There is a story told about two angels who were visiting on earth. They stopped to spend the night with a wealthy family, but the family treated them shabbily and instead of offering the guest room they showed the angels to the basement. As they prepared to sleep for the night the older angel noticed a hole in the wall, so he repaired it. When the younger angel asked why, the older angel said, ’things aren't always what they seem.’ The next night they arrived at the home of a very poor family. The family shared what little they had and gave them their bed for the night. The next morning the angels found the farmer and his wife in tears. Their only cow, their source of income was dead in the field. The younger angel was angry, asking how the older angel could have let this horrible thing happen. Again, the older angel said, ’things aren't always what they seem.’
And then the older angel explained. When we were in the basement of the mansion, I noticed there was gold stored in the wall where the hole was. But since the owner of the mansion could think only of money, I covered the hole in the wall so he wouldn't find it. Last night as we slept in the farmers bed the angel of death came for his wife. I gave him the cow instead. Things aren't always what they seem. That is true in our lives as well. How many of us have come into a room to hear only part of a conversation and based on what we have heard, we jump to conclusions. We do not know the entire story. And that affects many things in our lives, relationships in particular. Sometimes we hear an entire story, but we misunderstand the meaning.
Take for instance the story of David and Goliath. For most of us this is a story about a giant bully and a puny shepherd. But when we look closer that isn't what the story is about at all. When we read this story the first thing we see is that Goliath was so big and intimidating people wanted nothing to do with him. David was the youngest of Jesse’s sons and a shepherd. He had gone to the battle front to bring food and supplies to his older brothers who were fighting, and he heard Goliath bellow his threats. For forty days Goliath had come forward and taunted the Israelites. The curious thing is that Goliath calls David to come to him rather than going to meet him. Even though scripture tells us Goliath sees David is a youth he may not have seen well enough to be the right distance from David to attack.
But there is more. We look at David as going into battle with Goliath with ’only’ a sling, like David is carrying the kind of slingshot we used when we were kids. But this is not the case at all. Goliath may have thought the same thing. But things are not always what they seem. There were armies that used a sling as a very effective weapon and many if not all shepherds carried them to help protect their flocks. David had had a lot of practice with a sling, taking care of his father's sheep. And he was good with a sling.
When we see David offer to fight Goliath the first thing king Saul did was doubt his abilities because of his age. But shepherds began their training early and they were tough. Having David face Goliath was a long shot at best and Saul wanted nothing more than to defeat the Philistines. Saul offered David his armor. There was a helmet of bronze for his head which would have been heavy. Next came a coat of mail which was intended to help ward off arrows and swords. Meat cutters today wear gloves of mail to protect their hands from knife cuts. And then came Saul’s sword which also was heavy. All of this was foreign to David and it weighed him down. He knew he could not fight in this armor, so he politely gave them back to Saul. Instead, he took his sling and he picked up five smooth stones and headed off to meet Goliath.
We know how the story ends. David takes one stone, puts it in his sling and launches it at Goliath's head. The stone sank deep into his forehead and Goliath fell on his face to the ground, dead. What happened in this story was not a good battle plan, putting your youngest and least experienced fighter on the front line. But things are not always what they seem. Great leaders know that the real key to success is knowing who they have and what they are capable of. That makes all the difference. Misconceptions often cloud our decision making. So does not hearing or understanding the whole story. We judge by looks, stature, and perhaps even reputation. We make decisions based on someone else's experiences. But things are not always what they seem.
When Jesus was born, he didn't look like the Savior of the world. When Saul was persecuting Christians, he didn't look like one of the most powerful instruments for sharing the good news of Jesus Christ. David out in the field tending his father's flocks didn't look like the next king of Israel. A young Mary didn't look like the one who would bear and raise the Son of God. And Abraham and Sarah didn't look like parents when Isaac was born. But with God some things aren't what they seem. In fact, I think God likes to surprise us.
Christmas is this week. I pray for you joy in the birth of the Christ child, peace in the love of Jesus and hope in the promises of God. But be on the lookout. Things aren't always what they seem!
In His Grip Pastor
Pastor Matt W