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 sees not as man sees: man looks on the outward appearance, but the LORD looks on the heart.” 1 Samuel 16:7 ESV
When most people read or hear our focus verse, they immediately think of David’s coronation. After the Lord rejected Saul as king, He instructed Samuel to anoint one of Jesse’s sons as king.
When the prophet saw Eliab, Jesse’s firstborn, he was sure he had found the Lord’s chosen king. The Bible doesn’t give us anything in the way of physical description except a hint that he was tall and handsome. Maybe Eliab carried himself like a king.
We don’t know, but we read God’s cautionary words not to look at a person’s outward appearance as a measure of their worth. After God rejected Eliab as His appointed, He also rejected seven of Jesse’s sons (1 Samuel 16:10).
It was David, the youngest of Jesse’s sons and the most unlikely candidate, that God had chosen as king. I’m guessing that everyone present were surprised. Why would God choose the youngest son, the one who spent most of his time among sheep, to lead His people?
The answer is found in 1 Samuel 16:7. Eliab and his brothers may have had the outward appearance of kings, but David had the character and the heart of one. Since God knew the true measure of each person, He wasn’t swayed by how they looked on the outside.
Thankfully, the Bible doesn’t leave us in the dark about the true character of Eliab and David. We see it played out in the very next chapter.
When most persons read 1 Samuel 17, they focus on the battle between David and Goliath, and while it shows a lot about David’s character, let’s go back to what happened before the conflict.
Jesse sent David to bring supplies to his three older brothers who served in Saul’s army. While he was visiting, he heard the boastful words of Goliath. Curious, David began to ask questions. He was surprised that an uncircumcised Philistine would dare to defy the armies of the living God (1 Samuel 17:26).
The Bible tells us that Eliab’s anger was kindled when he heard David talking (1 Samuel 17:28). The word used as “kindled” is the Hebrew word chârâh, (pronounced khaw-raw’).
Chârâh means to glow or grow warm; or when used figuratively, it usually means to blaze up in reference to anger, zeal, or jealousy. Chârâh is closely connected to tachârâh, (pronounced takh-aw-raw’) which suggests anger through the idea of the heat of jealousy or the anger which comes when vying with a rival.
Eliab was furious at David and he used his words as a weapon,
“Why have you come down? And with whom have you left those few sheep in the wilderness? I know your presumption and the evil of your heart, for you have come down to see the battle.” 1 Samuel 17:28 ESV
The Bible tells us that out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks (Luke 6:45). How long had Eliab been harboring feelings of jealousy and anger towards his brother? The Bible doesn’t say but David’s response give us a hint that it was not the first time these two brothers had found themselves on opposite sides (1 Samuel 17:29).
Eliab’s character had him chastising his brother for asking questions. David’s character made him willing to fight a giant in the name of the Lord. God knew the true measure of each man long before it played out on the pages of the Bible. He knows our true characters as well, no matter how hard we try to hide it behind nice words or pretty clothes.
My friend, if you had been in the place of Jesse’s sons, would God have been able to anoint you king to lead His people? Or would He have passed you over in favor of someone else? I think it’s important for us to spend some time pondering the answer to that question and making changes where necessary.
Father, forgive me of my sins. Remove from me anything that is unlike You. I want to be a person who reflects Your character and so I submit my life to You. Restore Your image in me, in Jesus’ name I pray, Amen.
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