March 13, 2023: Look inside

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.



There’s a big piece of irony in here. Can you spot it?

Eliab passes by first, but the Lord rejects him as king, saying “do not look on his appearance” and “the Lord does not see as mortals see.” All the rest of Jesse’s sons pass by, and all are rejected. Finally, in ambles David from the fields. And what do we get immediately from the author? That “he was ruddy, and had beautiful eyes, and was handsome.” Big facepalm moment. Come on, author! Weren’t we just instructed to ignore outer appearances? This is what you decide to write?!

The truth is, we can’t get completely away from seeing “as mortals see” because we live in the now and not yet kingdom of God. That is why we thank God for choosing the one to anoint. Being preoccupied with outer appearances, we’d likely botch it and anoint the Ken in the room. No one wants Ken as king. Ken should remain Barbie’s boyfriend. In this passage, God anoints David as king of the Israelites, and about 1,000 years later, God anointed the true king, Jesus—the lamb, the son of an unmarried virgin and a carpenter who dies a death of shame. The prophet Isaiah foretells that Jesus will have “no beauty or majesty to attract us to him, nothing in his appearance that we should desire him” (53:1). Not a strong outer-appearances contender for a king. But with Jesus, God reminds us again that “the Lord looks on the heart.”

Let us go and do likewise.

–Isabel Vitale



Our Father, we thank you and rejoice that you have the true sight, seeing the hearts of your children instead of just the outside. Help us look deeper than appearances so we may know your beloved children as they truly are.