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Growing Through Conflict

Family Conflict

Erwin W. Lutzer | July 6, 1997

Selected highlights from this sermon

Humanity evaluates and judges people based on appearances, and revering people who display intelligence, charisma, and attractiveness. But God sees us differently. He looks at our hearts—and He knows our hearts completely.

Samuel was commanded by God to anoint a new king, and though David wasn’t perfect by any standard, God knew his heart and chose him. Our God still does great things with those the world sees as insignificant. 

Did you know that it is practically impossible to predict whom God is going to greatly use? You look at a teenager, you look at a child in the nursery, and then you see them grow up and you see that they have gifts and abilities, and you say to yourself, “I know that they are gifted in a certain way,” but you might not have any ideas as to what God might choose to do through them. It might be far greater than their abilities, whatever let on. All that you need to do to be convinced is to ask the shepherd boy, David, who later became Israel’s most famous king.

This is the beginning of a series of messages on the life of David, and what an interesting life it is that he led. In a moment I’m going to ask you to turn to 1 Samuel, chapter 16. In fact, you can turn there if you wish, but I do need to remind you, first of all, that there are usually two or three ways in which we evaluate people.

One way is their appearance. James Dobson says that appearance is the gold coin of human worth. Those of you who are good looking, those of you who are striking in your appearance, you have so many advantages over the rest of us. Its unbelievable. You probably got all of the breaks in life. People gave you the benefit of the doubt. In fact, I was reading that they were trying to convict someone of some very terrible crimes, and the jury took one look at this young American boy, drop dead good looking, and they said, “There’s no way in the world he could have done it, and they exonerated him despite the evidence. If he had been average looking, he probably would have been convicted of the crime, even if the evidence might not have been that strong. It all has to do with appearance.

Young women today! Appearance is very important because we live in an age when beauty is so exaggerated and over-emphasized, and oftentimes it turns out to be a curse though because they are pursued by young men. They are often misused because of their beauty. I said that on a college campus once. I said, “You know that you may think that beauty is something favorable, but it is actually a curse.” And I heard later that a young woman went into her room and prayed, “Oh God, smite me with this curse, and may I never recover.” (laughter)

Beauty, appealing personality, and looks. Very important!

The silver coin of human worth is intelligence. You can get by looking very ordinary as long as you’re a whiz kid. As long as you are good at computers, as long as you can play the trombone like nobody else can play it in music, as long as you have some gift that sets you apart, you are very fortunate, because then you may get recognition. You may get that sense of acceptance that you crave. But if you lack that, and if you were brought up in a home where there was favoritism, and every home, I think, has favoritism. Every home! Even those of us who try to be so incredibly fair, that when you pour juice in glasses you measure it exactly. Even those of us who wanted to be fair, we have our favorite children, and those who aren’t our favorites, they know it. They feel unblessed.

Now I want you to know today that that’s who I think David was. I believe that David was the unblessed child in Jesse’s family, and it is because of that he experienced some of the highs and lows. He had some emotional difficulties I don’t think he ever really got over. David was always on a roller coaster, some days very enthusiastic. Sometimes even within the same psalm he would go from a time of exhilaration and praise to the depths. Usually it was the other way around. He spent a lot of time in the pit of depression, and in the midst of all of this he was always looking for God. And we’re going to say that David was a very, very human individual. Unfortunately, many of us who are in the ministry, we have painted him to be extraordinary. We have put him in a glass case. We have said that his life has been almost perfect except for the fact that he committed adultery and murder. But that isn’t true. David had so many failures. One day he joins the Philistine army and allows the spit to run down his beard, and he pretends he is insane. This isn’t very kingly.

But I want you to know today that that’s why we love David. It is because he is human, and because of all of his emotional turbulence, he kept pursuing God. Sometimes we look at a life like David and we say, “Well, you know, God used him in spite of his weaknesses.” I would like to change that and say, “God used him because of his weaknesses.”

And so we take our Bibles and we turn to 1 Samuel, chapter 16, where he was called out of the sheepfold, where he was a shepherd, and has the responsibility now of carrying the burden of knowing that he is a king in waiting. A king in waiting!

First Samuel, chapter 16: “Now the Lord said to Samuel, ‘How long will you grieve over Saul since I have rejected him from being king over Israel? Fill your horn with oil and go and I will send you to Jesse, the Bethlehemite, for I have selected a king for Myself among his sons.’ Samuel said, ‘How can I go? When Saul hears of it, he will kill me.’ And the Lord said, ‘Take a heifer with you, and say, “I have come to sacrifice to the Lord.” And invite Jesse and his sons to the sacrifice and I will show you what I will do. And I will anoint the one whom I have chosen for myself.’”

