Stand on the Mountain

 

Go Stand on the Mountain      1 Kings 19:1-18

Audio:

 

Introduction

When United Flight 93 crashed in Shanksville, PA, on Sept. 11, 2001, John Gerula was one of the first on the scene as a volunteer firefighter. The experience inspired John, still in high school, to enlist in the Marines. He shipped out to Iraq two years later. Over the course of 18 months in Fallujah Gerula survived 21 IED blasts, resulting in a severe traumatic brain injury that gave him migraines and memory loss, and post- traumatic stress that left him anxious, isolated and abusing alcohol. “I would spend a lot of time by myself at home on my property, just away from people,” Gerula says. “I didn’t like large crowds, just the things that brought me back to what caused my issues, the flashbacks and everything.” The staggering truth is that 20 veterans every day commit suicide due to PTSD. John was not one of those. When he was close to giving up, he found hope through the American Humane Society’s “Shelter to Service” program. They take dogs who have been abandoned, give them rigorous training, and then they are given to veterans for healing, hope, compassion, and love. John says, “He can sense when I start to breathe heavy, when my heart rate’s high, things of that nature, he comes up to me allows me to pet him,” Gerula says. “Since I’ve had Oliver, I’ve not had a drop of alcohol. I gave up drinking altogether. So he has made huge changes in my life.” And Gerula has a message to veterans seeking the help with their own struggles. “Don’t give up,” he says. “The best thing to do is to keep going and just go do every option you can.”

Today’s text is about a man who had his own battles and in spite of victory, was down, dejected, and ready to give up. Elijah was a fiery prophet who seemed to be fearless in his pronouncements and actions for God. He confronted King Ahab and Queen Jezebel, and the prophets of Baal. He called down fire from heaven . In spite of his great victory, we get a glimpse of the man when Jezebel promised to kill him. Elijah ran for his life … and when he sat down he began to wish his life was over.

1 Kings 19:4-5 …He longed for his own death: “It’s more than enough, Lord! Take my life because I’m no better than my ancestors.” He lay down and slept under the solitary broom bush.

After some time he made his way to Horeb, God’s mountain where he went into the cave and spent the night. The Lord’s word came to him and said, “Why are you here, Elijah?”

Attitudes That Led Elijah to His Cave

1. Unmet Expectations. He felt like he deserved better treatment. “I’ve been very passionate for the Lord God”. Keathley: When we focus on our expectations and make the results we want the source of our happiness, security, or significance, we end up in the Elijah syndrome–fearful, ready to run away, and engulfed in feelings of failure and depression or fear and frustration.

2. Accusatory and Judgmental of his fellow Israelites. He felt like he was more faithful than others. “… the Israelites have abandoned your covenant. They have torn down your altars, and they have murdered your prophets with the sword.” The implication is that since Elijah has served God better, he should have better results.

3. Self-Focused. He felt like he was the only one who really cared about God. “I’m the only one left…” Because he thought everyone else had abandoned God, he thought he alone was God’s special servant.

4. Fearful – He felt like his life was in danger (“and now they want to take my life too!”).

5. How did the powerful and passionate prophet of God end up like this? Notice that what is missing in all of those responses is the presence and power of God. When we start looking at our lives without recognizing the presence and power of God the strongest of us is reduced to weakness and a loss of faith. Been there myself, and actually find it easy to go back to that way of thinking. 

God asked: Why are you here?. A great question for our own struggles of our lives. Sometimes it is because of things that have happened to us – out of our control. Often it is because of our own mistakes or even our own perspectives.

Go Stand On the Mountain: God’s Word for Fear, Anxiety, Pain and Loss

1. God is Near 

1 Kings 19:11-12a The Lord said, “Go out and stand at the mountain before the Lord. The Lord is passing by.” A very strong wind tore through the mountains and broke apart the stones before the Lord. But the Lord wasn’t in the wind. After the wind, there was an earthquake. But the Lord wasn’t in the earthquake. After the earthquake, there was a fire. But the Lord wasn’t in the fire. 

God is near, but He isn’t always near in the way we would like Him to be.

Roger Nam: Perhaps Elijah wanted a miracle, but instead God was not present in the wind, earthquake nor fire. God certainly controls these elements. But the passage instructs us that during difficult, painful times, God is still there, and he reveals himself in silence. We cannot only look for God to come to us in fantastic revelation, but in quietness.

God is near, but we are the ones who are often far away from Him. Elijah certainly doesn’t seem to be walking in powerful faithfulness at this point. But notice that God has not gone away… he continues to minister to Elijah’s fearful heart.

Go Stand on the Mountain…

2. God is Speaking

1 Kings 19:12b-13 But the Lord wasn’t in the fire. After the fire, there was a sound. Thin. Quiet. 13 When Elijah heard it, he wrapped his face in his coat. He went out and stood at the cave’s entrance. A voice came to him and said, “Why are you here, Elijah?”

