Learning to See (Part 2 – The World)
June 21, 2015
By John Partridge
Scripture: 1 Samuel 17: 1-11, 20-24, 32-49 Mark Mark 4:35-41 2 Corinthians 6:1-13
You may not have heard of Franz Harary, but you have probably seen his work. Franz Harary designed all of the illusions that were used on Michael Jackson’s 1984 Victory tour, the 1989 Super Bowl, and he has levitated the Taj Mahal, and made both the Sphinx and the Space Shuttle disappear. In addition to Mr. Harary, most of us have seen Siegfried and Roy make lions and tigers disappear and practically everyone remembers watching David Copperfield make the Statue of Liberty disappear.
Although these folks, and people like them, are often called magicians, many of them insist that they be referred to as illusionists, which is a more accurate description. What these men and women do is not magic, but an illusion designed to make you see what isn’t there, not see what is there, and in general make their audience believe that they saw something that they really didn’t see.
Last week we discussed how we live in two worlds at the same time, a physical world and a spiritual world. Although we live in these two worlds, we cannot always see everything that exists in the spiritual world regardless of the reality of those things. It isn’t that they are an illusion, but that we are unable to see everything that exists in our reality. In 1 Samuel 17 we discover that David, even though he was too young to fight in the army, was able to see what others could not. (1 Samuel 17:1-11, 20-24, 32-49)
Now the Philistines gathered their forces for war and assembled at Sokoh in Judah.
They pitched camp at Ephes Dammim, between Sokoh and Azekah. 2 Saul and the Israelites assembled and camped in the Valley of Elah and drew up their battle line to meet the Philistines. 3 The Philistines occupied one hill and the Israelites another, with the valley between them.
4 A champion named Goliath, who was from Gath, came out of the Philistine camp. His height was six cubits and a span. [about 9’9’] 5 He had a bronze helmet on his head and wore a coat of scale armor of bronze weighing five thousand shekels[125 lb.]; 6 on his legs he wore bronze greaves, and a bronze javelin was slung on his back. 7 His spear shaft was like a weaver’s rod, and its iron point weighed six hundred shekels. [15 lb.] His shield bearer went ahead of him.
8 Goliath stood and shouted to the ranks of Israel, “Why do you come out and line up for battle? Am I not a Philistine, and are you not the servants of Saul? Choose a man and have him come down to me. 9 If he is able to fight and kill me, we will become your subjects; but if I overcome him and kill him, you will become our subjects and serve us.” 10 Then the Philistine said, “This day I defy the armies of Israel! Give me a man and let us fight each other.” 11 On hearing the Philistine’s words, Saul and all the Israelites were dismayed and terrified.
While this is happening, David, being too young to go to battle, is at home watching the sheep but his father sends him to the front with food for his brothers and a gift for their commander.
20 Early in the morning David left the flock in the care of a shepherd, loaded up and set out, as Jesse had directed. He reached the camp as the army was going out to its battle positions, shouting the war cry. 21 Israel and the Philistines were drawing up their lines facing each other. 22 David left his things with the keeper of supplies, ran to the battle lines and asked his brothers how they were. 23 As he was talking with them, Goliath, the Philistine champion from Gath, stepped out from his lines and shouted his usual defiance, and David heard it. 24 Whenever the Israelites saw the man, they all fled from him in great fear.
Everyone, that is, except David. David is furious that Goliath is making all sorts of threats and insults against God and his people and so despite being too young to be in the army, he goes to King Saul and volunteers to fight the giant.
32 David said to Saul, “Let no one lose heart on account of this Philistine; your servant will go and fight him.”
33 Saul replied, “You are not able to go out against this Philistine and fight him; you are only a young man, and he has been a warrior from his youth.”
34 But David said to Saul, “Your servant has been keeping his father’s sheep. When a lion or a bear came and carried off a sheep from the flock, 35 I went after it, struck it and rescued the sheep from its mouth. When it turned on me, I seized it by its hair, struck it and killed it. 36 Your servant has killed both the lion and the bear; this uncircumcised Philistine will be like one of them, because he has defied the armies of the living God. 37 The LORD who rescued me from the paw of the lion and the paw of the bear will rescue me from the hand of this Philistine.”
Saul said to David, “Go, and the LORD be with you.”
38 Then Saul dressed David in his own tunic. He put a coat of armor on him and a bronze helmet on his head. 39 David fastened on his sword over the tunic and tried walking around, because he was not used to them.
“I cannot go in these,” he said to Saul, “because I am not used to them.” So he took them off. 40 Then he took his staff in his hand, chose five smooth stones from the stream, put them in the pouch of his shepherd’s bag and, with his sling in his hand, approached the Philistine.
41 Meanwhile, the Philistine, with his shield bearer in front of him, kept coming closer to David. 42 He looked David over and saw that he was little more than a boy, glowing with health and handsome, and he despised him. 43 He said to David, “Am I a dog, that you come at me with sticks?” And the Philistine cursed David by his gods. 44 “Come here,” he said, “and I’ll give your flesh to the birds and the wild animals!”
