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Mystery and Wonder of Insight
March 19, 2023

First United Methodist Church of Palo Alto

1 SAMUEL 16:1-13

King Saul was in trouble. The prophet Samuel had a confrontation with him where he told King Saul that not only was the Lord disappointed with him but he had rejected him as king. Even though he was in fear of the king, Samuel then went on a mission to find and anoint a new king to be available when the time came. When Samuel arrived in Bethlehem, the elders nervously met him and, trembling, asked Samuel if he came peaceably. As one who spoke for God, Samuel was widely known and feared.

 Samuel singled out Jesse who obediently lined up seven sons according to age. At Family Camp, we line up for teams according to height so we have teams that are somewhat even. But, Jesse lined up his sons according to age. Can you see Jesse trying so hard to impress Samuel by showing off his sons-- fluttering about, organizing them: "Stand here. Look sharp. Shoulders back. Comb your hair."

Jesse must have become increasingly agitated as Samuel rejected them one by one. Samuel first thought Eliab was the Lord's anointed, the Lord's chosen one, 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 people look at. People look at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.” The Lord has insight. Our lenten theme—mystery and wonder—continues today with the Mystery and Wonder of Insight. Insight means “looking in”, understanding the heart, the essence, the character of a person—what a person truly is. 

One by one Jesse’s sons passed by Samuel, and one by one the Lord rejected them. Then Samuel asked, "Are all your sons here?" Jesse said, "The youngest is not here. He is out in the field watching the sheep." "Bring him here," said Samuel, and when David arrived, the Lord said to Samuel, "He is the one. Anoint him" I find it inconsistent that after the lecture from the Lord how Samuel should not look on the outward appearance, but with insight look on the heart, David is described by his outward appearance! The author does not tell us what inner qualities led the Lord to choose David, but only that he was handsome, ruddy with a reddish, healthy, glowing complexion and beautiful eyes. The Lord looks inward, we most often look at the outside.

Truly, what God sees is not what we see, and the criteria God uses is not the criteria we usually use. The divine perception of reality differs significantly from our limited human view. 

So how do we gain insight? How do we look on the heart? We begin by acknowledging that we often look and judge others on outward appearances and then make distinctions.

Throughout most of history, the firstborn son, regardless of his character and inner qualities, enjoyed privilege, status, and the inheritance, simply because he was the oldest. I am the firstborn and we had an aunt who gave me $3 for Christmas, my brother $2, and my sister $1. Understandably, my brother and sister did not share my enthusiasm. (Hands)

Perhaps some of you know  what it's like not to be born first. Books are written about the difficult role of the middle child who is caught between the adored firstborn and the darling baby. Nor, does the baby of the family have it easy. He/she doesn't have nearly the number of pictures EV in the photo album the older children have, and often doesn't even have a baby book! Hallelujah, what God sees is not the birth order. Birth order does not count. Samuel must have really shook up Jesse's family when he violated protocol, and chose the youngest of the family to be anointed king.

Short people, also take heart! Samuel did not choose the tallest. The Lord told Samuel not to give Eliab any extra credit just because he was tall! Why does our culture assume that women prefer tall, dark, and handsome men! I must admit, however, that I was very grateful for my height when I lived in Japan. At that time, I don't know how it is today-- a man was hired to stand on the train and bus platforms, and push people in the door. We were packed in like sardines. How grateful I was for my height because I could look over all the heads, and breathe! 

The Japanese were very conscious of height. We had an assembly one day in the junior and senior high boys' school where I taught. The speaker was a basketball star from the United States. When he entered the hall, a buzz went through the assembly. During lunch, I asked the basketball player if he noticed the reaction he received when he entered the room. Of course, he had. I said, "I suspect you thought they were reacting because you are black; but, they didn't notice your color. They watched you duck your head to get through the door, and said takai na, which means, `Man, is he tall!'" They didn’t see color; they saw height!

God does not see short or tall. God does not see skin color. Do you judge by skin color? The mortgage denial rate for African American borrowers is twice that of the overall population. Women customers on the average pay 8% more for auto repairs than men customers. According to the U.S. Census Bureau in 2021, full-time, year-round working women earned 84% of what their male counterparts earned on average. People are discriminated against because of their color, sex, national origin-- judged on outward appearances.

What do you see? The famous poet Anonymous wrote,

When the other fellow takes a long time to do something, he's slow;

But, when I take a long time to do something, I am thorough.

When the other fellow goes ahead and does something without being told,

he's overstepping his bounds;

But, when I go ahead and do something without being told, that's initiative

When the other fellow strongly states his side of the question, he's bull-


But, when I strongly state my side of the question, I'm being firm.

When the other fellow overlooks a few rules of etiquette, he's rude;

But, when I skip a few of the rules, I'm uninhibited.

When the other fellow gets ahead, he has advantages like affirmative action

But, when I manage to get ahead, it's not because I have an advantage by

 being white and male, it's hard work that did it.

We judge others when we look at the outside and not the inside.

Consider the mystery and wonder of insight. How do we see what God sees? How do we gain insight? Last Sunday I encouraged you to drink the living water. Let living water flow through you from the top of your head to your toes. Open yourself to the Holy Spirit fully , completely and then ask God for the gift of insight. When someone hurts you, irritates you, insults you, angers you, betrays you, ask God for insight. Look inside them. Look for what is going in their life that causes their behavior. What they are doing may have little to do with you. Ask them to tell you their story. Everyone has a story and when you get a sense of what is going on with them, when you gain insight, you then can understand, forgive and begin a relationship based on the heart rather than outward appearances or actions.

Ask God for the mystery and wonder of insight.

© 2023 Douglas I. Norris