By David Faust
One by one, Jesse’s sons passed in front of Samuel in an awkward audition. The oldest son, Eliab, made such a positive impression that the prophet assumed he was the Lord’s chosen. “But the Lord said to Samuel, ‘Do not consider his appearance or his height, for I have rejected him. The Lord does not look at the things people look at. People look at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart” (1 Samuel 16:7).
Jesse was bewildered when Samuel selected none of his seven sons. “There is still the youngest,” he told Samuel almost as an afterthought. “He is tending the sheep” (v. 11). Actually, Jesse’s youngest son was the person God wanted to be king, and the unspectacular assignment of tending sheep was one way God prepared him for leadership. As a shepherd David learned responsibility, courage, humility, and quietness. Would David have written Psalm 23 if not for those long days and nights with the sheep?
The Heart Matters Most
“The Lord does not look at the things people look at” (v. 7). Some saw a baby born to slaves and removed from his mother at an early age, but God saw Moses. Some saw an impatient, unsophisticated fisherman, but God saw Simon Peter. Some saw a poor widow drop a couple of copper coins into the temple treasury, but Jesus saw the woman’s faith and generosity.
Even Jesus himself “had no beauty or majesty to attract us to him, nothing in his appearance that we should desire him” (Isaiah 53:2). Outward appearance makes a quick impression, but character makes a lasting impact. David welcomed God’s inspection of his inner being. He prayed, “Search me, God, and know my heart” (Psalm 139:23). When God calls and equips a leader, he focuses on the condition of the soul.
Skill Matters Too
Even in David’s case, however, a heart for God was only part of the story. Ray Hilbert leads an organization called Truth@Work that encourages Christians to apply their faith in the workplace. A key Scripture for Ray’s ministry is Psalm 78:70-72, which says, “He chose David his servant and took him from the sheep pens; from tending sheep he brought him to be the shepherd of his people . . . . And David shepherded them with integrity of heart; with skillful hands he led them.” Success requires both integrity and skill. Hilbert said, “When you’re at work, it’s not enough just to say, ‘I’m a Christian.’ You also need to be a skilled, reliable, productive worker. Do the right things, and do things right.”
Yes David loved God, but he also brought to his work an unusual combination of skills. He was a valiant warrior—and a sensitive poet who wrote songs and prayers. He slew giants—and he played the harp. He was a rugged outdoorsman who could survive alone in the wilderness—and an inspiring leader who commanded his army’s respect.
Our childhood experiences, the hurts and slights we endure, the practical skills we develop, the wise teachers we encounter along the way—God uses all of these factors to prepare us for service. Whether we’re tending sheep in obscurity or ruling from a royal throne, our purpose in life is the same as David’s: to honor God.
David Faust serves as the Associate Minister at East 91st Street Christian Church in Indianapolis, Indiana.
The Lookout’s Bible Reading Plan for May 10, 2015
Use this guide to read through the Bible in 12 months. Follow David Faust’s comments on the highlighted text in every issue of The Lookout.
2 Corinthians 4
1 Samuel 11–13
2 Corinthians 5
1 Samuel 14
2 Corinthians 6
1 Samuel 15, 16
2 Corinthians 7
1 Samuel 17, 18
2 Corinthians 8
1 Samuel 19, 20
2 Corinthians 9
1 Samuel 21–23