Second Impressions

Today’s scripture: I Samuel 16:1-13 (ESV-text and audio) (KJV) (The Message) What might God be saying to me?

My thoughts (Jeff Miner):

We’re looking at stories from the Old Testament. This is the life of David, who rose from obscurity to become the most famous King of Israel. It was quite a life! Our challenge is to learn from David’s experiences.

David’s story begins with God being deeply upset with the existing King of Israel, Saul. So God speaks to Samuel, the most prominent prophet in Israel at the time, to tell him it’s time to anoint Saul’s successor, in secret. God tells Samuel he’ll find Saul’s successor among the sons of Jesse, in Bethlehem.

So Samuel calls a sacred feast in Bethlehem as a pretext and invites Jesse and his sons. At the dinner, as Samuel meets Jesse’s sons, he is especially impressed with the eldest, Eliab, who was apparently tall and had a commanding personality. Samuel thinks to himself, “Surely the Lord’s anointed is now before me!”

That’s when we reach the dramatic high point of the story. Samuel didn’t get to be a prophet for nothing! He knows to quietly consult God in his heart before finalizing his judgment. And as he does so, he begins to feel very uneasy about Eliab and is reminded that, “The Lord does not see as mortals see. They look on outward appearance, but the Lord looks on the heart.” So Samuel keeps looking, until finally God directs him to anoint the least likely of Jesse’s sons — the youngest, and the “runt of the litter” — David.

There is a powerful message here for us. Constantly the Bible reminds us that God often selects unlikely people to do great things — which raises two practical questions for us:

  • Am I judging myself superficially? Often we judge ourselves too harshly on the basis of externalities — I’m not strong enough, bright enough, spiritual enough — rather than looking deeper into our hearts and seeing the potential God sees.
  • Am I judging people around me superficially? Every day we form impressions and making decisions about other people — about co-workers, bosses, employees, neighbors, potential friends, and if we’re single, whom to date. What would happen if before making a judgment about someone, we got in the habit of pausing for a moment (like Samuel did) to talk to God about the person, asking for intuitive wisdom that runs deeper than outward appearance?

Thought for the day: Today when you’re about to form an impression of someone, stop! and ask God, “Am I missing anything here?”

We encourage you to include a time of prayer with this reading. If you need a place to start, consider the guidelines on the How to Pray page.