1 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.”
2 But Samuel said, “How can I go? If Saul hears about it, he will kill me.”
The Lord said, “Take a heifer with you and say, ‘I have come to sacrifice to the Lord.’ 3 Invite Jesse to the sacrifice, and I will show you what to do. You are to anoint for me the one I indicate.”
4 Samuel did what the Lord said. When he arrived at Bethlehem, the elders of the town trembled when they met him. They asked, “Do you come in peace?”
5 Samuel replied, “Yes, in peace; I have come to sacrifice to the Lord. Consecrate yourselves and come to the sacrifice with me.” Then he consecrated Jesse and his sons and invited them to the sacrifice.
6 When they arrived, Samuel saw Eliab and thought, “Surely the Lord’s anointed stands here before the Lord.”
7 But 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 people look at. People look at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.”
8 Then Jesse called Abinadab and had him pass in front of Samuel. But Samuel said, “The Lord has not chosen this one either.” 9 Jesse then had Shammah pass by, but Samuel said, “Nor has the Lord chosen this one.” 10 Jesse had seven of his sons pass before Samuel, but Samuel said to him, “The Lord has not chosen these.” 11 So he asked Jesse, “Are these all the sons you have?”
“There is still the youngest,” Jesse answered. “He is tending the sheep.”
Samuel said, “Send for him; we will not sit down until he arrives.”
12 So he sent for him and had him brought in. He was glowing with health and had a fine appearance and handsome features.
Then the Lord said, “Rise and anoint him; this is the one.”
13 So Samuel took the horn of oil and anointed him in the presence of his brothers, and from that day on the Spirit of the Lord came powerfully upon David. Samuel then went to Ramah.
1 Samuel 16:1-13
Who will he choose? That’s the question everyone’s asking themselves…at least all the fans of “The Bachelor.” I got home this last week and when I sat down on the couch to relax in front of the tv, I saw that someone had just finished watching the premier of “The Bachelor.” For those of you that aren’t familiar with the program, there are thirty women who sign up to go on a series of dates with one eligible bachelor. The show is filled with drama, fantasy locations, expensive excursions, gourmet meals and of course elimination rounds, famously done through a rose ceremony. The millions who will tune into this season of “The Bachelor,” have already begun their list of those who are rose worthy and those who are just there to cause drama to boost ratings. In the end, there will only be one rose left to give and everyone is wondering if the final decision will end in true love. Whether we are fans of “The Bachelor,” or not, we can all appreciate the choice facing the bachelor. This morning we have a much more important question than who the new bachelor will choose. Today we answer the question, would God choose to love you?
In our first reading from 1 Samuel 16, Samuel was still upset by what had happened last season on “The Bachelor,” NOT! Samuel was born a few thousand years before the first episode of “The Bachelor,” but he was upset about the choices King Saul had been making. Saul was chosen by God to be the first king of Israel and Samuel was the one who had anointed Saul as King. Samuel was the last of the Judges or leaders over Israel before they had kings. Israel was tired of the Judges and tired of listening to God as their King, so they asked for a man to their king like all the other nations. Saul seemed to be a good choice as we hear in 1 Samuel 9:2, that Saul was
as handsome a young man as could be found anywhere in Israel, and he was a head taller than anyone else.
Seemed like a good choice for king and probably a good contestant for “The Bachelor.” And things did start of well for Saul, until he stopped listening to God, idolized himself and became a liar. Saul’s downfall was simple, soon after he was made King, God asked Saul to totally destroy Israel’s enemy, the Amalekites. Instead, Saul destroyed most of the Amalekites, but kept the best sheep, cattle and their king alive. This made God angry and when Samuel confronted Saul about it, his excuse was that he saved the good stuff to sacrifice to God. Regardless of Saul’s intentions, he had failed to do what God told him and for that God rejected him as King. Then, God sent Samuel to anoint a new king for Israel.
Samuel was upset by what Saul had done, but God had already chosen a new king. After Samuel told Saul God had rejected him as king, it was time to move on. God told Samuel,
“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.”
Kings were anointed or set apart for their special position in that day by having oil poured over them, almost like teenagers dousing themselves with perfume or body spray to set themselves apart before going to a dance. God told Samuel to have the oil ready because he had chosen the new king from the family of Jesse, a man from Bethlehem. When Samuel got to Bethlehem after the fallout with Saul, he assured the people that he was only there to offer a sacrifice, but that was a cover to get Jesse and all his sons together so that God could show him which one would be the new king. Jesse’s first son Eliab looked like the obvious choice to Samuel because of his appearance and height, but God rejected him saying,
“The Lord does not look at the things people look at. People look at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.”
1 Samuel 16:7
Listening to God, Samuel asked for Jesse’s other sons to come forward, but God rejected them too. Finally, Samuel asked Jesse if he had any other sons, and he replied
“There is still the youngest…he is tending the sheep.”
1 Samuel 16:11
So, they waited for the youngest to arrive, and when he did, God told Samuel to anoint Jesse’s youngest, David, as the new King of Israel.
God’s choice of David as the next King of Israel confused everyone because God doesn’t make choices like we do. If any of us were standing there that day Samuel went to Bethlehem to anoint the new king, we would not have picked David. David, or as his father referred to him “the youngest,” wasn’t even brought along for consideration when Samuel asked Jesse to bring his sons to the sacrifice. They left David out in the field to shepherd the sheep. He was the youngest, eighth in line to inherit anything from his father. He was still just a boy, he lacked experience, he lacked height and, according to Samuel, he was healthy and handsome, but this wasn’t a beauty contest, it was the anointing of a king. As far as anyone could tell, David should not have been God’s choice to be the next king of Israel, but God doesn’t make choices like we do. We look at the outside, but God looks at the heart.
