We Are Too Quick to Judge by External Appearance and Thankfully God is Not

After King Saul rejects God’s ways Samuel is sent to anoint the one who would be the next king of Israel. Saul, the first king, was a man of great strength and stature. But God makes sure to instruct Samuel to look beyond those things. When Samuel goes to Jesse and searches among his sons and comes upon Eliab, God has specific instructions.

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 mans sees: man looks on the outward appearance, but the LORD looks on the heart

We know we’re not supposed to judge by appearances. But we do, for as God says, “man looks on the outward appearance.” Too often appearances have significant influence in all sorts of areas–on who gets certain positions or how someone is treated in their role. Think about presidents, pastors, waiters or waitresses, spouses, friends, employees or employers. Can’t image dictate far too much?

We are too quick to judge books by their covers. And it’s hard to resist such a temptation. We (sinfully and lazily) prefer to make the easy judgments based on the externals: beauty, color, strength–even other external data like degrees, diction, or dress.

But what do we miss when we lean toward the external? Who have we overlooked? Do you feel that at times you’ve been overlooked? God sees beyond the superficial and sees the heart. And the good news is that even when God looks in our hearts and sees our sin, he still doesn’t treat us as we’d deserve. God is not swayed in judgment the way we are. He sees us for who we are and has a greater vision for our lives. God treats us differently from the ways of the world and differently from what we deserve and for that we can be thankful.

Knowing that is how he sees us, our prayer should be to have eyes like his. Our aim should be to see people as he does; to look more than skin deep and treat everyone with the dignity they deserve.

The Difficulty of Moses Handing Leadership Over to Joshua

In this read through of Deuteronomy one thing that is standing out to me is Moses’ role in handing things over to Joshua. Here is a man who desperately wants to enter the promised land, but cannot. God tells him in Dt 3:28, “charge Joshua, and encourage and strengthen him, for he shall go over at the head of this people, and he shall put them in possession of the land that you shall see.”

History is full of bloody transitions of power. Successions do not always go over well. Turn to 1 Samuel and see the way that Saul takes the news that there will be another king. As remarkably peaceful as the transitions of power in the United States have been for over 200 years, there are still accounts of outgoing presidents (and staff) being less than gracious in the way they leave the White House for the next administration.

So this must be tough for Moses. He not only cannot go to the promised land, his job until then is to train the one who will go. But how important a job is that? It is hard to look beyond our own experiences and lifetime and look ahead to future generations. What are we doing to prepare the way for those who will come next? What world are we leaving to them? What ministries are we passing along? We like to be involved and be active, but there are times when we need to shift our focus on the future, rather than our our immediate circumstances.


If you are looking for a bit more introduction and recap as you read Deuteronomy, you may enjoy going back to this article from June 2012.

So much has already happened in the first few books of the Bible and it is very easy to get lost or confused with all the people, travel, city names, the people groups that end with -ites. Due to that, don’t hesitate to flip back through your Bible or use online tools to be reminded of who’s who.

Chronology of David

Having been through two books that follow much of David’s life, I wanted to find a resource that helped to take all the information and organize it. So I found this brief chronology of his life, and I think it should help. It’ll also come in handy once we get to 1 & 2 Kings and 1 & 2 Chronicles next quarter.*

Found at riverwoodchurchofchrist.org taken from the work of William H. Gross. Click for full-size.

*We go through Kings and Chronicles in what I’ll be calling the History Blitz… It’ll be a bit crazy.

Making progress through Samuel and Romans

So we’ve finished the first half of 2 Samuel and it has read much like a soap opera. We have David’s contested rise to power, political maneuvers, adultery, murder, and high risk confrontations. And that’s just the first half. Hope you enjoy the second.

Prophet Nathan rebukes David for adultery with Bathsheba, Julius Schnorr von Carolsfeld

I wanted to talk more about Nathan’s rebuke of David this past week, but I made a bit of a mistake. In writing a focus passage for next week, I misread the chapter breakdowns and focused in on chapter 12, which actually falls during this week. So week 8 of Year in the Bible will have a focus passage from week 7. My apologies. At least it will be easy to make sure you’ve read that part.