 “a sound of a gentle blowing” (NASB); “a gentle whisper” (NIV); “a still small voice” (KJV). Elijah gives the same speech twice to God. We are grateful to know that Elijah kept talking, and God allowed him to express himself openly and honestly.

Michael Chan says this “ demonstrate how deeply paralyzed he has become by the queen’s words.” He goes on to say that Elijah’s pronouncements are simply untrue. He is not the only one left who is loyal to God. Elijah was largely responsible for leading many Israelites to repentance (1 Kings 18:38).  And what about Obadiah, about whom the text says, he “revered the Lord greatly” (1 Kings 18:3)? Blinded by fear, Elijah is unable to see God’s work on Mt. Carmel and elsewhere. But it’s not what Elijah says that is so important, it is that God continues to be faithful to Elijah.

The Grace of God in dealing with us in our own failures is truly amazing. How is God speaking to us today in our struggles and hardships? Primarily through His word. Through the influence of others. Through the Spirit’s influence in our heart. But if we aren’t in the Word then we will not be able to discern the voice of God. When God speaks he again asks Elijah why he remains in this cave. If God were speaking clearly to you today, what would He ask you? What cave are you dwelling in? Cave of discouragement, disillusionment, destructive habits? We are often so focused on others and what they do or say that we forget to look in the mirror.

Go Stand on the Mountain…

3. God is Working

1 Kings 19:l4-17 He said, “I’ve been very passionate for the Lord God of heavenly forces because the Israelites have abandoned your covenant. They have torn down your altars, and they have murdered your prophets with the sword. I’m the only one left, and now they want to take my life too.” The Lord said to him, “Go back through the desert to Damascus and anoint Hazael as king of Aram. Also anoint Jehu, Nimshi’s son, as king of Israel; and anoint Elisha from Abel-meholah, Shaphat’s son, to succeed you as prophet. Whoever escapes from the sword of Hazael, Jehu will kill. Whoever escapes from the sword of Jehu, Elisha will kill. 

Here God recommissions Elijah – gives him some new jobs to do. A renewal of purpose. 

Garrett Galvin:  Elijah teaches us to bring all our emotions to God. God will be present to us in different ways on different parts of the journey. We cannot experience the theophany of a storm cloud and deluge in the middle of the desert, but God finds a different way to be present to us. Our reading assures us that God makes the entire journey with us.

Go Stand on the Mountain…

4. God is  Knowing

1 Kings 19:18 But I have preserved those who remain in Israel, totaling seven thousand—all those whose knees haven’t bowed down to Baal and whose mouths haven’t kissed him.”

“Elijah is tired, discouraged, suicidal, and God is with the prophet.” – Roger Nam. There is much more going on with God’s workings than Elijah knows. Today we can fall into the trap of thinking that Christianity is shrinking, the church is losing, and God seems to be farther and farther away from our world …. We need the Revelation Reminder: God Wins! The world resists, the enemy is at work, there is tragedy and loss and hardship – but God is at work in a million ways we never knew.

Conclusion

On the days when life seems the lowest, we should ask why we remain where we are! We need to Go stand on the mountain:

God Comes Near!

God Speaks!

God Works!

God Knows!

In John 12:27-28 Jesus was faced with a difficult time as he approaches his mountain, Calvary. “Now I am deeply troubled. What should I say? ‘Father, save me from this time’? No, for this is the reason I have come to this time. Father, glorify your name!” Then a voice came from heaven, “I have glorified it, and I will glorify it again.”

In our fears, anxieties, pains, and losses, we ask God to help us in our times of being deeply troubled … and he will walk with us through those times and bring glory to Himself.

LifeGroup Questions

1.  Share with the group a hobby/activity you used to enjoy in which you no longer participate. Why did you give it up? Are you ok with that being an activity of the past or would you like to take it up again?

2. Elijah found his way to a cave by running away from Jezebel’s threat. What are some ways people run away from their problems today that can land them in trouble? Can you name some ways that people run away from God?

3. Michael Chan paints a sad picture of Elijah that we are unaccustomed to reading. He writes, “First Kings 19, then, leaves us with a troubling and tragic picture of the once-great Elijah: fearful, curved in on himself, faithless, and ultimately disobedient to his call. In an act of compassion, Yhwh gives Elijah a way out in the person of Elisha. The tasks to which Elijah was called are eventually accomplished, despite the resistance of Elijah, because Yhwh is able to find another, more willing prophet — namely, Elisha, who wears the mantle Elijah no longer wanted.” What does this portrait of Elijah make you think about (1) our own personal struggles in living the Christian life  and (2) how we can view others who are struggling and (3) how to reach out to those who are ready to give up.

