Let us pray. Gracious Lord, let the words of my mouth and the meditations of all our hearts be acceptable in your sight our rock and our redeemer. Amen
We are going to start with a short reading from the New Testament, I know that’s backwards to how we usually do it, but I’d like for you to hold these two verses in your head as we look at a different story. We’re going to spend most of our time in the Old Testament, but as we often see, God was doing something in the Old Testament that came full circle here in Paul’s letter to the Corinthians.
From 2 Corinthians 5 verses 16 and 17
16 From now on, therefore, we regard no one from a human point of view;[b] even though we once knew Christ from a human point of view,[c] we know him no longer in that way. 17 So if anyone is in Christ, there is a new creation: everything old has passed away; see, everything has become new!
I’d like to start by thanking the session for allowing me to preach today. They had to make a last-minute vote by email to allow me to come because I realized that KJ was going to be away, and that meant that we were going to skip this morning’s story in the lectionary. We’re looking at the anointing of David today, and I didn’t want us to skip that and go straight to the story of David and Goliath. David and Goliath is a great story, which we’re going to do next week, but I didn’t want us to miss the beginning of King David’s tale because I believe the “once upon a time,” if you’ll let me use that expression, is an important part of the story.
The introduction tells us who the key players in the story will be. And I don’t know about you, but when I read the Old Testament, I have a hard time starting in the middle. It’s a little like Lord of the Rings or the Chronicles of Narnia. It’s a big, epic tale, with lots of important characters, and it can be hard to jump in without proper introductions.
Last week, Pastor KJ told us that the Israelites were unhappy with their system of government. They didn’t like their judges anymore, and they wanted a king. So, God granted them a king, but he did so with a lot of warnings. He warned that the king would not be a good king, and he wasn’t. This king’s name was Saul. God did not want Saul to be King over Israel any longer.
Where we pick up the story today, in First Samuel chapter 16. Saul is still the king, but God is getting ready to do something new.
You may want to turn with me to the book of First Samuel because we’ll spend most of our morning here. Reading from First Samuel 16 verse 1.
16:1The 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. 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.
The word of the Lord. Thanks be to God.
Our story this morning begins with Samuel being afraid. A lot of Bible stories start with someone being afraid. Have you noticed that? I think it’s a theme.
And Samuel has good reason to be afraid because it says right there in verse 2 “If Saul hears about this, he’ll kill me.” So, we know that God is asking Samuel to do something dangerous. We know that the current king will not approve of a new king. The position is not vacant, and no one is asking for resumes. Samuel is in no hurry to usurp the king.
But Samuel is obedient to God and so he asks “How can I go?” and God comes up with a cover story for him. God says, “Take a cow with you and pretend that you’ve gone to Bethlehem to make a sacrifice”. It’s not an outright lie, Samuel does take a heifer with him to sacrifice, but we understand that’s not the real mission, and the people of Bethlehem know it too.
Because you see the profit Samuel anointed the current king. Samuel is a king maker. And the people know that if he anoints a new king, he will also be a king breaker. And that will put them all in danger from Saul. And so it says in verse 4 “The elders of the city came to meet him trembling, and said, ‘Do you come peaceably?’” and Samuel gives them the cover story that he and God arranged. “Peaceably” he agrees. “I have come to sacrifice to the LORD… come with me to the sacrifice.” And that’s how he gets the elders of Bethlehem, and Jesse’s family to meet with him.
So now it’s just a small group, mostly Jesse’s family, and they’ve gotten away from the busy town, and God puts Samuel in charge of interviewing Jesse’s sons for the position of King over Israel.
Are you familiar with this experience? You’re sitting in a waiting room or maybe on the bleachers at school waiting for tryouts or an audition. And you’re looking around at your competition. They are getting called up one-by-one to sing their solo or try to kick the goal, and you’re thinking “Surely, they’ll pick that girl, what a voice! Or that guy looks like he could slam dunk me!” and your palms get all sweaty and your throat dries up waiting for them to call your name. Maybe you’re secretly hoping they’ll just skip you all together and spare you the embarrassment?