As I had mentioned yesterday, I’d love to hear any feedback about what we’ve been reading. Romans is a long letter that we’ll be finishing next week, but 1 & 2 Samuel taken together is another long block of that goes together. Given that we’ve spent so much time in them, I’d love to hear what is standing out most to you. Each week’s focus passage begins by asking what stands out to you. So I’m asking that in regards to four weeks. What has jumped out from Paul’s letter? What are you learning from 1 & 2 Samuel and seeing David become king? Whether you want to send me a reference to a verse, a few sentences, or a long essay as an answer, I’m open to it all.

I hope as you read you are taking something away from it.

Catching Up: 1 Samuel 7 and ‘Come Thou Fount’

I’m going to look back in our schedule at a selection that fell in the previous week of Year in the Bible. In 1 Samuel the Israelites are having some difficulties with their neighbors the Philistines. At the urging of Samuel, they cry out to their Lord for forgiveness and deliverance, and Samuel intercedes with prayer and sacrifice. God saves his people giving them victory over their enemies.

In response to God’s help and in recognition that God is the one who secured the victory, Samuel sets up a memorial to be a witness for the people. Earlier Israel had matched up against the Philistines and failed, but with God’s help they succeed. Samuel wants the people to remember this so he erected a stone to serve as the memorial and named it Ebenezer, meaning ‘stone of help.’

There’s a song that recounts this story from 1 Samuel and mentions this Ebenezer, but this detail has been lost in more recent rewritings. The song is “Come, Thou Fount of Every Blessing.” Our hymnal at church uses the 1973 rewrite in which the second stanza goes like this:

Hither to thy love has blessed me
Thou has brought me to this place
And I know thy hand will bring me
Safely home by thy good grace

These lyrics replace in other modern hymnals the lyrics:

Here I raise my Ebenezer;
Hither by Thy help I’m come;
And I hope, by Thy good pleasure,
Safely to arrive at home.

I can see why someone would rewrite lyrics that might carry no significance if no one knows what Ebenezer is. But that can be a challenge to teach others or inform ourselves of these Bible stories that inspired the hymn writers and shaped their words. When we sing this popular hymn let the words remind us of this story from 1 Samuel, a story of our complete dependence on God’s help and of the way we should memorialize the wonderful help he gives to us.

Year in the Bible, Quarter 2 Week 6

I’m back from vacation now and here we are in week six of Year in the Bible. We’ll play a little bit of catch up in covering the two weeks of reading on the site, so now is the time to share any questions you may have.

We’re continuing in both 1 Samuel and Romans, with the latter especially packed full of information. This is all the more reason to try coming out to one of the two reading groups to share insights and try to get the most out of these books.

I’ve been hearing some good stories from people who are keeping up with all the readings and even heard today of someone who was able to catch up on three weeks of backlog. What was great is that this catching up wasn’t rushed through just to get it done. We don’t want to read to have just read the Bible. We don’t want to check it off like some chore. We read to learn more of God and to hear his voice speak to us.

So if you are catching up, take your time. You don’t want to rush through and miss what God would have you see.

Exchanging Good For Bad

Looking at these two passages from 1 Samuel 8 and Romans 1 you see a common thread:

Then all the elders of Israel gathered together and came to Samuel at Ramah and said to him, “Behold, you are old and your sons do not walk in your ways. Now appoint for us a king to judge us like all the nations.” But the thing displeased Samuel when they said, “Give us a king to judge us.” And Samuel prayed to the LORD. And the LORD said to Samuel, “Obey the voice of the people in all that they say to you, for they have not rejected you, but they have rejected me from being king over them.
1 Samuel 8

 

For although they knew God, they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him, but they became futile in their thinking, and their foolish hearts were darkened. Claiming to be wise, they became fools, and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images resembling mortal man and birds and animals and creeping things.
Romans 1

We lack wisdom and continue to choose things of this world rather than cling to our God. Israel is not content with God as king, instead wanting to be just like everybody else. The people of Romans chose to worship created things, not the creator. How often do we continue to think we know better than God? Why can’t we trust that God will satisfy us perfectly in the way he provides, instead of blazing our own trail? It doesn’t work well in 1 Samuel nor in Romans. Let us gain a bit of wisdom and learn from the mistakes of others.