The way ahead looks grim. All options, exhausted. All choices, expended. Looking for clear direction but there is none to be found. If this sounds like you looking at today’s news or today’s climate predictions or today’s culture wars or any other of today’s intractable issues, I’d like us to go back in time. Back to a teetering moment when the Prophet Samuel shows us a way through such times. (If you’re not familiar with Samuel, have a look at the story told in 1 Samuel 16: 1-13.)
Surely things were at an impasse. The prophet Samuel, sent by God to choose Saul’s successor as King of Israel, had come ready to select from among Jesse’s sons. Seven capable, good-looking young men presented themselves: seven times God told Samuel “No,” cautioning him against judging according to their stature or outward appearance. But after seven sons came and went with nary a positive selection, their father Jesse must’ve been peeved.
I can just imagine him fuming. “Aren’t any of these good enough for you, Man of God?!”
I’ll tell you what I would have done, had I been in Samuel’s sandals. I would have taken a second look at those seven fine sons and, calling upon my snippets of Biblical education regarding “7” — 7 sons of Abraham (from the children’s song), 7 days of Creation (from Genesis), 7 is the complete number (from some authoritative Biblical concordance or commentary) — I would have convinced myself that perhaps I had missed God’s yes. Then, of my own accord, I would have told Jesse, “On second thought, I think … this one.” And right there and then I would have toppled from grace.
But Samuel, give him credit, trusted the word of the Lord he’d become accustomed to obeying and proffered a new way. “Jesse,” he asked, “Are these all the sons you have?”
And that’s the kicker, isn’t it? When the answer is not plain and, especially, when all the possible answers seem to have exhausted themselves, we tend to rely on our own experiences and resources. We fill the nervous silence with emotional angst and/or knee-jerk responses.
But how often do we do as Samuel did and wonder if we’re missing something? Such a simple question: “Are these all the sons you have?”
Turns out there was another son, the youngest, David who was tending the sheep. (Spoiler alert: He was the one!) David was summoned, and wouldn’t you know, “he was ruddy and had beautiful eyes and was handsome?” (Apparently God does notice outward appearance.) But, we’re reminded, “the Lord does not see as mortals see, … the Lord looks on the heart.”
Perhaps in this moment, it wasn’t just the heart of David the Lord was looking on. Perhaps the heart the Lord was counting on belonged to Samuel. He was the kind who, even when it appeared all options had been exhausted, didn’t just dig deeper into his own capability. He trusted his instructions and the One who had given them and discerned another way. A new way, as the Prophet Isaiah phrases it, “See, I am doing a new thing! Now it springs forth; do you not perceive it? I am making a way in the wilderness and streams in the wasteland.”
So many things feel to me like wilderness and wasteland right now I’m tempted to shout, Lord, show me this new thing! But I don’t think it’s the sort of thing that comes by shouting. I expect, it will more likely come by listening.
And, in the way of a perfect ending to a well-crafted story, the way will be clear in a “why-didn’t-we-see-that-in-the-first-place?” sort of way.
What is the question?
Prayer: Lord, we come to you today, confessing our inability to resolve many of the difficulties we face. Hold us fast, we pray. Help us to look, listen and trust. Even when we don’t see a way in our wilderness, you have already made one. Show us the way that’s waiting to declare itself to us; that’s waiting to welcome us; that’s waiting for us to choose it. Then, Father, grant us the courage to walk into it. Amen
God spoke a word and you were you.
God spoke another word and I was me.
God doesn’t waste breath.
As the rain and the snow
come down from heaven,
and do not return to it
without watering the earth
and making it bud and flourish,
so that it yields seed for the sower and bread for the eater,
so is my word that goes out from my mouth:
We have our assignments.
Have you turned yours in yet?
on the first draft? Revising? Editing?
waiting for just the right time?
the really write time to put pen to paper?
What is the assignment God has spoken in you?
so is my word that goes out from my mouth:
It will not return to me empty,
but will accomplish what I desire
and achieve the purpose for which I sent it. ~ Isaiah 55:10-11
God doesn’t leave blanks in the grade Book of Life.
It’s complete pandemonium, folks!
The crowd roars as the team is announced.
They break into song as the players stride to the podium.
The roar is deafening as they hoist the championship trophy.
It is ours.
After decades of waiting
and a lifetime of work,
we have won it!
This is the scene as the Leicester City Foxes are declared the English premier League Champions. A “5,000 to 1” shot. Improbable. Impossible. Impeccable. Perfection.
This is the scene as our name is announced: ________________, our winner and champion. The crowd roars its approval!
The Communion of Saints? No, it’s the hills: they have burst forth in song, and the mountains have joined in perfect harmony.
The birds are a-flutter,
their nests all a-teeter,
as their perches give way in applause.
the branches themselves are a-titter,
clinking and clapping,
tipping and tapping.
Nature itself has joined the celebration.
What of the foxes?
What of the birds?
“Foxes have holes, and birds of the air have nests; but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay his head,” But Jesus said, “… follow me.” ~ Matthew 8: 20, 22
He who commands the seas,
and the skies
and the stars of night,
Has orchestrated this celebration.
And you, Dear Child, are its reason.
For you shall go out in joy, and be led forth in peace;
the mountains and the hills before you
shall burst forth in song, and all the trees of the field shall
clap their hands. ~ Isaiah 55:12