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Tuesday, August 4, 2015

Today’s Reading | 1 Samuel 16:1–13

The Lord said to Samuel, “How long will you grieve over Saul? I have rejected him from being king over Israel. Fill your horn with oil and set out; I will send you to Jesse the Bethlehemite, for I have provided for myself a king among his sons.” Samuel said, “How can I go? If Saul hears of it, he will kill me.” And the Lord said, “Take a heifer with you, and say, ‘I have come to sacrifice to the Lord.’ Invite Jesse to the sacrifice, and I will show you what you shall do; and you shall anoint for me the one whom I name to you.” Samuel did what the Lord commanded, and came to Bethlehem. The elders of the city came to meet him trembling, and said, “Do you come peaceably?” He said, “Peaceably; I have come to sacrifice to the Lord; sanctify yourselves and come with me to the sacrifice.” And he sanctified Jesse and his sons and invited them to the sacrifice.

When they came, he looked on Eliab and thought, “Surely the Lord’s anointed is now before the Lord.” But the Lord said to Samuel, “Do not look on his appearance or on the height of his stature, because I have rejected him; for the Lord does not see as mortals see; they look on the outward appearance, but the Lord looks on the heart.” Then Jesse called Abinadab, and made him pass before Samuel. He said, “Neither has the Lord chosen this one.” Then Jesse made Shammah pass by. And he said, “Neither has the Lord chosen this one.” Jesse made seven of his sons pass before Samuel, and Samuel said to Jesse, “The Lord has not chosen any of these.” Samuel said to Jesse, “Are all your sons here?” And he said, “There remains yet the youngest, but he is keeping the sheep.” And Samuel said to Jesse, “Send and bring him; for we will not sit down until he comes here.” He sent and brought him in. Now he was ruddy, and had beautiful eyes, and was handsome. The Lord said, “Rise and anoint him; for this is the one.” Then Samuel took the horn of oil, and anointed him in the presence of his brothers; and the spirit of the Lord came mightily upon David from that day forward. Samuel then set out and went to Ramah. (NRSV)

Although certainly not as well known as the story of David and Goliath, this story of David’s anointing by the prophet Samuel holds a similar “against-all-odds” theme. As the youngest of Jesse’s eight children, David should not have been in line to inherit anything—but, as the Lord pointedly tells Samuel, the true measure of a person is not their external standing or appearance, but rather that of their heart.

It has always amused me that David is still described by the author of 1 Samuel as “having beautiful eyes” and that he “was handsome,” even though God had just finished saying that external appearance does not matter. We human beings can’t help ourselves, it seems, on seeing success or failure in another’s standing or appearance—and so we must ask for God’s help in going beyond our common markers of wealth, status, and looks to determine a person’s true character. But this story doesn’t just challenge us to adjust our understanding of others; it challenges us to adjust our understanding of ourselves.

“For the Lord does not see as mortals see; they look on outward appearance, but the Lord looks on the heart.” If we are more than our external standing and appearance, what can we do to cultivate our inner selves with the same amount of care (or perhaps more!) than we often provide to our external selves?

Dear Lord, help me to see myself and others as you truly see me: a beloved child of God called to live a life of deep purpose and meaning, a life overflowing with your love and grace. Amen.

Written by Matt Helms, Associate Pastor for Children and Family Ministry

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