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.” (1 Samuel 16:7)
Samuel glanced at the seven men standing in the shade. They were impressive specimens. Any of Jesse’s sons could have been God’s choice. He was suddenly glad he didn’t have to choose. God had just warned him about the danger of judging from appearance. He smiled sadly, remembering how impressed he had been at first by Saul’s good looks.
Samuel looked around, puzzled. He’d run out of sons, and God hadn’t chosen any of them. What was God’s plan in this situation? Turning to Jesse, he inquired, “Are these it? No more sons?”
The old man slowly counted his sons, one by one. He appeared confused for a moment, then said, “Oh, there is one other. Didn’t even think of him. My youngest, David, is out in the fields with the sheep.” The rest of the sons didn’t understand why they had been summoned, but they grumbled over having to wait for the runt to show up. His place was at the bottom of the pecking order. Shepherding was a smelly, outdoors-in-all-weather, protecting-stupid-sheep chore. Each of them had done it only until the next brother was old enough. As the youngest, it was David’s permanent role. It didn’t bother them to assign him the task; it did bother them that he enjoyed it so much.
Soon David came running in, exuding the pungent scents of field and flock. The brothers looked on with shock as Samuel removed an oil horn from his robe and poured the contents on their little brother’s head. They couldn’t imagine a higher honor—or a more obvious waste. But even they had to admit that as the oil dripped from David’s hair and chin, a certain wild delight and spirit seemed to fill him. Samuel smiled, David laughed, and a chill went up his siblings’ spines.
As Samuel walked to Ramah, he remembered another little boy, left in the charge of a priest named Eli. He considered how upbringing shapes a man and how God uses even hardships and pain to prepare his servants. He wondered about David’s future. He remembered God’s unusual call in his own life, the unexpected voice in the night that Eli had identified for him as the Lord’s. The old priest had told him to answer, “Speak, for your servant is listening” (1 Samuel 3:10). Samuel chuckled softly and began to pray, “Lord, I’m still trying to listen. I never thought back then that you would make me a king-maker. So what’s next?”
The Story Continues …