Tag Archives: heart

It’s Not What’s on the Outside That Counts

To stay on a royal theme, in Britain there is a very clear line of succession – who will take the throne next.  It can get very involved once you get passed the first few, but basically the eldest child (currently the eldest son, but that is likely to change) follows on the reign of their parent, unless something unusual happens, like the abdication of Edward VIII that brought the Queens father to the throne.

God’s people were still getting to grips with kings and succession – but God was determined to get it right.

34 Samuel went home to Ramah, and Saul returned to his home in Gibeah. 35 Even though Samuel felt sad about Saul, Samuel never saw him again.

The Lord Chooses David To Be King

The Lord was sorry he had made Saul the king of Israel. 16 One day he said, “Samuel, I’ve rejected Saul, and I refuse to let him be king any longer. Stop feeling sad about him. Put some olive oil in a small container and go visit a man named Jesse, who lives in Bethlehem. I’ve chosen one of his sons to be my king.”

Samuel answered, “If I do that, Saul will find out and have me killed.”

“Take a calf with you,” the Lord replied. “Tell everyone that you’ve come to offer it as a sacrifice to me, then invite Jesse to the sacrifice. When I show you which one of his sons I have chosen, pour the olive oil on his head.”

Samuel did what the Lord told him and went to Bethlehem. The town leaders went to meet him, but they were terribly afraid and asked, “Is this a friendly visit?”

“Yes, it is!” Samuel answered. “I’ve come to offer a sacrifice to the Lord. Get yourselves ready to take part in the sacrifice and come with me.” Samuel also invited Jesse and his sons to come to the sacrifice, and he got them ready to take part.

When Jesse and his sons arrived, Samuel noticed Jesse’s oldest son, Eliab. “He has to be the one the Lord has chosen,” Samuel said to himself.

But the Lord told him, “Samuel, don’t think Eliab is the one just because he’s tall and handsome. He isn’t the one I’ve chosen. People judge others by what they look like, but I judge people by what is in their hearts.”

Jesse told his son Abinadab to go over to Samuel, but Samuel said, “No, the Lord hasn’t chosen him.”

Next, Jesse sent his son Shammah to him, and Samuel said, “The Lord hasn’t chosen him either.”

10 Jesse had all seven of his sons go over to Samuel. Finally, Samuel said, “Jesse, the Lord hasn’t chosen any of these young men. 11 Do you have any more sons?”

“Yes,” Jesse answered. “My youngest son David is out taking care of the sheep.”

“Send for him!” Samuel said. “We won’t start the ceremony until he gets here.”

12 Jesse sent for David. He was a healthy, good-looking boy with a sparkle in his eyes. As soon as David came, the Lord told Samuel, “He’s the one! Get up and pour the olive oil on his head.”

13 Samuel poured the oil on David’s head while his brothers watched. At that moment, the Spirit of the Lord took control of David and stayed with him from then on.

Samuel returned home to Ramah.

So God’s worries about letting Israel have a king prove to be well-founded! Having Saul as king had not worked well for anyone. So God sets out with a better choice.

Samuel arrives at Jesse’s house knowing only that one of his sons will be king.  The assumption is that Jesse’s oldest son will be the one.  Not only is he the oldest, but he is tall and handsome.  But God has great advice and a good principle,

People judge others by what they look like, but I judge people by what is in their hearts.

And so Samuel goes through all of Jesse’s sons, seeking the one God might be looking for to be ruler.  Seven sons later, he still hasn’t found the one.  Are there any more?  Only the youngest son, he looks after the sheep, it’s hardly going to be him is it?  But as soon as David appears, God says, “He’s the one”.  This is the one who can be trusted, who will do things God’s way, not be out to look good.

God isn’t interested in how people look, but in how they behave, how they respond to situation, what is going on in their hearts and lives.

I wonder how often we are guilty of judging people, or even our own lives, by what’s on the outside.  Do they wear the right clothes?  Drive the right car?  Mix with the right people?  Are they young, fit and attractive?  None of these things matter in God’s ways.  It is what is going on in someone’s heart that is the only criteria God looks at.

Is this someone who will listen to his word?  Follow God’s ways?  Love others?  That is what God is looking for – we must not get God’s criteria confused with popular judgements.

Forgive me Lord,

for the time I confuse how someone looks

with how they really are;

may I not be wowed by flashy gimmicks,

those who say the right thing,

or look the right way;

but see instead what they show me of you

and living life your way

It’s Not What You Eat…

There is an ongoing debate about sell by dates on food.  We need to be careful we don’t poison ourselves, but are manufacturers over-cautious in their labelling?  Is food perfectly ok beyond its sell  by date, and is much food wasted because of it?  We need to exercise care of what we eat, but are we sometimes too careful?  Bad food will not do us any good, and anyone who has every had food poisoning can testify to that!  But do we always come to the right conclusion about what is bad.

As Jesus continues on from yesterdays lesson about what is clean, he turns thoughts to what is eaten:

What Really Makes People Unclean

14Jesus called the crowd together again and said, “Pay attention and try to understand what I mean. 15-16The food that you put into your mouth doesn’t make you unclean and unfit to worship God. The bad words that come out of your mouth are what make you unclean.”17After Jesus and his disciples had left the crowd and had gone into the house, they asked him what these sayings meant. 18He answered, “Don’t you know what I am talking about by now? You surely know that the food you put into your mouth cannot make you unclean. 19It doesn’t go into your heart, but into your stomach, and then out of your body.” By saying this, Jesus meant that all foods were fit to eat.

20Then Jesus said:

What comes from your heart is what makes you unclean. 21Out of your heart come evil thoughts, vulgar deeds, stealing, murder, 22unfaithfulness in marriage, greed, meanness, deceit, indecency, envy, insults, pride, and foolishness. 23All of these come from your heart, and they are what make you unfit to worship God.

Jesus continues to radically redefine issues of purity and impurity (Tom Wright p 72).  He wants the focus to be on lives not rules.

There was a supposition that what was eaten could make a person “clean” or “unclean”.  That had nothing to do with health and hygiene and everything to do with more controlling laws.  What you eat is not going to effect your eternity.  Food laws were to keep you well, not make God like you or not.  And so the lesson is not so much be careful what you eat, but be careful what you do and say.  The food you eat doesn’t make you the kind of person you are, but how you behave and what you say do – that is what we should be more concerned about.

When we stop and look at our lives, do we concentrate on the right things, or do we worry too much about trivialities?  Do we focus on the core things Jesus asks of us, or spend too much time and energy on the things around the edges that are more personal preferences than gospel truths?  Are we distracted by outer trimmings rather than what is going on in hearts?

Yes, we are asked to pause and reflect, but we need to make sure we reflect on the things that matter to God, not to anyone we think is looking over our shoulder.

Is your heart right with God?,

is the fundamental question.  If anyone else is worried by other things, that is their problem, not yours.

Tom’s prayer for today(p 73):

Give us courage,

Gracious God,

to follow you,

this Lent and always,

on the path that leads to full purity of heart

This year, I am again following the Big Read using Tom Wright’s Lent for Everyone – Mark.  I’ll reflect here – if you’re following it too, or even if you’re not, please share with me.