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Daily Devotional • February 24
Feast of St. Matthias, Apostle

Pamela Lewis
The Chosen
A Reading from 1 Samuel 16:1-13

1 The Lord said to Samuel, “How long will you grieve over Saul? I have rejected him from being king over Israel. Fill your horn with oil and set out; I will send you to Jesse the Bethlehemite, for I have provided for myself a king among his sons.” 2 Samuel said, “How can I go? If Saul hears of it, he will kill me.” And the Lord said, “Take a heifer with you and say, ‘I have come to sacrifice to the Lord.’ 3 Invite Jesse to the sacrifice, and I will show you what you shall do, and you shall anoint for me the one whom I name to you.” 4 Samuel did what the Lord commanded and came to Bethlehem. The elders of the city came to meet him trembling and said, “Do you come peaceably?” 5 He said, “Peaceably. I have come to sacrifice to the Lord; sanctify yourselves and come with me to the sacrifice.” And he sanctified Jesse and his sons and invited them to the sacrifice.

6 When they came, he looked on Eliab and thought, “Surely his anointed is now before the Lord.” 7 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.” 8 Then Jesse called Abinadab and made him pass before Samuel. He said, “Neither has the Lordchosen this one.” 9 Then Jesse made Shammah pass by. And he said, “Neither has the Lord chosen this one.” 10 Jesse made seven of his sons pass before Samuel, and Samuel said to Jesse, “The Lord has not chosen any of these.” 11 Samuel said to Jesse, “Are all your sons here?” And he said, “There remains yet the youngest, but he is keeping the sheep.” And Samuel said to Jesse, “Send and bring him, for we will not sit down until he comes here.” 12 He sent and brought him in. Now he was ruddy and had beautiful eyes and was handsome. The Lordsaid, “Rise and anoint him, for this is the one.” 13 Then Samuel took the horn of oil and anointed him in the presence of his brothers, and the spirit of the Lord came mightily upon David from that day forward. Samuel then set out and went to Ramah.

Israel needs a better king. And they need a new king, because God rejects Saul. Despite his fears, Samuel obeys God’s instruction to fill his horn with oil (which implies that a king will be anointed), goes to the sacrifice, and invites Jesse to accompany him. God already knows who the next king will be, as it will be his choice, and in that respect, God will be on the throne of Israel.

Samuel was probably looking for another Saul, someone tall and handsome, and he is prepared to select the attractive Eliab as soon as he sets eyes on him. But God makes it clear, and Samuel soon understands, that he is looking at the heart of the one who will serve as Israel’s king, not the outward appearance, which is where man often looks. 

When David is presented, he is, outwardly, no Saul; but he is “ruddy” and an attractive young man. God sees beneath David’s physical appearance to where the character lies and discerns there the qualities that would make David a great king (v. 7). Although not conducted in public, David’s anointing is no less significant, for it is God who brings it about as a result of  Samuel’s obedience to the Lord’s guidance.

We all have a little Samuel in us, and we often choose our leaders based on how they look rather than on their character. The candidate who “looks presidential” (whatever that means) may turn out to be an inappropriate leader, while the one deemed “unattractive” may be better suited to serve the nation’s needs. God’s method for selecting leaders works better.

Pamela A. Lewis taught French for 30 years before retirement. A lifelong resident of Queens, New York, she attends Saint Thomas Church Fifth Avenue and serves on various lay ministries. She writes for The Episcopal New Yorker, Episcopal Journal, and The Living Church.

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Camp Allen, Navasota, Texas
The Diocese of Pune – The (united) Church of North India
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