Friday, August 3, 2012

The Chosen One

1 Samuel 15:34 – 16: 13

July 1, 2012
First Presbyterian Church, Sterling, IL
Christina Berry

34Then Samuel went to Ramah; and Saul went up to his house in Gibeah of Saul. 35Samuel did not see Saul again until the day of his death, but Samuel grieved over Saul. And the Lord was sorry that he had made Saul king over Israel.
16The 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.” 2Samuel 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.’ 3Invite 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.” 4Samuel 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?” 5He said, “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.
6When they came, he looked on Eliab and thought, “Surely the Lord’s anointed is now before the Lord.” 7But the Lord said to Samuel, “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.” 8Then Jesse called Abinadab, and made him pass before Samuel. He said, “Neither has the Lord chosen this one.” 9Then Jesse made Shammah pass by. And he said, “Neither has the Lord chosen this one.” 10Jesse made seven of his sons pass before Samuel, and Samuel said to Jesse, “The Lord has not chosen any of these.” 11Samuel said to Jesse, “Are all your sons here?” And he said, “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.” 12He sent and brought him in. Now he was ruddy, and had beautiful eyes, and was handsome( good to look upon). The Lord said, “Rise and anoint him; for this is the one.” 13Then 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.

If you recall, we started this series last week with the story of David and the giant, Goliath, who challenged all the armies of Israel, the giant David killed with one stone from his sling. That story established David’s importance to the Israelite people as a classic hero; this story from chapter 16 establishes his legitimacy to be their king. Today with this text, we’ve backed up a chapter or two in the story.

Before we get too far, though, we’re going to rewind even further. The text mentions the name of David’s father, Jesse. This is not the first time Jesse is mentioned in the Bible, but we have to back way, way up, back to the book of Ruth, to find it. Stay with me – this will make sense in a minute or two! Back here in Ruth, we find Jesse. You remember Ruth? She was the Moabite woman who married Naomi’s son. Naomi was an Israelite woman from Bethlehem. She went to Moab with her husband and two sons, where her sons married Moabite women, Ruth and Orpah. Then Naomi’s husband and sons died. She told her daughters-in-law to go back to their families, and Orpah did. But Ruth stayed with Naomi, saying,  “Where you go, I will go; where you lodge, I will lodge, your God shall be my God, and your people shall be my people.”

The two women went back to Bethlehem. There, Ruth met and married Boaz, her kinsman redeemer. Boaz’s family tree had some shady branches in it too, with some foreign women, and a prostitute. So we see already that this family is not exactly the best sort of people. Not aristocracy. Not rich. Not powerful. One person said, “they were poor Israelite trash.” But Ruth and Boaz had a son, named Obed. And Obed had a son named Jesse. Yes, that Jesse. The father of David. Which is why Bethlehem, which means “house of bread” in Hebrew, is called the city of David.

Something is going on here, something about stature and importance, about what seems essential and what is visible. Everybody knows this family, and anyone can see they aren’t the royal type. They’re not well-bred, respected people. Anyone can see that.

But God is seeing something else. The Hebrew word for “see” shows up EIGHT times in this passage, and every time there is a distinction between the way God sees and the way humans see. Samuel, the prophet sent to anoint David, has been listening to God for a long time. He was the little boy awakened in the temple in a time when God’s voice was not heard in Israel. Samuel was the boy awakened by the voice of God calling,
 “Samuel! Samuel!” and now the voice of God speaks to him and says,
“Don’t judge by appearances, Samuel.”
Samuel looks, and he does not see, not as God sees. But he does hear what God says. It is word play up to this point, with looking and seeing, until God says explicitly, “the Lord does not see as mortals see;  they look on the outward appearance, but the Lord looks on the heart.”

Looking and seeing, outward and inward – not just a little moral lesson about not judging a book by its cover, but yet another demonstration of the unexpected nature of this God of Israel, El Roi, the God who sees. That handsome young David has quite a life ahead of him. For now, he’s anointed as King, but not yet crowned. He’s stuck for a while yet in a small town, an obscure place called Bethlehem.

But God has something in store for him. God has something in store for Bethlehem, too, for if we fast-forward from this point, Bethlehem shows up in the New Testament – in the gospels. You know that story, how Joseph brought his young wife to the City of David, because he was of the house of David. The prophet Micah said it:

“But you, O Bethlehem of Ephrathah, who are one of the little clans of Judah, from you shall come forth for me one who is to rule in Israel, whose origin is from of old, from ancient days.  Therefore he shall give them up until the time when she who is in labor has brought forth; then the rest of his kindred shall return to the people of Israel. And he shall stand and feed his flock in the strength of the Lord, in the majesty of the name of the Lord his God. And they shall live secure, for now he shall be great to the ends of the earth; and he shall be the one of peace.” (Micah 5: 2-5a)

God sees Bethlehem, sees the whole story unfolding, the past, the present, the future, the rewind and the fast-forward. God sees us, and the world, but not as we see. God does not look at the externals and the obvious, but the heart, the will and character, the deep truth of who we are. Doesn’t this make you more than a little uncomfortable, this being seen so thoroughly? It makes me want to cover up somehow, like the young nun who bathed with her clothes on so that God wouldn’t see her naked. To be seen so deeply and known so thoroughly can be unsettling.

Think for a moment about your darkest, most horrible secret. God knows about that.
God knows all about it. God knows what happened, what was said and done, saw it all.
And God chooses you.
God loves you.

Maybe you are not aristocracy. Maybe you don’t feel or rich or powerful or even all that important.
God knows all about it.
God chooses you.

Maybe you don’t feel handsome enough to be an artist’s model, or think that you are cute enough to be one of the popular girls.
God knows all about it.
God chooses you.

Perhaps you don’t think you are very smart, or very gifted. Or maybe somebody has told you that, said that you don’t make the cut.
God knows all about it.
God chooses you.

Maybe you’ve done or said something of which you are deeply ashamed. Maybe you’ve hurt someone in a way that you don’t feel you can ever make it up to them.
God knows all about it.
God chooses you.
God loves you.

How do we know this?
Because God keeps doing this, keeps picking out obscure, flawed and unexpected people
to do amazing things:
to love the world,
to speak God’s peace,
to share God’s grace.

Out of the house of David, out of that obscure little village,
came the Savior of the world,
the one who came to us to heal and to help and guide,
who came to teach us peace,
and who sees us as we are,
and loves us,
who said, “You did not choose me, but I chose you.’
God chooses you.
God loves you.

And no matter who you are,
how you look, what you have done or left undone,
who your family is or where you are from,
God chooses you and offers you everything.
God loves you and invites you to this table.

Because this table is not about who you are or what you have done,
it is about who Jesus is and what he has done for you.
So when God looks on your heart,
what God sees is the extravagant, endless love
and perfection of Jesus,
and through him,
you are the chosen one.


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