4. If you were to hear from God today, would you rather it be in a big loud way or in a still small voice? Why?

5. When we pray we have expectations that God will answer our prayer and we expect Him to answer them in a certain way. What do you do when your expectations and the reality of God’s answer do not match up?

6. Elijah’s isolation likely prompted his feelings of being the only one who cares. Why does isolation from other believers harm our spiritual walk? What can you do this week to draw in someone who seems isolated and distant from our faith family?

7. At the end of our text God tells Elijah to commission Elisha. What are some ways we can reach out to the next generation and get them involved and invested in the Kingdom work now?

8. In 1 Kings 18 and 19 we see both the fiery prophet Elijah on Mt. Carmel defeating the prophets of Baal … and the fearful prophet Elijah in the cave defending himself? In reality they are the same person. Would you share with the group what do you do to weather your storms of discouragement … perhaps someone tonight might need to hear some ideas and receive some help.

____________

Resources

Brent Strawn commentary https://www.workingpreacher.org/preaching.aspx?commentary_id=1082

Michael Chan commentary http://www.workingpreacher.org/preaching.aspx?commentary_id=2061

Roger Nam commentary https://www.workingpreacher.org/preaching.aspx?commentary_id=1714

Garrett Galvin Commentary http://www.workingpreacher.org/preaching.aspx?commentary_id=2557

J. Hampton Keathley III, The Crisis of Elijah https://bible.org/seriespage/15-crisis-elijah-1-kings-194-14

Morgan, R. J. (2000). Nelson’s complete book of stories, illustrations, and quotes (electronic ed., p. 715). Nashville: Thomas Nelson Publishers.

Service Dog Helps Veteran Change His Life. http://www.abcactionnews.com/news/national/service-dog-helps-veteran-change-his-life.

The Power of His Presence

Audio:

The world’s most expensive building is the Abraj Al Bait, located in Mecca, Saudi Arabia. It is a government owned complex of seven skyscraper motels designed to cater to the Muslim pilgrims traveling to Mecca. The royal clock tower has the world’s largest clock tower. It cost, in American dollars, $15billion to construct. 

The second most expensive building is the Marina Bay Sands Skypark in Singapore. At a construction cost of US$5.50bn, Marina Bay Sans is the most expensive resort ever built. The construction consists of three connected 55 story towers and is situated in an area of 38 acres …  the world’s most expensive standalone casino.

The most expensive building in the US is the Apple Park campus in Cupertino, California. It is running upwards of 5 billion dollars to complete this year.

If the Great Pyramid were to be built today, it is estimated that it would cost about 1.3 billion US dollars. 

The temple of King Solomon probably didn’t measure up to these architectural wonders in many ways, but it was supreme over them in the most important way. Aside from legendary wealth, King Solomon had one thing he sought to emphasize in the building of the temple: the presence of God. 

1 Kings 8:1-13 Then King Solomon summoned into his presence at Jerusalem the elders of Israel, all the heads of the tribes and the chiefs of the Israelite families, to bring up the ark of the Lord’s covenant from Zion, the City of David.  … When all the elders of Israel had arrived, the priests took up the ark, and they brought up the ark of the Lord and the tent of meeting and all the sacred furnishings in it. The priests and Levites carried them up, and King Solomon and the entire assembly of Israel that had gathered about him were before the ark, sacrificing so many sheep and cattle that they could not be recorded or counted. The priests then brought the ark of the Lord’s covenant to its place in the inner sanctuary of the temple, the Most Holy Place, and put it beneath the wings of the cherubim. The cherubim spread their wings over the place of the ark and overshadowed the ark … There was nothing in the ark except the two stone tablets that Moses had placed in it at Horeb, where the Lord made a covenant with the Israelites after they came out of Egypt. When the priests withdrew from the Holy Place, the cloud filled the temple of the Lord …  for the glory of the Lord filled his temple. Then Solomon said, “The Lord has said that he would dwell in a dark cloud; I have indeed built a magnificent temple for you, a place for you to dwell forever.”

1. TEMPLE TALK: The Amazing Symbolic Power of Solomon’s Temple

*Symbolizes God’s Dwelling Place – often called ‘house of God’ or ‘house of the Lord’.  Psalm 132:13 (NRSV) says, “For the Lord has chosen Zion;  he has desired it for his habitation…” This doesn’t mean God is contained there, but it does give a symbolic place representing his presence. Psalm 11:4 (CEB) “But the Lord is in his holy temple.  The Lord! His throne is in heaven. His eyes see— his vision examines all of humanity.

*Symbol of Divine Victory over his enemies. It is after God’s enemies have been defeated that King David conceives the idea for the temple. God let him know that his son Solomon would build it.

*Place of communication with and about God. The priests instructed the people as to the law of God. There were prayers and pledges made to serve the Lord. Even in acts the disciples do not abandon the temple but preach in its precincts. 

