Sunday, July 12, 2009

God Impacted Life: Obscurity

Scripture Readings: 1 Samuel 16:1-13; John 6:35-42

When David was growing up Saul was the king of Israel; the very first king of the nation. But the nation of Israel was more a collection of tribes than a nation.
There was no real capital in those days. Jerusalem belonged to a tribe of people who had lived there long before Israel came on the scene.

The tribes of Israel couldn’t work together, and couldn’t defend themselves. They came to their wit’s end and decided that, if only they had a proper government, like all the little nations around them, and a king to force them to work together, it would solve all their problems. So they asked the old prophet Samuel to give them a king.

God pointed Saul out, and had Samuel make Saul king. Saul was able to pull his people together by shear charisma and energy. They started to win when other people attacked. It seemed, for a while, that God blessed Saul with success, but success turned out to be not a healthy thing for Saul.

When the prophet Samuel would tell Saul about the way God wanted things done, God’s way always seemed (to Saul) to require a completely unrealistic amount of faith, and trust, and faithfulness. Saul seemed to have more confidence in choosing his own way of doing things, than God’s way.

In time, Samuel told Saul that God would reject him, as king, for this reason. So Saul broke relations with Samuel. Saul saw Samuel as a threat, so Saul turned and became a threat to Samuel. After all, a proper King couldn’t have someone going around disagreeing with him; talking as if God had a better idea of doing things. And so, Saul, who started out as a very brave man and a humble man, became a coward toward the truth and a very proud man, and then an enemy toward the truth and a very dangerous man.

So Samuel was in danger, and took danger with him, wherever he went, because he was the king’s enemy. And Samuel brought that danger along with him to Bethlehem, and to the family of Jesse, because the Lord intended to make one of Jesse’s sons a king, to replace Saul.

The town elders were sitting in their usual spot in the open place where the road came into Bethlehem. They would be like the town council in Washtucna, if the council members had the habit of sitting on the porch of the Java Bloom on nice afternoons. They trembled when they saw Samuel coming into town, with a couple of young men leading a red heifer in tow.

“Do you come in peace?” they asked. Was he going to do something to get them in trouble with the king? And Samuel said, “Yes, in peace.”

Well, he came in God’s peace, which does not always keep us out of what we call trouble. But he wasn’t going to explain the difference to them. Samuel did not tell them the dangerous nature of his business with them.

You know, I am not sure if there is any way to really know, when Samuel’s business was done, if anyone knew what he had done. We know what the Lord told Samuel, but we don’t know what Samuel said out loud to the others who were there.

We never hear Samuel say why he has come to Bethlehem. We never hear Samuel tell Jesse why he is inspecting his sons. He tells Jesse that the Lord wants to choose one of his sons, but he never says exactly what the Lord is choosing the son for. We never hear Samuel say anything to David when he anoints him. He just does it. He pours the symbolic olive oil upon David’s head that stands for the grace, and the transformation, and the abundance, and the gifts, and the setting apart of a life for a purpose that come from the presence of the Holy Spirit.

The scriptures tell us the story in silence. Everyone there was afraid that something dangerous must be going on, but we never hear that something ever given a name out loud.

Everyone knew that Samuel had been a kingmaker, once. But they may have gone home wondering whether he had actually done it again.

The fact is that knowing didn’t matter. David was anointed, and that was that; and we read that, “from that day on the Spirit of the Lord came upon David in power.” (1 Samuel 16:13)

From that day on, every day of David’s life was a day in the presence of the Lord. Every day was a God-impacted day; a day for coming to terms with God; a day which David had to face with the help or the challenge of God.

It is just as well if Samuel anointed and set David apart in silence. That anointing was going to have to carry David through many, many unkingly days and years.

David lived a God-impacted life when he was a teenager facing the giant; when he was a musician and singer driving away the despair and violence from Saul when he was overwhelmed in inner darkness. David lived a God-impacted life when he was everybody’s idol; and when he was on the run, or hiding in caves and desert hideouts. David lived a God-impacted life, a life in the presence of a God who was (for him) inescapable.

