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SCRIPTURE:  1 Samuel 15:34-16:13 (NIV)

15 34 Then Samuel left for Ramah, but Saul went up to his home in Gibeah of Saul. 35 Until the day Samuel died, he did not go to see Saul again, though Samuel mourned for him. And the Lord was grieved that he had made Saul king over Israel.

16 The Lord said to Samuel, “How long will you mourn for Saul, since I have rejected him as king over Israel? Fill your horn with oil and be on your way; I am sending you to Jesse of Bethlehem. I have chosen one of his sons to be king.”

2 But Samuel said, “How can I go? Saul will hear about it and kill me.”

The Lord said, “Take a heifer with you and say, ‘I have come to sacrifice to the Lord.’ 3 Invite Jesse to the sacrifice, and I will show you what to do. You are to anoint for me the one I indicate.”

4 Samuel did what the Lord said. When he arrived at Bethlehem, the elders of the town trembled when they met him. They asked, “Do you come in peace? ”

5 Samuel replied, “Yes, in peace; I have come to sacrifice to the Lord. Consecrate yourselves and come to the sacrifice with me.” Then he consecrated Jesse and his sons and invited them to the sacrifice.

6 When they arrived, Samuel saw Eliab and thought, “Surely the Lord’s anointed stands here before the Lord.”

7 But 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 man looks at. Man looks at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.”

8 Then Jesse called Abinadab and had him pass in front of Samuel. But Samuel said, “The Lord has not chosen this one either.” 9 Jesse then had Shammah pass by, but Samuel said, “Nor has the Lord chosen this one.” 10 Jesse had seven of his sons pass before Samuel, but Samuel said to him, “The Lord has not chosen these.” 11 So he asked Jesse, “Are these all the sons you have?”

“There is still the youngest,” Jesse answered, “but he is tending the sheep.”

Samuel said, “Send for him; we will not sit down until he arrives.”

12 So he sent and had him brought in. He was ruddy, with a fine appearance and handsome features.

Then the Lord said, “Rise and anoint him; he is the one.”

13 So Samuel took the horn of oil and anointed him in the presence of his brothers, and from that day on the Spirit of the Lord came upon David in power. Samuel then went to Ramah.

 

SERMON:  Image Isn't Everything, 1 Samuel 15:34-16:13, June 17, 2012


Image isn’t everything. After all, a mule in a tuxedo is still a mule.

Back in 1990, tennis star Andre Agassi, with his trademark flowing dark blond hair, cut a commercial for the Canon EOS Rebel camera with the iconic tagline, "Image is everything." The spot featured Andre riding in a Jeep, smoothing back his hair and generally looking like the essence of California cool.

One problem. Agassi's trademark hair was actually not his. In his 2009 autobiography, Open, Agassi admits that he started losing his hair when he was 17. He was actually wearing a wig during the commercial and on the court, which cost him the 1990 French Open. Seems that Andre was worried about his hairpiece falling off in the middle of the match, so he played stiff and got beat.

After that, to his credit, Andre shaved off his hair making his image all about what happened on the court. What he didn't know, however, was that his signature line, "Image is everything," would become the catch phrase/mantra of the first two decades of the 21st century.

How else can you explain Paris Hilton, the Kardashians and the insipid cast of Jersey Shore -- attractive people who are only famous for being famous? Whereas celebrity used to involve a measure of talent, now it's only about image and hype.

Here’s a case in point: A number of cottage industries have arisen out of the culture's obsession with fame that will give you the celeb treatment even if you don't have any celeb cred whatsoever. You may not be a real celebrity, but you can play one in your own mind. Image is everything, but only if you're willing to pay for it.

You may not be able to own the runway at the Oscars, but you can borrow a designer dress from a company called Rent the Runway for about $75; just don't forget to order it in two sizes in case you, um, misjudge the fit. The owners of Rent the Runway say their business has tripled in a year.

Need some bling to go with that dress? Jewelry company Adorn will rent you a $24,000 diamond necklace for $260 and a pair of $8,250 earrings like Princess Kate wore at her wedding for just $160 (yes, there's a security deposit). And Avelle, another company, will rent you a Louis Vuitton handbag (retail price $1,680) for just $60 a week.

Of course, none of that will matter if no one's looking. Image, after all, is a visual medium. Why not head out on the town in style in a Bentley, Maserati or Rolls-Royce rented from Gotham Dream Cars? A Rolls Royce Phantom convertible will cost you $1,950 a day, which is chump change compared to its retail price of $427,000.

And since the whole "image is everything" mantra was started by a camera commercial, what does a fake celebrity need more than a pack of fake paparazzi? Turns out you can rent them, too. Celeb 4 A Day was founded in 2007 by photographer Tania Roberts and operates in four celebrity-rich cities in the United States.: Los Angeles, San Francisco, Austin and New York. In L.A., $499 will buy you four personal paparazzi to follow your every move and shout questions at you for 30 minutes. You can upgrade to the "MegaStar" package, however, and get a two-hour experience that includes six personal paparazzi, one bodyguard, a publicist and a limousine.

Is it possible that the ancient Israelites were as image-obsessed as we are? After they arrived in the promised land, they started to look at the celebrity kings of the Canaanites and wondered why their own judges, like the old prophet Samuel and his sons, looked so scruffy by comparison (1 Samuel 8:1-5).

