Looks Aren’t Everything


Samuel Anoints David, Dura Europos, Syria, 3rd century CE

1 Samuel 16:6-7 (New Revised Standard Version)
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.”

God has sent Samuel to Bethlehem, the hometown of Jesse, in order to anoint the next king of Israel. The current king, Saul, had ben described in 9:2: “as handsome a young man as could be found anywhere in Israel, and he was a head taller than anyone else.” But now this tall, handsome man has been rejected by God as king because of his disobedience.

Samuel knows this, knows the history, and yet he still falls prey to the very human temptation to judge a person by how he or she looks. The king God has chosen will be David, the youngest of Jesse’s eight sons. He wasn’t even at the house when Jesse brings his older boys in to be interviewed by Samuel — that is how certain Jesse was that young David was not the one.

“David?” the brothers must have thought, “Surely, you don’t mean our little brother, who is out in the fields with our flocks? Little, puny, baby-faced David? You’re passing us over for him? Seriously?”

But as soon as David had come near, God told Samuel: “Rise and anoint him; for this is the one” (16:12).

What physical characteristics tend to make you automatically trust someone? What about someone’s appearance might make you distrust them before you even know them? How have you experienced the truth of the phrase “You can’t judge a book by its cover”?

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