The text for this week is the story of Samuel anointing David as King. The point of this story, aside from the obvious, of course, lies in the key sentence: “God doesn’t look at things like humans do. Humans see only what is visible to the eyes, but the Lord sees into the heart.”
As the story goes, when Samuel went to anoint the next king, whom he knew was one of the sons of Jesse, Jesse brought out his first son.
“No, that’s not the one,” Samuel said.
Then Jesse brought out one after another of his sons. Each one looked fit and ready to rule. “This one?” he asked each time.
“No,” Samuel responded each time.
Jesse made no further move. It seemed he might be out of sons.
Then Samuel asked him, “Is there anyone else?”
“Well,” Jesse said, likely hesitating a bit, “there’s the youngest, but he’s out keeping the sheep.” He was an unlikely choice. Jesse hadn’t even thought to bring him before the prophet.
“Send for him,” Samuel instructed.
Then, when Jesse brought forth his youngest son, David, Samuel nodded. “The Lord said this is the one.”
So the least likely of all Jesse’s sons ended up actually being the one the Lord chose. This is a pattern we see over and over again throughout the Bible. God makes such unlikely choices! God chooses unlikely people and uses them in surprising ways.
While we tend to make judgements based on outward appearances, there’s much more to people that we cannot — or sometimes will not — see. But, “God doesn’t look at things like humans do. Humans see only what is visible to the eyes, but the Lord sees into the heart.” We have to constantly remind ourselves, therefore, that God sees each of us — all people — in different, deeper ways. When Jesus saw people in that same way, there were no apparent reasons. He just knew there was more to them that was visible to the human eye.
Throughout scripture we see God using the least likely. They’re not the ones in the center of power. They’re not the obvious choices. Jesus’ disciples, for example, were a very mixed group — one of those groups of people you’d never imagine would even relate to one another, much less change the world. Then, there’s Paul, who was a persecutor of the church. Unlikely people are chosen throughout scripture for heroic deeds and important roles in the ongoing biblical drama. Think of Abraham and Sarah, Moses and Miriam, the Judges, and the prophets.
So, what about us? Sometimes we may even think of ourselves as a person unlikely to make any difference in the life of others or in our community. Or we may judge others based on what we see or know or think they’re capable of, and then we’re surprised to find out what they are able to do.
I remember a story on the news about this time last year of a horrific crash in which a van holding a young family — both parents and a baby — was hit by another vehicle going an estimated 50 or 60 miles per hour. While they were all injured, they all recovered due to the quick and heroic actions of someone who witnessed the crash and pulled first the baby, who he said was crying and hanging from his dislodged car seat, and then both of the parents from the mangled wreckage.
A real hero, right?
What if I told you that this man had just been released from prison three months prior to this incident, having served 17 years for manslaughter? What if I told you all this happened just minutes before his curfew because he was on a work release program, and if he was late he’d go back to prison? How about if I said that even after this incident the young tattooed man, his hand bandaged from cuts he received from the broken glass, really didn’t think of himself as a hero — and wanted no recognition? “I just reacted,” he told reporters, “I did what I thought was the right thing.”
If you saw this man walking down the street, or knew about his past, would you ever have imagined that you were looking at a hero who saved a young family including a six-month-old baby?
Have you ever judged someone prematurely only to find out there was more to them than you thought?
Have you ever looked at yourself and wondered what God could possibly use you for?
Have you ever judged yourself on the wrong criteria — and then found yourself in a situation where you did more than you ever thought you could — or would?
Here’s what Paul himself said about this: “The love of Christ controls us, because we have concluded this: one died for the sake of all; therefore, all died. He died for the sake of all so that those who are alive should live not for themselves but for the one who died for them and was raised. So then, from this point on we won’t recognize people by human standards. Even though we used to know Christ by human standards, that isn’t how we know him now. So then, if anyone is in Christ, that person is part of the new creation. The old things have gone away, and look, new things have arrived!” (2 Corinthians 5:14-17)
I look forward to delving into this more deeply this Sunday in the Sanctuary where we’ll consider the unlikely — in others and in ourselves — that God sees in our hearts.
Grace and Peace,
Dr. Tim Bruster
1 Samuel 15:34-16:13 (CEB)
Then Samuel went to Ramah, but Saul went up to his home in Gibeah. Samuel never saw Saul again before he died, but he grieved over Saul. However, the Lord regretted making Saul king over Israel.
Samuel anoints David
The Lord said to Samuel, “How long are you going to grieve over Saul? I have rejected him as king over Israel. Fill your horn with oil and get going. I’m sending you to Jesse of Bethlehem because I have found[a] my next king among his sons.”
“How can I do that?” Samuel asked. “When Saul hears of it he’ll kill me!”
“Take a heifer with you,” the Lord replied, “and say, ‘I have come to make a sacrifice to the Lord.’ Invite Jesse to the sacrifice, and I will make clear to you what you should do. You will anoint for me the person I point out to you.”
Samuel did what the Lord instructed. When he came to Bethlehem, the city elders came to meet him. They were shaking with fear. “Do you come in peace?” they asked.
“Yes,” Samuel answered. “I’ve come to make a sacrifice to the Lord. Now make yourselves holy, then come with me to the sacrifice.” Samuel made Jesse and his sons holy and invited them to the sacrifice as well.
When they arrived, Samuel looked at Eliab and thought, That must be the Lord’s anointed right in front.
But the Lord said to Samuel, “Have no regard for his appearance or stature, because I haven’t selected him. God[b] doesn’t look at things like humans do. Humans see only what is visible to the eyes, but the Lord sees into the heart.”
Next Jesse called for Abinadab, who presented himself to Samuel, but he said, “The Lord hasn’t chosen this one either.” So Jesse presented Shammah, but Samuel said, “No, the Lord hasn’t chosen this one.” Jesse presented seven of his sons to Samuel, but Samuel said to Jesse, “The Lord hasn’t picked any of these.” Then Samuel asked Jesse, “Is that all of your boys?”
“There is still the youngest one,” Jesse answered, “but he’s out keeping the sheep.”
“Send for him,” Samuel told Jesse, “because we can’t proceed until he gets here.”
So Jesse sent and brought him in. He was reddish brown, had beautiful eyes, and was good-looking. The Lord said, “That’s the one. Go anoint him.” So Samuel took the horn of oil and anointed him right there in front of his brothers. The Lord’s spirit came over David from that point forward.
Then Samuel left and went to Ramah.