United Presbyterian Church of West Orange

"Is Seeing Believing"
By Minister Kim Braxton
Jule 20, 2021

Focus Scripture: I Samuel 16

Supporting Scriptures: Proverbs 3:5-6 / I Samuel 15

Let us pray “Father, I pray that I decrease as You increase. Allow your word to reach each of your people and that the power of the Holy Spirit will bring the text to life. Seal Your Word on your people’s hearts. Lord, I ask in the name of Jesus that you make Your Word applicable in your people’s lives and that you continue to guide us, direct us, and order all of our steps. Thank you for being our Father and Our King. In Christ’s name we pray. Amen.”

Good morning and Happy Father’s Day! For those of you who follow the presbyterian lexicon we are taking a step back to cover the scriptures from Sunday, June 13th. The Lord led Pastor Becca to deliver a beautiful message on David & Goliath last week so we are not ones to interfere with divine inspiration.


There is an expression that goes “It is always darkest before the dawn”. And this week’s text meets us at a very dark point in Israel’s history. Chapter 15 verses 34 through 35 recall the separation of Saul and Samuel after the Lord rejected Saul as King. In summary just prior to theses verses in I Samuel chapter 15 verses 2 through 3 Saul was given a command “This is what the Lord Almighty says: ‘I will punish the Amalekites for what they did to Israel when they waylaid them as they came up from Egypt. Now go, attack the Amalekites and totally destroy all that belongs to them. Do not spare them; put to death men and women, children and infants, cattle and sheep, camels and donkeys.’”


Now instead of doing what he was commanded to do Saul only destroyed “everything that was despised and weak” (verse 9). He kept the choice sheep, cattle and their king alive.


There’s a Kenyan proverb that states “He who refuses to obey cannot command”. And Saul was a real life demonstration of this axiom. Oh he tried to justify his actions stating “I DID obey the command. I destroyed everything but I thought I would save the best stuff for a sacrifice for your God at gigal, I let the soldiers take from the plunder and I brought back their king”.  When I read through this verse I can’t help but roll my eyes because it reminds me of a teenager trying to justify their bad behavior when they’re caught by their parents, “I know you said I couldn’t go to the party while you were out. So instead I threw a party to the our house instead! Why are you mad? I did what you said. I didn’t go out. I stayed at home.”


In the same way that a parent would completely lose their cool in the face of such a flippant response, Samuel hit Saul with a hard truth in response to his attempt to justify his disobedience in verses 22 through 23


“Does the Lord delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices.

    as much as in obeying the Lord?

To obey is better than sacrifice,

    and to heed is better than the fat of rams.

23 For rebellion is like the sin of divination,

    and arrogance like the evil of idolatry.

Because you have rejected the word of the Lord,

    he has rejected you as king.”




After all this turmoil we land in verses 34 through 35 where we read about Samuel mourning for Saul and the Lord regretting that He had chosen Saul as King. You may ask yourself, “Why was Samuel mourning? Saul knew better than to disobey the Lord’s commands he just didn’t DO better.” True but think about it from Samuel’s point of view. He could be mourning for the people of Israel. The king that they asked for had fallen short of his potential. As a result the people of God were left with a king that God had rejected leading them. What would happen to them? Was their future now uncertain because their king had lost his way? Samuel was mourning for the fact that Saul chose to reject God and instead chase after the people’s approval and praise. All that potential thrown away by a man that valued his political position of King over his relationship with the God that had placed him on the throne in the first place. Saul made a choice to disobey, and Samuel mourned the loss of Saul’s potential for greatness. He mourned the failure of a King.


Even in the midst of this distress a foundational principal is revealed - - even in times of mourning, the dark period of our lives when nothing seems to be sure or certain, the Lord still has a plan and He is still in control.  


This was a time of darkness and uncertainty for the people of Israel since the king sitting on the throne had been rejected by God. However even in this time of uncertainty we are met in Chapter 16 with the hope for a brighter future. See the Lord knew what Samuel did not - - that He had someone that he was grooming to be the next king. God had a plan. Samuel only had to listen and obey.



Now the next observation from the text deals with discernment - - everything is not what it appears to be and the obvious choice may not always be the best solution. Let me give you an example - - I am not one to believe conspiracy theories, but I have to say that I am beginning to believe that my smartphone listens to my conversations and conspires with Instagram and Google to force me to make some random and ridiculous purchases on the internet. The biggest culprit for stealing my hard-earned funds to date - - Instagram ads.


Notice I used the words “forced” and “steal”…. I mean why take responsibility fiscal foolery when you can deflect…


Anyway, technology has made it very easy to make any trash product look like the latest and greatest thing. All you need is a flashy internet site, lots of interactive graphics, and of course an Instagram ad. For those of you that aren’t aware of what I’m taking about “God bless you!” but let me explain. Instagram is a photo-based app. You take pictures and write captions. And you can “follow” people on the app to see what’s going on with them. A way to keep in touch. You can also follow celebrities, your favorite brands or products - -  whatever peaks your interest. Once you follow enough people, places or things the ads begin to be targeted towards your interests. In a really creepy way Instagram begins following you. And the ads start coming.


I have curly hair… Hair products ads appear.

I wear makeup…. Makeup ads start to make an appearance in my timeline.

I start planning a vacation…. Hotel and airfare ads begin populating my feed.


These ads are flashy - - perfectly curated and designed. They ring of truth and total absolute customer satisfaction. And when you only take them at face view you will believe that the product you are being enticed to purchase will actually do what the manufacturer says it will do. Each advertisement is luring the reader to click that “see more” button and fall down the internet rabbit hole, believing the lie and finally making the purchase.


