I samuel 16: 1-13 June 17, 2012

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“Image Isn’t Everything”

I Samuel 16:1-13 – June 17, 2012

INTRO: The people of Israel may have looked around at the impressive kings of other lands and people, and decided they would prefer a king to what they considered to be the less showy judges they had had leading them. So, Saul became their first king, but things didn’t work out. Today’s reading is the story of how the next king is chosen, King David.

The story broke this week about the British Prime Minister, David Cameron and his wife Samantha, who got home from lunch with friends at a pub in the English countryside, to discover they had left Nancy, their 8-year old daughter behind, in the pub. This happened just a few weeks after the government set up a program to give parents of young children classes on how to raise them! First of all, we need to know that in Great Britain, their pubs are places where families gather—children are welcome, and sometimes offer a garden where the kids play. It’s common to see several generations there together. So they didn’t leave her in any seedy tavern. And secondly, the Camerons were there with friends, and when they went to leave, they all piled into two cars to go home, and one parent thought Nancy was with the other. Still, there were some who questioned the parenting skills of the Prime Minister from what they saw in this incident, which obviously doesn’t tell the whole story. Unfortunately for the Prime Minister and his family, their lives are very public, and people want them to look good. That’s the way it seems to work for public figures.

“Back in 1990, tennis star Andre Agassi, with his trademark flowing dirty-blond, lion-mane mullet, made a commercial for a camera with the tagline, ‘Image is everything.’ The spot featured Andre riding in a Jeep, smoothing back his hair and generally looking like the essence of California cool. Problem was that Agassi's trademark hair was largely not his.

In his 2009 autobiography, Agassi admits that he started losing his hair when he was 17, and was actually wearing a wig during the commercial and on the court -- and it cost him the 1990 French Open. It seems that Andre was worried about his hairpiece falling off in the middle of the match, so he played pretty stiff and got beat. To his credit, Andre got real about his image after that and shaved off his hair, making his image all about what happened on the court. What he didn't know, however, was that his signature line, ‘Image is everything,’ would become the mantra of the first two decades of the 21st century.” (Homiletics 6-12)

“We could argue that the ancient Israelites were as image-obsessed as we are. After they arrived in the promised land, they started to look at the celebrity kings of the Canaanites and wondered why their own judges, like the old prophet Samuel and his sons, looked so scruffy by comparison. So, they lobbied for a king to govern them—a king who would make them ‘like other nations.’ But by the time of Samuel, Israel had conveniently forgotten that God had called on them to not be like other nations and that God was the real power behind the throne. They were determined to have the image of a legitimate nation. So God gave the Israelites exactly what they wanted: the prototypical image of a tall, dark and handsome monarch. King Saul, however, was like so many celebrities whose shiny outward appearance hides a dark and broken interior life. He acts impulsively, swears, disobeys God, kills priests, chucks spears at musicians, and has a poor relationship with his son among other things.
God determined that Saul's style was fully lacking in substance and was sorry to have allowed the bling king to be crowned, and so God commands Samuel to anoint a new king.
Samuel travels to the out-of-the-way village of Bethlehem for what can only be described as a runway show of potential kings among the sons of Jesse. Eliab, the oldest, certainly looked the part -- tall and handsome like Saul. God lays out the criteria for the one they are looking

for: ‘Do not look on his appearance or on the height of his stature, because I have rejected him; for the Lord does not see as mortals see; they look on the outward appearance, but the Lord looks on the heart’ (16:7).

(One by one, seven sons of Jesse were scrutinized, and found lacking.) What matters to God is not the image we create, but God’s own image in us. God cuts through all the appearances and masks we love to wear for each other, and looks deep into the real self that's often hidden under all those layers of makeup, material things and make-believe roles we play.

In the case of the new king, God was looking for a man after his own heart -- not the oldest, wisest, strongest or most handsome. David was that man.” (Homiletics 6-12)

David was out in the field tending the sheep, while his brothers were in the contest for king. As the eighth child, he was forgotten in the midst of the festivities—maybe like being the prime minister’s daughter, left behind at the pub. Yet, David was God’s choice.

