God sees differently through the eyes of the crucified
Throughout the year, the Southern New England Conference of the United Church of Christ reproduces the Daily Lectionary for use by churches. These are the suggested readings for March 29th: 1 Samuel 16:11-13; Psalm 31:9-16; and Philippians 1:1-11. I would encourage you to read these short selections as part of your Lenten practice.
I enjoy the lesson shared in the story of David’s anointing. Samuel has a rather familiar relationship with Yahweh. Just prior to today’s 1 Samuel passage, the prophet has been sent to the household of Jesse to anoint a replacement king for the discredited King Saul. Jesse presents his eldest son Eliab to the prophet. When Samuel sees Eliab’s appearance and the height of his stature, he assumes that this must be the one Yahweh has chosen to lead Israel. But he is not. Jesse processes six of his other sons before Samuel for a total of seven. Seven is a biblical figure of completeness. But again, none of these are Yahweh’s chosen one.
Samuel is confused because every son of Jesse, he assumed, had appeared and was rejected by Yahweh. Samuel thought one of these must have been the one. Yahweh needed to remind his prophet that as familiar as they were in conversation that God will always see differently than do we. I love this message that God sees differently. So our confused prophet asks Jesse if these are all his sons. (How amazing it would have been if instead of sons the prophet had asked, “Are these all your children?” and how startled and affronted would everyone have been if Yahweh had chosen a daughter to rule over God’s people? This would have amplified the message that God sees differently but to a decibel point that would have been deafening for a people of that age, and well, I guess many of this age too.) Jesse informs the prophet that there is one more, the youngest, but he was not even invited to join the family to meet Samuel. The youngest boy was left to his chores; he was tending the sheep. This unexpected son, the almost forgotten one, is the person Yahweh had chosen to be Israel’s next king.
What a glorious message this is. The fullness of seven sons had come and gone – complete, and yet Yahweh was far from done. God sees differently than do we. When we imagine there is no more, when we are ready to give in to hopelessness, Yahweh still sees what is possible. This is a message of encouragement when we may feel at wit’s end. This is also a message that we not rush toward judgment. In the context of Lent, we are following after a Saviour who was judged an utter failure. Jesus was betrayed and deserted, crucified as a failed insurrectionist by the Romans and rejected by most all of His people as a failed Messiah. This is what people saw, but this is definitely not what God saw. When we judge others, we should be warned away from superficial views by remembering how Jesus looked on Golgotha.
Paul writes to the Christians at Philippi: “And this is my prayer, that your love may overflow more and more with knowledge and full insight to help you to determine what is best.” Paul is asking the members of his church to lead with love not with judgment, and that this love benefit from increased knowledge and insight so that we may “determine what is best.” What is best will not be rash or prejudiced attitudes absent love, knowledge or insight. Lent asks us to be cautious and patient in our judgment of others, and it expects that others will do the same. In this way, we may even begin to see as God sees, as God sees through the eyes of the one crucified.
If you’d like, here is the link to the Southern New England Conference’s daily reading schedule: www.sneucc.org/lectionary.
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