David: From Shepherd to King
July 8 - Ordinary anointed for extra-Ordinary
OLD TESTAMENT READING 1 Samuel 16:1-13, NLT
Now the Lord said to Samuel, “You have mourned long enough for Saul. I have rejected him as king of Israel, so fill your flask with olive oil and go to Bethlehem. Find a man named Jesse who lives there, for I have selected one of his sons to be my king.”
2 But Samuel asked, “How can I do that? If Saul hears about it, he will kill me.”
“Take a heifer with you,” the Lord replied, “and say that you have come to make a sacrifice to the Lord. 3 Invite Jesse to the sacrifice, and I will show you which of his sons to anoint for me.”
4 So Samuel did as the Lord instructed. When he arrived at Bethlehem, the elders of the town came trembling to meet him. “What’s wrong?” they asked. “Do you come in peace?”
5 “Yes,” Samuel replied. “I have come to sacrifice to the Lord. Purify yourselves and come with me to the sacrifice.” Then Samuel performed the purification rite for Jesse and his sons and invited them to the sacrifice, too.
6 When they arrived, Samuel took one look at Eliab and thought, “Surely this is the Lord’s anointed!”
7 But the Lord said to Samuel, “Don’t judge by his appearance or height, for I have rejected him. The Lord doesn’t see things the way you see them. People judge by outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.”
8 Then Jesse told his son Abinadab to step forward and walk in front of Samuel. But Samuel said, “This is not the one the Lord has chosen.” 9 Next Jesse summoned Shimea, but Samuel said, “Neither is this the one the Lord has chosen.” 10 In the same way all seven of Jesse’s sons were presented to Samuel. But Samuel said to Jesse, “The Lord has not chosen any of these.” 11 Then Samuel asked, “Are these all the sons you have?”
“There is still the youngest,” Jesse replied. “But he’s out in the fields watching the sheep and goats.”
“Send for him at once,” Samuel said. “We will not sit down to eat until he arrives.”
12 So Jesse sent for him. He was dark and handsome, with beautiful eyes.
And the Lord said, “This is the one; anoint him.”
13 So as David stood there among his brothers, Samuel took the flask of olive oil he had brought and anointed David with the oil. And the Spirit of the Lord came powerfully upon David from that day on. Then Samuel returned to Ramah.
PSALTER Psalm 89:1-4, CEB
I will sing of the Lord’s loyal love forever.
I will proclaim your faithfulness
with my own mouth
from one generation to the next.
2 That’s why I say,
“Your loyal love is rightly built—forever!
You establish your faithfulness in heaven.”
3 You said, “I made a covenant with my chosen one;
I promised my servant David:
4 ‘I will establish your offspring forever;
I will build up your throne from one generation to the next.’”
NEW TESTAMENT GOSPEL Luke 4:16-21, NCV
16 Jesus traveled to Nazareth, where he had grown up. On the Sabbath day he went to the synagogue, as he always did, and stood up to read. 17 The book of Isaiah the prophet was given to him. He opened the book and found the place where this is written:
18 “The Lord has put his Spirit in me,
because he appointed me to tell the Good News to the poor.
He has sent me to tell the captives they are free
and to tell the blind that they can see again. Isaiah 61:1
God sent me to free those who have been treated unfairly Isaiah 58:6
19 and to announce the time when the Lord will show his kindness.” Isaiah 61:2
20 Jesus closed the book, gave it back to the assistant, and sat down. Everyone in the synagogue was watching Jesus closely. 21 He began to say to them, “While you heard these words just now, they were coming true!”
NEW TESTAMENT EPISTLE Colossians 3:23-24, NLT
23 Work willingly at whatever you do, as though you were working for the Lord rather than for people. 24 Remember that the Lord will give you an inheritance as your reward, and that the Master you are serving is Christ.
Happy are those who delight in the Word of the Lord.
Thanks be to God!
