Comets, Kings, and Certainty, Pt. 4

Samuel left immediately for Ramah, and Saul went home to (Giv’a) Gibeah. Samuel had nothing to do with Saul from then on, though he grieved long and deeply over him.

But God regretted making Saul king over Israel.

God addressed Samuel: “So, how long are you going to mope over Saul? You know I’ve rejected him as king over Israel. Fill your flask with anointing oil and get going. I’m sending you to Jesse of Bethlehem. I’ve spotted the very king I want among his sons.”

“I can’t do that,” said Samuel. “Saul will hear about it and kill me.”

God said, “Take a heifer with you and tell them, you’ve come to lead them in worship with the heifer as a sacrifice. Make sure Jesse gets invited, and I’ll let you know what to do next. I’ll point out the one you are to anoint.”

Samuel did what God told him. When he arrived at Bethlehem, the town fathers greeted him apprehensively. “Is there something wrong?” they asked. “Nothing’s wrong,” said Samuel. “I’ve come to sacrifice this heifer and lead you in the worship of God. Prepare yourselves, be consecrated, and join me in worship.” He made sure Jesse and his sons were also consecrated and called to worship. When they arrived, Samuel took one look at Eliab and thought,“Surely this is the one the God will anoint.” But God told Samuel, “Looks aren’t everything. Don’t be impressed with his looks and stature. I’ve already eliminated him. God does not see as humans see. You look on the outward appearance, but the I look into the heart.” Jesse then called up Abinadab and presented him to Samuel. Samuel said, “This man isn’t God’s choice either.” Next Jesse presented Shammah. Samuel said, “No, this man isn’t either.” Jesse presented his seven sons to Samuel. Samuel was blunt with Jesse, “God hasn’t chosen any of these.”Samuel then asked Jesse, “Are all your sons here?” Jesse said, “All but the youngest. He’s off keeping the sheep.” “Send for him and bring him here. We will not sit down until he arrives,” said Samuel. Jesse sent for the youngest son, David, and he walked in front of Samuel. He was the very picture of health—bright-eyed and handsome. God said, “Rise and anoint him! This is the one!” Samuel took his flask of oil and anointed him, with his brothers standing around watching. The Spirit of God entered David like a rush of wind—vitally empowering him for the rest of his life. Samuel left and went home to Ramah.

1 Samuel 15:34 — 16:13

1 Samuel 15:34-16:13



In a 1999 study, social psychologists David Dunning and Justin Kruger studied and documented what is now referred to as the Dunning-Kruger effect. The Dunning-Kruger effect is a form of cognitive bias—a way our thinking misleads us in an attempt to simplify information or make sense of things. It’s what happens in our brains when we fail to recognize our limits. Rather than face and acknowledge our lack of ability in a given area or on a certain topic, we convince ourselves that we are people of high ability, when, in fact, we are not. Imagine a scenario where we are confronted with an overwhelming amount of information—where we are in over our heads—uncertain, ill-equipped to make decisions, maybe even afraid. Instead of seeing ourselves as beginners with a limitless capacity to learn, we convince ourselves we are experts. Rather than resting into not-knowing, we determine that we actually do know. That is the Dunning-Kruger effect. The original title of the Dunning-Kruger study was: “Unskilled and Unaware of It”—an epic title in and of itself. But it’s the subtitle that I think really sticks the landing. The subtitle of their study was “How Difficulties in Recognizing One’s Own Incompetence Lead to Inflated Self-Assessments.” Friends these titles would work in the Bible. I submit to you:

  • The Book of Genesis: How Difficulties in Recognizing One’s Own Incompetence Lead to Inflated Self-Assessments

or

  • The Book of Samuel: Unskilled and Unaware of it

The truth is, these titles, just like the stories of Genesis, Exodus, and Samuel, point to something universal—something with which we all struggle. I do these things. I resist recognizing my own incompetence. I inflate my self-assessment—choosing the illusions of certainty, expertise, and control. I am often unskilled and unaware of it. Dunning and Kruger could have saved some time by just studying me. When they were doing their study, I was 25 years old. I was probably at my peak of being an expert. Stacy and I hadn’t even had kids yet. I had no idea how clueless I was—but I had certainty. I could have picked a king or told you exactly what a comet meant without any hesitation. That, at least in part, is the power of these stories. They’re character studies—offered to any and all readers and listeners—standing invitations to truly see and understand ourselves. Eve, Adam, Moses, Saul, Samuel, David, the Israelites—they’re not simple historical details. They’re us. They’re mirrors into which you and I are invited to look and see ourselves. And if we’ll take the time to truly see as their reflections pass before us, patterns will emerge. Patterns that warn us how difficult and painful it is for experts to learn and how much damage we do to ourselves and others in the process Patterns that remind us that only not-knowing can lead to discovery; that only humility and curiosity yield transformation. Patterns that point us away from growth-stunting certainty and toward a journey of development that can launch only in the heart and mind of a beginner. Friends, we all hunger for significance—for signs that our existence is of special meaning to the universe. From the garden to the Exodus, from the kings of Israel to the Prince of Peace, our story repeatedly testifies to the tragic power we possess to enslave ourselves in certainty. Self-inflated expertise and the illusion of control prevent us from seeing what truly passes before us. We don’t have to explain every comet—every "disa-star" in our lives. We don’t have to recognize and anoint kings we never actually needed. We don’t have to deceive ourselves and others into believing we are certain. We can rest in not-knowing—in humility—in being a beginner. We can rest, because these stories—the same universal stories that confront the very real limitations of our sight—also declare there is One who does not see as we see.

  • One who walked out of the garden with us.

  • One who delivers us from slavery, goes before us in the wilderness, and invite us into Promised Land because our lives mean something.

  • One who will always stand and wait—refusing to sit down—until even the most marginalized, least likely of candidates is truly seen, accepted, and anointed.

  • One who knows every star in our skies and every hair on our head.

  • One who loves us, is for us, and is with us, all of us—even when we can’t see it.

  • One who declares with the very cosmos and every comet it contains that you are significant.

We hunger for something we already have—something we’ve always had.


You are significant. Your existence means something. You are loved.


If you must be certain, be certain of that.


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