We’ve been reading this Summer in the books of Samuel, and the lives of 3 men: Samuel, Saul, and David. The purpose of this is to examine a particular phrase: A Man of God’s Heart. What does it mean? And why are these three very different people considered such in the Old Testament?
One may wonder why we’re spending the summer in the Old Testament. After all, aren’t we New Testament People? People who live by the Gospel of Jesus Christ? Why read the Old Testament when we can skip right to the good part?
The answer is a bit twofold; one is a Methodist reason, and the other is a personal reason. First, the Methodist reason: the United Methodist church is founded on the belief that we ought to be a people of One Book, the Bible in its entirety. We believe that everything necessary for salvation is found in the Holy Scriptures. The Old Testament is just as important to us as the New, because it is ostensibly part of the total package. Separating the two does an injustice to both, and to our faith.
Now then, for the personal reason: I believe the Old Testament is not only part of the package. I believe understanding the Old Testament, the Hebrew Scriptures, is essential to understanding Christ. The grand narrative of the Hebrew Scriptures encompasses the lives of hundreds over thousands of years. In the cast of the OT, there is bound to be someone that you find yourself in. Be it in Abraham or Sarah, Jacob or Rachel, Ruth or Boaz, Samuel, Saul, David, Hannah, Michel, or Tamar, Esther or Mordecai, you can find yourself in it. Not only that, I’m a person who is very much interested in the narrative quality of things. I like stories, because in stories we learn who we were, who we are, and who we are meant to be. The story of the Old Testament is ostensibly our love story with God. It is not simply God being a cold distant smiter of evil, angry and irritable at the slightest thing. In fact, that is a fairly erroneous characterization of God. God is holy, and we are not. We constantly mess up, and God constantly is merciful and just. The New Testament is the answer to the question of the Old Testament: How can we ever be reconciled with the God who is holy? The answer of course has its roots in the Old Testament, cleverly laid out by the Spirit. That answer is given seed in today’s scripture.
Plowing the Soil
To plant any seed, one must plow the soil, and sadly, that will necessarily displace whatever was there beforehand, in this case, what was there was the First King of Israel: Saul.
Now, the story of Saul what I consider a tragedy of the highest order. If you read only from the perspective of David, Saul was a bloodthirsty psychopath, driven mad by jealousy. But one need only glance at Saul’s early days to see that he and David are not so different.
Saul started much like David. He was a farmhand, and not the eldest son. However, he was a handsome, tall, dark gentleman, and one can never discount the power of good looks. He was chosen by God initially to be king, but was hesitant to accept the crown; a reluctant king if ever there was one.
That said, he wasn’t terrible at being king. He just wasn’t the right king. He was a man of pious faith, quick to give God the glory for his victories. However, that zealousness often got him into trouble, as at one point he wanted to go into battle, but instead of waiting for Samuel to perform a sacrifice to start the battle, he decided to do it himself. This began the rift between him and Samuel, and with God; he was one to take things into his own hands and not follow God’s directions.
Finally, the straw that broke camel’s back was actually an act of mercy. God commanded him to attack the Amalekites, an ancient enemy of Israel. God called him to utterly annihilate the Amalekites, along with the women, children, and livestock, to send a message: you mess with Israel, and Israel will not forget. Saul, however, chose not to annihilate them. Instead, he spared their king, as well as choice livestock. He later made the excuse that he was going to sacrifice the livestock for God, but God would have none of it. Saul’s refusal to listen was grounds for his rejection as king.
Honestly, I feel a great deal for Saul, because even though he messes up, he’s messing up trying to do the right thing. You know, giving God glory, being merciful, and everything that one is supposed to be. I can relate to that. I often will ignore my directions because I think that I can do it right in my own way. You’ll also find that I mess up just as much because I go my own way rather than follow directions. So it is with humanity; as much as we want to do right, unless we are in tune with God’s will, we inevitably mess it up.
Finding the Right Seed
So our problem is that we have a king that, while honorable and faithful, does not follow directions well. We need a king a that does follow the directions better.
So Samuel sets out, as per God’s command, for Jesse of Bethlehem’s house to find a suitable replacement. Why Jesse? Why not? It’s God’s suggestion, and God knows what the kingdom needs. Under the guise of making a sacrifice, Samuel meets Jesse, and asks to join him and to inspect his sons for anointing. Samuel inspects everyone– EVERYONE–of Jesse’s sons for anointing. He measures them up, stem to stern, and every single one is found wanting. He even says to God, “Hey this one looks good!” And God says, nah, keep waiting, and I’ll show you the right one.
Are you noticing the theme here? What God desires in his followers is a rare quality: the ability to be patient and wait for the right moment. God does this all the time. There’s a value in being patient and waiting for the right moment, or the right person. Time to God is always relative; God is not like we are when it comes to waiting, because God can see the vast expanse of time. We have to go through time the hard way. Saul could not wait for God, and so God had no patience with Saul. But this time, God chooses in God’s own way for the right person.
Samuel finally goes through all of them and asks…”Eh, you got any more sons?” And Jesse, reluctantly says, “Yeah, we got one, but he’s out in the field minding the sheep, and he’s the youngest one, and he’s really not worth your time…”And Samuel interrupts. “Nonsense! Show him to me!”
So in trots David, sunburnt and reddish brown, dirty from being in the fields, and not too bad looking despite that. And God finally speaks and says “That’s it! That’s the guy! That’s the one I want! The scrawny, sunburnt runt of a kid. He’ll do just fine.” And so Samuel anoints him, and heads out on his way.
The right seed not always the first seed we see, or the best looking seed. David was good looking, but in an unconventional sort of way. Also, he was super young, like 12 or 14. Not a seasoned adult. But that didn’t matter to God. God knew which person he wanted, because he saw the quality of the person’s heart.
David was one to wait on God. He wasn’t perfect. He had a lot of flaws. He was manipulative, and a womanizer, and a vicious warrior. But he had the quality God wanted in a king. He honored God enough to wait on God. To listen. To take criticism. To be humbled, if necessary. He was the right person to lead Israel, and he was the right person in God’s eyes.
Waiting on God
What I want you to hear from all this is that God sees things in a way that we don’t. God sees the vast scope of history; all we get is one little sliver of it. God sees the heart. God has an idea of what he wants from us, and how God wants us to be led is by someone of God’s own heart. Someone willing to wait. Be patient.
It’s hard to wait. We want a tree, but are not willing to wait for it to grow from tiny seed. David is that tiny seed. He will eventually grow to be a great king. From him will come a lineage of great kings. Eventually, in the long run, that lineage will produce the answer to the Old Testament’s questions. But we have to wait upon the Lord. In the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Amen.