This was his life when he was a man of courage, and when he was a man of fear. This was his life when he was successful and when he was a failure. David lived a God-impacted life when he danced for joy in God’s presence, and when he was crushed by his own sins, and his betrayal by those he loved. He lived a God-impacted life, a God anointed life, whether he was a king or not.

The anointing of the Holy Spirit, which brought the grace and the abundance of God, was a sort of blank check. It was meant for everything. It helped David meet whatever came, whatever happened. It helped David to be whatever he needed to be or to become.

When the scriptures introduce us to David, he is just a boy. He is a blank slate; and we love him for that, when we meet him, just as we love the innocence of any child. The gift of the presence of God in the Holy Spirit was a blank check for a blank slate, but also for David when his life was pretty well written all over, and there was no room to write any more. He lived a God-impacted life.

You are anointed. You are set apart for a God-impacted life.

God came down into this world to live as a real human, in Jesus, to give us this kind of life; in order to take away our old heart and life that lives in broken harmony with God, and with others, and with ourselves, and with the whole world. Sin means that life in this world and our individual lives are not what God intended them to be; and God himself has intervened, by dying for our sins on the cross, to make life new.

The Holy Spirit gives us the knowledge of our need, and the knowledge of what he is able to give us in Jesus. The Holy Spirit takes the life of Jesus, and the death of Jesus, and the resurrection of Jesus, and makes these ours. The Holy Spirit puts Jesus in us, and this makes the God-impacted life possible, even more than David could have known. And this is an indestructible life, and an everlasting life.

If Samuel really told David what his anointing was all about, it would have been very confusing to David. It would have made no sense for the next years or decades of his life. Anointed for this?

Whether David knew or not, his anointing was obscure. There is a blessing, an advantage, in obscurity; in not knowing exactly what things are meant for. If we knew what everything was for, we would mess them up.

When the Lord sent Samuel to anoint one of the sons of Jesse of Bethlehem to be king, the Lord neglected to tell Samuel the name of that son. He told Samuel everything but that one boy’s name.

God made Samuel go through the spiritual discipline of not knowing everything, but having to figure it out, and having to figure out how to figure it out. Samuel learned not to judge things, or events, or people by what he could see, but to act on the basis of what he could not see! What?

Samuel had to make the journey and the inspection of the sons with God’s help. David had to live all those ups and downs. David had to go through unbelievable dangers and detours; year after year after year. And even when David was king he had many occasions to wonder what his anointing was for. What good did it do him?

What are you set apart for? If you knew, you would probably mess it up.

The particular purpose of your God-impacted life is obscure because the most important part of it is to be impacted by the living reality of God.

Saul really got into trouble because he wanted to know everything, and understand everything, and be in control. Saul wanted this more than he wanted to live with God by faith. In this, Saul was not a man after God’s own heart.

David, at his best, always wanted God most; just as God wanted him. God wants relationship. When what you want most with God is relationship, then you are a man, or woman, or girl, or boy after God’s heart. When David did this, he was at his best, no matter where he was at. The same is true of you.

Everything else can be obscure and mysterious. This is one of the secrets of the God-impacted life.

One more obscurity remains. David was the eighth son. He was not important enough to be present for important things. He was the runt. He was the spare boy. He was invisible. David, himself, was obscure.

David, in the purpose of God, was one of the most important people in the history of the planet: not because he was a great king, but because he had the privilege to lend his name and his shaky reputation to Jesus, who is called the Son of David.

Some of the most important people in our personal history are people who will never go down in history, for any reason. The most important people in the world will never be in the news, not because they use their great power in secret, but because they have no power at all, except to love, and to forgive, and to teach, and to serve as an example to other obscure people.

Jesus came as a child of a village carpenter and a mother whose pregnancy was mysterious, and therefore the subject of much speculation and gossip. Jesus became a carpenter himself; not a rabbi, not a military leader. Jesus became a convict dying on a cross in great shame, and pain, and ridicule.

God’s grace is made perfect in obscurity. The future of everything that exists is built upon that obscurity.

This is for you and me; because life will make us feel obscure; feel like a runt, feel invisible, feel like a discarded spare. But this is where the grace of God is. This is where God lives, and this is the beginning of freedom, and heaven, and the kingdom of God. This is the quiet of being at home, in the presence of the family: the family of God. This is the quiet of the God-impacted life.

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