Jason and Joshua’s Wild Card Round Picks

Sitting here tonight having a little fun with Joshua. We decided to make picks on the MLB Wild Card games coming up the next two days. Here are our picks, in our own words.

AL Wild Card Game: Astros vs. Yankees

Joshua’s take: “Everyone thinks the Astros are going to come out and pound the baseball just because they have all these youngsters. I think the Yankee veterans are going to teach them a lesson by showing plate discipline and having clutch. I think it’s going to be a battle of the pitchers, but I think ARod will come through in the clutch. Yankees win. That’s my take.”

Jason’s take: First of all, I like the thought process by Junior. You can tell he watches a lot of MLB Network.

Now, on to the AL Wild Card game. It’s hard to pick against the probable AL Cy Young Award winner Dallas Keuchel, but his numbers on the road are pedestrian (5-8, 3.77ERA, 13 HR allowed). I think the Yankee lineup will be patient and if this one becomes a battle of the bullpens, the Yankees can shorten the game awfully quickly with Betances and Miller. I’m going with the Evil Empire knocking out the upstart Astros.

NL Wild Card Game: Cubs vs. Pirates

Joshua’s take: “Best matchup of the night: Gerrit Cole vs. Kris Bryant. I think McCutchen’s gonna be set down. And I think that the crowd is going to go beserk enough that the Pirates won’t be able to handle it and they’ll make errors. I think that the Cubs are going to pull it out and win.”

Jason’s take: For one night only, I root for the Cubs.

The reason? They’re more beatable than the Pirates. Pittsburgh is just pesky, as in fly-that-buzzes-around-your-plate-at-a-church-potluck-and-won’t-leave-you-alone pesky. They’ve been on the Cards’ heels all season long. I’d much prefer the Cubs knocking out the Pirates. I’ll say this, though; if the Pirates eliminate the Cardinals, I’m all in on Pittsburgh winning it all. I hope that doesn’t happen, but I really admire what Clint Hurdle has done with this club.

So, I’m going to hope that Jake Arrieta has one more dominant start left in him in 2015. Cubs win a tight one.

We’ll make LDS picks later in the week.

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2015 MLB Review

Looking back over the 2015 season, it seems odd now that so many prognosticators were high on teams that have been basically non-factors the whole year. After adding Hanley Ramirez and Pablo Sandoval to an already potent lineup, veryone thought the Red Sox would contend in a weaker AL East. Plenty of people tabbed the Mariners to win the AL West after addressing their right-handed power dearth by adding Nelson Cruz. And the Washington Nationals, fresh off a 96 win campaign in 2014, looked to be the darlings of the NL after inking Max Scherzer to a mega-deal in January.

Boy, do those predictions look bad now.

I was high on all three of those teams, like everybody else. But I also saw a few things coming back in the spring.

  • I predicted the Dodgers would win the NL West.
  • I predicted the Cardinals would win the NL Central.
  • I predicted the Pirates would be a pesky threat to the Cardinals all season. From my NL Central Preview: “If there’s a team in this division that could push the Cardinals, it’s not the Cubs; it’s Pittsburgh.”
  • I predicted the Blue Jays would be in the playoff hunt. (Who knew they were going to go out and get David Price AND Troy Tulowitzki AND go on such an epic late-season run?)

But this season has been so unique. I never thought the Royals would replicate their success from last season, at least not to the degree that they have. Heading into the season’s final weekend, they’re playing for home field advantage throughout the playoffs. I didn’t think the Yankees had enough juice to be a contender, but I was wrong there, too. No matter what you think of him, it will be a travesty if Alex Rodriguez does not win Comeback Player of the Year. And the Astros and Twins fighting for a playoff berth in the season’s final three games? I never would’ve believed it if you told me in the spring.

And that’s just in the American League. Over in the NL, Washington’s total fail is likely going to cost Matt Williams — the 2014 NL Manager of the Year — his job. All of which opened the door for a young and hungry Mets team, led by the dynamic pitching of Matt Harvey, Jacob deGrom, and Noah Syndergaard. And lest we forget about him, as of this writing, the team leader in innings pitched is 42 year old Bartolo Colon. The Metropolitans changed their everyday lineup and — most importantly — their season when they acquired Yoenis Cespedes at the trade deadline. No, he’s not the NL MVP (as some will claim), but he has energized a lineup that has come alive in the season’s final two months.

The National League’s Central division plays host to the three best teams in the majors: the 100-win (and counting) St. Louis Cardinals, the 96-win Pittsburgh Pirates, and the 94-win Chicago Cubs. I predicted these clubs would finish 1-2-3, but I never expected Chicago to emerge this quickly. We all thought the kids would need another year to marinate, but we were wrong. Kris Bryant has played at an MVP level all season (but he’s not the selection either). Addison Russell has solidified the Cubs middle infield. And Kyle Schwarber was a mid-season revelation as a catcher-turned-outfielder. The Jon Lester signing brought depth to the rotation but the growth of Jake Arrieta has been nothing short of extraordinary. I’m glad the Pirates have to face him in the Wild Card game. That guy has been absolutely dominant down the stretch and he’s my choice in the three-headed race for the NL Cy Young Award.

But the Cardinals season has been truly special. Scouts have raved for years about the Cards stockpile of young talent, so a 100-win campaign should come as no surprise for such a storied and well-run organization. But as someone who follows the club on a daily basis, the 2015 iteration of the team has endured a spate of injuries to key contributors, yet the team continues to excel. To wit:

  • Opening Day starter Adam Wainwright spent five months on the shelf after suffering a torn left Achilles in April.
  • Starting left fielder and #3 hitter Matt Holliday has missed over 80 games this season with quad injuries.
  • Setup reliever Jordan Walden has not thrown a pitch since April.
  • Highly touted prospect Marco Gonzales has missed most of the 2015 season.
  • Starting 1B and cleanup hitter Matt Adams has appeared in only 58 games as of this writing.
  • All-Star / Gold Glove catcher Yadier Molina is currently out with a partially sprained ligament in his thumb.
  • All-Star SP Carlos Martinez is sitting with a right shoulder injury and will not pitch again in 2015.
  • Jaime Garcia, Randall Grichuk, Jon Jay, and Holliday each had multiple stints on the disabled list this season.

And yet, here they sit with the best record in baseball. Best of all, all the prognosticators seem to be overlooking them. You’ll hear all about the Toronto run-differential; the co-aces in Los Angeles; the Mets young power pitchers. But nobody has much to say about the only 100-win team in the majors this season. But that’s the way we like it. Here’s hoping the #12in2015 is burning up my Twitter feed in late October.

Now for some thoughts on individual awards.

National League Most Valuable Player

This is really simple. It’s Bryce Harper. Case closed.

Harper has clearly been the premier bat in the National League this season — and possibly the entire major leagues. Let’s put it this way: Harper is mere percentage points away from leading all major league batters in the triple slash categories: batting average, on-base percentage, and slugging percentage. Sure, the Nationals have struggled to meet expectations this season, but you can’t lay the blame at Harper’s feet. (Unless, of course, you’re Jonathan Papelbon, who seems to think Harper has kept the Nats from playoff contention by refusing to run out every popup.)

Anthony Rizzo deserves mentioning here. And I suppose you could make a case for Cespedes if you emphasize the “valuable” part of the MVP debate rather than taking the “league’s best player” angle. (For that matter, where’s the MVP love for Jake Arrieta, Matt Carpenter, Zack Greinke, or Clayton Kershaw?)

But in the end, this is Harper’s well-deserved award.

American League Most Valuable Player

The story of the Blue Jays’ 2015 season will likely revolve around the acquisitions of David Price and Troy Tulowitzki, impact players who vaulted the Jays into the stratosphere as the best team in the league. But these moves should not overshadow the season long excellence of Josh Donaldson, your 2015 AL MVP.

It may seem strange to select Donaldson when he is surrounded by the likes of Tulowitzki, Jose Bautista, and Edwin Encarnacion in the Jays lineup. You could make the case that Toronto would be a mashing mess of sluggers even without Donaldson’s 41 HR, 123 RBI, 122 runs scored and .300 average. But Donaldson’s offense, in addition to his stellar defense and Toronto’s success, makes him a solid choice.

It seems strange that Mike Trout is somehow the boring choice in this debate. How could you go wrong with a talent like Trout, whose numbers are certainly MVP-worthy. But in this case, I’d take Donaldson.

National League Cy Young

It’s a three-horse race here. Jake Arrieta. Zack Greinke. Clayton Kershaw. Really, it’s flip a coin. Kershaw, the incumbent, has 16 wins and nearly 300 strikeouts. Greinke is 18-3 with a microscopic 1.68 ERA. (And can you imagine the prospect of facing that kind of nastiness over the course of a short playoff series?) But I give the slight edge to Arrieta, who has been nothing short of brilliant down the stretch.

I’m not going to mount some sort of apologetic for Arrieta over the other two, because honestly you could make a case for all three. But while Kershaw has a 1.36 ERA over 106 second-half innings, Arrieta has actually been better, posting a mind-blowing 0.80 ERA over 101 second half innings. To put it differently, Arrieta has allowed 9 earned runs in the second half, or the same number of earned runs Dallas Keuchel (a contender for the AL Cy Young) gave up in a Sept. 16 start against the Rangers. That’s unreal. Throw in 21 wins and I give the slight edge to Arrieta.

American League Cy Young

In the AL, it’s basically a two horse race: David Price, the Toronto-via-Detroit ace, and Dallas Keuchel, the Astros #1. Keuchel has been fantastic all year, particularly at home where he is 15-0 with a 1.46 ERA. For a young pitching staff, Keuchel has been a revelation, leading the league in innings pitched and carrying the upstart Astros to the brink of playoff contention.

But Price’s dominance has been a difference maker in the AL playoff picture, vaulting Toronto to a tie with Kansas City for the league’s best mark. I have a suspicion that will tilt the vote in his favor. Again, you could honestly flip a coin with these two (it’s scary how similar their numbers are), but I think Price will win by the narrowest of margins.

National League Rookie of the Year

This is probably the easiest of the awards to forecast. Kris Bryant has been every bit as good as the scouts told us he’d be. He’s flashed big time power all year, he’s driven in 100 runs despite missing the season’s first couple of weeks, and he’s played all over the diamond for the playoff-bound Cubbies. There’s really no other contender that can even make a legitimate claim. Bryant is the most deserving candidate by far.

American League Rookie of the Year

Yet again, we have a two-horse race. Indians SS Francisco Lindor has been one of the AL’s best kept secrets since debuting mid-summer. Languishing in near anonymity in Cleveland, the 21-year-old Lindor has mashed the ball since his call up in June, hitting .319/.357/.491 with 21 doubles, 12 homers and 51 RBI in 96 games. But Carlos Correa, the Astros’ similarly gifted SS wunderkind, has grabbed most of the headlines. Maybe that’s due to the Astros’ surprise resurgence; maybe Correa simply passes “the eye test” and displays a flashier set of skills. At the tender age of 20, Correa has mashed 22 HR (in 97 games), slugged .520, stolen 13 bases, and brought gravitas to the Astros lineup. Correa looks like a Jeter – Ripken hybrid at short. If I had a vote, I’d give it to him, hat tip to Lindor.

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God’s Own Heart: Secure

And when his servants told David these words, it pleased David well to be the king’s son-in-law. Before the time had expired, David arose and went, along with his men, and killed two hundred of the Philistines. And David brought their foreskins, which were given in full number to the king, that he might become the king’s son-in-law. And Saul gave him his daughter Michal for a wife. But when Saul saw and knew that the LORD was with David, and that Michal, Saul’s daughter, loved him, Saul was even more afraid of David. So Saul was David’s enemy continually. — 1 Samuel 18:26-30

The other day I spent time with someone who — in my opinion — is very insecure. I’m no expert, but it seemed as if signs of this insecurity kept popping up throughout our interaction: lots of boisterous claims, backhanded compliments, negativity, even a few biting criticisms that came completely out of left field. I could be wrong, of course, but I walked away from our interaction with the ripe smell of this person’s insecurity in my nostrils.

body-insecuritesInsecurity tends to spread like wildfire. Spend enough time around an insecure person and their thoughts slowly become your own. It’s easy to hear their voice and begin to believe that maybe they’re right. That typically isn’t a big problem for me — I usually just remind myself that such a person doesn’t know anything and I’m able to move on. But even so, I found myself reflecting on the negative comments and the criticism — almost like the words were echoing in my mind. And I think of myself as a fairly secure person!

The truth is that we’re all insecure in more ways than we’re willing to admit. The only cure to insecurity — at least the only one I’ve found — is to rest in my identity as God’s image-bearing creation. That seems to be one of the over-arching themes of David’s story: the young shepherd boy finds his security in the shepherding presence of the LORD.

We are quick to look at David charging to the battle line to meet Goliath (1 Sam. 17:48) but the truth that propels David in that moment was learned “off stage”, in an episode that doesn’t receive the spotlight treatment in the Bible. In fact, this story is only remembered after the fact by David.

Saul said to David, “You are not able to go against this Philistine to fight with him, for you are but a youth, and he has been a man of war from his youth.” But David said to Saul, “Your servant used to keep sheep for his father. And when there came a lion, or a bear, and took a lamb from the flock, I went after him and struck him and delivered it out of his mouth. And if he arose against me, I caught him by his beard and struck him and killed him. Your servant has struck down both lions and bears, and this uncircumcised Philistine shall be like one of them, for he has defied the armies of the living God.” And David said, “The LORD who delivered me from the paw of the lion and from the paw of the bear will deliver me from the hand of this Philistine.” And Saul said to David, “G0, and the LORD be with you.” — 1 Samuel 17:33-37

First of all, “uncircumcised Philistine” is just about the best insult of all time.

More importantly, David recognizes the provision of God as his source of security in the battle with Goliath. As God delivered me then, so too will He deliver me now. Lion, bear, giant…it makes no difference: David’s security flows from his relationship with the LORD, the Good Shepherd he later describes in Psalm 23.

Contrast this with Saul, whose insecurity leads him to act in hatred toward David. Almost immediately, Israel recognizes David’s secure sense of self, with the women singing, “Saul has struck down his thousands, and David his tens of thousands.” Of course, this drives Saul batty with jealousy and fear. Repeatedly, the narrator of Samuel points out that Saul was afraid of David, even in awe of him. Repeatedly, Saul makes attempts on David’s life by throwing spears at him, sending him off on ridiculously impossible missions (200 Philistine foreskins…seriously?), even plotting his downfall with his administrative cabinet. But the more Saul acts out of his fear and insecurity, the more he drives away the people he loves, particularly Michal (his daughter) and Jonathan (his son) — both of whom are drawn to David. Worst of all, Saul can’t even recognize this when it happens because he’s consumed with insecurity.

If we are to learn anything from Saul’s example, it’s this: You don’t realize how your insecurity is impacting those around you. Like I said before, insecurity spreads. It infects those around you. So (hard truth ahead)….maybe that’s why your loved ones pull away from you. Maybe that’s why your relationships are in the toilet. Maybe that’s why you’re so lonely. I know that harsh reality might simply feed even more insecurity in your heart, but recognizing this is really important.

But even more importantly is the truth we learn from David: True security comes from a defined sense of self. David knows who he is; he’s learned the truth when no one else was looking, long before his story was forever changed by giants and wives and monarchy and uncircumcised Philistines. David’s sense of security flows forth from the reality of his experience of YHWH. And this experience defines him.

Who am I? I am the one delivered by YHWH.

I am the one YOU have rescued. 

I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, yet I fear nothing.

For YOU are with me.

YOU comfort me.

YOU lead me beside still waters.

YOU restore my soul.

YOU anoint me and my cup overflows.

Goodness and mercy follow me all the days of my life.

And I shall dwell in YOUR house and feast at YOUR table forever.

This is the wellspring of David’s security. May the same be said of us.

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God’s Own Heart: Knit

As soon as he had finished speaking to Saul, the soul of Jonathan was knit to the soul of David, and Jonathan loved him as his own soul….Then Jonathan made a covenant with David, because he loved him as his own soul. — 1 Samuel 18:1, 3

On the heels of the victory of Goliath and the Philistines, David is called before King Saul and identifies himself as the son of Jesse. In that moment, David’s relationship with the royal family changed forever. Saul is immediately fearful of David, a fear that leads Saul to eventually oppose David at every turn, seeking his downfall as a means of preserving his own administration. Yet, Saul’s son — and the heir to throne, at least in Saul’s mind — responds in a decidedly different fashion. Jonathan binds himself to David in perhaps the Bible’s most beautiful description of friendship. Jonathan and David are bound together in a covenant of respect, admiration, and mutual friendship.

In the past, I’ve made the mistake of saying that the Bible only speaks of covenant with regard to two relationships: relationship with God and relationship with one’s spouse. But I’ve overlooked the implications of covenantal friendship, two people’s whose souls are “knit” together in the sight of God as lifelong partners in friendship.

I’ve been fortunate to have not one such relationship, but several. Here are just a few of my personal Jonathans:

August 14, 1999

August 14, 1999

Lane Widick is probably my oldest and best friend. We met in middle school when my mother and I moved into the neighborhood where Lane and his family lived. We immediately hit it off and have been fast friends ever since. This young man has been by my side in some of the most important moments of my life. When my mother passed away, Lane was there for me, a presence of peace and laughter that I so desperately needed in that dark hour. When we drove to the graveside to lay her to rest, Lane was seated right beside me, the only person I wanted to be there in that time of pain. He has shared not only in my moments of grief, but also in moments of tremendous joy, flanking me as I exchanged vows with Sunny and being present on the day my youngest son was born. We rode to school together, got in trouble together, went to youth group together, and now, we share in the joy of ministry together. Lane is truly one of the most talented people I know and I’m grateful to call him my brother. Lane, you have embodied God’s enduring love to me so well these past 25 years. For that, I love you.

October 2014

October 2014

I also met Matt Wimberley in middle school. Matt was the “new kid” in our class (8th grade, I think?) and over the years I spent countless hours with him. Even at a young age, Matt was a young man of great integrity. Those who know me well know that I’ve always had a bit of a mischievous streak, but God has always been faithful to surround me with people of goodness, people like Matt who could temper some of my less-than-exemplary impulses. Our little group of friends spent untold hours in Matt’s home, watching ball games, playing cards, laughing out loud, and enjoying his mother’s fantastic cooking. We roomed together for three years at Lipscomb, which gave me an even deeper glimpse of Matt’s innate goodness. People use the phrase “he’s a good man” too liberally, in my view. But in the case of Matt Wimberley, the words are spot on. Matt, your goodness has made a difference in my life and I’m excited to see how God continues to use you in the years to come.

Early 200s

Early 200s

My junior year at Lipscomb, I met a skinny transfer from Faulkner in one of my Bible major classes. He was really quiet at first and I’m pretty sure I didn’t make a great first impression with him, but God knew what He was doing when he put Corey Trevathan in my life. We shared an internship together that summer and we immediately recognized a like-mindedness in our approach to youth ministry. But my soul was knit to Corey’s when I listened to him pray. He spoke to God in such a personal way and I desired to know God in the way Corey knew Him. In the nearly 20 years since we met, this man’s friendship has been nothing less than transformative for me. I marvel at his heart for worship, his tenacious work ethic, and his ability to communicate God’s heart to others. I don’t suppose I’ll ever get tired of making him laugh so hard he can hardly breathe. Corey, you have expanded the borders of God’s Kingdom in my heart in so many ways. As long as there is breath in my body, I will covet your prayers on my behalf. I can’t wait for the day when we get to dangle our feet in the river of life together. I love you, brother.

2012, Honduras

2012, Honduras

I first met Jon Stacy in the hospital after the birth of his first child. Little did I know that in that little hospital room God was bringing another lifelong friend into my life. Jon and I have shared much over the past decade and change: deep conversations about spiritual matters, the challenges of loving our wives and children well, our fears, our love for the Lord and the church. My family has shared hundreds of hours in communion with Jon’s family, gathered around one table or another, enjoying food and fellowship and lots of “last pieces of chicken.” Jon wears his heart on his sleeve and I love him for it. Literally, I don’t think there’s anything the man can’t do: crunch numbers, fix cars, learn Spanish, woodworking, coordinate ministry teams, raise money, even kill rats with a BB gun! (Seriously, you’re a cowboy, Jon.) A few years ago, God called Jon and his young family to western Honduras to serve as missionaries and they responded in faith. Jon, you are a born leader and it is an absolute joy to see you using these gifts daily in Kingdom service.

I could go on and on, but you get the idea. These are just a few of my “Jonathans” the men who are on my personal Mount Rushmore of friends. I am thankful for these and so many others whose friendship has made an eternal difference in my life and who I am “knit” to in the love of God.

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God’s Own Heart: Token

So David prevailed over the Philistine with a sling and with a stone, and struck the Philistine and killed him. There was no sword in the hand of David. Then David ran and stood over the Philistine and took his sword and drew it out of its sheath and killed him and cut off his head with it. When the Philistines saw that their champion was dead, they fled. — 1 Sam. 17:50-51

I’ve always wondered why David cut off Goliath’s head.

I’ll admit, I’ve always assumed that Goliath died when David struck him with the stone from the sling. That’s kind of the impression you get when you read verse 49:

And David put his hand in his bag and took out a stone and slung it and struck the Philistine on his forehead. The stone sank into his forehead, and he fell on his face to the ground.

Stone sinks into forehead, Goliath falls over, he’s dead. Right?

Some commentators argue that David was simply “making sure” when he decapitated Goliath. Makes sense. You’d hate for David to be standing there pumping his fist victoriously, only to have Goliath pop back up in cheap horror movie fashion. So I get the whole “finish the job” mentality.

Other commentators argue that the ancients believed that the head represented the seat of wisdom and power for either an individual or a people group. By cutting off the head of their champion, David was striking a blow at Philistine paganism specifically and more generally at any who would be so brazen as to defy the armies of the God of Israel. Or so the argument goes.

Others say David was simply taunting both Goliath and the Philistines, an ancient version of this:

UNITED STATES - NOVEMBER 20:  Football: Philadelphia Eagles Chuck Bednarik (60) victorious after making sack vs New York Giants Frank Gifford (16), Bronx, NY 11/20/1960  (Photo by John G. Zimmerman/Sports Illustrated/Getty Images)  (SetNumber: X7149)

UNITED STATES – NOVEMBER 20: Football: Philadelphia Eagles Chuck Bednarik (60) victorious after making sack vs New York Giants Frank Gifford (16), Bronx, NY 11/20/1960 (Photo by John G. Zimmerman/Sports Illustrated/Getty Images)

Ultimately, David made the head of Goliath a significant part of his future administration in Jerusalem:

And David took the head of the Philistine and brought it to Jerusalem… — 1 Sam. 17:54

But it would be years before David was enthroned in Jerusalem. So was the decapitation of Goliath some serious long range strategic planning on David’s part? Was it an “in your face” to the Philistine way of life? Was he simply making sure that Goliath was out of commission?

Maybe. Probably.

But I think there may be another reason David took Goliath’s head.

Now David was the son of an Ephrathite of Bethlehem in Judah, named Jesse, who had eight sons….The three oldest sons of Jesse had followed Saul to the battle. And the names of his three sons who went to the battle were Eliab the firstborn, and next to him Abinadab, and the third Shammah. David was the youngest. The three eldest followed Saul, but David went back and forth from Saul to feed his father’s sheep in Bethlehem.

And Jesse said to David his son, “Take for your brothers and ephah of this parched grain, and these ten loaves, and carry them quickly to the camp to your brothers. Also take these ten cheeses to the commander of their thousand. See if your brothers are well, and bring some token from them. — 1 Sam. 17:12-18

David’s father asked for a token, a pledge, an assurance of the security of Eliab, Abinadab, and Shammah. The root word here was used of the earnest money paid out in advance for a commodity. In business terms, such a pledge was a means of securing ownership. It seems that Jesse is asking for some assurance from the king that his boys are okay. “I need some guarantee,” Jesse says, “that my boys will be secure.”

I believe David presented Goliath’s head to his father as just such a token, a representation of YHWH’s provision and security and blessing. The text makes clear that what little provision Saul can provide is quite laughable. David refuses his armor and sword in favor of the provision of YHWH. Jesse’s plea is understandable. How many of us have asked for the same degree of security, some sort of ironclad guarantee, when it comes to our own children? And yet, we are consistently reminded that such guarantees simply don’t exist. That sort of provision isn’t offered to us.

Only David emerges here as one who understands the source of true security. Anointed in the mighty Spirit of YHWH (16:13), David is willing to enter the fray, to risk much, understanding that the crucible of conflict was the proving ground of provision. David steps fully into the moment armed only with his faith. The irony of it all is that a son of Jesse must risk it all in order to secure the safety of Jesse’s oldest sons.

The head of the giant represented a token for David’s father, Jesse, the man who cared deeply for each of his boys, especially the three on the front lines of the battle.

But the head of Goliath also represented a token from the Father, the God in heaven who called David and anointed him with the Spirit to lead Israel. This is the great lesson we learn from David.

The token for the father was a token from the Father.

I think that’s why David took Goliath’s head. I think he took it home to Jesse and said, “Your sons are safe, father.” This was the work not of the administration, but of YHWH, the One who was faithfully present as David ran to the battle line to meet Goliath (17:48). And for years afterward, Goliath’s head remained a token of YHWH’s provision, both for David and for Israel.

Interestingly, the Hebrew root word here is imported into the NT to describe another “token” from the Father, the same Spirit that empowered David so many centuries ago:

Having believed, you were marked in him with a seal, the promised Holy Spirit, who is a deposit guaranteeing our inheritance until the redemption of those who are God’s possession – to the praise of his glory. — Eph. 1:13-14

The Spirit is a token from the Father, a deposit guaranteeing his ownership, his seal of provision and security. Anointed with the Spirit, we — like David — can live in faith rather than in fear. We can walk in bold trust, confident in the promises of YHWH.

And we can look to this token and know that we are safe.

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God’s Own Heart: Anointed

Saul’s disobedience prompts YHWH to reject him as Israel’s king. Despite the fact that he “looks the part,” Saul’s ineptitude as Israel’s spiritual, political, and military leader is demonstrated through a series of tactical blunders and moral failures. Tasked with anointing Israel’s next king, the prophet Samuel travels to the home of Jesse in Bethlehem. One of Jesse’s sons is the Anointed of God.

You can imagine the buzz in Bethlehem at the news of this visitation. Samuel, a prophet in the manner of Moses, coming to make sacrifice! But such news also prompted fear. What have we done that requires such attention from YHWH’s servant? The text says The elders of hte city came to meet him trembling and said, “Do you come peaceably? (1 Sam. 16:4)” Saul’s great failure was defying the order of YHWH to exterminate Agag, king of the Amalekties. After censuring the king for his disobedience, Samuel hacked Agag to pieces before the LORD in Gilgal (1 Sam. 15:33). Easy to see why the elders of Bethlehem were nervous.

No doubt the sacrifice was a major event in Bethlehem. During the ceremony, seven of Jesse’s sons are presented and with each strapping young boy, Samuel awaits confirmation from YHWH. Yet YHWH selects according to His own criteria. Do not look on his appearance or on the height of his stature, because I have rejected him. For the LORD sees not as man sees; man looks on the outward appearance, but the LORD looks on the heart (1 Sam. 16:7). After seven sons of Jesse are presented and summarily rejected, Samuel asks, Are all of your sons here? And he said, “There remains the youngest, but behold, he is keeping the sheep,” (1 Sam. 16:11).

As the youngest son, David is nothing more than an afterthought in this episode. In fact, he’s not even present as the scene unfolds. This sacrificial feast is a BIG DEAL, the most significant thing to happen in Bethlehem in years…and David isn’t even invited to the party. The runt of the clan, he is relegated to watching the herd. David represents the marginalized, the uncredentialed, those without claim or clout. While everyone else gets dressed up for the ball, David is busy tending to his father’s flocks, a task that uniquely qualifies him to rule in the eyes of YHWH.

In the story of his anointing, David plays a passive role. In fact, he is not named until AFTER his anointing, at the end of the narrative. His selection at the feast confounds the social norms of the day. In the ancient world, eldest sons were favored; younger sons overlooked. But if we’ve been paying attention, the God of Israel has a surprisingly robust track record when it comes to disregarding such practices. Abel to Cain; Isaac to Ishmael; Jacob to Esau; Joseph to Rueben; Moses to Aaron…it seems YHWH prefers to use disenfranchised members of society to do his most significant work.

At his anointing, the Spirit of the LORD rushed upon David from that day forward (1 Sam. 16:13). The anointing is more than mere symbolism. In David’s life, the anointing with oil merely announced an even greater anointing, an outpouring of the Spirit of God that powerfully animates David. In the episodes that follow, David moves with the grace and fluidity of one propelled and prompted by the power of God’s own Spirit.

And David’s anointing provides a compelling type, a foreshadowing of the Anointed One from God who would be empowered with the same Spirit, filled with grace and truth.

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God’s Own Heart: Jesse

I’ve been studying the life of David lately and I’ve decided to do a series about him entitled, “God’s Own Heart.”

For the past few years, I’ve been struck by something as I read the Bible: I have a hard time finding very many examples of good fathers in the Bible. Sure, there’s the BIG ONE, the Father in Heaven. But outside of Him, who comes to mind? Abraham? I’m pretty sure Ishmael wouldn’t give his dear ol’ Dad very high marks. And after Gen. 22, Isaac might not either. Speaking of Isaac, he’s clearly disqualified for playing favorites with his boys. Ditto Jacob. Although a great leader, the Bible portrays Moses as a neglectful father. Samuel’s sons accepted bribes and perverted justice. And let’s don’t even talk about that weird story with Noah and his boys.

In short, there aren’t a lot of examples of good fathers in the Bible. At least not as many as you’d like.

But my study of David leads me to one example, one I’d never considered simply because there’s so little actually written about him. But I’m willing to put him up against any other non-divine father in the entire Bible.

Jesse, the father of David, is the best Dad in the Bible.

My evidence? Acts 13:22. During Paul’s speech in Antioch, he speaks of David as a man after God’s own heart. Actually, Paul quotes the words of God, “I have found in David the son of Jesse a man after my heart, who will do all my will.” Strong words for David, but did you notice that Jesse gets a shout out, too? This is why I contend that Jesse might be the best Dad in the Bible. He raised a son whose heart beat in rhythm with the Father’s. And if you ask me, this is the task of parenting.

They say a child’s earliest conception of God is shaped by their relationship with their earthly father. When we read of the relationship David enjoys with the Father in heaven, we can only imagine the relationship he and Jesse shared. We can only imagine the long hours David spent watching as Jesse tenderly cared for the flock. We can imagine Jesse teaching young David the myriad uses for both rod and staff. We can picture the two of them walking through green pastures and beside still waters, mindful of the best places for the sheep to be rested and restored. You can imagine Jesse holding court on the selection of smooth stones and the perfect trajectory of a well-timed sling shot. Most of all, we can see David learning to pray at his father’s table, the words of blessing being spoken by the father and written across the heart of the son. In so many ways, David’s heart must have been shaped by his interaction with Jesse.

If you’re familiar with David’s story, you realize he was far from perfect. Adultery, murder, deception, lust, being too soft on his own children…David’s faults are plenty and the biblical account does not gloss over them. But isn’t it interesting that none of these shortcomings become the primary way David is characterized, either in Scripture or in our collective consciousness. Instead, David is remembered as one whose heart was a reflection of the heart of God.

In the ancient world, the heart was considered the seat of decision and will. To speak of one’s “heart” was to speak of their way of life: their values, their worldview, and the overall direction of their lives. For David, his understanding of reality is shaped by the personal Shepherd who guides him through life’s darkest valleys. David sees what others cannot: a God whose armies shall not be defied and whose name shall not be profaned. It is precisely because David’s heart beats for God that he can say of Goliath, “Let no man’s heart fail because of him. Your servant will go and fight with this Philistine,” (1 Sam. 17:32). It is David’s heart that leaps off of the page and arrests our imagination, inspiring us to live courageously with hearts full of faith, trusting in the provision of the Shepherding God above.

And quietly, off to the side, in the shadows where no one is looking, Jesse smiles.

Jesse smiles because he knows that all of his careful instruction, his persistent prayerfulness, and his quiet life of faithfulness in a dusty town called Bethlehem 3,000 years ago formed his son’s heart in ultimate and eternal ways. His son’s heart beats in rhythm with the Father’s heart.

As much as some parents don’t want to believe it, our job is NOT to raise perfect children. Your kids will screw up. A lot. Probably at least as much as you did / do. But thankfully, that’s not the barometer of good parenting, at least not in my book. Instead, we look to the heart, the direction of our children’s lives. And we recognize that, like Jesse, our task is to direct our children’s hearts toward God, to prompt their heart to beat in rhythm with the Father’s heart.

I hope to smile Jesse’s smile someday.

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