By Regina Shands Stoltzfus, professor of peace, justice and conflict studies
Scripture: 1 Samuel 16:1-13 (NRSV)
We have been taught to put our best face forward. First impressions matter! They set the tone for important encounters like job interviews, or meeting the new neighbors. We might even pride ourselves on our own ability to make snap judgements on people we meet for the first time, heavily influenced by what we see. How we make meaning about what we see is in turn influenced by our socialization. Our cultural and social contexts “teach” us how to see, and what to think about people and the groups that they belong to.
Unfortunately, first impressions are not always accurate. Indeed, these impressions can be informed by stereotypes and misinformation about what certain people are like. In this way, those first impressions can be dangerous. In 2014, 12-year-old Tamir Rice was playing in a public park with a toy gun. Police were called to the park and within seconds Rice was shot dead. The death of Tamir Rice became national news not because this was a unique incident, but rather because his name was one more in a long litany of names of Black people who were mistakenly thought to be armed and dangerous.
The story of David’s anointing as king is a reminder that what we see is not all there is. David, the young shepherd, is an unlikely and seemingly ridiculous choice to be king. He is the youngest and the smallest of Jesse’s sons, and was not even included when the elder brothers were summoned to appear before Samuel. David remains behind, tending the sheep.
David’s story is a complicated one. He is God’s chosen. And yet he is flawed and makes some devastatingly bad choices over the course of his life. He is, after all, human. Our lives and our encounters with our human siblings reveal a constant ebb and flow of assessing who we are, who others are, and how we navigate our relationships with one another. May we learn to see each other with the eyes of God.
Scripture: 1 Samuel 16:1-13 (NRSV)
The Lord said to Samuel, How long will you grieve over Saul? I have rejected him from being king over Israel. Fill your horn with oil and set out; I will send you to Jesse the Bethlehemite, for I have provided for myself a king among his sons. 2Samuel said, How can I go? If Saul hears of it, he will kill me. And the Lord said, Take a heifer with you, and say, I have come to sacrifice to the Lord. 3Invite Jesse to the sacrifice, and I will show you what you shall do; and you shall anoint for me the one whom I name to you. 4Samuel 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? 5He said, Peaceably; I have come to sacrifice to the Lord; sanctify yourselves and come with me to the sacrifice. And he sanctified Jesse and his sons and invited them to the sacrifice.
6When they came, he looked on Eliab and thought, Surely the Lords anointed is now before the Lord. 7But 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 does not see as mortals see; they look on the outward appearance, but the Lord looks on the heart. 8Then Jesse called Abinadab, and made him pass before Samuel. He said, Neither has the Lord chosen this one. 9Then Jesse made Shammah pass by. And he said, Neither has the Lord chosen this one. 10Jesse made seven of his sons pass before Samuel, and Samuel said to Jesse, The Lord has not chosen any of these. 11Samuel said to Jesse, Are all your sons here? And he said, There remains yet the youngest, but he is keeping the sheep. And Samuel said to Jesse, Send and bring him; for we will not sit down until he comes here. 12He sent and brought him in. Now he was ruddy, and had beautiful eyes, and was handsome. The Lord said, Rise and anoint him; for this is the one. 13Then Samuel took the horn of oil, and anointed him in the presence of his brothers; and the spirit of the Lord came mightily upon David from that day forward. Samuel then set out and went to Ramah.