Godly Seeing

“Godly Seeing”

 

1 Sam 16-7 The Lord Looks at the Heart

1 Samuel 16:1-13 – March 22, 2020

What does a hero look like? Can we describe them? Are they good-looking? Strong or attractive? How much does their image and appearance affect us? How much does what someone looks like cause us to judge that person—positively or negatively? These are all great questions, and questions I’d like us to explore today.

Let’s get right to our Scripture reading. We look at King Saul. Saul had done some really unwise things.  We see the prophet Samuel directed by God to anoint a new king of Israel. Samuel is hesitant…because Saul is still king! However, Samuel is instructed to go to the town of Bethlehem under cover of deception, to the house of Jesse, supposedly to make an animal sacrifice to God.  That is the background of the story thus far.

But what about the deeper meaning of this narrative from the Hebrew Scriptures? For that, we need to go back a few chapters in 1 Samuel. At first, Samuel and the people of Israel were very glad that Saul was their king. He was tall and broad-shouldered, and pleasing in appearance. Saul looked like a king! He was the very image of what people thought a king ought to be. Everyone said so!

But, after some time, Saul’s true nature—on the inside—became evident. He was not all he appeared to be on the outside. He made some very unwise choices, acted foolishly, and God finally rejected him as the king of Israel.

When Samuel met with Jesse and his sons, Samuel looked them up and down. He thought he knew which one God had chosen. The one who appeared big, and tall, broad-shouldered and good-looking. That was the one the Lord wanted, wasn’t it? Or—was it? Did Samuel have discerning eyes? Could he see what God sees?

The writer of 1 Samuel particularly highlights the words “see” and “appearance.” “In the Hebrew, the verb ‘to see’ occurs three times in v. 7 while the noun ‘appearance’ is related to the verb ‘see’. The focus is on how one sees when choosing leaders, and especially on how the Lord ‘sees’ as compared to how humans see. The Lord ‘sees the heart.’[1]

It was just as true when King Saul was chosen as it is today. Just think of the superhero movies—and television shows, and comic books—that are so popular in recent years. We just do not see any skinny, scrawny runts as superheroes. No, it’s all about the outward appearance. That is the all-important factor for human beings today. Plus, add some handsome or beautiful attributes, and we have a definite winner.

What is important to God? What kinds of attitudes and ways of thinking are pleasing to the Lord? Are we “looking” but not really “seeing” as God sees?

All of Jesse’s older sons were presented to the prophet Samuel, but God was silent. Samuel needed to ask whether Jesse had any more sons. “Yes, I do. But, he’s the youngest. He’s out watching the sheep,” said Jesse. Sure enough, God chose David, the youngest of eight brothers. God sees differently from human beings.

We settle for the outward appearance, for what we think the “image” of a king ought to be. However, the Lord looks on the heart. The heart has to do with our will, our attributes, and our internal character. God chose David because David had shown he was a person after God’s own heart. God chose David because David had bright possibilities even when others could not see them.

This bible reading from 1 Samuel is a great source of encouragement for children and young people, who feel left out and left behind by the big and powerful. We see that God finds possibilities in the most unexpected places and through the most unlikely persons. We see the Lord lift up Jesse’s youngest son David to be the anointed king of Israel. In a similar way, God can lift up the marginalized, the downtrodden and the rejected ones today to a place of prominence. God can, and God does just that.

Many people are still fooled by appearances. What kinds of possibilities are there in your life and heart today? Are you a person after God’s own heart? Be comforted and encouraged that God does not see us as the world sees, but God sees past all that. God sees our very hearts.  

It’s amazing to know that the Lord sees inside each of us, down to the “real person” inside. Let us pray that our hearts become like God’s heart, more and more, each day.

 

(I would like to thank Dr. Bruce Birch. For this sermon, I have borrowed several extended ideas from his commentary on 1 Samuel 16:1-13 from The New Interpreter’s Bible Commentary, Vol 2. Abingdon Press, Nashville, 1998.)

@chaplaineliza

(Suggestion: visit me at my regular blog for 2020: matterofprayer: A Year of Everyday Prayers. #PursuePEACE – and my other blog,  A Year of Being Kind . Thanks!

[1] http://hwallace.unitingchurch.org.au/WebOTcomments/LentA/Lent4A1Sam16.html

The Old Testament Readings: Weekly Comments on the Revised Common Lectionary, Theological Hall of the Uniting Church, Melbourne, Australia.

Star Light, Star Bright

“Star Light, Star Bright”

Matt 2-11 Epiphany star, Magi, angel, 12th century carving, Autun Cathedral

Matthew 2:1-12 (2:9) – January 5, 2020

When I was little, we always kept our Christmas tree up in our living room until Epiphany, January 6th. We did not always have this particular decoration, but sometimes, there would be a small star ornament my mother would place at the top of the tree. And, I can remember sitting in a darkened living room with my mom, filled with wonder. The only lights lit in the room would be the colored lights on the Christmas tree. What wondrous lights!