You and I didn’t come here today to hear if God chose to make us kings and queens, but we do often wonder about God’s choice to love us. We all wonder if God loves us because we know he doesn’t look at our outer appearance, but at our heart. If knowing whether or not God chose to love us depended on what we could see, then it might ease our minds to think God must love us. If God’s choice to love us depended on something we could see, then we could act like a contestant on “The Bachelor;” we could dress nice, mind our manners and talk about growing old together with a love that just gets better with time. But, God doesn’t choose to love us by appearance, he chooses to love based on the heart. This means that God sees through all that we do to who we really are, which is more like the home visits on “The Bachelor.” When only a few women are left for the bachelor to choose from, he goes home with them to meet their families, then he gets to see what they are really like. God sees who we truly are because he can see into our hearts. In Galatians 5 Paul wrote,
22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness and self-control.
That was what God wants to find in our hearts and lives. Now, if you asked a lot of our acquaintances from work or school, they might say we have a lot of those qualities, but in an interview with our own family and when we look at ourselves in the mirror, we have to admit that God would not find a heart worth loving. Instead, God finds a heart filled with regret, guilt, worry and fear because we have sinned. Instead, God would find a heart like King David described in Psalm 51,
3 For I know my transgressions, and my sin is always before me. 4 Against you, you only, have I sinned and done what is evil in your sight; so you are right in your verdict and justified when you judge. 5 Surely I was sinful at birth, sinful from the time my mother conceived me.
David’s words are the words we all have in our hearts when confronted with God’s law. When we wonder if God would choose to love us, as far as we can tell the answer is, “No.”
If God’s choice to love us depended on what he sees in our hearts, we would be lost, but God’s choice to love us depends on what is in his heart. In our second reading from Titus 3, Paul wrote,
but when the kindness and love of God our Savior appeared, 5 he saved us, not because of righteous things we had done, but because of his mercy.
We are not loved by God because of what we have done, but because he chose to have mercy on us. He chose to save us by sending Jesus to be our Savior. Today is the first Sunday after Epiphany and also the Sunday that we read about Jesus’ baptism. In our gospel reading from Luke 3, we heard that
21 When all the people were being baptized, Jesus was baptized too. And as he was praying, heaven was opened 22 and the Holy Spirit descended on him in bodily form like a dove. And a voice came from heaven: “You are my Son, whom I love; with you I am well pleased.”
Jesus did not need baptism to save him, but he was baptized for us. Baptism washes away sin as Paul said in Acts, 1 Corinthians, Ephesians and in Titus, but Jesus had no sin. Instead, Jesus was baptized so that he fulfilled all of God’s commands. Jesus pleased God both in his appearance to all people and in his heart where only God can see. He did this so that God could have mercy on us by sparing us from the punishment of our sins and by punishing Jesus
as a sacrifice of atonement, through the shedding of his blood.
In mercy then, God can be pleased with us and love us, no longer looking at our sinful hearts, but Jesus’ perfect heart.
God’s choice to love us based on what Jesus has done brings us comfort. When we are in love with someone else, love can make us do strange things because we want to make sure the other person makes the choice to love us back. That is the beauty in God’s love for us, it does not depend on us, but on him. God loves us because he loves his Son, Jesus, who saved us. The writer to the Hebrews wrote,
“Both the one who makes people holy and those who are made holy are of the same family. So Jesus is not ashamed to call them brothers and sisters.
God’s love is not just a choice like finding a spouse, but God loves us by blood like in a family. We are Jesus’ brothers and sisters because as Paul wrote in Ephesians,
“In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, in accordance with the riches of God’s grace.”
Jesus bought us back from our sins through his blood and brought us into his family through our baptism. In baptism, we are marked with God’s name. In John’s gospel, he wrote,
“Flesh gives birth to flesh, but the Spirit gives birth to spirit.”
We were born sinners just like our parents, but in baptism, the Holy Spirit gives us a spirit of life.
In our baptism, God makes us his choice. When Samuel first saw David, he seemed like the last choice for King, but God wanted him. God had given David faith in him and that was the kind of King Israel needed. God chose David as the next King of Israel after Saul because David relied on God to be his leader, even when he fell into sin, and he trusted God to be the leader of his people, even when the odds were stacked against them. In Psalm 51, we see God’s work in David’s heart to trust in him even when his sins made him doubt God’s choice to love him. David wrote,
9 Hide your face from my sins and blot out all my iniquity. 10 Create in me a pure heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me.
God alone changes our hearts to trust in him for forgiveness and life.
Who will he choose? That’s a far more important question when God is making the decision about us and not some bachelor on a reality tv show. The good news of the gospel is that God chose to love all people through Jesus. This Epiphany season, Jesus reveals himself as our Savior, the one who was baptized for us and whom the Father loves. Last week he revealed that he chooses to love people from all nations as the Magi came to worship him and a few verses after our gospel reading from Luke 3, Jesus revealed he was the descendant of King David. We are truly blessed to know that Jesus is our King and that he chose to save us. We are blessed to know that we are his through our baptism as we read in our second reading from Titus 3,
“He saved us through the washing of rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit, 6 whom he poured out on us generously through Jesus Christ our Savior, 7 so that, having been justified by his grace, we might become heirs having the hope of eternal life.”
As God’s chosen people, we will live in his kingdom as his brothers and sisters, as heirs to eternal life confident in the answer to our question, that through his Word, through our baptism and through Jesus God chose to love you. Amen.