SERMON Ordinary Anointed for Extra-Ordinary
I appreciate that the Bible is filled with stories of ordinary people, flaws and all. No matter which hero of the Old or New Testaments you care to name, other than Jesus, their character flaws are pretty obvious; their mistakes are there for all to read. But even the beauty of Jesus' story is that he came to live among us as an ordinary human. That ordinaryness is what makes all these Bible characters relateable on some level. Keep that in mind as we pursue David's stories over the next few weeks.
I love today's Old Testament story in which we first meet David as a young shepherd boy. We've had some time exploring Psalm 23 imagining what David's life at that stage was like. Here's what was going on at that point in the life of the nation, Israel.
We have passed the time of the judges and the generations after the Exodus as they settled in the land of Canaan. The tribes have each founded their own territory, some with more success than others. They have been on a roller coaster ride of following God's way and then falling away from God's way. After each of the stories of the judges, the scene gets less and less hopeful. The book of Judges ends with this verse, " 25 In those days there was no king in Israel; each person did what they thought to be right." (Judges 21:25, CEB) Max Lucado describes it this way, "Three centuries of spiritual winter had frozen people's faith." (Max Lucado, Facing Your Giants, p. 12)
They were living in the midst of other peoples most of whom had kings. There hadn't been a judge recognized as a strong leader for awhile, and the people looked around at their neighbors and said, "We need a king." Samuel was a prominent figure as the priest who succeeded after Eli. He was recognized as a leader and a man of God. The people told Samuel, "We want a king." Samuel didn't like the idea; God should be their only King. He gave them all the reasons that this was a bad idea, but then God told Samuel to anoint Saul to be Israel's first king. Eventually Saul did things his own way rather than listening to God, and God rejected him. That is why God sent Samuel surprisingly out to visit Jesse at Bethlehem, to anoint his youngest son, David, to be the next king when the time was ready.
Now we've noted before that Bethlehem was not a big deal in those days; it was hicksville. It would be like sending someone to Lowmoor or Fenton to find the next president. But then Ronald Reagan came from Tampico, IL born in a 2nd floor apartment above the bank. (from various websites related to his museum in Tampico.) My grandmother told me once that she met him in his dad's dentist office in Dixon. Both President Reagan's story and David's would suggest that your beginning location does not determine how far you can go. Ruth found a good home in Bethlehem. She is the great grandmother of David. Jesus would be born there, in many generations to come.
Birth order does not determine your fate either. David was the last of eight sons. As Samuel met each one of the older boys, he could see reasons why God might choose them. We don't hear their descriptions but we can guess that among them we might find tall, handsome, strong, kind, attractive, powerful, whatever... They were older, had more experience, knew more about the world, again whatever... Max Lucado compares Samuel looking over each of these young men in turn to a judge at a dog show deciding who should receive the blue ribbon. David we hear was at least dark and handsome with good eyes, but to continue the dog show metaphor, he was the runt of the litter. No one would have even considered naming him best in show. Except of course, God, who throughout the Old Testament had a habit of choosing the younger one, the one who wasn't expected to inherit much...Isaac? Jacob? Joseph? Why is Samuel surprised that God chose David?
David wasn't even at the big family dinner meeting. Samuel looked over the first seven sons, and God said no to every one of them. It's like Cinderella who is locked away somewhere when the prince comes to every maiden in the kingdom to try on the glass slipper. Do you have any other daughter's? Samuel asks Jesse, don't you have another son? Ah, well, David is out in the field tending the sheep, but even his dad Jesse, has already assumed David is unimportant and doesn't need to meet Samuel.
