Samuel is given the responsibility of anointing the next king of Israel, and he will make the selection from among the sons of Jesse. He begins the ritual with the assumption that he will select from among the seven older sons. In each instance, this is not the outcome; the Lord speaks to Samuel and says, “This is not the chosen one.” Samuel asks if all of the sons are present. There is one, David, who is tending the sheep. The Lord speaks, “Anoint him; for this is the one.” Given the circumstances and traditional privileges, the power and blessing should have been conferred upon one of the older brothers. But God’s wisdom is clear: “The LORD does not see as mortals see; they look on the outward appearance; the LORD looks on the heart.”
In the kingdom of God, we often discover a reversal of our values. God’s strength is present in human weakness. God’s power is demonstrated in human vulnerability. God’s victory is won through the humiliation of a cross. Again and again in the history of Israel, in the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus, and in the witness of the apostles, God does the unexpected.
The church in western culture struggles with its alliance with power. We have known privilege and enjoyed access to status and influence. Over time, we have focused on outward appearances—our institutions, buildings, and properties. We have forgotten that, at best, these are outward and visible signs of an inward and spiritual reality. And we have often neglected the inner resources that are at the heart of God’s concern. In the anointing of David, we are reminded again that God’s ways are not our ways. We can never presume to know how God’s story is unfolding.
O God, in your wisdom, you call us to serve you. Cleanse our hearts, remove our claims of privilege and status, and anoint us to serve you and your people. In Jesus’ name. Amen.
From a human perspective, we tend to judge people by appearances: how attractive they are, how wealthy they seem to be. God’s standard, however, is not outward appearance but the attitude of the heart. David was the youngest brother in his family, but God knew his mighty heart and chose him as the next king of Israel. The psalmist declares that God gives victory to those who put their trust in God, not in the outward appearance of might. Jesus reinforces this truth with the parable of the mustard seed. Paul tells the Corinthians that we should no longer judge by what we see on the outside, for God changes what really matters—what is on the inside.
Read 1 Samuel 15:34–16:13. When have outward appearances prevented you from seeing someone’s value as a child of God?
Read Psalm 20. How do you discern whether your “heart’s desire” is in line with what God wants for your life?
Read 2 Corinthians 5:6-17. In what ways are you “urged on” by the love of Christ? How do you behave differently because you know Christ’s love?
Read Mark 4:26-34. When have you seen God make much of a small gift that you offered?
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