Don’t Judge a Book By Its Cover
1 Samuel 16:1-13
They say that “You never have a second chance to make a first impression.” This means that in those first moments of meeting someone, we make up our minds about them and it is very difficult to change that impression. Have you ever met a person and immediately had a sense that you either really liked them or really didn’t like them? Did you ever learn that you were wrong? When Amanda and I first met each other and there was a strong first impression but it was not love at first sight. Neither one of us liked each other. Thankfully we eventually saw that there was more than just first impressions.
But that was not the last time I made a mistake based on initial thoughts. Sometimes I was surprised by others as I got to know them and I surprised others as they got to know me.
We should strive to make a good first impression but the truth is that all that we are is not on the surface. There are layers upon layers of what makes us who we are. Thankfully God sees all of those layers and is not confused by what is on the surface. The Bible is filled with stories of unlikely heroes, of people who were dismissed by those around them, and yet God saw something more. Rarely did God actually use the individual that the people thought was appropriate for the task.
David was one of the those individuals. David is one of the most important people in the Bible. He is far more than just that young boy who defeated a giant. David was the first king whose dynasty really lasted. He was the standard by which all later kings were judged. The expected messiah was understood to be a son of David and Jesus Christ was understood to be that descendant of David. This is the David who was known as a man after God’s own heart. But things didn’t begin in a big way. David’s beginnings were much more humble as we will see.
Story of David
The last we saw, Israel was being led by judges. These were men and women raised up by God to lead in times of crisis. But technically, Israel was a theocracy, that is God was the king of Israel. But the Israelites got jealous of the surrounding nations who had a human king. They wanted a king and the prophet Samuel brought their request before God. They wanted a king and God would give them a king, but they were going to learn the hard way about the consequences. Samuel anoint Saul as the first king of Israel. Samuel looked the part. He was the kind of person you could look at and think, “That guy looks like he should be a king.” Everything about him was impressive.
Except when it came to his obedience to God. He just couldn’t get his act together when it came to submitting to God and living under his rules. Time after time he failed. This was part of Israel’s lesson. They were learning what it meant to have a human king instead of a divine king.
But God would show grace to Israel. They would not be permanently be stuck with King Saul. God had another person in mind who would lead Israel more in line with the way things were going to be. Once again, God assigned this task to Samuel the prophet.
There were two challenges for Samuel. The first was that Saul was still alive and he probably wouldn’t be happy with his court prophet going around and anointing his successor. This mission carried personal danger for Samuel. The second challenge was that God didn’t tell Samuel ahead of time who the new king was. He only knew that he was to go to the house of Jesse and that it would be one of his sons.
Samuel arrived at Jesse’s home and asked about his sons. The first one came out and he looked like he would be a good king. But he was not the one God had chosen. Jesse brought son after son out and but they were not him either. On it went until Jesse ran out of sons. Except one. The youngest hadn’t been called in because there was no way that he was the one. He was below notice. But when he was brought in, God revealed that David was indeed the one who was to be anointed as the next king of Israel. There was nothing on the outside to suggest that this would happen but God saw something on the inside. God knew even then that David was a man after God’s own heart. David was by no means perfect. But he was the right person for the job.
What I would like to do is to take some time and put us in this story to better understand what was going on. We are going to look at the story from three different perspectives.
I suspect that each of us are drawn to one of the characters in the story. I am drawn to David. Try to put yourself in his sandals that day. The day would begin like any other day. Perhaps he heard the rumours that the great prophet Samuel had visited Bethlehem but such things were too far above a shepherd boy. At what point did David realize that Samuel was with his family? He was likely unaware of when the first brother passed by Samuel. He may have begun to have heard hints as the day went by. Then the call came for David to rush home. There was a look on Samuel’s face that may have left David confused and then he was anointed and his life would never be the same.
Are you a David? Do you feel like you are overlooked? That people only see the outside and misjudge you? God sees the inside. God knows our heart and is not at all concerned about what others think. God has a plan for us.
Now put yourself in the sandals of Samuel. This was a stressful situation. What he was doing was treason to Saul even if it was obedience to God. The plan would require a certain amount of deception. What was Samuel looking for in a potential king? Perhaps he wanted to anoint the first person and get out of there as soon as possible. More likely, he wanted to anoint someone who looked like a potentially powerful king. This could lead to civil war and and Samuel would face Saul’s wrath. He needed a powerful king who could protect him. As each good candidate was rejected by God, Samuel likely got frustrated. What was God looking for? Then the final son comes in. David. He was handsome but not old enough or physically powerful enough to stand up to Saul. But God is God and the decision was made.
Are you a Samuel? Are you doing your best to serve God? But when you see the challenges that are to be faced, are you looking only for what makes sense from a human perspective? There are certain things that make sense and God’s plans do not always fit in that category. This was one of the challenges for the early Christians. They preached a Jesus who had been crucified. To most that was a sign that he had failed but for God it was a sign of victory. Sometimes we need to get past pure logic.
Jesse had heard that Samuel was in town. This was a thing of concern. They knew that Samuel worked for Saul and King Saul had his moments of anger. Was Samuel here to announce that they were to be punished by Saul? Jesse was perhaps surprised when Samuel sought him and his sons to be consecrated for the sacrifice. Why all this interest? Then all the sons were asked to pass by Samuel and each time there was a look of disappointment on Samuel’s face. He kept muttering, “This isn’t the one.” We know what this was all about but Samuel hasn’t announced, not even to Jesse, that he is looking for a new king. Then Samuel strangely asks if there is any other sons. There is David, but he is not anyone of importance. He is the one who does the grunt work so the important members of the family could be at the sacrifice. It’s not that Jesse disliked David, he just overlooked him.
Are we like Jesse? There are people in our life whom we don’t actively dislike but we often overlook. One glance and we judge they are not part of the big plan. They are just not the ones we think to include in what we are doing. But what if God looks beyond what we see?
This passage challenges us in two ways. One is for us who are unnoticed. We are the ones who do not look so impressive. We may not even think we have what it takes. The story of David is one of encouragement. God is not so concerned about how strong we are, how rich we are or how smart we are. God is more concerned with our heart and he sees our heart and knows who we really are. The second challenge is about how we treat others. It is easy for us to overlook people based on quick judgments. We have already decided who God can use and who he can’t. If God’s plan always was to look good on the outside, his plan of salvation would never include his son on a cross. But it did and because of that, we should be careful with how we treat others. Do not be quick to reject or ignore. Try to see the heart of the person the way God does. We may all be surprised.