Reflectionary

Not as Mortals See

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.”
1 Samuel 16:6-7

Fathers and mothers make these judgments all the time: how to respond when a child is having trouble, whether to praise an accomplishment or accept it as a matter of course, when to be tough and when to be tender in order to do what is best for the particular child.

One of the reasons we like to think of God as a parent, and for many of us particularly as a father, is because we hope for the best aspects of a parent to be present in God. We hope that God will be the parent whose choices around judgment and caring and mercy will always be on the mark.

Today’s story tells us, however, that our human expectations of God are often *way* off the mark. Even Samuel, that prophet so great and important that not one, but two, books of the Bible are named after him, doesn’t comprehend what God is looking for in a new king. He follows the instructions to go to Jesse’s home and anoint one of his sons as the new king.

Now, anointing a person to be king was the same thing as crowning that person, so this secret anointing was a kind of covert coronation. By anointing one of Jesse’s sons, Samuel was making that young man the king over Israel in fact, if not in function.

Apparently, Jesse had a good-looking array of sons. Samuel began with the oldest, and he responded to the attractive young man by thinking:
“Surely the Lord’s anointed is now before the LORD.”

But God intervened and said, “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.”

God sees our hearts and has plans for us that may not match our exteriors.

Wow.

Let’s stop a minute and think about that!

God sees our hearts and has plans for us that may not match our exteriors.

The chances are good that each of us listened to the remarks and advice of the people around us when we thought about what to do with our lives. We may have fallen right into line with what was expected by our family, or we may have reacted against it. But I do believe God supplies each of us with a sense of calling, something that we feel drawn toward doing. The trouble is sorting that out from the things the world makes attractive to us.

It would be nice to have the message be as clear as it was for David when a prophet arrived, chose him from among all his brothers, and then anointed him.

David was the youngest, and he had been sent out to the fields to watch the flocks. Shepherding was a vigorous job, but not necessarily the task you would give to the cleverest young man in the family. We hear that David was good-looking. We know from later stories that he loved music and wrote poetry. We’ll hear more next week about his heroic acts at a relatively young age, but I think it’s safe to say that seeing him picked out to be king was probably a surprise to his family, just as it was to Samuel.

We may not realize it when our moment comes, when the words we say might be an anointing for someone who needs to recognize God’s calling. We may think we surely know what would be best or who would be most effective in a certain role. Before we speak too quickly, we ought to take a little moment to pause and listen for what God might be wanting us to say.

God does not see as mortals see. God may be proud of us when we least expect it, tender with us when we least deserve it, choosing us when no one on earth thinks we will be the one for the job. David was the youngest son, but he became the king. However we think of ourselves, we must always remember that God’s vision for our lives is probably different from the expectations of the world. God sees our hearts and has plans for us that may not match our exteriors. Thanks be to God for that!

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