“God saw something in David that wasn’t seen in the others, something important, and something that wasn’t visible to Samuel or anyone else.” (Karla Suomala)

“David, like his brothers before him, is described as handsome and attractive, but in the eyes of God, his ‘heart’ was right and it was this that fitted him to be king of Israel.” (Anna Grant-Henderson)
“David will have a relationship with God by which all other kings in the Old Testament get measured.” (Homiletics 6-12)

We are a people who live in a culture where appearances are very important. We often make assumptions by what we see on the outside, not what might be on the inside. We judge a book by its cover. We have certain expectations to be met.

The late Dr. Charles Gilkey was dean of the chapel at the University of Chicago some 40 years ago. He was once invited to the Tuskeegee Institute (AL) to speak in the chapel there.

During the service he noted a diminutive elderly man with white hair sitting in a front pew. "How wonderful," he thought to himself, "they let some of the farm workers from the vicinity attend services." After the service there was a reception for Dr. Gilkey. He was standing beside the president of Tuskeegee as the people from the service passed by to exchange greetings. He saw the man he assumed to be the visiting field worker approach. As the man held out his hand, the president of the college said, "Dr. Gilkey, I would like you to meet our senior faculty member, Dr. George Washington Carver." The scientist, botanist, inventor Dr. Carver.

(SermonSuite) Gilkey’s assumptions, what he first saw and believed, were way off.

A man was described as being recently released from prison, where he served ten years for recklessly endangering safety. He ran with the guys who tore up the community. And, here he was, on the front page of the newspaper, now helping to fix up the community he once destroyed. This fellow has been hired by a group called 180 Properties, to clean up and fix up bank-owned houses that are a blight on neighborhoods. Common Ground instituted this program, with the hope of rehabbing houses, and hiring ex-offenders, those with an unsteady work history, those with little education and skills. There’s lots more to this ex-con, than what we might first see. (Journal Sentinel 6/15/12)

A while back, I remember watching a father trying to teach his son to ride a bike. Now, I must admit that from outward appearances, this is probably not the most athletic father in my neighborhood, and it looked to me like he’d maybe never done this before. As the kid wobbled along, trying to keep the wheels of the bike on the sidewalk, the father was probably ten feet behind him, shouting out encouraging words. And I thought, run along beside him, hold onto the back of the bicycle seat or the handlebars, until he learns how to balance the thing. But that’s not what he did. Don’t you know, the next time around my block, the kid was catching on, the father was applauding, and my previous evaluation about whether this guy was up to the job was totally worthless. I’d relied on what I first saw. He knew what to do, and it worked fine.

When I was leaving the Greenfield Church, they made an announcement in worship, that the next pastor appointed there would be Brad Van Fossen. Jacob, a little nine year old boy from the congregation, was riding home in the car with his grandfather. He said to his granddad, “Did they say the new pastor’s name was Brad?” And his granddad affirmed, that was indeed the case. Then Jake said, “Isn’t Brad a man’s name? Can men be pastors?”

You see, I was the only pastor he had ever known up to that point. He was about a year old when I was first appointed there. I fulfilled his expectation of who a pastor was, and I was female. How wonderful Jake had his image expanded, with the arrival of the new guy.

“We would do well, swimming upstream against both our nature and our culture, to make sure that we focus on what God focuses on. And, on a personal level, we do well to remind ourselves about what God looks at and sees in us. It's an easy thing to pose habitually for a world that is impressed by externals, only to disappoint in the end the audience of one, for whom we promised to live.” (David Kalas)

That audience is God. “The image of God is everything. We were created in God's image for a purpose. David was chosen for the specific purpose of leading his people with no pretense and with no resume. Each of us is chosen for a purpose that has nothing to do with fame, fortune or face time on TV. Our purpose is to reflect the image of God in us and no other, and to live as people who authentically love and are loved.

Scripture tells us over and over again that God does the best work through those whom the rest of the world wouldn't give 15 seconds of attention, let alone 15 minutes of fame: people like this poetic little shepherd, a bunch of working class fishermen and a host of sinners like us—people who may never be famous to the rest of the world. It's often through the weakest and least likely that God's glory is able to shine brightest. Appearances can be deceiving. Thankfully God looks at the heart. The only image that really matters is God's image in us.” (Homiletics 6/12)

--Sue Burwell

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