This is one of my favorite passages in all of scripture. Before reality TV and “The Bachelor” (or Bachelorette), God hands the rose to David!
But seriously, this passage offers me a perspective of God that is so contrary to the usual sense of God as unchanging, removed from all emotion except sometimes anger; we talk about God’s love but perhaps not very huggable love, or God will do anything for you but sometimes with conditions. In fact in the book of Samuel we have God the destroyer and God the impatient lover. God even tells his prophet to lie. Go figure!
God forbid that God would “fall in love” or be impatient, and flustered, head over heels – like we sometimes get.
But first you need a little back-story. Before David there was King Saul, the first king of Israel and Judah. The tribes had come to realize that the loose confederation wasn’t working and they needed someone who would represent the general interests before other kings and nations. God didn’t like this plan but gave in to the people.
Saul wasn’t a bad king but he did something that caused God to reject him; and you won’t like this; particularly you pacifists, because God comes across as a violent extremist Jihadist.
Saul and the army of Israel defeated the Amalekites, captured King Agag and “utterly destroyed” all the people by the edge of the sword. But, and here is where king Saul fell afoul of the Lord, he spared King Agag and “the best of the sheep and of the cattle and of the fatlings, and the lambs, and all that was valuable, and would not utterly destroy them.” (15:9)
God had commanded that everthing and everyone be destroyed and since Saul did not follow this command, God removed the divine spirit and favor and here begins the really sad ending of Saul and the really amazing beginning of a boy shepherd named David who would so capture the imagination of the people that he would become the “CHOSEN ONE!” From henceforth every King would be compared to him. The early Christians, a thousand years later, would still be so enamored with David that they would do bible gymnastics to make sure that Jesus was recognized as his ancestor (even if Jesus himself wasn’t so sure he wanted the designation of “Son of David.”).
Today, I want to focus on God the impatient lover – who says to Samuel – who is the prophet and advisor to the king – as they go in search of the new anointee: “Do not look on his appearance or on the height of his stature … the Lord does not see as mortals see, they look on the outward appearance, but the Lord looks on the heart.”
This may be true that God doesn’t judge by outward appearance but God sure does get all excited about this boy who was “ruddy and had beautiful eyes.”
Ruddy – meaning healthy, flushed with untapped power – good complexion – breathtakingly beautiful. Kind of like a young Denzel Washington or Robert Redford for my generation, or maybe Tom Hiddleston or Idris Elba or Trevor Noah
(NOT Justin Bieber!) for those born after 1990.
David is the man – George Washington, Michael Jordan – warrior, king, killing lions and Goliath, dancing naked in front of the ark. David was “lusty” and a lover, a poet and a musician …. Just read 1st and 2nd Samuel – you’ll see.
And this whole story compiled many years after the events, seen through the nostalgic lens of a Jewish nation no longer at its beginning but probably compiled after return from the exile 300 years later – it was this recounting of the love affair between God and David between God and the people of Israel that was so powerful – when all was fresh and new.
God gets so excited. God is on the move. God is doing something great. God chooses from among us. It is not over yet! Don’t settle for the status quo – God is making all things new!
At the beginning of this passage – The Lord says to Samuel “How long are you going to grieve over Saul?” “Quit pouting, I am on to the next thing. Come on hurry up.”
God is one step or several steps ahead of us: Get a move on, get out of the rut. Quit pouting about what is changing.
I don’t want to belittle in any way the process of grief, or the depth of despair that is sometimes part of life – you can’t simply tell people who are going through deep stuff “to snap out of it.” That is insensitive and harmful.
But, you and I both know that there are times when it was appropriate to kick someone in the seat of the pants and say: “Move it!” “Quit your pity party.” “Pull up your big person pants.” It is time.
The election didn’t go your way, the job didn’t open up, the selection process was disappointing, your NCAA bracket got busted, you didn’t do as well as you wanted – Come on and move on – because God has got something going on!
Here is this scripture – God is moving on up ahead: “Come on, come on, come on! Can’t you just feel it, glimpse it, want it – let’s get going and do it!”
This to me is such a powerful lesson, because when I get down and my world becomes closed around my mood, or my issue, or my schedule, or my feelings this story reminds me that God is on up ahead and has something planned for me, for you, for us, for our nation, for our world. And that gives me hope.
People of faith are foolish that way – it is what St. Paul called being fools for Christ. We know there are real obstacles and challenges; real reason why not to. There are real injustices, real evil and unfairness in our world; We know we can become unaligned from the purposes of God, become unaligned from the plumb of justice, or equity of fairness – getting caught up in things that do not bring value.
And yet – we are a people that believes that God has something going on – and if we pick ourselves up and move and encourage others to do the same – we will be caught up towards something that draws us – encourages us, leads us to the light.
As my mentor Herb Meza once said: “Nothing is good or bad until God gets through with it.”
So we are committed to the now, but our hearts are aware of the unfolding future that God has for us in the divine hands!
We are a people of hope – we trust God despite what we see and we sometimes fall in love with what we DO see.
And I believe that God is calling us now: “How long will you grieve?” “Get up, lets get moving, I’ve got plans, are you listening – I have to anoint someone! It may be you!”
Back to David – I love that God falls in love. This is not the only time: God falls in love when he sees Jesus coming up out of the waters of baptism: “You are my beloved Son, with you I am well pleased.”
And I believe that this is the quality of love that God has for you and for me – for every benighted creature – this passion, this head over heels love. Because you are beautiful in God’s sight – despite everything. As the great hymn has it: “Just as I am” – “Just as I am, thy love unknown has broken every barrier down.”
This week, you may need to move on! I want you to accept God’s passionate, impatient love for you; to put yourself in the place of David. It may make you blush!
You need to get your hearts and minds around this – as you continue your journey, your wandering and wondering, uphill and down—maybe you are Samuel and God says “Get up let’s go!”
You may be one of David’s brothers whose time hasn’t yet come.
You may be David – getting the rose. You are the one.