I Samuel 15:34-16:13
David A. Davis
June 17, 2018
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On the Family Retreat a few weeks ago we gathered for worship on Sunday morning along the shore of the Chesapeake Bay. We broke up into teams to plan for worship and one of those teams was in charge of the reading of scripture. The lesson chosen for the morning was Jesus calming of the storm that was just offered for your hearing. The team of kids and adults decided they were going to act out the story as it was being read… and it was fun. They borrowed one of the kayaks the camp had there at the beach for a prop. The only other prop was the Chesapeake Bay though they wisely did not get in the water for a full embodiment of the story. One adult served as the reader. The children were all the disciples with one in the front of the of the kayak being Jesus. Two dads knelt at either end of the boat and served as stagehands to “rock the boat.” They were storm simulators. One other adult stood just behind the kayak and in front of the shoreline to serve as the symbolic action for the sun and the wind. Though, when the storm really hit, it looked a tad like an “arms only” hula dance.
So as the story was read and the wind and sea whipped up, let’s just say those stagehands were taking their job very seriously. Jesus and the disciples were tossed around like they were in an over-inflated bounce house at a traveling carnival. The disciples, being played by the serious and properly trained actors they were, displayed all kinds of expressions of fear. They were scared! Jesus, of course was asleep on a cushion. Jesus, though being vigorously tossed to and fro, was asleep. Jesus who at one point was just about tossed right out of the boat, was sleeping. Actually, Jesus, she was sleeping and smiling at the same time. To be more specific, Jesus was sleeping and flat out giggling all at once. Which sort of makes sense if you stop and think about it. Jesus, so confident and peaceful in God’s hands, so sure of God’s presence, that sleeping and smiling and laughing all go together.
I wonder if Samuel was smiling when Jesse’s sons were parading by. I wonder if Samuel was laughing after waiting for David to come in from tending to the sheep. Smiling because the future king of Israel was from a small town barely on the map? Mayvbe. Smiling because David was so young? Yes. Smiling because God told him to rise and anoint this shepherd boy to be the royal shepherd of God’s people? Probably. How about Samuel, smiling and laughing and confident and sure all mixed in together because he knew God would provide.
That’s the take away from this classic story of David being found, David being selected, David being anointed, David being the one. It’s not about David being handsome and perfect in every way. Just wait a chapter or two. It’s not about David’s heart being forever pure. Just keep reading. It’s not about the right king and at the right time and a reign of peace and life happily ever after. It’s all more complicated, more earthy, more gritty, more life-like than that. It’s a story intended to affirm that the Lord provides.
Any recollection, any retelling of how the whole epic of King David epic began has to include that stunning, show-stopping, theologically mind-numbing, so easy to miss as a passing comment verse. The verse that says “the Lord was sorry that he made Saul king over Israel.” Samuel was grieved. The Lord was sorry. Samuel was grieved here not just by Saul’s death, not because he never saw Saul again. He had to have been grieved by the whole mess that was Saul’s reign over the people of Israel, grieved that he and God and the people, they all went down this “let’s have a king” road. Samuel was grieved. The Lord was sorry and clearly ready to move on. The Lord was apparently not sorry about the king part, just the Saul part. “I have provided for myself a king”, the Lord told Samuel.
“Come on, quit your hand wringing, no more looking back. I am going to take care of this myself. I know who I want. Now you’re going to go to Bethlehem to the house of Jesse and find him.” Once again a king of Israel comes on the scene and is anointed by Samuel in a story that is, one could say, less than regal. Jesse and his sons were invited to sacrifice and a crowning of a king breaks out. Samuel, probably with a smile on his face, is sure that the first, oldest, good-looking strapping son was the one. Samuel was sure Eliab was the one. “Well, would you look at him!” God said “Nope, we’re not doing this by looks this time.” “Abinidad then! That’s it!” God said no. “Shammah! Shammah gets the rose!” The Lord said no. All the rest pass by and now Samuel is pretty much on board. “None of these are going to work. Is this everyone?”, he asks Jesse? The youngest is out working. Doing the chores. Tending the sheep. And Samuel announces that no one is going to sit down and eat until the youngest son David gets in here.
And here’s where the narrator, the writer of First Samuel, the ancient scribes, here’s where the narrator sort of slips in a kind of lasting literary reminder of human sin. A subtle, biblical, textual archived reminder that humanity will always stick its tongue out at God like a child in a playground spat. John Calvin called it “total depravity.” Sometimes its more like thumbing your nose, or hiding the peas on your plate, or having a little hissy fit.
Bill Scheide’s rare book collection lives on after his death over at the University’s Firestone Library. One of many books he really enjoyed showing people was one called “The Sinner’s Bible.” Of course it was very old. It was printed in the King James. Only a few copies remain and one is there in the Scheide collection. Bill imagined a printer’s apprentice getting back at the boss or just being impish, pulling a prank. Because there on the ancient in the Ten Commandments, the book of Exodus, it says in the print, “Thou shalt commit adultery.”
Here in First Samuel God has just said no to Samuel regarding Eliab. God says “The Lord does not see as mortals see, they look on the outward appearance but the Lord looks on the heart.” I’m not picking a king on good looks this time. And when it is recorded that David arrived from the fields right before dinner, they just couldn’t stop themselves from writing down, from passing on, from announcing he was handsome! Never mind that its not all that clear to me how a young man from Palestine could be “ruddy.” God just told Samuel it was not about outward appearance. They wrote down that part. And when the story tells of David making his his less than grand entrance into Israel’s history, “tradition” can’t help but stick a tongue out at the Lord. He may have just the right heart……but he’s gorgeous too in a European kind of way.
Not having read the narrative now preserved in the canon, the Lord simply tells Samuel, “Rise and anoint him; for this is the one.” Samuel anointed him with oil right there in front of his brothers and the spirit of the Lord fell mightily upon David from that day forward. For, according to the Lord, he was the One. David was the king God provided. David was the one God provided for Godself and for Samuel and for the people of Israel. He was the one. God’s beloved. The Lord provides.
The Lord provides. That’s the take away from this classic story of David being found, David being selected, David being anointed, David being the one. It’s not a naïve Hollywood ending kind of affirmation. Just wait a chapter or two. It’s not like one of those well-intended but poorly thought out attempts at comfort when someone gives and awkward hug and says “It must have been God’s will.” Just keep reading. It’s not one of those flowery theologically vacuous proof text quote from the Apostle Paul about all things working for good for those who love the Lord, this story of King David and God and God’s people, it’s all more complicated, more earthy, more gritty, more life-like than that. Amid all of life’s complexities, when the feebleness of kings and the failures of leaders and the fecklessness of God’s people are all so evident, when the relationships of nations are fraught with war and rumors of war, when faithfulness to the righteous, just, and compassionate vision of the prophets, a vision that is the reign of God, when such faithfulness is nothing but a flicker of light in a sea of darkness, still the Lord provides.
Back at the beach, after the young Jesus calmed the storm and the two dads stopped rocking the boat and everyone returned to sit in the worship circle and rub our feet in the sand, the preacher asked us to share with one another our thoughts and reflections. What came next, from young and old alike, was the stuff of 5, 6, 10 sermons. All of them you will be hearing from me in the future as I shamelessly pocket those ideas. The one that is apt for this morning, the one that pairs well with the story of David, the one thought that follows from Jesus sleeping and giggling all at once, it came when of the groups suggested that maybe the bigger miracle amid the storm, Jesus’ bigger miracle, was not that he calmed the sea, but that he took away their fear. When it wasn’t just Jesus sleeping and smiling, but Jesus and disciples smiling and laughing and confident and sure because they knew God would provide. He took away their fear.
It is true, that some days, some nights, some moments, some seasons, you have to pray for a miracle. It’s okay to pray for a miracle. Pray that God would take away the fear. Pray that you, that we would remember and know that the Lord provides. That God would take away any fear. For God’s perfect love casts out fear. Pray that you and I, that we and our children and grandchildren might be so confident and peaceful in God’s hands and in the promise that the Lord provides that sleeping and smiling and joy might all go together now and forever. Even if it is a miracle.
© 2018 Nassau Presbyterian Church
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