Thanks to a thoughtful question by H, we are spending this week reminding ourselves how perfectly God created each of us and how deeply He loves us.
As I considered how to respond to H’s question, I couldn’t help but think of the many times in my own life when I have felt ashamed or upset because I couldn’t make myself live up to the standard of our culture’s beauty.
I remember the start of 4th grade as if it were yesterday. Our classroom was oddly located overlooking the school gym, making concentration next to impossible if any other class happened to make their way to P.E. during a test. The carpet was peach and we had windows that also faced the back parking lot and soccer fields.
I can’t recall what I wore on the first day of school, but I vividly remember a boy walking up to me quite candidly and piping up that “My dad said you got fat this summer.”
Not, “How was your summer?” or “I wonder what 4th grade will be like?” or even “I don’t know what to think of Mrs. So and So.” Not only do I wonder what compelled the boy to share this information, but I also wonder what made his father decide to proclaim that message to his son. One sentence and I carry it always. Isn’t it amazing how hearing from others can affect how we feel about ourselves?
“It’s the inside that counts”… right? But I care a lot about what other people think. I mean, we want to look a certain way, be in the right group, say the right things. And sometimes that goes well for us, but other times it just… doesn’t.
I remember being in school and loving recess. Any good game requires selecting teams. And how do we usually pick teams? Team captains. Being team captain was awesome. You got to pick your friends and the really good players. But any time you played and it wasn’t your best friend as the captain, or it was a sport you weren’t really good at… bad news, right?
You watch as everyone starts calling out names. You just cross your fingers and hope. Please oh please let my name be called next! I’ll be better than last time. I promise! And still you weren’t called. Who wants to be picked last? Not me. Not most of us. It’s hard when it feels like everyone is judging you based on how you look. Most people care about the outside. And that even includes people who really love God… like His prophets.
There was a prophet of God named Samuel. God actually came to Samuel and said that he was supposed to go and pick the next King of Israel. We can find that story in 1 Samuel Chapter 16. God told him to go to the city of Bethlehem and to find a man named Jesse. When Samuel came to Bethlehem he found Jesse and his eight sons. Samuel told Jesse that he wanted to worship God together with all of his sons and then eat a meal together. That sounded like a good idea, so Jesse called all of his sons together…or at least most of them.
So Jesse comes back to meet up with Samuel and his first son walks in and Samuel thinks to himself, “This has got to be the new King! Just look at this guy! He’s huge!”
But God told Samuel “Looks aren’t everything. You can’t just be impressed by the outside. This is not the guy I’ve picked to be king. Men look at the outside, but God looks on the inside… I look into their hearts.” So, Eliab, the first son turns out to not be the King, but Samuel didn’t have time to worry, because Jesse’s next son, Abinadab showed up to be introduced. Even though Abinadab was handsome, Samuel knew that Abinadab wasn’t God’s choice for king either.
Next came Shammah. Samuel got pretty excited, because Shammah was a good dresser and looked the way a king should. But, Samuel realized that Shammah wasn’t going to be the King either. This went on and on with the next four son’s of Jesse. They were strong, warriors, smart, and even fun to be around. But God did not choose any of these seven sons of Jesse.
Samuel turned to Jesse and said, “Don’t you have any other sons?” Jesse did have another son, but he was so young and inexperienced that they hadn’t even told him about the dinner. David, the youngest, was out taking care of the family sheep.
The other sons of Jesse must have been pretty surprised to hear that Samuel wanted to meet the runt of the family who was just a shepherd boy. Everyone was getting pretty hungry, but Samuel told them they weren’t moving or eating until someone sent for David.
Check out 1 Samuel 16:12-13. “Jesse sent for him. He was brought in… God said, “Up on your feet! Anoint him! This is the one.”
Samuel took his flask of oil and anointed him, with his brothers standing around watching. The Spirit of God entered David like a rush of wind, God vitally empowering him for the rest of his life.”
When Samuel came to choose the next king of Israel he thought he would pick the biggest son of Jesse. He then thought he would choose the athlete, or the guy who dressed like a king. But God had something else in mind. “Man looks at the outward appearance, but God looks at the heart.” Jesse’s youngest son, David, was out tending sheep. He hadn’t been brought in to meet Samuel with the rest of his brothers. David probably felt left out… maybe even purposeless.
David was Samuel’s last pick, but he wasn’t God’s last pick. God chose David out of all of Jesse’s sons, out of all the men of Israel, to be KING. God picked the right man for the job. Even more amazing, God has chosen us to do mighty things for Him.
The Bible says that even before your mom knew she was going to have you, God picked you. God loves each of us just the way we are. I’m claiming that promise today… and for my fourth grade self.