An attractive man

I was reading 1 Samuel and realised what an exceptional man Samuel was. By the time we read 1 Samuel 16 he was advanced in years (old). He has had his fair share of heartaches and disappointments as well as many years of joy in serving God as judge (leader) of the nation of Israel. He is experienced and respected by all the people, he has never acted corruptly.

At the start of this chapter (verses 1-13 are shown below from The Message)  he is commissioned by the Lord to go and anoint a son of Jesse to be the next king of Israel. We can see a number of features here that make Samuel appear to be, from a godly perspective, an attractive man. Here are a few ideas.

  • he has been wallowing in the disappointment of the past, as The Message puts it “moping over Saul.” Yet we see here even as an old man he is open to God’s correction. I have met any people, both old and young, who are stuck in a rut of disappointment – here is a wonderful example of allowing God to challenge and change our heart.

  • it would appear he initially thought God would choose a successor to Saul on the same selection criteria as had been used previously – was he tall and good looking? Yet we see he is open to God, he is listening, so he doesn’t make any hasty decisions based upon appearances but allows God to speak and to change his mind. Experience tells me that many old people base much of what they do upon what they have experienced and learned – undoubtedly this is helpful. But what happens when God wants to do it differently? Are you open to allow God to do it his way? Young or old we have to learn listening to God is essential in every sphere of life.

  • he was afraid of Saul. Fear cripples us. His love for God overcame his fear of man. Fear of God releases us to the liberty of the Spirit and allows us to choose God’s way of doing things – a blessed obedient sacrifice, declaring “not my will but yours.”

There are many other observations we could make. Have a read below and see for yourself.

God addressed Samuel: “So, how long are you going to mope over Saul? You know I’ve rejected him as king over Israel. Fill your flask with anointing oil and get going. I’m sending you to Jesse of Bethlehem. I’ve spotted the very king I want among his sons.”

2-3 “I can’t do that,” said Samuel. “Saul will hear about it and kill me.”

God said, “Take a heifer with you and announce, ‘I’ve come to lead you in worship of God, with this heifer as a sacrifice.’ Make sure Jesse gets invited. I’ll let you know what to do next. I’ll point out the one you are to anoint.”

4 Samuel did what God told him. When he arrived at Bethlehem, the town fathers greeted him, but apprehensively. “Is there something wrong?”

5 “Nothing’s wrong. I’ve come to sacrifice this heifer and lead you in the worship of God. Prepare yourselves, be consecrated, and join me in worship.” He made sure Jesse and his sons were also consecrated and called to worship.

6 When they arrived, Samuel took one look at Eliab and thought, “Here he is! God’s anointed!”

7 But God told Samuel, “Looks aren’t everything. Don’t be impressed with his looks and stature. I’ve already eliminated him. God judges persons differently than humans do. Men and women look at the face; God looks into the heart.”

8 Jesse then called up Abinadab and presented him to Samuel. Samuel said, “This man isn’t God’s choice either.”

9 Next Jesse presented Shammah. Samuel said, “No, this man isn’t either.”

10 Jesse presented his seven sons to Samuel. Samuel was blunt with Jesse, “God hasn’t chosen any of these.”

11 Then he asked Jesse, “Is this it? Are there no more sons?”

“Well, yes, there’s the runt. But he’s out tending the sheep.”

Samuel ordered Jesse, “Go get him. We’re not moving from this spot until he’s here.”

12 Jesse sent for him. He was brought in, the very picture of health—bright-eyed, good-looking.

God said, “Up on your feet! Anoint him! This is the one.”

13 Samuel took his flask of oil and anointed him, with his brothers standing around watching. The Spirit of God entered David like a rush of wind, God vitally empowering him for the rest of his life.

Samuel left and went home to Ramah.

Not so spiritual

In many churches a conversation along these lines might not be viewed as entirely good on a Sunday morning. Personally I think that’s a shame as it seems to be just the sort of pastoral chat we should be having. As someone who has been involved in pastoral leadership I can’t help but agree that good pastoral leadership doesn’t want to shoot the breeze.

not so spiritual


I know very few songs that explore mercy – I am not too sure that many Christians understand the idea, though we all delight in its reality. (For a definition see below.)

