Tuesday, June 16, 2015

Open Hearts, Open Doors

1 Samuel 15:34-16:13
Chatfield UMC
June 14, 2015
Rev. Debra Jene Collum

Last week we touched very briefly on the beginnings of the monarchy in Israel. Before there were kings in Israel there were Priests and Judges. Moses, for example was a Judge, Deborah was a judge. These people helped mediate disputes, made sure there was some order in a very loosely knit society and were often military leaders. Judges were also prophets. They spoke the word of God into the lives of the people of Israel. When Israel forgot who their God was and began following other destructive paths, the judges would call the people back to their rightful worship.
Before the times of the kings, Israel was primarily a loose confederation of tribes connected by religion not politics.

Israel was primarily a society formed and held together by a faith in one God.

I think this is why God was not happy with their desire to have a king. While Israel was not particularly holy in their actions during the time of the Judges, it was very clear to them that the reason they stayed together was because of their shared belief in the God of Abraham and Sarah.

Now along comes a request for a monarchy. Give us a king. Samuel, the judge, priest and prophet tries to talk the people out of this request.
You are going to regret this, he tells them.
A King will take this thing that you have got going and change it so drastically you won’t know who you are anymore.
You are the people of God, the children of God. God is now your ultimate authority. When you go astray, God brings you back with the Word of God spoken by the prophets and priests and judges. With a King you will become a people subject to another authority. You will have to decide, will I follow God or will I follow the King?
You will have to pay taxes and if you don’t follow the king the way the king wants you will have to pay more taxes. Your children will be conscripted into service to the king. Even your servants, even your servants will be taken from you and given to the king’s service.

You will no longer be only the children of God, you will become subjects to a king.
Your loyalties will be divided.

But the people wouldn’t listen. They saw kings in other lands and wanted what their neighbors had. Remember what happened in the Garden of Eden with that darned fruit? The man and woman saw the fruit and saw that it was pleasing to the eye, it looked so good, surely it would be just what they needed to eat….

The people of Israel saw the kings in other lands, it looked so good, surely it would be just what they needed to become a great nation…

Sometimes we talk with chagrin about walking around with blinders on. Like that is a bad thing. But sometimes we need blinders, to keep our eyes from wandering into those places they should not go.

We don’t sing, Open my eyes that I may see everything in the world so that I can decide what is best for me, so that I can see those things that others have so that I can want them too. No, we sing, Open my eyes that I may see glimpses of truth thou has for me.
Open my eyes so that I can see truth.

Open my eyes so that I can keep my eye on you, God.

Throughout the stories in the bible, this will be a reoccurring theme. How do we see? What do we see? What do we do with what we see?

How do we see? Are we seeing with the eyes of God? Are we seeing ways to increase our own status or are we seeing the ways we can live within the center of God’s desires. The first King of Israel, Saul, ended up seeing the ways he could increase his own honor and status. Saul did not rely on God to direct his life. Saul did what most of us do: followed God just enough to look good but not enough to completely give it all to God, literally.
If you read the story, it is almost comical. Saul was commanded to conquer a nation and destroy all the animals and livestock. In other words, Saul was not to get rich from the spoils of war. But the honor and gain were to tempting to Saul. Seeing all the fine animals and livestock, Saul kept them alive.
When Samuel confronted Saul he said: O Samuel, I just meant to keep them so that I could sacrifice them to God. They are such fine animals. It is a shame to not give God a proper sacrifice with them.

But God had not asked for sacrifice. God had asked for obedience. Open my eyes that I may see, truth. Open my ears that I may hear, only the truth not some made up version of the truth. Open my ears that I may hear only what gives glory to God, not what brings glory to me. No matter how well I can justify it.

Oh God, I am doing it for you as a sacrifice. No, I didn’t ask for a sacrifice. I asked only for obedience.

Well, since that king didn’t work out it was time to find a new king. So of course you are going to look for the newest model with the best features. Tall, dark, handsome. The eldest son of a prominent family.

Well, no actually, how about David. Who is so insignificant that he is out in the field tending the sheep instead of at the house greeting the prophet.

I often find myself remembering these words from the Scripture: Humans look at the outward appearance, God looks at the heart.

We don’t know what David looked like. He was probably ordinary and sunburned and a bit ragged around the edges considering he was a shepherd.
He certainly wasn’t what one would expect for the leader of a great nation. He hadn’t had any training in the military, in politics, in diplomacy. Yet, he was God’s choice for this moment in history.

Now we all know that David will not be perfect.  He will break all sorts of commandments, he will murder, he will commit adultery. He will even worship idols.
Yet, even in this, humans look at the outward appearance, at outward behaviors, at outward ways of doing things and we see sin and ugliness and waywardness and we wonder…We see David as a sinner and wonder how could he be, as the scriptures say, the apple of God’s heart??

Because God looks at the heart. As much as David was a sinner, David was also a man whose heart was turned to God. And that makes all the difference in the world.
Even in the midst of his sin, David knew to cry out to God and reach out to God. His heart was never hardened, never far from the heart of God.

And here’s the thing: if we didn’t have the full story in our bible we wouldn’t know the story. Fully. We would only know David the sinner, great king but great sinner.
Someone we would have a hard time respecting. Someone we would not want to call a man of God.

How would our story be changed if David’s story was no longer part of our story because we wrote him off as a sinner not worth talking about? Or as a person that we loved to gossip about?

Thankfully, God has given us the full story and assured us that David, like all other sinners, can be the apple of God’s heart.

Food shelf….(how will we welcome those who come to the new food shelf? Will we judge by their clothing? their car? their family? Will we judge who is worthy? Or will we treat all as children of God? Giving freely so that all can freely know the love of God and honor they have in the eyes of God.)

Let us keep our hearts close to the heart of God so that we can see with the eyes of truth. So that we can see God’s people, God’s heart.

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