Psalm 108:1-5; 1 Samuel 13; John 1:43-51

Psalm 108:1-5: This psalm is the first in a series of “David psalms,” attributed to Israel’s great king. It’s worth, then, looking at this psalm’s opening line: “My heart is firm, O God.” What constitutes a “firm heart?” Firm is halfway between “limp” and “hard.” David’s heart is not so weak that it blows this way and that, unable to take a stand about anything. Thinking of God as a useful vending machine for help in every situation, to be called upon in lieu of understanding and working out difficulties that arise in daily life is a sure sign of an “unfirm” heart.  On the other hand, a firm heart is not so concrete-like that it has forgotten to follow God’s example of rendering grace and mercy to others in distress or less fortunate.

“Firm” connotes suppleness; a clear understanding of the relationship between one’s own being and God. It is a willingness to take a stand, especially when it would be easier to go the way of the crowd. A firm heart–that balance between indecisive “wimpiness” and ego-centric narcissism–is an especially important quality for leaders. Difficulties will come that will test a leader’s heart. Tough decisions such as sending men into battle will have to be made.

A firm heart is one which rests in God, not in one’s self.  Above all, a firm heart understands the crucial relationship: where it is and where God is: “For Your kindness is great over the heavens,/ and Your steadfast truth to the skies.” (5) In that context and understanding of this all-important relationship, a firm heart can accomplish great things. Just as David did.

1 Samuel 13: Things are not going well in the battle between Israel and the Philistines: “When the Israelites saw that they were in distress (for the troops were hard pressed), the people hid themselves in caves and in holes and in rocks and in tombs and in cisterns.” (6) Samuel had said he would arrive within seven days to make a sacrifice to God, asking for help in battle. But Samuel has not appeared after the seven days and “the people began to slip away from Saul.” (8b).

So, assuming Samuel is a no-show, Saul takes matters into his own hands and says, “’Bring the burnt offering here to me, and the offerings of well-being.’ And he offered the burnt offering.” (9) At which point Samuel shows up and says to Saul, “You have done foolishly; you have not kept the commandment of the Lord your God,” (13). Saul’s worried impatience has cost him his kingdom. Not yet, but Samuel makes it clear that “the Lord has sought out a man after his own heart; and the Lord has appointed him to be ruler over his people, because you have not kept what the Lord commanded you.” (14)

So, what’s the lesson here? Even in dire circumstances, if we have heard God speak–here via Samuel–we are to wait until the time is right. This is as difficult for us as it was for Saul, who took matters into his own hands rather than waiting. But Saul failed to turn first to God and seek guidance in Samuel’s absence. He could have taken a moment and prayed to God about what he should do. Instead he acted on his own. Failing to ask God, failing to discern what God is saying in changed circumstances, and just taking matters into our own hands can lead to a poor outcome.

John 1:43-51: Jesus asks Philip to follow him, which he immediately does. Philip finds his buddy, Nathaniel, and says “We have found him about whom Moses in the law and also the prophets wrote, Jesus son of Joseph from Nazareth.” (45). At which point Nathaniel asks one of the most famous questions in the NT: “Can anything good come out of Nazareth?” (46)

This is the question that arises from pre-conceived notions. We have formed our opinions based on half-truths, rumors and incomplete data. And we cling mightily to the beliefs formed out of this partial truths. And when it comes to other people, this failure of perception and understanding lies at the root of prejudice.

Philip replies to Nathaniel with just three short but incredibly wise words: “Come and see.” Two verbs. First, we must come: get up out of our comfortable positions of being spoon-fed that which others would have us believe. We must move from where we are into a new place. IF we do not come, we cannot see. Then having arrived at this new place, we must really, truly see. This is “seeing” in its entire range of meaning: observing, perceiving, understanding. We cannot simply glance at Jesus, nod politely, and then just move on with our lives. We must get up, come, observe, perceive. Only then will true understanding of who Jesus is actually arise.

The clear message for us: We cannot be spoon-fed Jesus; we must experience him for ourselves. I went to Sunday school all through my youth, but it was never my faith; it was me pleasing my parents by acting out their faith. Only by honestly coming to Jesus as an adult, through studying the Scriptures and seeing Jesus in others did I “come and see” who Jesus really is.

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