I think this must have been similar. The brothers are interviewed by birth order. The biggest and strongest go first. Samuel sizes up Eliab, the one everyone expects to win the competition, the clear front runner, but God says “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.”
God sees the heart. We don’t see the heart. We see appearance and stature, the Bible says, but God sees the heart.
Samuel moves on down the line. The text gives us the names of the first three sons—the three most impressive kids—who are each eliminated one-by-one. And then it says there are four more sons who are paraded in front of Samuel. Seven in total.
In other places in the Bible we see the number 7 as a symbolic number. It’s a number that represents completion. The writer of this story is helping us to understand that Jesse’s family was complete with 7 kids. There was no need for an eighth child. The eighth child was an afterthought. So much of an afterthought, in fact, that no one in his family even invited him to this strange audition to be King.
But as the older brothers are eliminated one-by-one it becomes clear that the Lord is looking for something else. Something that hasn’t been seen or revealed yet. Samuel, probably very confused by this point, asks Jesse if he has any more sons. And Jesse says “The youngest remains. He’s out keeping the sheep.”
So, Samuel makes everyone wait. He won’t even let anyone sit down. He makes them all stand there and wait. And, there’s a pause in our story while we wait. We wait to see the one that God has chosen. They have to go find him in the fields because no one thought to invite him. He was the runt of the litter. The last born.
But God looks at the heart.
David hasn’t even done anything yet. He was just out keeping sheep, doing the dishes, keeping up with this chores, but God saw him, because God sees the heart. And so David is anointed to be King and our story ends with this statement “the spirit of the LORD came mightily upon David from that day forward.”
You see God chose the 8th child and said that David was not an afterthought—something outside of a completed family—but instead an extra heaping of blessing. A portion beyond and overflowing. An extra scoop of ice cream on a hot day. Something in addition to or greater than the whole as it was.
God sent his Spirit to make up all that David lacked. Where David was weak, God was strong. Where David was small, God was mighty. And this begins the relationship between David and God that we’ll explore the next few weeks. Over and over again, through this story God’s power is revealed. God was making a new King. God was making something new.
In the reading we heard from 2 Corinthians, Paul tells us “16 From now on, therefore, we regard no one from a human point of view;[b] even though we once knew Christ from a human point of view,[c] we know him no longer in that way. 17 So if anyone is in Christ, there is a new creation: everything old has passed away; see, everything has become new!
The Message Bible says it this way “We don’t evaluate people by what they have or how they look. We looked at the Messiah that way once and got it all wrong, as you know. We certainly don’t look at him that way anymore. Now we look inside, and what we see is that anyone united with the Messiah gets a fresh start, is created new. The old life is gone; a new life emerges! Look at it!”
We are not called to judge each other by appearance or height of stature. To look from a human point of view. We are not supposed to measure ourselves against one another with jealousy or pride, but instead, we are to look for the things that are being made new. We are to regard each other through God’s eyes. To see as God sees. To look for the image of God in one another.
I think this is a really hard thing to do. I think it’s easy to see God in people we like. People who are loving to us look like God to us. But people who are hurting or needy and lashing out. People who think differently than we do. People who don’t meet our expectations of appearance or behavior. Those people often look and sound less like God to us.
Because we have hindsight bias, most of us think that we’d be able to choose David from the lineup as the rightful King. I’d like to think that I could have picked him from among the other shepherds out in the pasture with the sheep. But Samuel couldn’t pick him out. No one could. Not at first. Not until God pointed him out.
I’d like to think that I would recognize Jesus too, if I saw him on the street. But would I? There are many times in the Bible where we see that peoples’ eyes need to be opened before Jesus can be revealed to them. Even people who knew Jesus well.
We do not see as God sees. We see stature and physical strength, intelligence and humor, but God sees the heart.
Today we are called to see differently. To look differently. To listen differently. And to understand that God is always greater and is always making something new.
Let us pray.
God, we thank you for David’s story. We thank you for teaching us that you are strong when we are weak. Help us to look for your image in one another, and teach us to be a blessing—an overflowing 8th portion of blessing—to those who are in need. We want less of us, God, and more of your Spirit in us. Give us vision and help us to walk in your ways. Amen.