The Hebrew word for this youngest is haqqaton. It means more than lowest in age; it also implies lowest in rank. One translation even said hobbit, and another says the insignificant one. The one sent away to watch over the sheep may indeed have a great deal of family responsibility, but it is not the most respected position in the family. My mind compares it to staff at a classy restaurant. We note the matre d and the wait staff. We may have come because of a famous chef, and we assume the sous chef and rest of that crew in the kitchen are top notch. But nobody pays much attention to the dishwasher. You won't see the dishwasher's name on the advertisements or anywhere on the menu. But let's be honest, if the plate or the fork at our place setting has a smudge or a grain of dried rice, the best cuisine in the world is not going to help our initial reaction. The work of the dishwasher we are never going to meet plays a significant role in our first impression of the restaurant and the meal. The haqqaton, the insignificant one, may have a significant role to play. That's David's story.
Let's admit it, at some point in your life you've felt like you were the insignificant one. Max Lucado talks about being the last one chosen for the team. I know what that feels like, but there's more. Maybe you didn't get the job you wanted or the date you wanted. Maybe you had the behind the scenes role at work or in your family. Maybe you are the friend everyone turns to, but you feel like no one is there for you. Perhaps at some point in your life you've felt left out, unwanted, ignored. Lysa Tyrkheurst wrote a whole book on it, "Uninvited." You might look down on yourself if you think you have less to contribute to a project, your grades weren't as high as your friends, your income doesn't keep up with your kids, your achievements went unnoticed or your dreams unrecognized. If you've ever felt like others were looking down on you, that's David's story.
But notice how God responds. The most important half a verse in this portion of David's story is this, "God doesn’t look at things like humans do. Humans see only what is visible to the eyes, but the Lord sees into the heart.” (1 Samuel 16:7b, CEB) God knows your heart, your inner thoughts, your history, your faith, your hopes and dreams, your flaws and your doubts, your denials and your sins. Some of that scares you, and some of that relieves you. When God saw David in the field with the sheep, God already knew what was coming with Bathsheba as well as with Goliath, David's future glory and his future sin. But God also saw a heart that loved and trusted God, one that took the lowly position of shepherd seriously and did the very best he could on a day to day basis. That was the heart of someone God could work with to become a shepherd of God's people.
Jesus didn't come from the center of attention, not the capital city and home of the Temple, Jerusalem. Jesus was born in little Bethlehem outside the big city. He was hidden away in a foreign land for two years, then grew up in Nazareth which was to many a joke. He didn't come from a rich and famous family, though there were some notable ancestors including Ruth and David, but his dad was a simple man, a carpenter. When he read that scripture in the synangogue, the common response around the room was, who does he think he is, that's just Joseph and Mary's boy. No one expected much from him. No one but his mother recognized that he was God's son, too. But Jesus became the fulfillment of God's promise to David. Jesus also became a shepherd of God's people and rather than rising to an earthly throne, Jesus is our heavenly King. No one has a heart for God like Jesus who is one with God on a level to which we can only aspire. But Jesus does set that standard for us, to love God with all our heart and soul and mind and strength.
What does God see, when God looks into your heart? Don't be afraid of the negative stuff. We've all got it, but God's the one who can help us get rid of it and get past it. Do you have a heart that loves God as best you are able, seeks to know God as best you can, and is willing to do God's will to the best of your ability? God can work with that! God is looking for a heart with the qualifications of a particular song from Godspell, a heart that seeks to "see [God] more clearly, love [God] more dearly, follow [God] more nearly day by day." That's what God saw in David and what God is looking for in you.
Regardless of where you came from or who your family is, regardless of your flaws or your appearance, God is interested in your heart, in your willingness to serve the Lord your God. It doesn't matter what stage of life you are at or how the world ranks your position in terms of employment, economics, academics, social standing or whatever. It's okay to be ordinary. God always uses what is ordinary to do what is extraordinary.
Take Paul's advice to the Corinthians to heart, do your best not because of the humans around you or what this world may expect or not expect from you. Give the best of yourself to your endeavors, because you are doing it for God. Do your best willingly to serve our Lord. That is the heartfelt attitude God is looking for; God can work with that!
Books behind this series:
Max Lucado. Facing Your Giants. Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 2006
Max Lucado. Facing Your Giants. Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 2006