Sermon series: Covenant People
Connection to unit theme
Israel's desire to be ruled by a king was good, but tainted by their worldly aspirations. God gave the Israelites the king they wanted. Thankfully, He would also provide the king they need.
In 1999 the St. Louis Rams signed Trent Green to a four-year, $17.5 million contract. Coming off a solid season with the Washington Redskins, the Rams expected Green to turn around their young team that had gone 4-12 the previous season. Many pundits believed the Rams were on the cusp of breaking out, and that Green would be the knight in shining armor that would lead them into the NFL playoffs.
In their third preseason game everything was going well, with Green having completed 28 of 32 passes on the night. Their high hopes were soon dashed when Green took a vicious hit to the knee. Green's season was finished, and it appeared to be the death knell for the Rams' season as well. Their knight in shining armor had fallen. Taking his place would be a lowly and unheard-of peasant by the name of Kurt Warner. Fours year prior, Warner was stocking shelves at an Iowa grocery store. Nobody expected the Rams to compete. History, however, would shatter those expectations. Warner finished the season with 41 touchdown passes as he led the Rams to a Super Bowl victory, where he was named MVP.
Our world is filled with stories like this. The golden boy falls and an unlikely hero emerges. Strangely enough, though we love stories of the little guy emerging victorious, we continue pursuing charming leaders. It happened to Israel and it happens to us: No matter how many times we fall for their charm, what we really need is character. Thankfully, the Lord graciously rescues us with His righteous rule.
I. Men rejoice in leaders with charm (1 Samuel 16:6-7a)
Imagine standing before 10 men that you have only just met. You are tasked with choosing from five men from these 10 to be on your basketball team. How do you pick? If you are like most, you determine who looks like an athlete. You pick the tallest, the youngest, and those who seem to have the best abilities. This is because we tend to make choices based on outward appearances.
The prophet Samuel had a similar task. Standing before Jesse's sons, Samuel had to anoint the next king. Eliab was tall and kingly. He likely reminded Samuel of their present king, Saul, of whom it was said, "There was not a man among the people of Israel more handsome than he. From his shoulders upward he was taller than any of the people". Eliab looked the part, but the Lord warned Samuel, "Do not look on his appearance or on the height of his stature, because I have rejected him". Israel's first king, Saul, fit the bill for what the people wanted, namely a king as those of the nations. That did not end well. The Lord would now give them the king they needed.
Application: The Pharisees knew that men followed people that looked the part. This is why they spent so much energy "cleaning the outside of the cup" (Mt. 23:25-26). How about you? Are you more concerned with outward appearance or inner character in your own life? What about in the people that you choose to follow and learn from? Are you swept away by charming personality or are you edified by those with humble character?
II. God rejoices in leaders with character (1 Samuel 16:7b)
Thomas Paine once quipped, "Reputation is what men and women think of us. Character is what God and angels know of us". God did not make his choice of a king based on reputation. He based His choice on character.
As Samuel moved through each of Jesse's sons it was said, "Neither has the LORD chosen this one." All of Jesse's sons went through the line . . . except one. It certainly could not have been the youngest son. So ridiculous was the idea of young David becoming king that his father did not even bother to invite him. Sure, he was "ruddy and had beautiful eyes and was handsome." But so was Eliab. As David appeared before Samuel the LORD said, "Arise, anoint him, for this is he".
Both Eliab (and likely Jesse's other sons) and David were handsome. So, what made God choose David? First Samuel 16:7 tells us the answer: "man looks on the outward appearance, but the LORD looks on the heart." What set David apart was that he was "a man after [God's] own heart" - he set his heart to doing God's will (Acts 13:22). It would be through David that God would deliver on His promises. Ultimately, we know that the promises that God fulfilled through David, as well as the promises that God made to David, are completely fulfilled in David's greater Son, Jesus Christ. God, in His grace, rejects the kings we want and gives us the King we need.
Application: Are there "kings" whom you desire, but whom God rejects? Repent of these flashy idols and find rest in King Jesus. Reflect upon the promises God gave to David (2 Samuel 7:11b-16) and rejoice in their fulfillment in Jesus Christ. Consider what it means for our lives and ministries that Jesus Christ reigns from an eternal throne. Pursue character instead of charm.
Though "he had no form or majesty that we should look at him, and no beauty that we should desire him" (Isa. 53:2), King Jesus will rule for eternity. Though "despised and rejected by men" (Isa. 58:3) He is accepted by God (Mt. 3:17). Men will continue to choose leaders with charm as God exalts His faithful servants. Unbelievers are called to refuse the fleeting pleasures offered by charming idols and surrender to King Jesus. Believers are called to reflect the humble reign of King Jesus and to live according to His rule.