What's in your heart?
Have you ever seen the credit card commercial in which these little scenarios play out in which someone’s bank card is stolen and used for purchases by someone else…
or someone else is stuck flying coach when others with better credit cards are moved up to first class…
or a homeowner’s house is destroyed by some cataclysmic event or at the hands of — I don’t know — rogue cowboys or vikings …
and the whole point of the commerical is that if you used a certain bank’s card, you wouldn’t have had these problems?
And then a celebrity stands up at the end and asks: “What’s in your wallet?”
…implying that if you had the right bank card in your wallet, none of these bad things would have happened to you.
That somehow, this card can make your life more perfect.
Of course, we all know that there is no such thing as perfect.
Money gets stolen, we get stuffed into airplane seats we don’t quite fit into, and cataclysmic events happen — even if they aren’t at the hands of rogue cowboys or vikings…
It really doesn’t matter what’s in your wallet.
In life, God sees past the superficial as well.
What we possess or who we’re affiliated makes no difference.
Instead, God clearly tells us that what’s in our hearts is what really matters.
And that’s what we’re going to dig into today.
From our reading today in 1 Samuel, we see that bad things happen in life.
The story of first Samuel is a story of transition for Israel — God’s chosen people.
God made a deal — a covenant — with the Israelites after freeing them from slavery in Egypt.
“I will be your God, and you will be my people.” (Leviticus 26:12).
After Moses led the Israelites out of Egypt, God told the prophet to select judges to help Moses settle problems and lead the people, because he was being overwhelmed.
The system worked just fine — God spoke through the prophets, and the prophets spoke to the judges, the judges took care of the people, and everyone was happy.
But one day, the Isrealites weren’t happy with the judges, and when it was time to choose a new judge whom God would speak through, they wanted something different.
They wanted more control of their own destiny.
They wanted what every other surrounding nation had: A king.
Why? Well, humans can’t control God; but humans can control a fellow human — a king.
And despite God’s protests and warnings, God relented and told the prophet Samuel to annoint a king.
That king was Saul.
And Saul ended up being a big, hot mess.
And we see from our reading today that God actually regretted the decision to let Saul be king, which we see in Verse 35.
And when God is finished with Saul, God tells Samuel to annoint another king.
And this time it would be different.
God was looking for a good heart, not just a popular leader.
And in the biblical tradition of the least becomming first, or the most unsuspected rising to the top,
like God’s choice of Issac over Ishmael, Jacob over Esau, Gideon over his brothers, and Joseph over his brothers, and Jesus over the traditional kings…
…God chooses David.
Not because what’s in David’s wallet — that is, his heritage or influence — but what’s in David’s heart.
What’s in your heart?
And so God tells Samuel that Saul’s time is done, and you have a task to do.
And so we pick up in Chapter 16, Verse 6, where God is now leading Samuel to anoint the next king — a son of Jesse, a successful farmer and sheep breeder in Bethlehem, who had eight sons.
We remember that in this culture, the eldest son was always the next in line,
and it was the eldest son who received the largest inheritance.
So Samuel asks Jesse to show him his boys, and Eliab is the first in line,
and he’s strong and handsome, and Samuel just assumes that this boy is the one he will anoint.
God says no.
And here’s what God says:
Verse 7: “Have no regard for his appearance or stature, because I haven’t selected him. God doesn’t look at things like humans do. Humans see only what is visible to the eyes, but the Lord sees into the heart.”
The same happens all the way down the line until Jesse is out of boys.
Except for one: The youngest, the runt of the litter, the last in line.
Not even in the line, he’s so lowly considered.
The youngest gets the worst job: tending the sheep.
Samuel tells Jesse to get this boy, when we he returns with him, God says, “That’s the one. Go annoint him.” (Verse 12).
And God’s Spirit came over David and from that point forward.
What did God see in David’s heart?
Well, we don’t really know for sure, but God had a plan here.
God was establishing the bloodline through which the real King would come through, and that king would be Jesus the Christ, the Messiah.
We know this about David: He was filled with the Spirit (Verse 13).
He was the least likely.
He was ruddy and handsome.
He could play music, and he loved to dance.
Being a shepherd, he had to fend off all sorts of attacks — lions and bears we later read — and he seemed particularly adept with the sling.
And being a shepherd, David learned early how to sacrifice himself for his flock.
He was loyal and modest, but he carried a big stick.
Now, before we deify David, as so many have done before us, we have to note that as a king, while David did some great things, he also did some very wicked things.
Just as God knew, but no one else seemed to understand: Humans sin.
And if we follow humans and put all our faith in humans, then we’re going to be let down.
At the time of Saul and David, the people chose the human king over the divine Lord.
Today, far too many of us still choose the human king over the divine Lord.
We go to humans before going to God.
We put our trust in human hands rather than faith in God’s hands.
And when that happens, we start to believe that we are right to justify treating people differently because of their gender, beliefs or skin color;
We think it’s OK to neglect our brothers and sisters here and around the world who are suffering and dying;
and we condone policies that allow agents to rip babies from their mother’s arms and put them in cages.
When we put our faith in humans, we will be let down, and we let down others by believing it’s OK to not love them.
But if we put our faith in the Lord, we will never be let down, and we can’t possibly let down those whom we love.
Did God know that David would cave to sin?
Would God regret David as God regretted Saul?
David’s sins were horrible.
Case in point, while his army was at war, and David was lying around his palace, he caught a glimpse of the wife of one of his most loyal military commanders.
