You can’t judge a book by its cover.” This wise and familiar
expression is true not only of books but also of people,
according to the words God whispers to the prophet Samuel.
Good looks, expensive haircuts, tanned and tall are not the
hallmarks of God’s leaders. God looks at the heart, not outward
In 1936, Adolph Hitler gathered the best-looking, most talented
Germans to show the world the superiority of his race and
clan. Jesse Owens, a black American, did not fit Hitler’s bias,
but the Olympian challenged and changed such a narrow and
wrong perception by winning four gold medals in the summer
Jesse parades seven good-looking sons before Samuel but
God chooses the youngest who is not even invited to the show.
David is tending the flock. As we know from several sources, he
also happens to be good with stones in a sling, making music
with the lyre, composing songs about nature and sheep. God
looks on the heart, and David, despite some errors and yielding
to temptation in his reign, remains the strongest and bestknown
leader in Jewish history.
Can we develop a way to see the heart of another? Can
we slow down our judgments based on external observations?
Perhaps if we listen deeply before we rush to speak. Perhaps if
we don’t pay attention to name brands or skin color. Perhaps
if we see the grace of God in every person we meet and take
a moment to ask God to bless our every encounter. Perhaps if
we know that God looks at our heart with infinite wisdom and
compassion and calls us to love and serve with our unique gifts.
God of surprises and wisdom, teach me a holy way of seeing. Help me notice your goodness and blessing in everyone. Open my eyes to see creativity waiting to flourish, leadership waiting to be developed, and self-assurance ready to blossom. Amen.
First Samuel 16 reminds us of the bold risk that Yahweh took in the anointing of this young and unheralded shepherd. If 1 Samuel 16 causes us to wonder about the adequacy of all human shepherds, Psalm 23 reassures us that one Shepherd never fails. The New Testament passages consider the tension between light and darkness as a metaphor for the conflict between good and evil. In Ephesians 5, the struggle has already been resolved but takes seriously the continuing problem of sin. By means of the love and presence of Jesus Christ, even the power of evil cannot withstand the light. Then John 9 emphasizes the power of Christ as a bringer of light in the story of the man born blind.
• Read 1 Samuel 16:1-13. How often do you allow external appearances to affect your decisions? In what ways are you learning to look on the heart?
• Read Psalm 23. When do you take time for yourself by slowing your pace, breathing deeply, and allowing God to restore your soul? How might this become a daily habit?
• Read Ephesians 5:8-14. How do you discover what pleases God? How does your living reflect your discovery?
• Read John 9:1-41. When have you experienced a “healing” that brought you back into community—either at home, work, or faith setting?
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