The books of 1 & 2 Samuel was meant to be told as one narrative, but was broken into two because of ancient scroll length. It’s some of the greatest storytelling in the Bible and makes for an incredible, impactful narrative when you weave together David’s Psalms into the story. This week, we’ll look at 1 Samuel as a standalone piece. As you prepare to read about some of the big ideas from 1 Samuel, take some time to read 1 Samuel and watch the Bible Project’s video outlining the framework of 1 Samuel (https://thebibleproject.com/explore/1-samuel/) as we dive into this week’s “Baseball Guy’s Bible Guide.”
Due up in the Bottom of the Ninth:
- God’s Not a Good-Luck Charm
- Needing a King
- Goliath Measureables, David Heart
God’s Not a Good-Luck Charm
The baseball bat cross pictured here is increasingly cool and common in the baseball world. As jewelry goes, It’s hard to argue with the design and what it represents. But 1 Samuel 16:7 teaches us an important lesson: “The Lord does not look at the things people look at. People look at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.”
I wore a cross around my neck my junior year of college. I didn’t know Jesus at the time. I was raised in a Lutheran church and, for a short time in college, attended an Episcopal church. God’s existence was never really a question for me but I was searching late in my college life. So, when you’re searching and you’re a baseball player, you put a cross on your neck.
What I didn’t understand at the time was that I was searching a good luck charm more than I was searching a relationship with the living God of the entire universe. As that cross hung around my neck, I went through a horrendous slump. It was like the one Robin Ventura experienced when he got to the big leagues. There was no chance I was getting a hit. It was brutal. Late in the year I popped a couple of doubles in the regional tournament, including one in the final game of the season that year when we were just one game away from the NAIA World Series.
But something funny happened during that last double. My chain broke and the cross was lost. I never found it again. I didn’t find Jesus and recognize Him for who He is until I was 27 years old when my heart was radically changed. For that brief season in college, I had only desired a good luck charm, not a relationship.
1 Samuel 4-6 tells us an interesting story that is similar to all of us using God and the symbol of the cross as a good luck charm. The Philistines rise to power and Israel gets proud. They trot out the Ark of the Covenant, their version of a cross, as a magic trophy that will automatically grant them victory. It doesn’t. The Philistines steal the Ark. Then they try to use it because they’ve seen its power. Plagues ensue on their people and they return the ark to the Israelites. Both the Israelites and Philistines suffer because of how they were trying to use God and the Ark.
God is not Israel’s trophy and He is certainly not our good luck charm. God will oppose pride, even among His own people, and we all must remain humble and obedient. In no way am I saying that you should throw your baseball bat cross away. Let’s just recognize what it represents - our humble, loving relationship with the Father through His Son, Jesus Christ.
Needing a King
Did you know that at least one man served as a player-manager in every major league season since “Honest” John Clapp’s debut in 1872 through 1955? People often ask why baseball managers and coaches wear the same uniform as the players and this is the simple answer. There was a time when owners would use the dual role as a cost-cutting opportunity. There is a history here that is important to understand and, before the increased focus on analytics, has been considered in this century as well by the Cincinnati Reds with Barry Larkin and the Chicago White Sox with Paul Konerko. Ultimately, there came a point in time where a baseball team needed someone to make leadership decisions and bear certain decisions to manage the team.
For whatever reason, human beings value and recognize a need for leadership in some form. It’s true in baseball and it was true for the Israelites. In 1 Samuel 8, we see this tension played out as Israel demands a king. Though it’s clear that God and Samuel were incredibly reluctant to provide them with a king, God raises up kings to rule the Israelites.
The kind of leader becomes very important. We’ve seen all different kinds of leadership on the baseball field and see two kinds of leaders in 1 Samuel in Saul and David. Both men provide us with something of a character study so we have the opportunity to see ourselves as leaders. Saul forces us to reflect on our dark side as a leader. He’s tall and good-looking but possesses a dark side of dishonesty, pride, and is incapable of admitting his mistakes. He disobeys God’s commands and ultimately descends into madness. David, on the other hand, is the least likely candidate to be king. He’s an example of patience and trust in God. David shows hope in spite of the human evil all around him. David provides us with a great example of the kind of human king we need, but he points us to our need for the Messianic King we all truly desire.
Goliath Measureables, David Heart
The battle of David and Goliath has been a topic of conversation since it occurred. It still sparks interesting dialogue and is such a popular idea that Malcolm Gladwell and Louis Giglio recently wrote excellent books on the underlying meanings of the battle. To add to that discussion, we can evaluate players based on the measureables and heart of both characters.
David Measureables, Goliath Heart - This player is difficult. They’re undersized and don’t bring the ability needed to succeed consistently on the field. At the same time, those who really value their inordinate arrogance will play them believing that they’ll succeed because of their misplaced confidence. This isn’t a recipe for long-term success, but there will be flashes.
Goliath Measureables, Goliath Heart - While also difficult, this player can have a lot of success on the field because of their natural ability. Their heart makes them difficult to endure because of their constant shows of pride, but no one can deny their ability. Because they are so talented, few people even attempt to address their heart.
David Measureables, David Heart - These players are often the coach, manager, or organizational favorites. They’re small but they get it done. They tend to be the players that smaller players across the country point to as an example for their hopes in the game. However, few can approach their mix of humility, appropriate confidence, and grind.
Goliath Measureables, David Heart - These are the unicorns. People with all of the ability in the world and a humble heart. They can perform but do so with a radical trust and humility. In terms of leadership, these guys are the example everyone wants to follow.
The cool part of this matrix of measureables and heart of Goliath and David is that we can apply the same idea to leadership. Through time and experience, we can all work to develop something that would resemble Goliath measureables and David’s heart.