“But the Lord said to Samuel: ‘Do not look at his appearance or at his physical stature, because I have refused him” 1Samuel 16:7
“So the last will be first and the first last” Matthew 20:16
Practically all of us have been there. The quintessential example is the playground or school recess sporting game. There is a group around and normally two people, captains of some sort, get to pick who is on their teams. And the agony for those to be chosen begins. Though sometimes the situation may not be so immediate but still very personal. You may be waiting for the phone call that says you got the job or the new position. The email that says yes I want to meet with you. It is that basic of human desires; to be wanted for something; to not be the left over, someone has to take him or her person.
Yet, especially in the story of the anointing of David by Samuel, there is also a story that sometimes gets overlooked. The story of the chooser and how he (and we) make our decisions. Because by the very nature of the process; there are more choosies than there are choosers. With that angst that those waiting to be chosen go through, the assumption is that the ones doing the choosing have the easy, stress free part of the process. After all they’ve already been picked haven’t they?
So why is Samuel at first so reluctant to go see Jesse, the family from which the new king would be chosen. Well he feared for his life for one thing. You see, Samuel had chosen before, at least from the human perspective. God had told Samuel that he would meet Saul and would anoint him as the first king of the Israelite people. Samuel did as God commanded but because Saul strayed from God’s instruction through Samuel, Saul’s reign did not turn out so good. And Samuel now believed if Saul found out that he was going to find a new king, that Saul would have him killed. Secondly, Saul did not turn out to be a successful choice. Now Samuel was at it again. He was finding it difficult to put his heart into this second search for a king having experienced the failure of the first choice.
Samuel acquiesces to God’s command and goes to see Jesse, whom God has revealed has a son who will be the next king. Saul was described as the handsomest man in all of Israel and also significantly taller than any other man. So using that as starting point, it was natural that when Samuel was introduced to Jesse’s first son, Eliab, who was tall and very handsome, that Samuel again thought: “this must be the one.” Yet God in effect tells Samuel: ”been there, done that and it didn’t work”. For God tells Samuel to not trust his eyes to determine who should be chosen. God wants this king to be successful. For that success to happen, it will not be based on the external, what the eye can see; but on the internal, what the heart can feel. Left to his own wisdom, his own measurements upon which to make his choice; Samuel would have chosen wrongly. Thank God for His intervention.
Fast forward to today. You and I make choices about people all the time. It may not be about who will be a king but, nevertheless, they can have amazing and/or devastating consequences. Some choices are momentous: Who am I going to date or marry? Who am I going to hire or promote? Some seem more trivial: Who am I going to eat lunch with? Whose phone call do I return first or at all. Yet again understand, all of these decisions have consequences. In the bestselling book Blink by Malcolm Gladwell, he describes how we, often unconsciously as well as almost instantaneously, make snap decisions using things like a person’s height and overall attractiveness; their ethnicity, color of their hair, the pitch of their voice; all outward characteristics that tell us little or nothing about their heart within. One of the saddest aspects to this is we tend to use characteristics which the person has little to no control over versus things like their character; their capacity to love; internal things which will make the greatest difference.
I am most certain I would have chosen Eliab. Also, I doubt I would have chosen the same path as the landowner in Jesus’ parable as told to us in Matthew. Who promises all the same reward although some seem to have been with Him longer than others. So when I am the chooser, what am I to do? To be the fairest, the wisest, the chooser with the greatest chance of success; I must do as Samuel did; and listen to God. Ergo first, I must go to God in prayer. I/we must ask God to help us to overcome our worldly processes of choosing and ask for His perfect guidance, understanding that He has a plan in play in our choices. I/we must think beyond how easy our choice will make things for us versus how much overall good will our choice outcome be to those who are chosen. We must put aside our beliefs in our own wisdom; our own ability to play God and turn to the one who is the One True God to lead us. It is then and only then will we find the confidence to say this one and not that one; yes to you but no to you and know that we are doing this in the love and trust of the One whose choices are always perfect. The One who chose His Only Begotten Son, to come to our earthly existence and to give His life for our transgressions. The One who has chosen Mercy and Forgiveness over Judgement and Separation. I’m fairly certain, I would not have chosen so wisely. Thank God that He did and does.
Our Most Gracious and Heavenly Father, thank You for choosing us. We know, Dear Father, that we are also faced with making choices about others each day. Give us the wisdom, Everlasting Father, to turn to You first for Your counsel and Your wisdom. Through the Holy Spirit, give us Your Eyes to see as You do, into the heart and not primarily the physical. Grant that we would make our decisions in concert with Your Plan and Your Will, not relying on ourselves. That the choices that we make would be a testimony to our love, worship and praise to Your Most Holy Name. We pray in the Name of Jesus Christ our Lord and Savior. Amen