Fear and Arrogance
Part 1: Fear Gives Poor Advice
March 22, 2020*
By Pastor John Partridge
1 Samuel 16:1-13 John 9:1-41
If you are a fan of scary movies, there is one thing that nearly every movie, from Alfred Hitchcock’s Rear Window, to Jaws, to Halloween and Friday the 13th to the movies of the present day all seem to have in common. And the thing that they have in common is this: People who are afraid, make poor choices. That’s why we’re always shouting at the screen “Don’t go back in the house!” We saw it in Germany as an entire nation allowed the Nazi’s to commit unconscionable acts simply because the people were too afraid to speak up. In fact, we need look no further that our local grocery store shelves as we’ve entered a time of fear caused by the arrival of the Corona virus. People are rushing to the grocery stores, and department stores, and even Amazon.com to buy things for which they have no reasonable need. People are buying food that will certainly spoil before they can eat it all, cases upon cases of water that comes out of kitchen faucet of nearly every home, and enough toilet paper to supply an average college dormitory for a year. Why?
Because fear gives poor advice.
None of these things make any sense because people aren’t thinking logically, rationally, or sensibly, they are simply reacting out of irrational fear. It’s a lot like a cattle stampede. One cow gets stung by a bee and started running, and the rest of the herd starts running because everyone else was running.
And, although sociologists will be talking about our current crisis for generations, fear certainly isn’t anything new. In 1 Samuel 16:1-13, we hear the story of how God sent his prophet Samuel to anoint a new king over Israel because of the disobedience of King Saul. And, in that story, we see both the prophet, David’s father Jesse, and the elders of Bethlehem act out of fear before they listen and respond to the calling of God.
16:1 The Lord said to Samuel, “How long will you mourn for Saul, since I have rejected him as king over Israel? Fill your horn with oil and be on your way; I am sending you to Jesse of Bethlehem. I have chosen one of his sons to be king.”
2 But Samuel said, “How can I go? If Saul hears about it, he will kill me.”
The Lord said, “Take a heifer with you and say, ‘I have come to sacrifice to the Lord.’ 3 Invite Jesse to the sacrifice, and I will show you what to do. You are to anoint for me the one I indicate.”
4 Samuel did what the Lord said. When he arrived at Bethlehem, the elders of the town trembled when they met him. They asked, “Do you come in peace?”
5 Samuel replied, “Yes, in peace; I have come to sacrifice to the Lord. Consecrate yourselves and come to the sacrifice with me.” Then he consecrated Jesse and his sons and invited them to the sacrifice.
6 When they arrived, Samuel saw Eliab and thought, “Surely the Lord’s anointed stands here before the Lord.”
7 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.”
8 Then Jesse called Abinadab and had him pass in front of Samuel. But Samuel said, “The Lord has not chosen this one either.” 9 Jesse then had Shammah pass by, but Samuel said, “Nor has the Lord chosen this one.” 10 Jesse had seven of his sons pass before Samuel, but Samuel said to him, “The Lord has not chosen these.” 11 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.”
12 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.”
13 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.
Even before Samuel leaves home, he is already worried. Samuel is afraid that if he obeys God, and if King Saul hears about what he is doing, Saul will be angry enough to kill him. But God sends Samuel anyway.
Once Samuel arrives, the elders of the town of Bethlehem tremble when they meet him, and they aren’t even sure that they want to let him in, because the prophets of God had a reputation for bringing bad news, curses, and death. And so, the elders (and this probably included Jesse) won’t let Samuel in the door until they are reassured that Samuel has come in peace.
But Samuel is deceived, one son after another, simply because he assumes that God is seeing the same things that he sees. Samuel sees young men who are tall, handsome, physically fit, and seem like the kind of men that would look good as king. In fact, David’s own father did the same thing. When Samuel arrives and invites his family to the sacrifice. Everyone simply assumes that the youngest son, the kid who got left in the fields watching the sheep, isn’t worth anyone’s time and certainly won’t be missed. It isn’t until God fails to select anyone that Samuel finally asks, “Are these all the sons you have?” And then declares that they would not sit down to eat until that youngest son, the one everyone was prepared to ignore, finally arrives. And that son, of course, turns out to be David, the greatest king in the entire history of Israel.
During our Bible study this week we talked about how Simon Peter swore that he would stand by Jesus even if he was arrested and put to death. But when push came to shove, he denied even knowing Jesus not once, but three times. Why? Fear.
And so, as we shelter in place, and practice “social distancing” in the face of the Coronavirus outbreak, this message from scripture seems especially relevant. We must not act out of fear because fear gives poor advice. Fear told King Saul to disobey God (and he listened). Fear told the prophet Samuel not to even leave the house to anoint David as God’s new king (but he didn’t listen). Fear told Jesse and the elders of Bethlehem not to even let Samuel in the door, and it told Simon Peter to save his skin and betray Jesus.
Instead of listening to our fears, we are reminded to put our faith and trust in God. God still cares. God still loves you. We will get through this difficult time if we listen to, and trust, God and we behave rationally, carefully, and behave prudently.
Fear says that it’s not safe to trust God.
Fear says that God will demand too much from you.
Fear says that you might miss out on something else if you follow God.
Fear says that you need to hold back on God so that you can stay in control.
Fear says that you need a year’s supply of toilet paper and ten gallons of hand sanitizer.
But fear is a liar.
Fear gives poor advice.
And so, as we watch the latest news and practice social distancing, let us also remember the words that the Apostle Paul wrote to the church in Rome and the words of the Jesus’ beloved disciple John.
What, then, shall we say in response to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? (Romans 8:31)
There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love. (1 John 4:18)
And finally, in this time of uncertainty, I want you to hear God’s words from the prophet Isaiah:
So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand. (Isaiah 41:10)
Although these are uncertain, and even frightening times…
Don’t be afraid.
God still cares.
God still loves you.
God is in control.
Have a great week everybody.
You can find the livestream of this message here: https://youtu.be/MmS9yA5Sfas
To continue to Part 2, click here: https://pastorpartridge.com/2020/03/23/2689/
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