Some people read the text and they say, “Well, was Samuel being dishonest?” God says, “You’re going to get into trouble,” because Saul at this time, of course, was paranoid already. And so Samuel says, “I don’t even want to be known as having gone to Bethlehem to try to find a king,” and God says, “Well, then, take a heifer with you and say that you’re going to offer a sacrifice.” Is that dishonest? It wasn’t dishonest because he did offer a sacrifice. He did bring a heifer, and he did offer it, and so far as the real purpose for his mission, that wasn’t Saul’s business.

You know, there is such a thing as taking the truth and concealing it from those who have no business knowing the truth, if you can do so without prevarication, without lying. I have a friend who is so strict that he believes that no home should ever have an electronic timer because the purpose of the timer is to have the lights on at a certain time during the evening to give the false impression that you are at home when you aren’t. Well, my belief is that if some thief wants to think that I am there because, even though I’m not, because the light is burning, that’s his problem. That’s not mine. That’s not mine!

And so God here says you conceal the truth. “What you do is you go and you say that you’re going to offer a heifer, and you do offer the heifer, so you’re speaking truthfully, and then you invite Jesse’s sons, and I will show you who is going to be the next king.”

So Jesse’s sons come to Bethlehem. Verse 5: The congregation gathers there, because remember Samuel was acting as a circuit judge, and everyone was afraid. They thought that they were perhaps in trouble, and so a congregation gathers, and he says, “I’m coming in peace.” Verse 5: “I have come to sacrifice to the Lord. Consecrate yourselves and come with me to the sacrifice.” He also consecrated Jesse and his sons, and invited them to the sacrifice.

And now the selection process begins. “Then it came about when they entered, he looked at Eliab and thought, ‘Surely the Lord’s anointed is before Him.’” There are seven sons here, eight in all. One has not yet shown up for this interview, but the first one was Eliab, the first born. And he walks before Samuel, and Samuel has no resume, no references, no interviews that he can conduct. All that he’s doing is looking at his appearance, which is really all that Samuel could do under the conditions. And Eliab walks before him, undoubtedly with a very pronounced step, and with perhaps a big club, and a huge spear, and he looks very, very kingly. And of course, Samuel thought, “Surely this is the Lord’s anointed.”

You know the older I get the less I am able to trust my ability to judge people because oftentimes you think that a person is going to be a certain way, and then you get to know them, and you discover that they have weaknesses and flaws, and it’s disappointing because you didn’t see that at the beginning. And so here you have Samuel who is thinking that he’s going to do God’s will and says, “This is the anointed of the Lord.” It would also make sense because Eliab was the first-born.

You first-borns! I take pity on you. Competitive! Self-confident! Strong-willed! Suspicious, oftentimes! Driven! Trying to prove something! Laying down your life in your vocation so that somebody rises up and says, “You have it made and you’re a self-made man.” (chuckles) You know that those are some of the weaknesses of first-borns, but they have tremendous strengths. Most of the president of the United States were first-borns. Most college presidents are first-borns. First-borns make excellent leaders because of their strength and their drivenness. But in this instance the Lord says, “No.”

Verse 7, “The Lord said to Samuel, ‘Do not look at his appearance or at the height of his stature, because I have rejected him.’” Ouch! I’m sure Samuel was wise enough not to convey what he heard from the Lord. It was probably something internal and not external, but Eliab knows that he is rejected. He’s not going to be the one for whom Samuel has come in a search.

Well, what about Abinadab (verse 8): Jesse called Abinidab, and made him pass before Samuel, and he says, “Neither has the Lord chosen this one.”

Second-borns! Usually much more compliant, but God didn’t want him either. And then apparently the third-born, Shammah, he passes by. Third-borns usually very compliant and they’re in the middle oftentimes, struggling with their sense of identity, but he says, “Neither has the Lord chosen this one.” And all seven sons pass by Samuel, and each one is rejected of the Lord, and Samuel, understandably is confused. He’s confused.

God told him, “Samuel, in the sons of Jesse, one of his sons is going to be anointed for the next king.” Seven sons show up after Jesse is told what this is all about, and he can recruit all of his sons, and not a one of them is selected by God for this very important position.

