Rev. George Miller
1 Samuel 15:34-16:13
Sept 21, 2014
Today we hear a story about David- the Boy Who Would be King. David who will be a reckless lover, a cowardly murderer and the brave destroyer of Goliath. David who will be a father, a husband and a best friend.
Biblical history will credit David for being an excellent musician, an ecstatic dancer and a song composer.
But for now, we meet David as just a boy, a baby brother of eight, a youth who is left to tend the sheep while his siblings put on a fashion show for in hopes that they’ll be crowned Israel’s Next Top Monarch.
Since God’s people experience God through story and history, let me share with you the tale of “David and the Big Bad Bear.”
Once upon a time, when Israel was at war with the Philistines there was a man named Jesse. He had eight sons. The three oldest fought with King Saul in battle.
David was the youngest child and would go back and forth, visiting his brothers in battle and feeding his father’s sheep in Bethlehem.
One day, a bear came to the field and took a lamb from the flock. Though he was a just a boy, David went after the bear, gave it a good walloping and rescued the lamb from its mouth.
But the bear was not happy and went after David, who grabbed the bear by its jaw, struck it down and killed it.
Amazingly this didn’t happen just once, but many times, and not just with bears but with lions as well.
Whether this is historical fact or a spiritual truth, it certainly makes for a good story…
...Last Tuesday I had the honor to represent our church while giving the opening invocation at the Board of County Commissioners.
I stayed afterwards, as recognitions and presentations were made. One was by Mike Orlando, the Assistant Bear Management Coordinator for the Florida Fish & Wildlife Commission.
According to Mike, there are currently 20 million people living in Florida; there are about 3,000 bears. 100 bears are estimated to live in Highlands County.
There’s been a problem because more and more bear/human incidents are occurring.
Bears are omnivores, meaning they’ll eat just about anything: berries, insects, pigs. They’ll also eat anything left out: bird seed, garbage, dog food. This creates a problem as it brings more and more bears into direct contact with people.
Hunting is being evaluated as an option to deal with this growing concern. Relocation is not worthwhile because a male bear will cover about 60 miles and usually ends up back where they were caught.
Here’s something else: bears are lazy and scared of anything. It’s not unusual to observe a cat or dog chase a bear up a tree.
According to Mike, do you know which breed of dog chases bears the most?
Why? It’s all about the attitude.
In other words, it’s not the size of the dog but the bombast of the bark.
I wonder if this analogy can be placed upon David in today’s story.
Following last week’s scipture about Eli and Samuel, we have another sensory laced tale about God’s activity in human history.
Last week we heard: Samuel the boy asleep by the Ark of the Covenant hearing God call his name. Eli the judge hearing harsh words of judgment spoken against him and his family.
Today we will see; not as humans see, but as God sees- beyond height and stature, beyond outward appearances and birth order.
For example, last week Eli saw Hannah praying passionately to God and assumed she was drunk and crazy.
Eli also saw the unethical, abusive behaviors of his sons, but turned a blind eye to them.
To give a brief recap of the events leading up to today’s narrative, things have not gone as well as God had planned. Samuel grew to be the next Judge over Israel, but his sons became just as bad as Eli’s two boys.
Against God’s better judgment, God gives the people what they ask for: a king so they can be just like everyone else.
Samuel coronates Saul who appeared to be everything you’d want for in a king: tall and good looking, religious and courageous.
Trouble is that Saul has a difficult time following through with God’s instructions. It’s not that he doesn’t know what God wants, it’s just that Saul thinks he can put his own spin on things.
God is not happy with Saul and decides to appoint a new king. So God sends Samuel to the family of Jesse living in Bethlehem.
He throws a big BBQ, invites Jesse and his boys to attend and he asks each of them to do their best runway walk in front of him.
When none of them please God, Samuel asks “Are all your sons here?”
Jesse states “There remains yet the youngest, but he’s keeping the sheep.” It’s almost as if Jesse does not even consider David a son, much less a candidate. Maybe he just stopped caring after the fourth boy was born.
The moment David appears, God speaks to Samuel: “This is the one- stand and anoint him.” Then the Spirit came down mighty powerful upon the child.
What did God see in David that we are not told about? What was it that made David so special, so unique from all his brothers, from all of Israel?
What is it that made God forgo social customs of 1st born privilege to call upon David, eighth born, ruddy and in the field?
We don’t know. Was it that David was like a Chihuahua- enough attitude to scare a bear?
Was it that he already proved he knew how to put the protection of the flock before his own safety?
Was it because God just really enjoys being free and messing with people’s heads and expectations?
We don’t know. I don’t know. And the narrator of our story doesn’t bother to tell us.
And do we really need to know anyway? Maybe the point (if there even is one) is that God sees in a way that we don’t and in a way we can’t.
God sees not as mortals or based on good looks, perfect symmetry or perfect poise.
God sees in a way we will never fully understand, and that is OK as long as we accept this and try not to fool ourselves into thinking God sees, hears, and acts as we do.
Because, as hearers of the biblical narrative, as observers of the stories, we continue to see how God acts in the history of God’s people.
A childless couple like Abraham and Sarah can be seen as perfect candidates to have a family that will bless the entire world.
Moses, a flawed Hebrew living as an Egyptian with a murder rap sheet and speech impediment can be seen as the deliverer of God’s people.
A barren woman like Hannah can come into the Tabernacle and make what appears to be a drunken spectacle of herself and yet will have God answer her prayers.
If the over arching story in the Bible, if the spiritual history that’s presented is to be understood, it is that God’s ways are not our ways.
God does not act as we would act, God does not speak as we would speak, God does not see as we would see.
Perhaps no scripture sums this up better than 1 Corinthians 1:27-29:
“…God chose what is foolish in the world to shame the wise; God chose what is weak in the world to shame what is strong. God chose what is low and despised in the world…so that no one might boast in the presence of God.”
In other words, God chose a childless couple over nubile newlyweds. God chose a baby in a basket over a prince in the palace. God chose the son of a distressed woman over the sons of a Judge.
Just as God chose the youngest in the family over the good looking first born.
Just as God would bring salvation to the world through an infant in a manger who would grow up to be our Living Water and the Good Shepherd.
Just as God would find a way to bring new life out of a cross and a new creation out of a tomb.
Today I am not going to ask what biblical character you are, that’s something you can ponder as you go about the rest of your week.
But I will say this: may our ears continue to tingle, may our eyes find new ways to see.
And may we continue to learn and grow from the stories of God’s people and the stories which they tell.
Amen and amen.