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.

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.

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.

Story So Far Q2 Week 6, Lessons from 1 Samuel

Saul Attacking David, Guercino, 1646

We’ve made our way through all of 1 Samuel and there are clear lessons learned about authority. It begins with Israel not content to have God as their king and preferring to be like everyone else. They want an authority over them they can see and so they plead to have their own human king. Samuel tries to dissuade them, but even as God allows for it, the situation in choosing Saul makes it clear that this is from God. Even in having another authority, the king, we are to understand where the true authority lies. This king Saul makes the greatest errors when he doesn’t accept this truth. He thinks since he is king, he can takeover for God and for God’s servant Samuel. When he acts as though he is in charge, Saul makes great mistakes and loses God’s blessing.

David is then anointed to be the next king. His job is to do the opposite of Saul: to seek the Lord in all things and lead Israel as one whose authority is found in God. He is not one, as we’ll see in 2 Samuel, who does this perfectly. But when he does make errors that are unfortunately similar to Saul’s, David recognizes the voice of God in others, repents, and brings himself back into a position of humility, even as a king.

If a king, with so much power and authority, still must seek God in all he does, how can we not follow suit. Following the example of David doesn’t mean we’ll be perfect, but it does mean that when we stumble, we know where to turn. Saul relies on himself, David relies on God.

David’s Psalm from 1 Samuel

Psalm 57 begins with words that are always fitting in our approach to God, “Be merciful to me, O God…” as David then goes on to write of his need for God’s help and provision. This Psalm is described as one written when “David fled from Saul, in the cave,” which is certainly a time that would call for such a prayer.

We read about these events from 1 Samuel this week. David has been pursued by Saul, angered and jealous of David, and David’s life is in great peril. He hides with his men hoping Saul passes by along with his army so that they may live another day. But as fearful as David may be, he is also God’s anointed, and he knows God has a plan and purpose for him. David will be King. Having confidence in this fact is comfort for David and it gives him perspective. The darkness of the cave is perhaps seen as the shadow of God’s wing, under which he takes refuge. The armies of Saul are the storms of destruction David desires to move on. His hope rests in God who has a plan for him and “who fulfills his purpose for me” (Ps 57:1-2b).

Without such an understanding surely David would have done as he was encouraged to do by his men when Saul enters the cave to relieve himself. Saul was completely vulnerable and it appears as though God may just be delivering David’s enemy into his hands. This is how his men understand the situation. But David resists and as he approaches Saul he settles for a corner of his robe. He knows the plans God has for him and declares to Saul outside the cave that God may avenge David against Saul, but David himself will not raise his hand against the Lord’s anointed.

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From sunrise to sunset we should offer gratitude to God

For God’s continued deliverance and guidance David gives praise to God, as he continues the psalm. Even though he is in the midst of lions and his enemies lay before him traps, he is kept safe by God and his heart is steadfast. Does he take pride in his good fortune? No, David knows from whom such blessings comes, and he calls for God to be exalted above heaven and over all the earth. As he ends David has a great description of how he will sing his thanks and praise. He says, “I will awake the dawn!” I don’t claim to be an especially poetic person, but it seems to me that he is describing the exuberance of his praise. He says he’ll sing out for God, calling the harp and lyre to awake, and nothing will come before this action and posture before God. In his desire to praise God his songs will rise up so early that they wake the sun from its rest, calling forth the day. His life is defined by his gratitude and praise of God, and all the nations will hear of it. When God’s mercy is set so clearly before our eyes, as it was for David, what can take priority over giving God the thanks he so fully deserves?

Love Your Enemies – A story of Acts 9

La conversion de Saint Paul, Giordano (vers 1690)

About one year ago I preached on a text we read this week from Acts 9. It is the famous conversion of Saul, but instead of placing focus there, I gave more attention to an overlooked character of the story, Ananias. He’s the one given the task by God to welcome in a great enemy of the early church, the persecutor, Saul.

I set the stage like this:

Could you imagine? God comes to him in a vision, speaking his name, and Ananias responds, “Here I am Lord!” Then as the conversation continues he’s a little caught off guard. “You want me to do what? To Saul? I’ve heard of all the evil he is doing. You do realize that he has the authority to bind all (and by all, that means me!) who call on your name?” This has to be terrifying for him. We have the benefit of knowing the full story of Saul, how he is transformed by God and becomes a great servant of Jesus Christ. We know him much more as Paul the Apostle. Yet all Ananias knew was Saul, Saul the Persecutor of Christians, Saul the Enemy of the Church. Who really had persecuted the young Christian church more than he? Who had directly overseen more arrests and imprisonments? And that Saul is the one Ananias must lay hands on and heal.

Ananias has a tough task ahead. It boils down to the call we all have to love our enemies, as Jesus commanded in Matthew 5. We aren’t to return love to only those who love us. No, we are to love our enemies and pray for those who persecute us. Saul fits that description quite nicely.

I finished the message with what we can learn from Ananias’ example of following Christ’s command, and in truth, Christ’s model of loving enemies.

…I don’t claim to excel at loving my neighbors, let alone loving my enemies. This is a challenge for me. But I don’t think many of us have enemies we encounter greater than what Ananias had in Saul. I don’t think our excuses for not obeying Christ’s command to love our enemies and pray for those who persecute would match up with any of the excuses I’m sure Ananias could have come up with. But he didn’t make excuses. Christ is Lord, he trusted in him–he trusted that no matter how things might have appeared, God is in control, and he obeyed.