have you ever been a judge for a talent or beauty contest? Shows like America’s Got Talent, The Voice, The Apprentice and others have been appearing on television. Hordes of people are watching them. There is also The Bachelor, Dancing With the Stars and Dance Moms, plus other programs where contestants are being selected because they meet particular criteria. Some are chosen for beauty, some for skills and talents, and some for their abilities to please others romantically or possess specific vocational credentials. Our culture is programming us to be involved in these processes. We are looking at windows of possibility from the exterior appearance, rather than from the inside looking out.
In today’s Old Testament reading we look at Saul as a reasonable, understandable, common-sense sort of guy. From outward appearances, we view Saul as a person facing certain problems and making the decisions he thought were best for his countrymen but the situation was that God commanded Saul to do a certain thing: to go into battle with the Amalekites and to literally wipe them off the map. He was to see that every man, woman, child and animal was destroyed. For practical reasons he allowed livestock to be captured and brought back to Israel. Couldn’t the Israelites benefit from eating those prime animals? What harm was there in providing food for his nation? Saul was relenting under the pressure of the people and desiring to be a merciful king, but God was extremely angry with Saul and rejected Saul as king. The stage was being set for a new king who would rule with wisdom, courage and prudence to maintain stability–and here comes the glitch–it was to be according to God’s rules and regulations–no exceptions allowed!
How does God’s commissioned prophet/servant, Samuel, go about selecting the candidate that would meet God’s specifications? Does Samuel interview brave warriors, people of suitable physique or men experienced in making political and economic decisions while running a country? Should the candidate be a “local” person or someone from afar with a variety of experiences that would assist the candidate in ruling a God-fearing kingdom?
The scene is being set for David, a shepherd lad, who is off tending sheep in one of his father’s fields. What can David possibly offer in competition with Saul, a great warrior king? In your mind, try to put on Samuels’ sandals and the responsibility of interviewing a potential new king. How does Samuel go about fulfilling God’s order to secure a new king? Why replace Saul, anyway?
Saul forgot to listen and obey. In our culture and time frame, what about humanity has changed? Listening and obedience are certainly not strong characteristics of twenty-first century people. We are more prone to talk, rather than listen, and to question, instead of obey. Who are we willing to obey–to succumb to rather than making our own bold, sometimes brash decisions? Saul had the characteristics/qualities to be a king: power, wealth, status, stature, common sense, and the willingness to compromise when the need arose. Saul lacked the gumption to follow God’s orders and therefore, failed God, and he was ousted from the throne for what boils down to making a bad decision.
Samuel proceeds to Bethlehem to make an offering as ordered by God. Samuel invites Jesse and his sons to join him. Seven sons were paraded before Samuel until all visible were rejected by God. “The Lord doesn’t see as mortals see; they look on the outward appearances, but the Lord looks on the heart.” David had to be called in from the field to stand before Samuel, and ultimately before God, who was searching for a new able-bodied, spiritually-filled king.
Saul did not have it in his heart to listen to God and to obey God above all else. The main qualifications for being king under God was to listen and to obey, in spite of all other pressing considerations at the moment. God had instructed Saul and Saul had chosen to follow the will of the people. It was time to move on and God moved on to David. Saul’s day was over. God looked at David’s heart and liked what he saw. David was not chosen because the spirit came upon him with power and made him competent to be king. What did God see in David’s heart? A heart which could listen and obey.
In our world we are bombarded with numerous voices pulling us from one side to another on any given issue. We long to understand clearly what God wants and expects of us. What we call the human heart is a fairly dependable instrument of God’s will–leading us in God’s way. In Vacation Bible School we learned about the G-Force, God in us at work. When we listen to our hearts, things usually work out. The times we regret our rash decisions are the times we ignored what our hearts were telling us. Call it the inner sense, the conscience, God at work. Fear, anxiety, harsh experiences and self-interest can lead us astray from God’s plan for our lives. Saul experienced “heart failure”, and God, looking into David’s heart, saw some new possibilities.
If you have ever watched the “Miss America” pageant and guessed at who the finalists would be, (my Mom would make a list of her favorite ten candidates and then narrow it down to five, predicting on her own who she thought Miss America should be based on her analysis) were you surprised when the “dark horse” candidate won? Maybe her formal was too long or too short, or did not seem to fit her personality. When she was asked the final question that would help color the judges’ decisions, often the winner was the one who expressed from her heart her concern for the welfare of particular persons or causes.
God plants little seeds that are tended by the Holy Spirit–the G-Force. They are nurtured until God determines the time to call you forward, to call you into service for the building up of the Kingdom of God. Jesus said, “For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also” (Luke 12:34). Let your heart lead you where God would have you go. God has eternal plans for each of us and clearly spells out the qualifications: listen to your heart and let your eyes lead you in the godly direction.
Who would want to be a judge or politician or diplomat in our culture? Can our mortal eyes see through people to know if their intentions are godly? Does it matter? Judging is God’s job and we sometimes have trouble sharing that responsibility with God. When God is in our hearts and our hearts are with God, we treasure God above all things. Given half a chance, our hearts will lead us where God wants us to go.