And so he says, “Are these all the children (verse 11)” And he said said, “Well, there remains yet the youngest.” This is the first hint that we have that David is not among the blessed children. He’s not among the blessed. David struggled because of this. You’ll notice it says, “He is the youngest. Behold, he is tending the sheep.” Samuel said to Jesse, “Send and bring him, for we will not sit down until he comes here.” So he sent and brought him in. And he was ruddy, with beautiful eyes and a handsome appearance, but apparently not very kingly, and the Lord said, “Arise, anoint him,” and Samuel took the oil and anointed him in the midst of his brothers, and the Spirit of God came mightily upon David from that day forward, and Samuel arose and went to Ramah. And that’s the story!

Well, how does his family treat him now that he is blessed? Did you notice what the text says in verse 13? “Samuel took the horn of oil and anointed him in the midst of his brothers.” In the midst of his brothers! How did they accept the exaltation of their youngest brother? Well, can you imagine, first of all, what that ceremony must have been like? Here is the runt of the family. Here is the one who is, as we shall see, really not well-accepted by his brothers, nor his father, and he’s the one who is brought, and he’s the one who receives the honor.

We can understand how he was treated several ways. First of all, he was sent back to herding the sheep. Later on he becomes Saul’s armor bearer, and he does some music for Saul because an evil spirit (verse 14) from the Lord departs from Saul. And later on we shall have opportunity to discuss that text in detail. As we shall see what David did when this spirit would seize the king and he became more paranoid, and how the Lord used the playing of a harp in order to give Saul some rest in his spirit because Saul was struggling with this demon and a few others too because of some issues in his heart that he was not willing to take care of.

But David always runs from taking care of the sheep to Saul’s court and back again because if there is going to be any kingly pronouncements, if there is going to be any kingly honor, he certainly is not going to experience it from his own family.

Do you want to know what his brothers thought of him? Let’s fast forward it to four years later and look at chapter 17, verse 28. This is, you know, the story of Goliath, as we shall be seeing in the next message. But David is running back and forth and he’s taking care of the sheep, and he says in verse 26 to the men who are standing by him, “What will be done for the man who kills this Philistine, and takes away the reproach from Israel? For who is this uncircumcised Philistine, that he should taunt the armies of the living God?” And the people answered him in accord with this word saying, “Thus it will be done for the man who kills him.”

Now notice verse 28 of chapter 17. Here it is: “Eliab his oldest brother heard when he spoke to the men; and Eliab’s anger burned against David and he said, ‘Why have you come down? And with whom have you left those few sheep in the wilderness? I know your insolence and the wickedness of your heart; for you have come down in order to see the battle.’”

Only if you are somewhere later in the birth order in your family you know the power of an angry older brother, and you know the hurt of these words, and their pain. And David responds simply in verse 29 and says, “What have I done now? Wasn’t it just a question?” You can see here Eliab’s response to him.

I want to venture to say that Eliab who now passes off the scene, and we never hear from him again in all of Scripture. That’s the end! That’s the end of Eliab! I venture to believe that Eliab faced a tremendously important decision that day that David was anointed by Samuel. He did one of two things. Either he decided to repent and submit to God and say, “God, you’ve rejected me from being king, but that’s fine. I’m willing to serve you in whatever capacity you want. All that I ask is that in my remaining days I be able to belong to you, and that in itself is a great privilege. Here I am. Do as seems good in Your sight.” He either did that or he died a bitter, angry, frustrated, unfulfilled, resentful man. He did one of those two.

And it looks in chapter 17 as if it was the latter. It was the latter. It’s very difficult sometimes. It’s very difficult for those who have not been broken by God to accept success in the lives of others, particularly among their own family. The family is sometimes the last to recognize that there is greatness in their midst. The family is the last to recognize that someone has been honored, or that someone is worthy of honor, because the family, oftentimes with its own its only insecurities, its own dysfunctional relationships, finds itself unable to support those whom God is greatly blessing because of resentment and anger, and the totem pole, and all of the other things. And what these brothers wanted to do, I believe, is to see David’s crown taken and crushed into the dirt once and for all.

But isn’t it refreshing to look at verse 7? And this, by the way, is our key text for this message. Chapter 16, verse 7: “Do not look at his appearance or at the height of his stature, because I have rejected him; for God sees not as man sees. God sees not as man sees for man looks at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks upon the heart.”

And here’s David, the unblessed child. If you’ve read Gary Smalley’s book, The Blessing, you know that there are those within the family who sense that they are not blessed because they’ve never known the real warmth of unconditional acceptance.

