What’s on the inside? (1 Samuel 16)
Sermon by Egan Yip – Sunday, April 15, 2018
Welcome back to our weekly Sunday message. We’re going to start today the same way we do it every Sunday: with a review of what we talked about last time we were here.
It feels like it’s been quite a while. But way back when we had our last message, we talked about Jonathan. If you don’t know who Jonathan was, Jonathan was the son of King Saul, the first king of Israel. But he was not the type of prince that just sat in the royal palace all day eating grapes and getting fanned by servants. No, he was out there with the army, fighting against the Philistines. He was pretty good at it too. In fact, because one of his successful attacks against the Philistines, the Philistines became really ticked off at the Israelites. They planned to retaliate with a large force, with their weapons and chariots.
In response, Saul sounded the horns, calling all of the people to rally to him. But it didn’t go as well as he had hoped. The Israelites listened to their king and came to join up with him. But when they saw the Philistines amassing their army, they became terrified. Through our reading of the Bible, we found out that the Israelites didn’t even have swords or spears. So, the situation looked absolutely hopeless to them. Most of the army deserted them. Some of the people ran away and crossed the river. And the rest of them decided to just hide wherever they could—whether it was inside the caves, down the pits, and even behind the bushes. But not everyone was terrified. There was still Jonathan and his armor bearer. With just the two of them, they went on the offensive and attacked another Philistine camp. God saw their faith and he supported them, throwing the Philistines into confusion and chaos. All the Israelites joined in on the fight when they saw God helping them and they were able to win another battle against the Philistines.
The main idea of that message was how Jonathan was able to help the Israelites win that battle just by doing a little something of his own. He didn’t call upon the soldiers or give them some fancy, inspiring speech. Nor did he defeat all the Philistines by his own power like Samson. Instead Jonathan just did what he could and that got the ball rolling. He only fought a small group of men and won. But the greater victory was given by God when God saw their faithfulness and courage.
So even when we are in situations that look hopeless and it looks like only a few people care to try to fix the problem, that is enough. As it was written, God can save his people, whether by many or by few. God can bless our lives and our work, but God will sometimes ask us to step out in faith first.
Now let’s get to our message for today. We’ll be looking at 1 Samuel 16. To introduce our story for today, we’ll just read the first verse.
The Lord said to Samuel, “How long will you mourn for Saul, since I have rejected him as king over Israel? Fill your horn with oil and be on your way; I am sending you to Jesse of Bethlehem. I have chosen one of his sons to be king.”
This single verse gives us a lot to work with as we introduce our story for today. Samuel is mourning for Saul. This may confuse you because Saul is not dead. He’s very much alive at this point in time. But Samuel is mourning because God has rejected him as king. The rejection of Saul probably will not come as a surprise to any of you. Even though we didn’t read that chapter, we have kind of seen that pattern emerging from all we’ve talked about so far in the past month. Saul has not been a good king.
When he was first chosen, he seemed humble. But the past few chapters have been far from flattering. We saw Saul panic and offer sacrifices without waiting for Samuel like he was supposed to. We saw Saul hiding in his camp while his son, Jonathan, was out fighting for them. Saul just does not appear to trust God. He sometimes disobeys God’s direct commands. And there is no real heart of repentance whenever he fails to follow God. It was only a matter of time before God would reject him. And God has finally taken that next step. Even though Saul is still alive and still king, God has decided on a new king to take the throne, and it is not Jonathan. So God sends Samuel to anoint the new king.
2 But Samuel said, “How can I go? If Saul hears about it, he will kill me.”
The Lord said, “Take a heifer with you and say, ‘I have come to sacrifice to the Lord.’ 3 Invite Jesse to the sacrifice, and I will show you what to do. You are to anoint for me the one I indicate.”
4 Samuel did what the Lord said. When he arrived at Bethlehem, the elders of the town trembled when they met him. They asked, “Do you come in peace?”
5 Samuel replied, “Yes, in peace; I have come to sacrifice to the Lord. Consecrate yourselves and come to the sacrifice with me.” Then he consecrated Jesse and his sons and invited them to the sacrifice.
