God’s Surprising Choices
“For the Lord does not see as mortals see; they look on the outward appearance, but Lord looks on the heart.” – 1 Samuel 16:7
A friend of mine did a sermon series she called “The Ten Essentials.” Her subtitle was, “The Ten Bible Stories You Have to Have.” She would tell her congregation, “It’s too dangerous for you to go out there without these stories tucked in your hearts.”
This one, the story of the prophet Samuel’s visit to Jesse to anoint one of his sons to be king of Israel, would make my top ten, if for no other reason than the line quoted above. “God does not look on outward appearances, but upon the heart.”
Jesse had a passel of sons. He paraded seven of them before Samuel, beginning with Eliab, who was not only the eldest but big and tall and studly. Looked like excellent king material, as did the others. But one after another God gave a thumbs down to an increasingly exasperated Samuel.
Finally, Samuel—desperation in his voice—asked Jesse if he had seen all of his sons. “Well, there is one more, the youngest. He’s out tending the sheep.” Samuel said, “Bring him.” God said, “This is the one.” He was the youngest, the smallest, the least likely, a mere boy. David.
But he was the one God wanted. Why? Well, God seems to like surprising us. God gets a kick out of messing with our expectations. God seems to like choosing people that conventional wisdom would not consider in a million years. Like Moses, who had a public speaking problem. Like Jeremiah who was a raw youth. Like Mary who was unwed and poor. Like Paul who was known as an enemy of the church. God, as a friend likes to say, has, “a preferential option for the unlikely.”
There’s both bad news and goods news here. The bad news is that our choices and evaluations are often made on a superficial basis. The good news is that in our heart of hearts many of us harbor a sense of deep inadequacy. We think we’re not enough. Not smart enough. Not good enough. Not faithful enough. We feel we are very unlikely candidates for God’s love, for doing God’s work in the world. But good news: God can and does have a preferential option for the unlikely, which includes me and maybe you, too.
Holy One, when the voices thrum that repeat “not enough,” ring in my ears; help me to hear your surprising word and to know that, by your grace, I am enough. Amen.
Tony Robinson, a United Church of Christ minister, is a speaker, teacher, and writer. He is the author of many books, including What’s Theology Got to Do With It: Convictions, Vitality and the Church. You can read Tony’s “Weekly Meditation” and “What’s Tony Thinking?” at his website, www.anthonybrobinson.com.