“Marilyn Monroe” says Gary Smalley, “was an unblessed child, shunted from one foster home to another. Only once did she ever accept and receive warmth and feel a part of the family, and that is when she walked into the room when the woman that she was with was using something on her cheeks, a puff of powder, and then playfully put some on Marilyn’s cheeks when the little girl was about nine years old. That was the only time she felt warmth and acceptance.” And you understand what happened to her life because she didn’t have the blessing of her parents.

Here in the midst of this, God is saying, “Man looks on the outward appearance. Parents judge their children one way or another, but God looks upon the heart.”

I read this passage and said to myself, “Isn’t it wonderful to know that you don’t have to look like Tom Selleck or Julia Roberts to be chosen by God?” Isn’t that wonderful? I heard some amens just back of me. (laughter)

What I’d like to do now in the time that is still allotted me, is to very briefly answer this question: Why David? Why David? We can’t give a full answer to it because God’s selection process is sovereign. I believe that God worked in David’s heart long before he was chosen even though he was anointed at the age of 15. God was already at work in David’s heart, preparing him to be king, but there was something about David that God loved. He said that “David is a man after my own heart,” despite all of his faults, and as we shall see in this series of messages, they were many.

There was something about David. First of all, because he was a shepherd! He was a shepherd! You can keep your finger in 1 Samuel, chapter 16, but please turn to the Psalms. Psalm 78, where the Lord says this about David. Psalm 78, verse 70. It says, “He also chose David His servant, and took him from the sheepfolds; from the care of the ewes with suckling lambs He brought him, to shepherd Jacob His people, and Israel His inheritance. So he shepherded them according to the integrity of his heart, and guided them with his skillful hands.”

There’s a whole message wrapped up just in those verses, but notice what they teach. God says, “David, I can entrust sheep to you, and if I can entrust sheep to you, I can entrust my people to you.”

You know, later on when David was talking to Saul, he said, “You know, Saul, one day I was out in the fields and a lion and a bear came, and they were going to get the sheep, and I took care of the lion and the bear, and I protected the sheep.” You know, I read that passage and I think, “Well, you know, David, sheep can’t write out your resume. They don’t tell stories. You could have run and given a good excuse, and nobody would have blamed you for that. You could have let the sheep go.” But he risked his life for the sheep, and God says, “Look, in light of the fact that he has a shepherd’s heart and a heart of integrity, because of that I gave him responsibility to shepherd my people Israel.”

Let’s fast forward the video camera one more time. A thousand years later, another shepherd is born in Bethlehem. In Bethlehem, the city of David, Jesus Christ is there, and Jesus is born and He is going to now become the chief shepherd, and that shepherd is going to lay down His life for the sheep. God is partial towards shepherds. And God was saying, “David, the lessons that you learned there out on the fields taking care of the sheep are the lessons that are going to help you to become a shepherd, to become a king to all of my people so that soon the responsibility of shepherding is going to be expanded, and then David would later write, “The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want.” God chose him, first of all, because he had a shepherd’s heart.

Secondly, he had a serving heart. He had a serving heart. You know you read the text of Scripture and you discover that Saul, of course, used him, as I mentioned, as an armor bearer. Saul used him to come and to play in the palace, and yet he was always back with the sheep. He sometimes took care of them and then would run back to the palace, back and forth. And later on when Saul was experiencing those demonic seizures, he [David] came, of course, and played on the harp. And what we will see as we look at David’s life is this. It’s going to be about 15 years or so until he becomes king, and during those 15 years, God is going to use Saul to grind him down, to wear him down. God is going to teach David what to do when somebody throws spears at you. And if you’ve had somebody throw a spear at you I hope that you will hang in in this series of messages, because we’re going to be discussing that. What happens when somebody so hates you because of antagonism and jealousy that they would like to kill you and try to do it? David has many lessons as a result of that.

Why did God put David through this crucible of experience for 15 years? It’s because when David arose to become king, God did not want another Saul on the throne.

Do you remember what the Lord says there in 1 Samuel 16, verse 7? “Do not look at his appearance or at the height of his stature.” That was the problem when they chose Saul. Saul, it says, was taller than all of the other men. Again, appearance, judging him outwardly, and you know, of course, that isn’t it true that most of the presidents of the United States, when the candidates run together, usually the taller man wins? There’s something that we have towards tall people who give a commanding presence. And God says, “That was true of Saul, but I don’t want it to be true of David. I want to take the last-born.” And so he had a serving heart.