The situation with Saul is a sad and regrettable one. He was anointed by Samuel in his youth. Samuel has known him for a long time, which is why he mourns for Saul as a friend. But Saul seems to have fallen low in his years as king. We have a pretty stark contrast. While Samuel mourns for Saul, Saul is willing to kill Samuel if he senses any attempt at his throne. Saul is not just weak in faith and disobedient to God, he may very well also be quite heartless. His first introduction was one full of hope, as he seemed as a nice young man. But as times change, so do the people. You may have experienced this in your life. People who you once thought of as friends may have drifted in another direction. They seem too distant and different to be recognizable. In your heart, there may be a memory of whom or what they once were. But that is no longer the current reality. They have changed. And Saul was changed, corrupted by the power and wealth that came with being a king. Samuel knew this and wondered how he could go and anoint a new king when Saul would certainly not allow it. This wasn’t a secret either, as we see the reaction of the elders to Samuel’s arrival. People must have known about God’s rejection of Saul. When the elders saw Samuel, they trembled, asking if he came in peace, because they were afraid of what Saul would do if he found out that Samuel was seeking to anoint a new king.
Ultimately this would be a peaceful ceremony because God allowed Samuel to do it in secret. Let’s read on. Verses 6-10.
6 When they arrived, Samuel saw Eliab and thought, “Surely the Lord’s anointed stands here before the Lord.”
7 But the Lord said to Samuel, “Do not consider his appearance or his height, for I have rejected him. The Lord does not look at the things people look at. People look at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.”
8 Then Jesse called Abinadab and had him pass in front of Samuel. But Samuel said, “The Lord has not chosen this one either.” 9 Jesse then had Shammah pass by, but Samuel said, “Nor has the Lord chosen this one.” 10 Jesse had seven of his sons pass before Samuel, but Samuel said to him, “The Lord has not chosen these.”
Samuel goes to the sacrifice with Jesse and his sons. As soon as they arrive at the location, Samuel immediately has someone scouted out. He sees Eliab and is convinced that this is the Lord’s anointed. He says: “Surely the Lord’s anointed stands here before the Lord.” Surely, this guy is the one. If it was up to Samuel, they would already be done.
Samuel had a real good feeling about Eliab. You ever experience something like that? The moment you see something, you have incredible confidence and certainty that this is the one. Some people have that idea about love—like, the moment they see a person, they know that’s the one they want to spend the rest of their lives with. That’s how some view it, but we know it doesn’t always work out that way.
They think that person is the one but the relationship is not as perfect as they would hope for. The love burns out quick because they discover unpleasant things about that person they never expected.
Of course, it doesn’t always have to be about people. Even for other things, material things, you may find that to be the case. You find something you enjoy doing, but get bored of it after a while and wonder why you ever bothered. You see something you think you really want in the store—you just have to have it—so you buy it, but don’t care for it after a few weeks because it wasn’t as good as you thought it would be. Or maybe you buy something that looks really awesome—but turns out it’s a counterfeit or cheaply made. It breaks or stops working after a few days. I’m sure we’ve all experienced something like that—where something that looked great didn’t meet our expectations when we really got down to it.
Sometimes you’re right on the money, and whatever you get feels “perfect.” But many times, you’re off the mark, because all you really had to go on was a hunch or an attraction. As human beings, we tend to base things off appearance because that’s what is easiest for us to understand. Sometimes that works. What looks good can be good. But when we base things ONLY off the appearance, it doesn’t always work out. God can make better judgments though because He knows the heart.
And so, in spite of Samuel’s first impression, Eliab was not the one God wanted to become the next king. Who would it be then? Surprisingly enough, out of the seven sons there—none of them were worthy. What next? Let’s read on to find out.
11 So he asked Jesse, “Are these all the sons you have?”
“There is still the youngest,” Jesse answered. “He is tending the sheep.”
Samuel said, “Send for him; we will not sit down until he arrives.”
