It should be clear to most Bible students that God often goes in a direction that others don't see coming, and frankly couldn't even imagine. God is able to do great things with these small players, advancing the kingdom and its values of love, new life, peace, justice, and compassion into the sinful world that has no time, no interest, and no serious commitment to such values.
The first lesson in 1 Samuel 16 goes to the time of seeking a successor king for the God-rejected King Saul. Here we find God setting up a deceit that will allow intimidated Samuel to venture to the no-where burg of Bethlehem to visit Jesse and his sons. Amid a beauty pageant-like lineup of the seven mature sons, Samuel is stunned to find that these strong, rugged, handsome specimens are all NOT the one God wants. Eventually, the boy is remembered, the one out shepherding, David, and he is summoned and chosen. Only God would have sought out the one never considered to be the leader of his mission with God's people.
The second lesson in Mark 4 considers two parables about the kingdom and seeds. The first one is really like a Jack and the Beanstalk kind of tale, about a seed and the miraculous, unaided and amazing growth of a harvest-ready plant (despite the poor rendering of this parable by the NIV). No one could understand how this plant came about, but that's a reflection of how the kingdom works its insurgent operations.
The other parable of the mustard seed doesn't seem to work well with the preceding parable. The tiny mustard seed growing into the 'greatest of shrubs' seems rather reserved given the wild exaggeration of the preceding parable. Yet if we turn to Luke 13, we find the same mustard seed parable with the result being a full tree, something that would seem preposterous given the size of the mustard seed and that a big mustard plant is little taller than an average human. Preposterous indeed, and a perfect fit for the Mark context!
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