God in Art: Last Words

Sunday’s sermon at Holston View United Methodist Church will be “Last Words,” based on 2 Samuel 23:1-7. We also will be acknowledging Thanksgiving, and yes, the two concepts will tie together.

The founder of Methodism, John Wesley, is remembered in part for his last words, “The best of all is, God is with us.” He actually said the phrase twice before dying. The second time, we are told, he raised his hand and waved it in triumph. Below is a book engraving of his passing, artist unknown. (If you can help me find a proper attribution, please pass it along.)

Lord, may we always sense that you are with us. Amen.

To Be Seen as God Sees

1 Samuel 16:6-7 (NRSV)

When they came, he looked on Eliab and thought, “Surely the Lord’s anointed is now before the Lord.” But the Lord said to Samuel, “Do not look on his appearance or on the height of his stature, because I have rejected him; for the Lord does not see as mortals see; they look on the outward appearance, but the Lord looks on the heart.”


By Chuck Griffin

At this point in 1 Samuel, God had rejected Saul as king, sending the Prophet Samuel in search of a new leader for the chosen people. Samuel arrived in the right place, but his eyes were drawn to the wrong person.

Israel was led by a man who looked “kingly” but could not follow God in a sustained way despite God’s Spirit resting on him. A little later, God would tell Samuel that David was Saul’s successor, and the prophet would anoint David to fulfill the role as a man after God’s own heart.

It’s clear from David’s physical description that the people would find him physically attractive, but that was not his qualifying characteristic, the aspect of his being that would make him the greatest earthly king of Israel.

We always should remember that David certainly was not perfect. What seems to matter is that he was very much inclined toward seeking and following God’s will, an Old Testament example of the pursuit of holiness.

We are reminded that if we are to act righteously, we first have to desire that God’s will be accomplished. Developing such a desire can be a complicated step in our life-long walk with God.

After all, we have to overcome the tendency to look out for ourselves and pursue what we want, which so often has to do with how we hope to appear to other people rather than to the God who looks within us.

My mind goes to Jesus’ words in Matthew 7:7: “Ask, and it will be given you; search, and you will find; knock, and the door will be opened for you.” Implicit in this statement is that our asking, searching and knocking should be driven by a holy desire to see God’s will fulfilled in every aspect of our lives.

Lord, bring our hearts fully into alignment with yours, so our desires match your desires. Amen.

What We Desire

By Chuck Griffin
LifeTalk Editor

Psalm 63:1-8

A psalm of David, regarding a time 
when David was in the wilderness of Judah.

O God, you are my God;
    I earnestly search for you.
My soul thirsts for you;
    my whole body longs for you
in this parched and weary land
    where there is no water.
I have seen you in your sanctuary
    and gazed upon your power and glory.
Your unfailing love is better than life itself;
    how I praise you!
I will praise you as long as I live,
    lifting up my hands to you in prayer.
You satisfy me more than the richest feast.
    I will praise you with songs of joy.

I lie awake thinking of you,
    meditating on you through the night.
Because you are my helper,
    I sing for joy in the shadow of your wings.
I cling to you;
    your strong right hand holds me securely.

The word “desire” may evoke a powerful feeling in you, one likely tied to some important event in your life.

Maybe someone close to you had a strong desire for alcohol, ruining relationships. Or maybe it’s a positive association, your lifelong desire for someone else making you a better person.

It is easy to see that desire is neither good nor bad in and of itself. What matters is what we desire.

The psalmist here demonstrates a deep desire for God. From the psalm’s introductory heading, we know it is by or about David, the valiant shepherd and eventual king of Israel.

Despite the passion for God expressed here, we also know David had moments where he could forget about God and make terrible decisions, his baser desires overwhelming what should have been, on a rational level, easy choices.

David has been famous for thousands of years, but he’s also much like us, isn’t he? Where we choose to aim our desire can turn our lives in one direction or another very quickly. 

There is another danger where desire is concerned, too. If we suffer from a general lack of desire, we may find ourselves twirling aimlessly, like a sailboat with no wind.

It is good to be passionate in holy ways. Many Christians remember that initial passion for God and God’s word after coming to a belief in Jesus Christ. If desire has faded, it can be restored by a deliberate effort to spend time with God in his word and in prayer.

Desire propels us. We just need to be sure we are moving toward God.

Lord, where our desire is wrongly aimed, pull us back toward you, and where the flame for you has died down, fan it to new heights. Amen.