Now they say that confession is good for the soul so I’m going to tell on myself this morning. I had gained some weight and I was being “how do you say it… “  “challenged” to fit into my clothes. Instead of choosing to cut back on my calories and exercise more or buy a larger size - - I decided to believe the Instagram ad that popped up in my feed on a daily basis and I purchased shapewear I saw. See there was a video of a model, a live testimonial, that had a bit of extra “fluff” around her midsection too. She tried on a basic shirt dress without the device and it fit terribly on her frame. But when she she shimmied into this shapewear under garment contraption that was complete with shoulder straps, hook and eye clasps and a zipper, that she assured the viewer that this device was completely comfortable, barely felt a thing, and her waistline was snatched to a circumference that would have made Scarlett O’Hara jealous. She then tried the same shirt dress and it fit beautifully. I couldn’t believe my eyes! I shouldn’t have believed my eyes. I mean I admit it I was convinced.  So I clicked add to cart and purchased.


WELL…. When the item arrived it would be generous to say that the sizing was “aspirational”. I tried to do the shimmy / shake dance that the lady did in the video and lost my breath. By the time I was hooked and zipped into this torture device I had broken a nail and would have sworn I had stress fractures in my ribs from the pressure of this compression device from hell.

Comfortable? Ma’am I couldn’t take deep breaths! It was awful!!! When I finally peeled myself out of it. I wondered how I had been fooled and misled.  how could this happen??? Something that looked so good turn out to be so wrong. It was packaged so nicely. But in the end it fell short because even though it looked like it was something good on the surface when you looked closer, and experienced the garment first hand the end result was failure. I was left with a broken nail, a credit card bill and a piece of shapewear that I could only use as a slingshot.


Here’s another example. Say you want to purchase a home. So you go online to Zillow or start browsing at homes. Then you find it… Your dream house. The pictures are beautiful! Everything in the listing looks perfect. And the price is right! Under your budget as a matter of fact. You go to look at the house. It looks so beautiful. Freshly painted, lawn landscaped and staged perfectly. You can SEE yourself living your best life in this house. At this point you decide to go for it. In fact you’re so sure that this house is the one that you don’t even pay attention to the home inspection results. You saw the house for yourself! You studied those photos and thought you knew everything there was to know about this property.  Then you move in and the fun begins - - the fresh paint hid the mold, the walls hid the rusted pipes, the perfectly staged furniture hid the cracks in the walls and the damaged flooring, and don’t even think about going up to the roof!… You get the point…. Just because the house is beautifully presented doesn’t mean it’s a good house. There can be a lot of ugly, a lot of problems, and a lot of issues lurking under the surface.


Back to the text, In verse 5 Samuel (“God Heard”) invites Jesse (“the Lord Exists”) and his sons to the sacrifice. Now the real reason Samuel was at Jesse’s house was to anoint the new King over Israel.


When Samuel sees Jesse’s son, Eliab, he thinks, “This must be the one” in Verse 6, Samuel saw Eliab and thought, “Surely the Lord’s anointed stands here before the Lord.” I mean Eliab HAD to be the one! Even Eliab’s name means “The Lord is my God”. This had to be the new king. Look at him! Packaged perfectly! I can only imagine the perfectly symmetrical face, tall, chiseled perfection! Even his name works! This is it.


But the Lord revealed a truth to in Verse 7, 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.”


So as Jesses’ other sons arrived - Abinadab (whose name means “my father is willing”), Shammah (his name means “waste, horror”). Nothing. In fact all seven of Jesses’ sons fell short. We can assume they were pleasing to the eye but they did not have what it took to move the heart of God. The Lord knows what really matters. It’s not the outward packaging (and please don’t think I’m implying that pretty people can’t be trusted) not so. Pretty, handsome, attractive, challenged, are all subjective measurements that at the end of the day mean nothing. They do not add value. So when Samuel did not get God’s approval to anoint any of these men he asked Jesse if he had any other sons? And Jesse responded, “one he’s tending sheep”. Jesse sends for him and when David arrives in Verse 12 the Lord said to Samuel “Rise and anoint him; this is the one.”


David, whose name means “Beloved”, was the one. David wasn’t the obvious choice but he was the right choice. He was God’s choice. This passage reveals to us the discernment that we sometimes lack when we base our decisions soley on what we take in with our eyes.

We need to be aware of the impressiveness of external appearances. Especially in our modern times when images can be distorted, manipulated and filtered to project a false representation of the actual reality.


Imagine if you had to choose your spouse solely on their external appearance. Nothing else mattered excepted how they looked. Well, you would have beautiful wedding photos. But you could find yourself in a relationship with someone that irritates the life out of you, who ruins your credit, is mean to your family, can’t hold a job, when you’re sick they won’t take care of you, they won’t help in the house but you know what…. Those pictures though.. Yeah, I chose a winner! Top 10! How foolish would you be?


Remember when faced with a making a choice or evaluating a situation or opportunity. Don’t trust that you can assess all the variables of that situation based soley on what you see. There can be a lot of muck, confusion, and nastiness lurking right under the surface. And when we base our decisions on such a limited insight God will have to save us from our self-chosen solutions to our personal dilemmas. Over and over again.


Instead learn from Samuel’s example - - listen for the Lord’s leading. Ask God and for assistance in assessing a situation completely and the bible has a promise in Proverbs Chapter 3 verses 5-6


“Trust in the Lord with all your heart

    and lean not on your own understanding;

6 in all your ways submit to him,

    and he will make your paths straight.”





Don’t rely solely on what your eyes can see.

Believe your God.

Trust His guidance

Listen to His voice

And Obey His direction

Ask God and He will be able to guide you through all the difficult choices and decisions you may be facing. And you will begin to see the bright light of hope begin to glow in the middle of your darkest situation. Amen