We also remember David, though, because he had a forgiven heart. I think that’s the thing we remember most about him. Oh, we’ll have plenty of time to analyze what happened, his relationship with Bathsheba. David struggled a great deal with guilt. Not only did he give us Psalm 51, but he also gave us Psalm 32. “Blessed is he whose transgression is forgiven and his sin is covered. Blessed is the man onto whom the Lord imputeth not iniquity and in whose spirit there is no deceit. When I kept silent my bones waxed old through their roaring. All the day long my moisture is turned into the fever heat of summer, but I acknowledge my iniquity to you. My sin I did not hide, and thou forgave me the iniquity of my sin.” I have to live with the consequences. But at the end of the day, David loved passionately God.

In many ways a troubled man. Years later in the Psalms, David is still saying, “Oh Lord, remember not the sins of my youth.” What in the world was this old man doing worrying about the sins of his youth? David was a man in process. He was a man in struggle. And it was this hole in his soul, this sense of unfulfillment that kept driving him to God, that kept pressing him toward the divine. You find somebody who is pursuing God at a hundred miles an hour and I will show you a person who is often times in emotional flux and turmoil because their only hope is God. And that’s David! The Lord looks at the heart.

So my question to you today is what does God see when He looks at your heart? Does he see deceit? Does he see all kinds of a whole lifestyle that is unknown to anyone, a secret lifestyle of sinning? Is that what He sees?

The other day, someone was asking me about someone else as to whether or not I think that she is a Christian. And because we don’t know, it reminded me of the fact that we’d love to just be able to pull everything away and to see the heart. Wouldn’t that be wonderful if we would know where these people stand before God. But we don’t. We don’t. All things are naked and open unto the eyes of Him with whom we have to do. Namely God Himself who sees the part that we protect. We take so much care of the outward appearance that people see, but oftentimes the inner heart is neglected.

David had a forgiven heart. And later on he would pray and say, “Oh God, search me and know my heart. Try me and know my thoughts, and see if there be any wicked way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting.” He knew what it was like to have God search his heart.

Isn’t it wonderful to see the contrast there in verse 7, if I may point it out one more time? Do you notice the difference between human evaluations and the evaluation that a human being might put on you, and the evaluation that God might put on you? David had to learn that.

If you come from an abusive family, and you have been abused, like a friend of mine who says, “My mother called me all kinds of names and predicted that I would fail, and when I succeeded she wanted to tear me down to make sure that I would fail.” You think of his mother’s evaluation of him, and then you think of God’s evaluation of him. God does not see as man sees. God looks upon the heart and it is entirely different. And that’s why David gave us Psalm 27, verse 10, where he says, “My father and my mother forsake me (That’s how he felt in relationship to his family.) but the Lord will take me up.” The Lord will take me up!

I say to you today if you come from a broken home, from a family that disowned you and misused you, take a leaf from David. We don’t know that he experienced that, but he did know what it was like to be rejected by mother and father and brothers, and in that rejection, to find his soul driven toward God. Man looks on the outward appearance. We do it all the time. We’re constantly judging people, constantly processing people whom we meet and making our own judgment, but God sees the heart. And in the book of Proverbs it says, “As a man thinketh in his heart, so is he.” Jesus said, “It is from within the heart of man that proceeds evil thoughts, adultery, fornication, thefts, covetousness. All of that comes from the heart. Little wonder David prayed, “Create in me a clean heart, O God,” because that’s the part that matters most to the Almighty.

And so the Lord says, “David, I choose you because you have a shepherd’s heart, you have a serving heart, and later on after you sin greatly, you will be forgiven greatly, and you will also have a worshipping heart,” because God has an entirely different evaluation of us than we do of ourselves and that others have of us.

So, I conclude. What is the state of your heart? Are you willing to allow Christ to come in to every closet, and make Him Lord of this closet, and that closet, and give up the key to this closet, and make Christ Lord of the heart?

Let’s pray together.

Our Father, we want to thank You today for Your faithfulness, and we ask that in these moments You will help us to examine our hearts, even as David prayed, “Search me O God and know my heart.” We know that You know it, but in these moments, Father, reveal to us what You see. Reveal to us what You see.

Just spend a moment in quiet prayer, asking God to show you.

Father, we do ask that Your Holy Spirit, who takes the Word of God, might use it in our hearts to bring us, Lord, to the point of saying, “Father, show me what You see, and help me to deal with it.” We ask in Christ’s name, Amen.

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