The lessons for the Fourth Sunday in Lent are as follows: 1 Samuel 16:1-13; Psalm 23; Ephesians 5:8-14; John 9:1-41.
In Samuel 16:1-3, the people of God are in crisis. Clearly the kingship of Saul, their first earthly king, has failed miserably. It just is not working, because Saul is disobedient to God and jealous of potential rivals. New human leadership must be anointed by Yaweh through the prophet, Samuel. The prophet goes to Bethlehem. It is a little, unnoticed, obscure village. It is not likely that a new king can come out of Bethlehem; but it happens anyway. Samuel is led to the household of Jesse and seven of the sons of Jesse are presented and paraded before Samuel to be considered. They seem to meet the requirements of appearing to be impressive and possessing sufficient age, intelligence, faith and maturity. But Yaweh will have none of the more qualified and better looking sons of Jesse. The Lord admonishes Samuel, “Do not look on his appearance or on the height of his stature, because I have rejected him; for the Lord does not see as mortals see. They look on the outward appearance, but the Lord looks on the heart.” After Jesse’s seven more qualified sons fail the test of God’s judgment, Jesse is told to send for the remaining son who was not even in the ‘running’ because of his youth, immaturity and un-impressiveness. That is precisely the one whom God chooses, anoints and establishes. “The spirit of the Lord came mightily upon David from that day forward.” (Verse 13) Man’s choice was based on human sight, but God’s choice was David.
Don’t let your eyes fool you. The most important things in people and in life are not visible to human sight. Love cannot be seen, only appearance can be seen. Intelligence cannot be quantitatively measured, only achievement of knowledge can be calculated. Faith cannot be documented, only doctrinal statements and pious actions can be observed. Only the spirit of God can discern the sincerity, spirituality and integrity of humankind.
In critical choices that involve people, you need the Holy Ghost to guide you and show you what you cannot see without God’s revelation to you of the essential and determining characteristics of any human being. Everything that looks good to you is not good for you. Serious problems, hostile attitudes and violent natures are sometimes hidden behind pleasing appearances and pretty surfaces. Don’t let your eyes fool you! Don’t judge the book by the cover, the person by the face, the nation by its money or the church by its building. Ultimate reality and highest truth are beyond human sight and discernible only by faith and love. If we do not love a person, we cannot know a person. If we do not believe God, we will not find God. If we do not hope in the coming Kingdom of God, we cannot enter it. Don’t let your eyes fool you! “We are God’s children now; what we will be has not yet been revealed.” (I John 3:2)
Let me point out something new about Psalm 23. Because of the Greek translation of this originally Hebrew poem, the last sentence is usually rendered a follows: “And I shall dwell in the house of the Lord forever.” However, an alternative and credible rendering from the original Hebrew is, “And I shall return to the house of the Lord for the rest of my days.” Life is a journey that has the blessing of the invisible leadership of God, who “leads us beside still waters…and leads us in right paths for his name’s sake.” Even when we wander, shift, turn against God and go astray, God is still there to lead us back to the main highway that leads home. When we pass through our deepest, darkest valley, even the shadow of death, our Lord, the Leader, is with us to hold our hands and to guide our feet and bring us home rejoicing. It is the Hebrew rendering that emphasize life as a journey, the Lord as the leader and the sheep as people who wander but will inevitably return to the household of God, because of God’s determined and decisive leadership. When we assess our own circumstances, we need eyes to see more than the things that depress and disturb us. We really need to look beyond human sight in order to catch a glimpse of the loving Lordship and Leadership of our God.
C. G. A.