Rereading and meditating on this account of the anointing of David takes us deeper than first meets the eye. Throughout the Hebrew scriptures, the continuing story of David as ruler of Israel is far more complicated than we may wish. If Samuel had known what we know about the whole history of David’s reign, he may have wondered at God’s choice. Yet it is the divine choice. Whatever we make of David—the Goliath-slaying, psalm-singing shepherd (one of the most cherished images in both Jewish and Christian faith)—the reality of God’s gaze upon the human heart is crucial to David and to God’s people.
The “Collect for Purity,” a familiar prayer in my tradition, acknowledges that the Almighty God of all creation knows our hearts, our desires, and all our secrets—even before we pray. In this prayer we cry out, “Cleanse the thoughts of our hearts by the inspiration of your Holy Spirit.”* Knowing that we are known by God, we ask for the in-breathing of God’s Holy Spirit in our lives so that we may love and magnify the Holy Name in all we do or say or think. This prayer flows from trusting that God knows our hearts more truly than we do. As First John 3 observes, God is greater than our hearts; God sees us but does not condemn or destroy us.
The older we get, the more puzzling we are to ourselves. But as we move through the days and disciplines of Lent, we come to know that God knows us better than we know ourselves. We dare walk with Jesus toward the cross and resurrection, held fast by that unbelievable grace.
*Collect for Purity, The Book of Common Prayer (1979).
Pray the Collect for Purity, the Lord’s Prayer, or both prayers each morning and each evening. Await what grace will be given you.
The two readings from the Hebrew scriptures focus on the life of David. In First Samuel, the prophet is sent to anoint the next king of Israel. God chooses David not because of outward appearance but because of his heart. David is not perfect, nor is his life always easy. Psalm 23 declares David’s trust in God in good times and bad times. Just as Samuel has anointed David with oil, so does the Lord anoint him. The New Testament readings both employ images of light and darkness. Ephesians instructs us to live as children of light, not darkness. In John, Jesus heals a blind man and brings him from darkness into light. Some religious leaders protest because although their physical eyes can see, their spiritual vision is darkened.
Read 1 Samuel 16:1-13. How often do you judge others by outward appearances or worldly successes? How can you “look upon the heart” to judge leaders in your community?
Read Psalm 23. When have you experienced Jesus’ presence with you in the wilderness?
Read Ephesians 5:8-14. How does God’s light help you persist through struggles within yourself or in the world around you?
Read John 9:1-41. What questions does Jesus ask you? How do your questions of Jesus help you understand him?
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