*Symbol of holiness. Unlike a synagogue or church, the inside of the temple itself was not a place of public worship. The spread wings of the cherubim on the ark of the covenant in the holy of holies suggest a picture of divine sanctity and protection. 

*A place of community. God’s people gathered there, but more, the temple would symbolize God’s people. Apostle Paul would later say that we are God’s temple and Apostle Peter would say we are living stones being built into a spiritual house (1 Peter 2:4-5).

*Much of the imagery of the Temple is attributed to Jesus Christ in the New Testament. He even referred to his own death and resurrection when he said, “Destroy this temple and in three days I’ll raise it up.” The Jewish leaders replied, “It took forty-six years to build this temple, and you will raise it up in three days?” But the temple Jesus was talking about was his body.  (John 2:19-21)

*The image of the temple remains a part of our eternal hope. “Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life, and I shall dwell in the house of the Lord my whole life long” (Psalm 23:6, NRSV).

None of these things matter if the Lord is not present. Each of them express in some way the power of God and His impact in the lives of those who are devoted to following Him. We have some lessons to learn from this temple talk…

-THREE POWERFUL TRUTHS-

1. He Empowers Us With His Presence

From the time he walked in the cool of the garden with Adam to the pillars of fire and cloud in the Exodus, God is always revealing His presence. The Temple provided an absolutely awesome expression of His presence. It’s size and lavish appointments made it source of pride for the Israelites. The contents of the Ark of the Covenant – stones carried down the mountain by Moses – remind us that it wasn’t the monument Solomon built, but the God who inhabited the monument that gave it power. The same is true for us – it is not our structures, ideas, our goodness  that empowers us. It is the indwelling God who is with us 24/7 and from whom we are too often distracted. 

We may ignore, but we can nowhere evade the presence of God. The world is crowded with Him. He walks everywhere incognito. -C. S. Lewis

What distracts us from seeing the God who is present? Flooded with information, technology, a thousand voices all calling for our attention … can we hear the God who is there? We are empowered by His presence.

He Empowers Us As His Priests

Priests of God helped people bridge the gap between humanity and divinity.  His presence empowers us to be bridges between those who live far from Him and the God who cares. 

1 Peter 2:9 But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation,God’s special possession, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light.

Priestly duties included praying on behalf of the people and sharing the will of God with the people. 

To stand in the presence of God, that is what the Gospel is. The Gospel is not primarily about forgiveness. It’s not primarily about good feelings. It’s not primarily about power. All those things are byproducts, sparks. It’s primarily about the presence of God. -Timothy Keller

Our mission is to be the hands and feet of Christ in the world that surrounds us. We won’t do it perfectly, but we are to keep in mind our commitment to the Great High Priest. In serving FOR Him, we are actually Serving HIM. 

‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’ – Matthew 25:40

If we are constantly distracted from SEEING Him how can we ever SERVE him? This should drive our deep concern for:

*the hurting world around us

*the world that is far away from the God who loves them

*the church that calls together those who serve in priestly ways 

He  Empowers  Us In His Praises

When we praise God we are focused on His majesty and greatness. Solomon instructed the people to make the Temple a Temple of praise and prayer as they recognized his presence and power:

*Praise God who keeps his covenant of love! Lord, the God of Israel, there is no God like you in heaven above or on earth below—you who keep your covenant of love with your servants who continue wholeheartedly in your way. ” (1 Kings 8:23)

*Worship the God who Hears our Prayers! “May your eyes be open toward this temple night and day, this place of which you said, ‘My Name shall be there,’ so that you will hear the prayer your servant prays toward this place. 30 Hear the supplication of your servant and of your people Israel when they pray toward this place. Hear from heaven, your dwelling place, and when you hear, forgive.“(1 Kings 8:29-30)

*Entreat the God of Justice who sets things right! “Judge between your servants, condemning the guilty by bringing down on their heads what they have done, and vindicating the innocent by treating them in accordance with their innocence.” (1 Kings 8:32)

*Return to the God who Forgives “When your people Israel have been defeated by an enemy because they have sinned against you, and when they turn back to you and give praise to your name, praying and making supplication to you in this temple, then hear from heaven and forgive the sin of your people Israel “(1 Kings 8:33-34)

1 Kings 8:51-64 When Solomon had finished all these prayers and supplications to the Lord, he rose from before the altar of the Lord, where he had been kneeling with his hands spread out toward heaven.  He stood and blessed the whole assembly of Israel in a loud voice, saying: “Praise be to the Lord, who has given rest to his people Israel just as he promised. Not one word has failed of all the good promises he gave through his servant Moses. … May he turn our hearts to him, to walk in obedience to him and keep the commands, decrees and laws he gave our ancestors.so that all the peoples of the earth may know that the Lord is God and that there is no other. 61 And may your hearts be fully committed to the Lord our God, to live by his decrees and obey his commands, as at this time.”

