July 9, 2015

Looking to God . . .

1 Samuel 16:1–23, James 4:1–17, Psalm 119:137–152

Sometimes I feel like the Israelites wandering in the wilderness. Today, I feel like Samuel who needed more than one correction to his flawed value system. Saul was out, and it was time for this prophet to anoint a new king. This man didn’t do too well with the first one he appointed, but he seemed somewhat oblivious about it. So the Lord said to Samuel,

“How long will you grieve over Saul, since I have rejected him from being king over Israel? Fill your horn with oil, and go. I will send you to Jesse the Bethlehemite, for I have provided for myself a king among his sons.” (1 Samuel 16:1)

Samuel didn’t seem to understand that Saul was not the right person for the job. His reasoning comes out as he examines the sons of Jesse. “When they came, he looked on Eliab and thought, ‘Surely the Lord’s anointed is before him.’ But 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 sees not as man sees: man looks on the outward appearance, but the Lord looks on the heart.’” (1 Samuel 16:6–7) This is what happened the first time. Saul was tall and good looking, so the people assumed he would be a good king.

I’ve selected ‘winners’ on this basis, favoring people (and other things) because of external and temporal qualities rather than listening to God and finding out what He says.

Not that God is against handsome men. Jesse sent for his youngest son, David. When David arrived, the Bible says, “Now he was ruddy and had beautiful eyes and was handsome. And the Lord said, ‘Arise, anoint him, for this is he.’” (1 Samuel 16:12)

Later, the Scriptures say that David was not only handsome, but he was a man after God’s own heart. Yes, he made mistakes and sinned against God, but his heart was set to love and serve Him, to listen and do what He says.

Later, David served Saul as his armor-bearer, and even “Saul loved him greatly.” He told Jesse, “Let David remain in my service, for he has found favor in my sight.” (1 Samuel 16:21–23)

Sadly, this favor did not last. When Saul found out that David would be his replacement, he tried to kill him. Why would any person who loves another person do that? The NT reading describes Saul’s motivations . . .

What causes quarrels and what causes fights among you? Is it not this, that your passions are at war within you? You desire and do not have, so you murder. You covet and cannot obtain, so you fight and quarrel. You do not have, because you do not ask. You ask and do not receive, because you ask wrongly, to spend it on your passions. (James 4:1–3) Saul was jealous of David and wanted the throne for himself.

David was not like that. Many times he escaped Saul’s attempts on his life and did not retaliate. He was submitted to God. Instead of being like Saul, or even Samuel, imitating David is a better idea. James says how to do this . . .

But (God) gives more grace. Therefore it says, “God opposes the proud, but gives grace to the humble.” Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. Draw near to God, and he will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded. Be wretched and mourn and weep. Let your laughter be turned to mourning and your joy to gloom. Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will exalt you. (James 4:6–10) James adds these wise words: “So whoever knows the right thing to do and fails to do it, for him it is sin.” (James 4:17)

And the psalmist echoes adds more prudent advice, actually he said this first: “I call to you; save me, that I may observe your testimonies . . . . But you are near, O Lord, and all your commandments are true. Long have I known from your testimonies that you have founded them forever.” (Psalm 119:146, 151–152)

Lord, Your Word is a special blessing today, taking my eyes off my failures and putting them on your great grace. Thank You.

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