Monday, 7 December 2009

The Richmond Briefing

A Weekly Bible Reading for Bridge Builders

The Richmond Briefing has been a weekly feature of the Reachout web site for five years and is now available on the blog. To find out more and read earlier briefings go here

Reading – Saved From Our Saviours (Psalm 78:70-72)

We live in difficult times and Christians seem increasingly marginalised and under fire from a world that has lost patience with religion in general and with the church in particular. You can almost hear, as you open the newspapers and listen to the pundits and commentators, “We will not have this man to be our king!” We have an idea in our minds of how we think things ought to be in our picture of “the last days”, “Preparing the church” or “building the kingdom” depending on your eschatology. “The battle belongs to the Lord!” we cry, and wonder why it doesn’t look like it. In such times it is natural to feel that it’s all gone wrong; to cast around looking for someone or something to make it the way it ought to be.

This was the situation Samuel faced after God had rejected King Saul. Would Israel survive without Saul’s leadership? What happened to the plan we thought we had? Is God no longer with his people? Things looked bad for Israel and Samuel had much on his mind when God spoke:

“The LORD said to Samuel, ‘How long will you mourn for Saul, since I have rejected him as king over Israel? Fill your horn with oil and be on your way; I am sending you to Jesse of Bethlehem. I have chosen one of his sons to be king’” (1 Samuel 16:1)

When things seem out of control God is always in control. Samuel’s grief was understandable, even commendable because it wasn’t just the king he had on his heart but the people. But where Samuel saw a problem God already saw the one who would be anointed king.

When Samuel arrived in Bethlehem he saw Jesse’s son Eliab and thought, “Surely the LORD’S anointed stands here before the LORD.” (16:6) and you can understand why. Samuel’s picture of a king was Saul, who is described in chapter 9 v.2 as, “an impressive young man without equal among the Israelites – a head taller than any of the others.” But God knew what Samuel was thinking:

“The LORD said to Samuel, ‘Do not consider his appearance or his height, for I have rejected him. The LORD does not look at the things man looks at. Man looks at the outward appearance, but the LORD looks at the heart.’”

With each of Jesse’s seven sons it was the same, a grand young man by Samuel’s reckoning and a source of great pride on Jesse’s part but, “The LORD has not chosen this one either.”

How often, in times of trouble, do we flock to the obvious choice, the pastor who is well thought of in the community, the platform speaker who can draw the crowds, the ones who appear to have influence, the movers and shakers who appear to be God’s choice. It is well to remember at such times that we must not choose as Samuel might have chosen but, like Samuel, we must wait on the Lord to show us the way. We must look on the heart of a man, which to us is best demonstrated by his prayer life, his family life, his devotion to biblical truth and his burden for the saints and the lost.

We sometimes need saving from the saviours of our own choosing. God’s choice was a young man so insignificant that it didn’t even occur to Jesse to call him in from the fields where he tended sheep and yet the psalmist declares:

“He chose David his servant

and he took him from the sheep pens;

from tending the sheep he brought him

to be the shepherd of his people

Jacob,

of Israel his inheritance.

And David shepherded them with

integrity of heart;

with skilful hands he led them.

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