Isn’t It Ironic?

April 4th, 2011

Chris Scott, seminary studentby Chris Scott, master of divinity  student

1 Samuel 16:1-13

This passage reminds me of the old Alanis Morissette song of the mid 1990s, entitled “Ironic.” Perhaps some of you might remember that song. It was basically a string of contradictory events that seem to happen in life. She sang of a free ride when you’ve already paid or a traffic jam when you’re already late and so on with a mid 90s angst.

While there is not much about a singer-songwriter in this Bible passage there is much here that carries a load of irony.  The ironic angles here are so strong that the storywriter includes it as the cutline of the story.  “The Lord does not see as mortals see; they look on the outward appearance, but the Lord looks on the heart,” the writer records in verse 7.

The contrasts of this passage are deep. Samuel at the end of his years is tricked by the outward appearance of Eliab, Jesse’s oldest son. He looks over and says, “This has to be the Lord’s anointed.” Eliab must be right out of central casting for a king. And yet God says, “Keep looking.” Samuel has to go down the order of sons until he thinks he’s seen them all and it turns out there is a forgotten one. Finally David comes and he is indeed the Lord’s choice.

The shepherd David is crowned king while there is still a reigning king in the Land. That is another irony. Samuel is filling a still occupied position. Saul casts a wide shadow over the land at this point in time. Even though he still looks like a king, is actually still acting like a king, and winning victories as a king, God has truly rejected Saul as king of the land. The anointing of the Lord has passed on from Saul.  Saul’s heart is no longer bent towards God.

We see in this story, and over and over again in the entire Biblical narrative from Genesis to Revelation that God looks deeper than we do. God is not looking at the markers that we habitually use, but looks deeper. God looks with the heart. Our vision is so often limited to what makes sense, or what appears practical. But God does not always make sense from our perspective and is often horribly impractical for our plans.

This is a rich passage to land on during Lent. Lent causes us to wonder and question. God pushes us to look beyond the apparently impractical nature of a suffering servant and calls us to perceive on a deeper level. As followers of that risen Messiah we struggle to live into the reality that this Lenten journey is the path that God lays out. This is the way God is choosing to act and demonstrate a love so profound and real.

We live in an appearance based culture. We base so much on appearances and snap surface judgments.  So much of what we think of others comes from the external. We see troubles and problems and wonder what’s the point.  We figure nothing good can come out of whatever mess is before us.

In doing so, we forget the enduring truth of this story of a shepherd anointed king. “The Lord does not see as mortals see; they look on the outward appearance, but the Lord looks on the heart.”  In this Lent season may we see the world with God’s eyes, and look deeper with lenses tinted with the heart of God.  May we refocus our seeing on the deeper areas. May we see each person and each moment as a place for God’s moving and loving touch. Indeed may we follow God into the impractical, to the place of God’s kingdom.