1 Samuel 16:4-7

Samuel puts his fear and grief aside and does what God asks of him. When he arrives in Bethlehem, the elders tremble before him, worried that he does not come in peace. Does Samuel remember how he trembled before God just verses before, worried that Saul will kill him if anoints a new king? Maybe this irony calms his fears and helps him trust God. But if Samuel thinks this is all he will learn from the experience, he would be mistaken.

To search for the next king, Samuel prepares anointing oil, procures a sacrifice, travels to Bethlehem, assays the fears of local elders, gathers a family together, sanctifies them, and invites them to the sacrifice. Now, looking at the first of Jesse’s sons, Samuel thinks the search process and its difficulties are over: “Surely the LORD’s anointed is now before the LORD” (v. 6).

But God still has something to teach Samuel in this process. “The LORD does not see as mortals see; they look on the outward appearance, but the LORD looks on the heart” (v. 7). This teachable moment helps Samuel understand a new way to discern who must be king. Maybe it eases some of his grief over Saul. Looking at a person’s heart involves different questions and criteria. Fortunately for all involved, looking at the heart requires God’s participation in the process. Whether one is searching for a new king, or a friend or partner, that truth is good news indeed.


When have you believed a process was over, only to find that you had more to learn? What helps us look at the heart rather than outward appearances?


God, when we are searching, grant us patience to go through the whole process with you. Help us trust you regarding all that we mortals cannot see. Amen.

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