So, they lobbied for a king to govern them -- a handsome celebrity action hero to go out and fight their battles for them (8:19-20). Despite Samuel's warning, they wanted the image of a king who would make them "like other nations."

By the time of Samuel, however, Israel had conveniently forgotten that God had called on them to not be like other nations (Genesis 12:1-3; Exodus 19:5-6), . . .

and that God was the real power behind the throne (1 Samuel 8:7).

They were determined to have the image of a legitimate nation and told Samuel they were willing to pay the price in material and blood that a royal celebrity would exact (1 Samuel 8:11-18).

So, as God is often wont to do in Scripture, God punished the Israelites by giving them exactly what they wanted: the prototypical image of a tall, dark and handsome matinee-idol monarch. King Saul, however, was like so many celebrities whose shiny outward appearance hides a dark and broken interior life.

Saul's reign quickly started to look like a bad reality TV show. He acts impulsively (1 Samuel 13:1-15), swears (14:24-35), disobeys God (15:1-9), kills priests (22:6-19), chucks spears at musicians (18:10-11), consults a witch (28:3-25) and has a poor relationship with his son (20:30-34), among other things.

The Israelites, however, seemed to be pleased with the image their king was projecting in public. Knowing that they could get Saul to play to the crowd they badgered Saul into keeping spoils of war that God had strictly commanded them to destroy (15:1-9, 24).

This was a serious offense against God and God’s expectation of his people. Israel had been established by God to reflect God within and without the community.

By this time God determined that Saul as king was fully lacking in substance and character, and so God commands Samuel to anoint a new king (15:34-16:1).

Samuel travels to the out-of-the-way village of Bethlehem for what can only be described as a runway fashion show of potential kings among the sons of Jesse. Eliab, the oldest, certainly looked the part -- tall and handsome like Saul.

Samuel immediately assumes this is the one; "Surely the Lord's anointed is now before the Lord" (16:6). Unexpectedly, in one of the most poignant lines in Scripture, God lays out the criteria for those who will take a leading role on the stage of Israel's history.

"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" (16:7).

What matters to God is not the image we create, but his own image in us.

God cuts through all the appearances and masks we love to wear for each other, and looks deep into the real self that's often hidden under all those layers of makeup, material things and make-believe roles we play.

In the case of the new king, God was looking for a man after his own heart -- not the oldest, tallest, wisest, strongest or handsomest.

David was that man, even though he was only the youngest boy -- so young that he was not even considered by his father as being worthy to stand with the rest of his sons for Samuel’s selection (16:11).

Samuel anoints the young boy David "in the presence of his brothers," which had to be a real shock to them (16:13). After all, he was just a kid -- hardly a person yet in those days. And yet, David will have a relationship with God by which all other kings in the Old Testament are measured.

 Image isn’t everything, but the image of God is everything. What matters to God is not the image we create, but the image God created in us.

The image of God is everything. We were created in God's image for a purpose. David is chosen for the specific purpose of leading his people with no pretense and with no resume. Each of us is chosen for a purpose that has nothing to do with fame, fortune or face time on TV.

Much of America lives its life according to television criteria, from the trash that’s sold as essential items to improve our looks to the irreverent content of many sitcoms.

Our purpose is to reflect the image of God in us and no other, and to live as people who authentically love and are loved. This has nothing to do with the image of life in America as TV portrays it. God defines our true identity as his created and loved image, and then calls us to live out that identity in community for the whole world.

Indeed, Scripture tells us over and over again that God does his best work through those whom the rest of the world wouldn't give 15 seconds of attention, let alone 15 minutes of fame: people like this poetic little shepherd, a bunch of working class fishermen and a host of sinners like us. It's through the weakest and least likely that God's glory is able to shine brightest.

As Paul puts it in 1 Corinthians, "But God chose what is foolish in the world to shame the wise; God chose what is weak in the world to shame the strong. God chose what is low and despised in the world, things that are not, to reduce to nothing things that are, so that no one might boast in the presence of God" (1 Corinthians 1:27-29).

Appearances can be deceiving. God looks at the heart. The only image that matters is God's image in us.

Few, if any, of us will ever be famous to the rest of the world, but we are all famous to God. It's God's picture of us that is the most clearly focused and long-lasting. May we be people who skip the image hype and, instead, strive to be the picture God created us to be.

Don’t know what that looks like?  Check it out in your Bible.

How is God’s image formed in us? By reading God’s word and applying it to our life.

Romans 12:1-2 (NIV)

12 Therefore, I urge you, brothers, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God—this is your spiritual act of worship. 2 Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is —his good, pleasing and perfect will.

1 Peter 1:13-16

13 Therefore, prepare your minds for action; be self-controlled; set your hope fully on the grace to be given you when Jesus Christ is revealed. 14 As obedient children, do not conform to the evil desires you had when you lived in ignorance. 15 But just as he who called you is holy, so be holy in all you do; 16 for it is written: “Be holy, because I am holy.”

Ephesians 4:22-27

22 You were taught, with regard to your former way of life, to put off your old self, which is being corrupted by its deceitful desires; 23 to be made new in the attitude of your minds; 24 and to put on the new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness.

25 Therefore each of you must put off falsehood and speak truthfully to his neighbor, for we are all members of one body. 26 “In your anger do not sin”: Do not let the sun go down while you are still angry, 27 and do not give the devil a foothold.

Ephesians 4:29

29 Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen.Cross references:

Ephesians 4:31-32

31 Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice. 32 Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.

 

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