1 Samuel 16:1-13
There is a really good chance that if you have a child in your life, then at some point in the past few year you have sat through a conversation where they talked to you with great excitement about all that they were doing in Minecraft. There is also a really good chance that you had no idea and could not make heads or tails of what on earth they were saying. Minecraft is a video game that allows players to explore and build in an open world. One of the best ways to think about it is as a form of digital Legos. Minecraft turns ten this year, and despite advancing in age the game’s popularity shows no signs of slowing down. In a lot of ways Minecraft revolutionized the video game industry. One of ways that this can seen is by contrasting Minecraft to the biggest video game released the year it came out. In 2011 when Minecraft was released, there were several trends in the video game industry. Video games were trending to larger and larger productions. They were trending to games with higher complexity, as well as games that increasingly were designed with adult players in mind. They were also trending to games that required a greater investment of both time and money from the players. All of these trends can really be seen in what was the biggest release of 2011: Star Wars the Old Republic. The Old Republic was the most expensive video game ever created at the time with a budget close to 200 million. It was a massive online game that required having a really good gaming computer, paying a monthly subscription, and being willing to invest a lot of time into a fairly complex game. Minecraft on the other hand was the opposite of all these trends. It was made by a single person in their spare time, especially in its early iterations it is a very simple game, and it’s graphics are low-res and honestly a little ugly. These features made the game highly accessible to everyone.
The publisher of Star Wars the Old Republic, is a huge company that puts a lot of resources into market analysis. Based on their research, they were convinced that the Old Republic was exactly the kind of game people wanted but it turned out they wanted the exact opposite. Despite having no budget, no advertising, and relying 100% on word of mouth Minecraft became an overwhelming successes where the Old Republic is considered mediocre at best and is mostly forgotten about. By all outward appearances the Old Republic should have been a huge success while Minecraft became a forgotten indie-game side project. The Old Republic had a lot of top down corporate influence and attempts to ride market trends, while Minecraft was a passion project. Perhaps the “x-factor” that Minecraft brought was the passion behind it. Perhaps the success of Minecraft is a modern day real world example that illustrates the truth of this morning’s scripture. The heart is always more important than the outward appearances. This clearly explains the success of Minecraft, because by all outward appearances the game should not be an ongoing success for a solid decade, but the creative impulse at the heart of the game keeps it going. The importance of the heart was true in this morning’s scripture, and it is true for us today. God does not call the most equipped, he calls those with their heart in the right place and equips them with what they need.
The heart of a person is at the heart of this morning’s scripture. God is sending Samuel to anoint one of the sons of Jesse as a new king, because God has rejected Saul as king. It seems why God has done that might be important. Last week, we read the scripture where the people asked for a king, and in response Saul was raised up as king, mostly because Saul had the look of what the people wanted in a king as recorded in 1 Samuel 9:1-2: “There was a Benjamite, a man of standing whose name was Kish. . .Kish had a son named Saul, as handsome a young man as could be found anywhere in Israel, and he was a head taller than anyone else.”
Saul certainly looked the part of a king, but if we continue to read it becomes clear that Saul did not have the heart needed to lead God’s chosen people. When we read the story of Saul there is an impression he is much more dedicated to the idea of being king than he is to being devoted to God. This all comes to a head in 1 Samuel 15. We do not need to go into all of the details there, but the summary is that through Samuel, God told Saul to do a very specific thing. In response Saul only kind of did it. He modified God’s instructions in a way that would personally benefit him and his men. This is why God rejected Saul as the king of God’s chosen people. Saul’s heart was not devoted to God, his passion was not directed to God. So God rejected Saul and raised up a new king, a king that the bible later describes as a man after God’s own heart.
Given all that happened with Saul, it is interesting then that Samuel once again is focused on physical appearances. Samuel thinks that Eliab must be the next king because like Saul he looked the part, but that is when we get the reminder that is central to this morning’s scripture in verse 7: “The Lord does not look at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.” It is because God looks at the heart, that he knew David was the person God wanted to be king. As we consider this morning’s scripture and think about what it means for us today. I think there are three things we can take away from it.
