I Samuel 16:7 What God Sees
Read I Samuel 16:7, note “The LORD does not look at the things man looks at. Man looks at the outward appearance, but God looks at the heart.
Background: The Israelites had demanded a king. God consented and Samuel, under God’s direction and at the request of the people, anointed the young Saul. We are never told Saul was God’s choice, only that the people wanted him because of his size and some of the things he had done. Saul seemed to have so much potential. Things, however, went from good to bad. Finally, God said it was enough.
This story is introduced in I Samuel 16:1 with the words, “The Lord.” Nothing that happened in this chapter or in the life of David can be understood apart from the fact that God is in it. The story began with the initiative of God and not of either Samuel or David. David received his legitimacy not on the basis of anything he did but by the authority of God.
God rejected Saul as king. In I Samuel 10:19 Samuel said to Saul, “You have rejected your God.” In I Samuel 15:26 we read, “You have rejected the word of the LORD, and the LORD has rejected you as king over Israel!” It was over for Saul, and it was Saul’s own fault.
According to I Samuel 16:1, God sent Samuel to anoint a son of Jesse as the new king. Samuel was told to take some oil, the symbol of spiritual anointing, and invite Jesse to the sacrifice.
Normally in the Old Testament genealogies were given. There is none for Jesse. It is likely it was omitted as a way of showing that David came from a very ordinary background with no genealogical pedigree that made him special. Only the call of God made a difference.
God said, “I have chosen.” The Hebrew clearly shows that the choice was God’s. Literally the Hebrew reads, “I have chosen or seen for myself a king.” God always chooses us both for redemption and for ministry, regardless of what that ministry is.
Verse 2 gives the human dimension of what Samuel was being asked to do and God’s way of ensuring that Samuel would not fail. Samuel said, “Saul will find out and will kill me.” Samuel’s eyes were on Saul, not on God. Leave God out of the equation and he was absolutely right to be afraid. This was a legitimate fear. Saul has turned his back on God and, therefore, on God’s servant. Saul was desperate to save his kingship and somehow reverse the decision of God. He was capable of just about anything. Saul could not get at God but could get at His servant. In addition, Samuel had to travel through Saul’s hometown to get to Bethlehem. It was not an easy assignment.
So, in 16:2 we read that God said, “take a heifer and offer a sacrifice.” This provided Samuel with a legitimate reason to go. God is realistic. He will go with us and will enable us to accomplish all He wants us to do.
Verses 3 and 4 describe Samuel’s arrival in Bethlehem. The people legitimately wanted to know why Samuel had come to them. It was not normal for Samuel to visit Bethlehem. He had a regular circuit he used for leading in sacrifices and Bethlehem was not on that circuit. When Samuel’s approach to Bethlehem was made known there had to have been at least curiosity if not concern. Samuel was God’s spokesman and often came to a community with a message of judgment but certainly not always. Samuel assured them he had come in peace.
Verses 5-10 tell us that the sons of Jesse passed before Samuel one by one. We can only imagine what Jesse knew or felt at this point. Scripture does not say but certainly to have the Billy Graham of his day visit his home was an honor. At this point Samuel did not know what he was looking for. Samuel viewed the process as we might. He saw the first born, who culturally would be selected, and noted how good he looked, a great specimen of a man, and decided this is the one. Verse 6 says, “Samuel saw.” God had already indicated that He has seen the one who would be king, but Samuel did not see the way God does.
Read I Samuel 16:7 Verse 7.
God looks at the heart. It is interesting to see what commentators do with this passage in relationship to David. There is a temptation to immediately jump to a study of what that heart might have looked like. We are not told. David was still a boy with a lot of spiritual growth still needed. I suspect God saw what is recorded in Acts 13:22 where we read that David was a man after God’s heart. He desired God even if at his age the full impact of that could not be known to him.
One of the key lessons of this story is that God is always gracious in choosing whom He will and then equipping them for His ministry, be that ministry one of being a king like David or witnessing to a friend. Read I Corinthians 1:27-29
To give an idea of how lowly David was when God chose him to be a king, look at verse 11. David’s father said in essence, “Well, there is another, but he doesn’t count for much. He’s really just a shepherd.” Note how David fit into the family. He was the servant/slave. All the menial or lousy jobs fell on him. He was not even considered a man by his father. It could not have been the happiest situation of this young man who seems to have been rejected or at least ignored by everyone. The neat thing is that God is always with us and He is not swayed by the opinions of others. It is always better to be acknowledged by God and ignored by the world than the other way around.
Samuel was open to God doing things differently from the way the world does so Samuel says in verse 11, “We will not sit down until he arrives.” In other words, we will not make a decision until he arrives.When David arrived from the field, he was anything but ceremonially clean for participating in the sacrifice and feast but, as always, God was far more interested in the heart than in ceremony and David was His choice for king. We learn in verses 12, 13 that Samuel knew this was the one and anointed him immediately, although we are not told how he knew.
Verse 13 records that the Spirit of the Lord came upon him. The Hebrew and Greek words for “spirit” are the words “breath” and “wind” presenting us with the picture of that invisible force that moves things. God’s “invisible” presence in us is the power to move things. In the New Testament it is a description of the coming of the Holy Spirit upon the church. We must not miss the combination of verses 12 and 13. In verse 12 God called and in verse 13 God equipped via His Spirit. The two always go hand in hand. God never calls but what he does not give all the tools necessary to accomplish the task.
What does this incident in Jewish historysay to us?
1. It should remind us that we must never assume we are a “no one.” We may be a no one until God calls us to follow Him and serve Him and then we are His someone.
2. We must avoid the tendency to view individuals externally. The heart is what God looks at. We tend to evaluate by position, wealth, or education but God looks at the heart.
3. We must remember that we can do nothing by ourselves so we must learn to rest in and make use of the Holy Spirit who dwells in us. He can use us the way He has equipped us.
It would be 15-18 years from David’s anointing until he became king. God is never in a hurry when it comes to developing our inner character. It takes time. Alan Redpath wrote, “The conversion of a soul is a miracle of a moment, the manufacture of a saint is the task of a lifetime. It is the matchless marvel of the Gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ to take a life from the dunghill and set it among princes, to replace bias of degeneration with the bias of regeneration, and to cause a man who has sunk to the depths to cry to God, “Create in me a clean heart, O God; and renew a right spirit within me.” (P.5 The Makin g of a Man of God.)