Only when we are captured by an overwhelming sense of awe and reverence in the presence of God, will we begin to worship God in spirit and in truth.
-Alistair Begg

Worship – both personal worship and worship together as a church has fallen on hard times. People all over in every denomination are ditching worship for other pursuits. Nothing good can come from leaving the worship of God untended. We need a revival of commitment – not of church attendance but of WORSHIP attendance! We can be so in awe of the world that we forget to be in AWE OF A LIVING GOD!

Conclusion

It wasn’t the Temple that provided all of this, although it served as a visual reminder of all that God was doing. It was God, not the temple that provided strength, reprimands, and provision for grace and mission.

Solomon’s temple was destroyed by Nebuchadnezzar’s Babylonian army. Another temple was rebuilt by decree of Cyrus, King of Persians, but it did not measure up in glory to the first temple. It was refurbished a couple of times but as Jesus predicted, in the year A. D. 70 the city of Jerusalem was ransacked by the Roman army and the temple was demolished. However, the building of Solomon’s temple was a major development in the story line of Israel. It teaches us a lot about ourselves, our view of holy places, and how we need to devote our attention to God and less to the distractions around us. What has distracted you from serving God and putting him in the first place of honor in your heart?

Today we do not sing songs of praise to our cathedrals, but to God who inspires us to beauty and to service. 

In the house of God there is never ending festival; the angel choir makes eternal holiday; the presence of God’s face gives joy that never fails.
– Augustine

LIFEGROUP DISCUSSION QUESTIONS

1. Describe the most beautiful church building you have ever been in. What made it so exceptionally beautiful? Was there a feeling that went along with being in a building like that? Why do beautiful places seem holy sometimes?

2. Christian author Ann Voskamp writes: “The practice of giving thanks … eucharisteo … this is the way we practice the presence of God, stay present to His presence, and it is always a practice of the eyes. We don’t have to change what we see. Only the way we see.” How can we grow in the art of giving thanks to God? In what ways can we change ‘the way we see’ the world around us, causing us to give greater thanks?

3. What are some of the blessings and privileges that distinguish Christians from the world according to 1 Peter 2:9–10? 

4. When we gather as a church to worship, think about the actions we take together. As you mention each one, can the group think of ways that each one demonstrates the presence and power of God among us? Why do we often fail to see these as representing God’s living presence?

5. Who are some people in the Bible who were distracted or drawn away into the world? Why does this ever remain a danger for us? What can help us to be strongly connected to God? What would you say to a friend you could see wandering from God? (We likely won’t have 300 foreign wives like Solomon, but what other things draw our heart away from God?)

6. The physical temple was an amazing structure, but it was destroyed twice by enemies of God. Even so, God reigns and nothing can destroy His work on the earth. How can that truth help you face up to some of the great challenges the church faces in our culture and world? What about the challenges you’re facing in your own world right now?

7. How could our church serve as priests in our community … serving and loving others and drawing them closer to the God who loves them? How could our LifeGroup function as priests both in our community and in our church? Instead of listing things we already do, what is something that might be a new way to serve and love? Let’s pray about these ideas…that they become more than ideas!

________________

Resources

Most Expensive Buildings in the World

The Ten Most Expensive Buildings in the World

The Abraj Al Bait 

Apple’s Spaceship Campus

Dictionary of Biblical Imagery, IVPress 1998.

God Sees the Heart

God Sees The Heart   1 Samuel 16:1-13
Audio:

