Thursday, December 20, 2007

Hidden Wisdom

A couple of things have got me thinking lately about the difference between our opinions and God's sovereign choice. I know I've often reflected on this subject on my blog... but just recently it's come to the forefront of my mind.

In the Old Testament, the Israelites wanted a king and God though not happy with their wishes decides to provide them with one. So he pointed Samuel in the direction of an obvious candidate - Saul, son of Kish; a man without equal. Samuel anointed Saul as king and gave him the mission of delivering his people from the Philistine invaders. Yet Saul's reign is a troubled one and eventually God rejects him.

So did God make a wrong choice? I do not believe so; I believe he was making a point about the difference between his choices and our own. As I already pointed out, Saul was the obvious choice... however, he was not a man after God's own heart. He was not God's final choice. Some time after God rejected Saul as king, he sends the prophet Samuel to a little place called Bethlehem... to anoint a new king. We pick the story up there:

"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."

But Samuel said, "How can I go? Saul will hear about it and kill me."

The LORD said, "Take a heifer with you and say, 'I have come to sacrifice to the LORD.' Invite Jesse to the sacrifice, and I will show you what to do. You are to anoint for me the one I indicate."

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?"

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. When they arrived, Samuel saw Eliab and thought, "Surely the LORD's anointed stands here before the LORD."

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 man looks at. Man looks at the outward appearance, but the LORD looks at the heart."

Then Jesse called Abinadab and had him pass in front of Samuel.

But Samuel said, "The LORD has not chosen this one either."

Jesse then had Shammah pass by, but Samuel said, "Nor has the LORD chosen this one."

Jesse had seven of his sons pass before Samuel, but Samuel said to him, "The LORD has not chosen these."

So he asked Jesse, "Are these all the sons you have?"

"There is still the youngest," Jesse answered, "but he is tending the sheep."

Samuel said, "Send for him; we will not sit down until he arrives."

So he sent and had him brought in. He was ruddy, with a fine appearance and handsome features.

Then the LORD said, "Rise and anoint him; he is the one."

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 upon David in power."
1 Samuel 16:1-13a
When presented with a conveyor belt of worthy candidates, the difference between man and God is made abundantly clear. Samuel is straight away tempted to make the obvious choice again... despite everything he has seen. It takes a gentle prod from God to remind Samuel that he's not looking for man's choice; he's looking for God's choice. God passes over the strongman and anoints the shepherd boy.

It should be pointed out that Samuel was a decent man. He followed God closely and yet he was still fallible. Despite his close relationship with God, he was still as hopeless as the rest of us when it comes to making the right choice. We are fallen beings and so like it or not we have a tendency to judge things with entirely the wrong set of criteria. Even though we know God and have a relationship with, we still limit our options to the obvious choice and not accepting that sometimes God has chosen the abstract.

If you read the Bible, you soon realise that it's a point that God is keen to stress at great length. Most, if not all the great Bible heroes are the unlikeliest of candidates. They wouldn't make the grade in human standards and yet God makes it abundantly clear by his divine choices that he isn't at all interested in our way of assessing people:

"Where is the wise man? Where is the scholar? Where is the philosopher of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world? For since in the wisdom of God the world through its wisdom did not know him, God was pleased through the foolishness of what was preached to save those who believe. Jews demand miraculous signs and Greeks look for wisdom, but we preach Christ crucified: a stumbling block to Jews and foolishness to Gentiles, but to those whom God has called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. For the foolishness of God is wiser than man's wisdom, and the weakness of God is stronger than man's strength.

Brothers, think of what you were when you were called. Not many of you were wise by human standards; not many were influential; not many were of noble birth. But God chose the foolish things of the world to shame the wise; God chose the weak things of the world to shame the strong. He chose the lowly things of this world and the despised things—and the things that are not—to nullify the things that are, so that no one may boast before him. It is because of him that you are in Christ Jesus, who has become for us wisdom from God—that is, our righteousness, holiness and redemption. Therefore, as it is written: "Let him who boasts boast in the Lord.""
1 Corinthians 1:5-31

Ultimately God's greatest "hits" all fly in the face of conventional wisdom and common sense.... and you and I are beneficiaries of that. It doesn't matter where we have or haven't been, or who we are. All he requires is a receptive and willing heart on our part.

You only need to respond to two things Jesus said to start this journey:

"Who do you say I am?" and "Follow me."

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