And while that soldier was away, David forced himself upon the young wife, Bathsheba (2 Sam 11)
And to cover up his sin, he successfully divised a plan to have her husband killed.
It makes us wonder, why do we celebrate David still?
If that happened today, David be serving jail time.
Well, that doesn’t really happen to kings today, does it?
For God’s glory
Can God use sinners to bring glory to Gods’ self?
And we should note that David does ask for forgiveness and repents, and he also accepts his punishment. (2 Sam 12).
God uses what God has. That’s us.
We can be good of heart, and God will use us.
And we can be poor of heart, and we can be changed.
Like David and Paul and Nicodemus…
In each case, there is a repentance. A turning away from past ways.
And that purifies David’s heart.
And we’re no different.
Archbishop Desmond Tutu writes about a man with a sin he couldn’t seem to overcome.
Tutu writes: “…no sooner had he been absolved than he would trip up and sin again. One day this happened, and he rushed back to God and said, ‘I’m sorry, I’ve done it again.’ And God asked, ‘What have you done again?’ For God suffers from amnesia when it comes to our sins. God does not look at the caterpillar we are now, but the dazzling butterfly we have it in us to become.”
We learn that in turning away from sin, David turns to God.
Instead of slaying Goliath the with the tools and the customs of the day, he uses a stone and faith in God.
David replaces Saul not by a violent act of unseating him, but with compassion — playing music for Saul to soothe him in his old age and condition.
And, most importantly, David stops living like a nomad —
and turns the Israelites away from their religiously nomadic ways and sins of metaphorically moving from human-made god to human-made god —
and envisions a permanent home in Israel — the Temple — in which the people will permanently worship the One True God.
God moves David against the grain, counter-culture to re-establish the covenant between God and Israel…
…and begin the bloodline that nearly 500 years later leads to the birth of the Messiah, Jesus Christ.
Will God use us?
What’s in our hearts?
Will God use us despite our sinfulness?
Well the answer to that is not a simple yes or no —
because here’s what we know:
God is omniscient, and that means God knows everything.
Everything that has happened, is happening and will happen.
God knew David — despite all his good qualities — was a human and therefore capable of great sin.
The counterpart to that is that our God is capable of great mercy.
Praise God for that, amen?
So today, if we’re in good standing with God, God will use us, even if God knows that tomorrow we might fall from that good standing.
And if we do fall from that good standing by our sins, God will eternally forgive us and use us.
But when we’re in the midst of our sins, and we don’t turn from them and ask God for forgiveness, God will not use us.
God can’t. God is ALL good. And God can’t have or accept any bad.
And this is where the rubber hits the road for us here today:
See this is an amazing lesson in God’s grace.
But it’s also a warning that we need to do a spiritual checkup on ourselves to see just where we’ve fallen away.
I don’t want to be so binary on this issue, but it’s fair to say that if we’re not feeling the Spirit moving in our lives, then we probably ought to check to see where our spiritual health is.
If we don’t know that we’ve sinned — the lines sometimes seem pretty blurry — we can ask God to show us.
That takes some real hard and courageous prayer sometimes.
But again, the Good News is that God forgives and God forgets.
What is our sin?
When I was a teenager, my friends and I decided we’d skip school one day.
The next day, I had to produce a written excuse for my absence from my parents, as was school policy.
My mom’s handwriting is perfect and artisitic and extremely original.
My dad’s was a bit like a doctor’s…
So I forged a note in my father’s handwriting.
And of course I got caught.
And I’ll never forget that evening, when my dad came home from his second job, and he sat beside me on my bed to address the sin I had committed.
See, I knew I was wrong to skip school.
But he was more concerned with something else.
Almost in disbelief and in shame, he looked at me and said — and I will never forget this moment —
he said “Christopher, you stole my name. That was my name!”
I have to say, that I never looked at what I did in that way.
It was more than just skipping school; it was something that deeply hurt him.
I stole from my own father.
I thought I had lost his trust forever, and I certainly deserved as much.
And I was punished. I don’t remember how long I was grounded for or whatever…
I don’t remember what me and my friends did that afternoon off of school.
But I can hear my father’s voice, and I sure can feel the shame of that moment as if it had happened yesterday.
But my dad did forgive me.
He never held that over me.
And I bet you that if he were alive today, and I asked him about it, he wouldn’t remember it, or he’d tell me he couldn’t remember it.
That’s God for us.
That is the picture of God for us.
My own dad gave me so much.
Gave me so many responsibilities.
He taught me so many things, and loved me so much.
That’s all he wanted.
Even though I did what I did and even though I’d probably do more stupid things in my life — and I sure have —
he still loved me unconditionally and still trusted me unconditionally.
That’s the picture of God for David, and that’s the picture of God for us.
So we’ve all been in some hard places,
We have what we might call a “past” or a “history.”
And we know we might slip up again tomorrow.
God’s love is unconditional,
and God will use us.
But God asks — demands, even — that we try.
That we understand just what it is that we’re doing that God cannot bless us.
And ask forgiveness, and turn away from those things.
To look deep into our own hearts, and seek to live in God’s love.
When we do that — no matter what we’ve done yesterday or what we might do tomorrow —
—and no matter who we are, what our stature or appearance is —
remember, God doesn’t look at those things;
God looks only into our hearts.
The very hearts God gave us;
The very hearts Jesus died for;
The very hearts that can bring ourselves and others into the kingdom now;
and the very hearts that can do nothing short of changing the world —
thy kingdom come, they will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.
What’s in our hearts?
Let it be love.