THE HOLY HEART ASSOCIATION – CHARACTER
1 Samuel 16:1-13
June 16, 2019
A few Father’s Day chuckles from some of our beloved humorists:
Rita Rudner quipped, “I gave my father $100 and said, “Buy yourself something that will make your life easier.” So he went out and bought a present for my mother.”
Erma Bombeck often pondered, “We wondered why when a child laughed, he belonged to Daddy, and when he had a sagging diaper that smelled like a landfill, ‘He wants his mother.’”
And from Mark Twain, “When I was a boy of 14, my father was so ignorant, I could hardly stand to have the old man around. But when I got to be 21, I was astonished at how much the old man had learned in seven years.”
Whenever we hear of the term “heart”, we probably think of that physiological muscle the size of a fist in the center of our chest. It’s the main cog in our body’s circulatory system, keeping us alive by pumping oxygen-filled blood throughout our bodies.
What if we examined the heart as more than a mere muscle, albeit one that is vital to our survival? What if we looked upon the heart in a biblical fashion?
Did you know that the term heart is mentioned over 1,000 times in the Bible? And whenever that word appears in scripture, it is speaking of the source and center of all virtue.
Over these Sundays of late spring and early summer, we are delving into the biblical virtues of the heart, virtues such as courage, faith, direction, discernment, joy, simplicity, righteousness and commitment. Yes, we are moving beyond the American Heart Association to become full-fledged members of the Holy Heart Association!
This morning, we’re going to explore would it mean for our heart to be filled with character. Let’s journey way back in the Old Testament to the book of 1 Samuel 16:
In our scripture today we see Samuel, the great old prophet of God, being sent as a search committee of one on a mission to find the next king of Israel. Saul, the first king, simply has not worked out. So full of promise at the beginning of his reign, Saul has grown more and more moody and faithless, making decision after disastrous decision that is leading the nation down the road to ruination.
And so God sends Samuel to seek out a successor. He compels Samuel to journey to Bethlehem, to the home of Jesse, where God has determined one of Jesse’s sons has potential to become a great and successful leader.
Samuel has Jesse go and assemble his sons on the assumption God would tell him which one to anoint as the future king. The first and eldest son obviously impressed Samuel with his stature, his chiseled good looks, his presence. Samuel thinks to himself, “Well, I can wrap this thing up and be back home in time for supper—surely this is the one God wants!”
WE BASE CHARACTER ON OUTWARD APPEARANCE
We certainly cannot fault Samuel. We base character on outward appearance also. There are certain superficial characteristics we feel are vitally important:
We believe character is all about having the right PEDIGREE You simply have to come from the right family to be somebody in this world.
This is doubly true if you grew up in the South. There were certain last names that made you a prominent person in my hometown, no matter what your character might be. If you came from the right family, you were looked upon as royalty.
I find it quite interesting to explore the old town cemetery back home in Chase City. Woodbine Cemetery has several ornate mausoleums devoted to individual families wealthy enough to afford the intricately-carved stone and stained-glass. These were the folks with the right pedigree.
And yet, in the humble section of ordinary rows of tombstones where my parents are buried there is a non-descript small piece of granite marking the grave of Dr. Hubert H. Braxton, arguably the greatest man who ever lived in Chase City, a doctor who practiced medicine in that town till the age of 90, making house calls to sick children in tar-papered shacks as well as to mansions housing the richest of the rich. He simply cared for everyone.
But many today believe character comes from having the right pedigree….
And also the right PERSONALITY To be somebody, isn’t it true you have to be a double expresso, doubly-extroverted clone of Kelly Ripa, bubbling over with perpetual perkiness?
We are attracted to persons who are the life of the party, who suck most of the oxygen out of a room by simply entering it. We are drawn to their commanding presence.
What is the term the political pundits use? Gravitas?
We often attribute character to having the right personality, as well as the right pedigree.
And what about having the right PORTRAIT? Is it not true we place great value on an individual’s good looks? Poor Abe Lincoln would not have stood a chance today, would he? My momma’s old saying, “Pretty is as pretty does” would have to be altered today to simply read, “Pretty is as pretty is.”
We feel attractiveness is essential for achievement. And so we paid the cosmetic industry some $7 billion last year to make us look good.
As an aside, I have always wondered about the strange incongruence you see on the covers of women’s magazines. You’re standing in line at WalMart, and there are these publications—you’ll see articles listed for dieting right next to ones devoted to baking the most decadent of chocolate cakes. I’ve never understood that!
Yes, like Samuel, when it comes to choosing who possesses the greatest degree of character, we place great stock in outward appearance—having the right pedigree, the right personality, the right portrait. But what about God?
