(…continued) There is one more to go. As you know, Hilary Clinton’s name recognition and rise to power come from who she is married to. There are many women in both parties who have served with distinction as elected officials far longer than Hilary Clinton, who has not yet even completed her first term as a senator. Her main claim to fame is her husband. However, anyone familiar with the Old Testament knows that family connections are nothing to be sneered at. A new king in Israel was almost always a son of the previous king, and the king’s wife, as queen, often wielded a great deal of power.
David was an exception to the rule. His father was not a king. But David also had family connections. His great-grandmother was Ruth who has a book of the Bible named after her, and is a woman highly regard by all Israelites. Samuel was sent to Jesse, Ruth’s grandson, to select one of his sons, to become the next King. When God selected David, He was selecting a young man from an historic family. In that way, Hilary Clinton looks a bit like King David.
So now, does any of that help you in deciding who to vote for in November? Well, I certainly hope not, because as I began I said that would be the silly part of the sermon. It is silly, but not because I made any of it up. Everything I said about the candidates and about King David is true. But what is silly is the way I put it together to make it look like God’s choice of king in I Samuel 16 could have anything to do with who we should vote for this year.
There is even a verse in the text itself that calls the whole effort into question. In verse seven, God says something about his decision-making process. He says, “The Lord does not look at the things man looks at. Man looks at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.”
What did God see in David’s heart? The Bible doesn’t say. So all of those comparisons between this year’s candidates and King David are irrelevant. None of it matters, because God was looking into David’s heart, and it doesn’t say what God was looking for or what he saw there.
So why would I spend all this time describing something silly and irrelevant? I did that to illustrate how the Bible can be misused to make a point. One who knows even a little bit about the Bible can make it say anything they want and do it in such a way that can sound convincing to someone who doesn’t know much. It happens all the time, and you need to be careful. I am sure I could figure out some way to make a case for any candidate, and make it all look like it was based on the Bible– but it would be all wrong. The Bible doesn’t speak that specifically. The Bible speaks in more general terms, and that is how we should seek to apply it.
So when I Samuel 16:7 says that in selecting David as the next leader, God was looking into the heart, we cannot be sure what he was looking for or what he found because the text does not tell us. But from what we know about God from the rest of the Bible we can make some informed guesses about that in a general sense. We know that God commands and honors integrity, courage, faithfulness, service, compassion, and so forth. He looks for that not only in leaders, but in all of us. We do have a pretty good idea of what God wants from us. But it is a misuse of the Bible to think we can apply that in any kind of specific ways to specific people and situations, and then say with certainty that he or she would be God’s choice.
Good, honest, faithful, Bible-believing Christians will come to all sorts of different conclusions on all of these things. Take for example that good Christian virtue of compassion. As you well know, in the political world that can lead one into very different types of agendas. The argument then must become one of what policy works the best to help the most people in the most fair and just way. It cannot simply be an argument about who is the nicest person.
God says that he looks into the heart. Does anybody think they can see into the heart of John McCain, Barack Obama, or Hilary Clinton? We can make judgments about their deeds and their voting records, but not their hearts.
I have read more by and about Abraham Lincoln than any other president. But his inner person, his heart, remains a mystery, even to those who spend their lives studying his life. William Herndon was Lincoln’s partner in their Springfield, Illinois law office for twenty-five years, and even he said he hardly knew this brilliant, admired, and funny man, who was oftentimes silent, withdrawn, and depressed. Regarding his inner thoughts and heart, Herndon said that Lincoln was “the most shut mouth man I ever encountered.” Strong arguments can be made both ways on even so basic a question as to whether or not he a good husband and father.
Only God knows what is in the heart. It is for us not to think that we can even begin to judge another, but to pray that God works in our hearts to will and to do what as He would command. This takes some work. God has given us the light, but it takes diligence and effort to know what is right and to be wise, using God’s Word to guide us our understanding.
The Bible tells us the all the big things: how we got here, where we are going, what to believe in, and what to hope for. It also tells us what kind of person we ought to be, how to understand and approach our lives, and how to live with others. With that wisdom and guidance, God leaves the details to us to figure out, work on, and vote on.
May God bless and guide our nation and those we choose to lead it.
Ephesians 5:15-17 — Be very careful then how you live– not as unwise but as wise, making the most of every opportunity, because the days are evil. Therefore, do not be foolish, but understand what the Lord’s will is.
Oh God, Almighty Father, King of Kings and Lord of Lords, grant that the hearts and minds of all who go out as leaders before us, the statesmen, the judges, the men of learning and the men of wealth, may be so filled with the love of thy laws and of that which is righteous and life-giving, that they may be worthy stewards of thy good and perfect gifts; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
–Knight’s prayer, 14th century