The Least, First

Monte Asbury's blog

Things are not as they seem!

with one comment

pine nutsThis Sunday's Scriptures plead for the presence of a different reality. The way things look is, apparently, not the way things are. Watch:

First up is the story of Samuel anointing the boy David to be the future king. God tells the prophet that one of the sons of Jesse is the king-to-be. And Jesse's sons are impressive:

1 Samuel 16
… Samuel took one look at Eliab and thought, "Here he is! God's anointed!"

But God told Samuel, "Looks aren't everything. Don't be impressed with his looks and stature. I've already eliminated him. God judges persons differently than humans do. Men and women look at the face; God looks into the heart."

And so it goes through seven sons! After the seventh try:

Samuel was blunt with Jesse, "God hasn't chosen any of these."

Then he asked Jesse, "Is this it? Are there no more sons?" "Well, yes, there's the runt. But he's out tending the sheep."

In comes David – "the runt" – and, sure enough:

God said, "Up on your feet! Anoint him! This is the one." Samuel took his flask of oil and anointed him, with his brothers standing around watching. The Spirit of God entered David like a rush of wind, God vitally empowering him for the rest of his life. …

The Message (MSG) Copyright © 1993, 1994, 1995, 1996, 2000, 2001, 2002 by Eugene H. Peterson

The "Director of Music" chimes in with a Psalm of David. Perhaps David had learned this lesson from his own call. I'll just include a couple of verses here:

Psalm 20 (NIV) For the director of music. A psalm of David.

… 7 Some trust in chariots and some in horses,

but we trust in the name of the LORD our God.

8 They are brought to their knees and fall,

but we rise up and stand firm. …

Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984 by International Bible Society

See the same theme? Chariots and horses – pretty impressive. But God's not moved.

And neither is St. Paul. Look for the "see" and "not-see" kinds of words:

2 Corinthians 5:

6-8That's why we live with such good cheer. You won't see us drooping our heads or dragging our feet! Cramped conditions here don't get us down. They only remind us of the spacious living conditions ahead. It's what we trust in but don't yet see that keeps us going. Do you suppose a few ruts in the road or rocks in the path are going to stop us? …

9-10But neither exile nor homecoming is the main thing. Cheerfully pleasing God is the main thing, and that's what we aim to do, regardless of our conditions. Sooner or later we'll all have to face God, regardless of our conditions. We will appear before Christ and take what's coming to us as a result of our actions, either good or bad.

2 Corinthians 5: 14-15Our firm decision is to work from this focused center: One man died for everyone. That puts everyone in the same boat. He included everyone in his death so that everyone could also be included in his life, a resurrection life, a far better life than people ever lived on their own.16-20Because of this decision we don't evaluate people by what they have or how they look. We looked at the Messiah that way once and got it all wrong, as you know. We certainly don't look at him that way anymore. Now we look inside, and what we see is that anyone united with the Messiah gets a fresh start, is created new. The old life is gone; a new life burgeons! Look at it!

The Message (MSG) Copyright © 1993, 1994, 1995, 1996, 2000, 2001, 2002 by Eugene H. Peterson

Finally, the Master himself, the definer and example of our faith, describes how it is that the unimpressive becomes much:

Mark 4:26-34

26-29Then Jesus said, "God's kingdom is like seed thrown on a field by a man who then goes to bed and forgets about it. The seed sprouts and grows—he has no idea how it happens. The earth does it all without his help: first a green stem of grass, then a bud, then the ripened grain. When the grain is fully formed, he reaps—harvest time!

30-32"How can we picture God's kingdom? What kind of story can we use? It's like a pine nut. When it lands on the ground it is quite small as seeds go, yet once it is planted it grows into a huge pine tree with thick branches. Eagles nest in it."

33-34With many stories like these, he presented his message to them, fitting the stories to their experience and maturity. He was never without a story when he spoke. When he was alone with his disciples, he went over everything, sorting out the tangles, untying the knots.

Have any tips for me? Look around the room where you're reading this. What does it mean that things – those things – are not as they seem?

Written by Monte

June 15, 2006 at 4:04 pm

One Response

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  1. Monte–you probably know me, I’m Rodney Miller’s oldest son–stumbled on your blog.

    I’m fascinated with 1 Samuel 16-17 as figural of the ministry and Passion of Jesus. I’m reminded in ch16 that when it came to leadership of the nation of Israel, the Jewish nation (Samuel) saw the great, the impressive, in Jesse’s sons, concluding that surely one of these were chosen to lead the nation. So with Israel in Jesus’ day, looking to the messiah who was outwardly impressive, who would bring the neighbors to their knees in fear and/or respect. Jesus himself is the unimpressive one. He is loath to perform miracles for show, he spends most of his time with the 12 and hangs out with the outcast.

    We see in 1 Samuel 17 that the brothers are churlish with David when he comes to visit–Holy Scripture tells us they were there when Samuel anointed David as King of Israel. We see the Pharisees and Sadducees reject Jesus–it appears from Matthew 3 that some of them witnessed Jesus’ baptism and the Triune manifestation, the Father’s seal of approval on his Son. Yet they do not accept his service, just as David’s brothers are less than thrilled that David comes to them with food in the middle of war. The least in each scenario is God’s chosen.

    (ch17 interpreted allegorically is vindication of my amillenial bent, but that’s another subject all together!)

    BTW, I like the Revised English Bible (REB). Picked up a copy in seminary and it just stuck.

    Christ’s Peace,

    Jason Miller

    July 25, 2006 at 10:46 pm

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