Matt Redman’s song might help you to focus – I love it.

Here are the lyrics,,

I will kneel in the dust
at the foot of the cross,
where mercy paid for me.
Where the wrath I deserve,
it is gone, it has passed.
Your blood has hidden me.

Mercy, mercy,
as endless as the sea.
I’ll sing Your hallelujah
for all eternity.

We will lift up the cup
and the bread we will break,
remembering Your love.
We were fallen from grace,
but You took on our shame
and nailed it to a cross.

Mercy, mercy,
as endless as the sea.
I’ll sing Your hallelujah
for all eternity.

May I never lose the wonder,
oh, the wonder of Your mercy.
May I sing Your hallelujah.
Hallelujah, Amen.
[repeat 3x]

May I never lose the wonder,
oh, the wonder of Your mercy.
May I sing Your hallelujah.
Hallelujah, Amen.

I will kneel in the dust
at the foot of the cross,
where mercy paid for me.

In case you are wondering what mercy is there are plenty of biblical / theological definitions around. I liked this one from Acts,

Eph 2:3-5 (NIV) …Like the rest, we were by nature objects of wrath. But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions–it is by grace you have been saved.
A good way to understand the meaning of mercy is to see how it relates to grace:
Mercy–not getting what you do deserve / withheld punishment
Grace–getting what you don’t deserve / unmerited favor
Mercy is like a judge finding you guilty, but then withholding any punishment. Grace is getting something you could never have imagined. An inexplicable gift. It’s like the same judge awarding you $10,000,000.00, after finding you guilty!
In this sense, mercy can be thought of as the opposite of grace, or perhaps more correctly–the inverse. The words are normally used in Scripture as defined, though occasionally the distinctions are blurred. In Greek as in English, mercy can also mean pity or compassion. (The King James Version, for example, often translated the word love as mercy.)

Answers on a postcard please

I would suggest that arguably the events that took place when Jesus was upon the cross are the most significant and powerful in human history.

All of which leads me to a question that my daughter, Thania (who is 10) asked during our Bible study,

Did Jesus see the sins of the world when he died upon the cross?

I was, and am, stumped. I realise we can imagine Thania’s question to be asking different things, e.g.

  • did Jesus see every sin that every person who has and will ever exist commit?

  • did Jesus take sin in a generic sense upon himself at that time? Was it like being presented with a bill at a shop checkout and not checking the individual items off but simply looking at the total, thinking it seems about correct, and issuing the payment?

It is not simple to come to an answer – I was glad to simply say that I don’t know, and don’t think the Bible is clear on it. Undoubtedly Jesus paid the price, but better minds than mine cannot agree on the how.

Maybe you are one of them. Answers on a postcard (or respond below) please.

God is…

I am reading Jim Belcher’s book, Deep Faith.

On page 52 he makes the following comment,

“In the national study on Youth and Religion, Christian Smith and his team discovered that the vast majority of young people were not interested in learning for its own sake, but only for what it could produce: a high school diploma, a college degree, a good job, lots of money a successful career – the American dream. Gone are the days when education is connected to character formation or answering the big questions of life such as meaning and purpose. In other words, education is just a ticket to the cultural idols of the day that people pursue in place of God to bring meaning and purpose”

deep-faithI guess it is nothing new – any casual observer of American culture, at least as portrayed on news and entertainment programmes, would be able to come to the same conclusions. Let’s be honest, the American dream might often name God but frequently is very far from God and has replaced Him with rampant materialism and selfishness.

What concerns me is that this is also the spirituality that America is exporting around the world in the name of Jesus. Rather than being a balance to the darkness of society, rather than being salt or fighting the devaluing of life and work to a set of (ultimately) meaningless possessions, American Christianity has tried to imitate the culture of the day and suggest it is the biblical paradigm.

Let me suggest this has gone further and has infected Bible colleges and seminaries. It appears that in many colleges of our day professors are no longer focussing the character formation in the life of students as a foundation for life and godliness, but simply want to produce people who know something that can be written on an exam paper, or can do something.

Ability outstrips character in our pragmatic age.