Last but not least 1 Samuel 16. 1-13 and John 1-41

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Sunday 30th March 2014

Last but not least - 1 Samuel 16.1-13 and John 9.1-41

Hands up those of you who have elder brothers. David had seven! Being the youngest son with elder brothers and the same name, I have a lot of empathy with David.
But let us take a brief step back to the time just before Samuel sought out David. Having a King was not God’s choice, but the people demanded a King. The Book of Judges ends with the phrase 21 v 25 “In those days there was no king in Israel, and everyone did as he saw fit.” The last people in the line of Judges were Samuel and his sons when Samuel grew old.
The elders of Israel said to Samuel, 1 Samuel 8 v 5 ‘you are old, and your sons do not follow your ways; now appoint a king to lead us, such as all the other nations have.’
The Lord said to Samuel, ‘listen to them; but warn them solemnly and let them know what the king who will reign over them will claim as his rights. Samuel told the people, ‘this is what the king who will reign over you will claim as his rights: he will take your sons … Some he will assign to be commanders … and others to plough his ground and reap his harvest, and still others to make weapons of war. He will take your daughters to be perfumers and cooks and bakers. He will take the best of your fields and vineyards and olive groves …he will take a tenth of your grain … your servants and the best of your cattle … he will take for his own use … a tenth of your flocks, and you yourselves will become his slaves. When that day comes, you will cry out for relief from the king you have chosen, but the Lord will not answer you in that day.’
Saul was chosen by lot by all the people of Israel and as he stood among the people he was a head taller than any of the others. Samuel said to all the people, ‘Do you see the man the Lord has chosen? There is no one like him among all the people.’ After a time King Saul, failed God and the Lord said to Samuel ‘I regret that I have made Saul king, because he has turned away from me and has not carried out my instructions.’
So it is against this background that Samuel comes to Jesse’s house to find Saul’s successor. This time there will be no involvement of the people by lot but the person God shows to Samuel. This brings us to today’s reading and our subject “Last but not least.” Samuel saw Eliab and thought, ‘Surely the Lord’s anointed stands here before the Lord.’ Lord said to Samuel, ‘Do not consider his appearance or his height, for I have rejected him. The Lord does not look at the things people look at. People look at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.’
That’s the nub of the story; we look at outward appearance, in David’s time, the Iron Age, a leader needed to be the strongest to lead you into battle. Saul stood a head taller than all the others; Eliab was the tallest amongst his brothers. God chose David, the youngest against all the normal criteria of that time.
David is chosen to be king over Israel because God wanted a king ‘after his own heart’ (1 Samuel 13.14)

The reading ends with, “from that day on the Spirit of the Lord came powerfully upon David.”

Was David perfect, better than Saul, following God’s calling at all times? No he was not perfect by any means and he often strayed away from what was right, or what God wished him to do. David’s life, particularly his failings, did not invalidate his calling and it did not stop God loving him. By our standards David was pretty reprehensible, the worst of his actions were; he committed adultery with Bathsheba, arranged for the death of Uriah, Bathsheba’s husband and he failed to control his sons resulting in Amnon committing incest and Absalom murdering him.
We had a rather long Gospel reading this morning; it is one of my favourite passages. The way Jesus deals with blindness in the Gospels is a study in its own right but this example is the most bizarre. Jesus made a mud pie out of his spittle and sent the blind man of to the pool of Siloh. Jesus could have healed the man straight away, however everything is done for a purpose. A blind beggar who was well known, being led through the streets with mud on his face would have drawn attention to what was going on. It had the greatest impact. Like choosing the youngest son, with god’s grace any of Jesse’s sons would have been capable of being king. But choosing the youngest had the greatest impact.
There is a very important message in the Gospel reading and it concerns the dialog between the Pharisees and the former blind man. They could not believe what had happened, they questioned the man, they questioned his parents and they were confounded. The Pharisees questioned him a second time and the former blind man answered, ‘I have told you already and you did not listen. Why do you want to hear it again?’ Jesus went and found the man, he said, ‘Do you believe in the Son of Man?’ The man said, ‘Lord, I believe,’ and he worshipped him.
So we come to the nub of this passage; Jesus said, ‘For judgment I have come into this world, so that the blind will see and those who see will become blind.’ Some Pharisees who were with him heard him say this and asked, ‘What? Are we blind too?’ Jesus said, ‘If you were blind, you would not be guilty of sin; but now that you claim you can see, your guilt remains.’
The topic for today of “Last but not Least” is only one small part of the story of Samuel anointing David. I think both the passage in Samuel and the passage in John talk far more about us not seeing properly, seeing the outward appearance, or being blinded to reality by our own prejudice or circumstance.

At the battle of Copenhagen in 1801 Nelson put a telescope to his blind eye and announced “I see no ships”. We are often tempted like the Pharisees to turn a blind eye to the things God wishes to show us. Samuel listened to God, opened his eyes and chose David

God called David to be King and in the same way God has called you and I and we have a choice to respond to that call, to open our eyes.
Remember the Lord does not look at the things people look at. People look at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart. The Lord looks at your and my heart.
The New Testament reading set for this morning is from Paul’s letter to the Ephesians 5.8-14. It takes a slightly different approach to blindness or our being taken in by outward appearances. It talks about light and being without light we will be blind. I don’t know if you have been in caves or down a mine when the joker of a guide turns all the lights out so you cannot see your hand in front of your face. No background light no stars, that’s the kind of darkness Paul uses as his metaphor. I will end by reading this as I think it sums up what these passages really mean.
You were once darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Live as children of light (for the fruit of the light consists in all goodness, righteousness and truth) and find out what pleases the Lord. Have nothing to do with the fruitless deeds of darkness, but rather expose them. It is shameful even to mention what the disobedient do in secret. But everything exposed by the light becomes visible – and everything that is illuminated becomes a light. This is why it is said: ‘Wake up, sleeper, rise from the dead, and Christ will shine on you.’

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