The first take away is that we are still guilty of doing what Samuel did and focusing on outward appearances instead of the heart. I have been reminded of this over the past week as I have been frantically trying to recruit counselors for church camp. Based strictly on outward appearances there is a “type” that it seems a lot of people have in mind for a “good” camp counselor. It is often thought that young, energetic, bubbly, and outgoing people make the best camp counselors. However, it has been my experience that often the best counselors at church camp do not always fit that mold. This was especially true a couple of years ago, with one of the first time counselors I worked with that year. In a lot of ways he was the opposite of what most would expect. He was quiet, reserved, and serious. While not old by any real standard, he was one of the oldest counselors we had that year. Compared to all of the younger, more energetic, bubblier, and more outgoing counselors we had, this young man did stick out as an outlier. Even though he did not have the outward qualities of a stereotypical camp counselor, his heart was in the right place and he was incredible at it. Moreover, he was exactly the person that God wanted to be at that week at camp. You see, several months before hand his mother had passed away. It so happened that two sisters who were campers had come just weeks after their own mother had passed away after losing a long battle to illness. These two girls came to camp full of hurt, full of questions, and full of sorrow. And this quiet young man who did not fit the mold of a typical counselor was exactly the person that those two girls needed in their lives that week.
I think sometimes we focus on our own outward appearance instead of the heart as well. There are times when someone has a deep, God-given passion to do something that will transform the world into a more kind and loving place. The passion is there, the fire is lit, but nothing happens because we convince ourselves that we do not fit the mold, we do not have the right skills, or we are not the best person for the job. So we end up abandoning the God sized dream in our lives because we judge ourselves by the outside instead of the fire God is put within. If that description resonates with you, if it mirrors your own life experience. Then I encourage you to light the fire again, to reclaim the passion, and to live out that God sized dream. If your passion can transform the world and point others to the love of God, then the Lord looks at the heart. You are likely called by God to serve in that area, so trust God to anoint and equip the called.
The second takeaway is somewhat related then, and that is we have to really consider the timescale that this morning’s scripture existed in. In this morning’s scripture David is anointed as king. However, he does not immediately take the throne. In the narrative of 1 and 2 Samuel years pass before David lives into his God-given calling. In fact, from the time David is anointed to the time he is crowned king sixteen or more years pass. This is something we to could keep in mind, because God’s timing and our timing do not always line up. We tend to want thing to happen instantaneously. I mean how could we not? We live in a world where we have thousands of entertainment options available on demand. We can cook just about anything in a microwave in a few minutes or less, and we still thinks it takes too long. God’s timing tends to not fit our time tables, but God’s timing is also perfect. Just like we sometimes give up on the calling and passion God is place on our lives because we are focused on outward appearances, we can also give up because we are impatient. Maybe we tried something out and it did not quite work the way we thought, maybe a single opportunity did not pan out, or maybe our time just has not come yet. Whatever the reason we can get impatient of waiting on God’s timing and walk away. David no doubt had many times in those years we questioned the calling to king, where he wondered if this was worth it, or if he should just walk away. Yet, David did not which is one of the reasons why God chose him. God knew David’s heart was in the right place, God knew despite his other shortcomings David was faithful, and David proved this by sticking with the calling God had placed in his life through years of waiting and struggle.
Finally, this morning’s scripture tells us that God looks at the heart, so I think the question this brings us to ask ourselves is what does God find in our heart? In this morning’s scripture God was looking for faithfulness and devotion to God. Saul had sadly proven it was not there, but God found that in David. What does God find in our hearts? Are we like Saul where we like the idea of being a good person or are we like David where we are willing to be faithful to God?
My we be faithful to God, may we be willing to follow God, and be fully devoted to God. If we are, then just like God called David, God will call us. God will call us to the passions of our hearts that God has placed there, and God can and will use us. Even if you do not feel equipped to that calling, may you be faithful and claim the promise that God does not call the equipped, God equips the called. May you be patient and wait on God’s timing. May God look to your heart and find a heart that is willing and desires to chase after God’s own heart. May that be true for each one of us. May we seek to follow what God is calling us towards and in doing so may we make disciples and transform the world.