GOD BASES CHARACTER ON THE INWARD HEART
Samuel does interviews with each of Jesse’s seven sons. All have the right pedigree, the right personality, the right portrait. Samuel feels they would make fine future leaders of Israel. But God has different criteria for choosing, for judging the character of a future leader.
God says to Samuel, “The Lord does not look at the things people look at. People look at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.”
Yes, God looks beneath the surface of individuals, and bases character, first of all, having the right MATURITY.
And by maturity, I don’t mean age. There are many 50-60 year-olds who act like juvenile delinquents. I mean maturity in faith.
We here at VOH are blessed with many youth and young adults who are strong in faith. Some of them have faced great challenges and overcome them. They are willing to step out and work to serve God through rolling up their sleeves and serving others. They are not ashamed to call Jesus Lord of their lives. And I am so very, very proud of them.
Samuel interviews seven of Jesse’s sons. None are acceptable to God. Samuel inquires of Jesse, “Do you have any more boys?” “Well, there is one more—but he’s the youngest—just a kid—the runt of the litter. We give him the dangerous job of tending the sheep cause he’s expendable. His name is David.”
They make arrangements to go and get David. And when he comes in from the fields, Samuel gives him the once-over. He’s a ruddy young fellow—looks like the sheriff’s son Opie on “The Andy Griffith Show.”
But he has this quiet maturity about him—he has proven responsible in herding sheep…and he possesses a great faith …very wise and devoted to God for such a young person.
Yes, God bases character upon the inward heart, having the right maturity….and also having the right MOTIVES.
Samuel senses no guile in David. There is no overbearing ego like his oldest brother Eliab. David does nothing out of self-aggrandizement. He is very humble and very comfortable in his own skin, eager to serve God and anyone else he can be helpful toward.
Having pure motives is a tough thing, isn’t it? How does the line from the Bruce Springsteen song go, “It’s a sad man my friend, who’s living in his own skin, and can’t stand the company.”
I don’t know about you, but I’ve made a lot of decisions in my life based on wrong motives, trying to be something I’m not. I’ve even accepted appointments to certain churches because I thought it would make me the next Rick Warren or Joel Osteen. It’s taken me a long time, and a lot of wake-up calls from God, to simply become comfortable in my own skin—to realize my calling as a pastor is simply to be a shepherd to others and not some slick religious snake-oil salesman.
Even at an extremely young age, Samuel begins to see in David’s heart what God sees in him—a person with the right maturity and the right motives….and the right MISSION.
Yes, David’s role as a shepherd of sheep will be greatly expanded to that of being a shepherd of God’s people.
The keen watchfulness, the undying loyalty, the constant concern he has maintained in the pasturelands will be the same attributes that serve him well as the leader of a nation.
In many ways, that is the sense of mission God desires in all of us—that we would be our brother and sister’s keeper. Jesus would say, “Greater love has no one than this, than he lay down his life for another.”
Does God see that degree of self-sacrifice evident in our hearts? Do we love others with the love of a shepherd?
God likes what he sees in David, and he commands Samuel to anoint him as the future king of Israel. Samuel does so, and God’s Spirit comes powerfully upon David, marking his destiny as a child of God and a leader of Israel.
Your heart defines your destiny. We may believe character is based on outward appearance– having the right pedigree, the right personality, the right portrait. But God bases character on what’s in our heart—the right maturity, the right motives, the right mission.
This is what God sees in David. This is what God desires to see in us. And such character lives on beyond our time upon this earth to influence future generations.
Arthur Ashe, the great tennis legend and resident of Richmond, died of AIDS in February, 1993. He contracted the disease through a blood transfusion.
A man of tremendous character, he was deeply devoted to his family. His heartfelt memoirs were published in a book entitled Days of Grace.
My Dear Camera, the last chapter of the biography, is a touching, 11-page letter to his then 6-year-old daughter Camera. He knew this would be his last stab at parenting. He wrote the letter on January 20. He would die 17 days later.
And so he tells Camera about her ancestors and the strength of family. He counsels her on choosing a husband and dealing with matters of race. He advises her to master two foreign languages and to learn to manage her money well. He exhorts her to have faith in God.
Then Arthur Ashe concludes, “Camera, please don’t be angry with me if I am not there in person, alive and well, when you need me. Wherever you are, whenever you feel sick at heart and weary of life, or when you stumble and fall and don’t know if you can get back up again, think of me. I will be watching and smiling and cheering you on. I will remain a part of your life, my dear Camera, for as long as you live.”
Such is the unfailing, loving character Arthur Ashe expressed for his daughter.
Such is the unfailing, loving character our Lord desires to see in each of us, especially as dads and grandfathers.
May we never forget the word of the Lord to us this day:
The Lord does not look at the things people look at. People look at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.”
Happy Father’s Day!