Monday, June 2, 2008

How Does God Judge?

Today I think I am going to go off the beaten path and do something a little different, a little off schedule, and a little pointed and short, (at least for me). I am going to comment and provide some thoughts that came from a recent Daily Bible Reading provided on The Virtual Pew’s web site forums. For those that don’t know, The Virtual Pew does a daily post where you can read passages from the Bible in the Contemporary English Version. If reading those passages on a daily basis, you will be able to read the Bible in a year. It normally has between 3 and 5 chapters, and takes about 30 minutes at the most. I like the translation as it is easy to read and easy to understand.

One of the passages I recently read was from the Old Testament book of 1 Samuel. It starts out with the story of the little shepherd boy David, who later became the greatest king in Israel’s history. King David was chosen by God to be the king of Israel. While God didn’t want Israel to have a king, he allowed them to have one he selected.

Saul was a king God started having trouble with. Saul started focusing on things other than what God wanted, and begin to disobey God. As a result of God’s frustration, God told his prophet Samuel that he had had enough of Saul. God was going to pick a new king for Israel.

In the process, Samuel was afraid that Saul would kill him for picking or having a part in picking a new king. God made it clear though as to what his expectations were.

As the story goes Samuel ended up going to Bethlehem to meet with various leaders. They were concerned as to the reason Samuel was there, but Samuel reaffirmed them that his visit was friendly.

In this group of leaders was a man named Jesse who had several sons, one named Eliab. He was tall, handsome, muscular the whole bit. Samuel assumed this was the man God was going to choose to be king. Then God said something unique, something we can all learn from. God said, "Samuel, don't think Eliab is the one just because he's tall and handsome. He isn't the one I've chosen. People judge others by what they look like, but I judge people by what is in their hearts."

Let me ask the question, how many times do we judge people by the way they look? Unfortunately, I think the answer to that for most people is most of the time. We may see someone with tattoos, long hair, any number of body piercings among other things, and assume, we know what they are like. I’ll never forget after getting my first tattoo some years ago now, I had a Christian friend tell me that they had tried to teach their children to stay away from people with tattoos. That never felt right, but it is the perception many people still have.

I think an important lesson here is that if God judges the heart, if it don’t matter so much to God what someone looks like on the outside, why does it matter to the rest of us? Why do we take the positions we do on various issues, whether it be someone’s weight, length of hair, body piercings, or any other number of issues we tend to judge on? Why don’t we make the effort to get to know someone’s heart? I don’t know to be honest, I guess some people think they know more or know better than God. Hopefully most of us don’t fall into that category; hopefully we get to know people, know where they are coming from, and then, maybe, just maybe, get to know their hearts before we cast judgment.

Now in the context of how the passage reads, I am including it here, read, enjoy, cast rebuttal, but do so with Scripture within the context of how that scripture is used. Otherwise, may we all find ways to get to know people, and realize the heart is the true measure of someone, not just how they look. Lord knows we have enough preachers in their nice suits doing nothing. Give me one any day who loves the way Jesus told us to, and one who is willing to get dirty as they share that love with others. Heck, forget just preachers, give me followers of Jesus who are willing to practice that concept.

Now that passage from 1 Samuel 16.

1 Samuel 16 (1) One day he said, "Samuel, I've rejected Saul, and I refuse to let him be king any longer. Stop feeling sad about him. Put some olive oil in a small container and go visit a man named Jesse, who lives in Bethlehem. I've chosen one of his sons to be my king."

(2) Samuel answered, "If I do that, Saul will find out and have me killed."

"Take a calf with you," the LORD replied. "Tell everyone that you've come to offer it as a sacrifice to me, (3) then invite Jesse to the sacrifice. When I show you which one of his sons I have chosen, pour the olive oil on his head."

(4) Samuel did what the LORD told him and went to Bethlehem. The town leaders went to meet him, but they were terribly afraid and asked, "Is this a friendly visit?"

(5) "Yes, it is!" Samuel answered. "I've come to offer a sacrifice to the LORD. Get yourselves ready to take part in the sacrifice and come with me." Samuel also invited Jesse and his sons to come to the sacrifice, and he got them ready to take part.

(6) When Jesse and his sons arrived, Samuel noticed Jesse's oldest son, Eliab. "He has to be the one the LORD has chosen," Samuel said to himself.

(7) But the LORD told him, "Samuel, don't think Eliab is the one just because he's tall and handsome. He isn't the one I've chosen. People judge others by what they look like, but I judge people by what is in their hearts."

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