Introduction
Rita Belle met Richard Walters at a senior center, a mission in downtown Phoenix for the poor and homeless. “He always came in with a little backpack and cap on.” While Richard was reserved, Rita was outgoing and offered to visit with him and they became friends. He had never married, didn’t have children, and was estranged from his brother. He told her he had no home and slept on the grounds of the senior center. He ate at the hospital and used a telephone there when needed. Appearances can be deceiving. What Rita didn’t know about Walters was that he was a retired engineer; an honors graduate of Purdue with a Masters degree; and a Marine. In time when Walters became ill Rita became his nurse and ultimately the executor of his estate. Walters was wealthy. He left behind 4 million dollars, which was given to places like the senior center. Among his few passions was a radio. You may have heard on the radio an announcement like this: “Support for NPR comes from the estate of Richard Leroy Walters, whose life was enriched by NPR, and whose bequest seeks to encourage others to discover public radio.” He also left $400,000 to NPR. The way someone appears doesn’t tell the whole story. We are sometimes taken in by the appearances of others. 
1. The Problem of Judging By Appearances
Mysterious mystery writer Agatha Christie wrote, “The human face is, after all, nothing more nor less than a mask.”
When we judge by appearances we can give credit to those who don’t deserve it, and we can fail to acknowledge those who deserve to be encouraged. Deciding who is worthy of our love and friendship based on outward appearances is a problem for humans. Pre-judging someone is prejudice. It can be racial, based on gender, country of origin, religion, body shape, or even the way we dress. We know not to judge a book by its cover, but we do it anyway.
When Saul became King there was an interesting mixed reaction. Saul himself tried to hide from all the attention, but Samuel was having none of that.
1 Samuel 10:23-24; 26-27  They ran and brought him out, and as he stood among the people he was a head taller than any of the others. Samuel said to all the people, “Do you see the man the Lord has chosen? There is no one like him among all the people.” Then the people shouted, “Long live the king!” … Saul also went to his home in Gibeah, accompanied by valiant men whose hearts God had touched. But some scoundrels said, “How can this fellow save us?” They despised him and brought him no gifts. But Saul kept silent.
By all appearances Saul would be a great king – and he did have a good start. But those who knew him best didn’t think so highly of him. Even when Saul failed miserably due to a lack of integrity and faithfulness, Samuel mourned the loss of his reign.God chose a new king and Samuel was sent to anoint him.
Whenever we judge someone by their appearance we should remember this staggering truth:
2. God Sees the Heart
We cannot see what is in the depths of a person’s soul, but the Lord can. More – he can see what is in our heart. That’s a provocative truth. For some it is likely frightening … the exterior masks we wear might fool others, but God is in the know. For others it is comforting … God knows us more intimately than any human could, but he loves us more deeply than anyone could.
Steven Charnock was a Puritan clergyman in London who died in 1680 wrote, “God knows all that is done in the most secret caverns of the heart. No place is deprived of his presence.”
That’s what Samuel finds out in his meeting with Jesse and his sons.
1 Samuel 16:5b – 13 Then he consecrated Jesse and his sons and invited them to the sacrifice. When they arrived, Samuel saw Eliab and thought, “Surely the Lord’s anointed stands here before the Lord.” 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 people look at. People look at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.” Then Jesse called Abinadab and had him pass in front of Samuel. But Samuel said, “The Lord has not chosen this one either.”  Jesse then had Shammah pass by, but Samuel said, “Nor has the Lord chosen this one.”  Jesse had seven of his sons pass before Samuel, but Samuel said to him, “The Lord has not chosen these.”  So he asked Jesse, “Are these all the sons you have?” “There is still the youngest,” Jesse answered. “He is tending the sheep.” Samuel said, “Send for him; we will not sit down until he arrives.” So he sent for him and had him brought in. He was glowing with health and had a fine appearance and handsome features. Then the Lord said, “Rise and anoint him; this is the one.” 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 powerfully upon David. Samuel then went to Ramah.
David does have an attractive appearance, but that is not what leads the Lord to appoint him as the next King of Israel. It is his heart.
There are many stories about the life of King David that may run through our minds as we contemplate him. He is the Songwriter of Israel; consider the Psalms he wrote.
In Acts 13:22 God testified concerning him: ‘I have found David son of Jesse, a man after my own heart; he will do everything I want him to do.’
But no matter how many great things we remember, there’s always that horrific fall with Bathsheba … and the murder of her husband Uriah. Appearances are not deceiving to the Lord. We may fool others, but we can never deceive Him. King Saul tried to cover up his sin and thought he could escape the judgment of God. What we learn from David is what God desires from us when we fall short: A Contrite Heart
Psalm 51:1-17

Have mercy on me, O God,  according to your unfailing love;
according to your great compassion  blot out my transgressions.
Wash away all my iniquity  and cleanse me from my sin.

For I know my transgressions, and my sin is always before me.
Against you, you only, have I sinned  and done what is evil in your sight; so you are right in your verdict  and justified when you judge.
Surely I was sinful at birth, sinful from the time my mother conceived me. Yet you desired faithfulness even in the womb;  you taught me wisdom in that secret place.

Cleanse me with hyssop, and I will be clean;  wash me, and I will be whiter than snow. Let me hear joy and gladness;  let the bones you have crushed rejoice. Hide your face from my sins and blot out all my iniquity.

Create in me a pure heart, O God,  and renew a steadfast spirit within me. Do not cast me from your presence  or take your Holy Spirit from me.

Restore to me the joy of your salvation  and grant me a willing spirit, to sustain me. Then I will teach transgressors your ways,  so that sinners will turn back to you.

Deliver me from the guilt of bloodshed, O God, you who are God my Savior, and my tongue will sing of your righteousness. Open my lips, Lord, and my mouth will declare your praise. You do not delight in sacrifice, or I would bring it; you do not take pleasure in burnt offerings.

My sacrifice, O God, is[b] a broken spirit;  a broken and contrite heart you, God, will not despise.

