Trail Blazer Ministries
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This Week's Spicy Talk: Sam and the Sheep Pen

What does it mean to look at the world through God's eyes? That's the topic of this week's "Spicy Talk," as we explore the story of the prophet Samuel and his search for a new king... in a sheep pen, of all places!

"The Lord does not look at the things man looks at. Man looks at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart." - 1 Samuel 16:7

I've always enjoyed the book of Samuel, because it is one of the more epic books of the Bible. It's storyline would make an incredible movie. In 1 Samuel 16, King Saul has been rejected by God, and we find the prophet Samuel going in search of a new king for the nation of Israel. God has told Samuel that the next king will come from the household of a man named Jesse, so Samuel packs his bags and heads south to the small town of Bethlehem, where Jesse and his sons live. Jesse is the town's resident cellist, you see, and.... oh, wait, that's a different story.

Anyway, Samuel's about to go down to Jesse's place and look for the new king, but he suddenly realizes that he can't exactly barge into Jesse's house and announce that he's looking for a king. For one thing, the reigning king, Saul, probably won't be very happy to hear that he's been divinely laid off from what looked like a promising career as a powerful tyrant - I mean, really, who would want to lose a job like that? And then there's that whole deal about barging into sheepherders' houses and announcing that you're looking for a king making you look somewhat crazy and all.

So Samuel comes up with a plan. He takes a head of cattle down to Jesse's spread and invites Jesse and the boys out to a sacrifice in the local park - which was kind of like a barbecue, with deep religious significance. (I'm still waiting for my church to do this in lieu of the annual church picnic.)

When they get to the park, Samuel looks around at Jesse's boys and catches sight of Eliab - a big, well-built fellow who probably looked like someone I saw coming out of the Hyatt House in Livingston on a Friday night. Eliab wasn't the sort of guy you'd want to tangle with. In fact, he was the kind of guy who could send the Philistines diving for their foxholes with a single, well-placed glare.

"Ah ha!" Samuel says. "Here's the guy I've been looking for! When it comes to laying the smackdown on Israel's enemies, this is the right man for the job!"

So he goes over to anoint Eliab as king, when suddenly God taps Samuel on the shoulder and whispers in his ear: "This isn't the one. Yes, he's taller than all the others and he can swing a fist like nobody's business, but I haven't chosen him to be king. The Lord doesn't look at the things man looks at. Man looks at outward appearances, but the Lord looks at the heart."

You see, God had to challenge Samuel to gain a new perspective on life. Samuel had been looking at things from the human perspective - big guys who win barroom brawls get to be king. After all, the last king, Saul, was head-and-shoulders taller than the rest! But God wanted to teach Samuel to see the world from a different perspective - the Divine perspective. And I believe that's God's challenge to us today: to learn to see the world as He sees it, even when that flies in the face of conventional wisdom. This Thursday, we will discuss what it means to see the world through God's eyes in relation to three different areas of life: how we view others, how we view organized religion, and how we view ourselves. Hang on tight, because we're in for a wild ride!


Michael, great stuff. Keep up the spicy talk.

Great post. I deeply regret I could not meet with you guys today - this had to be an interesting discussion. Was there a character flaw in King David? He did commit great sin - adultry and murder. Did Paul have a great character flaw? He persecuted the first Christians. I am having a discussion with a friend that says character is most important of all for deciding on who he would vote for - is that the number one criteria for a great leader? Woud strong principals rank above character? You might say if a person has strong principals he would also have great character - he could, but we are all sinners, thus we can not always rule out somebody who "appears" to have weak character because of sin - if so, then nobody has good character. Maybe it is a matter of semantics, but I think not. What say you all?

Hi D.L.,

Thanks for the comments! You've raised some great questions. While strong character and sound principals are qualities that we should all look for in a leader, I tend to think that humility and a willingness to recognize and deal with character flaws are also important qualities in someone who seeks out a leadership role in the community. As you rightly point out, we are all sinners and we've all missed the mark. However, a mark of spiritual maturity is the ability to recognize those flaws in our character and deal with them in an appropriate fashion.

There is an interesting contrast to be seen between King Saul and King David. Both men were sinners, both made grievous mistakes in their capacity as king, and both fell under God's judgment at various times in their reigns. However, when I read the accounts in 1 & 2 Samuel, Saul's pigheaded stubborness becomes apparent. While there a few instances where Saul recognized his poor choices and made some shallow attempt to repent, for the most part we find him plowing headfirst after his personal ambitions, heedless of the destruction that his choices are wreaking on his spiritual life, his family, and ultimately on his kingdom.

David, by contrast, seems more willing to recognize his shortcomings and address them. Even when he has Uriah the Hittite murdered and takes Bathsheba to be his wife, he eventually comes to a point where he recognizes the seriousness of his sin and humbles himself to seek repentance. If you read the Psalms that are attributed to David, you can't help but be struck by the depth of this man's struggle with his flawed character. Over and over again he recognizes himself as a sinner and turns to ask for forgiveness.

I think that's a quality that I would like to see in our leaders today. No one expects a leader to be perfect, but when a mistake or bad decision is made, I admire a man or woman who can own up to it and reverse course before the consequences of their decision get out of hand. I try not to be too political on this blog, but I can think of incidents in recent history where leaders have made flawed and dangerous decisions, but chose to plow ahead on their set course, rather than acknowleding their mistakes and reversing course to minimize the damage.

Thoughts on this?

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