This week we’re working through 1 Samuel 16:1-13. It is where we meet the third major actor in our story, David, the man who would be the greatest king in Israel’s history. It is a story all about how God sees beyond what we can.
If you’re interested, why not check out yesterday’s post on how God Sees What Is Ahead?
God Sees What Is Inside
Part of our problem is that we get too focussed upon how things appear; we judge by what we see with our eyes.
Samuel makes that mistake here. He knows that the new king is going to come from the family of Jesse but he doesn’t know who it will be. So he does what any sensible person would – he organises a kind of beauty parade of the sons of Jesse.
Along comes Eliab, the eldest, who is handsome and tall – real king material. Samuel sees him and says to himself, ‘yes, this is surely the man.’ He looks the part and so Samuel assumes that he must be the one.
This is a perennial problem, even if we wish it was not. Most obviously it happens when we judge each other by our physical appearance.
In 2013 Forbes published a compilation of studies showing how people’s looks affect their employment prospects. For example:
A 2004 study by Timothy Judge at the University of Florida found that for every inch of height, a tall worker can expect to earn an extra $789 per year. That means two equally skilled coworkers would have a pay differential of nearly $5,000 per year, simply because of a 6-inch height differential, according to the study.
In turn this means we obsess about how we look and present ourselves to the world. We spend a fortune in money, and time and worry obsessing about how we present ourselves to the world around us. We become focussed on the outside whether that is in clothes, cars, homes, makeup, or our CV.
This can even take in the religious deeds we do – piling up prayers or piety for the benefit of being seen by others and held in high esteem.
Yet God turns this assumption on its head. God does not ‘look at the things people look at. People look at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.’
What matters to God is not our height, weight, hair colour, suit price, ostentatious giving or prayers, carefully curated Facebook feed, immaculate CV or any of the other ways we try to portray ourselves to other people. Those things may impress or even repel other people but not God.
God looks deeper.
God looks at the heart, at our character, at what we’re like when no-one’s looking and we can’t take a selfy. This is where our energies and focus should be. This is what God is looking for in a new king: not the height to impress other warriors but a humility and kindness, generosity and love that he can use.
As if to make his point God chooses David, the youngest of the family. He has no natural claim to be the most prominent or rule his brothers. Far from it. Yet he is God’s choice.
When he comes we are told that he is attractive yet in a different way to his brothers. He is not the tallest but his face seems to shine – he is radiant and pleasing to look at. David is attractive not because he is tall and strong and can impose himself on other people but because who he is inside shines out to others.
He is God’s man, after God’s heart and it shows. It will show in us, too, if we are committed to becoming more and more like Jesus. Other people will be attracted to someone who is full of God’s Spirit – who is full of grace.
True holiness is more attractive than a hundred well painted faces, sculpted abs or well drafted Facebook posts.
Come back tomorrow to reflect on how God Sees What Is Hidden
Franke, John R., Joshua, Judges, Ruth, 1-2 Samuel, Ancient Christian Commentary on Scripture. Old Testament, 3 (Downers Grove, Ill.: Inter-Varsity P., 2001)
Leithart, Peter J., A Son to Me: An Exposition of 1 & 2 Samuel (Moscow, ID: Canon Press, 2003)
Murphy, Francesca Aran, 1 Samuel (Grand Rapids, MI: Brazos, 2010)
Tsumura, David Toshio, The First Book of Samuel (Grand Rapids, Mich.: Eerdmans, 2007)
 Kiisel, Ty, ‘You Are Judged by Your Appearance’, Forbes (March 2013) < https://www.forbes.com/sites/tykiisel/2013/03/20/you-are-judged-by-your-appearance/#308155fb6d50 > [accessed 25 August 2017]
 1 Samuel 16:7.