“What God Sees”
1 Samuel 16:1-13 (16:7) – March 19, 2023
What does a successful leader look like? Good looking? Adept on his or her feet? Expert at talking or perhaps explaining things? How about good at getting things done?
What does God see in such a person? How does God view a leader and determine the measure of a man, of a woman? How does God see how they are best suited for – or for what?
Today’s Scripture reading comes from the Hebrew Scriptures, from the book of 1 Samuel. We meet an older Samuel, judge and prophet of Israel. But what about the deeper meaning of this narrative from the Hebrew Scriptures?
For that, we need to go back a few chapters in 1 Samuel. At first, Samuel and the people of Israel were very glad that Saul was their king. He was tall and broad-shouldered, and pleasing in appearance. Saul looked like a successful leader! He was the very image of what people thought a king ought to be. Everyone said so!
But, after some time, Saul’s true nature—on the inside—became evident. He was not all he appeared to be on the outside. Saul made some very unwise choices, acted foolishly, and God finally rejected him as the king of Israel. So, yes. By today’s Scripture reading, Samuel had anointed King Saul some years before, and that had not turned out well at all.
How do you see a successful leader? What kinds of features do you look for? What kinds of features does God look for?
We know that the prophet Samuel was grieving that he had anointed Saul as king. For that matter, even though the Bible does not say specifically, we can guess that Samuel was also grieving for the nation of Israel, since the nation had such an unfortunate person as king. Plus, we do know that Samuel was frankly afraid of King Saul by this point!
Listen to the conversation between Samuel and God: “The Lord said to Samuel, “How long will you mourn for Saul, since I have rejected him as king over Israel? Fill your horn with oil and be on your way; I am sending you to Jesse of Bethlehem. I have chosen one of his sons to be king.” 2 But Samuel said, “How can I go? If Saul hears about it, he will kill me.”
God is the one to suggest taking a heifer with Samuel and to invite Jesse (David’s father) and his sons to the sacrifice. Yes – this was a legitimate reason for Samuel to go to Bethlehem. And, Jesse had some big, strapping sons for Samuel to look over. We know what Samuel decided! And, we can see what God thinks of Jesse’s elder sons. Lo and behold, the older sons of Jesse are not chosen to be God’s anointed one, the new king of Israel,
Have you ever been undecided about something really important, and then God swept in and helped you with your choice? Samuel started to think that his first impressions were perfectly fine. But, no! Samuel has “a lot of unlearning to be done from the previous experience of anointing a king and Samuel needs to mourn the old way/king for a time, but God encourages him to move on to what God is calling him into now.” 
God had a definite list of features that God’s idea of a king was supposed to have, and Samuel realized that his checklist and God’s list just were not jiving. Not connecting. Can we be upfront and honest with God? Can you and I admit we have quite a different checklist for a successful leader? Even, for a king for the nation God loved.
Another lesson this Scripture reading has for us is “the same as we see in the biblical texts over and over. The world has a pecking order: elder son over youngest, Pharaohs over slaves, the sons of priests over an outsider. God pays no attention to that order.”  That worldly plan or idea just does not follow God’s plan.
Remember what God told Samuel: “But the Lord said to Samuel, “Do not consider his appearance or his height, for I have rejected him. The Lord does not look at the things people look at. People look at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.”
What is important to God? What kinds of attitudes and ways of thinking are pleasing to the Lord? Are we “looking” but not really “seeing” as God sees?
All of Jesse’s older sons were presented to the prophet Samuel, but God was silent. Samuel needed to ask whether Jesse had any more sons. “Yes, I do. But, he’s the youngest. He’s out watching the sheep,” said Jesse. Sure enough, God chose David, the youngest of eight brothers. God sees differently from human beings.
This bible reading from 1 Samuel is a great source of encouragement for children and young people, who feel left out and left behind by the big and powerful. We see that God finds possibilities in the most unexpected places and through the most unlikely persons. We see the Lord lift up Jesse’s youngest son David to be the anointed king of Israel. In a similar way, God can lift up the marginalized, the downtrodden and the rejected ones today to a place of prominence. God can, and God does just that.
Many people are still fooled by appearances. What kinds of possibilities are there in your life and heart today? What does God see in you, and in me? Are we a person after God’s own heart? Be comforted and encouraged that God does not see us as the world sees, but God sees past all that. God sees our very hearts. Amen!
(Suggestion: visit me at my other blogs: matterofprayer: A Year of Everyday Prayers. #PursuePEACE – and A Year of Being Kind . Thanks!