Sunday, February 19, 2023

Grace Illustrated

 1 Samuel 16:1-13

1 Now the LORD said to Samuel, "How long will you grieve over Saul, since I have rejected him from being king over Israel? Fill your horn with oil, and go; I will send you to Jesse the Bethlehemite, for I have selected a king for Myself among his sons." 2 But Samuel said, "How can I go? When Saul hears of it, he will kill me." And the LORD said, "Take a heifer with you, and say, ‘I have come to sacrifice to the LORD.' 3 "And you shall invite Jesse to the sacrifice, and I will show you what you shall do; and you shall anoint for Me the one whom I designate to you." 4 So Samuel did what the LORD said, and came to Bethlehem. And the elders of the city came trembling to meet him and said, "Do you come in peace?" 5 And he said, "In peace; I have come to sacrifice to the LORD. Consecrate yourselves and come with me to the sacrifice." He also consecrated Jesse and his sons, and invited them to the sacrifice.

6 Then it came about when they entered, that he looked at Eliab and thought, "Surely the LORD's anointed is before Him." 7 But the LORD said to Samuel, "Do not look at his appearance or at the height of his stature, because I have rejected him; for God sees not as man sees, for man looks at the outward appearance, but the LORD looks at the heart." 8 Then Jesse called Abinadab, and made him pass before Samuel. And he said, "Neither has the LORD chosen this one." 9 Next Jesse made Shammah pass by. And he said, "Neither has the LORD chosen this one." 10 Thus Jesse made seven of his sons pass before Samuel. But Samuel said to Jesse, "The LORD has not chosen these." 11 And Samuel said to Jesse, "Are these all the children?" And he said, "There remains yet the youngest, and behold, he is tending the sheep." Then Samuel said to Jesse, "Send and bring him; for we will not sit down until he comes here." 12 So he sent and brought him in. Now he was ruddy, with beautiful eyes and a handsome appearance. And the LORD said, "Arise, anoint him; for this is he." 13 Then Samuel took the horn of oil and anointed him in the midst of his brothers; and the Spirit of the LORD came mightily upon David from that day forward. And Samuel arose and went to Ramah.

Sermon for Quinquagesima                  2/19/23

Grace Illustrated

My Brothers and Sisters in Christ:

The word "grace" has about a dozen definitions.  Some are precise and some are sloppy.  Some are illustrations and some are theological.  I teach my confirmation classes this; "Grace is the new attitude of favor in God toward us (sinful man) for Christ's sake." Other definitions include, "God's riches at Christ's expense," God's choices for God's reasons," and, "The unmerited gift of God, purchased by Christ on the cross."

Some define grace as if it were almost a substance, something that could be poured out on you, like the oil Samuel used to anoint David in or sermon text.  You could accumulate grace, or, sinning, lose grace.  Almost all religious uses of the term include forgiveness of sins.  My purpose this morning is not to rigorously define "grace," but to show you how our text illustrates the grace of God.

From our place in history, it is easy to dismiss the tensions that surrounded this event.  This situation was as charged politically as any could be.  Saul had disobeyed the Lord by keeping Agag the king of the Amalekites alive when God commanded that all of them be killed, and he had allowed the people to keep the best of the sheep and oxen of Amalek when God had commanded that they all be destroyed in their defeat to show the glory of the Lord.  1 Samuel 15:2-3  Thus says the LORD of hosts, 'I will punish Amalek for what he did to Israel, how he set himself against him on the way while he was coming up from Egypt.  3 'Now go and strike Amalek and utterly destroy all that he has, and do not spare him; but put to death both man and woman, child and infant, ox and sheep, camel and donkey.'"

Now Samuel told Saul that he was going to be replaced, so it was reasonable to expect Saul to try to thwart the prophet by killing him if he looked like he was going to do anything like that.  God did not accommodate Samuel's fears.  He told him how to approach the problem in a way that would not draw Saul's attention. But Samuel had to go and do all that the Lord told him to do.

Samuel obeyed God, but he was caught up in the cultural expectation that the oldest would be the receiver of all good things.  God said, No."  1 Samuel 16:6-7  Then it came about when they entered, that he looked at Eliab and thought, "Surely the LORD's anointed is before Him."  7 But the LORD said to Samuel, "Do not look at his appearance or at the height of his stature, because I have rejected him; for God sees not as man sees, for man looks at the outward appearance, but the LORD looks at the heart."  

So, Samuel looked at each of Jesse's sons, in order.  The only one missing was the youngest - a mere lad – who was watching the sheep in the field.  He was so young, nobody gave a thought to his being the chosen one of God  – except, of course, God.

There you have grace illustrated. The youngest son, contrary to expectations: contrary to cultural norms.  We don't have any detail as to why the family of Jesse was so honored.  God simply made His choice of all the men of Israel, an unexpected choice and difficult to explain, except the Lord chose him.  The grace of God.  Whatever we might imagine David would fall short in, the Lord would provide at the right time.  God seemed to have favored those situations that looked unlikely if not hopeless, and He would make it work.

Now let us turn to you.

You have been chosen of God, just like David.  You have been anointed by God through His spokesman, just like David.  The only difference is that you were baptized with Water and the Word – David was anointed, the sign of the choice of God (what we might call election), with oil - probably olive oil.  David was the youngest in the family, and you were chosen of God in infancy, in all likelihood.

David was chosen to become king, one day.  You were adopted into the family of God, made the brother of the very Son of God, and sealed unto everlasting life with God.  

David, of course, had to grow up, kill Goliath, do all those marvelous things Scripture tells us about, survive many years of persecution by Saul, and finally become king - although he was God's chosen king from the moment that Samuel poured oil over his head.  You are of the household of God, chosen by Him from the moment of your baptism – although you will have many years of life, of persecution , of testing, and of service to God in this world before you assume your office in glory in the resurrection.

David did nothing to earn or deserve the choice of God.  He did not always act like the chosen of God that he was.  He sinned, and needed to repent and seek God's forgiveness.  And he was forgiven, at least one time accompanied by the absolution of God spoken by Nathan the prophet.

You did nothing to deserve the choice of God either.  For most of us, it happened while we were still babies, carried about by our parents and God-parents.  None of us has acted at every moment like the chosen child of God.  Each of us has sinned, and needed to repent and seek God's forgiveness.  And we, too, have been forgiven – accompanied frequently by the absolution spoken by the man called by God to speak His Word to you – your pastor, whomever he was at the moment, called, empowered, and commanded by God to absolve you, just as I did this morning.

Your sins are forgiven because Jesus atoned for them on the cross, and died the death you deserved on your behalf, and poured out His grace - the choice of God for God's own reasons - on you.  You possess that new attitude of favor and forgiveness in God towards you, the sinner, for Christ's sake – that is because of what Christ has suffered for you.

You have done nothing to merit it, not before the fact, and not since the fact.  It is just grace - illustrated for us by Samuel anointing David, the youngest son, because he was the one God chose to be king for His own reasons.

In the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost.
(Let the people say Amen)

No comments: