Have you ever experienced a “So, have you heard…”?
This looks like someone showing an interest in getting to know you and/or your family. They invite you over to hang out and after thirty minutes of small talk they come out with the real reason they invited you over in the first place. “So, have you heard about the great things they’re doing with energy gels”, or “So, have you heard about how great the knives for so-and-so are?” or my favorite, “So, have you heard that you can own your own business just like me”. When this happens we are so disillusioned and disappointed because we were a “prospect in this person’s sales pipeline” the whole time, and not a burgeoning friend.
Motives matter. Someone’s motives are a far better indicator of a potential relationship than their actions. With this in mind, it shouldn’t surprise us that for God, our motives are far more important than our choices.
I Samuel 14 contrasts perfectly the choices and motives of two men: King Saul, and his son and general of his army Jonathan. This chapter starts with Jonathan and his armor bearer attacking head-on an army whose numbers were like the “sands of the sea”. After 20 or so soldier of the Philistine army were cut down, they begin to scatter. In that very moment God causes an earthquake that even more confuses the Philistine army. When Saul sees the Philistine’s inexplicably retreating even though his army is only 600 men and they aren’t even currently engaging the much larger army in battle he does what any of us would do. He calls for the Ephod (I Kings 14:18). Two notes are needed here. First, most Bible translations, even good ones translate this verse “ark” instead of “ephod”, but the oldest translation and historians of the day record him calling for the ephod. You are probably saying “What the heck is an ephod?” An ephod is the ceremonial outfit a priest would wear. What I love about this is Saul doesn’t call the priest by name, or even call for a priest in general. He calls for the outfit. He calls for everyone to see him next to a priest. When the priest takes too long getting into position Saul throws his hands into the air and like a petulant child yells “TOOOO LOOOOONNNGGGGG”. Okay, maybe not exactly like that, but you get the point. This is one of many examples of a man who had far more invested in appearing to seek after God, than actually seeking after God in his heart. Saul does a worse and worse job covering up his real heart until eventually he is trying to murder David and since God is silent towards him he eventually tries going to a witch.
When it comes to our motives I picture it like a picture drawn and gifted to their parent. The parent doesn’t critique the quality of the picture. Usually the parent sees talent where there isn’t any. My son drew me a picture of a tall stick man with spikey hair (me) and a short stick man with an afro (him). The tall stick man was looking down at the short stick man and they each had word bubbles that respectively said “I love you son” and “I love you too”. As a father I don’t love that picture because he is some sort of artiste, rather I love that picture because of what that picture means. Tim Keller says “We are more sinful and flawed in ourselves than we ever dared believe, yet at the very same time we are more loved and accepted in Jesus Christ than we ever dared hope”. We can’t earn God’s love because He’s too busy giving it to us unconditionally. All we can do is paint an ugly picture with love. Where the father says “I love you son/daughter” and the shorter stick figure says “I love you too”.