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.

In Defense of Learning Our History

Perhaps I’m biased given that I was a history major, but I think there’s something to it. There is something about history that makes it important for us to know. So much of our Scripture is our history, the history of God’s chosen people. There is a reason that God has it in his word. I think it is valuable for us.

There may be times when genealogies are taxing on our attention. It is hard to press through the seemingly endless battles and changes of leadership. But take a step back and look at what God has done and is doing. David sings a song of thanks in 1 Chronicles 16 because of what God has done. Read his words and think how much of that is history.

David Playing the Harp, Jan de Bray, 1670

If David did not know his own past and the story of God’s faithfulness, what would his songs and psalms look like? What would become of his trust in God continued provision for the people? I’m sure he was supported in his belief because he could look back into past generations and see the faithfulness God has toward his people and the long-suffering that God displays as his people turn from him.

Knowing our history also gives us perspective about our place in this world. We’re not the only ones to have struggled or question, nor are we the first to have great victories for God. We are very much like God’s people throughout time, and thankfully God is the same, too.

Our God is always faithful and always deserving of songs of praise. We ought to reflect on our individual histories and recognize God’s work in our lives. But don’t forget the way in which you fit into God’s greater history and offer him thanks and praise for his goodness that extends backward beyond our own entry into life.

Oh give thanks to the LORD, for he is good; for his steadfast love endures forever!
1 Chronicles 16:24

Deja Vu in 1 & 2 Chronicles

So we’re now into week eight, which means that we’re going through 1 & 2 Chronicles. Don’t worry if a) you’ve not quite finished everything from 1 & 2 Kings. As I said, the schedule has built in make up time next week and the week after. Also, don’t worry if b) you start to think much of Chronicles is oddly familiar. It is. Chronicles will take us back to the time of Saul and David, and really it takes us back in chapter one to Adam. 2 Chronicles then lines up quite a bit with Kings.

Saul and David

Ask yourself what differences you see between book like Samuel and Kings as they tell the same event with different emphases. What is the intent? What purpose do these books share in their writing, and what is unique?

With so many chapters to read, don’t waste your time this week. But don’t rush. I’d rather we all fall behind a bit than to pretend to read and understand these books. Next week is less than 20 chapters and after that is 5. Plan ahead and seek to find joy in reading God’s word.

Short Intro to 1 Kings

Welcome to a week of hanging out with the kings of Israel, and then the kings over a divided kingdom of Israel and Judah. We come to 1 Kings to hear more about David and Solomon, who we last read of in 2 Samuel. So while we have followed the story of God’s people through the prophets, we return to see how things progress from Solomon in a more narrative style.

It is a story with lots of kings, the building of a temple, and more prophets taking a stand. It reaches from the end of David to the Babylonian exile we’ve recently read about. Keep in mind something I’ve mentioned before–just because it occurs in the Bible it doesn’t mean it is right. The kings that we’ll read of aren’t all great leaders and followers of God. But that should come as no surprise because again, we’ve already read most of the prophets.

For further introduction: 1 Kings – Bible.org

Romans, David, and Love for Enemies

The Death of Absalom, Gustav Dore

This week I read our Old Testament passages first before moving into the New, so by the time I read Romans, parts of 2 Samuel kept coming to mind. One part especially struck me from Romans 12 in the way we are to relate to our enemies.

David was by no means a perfect man, but he did display character unlike those around him. Starting back in 1 Samuel David has had many enemies, such as Saul, Abner, and Absalom. To these so-called enemies, David showed great respect and grace. In chapter 19 he is criticized for showing too much grief at the death of Absalom, who was his son, and his military commander complains and says David loves those who hate him.

But Romans 12 teaches us to bless those who persecute us and not to repay evil with evil. We are to love those who hate us. This certainly must be one of the most difficult commands placed upon us. We wish it could just stop at not repaying evil with evil. Couldn’t we just turn the other cheek and move along? Can’t I just walk away? To most such actions are commendable. But we’re called to do more.

It is too easy to support and encourage a perspective that views others as enemies (and not in a way to help target who we should love). We want a foil, a villain, an antagonist–someone or something to compare ourselves to and come out looking good. We’d rather demonize the enemy than sacrifice for their sake and show them love. This is not the way of the Christian.

Christ shows us a greater way, “Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you.” When we were enemies, God showed his love for us in sending Jesus Christ.

We won’t be able to match his demonstration of love, but one simple way we could start is to hold our tongues when it comes to labeling others as ‘enemy.’

Whose Orders Do We Follow?

There is a soldier under the command of David who has gone out seeking to fight back against the opposing forces under Absalom. As he leaves he hears David mention that Absalom is to be protected. So when this soldier finds Absalom trapped and vulnerable to attack, he passes over him. When he gets back to his superior, Joab, and has an exchange that goes like this:

2 Samuel 18

And Absalom happened to meet the servants of David. Absalom was riding on his mule, and the mule went under the thick branches of a great oak, and his head caught fast in the oak, and he was suspended between heaven and earth, while the mule that was under him went on. 10 And a certain man saw it and told Joab, “Behold, I saw Absalom hanging in an oak.” 11 Joab said to the man who told him, “What, you saw him! Why then did you not strike him there to the ground? I would have been glad to give you ten pieces of silver and a belt.” 12 But the man said to Joab, “Even if I felt in my hand the weight of a thousand pieces of silver, I would not reach out my hand against the king’s son, for in our hearing the king commanded you and Abishai and Ittai, ‘For my sake protect the young man Absalom.’ 13 On the other hand, if I had dealt treacherously against his life (and there is nothing hidden from the king), then you yourself would have stood aloof.”

This soldier stands between two commands from two commanders. Even though he must have felt pressure to kill the enemy of David, he was more compelled to be obedient to him. He stands up to Joab, disregards his offers of money, and even draws to his attention the fact that David gave his command to protect Absalom in the presence of Joab.

At times we may stand between two opposing commands, but we should follow the lead of this unnamed man. Even in his dangerous position, he heeds the higher calling. We should recognize that the orders of our higher commander, of our Lord, should be what we obey over and sometimes against all other authorities.

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.

Undignified Worship

In chapter six of 2 Samuel David celebrates “with all his might” as he dances before God. There is plenty to say about this passage, such as the energy we should devote to the worship of God or the importance of spouses to share certain commitments and priorities, which is not the case in David’s wife, who criticizes her husband for such an act.

But instead of that, I’ll take it mainly as an excuse to post another video from David Crowder – Undignified. It’s taken from 2 Samuel 6:22. David’s wife, Michal, communicates her displeasure that her husband is dancing around in his underwear looking foolish. Michal actually despises David in her heart for doing so. In response David doesn’t apologize for such an action instead says that he “will become even more undignified than this” (2 Sam 6:22a NIV).

We don’t worship God because it looks good. David finds joy in God and cannot rejoice reservedly. He has to worship with all his might as he dances before God. If that means he finds himself contemptible, so be it. He’ll become even more undignified if that’s what it takes to worship God.