This past summer, Wendy and I had a great time working with Central College students in the Pella Shakespeare Company’s production of Much Ado About Nothing. We’d been thinking for a while that it would be a lot of fun to give these starving artists a good home cooked meal. It took a few months for us to get our act together, but Thomas Gill and Joe Cerwinske stopped by last night for a great spaghetti dinner and we ended up hanging out on the back patio late into the evening. Thomas and I even broke out the guitars and had a little impromptu jam session. What a blast! I can’t wait to do it again.
"Well, yes, there’s the runt. But he’s out tending the sheep." I Samuel 16:11 (TM)
Yep, that was David – the runt. That’s who God chose as King of Israel: the runt son of an insignificant family in the backwater town of Bethlehem. God makes a habit of using the youngest, smallest, poorest, least educated, and handicapped to become his representative. I believe that one of the enemy’s greatest weapons is self-doubt:
- I’m not gifted
- I’m not smart enough
- I not wealthy
- I’m not anything special
Don’t be deceived. You are just who God is looking for. Remember the runt David.
Yesterday Wendy and I headed to Des Moines in my new company car. I was low on gas, but the car’s computer told me I had 58 miles left. I did the mental calculations to figure out if I needed to stop before we got to the Doctor’s office and then kept my eye on the odometer. As we trucked down University Wendy asked if we needed to get gas. "Nope, we’ll make it!" I answered. The computer told me so.
As we got off the exit at 22nd street in West Des Moines I had 10 miles left and a half-mile to the doctor’s office.
That’s when I ran out of gas.
Don’t trust the computer – trust your wife when she tells you to stop! 🙂
Do you think all God wants are sacrifices—empty rituals just for show? He wants you to listen to him! Plain listening is the thing, not staging a lavish religious production. Not doing what God tells you is far worse than fooling around in the occult. I Samuel 15:22-23 (TM)
There is a spectrum of people who "don’t get it". On one end you have those Samuel addresses who weekly stage "a lavish religious production". They look good, they go to church, they put on the act – but their hearts have not been changed. On the other hand you have those who refuse to truly follow God, but they look at themselves and say "well, I think I’m an alright guy. I’m not worshiping the occult or killing people or doing anything really bad." In both cases, the issue is one of a heart that does not follow after God.
Interesting that God chose this story to precede the calling of David, a man after God’s own heart.
Jonathan said, "My father has imperiled the country. Just look how
quickly my energy has returned since I ate a little of this honey! It
would have been a lot better, believe me, if the soldiers had eaten
their fill of whatever they took from the enemy. Who knows how much
worse we could have whipped them!" I Samuel 14:29-30 (TM)
Jonathan was a smart guy, and he saw the weakness of his father’s leadership early on. Perhaps that’s why Jonathan would, later on, quickly see why David would be a more capable leader for the country. Jonathan was stuck between a rock and a hard place. His father’s foolishness meant that he would never ascend to the throne, and yet he could never fully be part of David’s administration. Yet, Jonathan seemed to accept his lot with grace and understanding.
Saul answered, "When I saw I was losing my army from under me, and that
you hadn’t come when you said you would, and that the Philistines were
poised at Micmash, I said, ‘The Philistines are about to come down on
me in Gilgal, and I haven’t yet come before God asking for his help.’ So I took things into my own hands, and sacrificed the burnt offering." I Samuel 13:11-12 (TM)
"I took things into my own hands" jumped out at me when I read this passage. What Saul was saying is "I didn’t have faith. I didn’t believe". Faith often requires waiting, being patient and trusting in God’s timing. As a human being living in the techno-age, it’s easy for me to expect God to respond in nanoseconds with the click of my spiritual mouse. When he doesn’t respond as quickly as I want, I pound the ctrl-alt-delete function of life and try to reboot the situation. ‘Wait on the Lord" may never have been so difficult from a cultural perspective. Saul’s life is a great example of what happens when we refuse to trust God and His timing.
Samuel said to them, "Don’t be fearful. It’s true that you have done
something very wrong. All the same, don’t turn your back on God.
Worship and serve him heart and soul! Don’t chase after ghost-gods.
There’s nothing to them. They can’t help you. They’re nothing but
ghost-gods! God, simply because of who he is, is not going to walk off and leave his people. God took delight in making you into his very own people. I Samuel 12:20-22 (TM)
One of the most common responses when I’m faced with my own sin is shame – that feeling of being utterly worthless. When shame attacks, I can’t comprehend how God would ever love me accept me, or want to continue His relationship with me. When confronted with their sin, Israel responded the same way I’ve responded a million times – by shrinking away in shame, fearful that this has been the last straw – surely God has had enough of me and my stupidity – surely He will walk away from this time, give up on me, and call it quits.
I’ve recently been grieving over a broken relationship. A dear friend has been giving me the cold shoulder, refusing to answer messages and not responding to invitations to talk it through. It’s very shaming. I’ve obviously done something to hurt my friend and rather than work it through he’s walked away.
That’s why today’s verse spoke to me. I love Samuel’s response to Israel, reminding us that God is not human. Because of who He is, He is not going to leave us or forsake us. I Timothy 2:13 puts it this way: "if we are faithless, he will remain faithful, for he cannot disown himself."
The very day before, God
had confided in Samuel, "This time tomorrow, I’m sending a man from the
land of Benjamin to meet you. You’re to anoint him as prince over my
people Israel. I Samuel 9:15 (TM)
The story of Saul is a tragic one. We tend to remember how he blew it in the end – how he disobeyed Samuel, how he went crazy trying to kill David in fits of jealous rage, how again and again he missed the mark of what God wanted in a leader for His people. Yet, we forget that God chose Saul to be king. Saul was God’s man as much as he was the choice of the people. Why? Why would God choose someone He knew would disappoint? Could it be that He wanted to give the people an object lesson – a compare and contrast between Saul and David? I don’t know…just something I’ll be pondering today.
The four of us took a road trip yesterday and headed back to the family’s stomping grounds in Northwest Iowa. My Uncle Bud and Aunt Jane celebrated their 50th Anniversary. The Vander Well’s don’t get together much any more, so this was kind of special. It was a long day on the road, but it was a nice day and we had a lot of laughs with family. I had fun seeing the town where my family lived when I was born and where I spent many a weekend of my childhood. My mom took Wendy, Madison, nephew Sol and me on a guided tour of Le Mars. We saw where she and dad first met, the house the family lived in when I was born, etc., etc.
Then we sat in the American Legion Hall with many old people eating ham buns, drinking ice tea and staring blankly at the dark wood paneling. It was a quintessential midwest, small town moment. It’s the kind of touchstone event that dot the timeline of life. After seeing Thornton Wilder’s "Our Town" a few weeks ago, it made me think about those moments a bit. It made me quietly grateful for those moments even though I make fun of them and at times they drive me crazy. I guess we often laugh hardest at those things that are most true about ourselves.