Like many others, today’s Old Testament story has enormous consequences. On the surface it is an account of how David is chosen to replace Saul as king of Israel. Samuel selects only one of Jesse’s eight sons, and David seems the most unlikely. Even Samuel seems perplexed about God’s decision—at least at first. David is a lowly shepherd; yet the image of a shepherd-king of Israel becomes one of the most beloved in Christian history. What are we to make of this story within the larger drama of God’s dealings with a complicated and even unruly ancient Israel?

It turns out that the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob does not judge on outward appearances. This is quite unlike our way of judging. As the story says, God does “not see as mortals see . . . the Lord looks on the heart.” Suddenly I realize that I make many of my own judgments about other people based on “outward appearances.” The success, power, and influence of others often shape my view of their ability and character. Recent discussions of our hidden privileges (whether of race, class, gender, or other identifier) have convinced me that our human decisions about one another rarely “look upon the heart.” When making community decisions about who our leaders should be, how God sees our hearts often seems missing.

Samuel’s perplexity opens us to the mystery of how God works to raise up leaders of church and society. Can we learn from God’s choice of a psalm-singing shepherd to look beyond our habits of “outward appearances” to divine wisdom? Much remains hidden at this point in the story of how David will rule, but the truth of God’s preference and risk in choosing the “shepherd of Israel” remains.

Christ Jesus, you looked upon the hearts of all you encountered with compassion and wisdom. Teach us to do the same in all our judgments. Amen.

Pray the Scriptures Using Audio Lectio
Read John 9:1-41

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Lectionary Week
March 16–22, 2020
Scripture Overview

The two readings from the Hebrew scriptures focus on the life of David. In First Samuel, the prophet is sent to anoint the next king of Israel. God chooses David not because of outward appearance but because of his heart. David is not perfect, nor is his life always easy. Psalm 23 declares David’s trust in God in good times and bad times. Just as Samuel has anointed David with oil, so does the Lord anoint him. The New Testament readings both employ images of light and darkness. Ephesians instructs us to live as children of light, not darkness. In John, Jesus heals a blind man and brings him from darkness into light. Some religious leaders protest because although their physical eyes can see, their spiritual vision is darkened.

Questions and Suggestions for Reflection

Read 1 Samuel 16:1-13. How often do you judge others by outward appearances or worldly successes? How can you “look upon the heart” to judge leaders in your community?
Read Psalm 23. When have you experienced Jesus’ presence with you in the wilderness?
Read Ephesians 5:8-14. How does God’s light help you persist through struggles within yourself or in the world around you?
Read John 9:1-41. What questions does Jesus ask you? How do your questions of Jesus help you understand him?

Respond by posting a prayer.

I join many of those who will pray for you as you seek to discern what you are called to be at this moment. May God grant you the courage to fulfill that calling. May we all open our eyes and see the misery, open our ears and hear the cries of God’s people, and, like God through the Lord Jesus Christ, be incarnate amongst them.” 

View a growing list of resources for the spiritual work of overcoming racism.