45 David said to the Philistine, “You come against me with sword and spear and javelin, but I come against you in the name of the LORD Almighty, the God of the armies of Israel, whom you have defied. 46 This day the LORD will deliver you into my hands, and I’ll strike you down and cut off your head. This very day I will give the carcasses of the Philistine army to the birds and the wild animals, and the whole world will know that there is a God in Israel. 47 All those gathered here will know that it is not by sword or spear that the LORD saves; for the battle is the LORD’s, and he will give all of you into our hands.”
48 As the Philistine moved closer to attack him, David ran quickly toward the battle line to meet him. 49 Reaching into his bag and taking out a stone, he slung it and struck the Philistine on the forehead. The stone sank into his forehead, and he fell facedown on the ground.
In last week’s scripture lesson we learned that God saw people differently than we do, but here we see that God sees the world differently than we do, and that God’s people can learn to see the world, to see reality, like it really is. To the world, and to most of Israel’s army, Goliath looked unbeatable. He was over nine feet tall in a day when we know average men were rarely much over five feet tall. What the soldiers saw was a giant who was almost twice their size, wearing armor that weighed nearly as much as they did, and carrying a spear whose head weighed as much as two gallons of water. At first that might not sound like much, but if you want to try this out, remember that a spear is usually at least as tall as the man that carries it. So take a stick that’s as tall as you are, tie two gallons of water at the end of it (feel free to use a big rock or a bowling ball), grab the stick in the middle and try to throw it. I doubt that you will throw it very far. Goliath must have been huge.
Everyone could easily see that defeating him looked impossible.
But David wasn’t looking with eyes that saw only one world. David saw this world through the lens of another, spiritual world. When everyone else looked at Goliath they saw a giant. What David saw was a man who, although far larger (probably every bit of twice as large) than David, but who was much, much smaller than David’s God. With God’s help, David, despite his youth, had already defeated a lion and bear, both of which were much larger than he was, and so David knew that, with God’s help, Goliath would be no different.
Because David knew and trusted God, he saw the entire world in a different way.
Jesus teaches the disciples this same lesson in Mark 4:35-41.
35 That day when evening came, he said to his disciples, “Let us go over to the other side.” 36 Leaving the crowd behind, they took him along, just as he was, in the boat. There were also other boats with him. 37 A furious squall came up, and the waves broke over the boat, so that it was nearly swamped. 38 Jesus was in the stern, sleeping on a cushion. The disciples woke him and said to him, “Teacher, don’t you care if we drown?”
39 He got up, rebuked the wind and said to the waves, “Quiet! Be still!” Then the wind died down and it was completely calm.
40 He said to his disciples, “Why are you so afraid? Do you still have no faith?”
41 They were terrified and asked each other, “Who is this? Even the wind and the waves obey him!”
To the disciples, the storm, a completely natural phenomenon, was totally outside of their control. Everyone knows that the weather does whatever it will do and human beings don’t have much of anything to say about it. But that is only a part of the complete reality. Jesus sees the unseen. Jesus sees the spiritual part of a natural world, and by seeing the spiritual world, Jesus understood reality in a different way. In seeing the complete reality, the reality of the natural world and the reality of the spiritual world, Jesus knew that the natural world answered to God. The lesson that Jesus teaches the disciples is that through faith, with God’s help, we are able to do things that would otherwise seem to be naturally impossible.
In 2 Corinthians 6:1-13, Paul explains that they did whatever they could to be good servants of God and some of the things that they did seem to be, at first, odd and not at all what most people would do to be a good servant.
Paul says that they through “great endurance; in troubles, hardships and distresses; 5 in beatings, imprisonments and riots; in hard work, sleepless nights and hunger; 6 in purity, understanding, patience and kindness; in the Holy Spirit and in sincere love; 7 in truthful speech and in the power of God; with weapons of righteousness in the right hand and in the left; 8 through glory and dishonor, bad report and good report; genuine, yet regarded as impostors; 9 known, yet regarded as unknown; dying, and yet we live on; beaten, and yet not killed; 10 sorrowful, yet always rejoicing; poor, yet making many rich; having nothing, and yet possessing everything.”
The list that Paul presents doesn’t make much sense unless we realize that there is more to the world than just the natural, physical world that we can see, hear, smell, taste, and touch with our senses. But when we are able to see and understand the world that is unseen, we are able to do far more, with God’s help, than might be expected by people who can only see and understand the natural world.
We have seen this kind of vision in the horrible shooting in Charlotte this week. Although the entire nation is horrified at this kind of hatred and violence, and rightly so, the families of those who were murdered have been gracious and forgiving with one of them, publicly forgiving their sister’s murderer all because they know that this reality is not all that there is. They know that death is not the end that it appears to be and they know that although their loved ones have been taken from them, they will once again, be reunited.
The world we live in is not an illusion and neither is the spiritual world.
We live in two worlds and, apart from God, we can only see one of them. But with faith, devotion, study, and with God’s help, we can learn to see, feel, and experience the whole world, the real reality, in a new and powerful way.