Conclusion
A homeless man might be a millionaire; a popular King might not be what he presents himself to be; the population might be fooled into believing a deception; people might pre-judge others based on appearances.
God sees the heart. I encourage you to see this as a comforting truth. He knows you best, and loves you most.
“Love is what God is, love is why Jesus came, and love is why he continues to come, year after year to person after person…May you experience this vast, expansive, infinite, indestructible love that has been yours all along. May you discover that this love is as wide as the sky and as small as the cracks in your heart no one else knows about, and may you know, deep in your bones, that love wins. – Rob Bell
When we give our heart to God he can cleanse us, save us, and strengthen us. The heart is where He does his best work. Whatever troubles your heart, come to God.
LIFEGROUP DISCUSSION QUESTIONS
1. Can you remember what your favorite Halloween costume was when you were a kid? If you could buy the perfect costume for halloween this year, what would it be?
2. Not only was Eliab tall and handsome, he was also Jesse’s firstborn son (1 Samuel 17:13), the one who normally would have been chosen first in Israel’s culture. Even though we know better, why do we sometimes favor / judge favorably those who look good to us?
3. Aside from outward appearance, what other factors influence how we accept/judge others? When is a time you discovered you had judged someone wrongly once you got to know them better? Can you think of people you know or have known whose inner qualities and abilities far exceeded what their meek exterior might suggest? Perhaps even an example from a movie or book might be good for the group to hear.
4. Last week a School Board in Biloxi, Mississippi banned the well known novel To Kill a Mockingbird. The language used in the book (a racial slur) made some uncomfortable. Ironically, the book presents a perspective against racial prejudice. Racial tensions remain a continuous struggle in our world today. What could we draw from this story to help Christians re-frame any feelings about relating to various races in our global community?
5. God sees the heart. What would you suggest to help someone who feels frightened or ashamed at that truth?
6. The Bible presents many ideas about the heart. Take turns in the group reading and reflecting on these selected passages from Psalms and Proverbs. Feel free to share with the group other passages about the heart that you remember.
*Psalm 34:18
*Psalm 86:11
*Psalm 119:11
*Psalm 119:32
*Proverbs 14:30
 
*Proverbs 15:15
7. Billy Graham wrote, “Don’t ever hesitate to take to [God] whatever is on your heart. He already knows it anyway, but He doesn’t want you to bear its pain or celebrate its joy alone.” How can we be more accepting of God’s grace and
not allow shame to hinder our prayers?
_________________________
Resources

Grumbling in the Desert of Sin

Grumbling in the Desert of Sin

Exodus 16:1-12

Audio:

Introduction

Complaining is a terrible habit, but many spend a good bit of conversation doing it. Stephanie Vozza writes, “A half hour of complaining every day physically damages a person’s brain, according to research from Stanford University. …Over time, complaining becomes a habit. If you’re surrounded by complainers, then you’re more likely become one.” It’s unlikely that we realize how much we complain. There’s even a Complaint/Restraint project where those who commit to try it will not complain during February.  Katherine Elon article: “Effectively Stop Complaining in Seven Easy Steps”, but they don’t seem that easy to me!

The Bible addresses the bad habit of complaining!

John 6:43 (NRSV)  “Jesus answered them, Do not complain among yourselves….”

Philippians 2:14 “Do everything without grumbling or arguing…”

James 5:9 (CEB) Don’t complain about each other, brothers and sisters, so that you won’t be judged…

Israelites had been set free from 400 years under harsh Egyptian slavery. They witnessed the plagues of God. They followed the pillar of cloud and fire. They walked across dry land as the Red Sea parted. Even so… They grumbled to God when challenges came. We should remember that they were afraid for their lives. They remembered a time when they had plenty to eat. It would be hard not to look at Moses and Aaron and wonder what have they done to you! This is not just a story about Israel Grumbling in the Desert of Sin! There’s a word for us in here as well. What happens when we fall into the habit of grumbling?

1. We Forget That God Has Provided What We Need (1-3)

Exodus 16:1-3 The whole Israelite community set out from Elim and came to the Desert of Sin, which is between Elim and Sinai, on the fifteenth day of the second month after they had come out of Egypt. In the desert the whole community grumbled against Moses and Aaron. The Israelites said to them, “If only we had died by the Lord’s hand in Egypt! There we sat around pots of meat and ate all the food we wanted, but you have brought us out into this desert to starve this entire assembly to death.”

The need on their mind is food – something they seem to remember having plenty of back in Egypt. It’s possible they have the ‘Good Ole Days’ syndrome. What had they forgotten about life back in Egypt? The intensified harsh treatment of their own people. The exaggerated expectations of the workload. The fear of losing their lives unjustly. All they can remember now is having plenty to eat.

God the Provider …Provided exactly what they needed. Not extravagantly, but sufficiently. How often do we mix up our “needs” and our “wants”.