I wonder, were Christmas lights a big part of your Christmas celebration? They certainly were, where I grew up, on the northwest side of the Chicago. Christmas lights in the front yards of houses, and in the windows, as well as on the Christmas tree inside. And, I can remember hearing from a very young age that these bright, shiny Christmas lights all over were shining to remind everyone about the Christmas star, the Star of Bethlehem.

But, what about the original Star? Somehow, I suspect only a few people at the time of the birth of Jesus really understood the reason for the bright shining Star. That is, until it was shining over Bethlehem for a number of weeks.

Let’s look at what Matthew tells us, again: “After Jesus was born in Bethlehem in Judea, during the time of King Herod, Magi from the east came to Jerusalem and asked, “Where is the one who has been born king of the Jews? We saw his star when it rose and have come to worship him.” What do we know about these Magi, these scholars from the east?

Biblical commentators and historians tell us that these scholars were astronomers who spent their lives studying the stars and planetary movements, among other natural events. They were probably well-to-do, if not members of royal houses themselves. They most probably came from the general area of Persia—that is, in the area of modern-day Iraq, Syria and parts of Iran.  In their studies, consulting contemporary books and writings, these Magi had discovered that the appearance of a wondrous star meant that an important king—or ruler—had just been born. That Star—that Light—beckoned to these scholars. So, what did they decide to do? Go and visit that newborn king, of course!

While on their way, they needed directions. What to do? It only made sense for some well-born VIPs from another country to ask directions at the local palace.

We do know what happened when the Magi got to Jerusalem after following this Star for some weeks; Matthew tells us so. “When King Herod heard this he was disturbed, and all Jerusalem with him. When he had called together all the people’s chief priests and teachers of the law, he asked them where the Messiah was to be born. “In Bethlehem in Judea,” they replied.”

Do we see what a traumatic reaction these scholars had on many people in the area of Jerusalem? Lots of people were upset, especially King Herod! However, I do not know whether these scholars understood that Herod was a particularly nasty guy. At least, not at first.

Today, when you and I talk about Advent or Christmas services at our church, I wonder how people react to us when we talk about the Baby in Bethlehem? Have you recently invited people to our church for the holidays? Perhaps our acquaintances are just as cautious or bothered by our invitation as these people were, so long ago?

And, all this was happening because the Magi followed a Star. They had deciphered passages from books and manuscripts about something (or Someone) promised, whose birth was foretold in the skies. The Star was inviting them to follow, to journey into the unknown. These Magi must have been really excited at the prospect of seeing a prophecy come true.

After Herod directed the scholars to Bethlehem, down the road from Jerusalem, the Star moved again. As Matthew mentioned, “After they had heard the king, they went on their way, and the star they had seen when it rose went ahead of them until it stopped over the place where the child was. 10 When they saw the star, they were overjoyed. 11 On coming to the house, they saw the child with his mother Mary, and they bowed down and worshiped him.”

The Star—the Light from on high led them directly to the young King, where they bowed and worshiped. Can it lead us to draw near to our Lord Jesus? Is this Star, this Light a beacon of hope and joy for us, too?

All that was two thousand years ago, but Epiphany is still with us today. The word Epiphany means manifestation, or appearance. Epiphany is when Christ appears among us, offering hope and joy to all who might need it.

This brilliant Star encourages us to leave the darkness and despair behind and to come into the Light. God does, indeed put directional signals where we can see them. Sure, the sign of the Star of Bethlehem pointed the way to the Holy Child in Bethlehem two thousand years ago. But, doesn’t God use directional signals or signs to point to Jesus now, today? We can count on God’s love and presence with us, in Emmanuel, God-with-us.

Yes, Jesus appears when you or I need Him most. May He appear to each of us during this season of Epiphany, in spirit and in truth.

Alleluia, amen.

 

“During these weeks of Epiphany, dare to ask that Star some questions.

  • Where are we being led in this New Year?  Is the Star offering some course correction? Should we be like the magi and experiment with a “different road” that will lead us to new experiences?
  • What might we need to leave behind in order to start on this journey? What burdens or expectations can you and I set aside to lighten the load?
  • As the Light shines into our lives, what might we discover about ourselves? What do you and I value? What new parts of myself do I want to explore?
  • What does the Star—the Light reveal in our world? What needs or injustices are calling out for compassion and kindness?” [1]

(I would like to thank the Rev. Sue Foster for her Epiphany post “Into the Light!” For this sermon, I have borrowed several ideas and quotes from this devotional. Thanks so much!)

https://fosteringyourfaith.com/2019/12/30/into-the-light/ On December 30, 2019 By fosteringyourfaith In Epiphany

[1] https://fosteringyourfaith.com/2019/12/30/into-the-light/ On December 30, 2019 By fosteringyourfaith In Epiphany 

@chaplaineliza

(Suggestion: visit me at my regular blog for 2020: matterofprayer: A Year of Everyday Prayers. #PursuePEACE – and my other blog,  A Year of Being Kind . Thanks!