12 So he sent for him and had him brought in. He was glowing with health and had a fine appearance and handsome features.
Then the Lord said, “Rise and anoint him; this is the one.”
13 So Samuel took the horn of oil and anointed him in the presence of his brothers, and from that day on the Spirit of the Lord came powerfully upon David. Samuel then went to Ramah.
This story reads almost like a fairy tale, doesn’t it? Someone has to be chosen for some great and awesome responsibility. The chosen one must be revealed. Like the legend of King Arthur and the sword in the stone. Whoever can pull the sword out of the stone—that person is the next king. Everyone wants to be king and they all try their hand at pulling the magical sword out of the stone. One after another, they attempt to pull out the sword. But one after another, they fail. It seems impossible. It seems hopeless. It seems like no one will ever be able to pull out the sword—until that one unsuspecting, ordinary guy comes along and manages to do it easily.
That’s basically what we have here. One by one, the sons of Jesse went before Samuel and before God. All of the best, all of the brightest—as believed by their father Jesse. One of them should be king. Who cares about little David? They don’t even tell him to come. While all the other brothers are chosen to be there, David is flat out ignored—left out in the fields to tend sheep. They’re making him do all the work, while the other brothers get to just hang out at the sacrifice and get looked at by Samuel. Samuel had to insist that they bring him there before they could continue with the ceremony. And once David arrived, it all just happened. “Rise and anoint him; this is the one.”
There are two lessons I want us to think about and learn from this passage today. The first is obvious. We should not be quick to judge someone by what’s on the outside. Whether it’s the color of their skin, or the way they dress, or the way they talk, or even just their physical features—their appearance does not determine who they are. And so we cannot make any accurate judgments about their lives just by their appearance. It would not make sense to shun someone or disregard them because of their appearance. You may be missing out on a great friendship or even a great love by judging people on appearances. On the flipside, you may be walking into trouble if you trust anyone based on appearances. Looks can be deceiving. That person in the church may go to church every Sunday and put on a nice smile and treat you real nice every time they see you—but you don’t know what they could be doing outside of church. You don’t know what they could be scheming. They may be putting on a front so people would like them, but they could be like the Pharisees of the Bible. We can’t always have the best judgment in picking good friends, but that’s where we need God. God can give you discernment about people if you ask Him. We’re not mind readers. We can’t see inside their hearts. But God can, and He can give us insight, as with all aspects of life—if we let him. Through prayer and fasting, we can make godly judgments.
The second lesson I want us to take from this passage is to be quick to judge what’s on our inside. What is one thing that the most popular fairy tales have in common? The main character of the story is always fundamentally good at heart. They may make mistakes. They may have to learn from past sins. But in the end, when they get their happy ending it’s because they were good-natured deep down. These fairy tales are written to give us hope that being good and doing what’s right should be rewarded. It’s to inspire us to do the right thing and be morally good because we want to see the good guys win.
What we read today is no fairy tale, but it’s a look into the way that God operates. God looks at the heart. What does that mean? It means David was not chosen to be king at random. He was not loved by God on a whim. God did not pick David because he wanted to make things suspenseful, and so he had to pick the very last person who wasn’t there at the time. No, it wasn’t for any of those reasons.
There’s only one reason God picked David. God chose David to be king because of his heart. That’s very different from fairy tales. With fairy tales, we want an average, nice person to get the happy ending—because then we can root for them or put ourselves in their shoes. We can start to think: What if we were the ones to be chosen by fate? What if we were the ones to accidentally stumble into an amazing destiny and wonderful future where we get rich and find the perfect love? We think this way and create these kinds of stories so we don’t have to raise our own standards. The one to win the happy ending is not some amazing person. It’s going to just be some ordinary, “decent enough” person. David was not that person. David was chosen because his heart was the best among the Israelites, the best among his brothers.
God looks at our hearts. What does that mean for you today? Would you be okay with the way your heart looks to God? Would you settle for being like Eliab, someone who looks nice on the outside, yet fails to meet God’s standard?
Categories: ENGLISH SERMON