Give thanks for the many ways that God has provided! One moment we feel like super heroes of faith, but let an unmet need come along and suddenly we think God has left the building. Grumbling blinds us to the fact that God has provided. When we fall into the habit of grumbling…

2. We Ignore the Instructions God Provides for Faithful Christian Living! (4-9)

Exodus 16:4-9 Then the Lord said to Moses, “I will rain down bread from heaven for you. The people are to go out each day and gather enough for that day. In this way I will test them and see whether they will follow my instructions. On the sixth day they are to prepare what they bring in, and that is to be twice as much as they gather on the other days.” So Moses and Aaron said to all the Israelites, “In the evening you will know that it was the Lord who brought you out of Egypt, and in the morning you will see the glory of the Lord, because he has heard your grumbling against him. Who are we, that you should grumble against us?” Moses also said, “You will know that it was the Lord when he gives you meat to eat in the evening and all the bread you want in the morning, because he has heard your grumbling against him. Who are we? You are not grumbling against us, but against the Lord.” Then Moses told Aaron, “Say to the entire Israelite community, ‘Come before the Lord, for he has heard your grumbling.’”

God gives them specific instruction to how they can live in such a way that He is pleased.  Grumbling / complaining is not a part of that. Being a disciple of Jesus Christ should continually drive us toward his character and manner. Notice that in this verse their complaining was regarded by the Lord as against HIM! (vs 8).

Why are Grumbling and complaining so bad?

*It can lead to further disobedience / sins against others 

*It can give the enemy a hold in our lives

*It cannot change situations or make things better.

*It increases frustration.

*It is contagious and can spread discord, discontentment and negativity to others.

Ephesians 4:29 (ESV) “Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for  building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear.”

Still, I think the greatest reason why we need to resist the habit of complaining is still ahead of us.

3. We Miss the Vision of the Glory of God (10-12)

Exodus 16:10 While Aaron was speaking to the whole Israelite community, they looked toward the desert, and there was the glory of the Lord appearing in the cloud. 11 The Lord said to Moses, 12 “I have heard the grumbling of the Israelites. Tell them, ‘At twilight you will eat meat, and in the morning you will be filled with bread. Then you will know that I am the Lord your God.’”

He reminds them that He is the Lord and they have nothing to fear if they will just trust Him. How gracious! God doesn’t hate grumblers, he loves them – He loves us. But our character is not to be centered around complaining and grumbling. What should be filling our thoughts and words is the glory of God.

Conclusion

God’s people moved from complaining to compliance to completeness. That’s the path we need to take as well. The Grace of God is demonstrated so beautifully in contrast to the grumbling in the Desert of Sin. Have you spent some rime in the ‘Desert of Sin’ … feeling abandoned, hurt, ignored? Don’t miss the daily provisions that come from the Lord, the instructions he gives for faithful living, and the glory of the Lord that should remain on our horizon at all times.

Remember the provision of manna by remembering the provision of the bread of life to be found in Jesus Christ. This provision is offered freely to all, without limit. Jesus the promise of yesterday reminding us that the provisions of tomorrow will be the same. Jesus the fountain of forgiveness overflowing with the blood of Jesus.

LifeGroup Discussion Questions

1. The Israelites longed for ‘the good ole days’ as they faced challenges in the Desert of Sin. Go around the group and ask each one to name something from the ‘good ole days’ that wasn’t so good as we look back on it now.

2. Why did God view the complaints against Moses and Aaron as complaints against himself? In what ways can our complaints about things that bother us actually be complaints against God?

3. How would you distinguish Grumbling/Complaining from…

*Speaking out against injustice

*Expressing an opinion when asked

*Pointing out a way for something to be done better

*Sharing something that hurt you, with a friend

*Expressing lament, such as grief or pain, to God

4. Philippians 2:14 -16  offers a view of life that is opposite of a bitter complaining attitude. In The Message, Philippians  2:14 -16 reads “Do everything readily and cheerfully – no bickering, no second-guessing allowed! Go out into the world uncorrupted, a breath of fresh air in this squalid and polluted society. Provide people with a glimpse of good living and of the living God. Carry the light-giving Message into the night so I’ll have good cause to be proud of you on the day that Christ returns. You’ll be living proof that I didn’t go to all this work for nothing.”

What do you see in that passage that stands out to you as a strong encouragement not to complain or grumble?

4. One strategy to overcome the grumbling habit may be to count your blessings – to remain aware of the many ways that God has provided for you. What are some strategies you might suggest to help us focus more on God’s blessings than on the things that move us to complain?

5. Read the following passages and talk as a group about how they address the subject of today’s lesson.

*1 Thessalonians 5:18

*Psalm 50:14-15

*Hebrews 13:5

6. Although we may struggle individually with the habit of complaining / grumbling, what can we do to help those among our acquaintances who have fallen into that habit?

Resources

Why Complaining May Be Dangerous to Your Health

Complaint/Restraint

Effectively Stop Complaining in Seven Easy Steps

How to Complain Without Grumbling by Jon Bloom

Bible Verses About Complaining

The Danger of Complaining – Sheri Langton