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Man Looks on the Outward Appearance but the LORD Looks on the Heart

19 March • Fourth Sunday in Lent

1 Samuel 16:1-13

1. The LORD said to Samuel, “How long will you grieve over Saul, since I have rejected him from being king over Israel? Fill your horn with oil, and go. I will send you to Jesse the Bethlehemite, for I have provided for myself a king among his sons.” 2 And Samuel said, “How can I go? If Saul hears 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 And invite Jesse to the sacrifice, and I will show you what you shall do. And you shall anoint for me him whom I declare 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 And he said, “Peaceably; I have come to sacrifice to the LORD. Consecrate yourselves, and come with me to the sacrifice.” And he consecrated Jesse and his sons and invited them to the sacrifice.

6. When they came, he looked on Eliab and thought, “Surely the LORD's anointed is before him.” 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 sees not as man sees: man looks on the outward appearance, but the LORD looks on the heart.” 8 Then Jesse called Abinadab and made him pass before Samuel. And he said, “Neither has the LORD chosen this one.” 9 Then Jesse made Shammah pass by. And he said, “Neither has the LORD chosen this one.” 10 And Jesse made seven of his sons pass before Samuel. And Samuel said to Jesse, “The LORD has not chosen these.” 11 Then Samuel said to Jesse, “Are all your sons here?” And he said, “There remains yet the youngest, but behold, he is keeping the sheep.” And Samuel said to Jesse, “Send and get him, for we will not sit down till he comes here.” 12 And he sent and brought him in. Now he was ruddy and had beautiful eyes and was handsome. And the LORD said, “Arise, anoint him, for this is he.” 13 Then Samuel took the horn of oil and anointed him in the midst of his brothers. And the Spirit of the LORD rushed upon David from that day forward. And Samuel rose up and went to Ramah.



From the scripture, we learn that God rejected Saul as king of Israel, and asked Samuel, the old prophet, to go to the house of Jesse and anoint the one that God has chosen to be king. This was a difficult task for the old prophet, as he would be killed by Saul.

The Lord God gave Samuel a coup “sacrifice” to fulfil his mission and anoint a King of Israel who was pleasing to God. Samuel followed God’s instructions and went to the house of Jesse. The Bible says that Jesse’s seven sons passed before Samuel (v.10), making David the eighth son. But the genealogy of 1 Chronicles 2:13-15 records David as the seventh son of Jesse, probably because one of David’s brothers had died, so the genealogy does not record it.

David was a despised young kid in his family, and he had no say before his brothers (2 Sam 17:28). And he was “ruddy” (2 Sam 17:42), which meant that he did not have a beard and was a child, so he was not taken seriously at home. He was not even invited for this peace sacrifice banquet!

Besides, David in Jesse’s eyes was a child, immature, with no potential; not a wise and impressive leader or warrior. He can only be a handyman, run errands, herd sheep, bring food to his brothers (1 Sam 17:17), be a messenger (1 Sam 17:18), and do other chores.

When his tall and mighty brothers walked up to Samuel one by one, the old prophet was equally impressed by their handsome and strong bodies, and even thought that any one of them may be the king chosen by God.

But the Lord does not look at man as man look at man. Man looks at the outward appearance, but the LORD looks at the heart (v.7b). God told Samuel that he should not judge by appearance; rather, it was the inner quality and character that would determine who would be king.

All his brothers had passed before Samuel, but David, a sheep herder, had not yet returned. If we were there when David ran back, we would have seen him with his cheeks flushed, his hair flying, his clear eyes shining with innocence, a handsome boy.

David came to Samuel and the Lord said, “Arise, anoint him, for this is he” (v.12b). Samuel might have thought at this point that God chose David because he was the youngest.

However, the Bible says, “man looks on the outward appearance, but the Lord looks on the heart.” (v.7b). This is the principle by which God sees people. A man “chosen and asked king” (1 Sam 12:13) is one who values outward appearance over the people (1 Sam 10:23-24), but the king that God chooses is one who values the true life within him.

The word “outward appearance” literally translates as “what the eye can see” and this is how people generally pay attention only to “what the eye sees! Therefore, God taught Samuel a lesson so that we would not repeat the same mistakes.



Merciful God, examine me, know my heart and mind, test me, and know my thought. See if there is any evil in me? I am willing to repent sincerely. Please forgive me, cleanse me, and give me a clean heart. So that I may be Your valued, beloved and chosen child. In the name of the Lord Jesus, amen!



May we not be deceived by outward appearances. Pray that we might see the heart through the eyes of God. May 1 Corinthians 2:10; and 14-15 be our help: “These things God has revealed to us through the Spirit.” “The natural person does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are folly to him, and he is not able to understand them because they are spiritually discerned. The spiritual person judges all things, but is himself to be judged by no one.”

Rt Rev Dr Teoh Boo Cheow Senior Pastor,

Christian Grace Presbyterian Church Moderator,

The Presbyterian Church in Singapore Resident Lecturer, TCA College (Singapore)

Councilor, Asian Missiological Graduate School (Taiwan)

(Source: Translated from Chinese Lenten Devotions 2023)

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