1 Samuel 16:1-13
The Lord said to Samuel, ‘How long will you go on mourning over Saul when I have rejected him as king of Israel? Fill your horn with oil and go. I am sending you to Jesse of Bethlehem, for I have chosen myself a king among his sons.’ Samuel replied, ‘How can I go? When Saul hears of it he will kill me.’ Then the Lord said, ‘Take a heifer with you and say, “I have come to sacrifice to the Lord.” Invite Jesse to the sacrifice, and then I myself will tell you what you must do; you must anoint to me the one I point out to you.’
Samuel did what the Lord ordered and went to Bethlehem. The elders of the town came trembling to meet him and asked, ‘Seer, have you come with good intentions towards us?’ ‘Yes,’ he replied ‘I have come to sacrifice to the Lord. Purify yourselves and come with me to the sacrifice.’ He purified Jesse and his sons and invited them to the sacrifice.
When they arrived, he caught sight of Eliab and thought, ‘Surely the Lord’s anointed one stands there before him’, but the Lord said to Samuel, ‘Take no notice of his appearance or his height for I have rejected him; God does not see as man sees; man looks at appearances but the Lord looks at the heart.’ Jesse then called Abinadab and presented him to Samuel, who said, ‘The Lord has not chosen this one either.’ Jesse then presented Shammah, but Samuel said, ‘The Lord has not chosen this one either.’ Jesse presented his seven sons to Samuel, but Samuel said to Jesse, ‘The Lord has not chosen these.’ He then asked Jesse, ‘Are these all the sons you have?’ He answered, ‘There is still one left, the youngest; he is out looking after the sheep.’ Then Samuel said to Jesse, ‘Send for him; we will not sit down to eat until he comes.’ Jesse had him sent for, a boy of fresh complexion, with fine eyes and pleasant bearing. The Lord said, ‘Come, anoint him, for this is the one.’ At this, Samuel took the horn of oil and anointed him where he stood with his brothers; and the spirit of the Lord seized on David and stayed with him from that day on. As for Samuel, he rose and went to Ramah.
One sabbath day Jesus happened to be taking a walk through the cornfields, and his disciples began to pick ears of corn as they went along. And the Pharisees said to him, ‘Look, why are they doing something on the sabbath day that is forbidden?’ And he replied, ‘Did you never read what David did in his time of need when he and his followers were hungry – how he went into the house of God when Abiathar was high priest, and ate the loaves of offering which only the priests are allowed to eat, and how he also gave some to the men with him?’
And he said to them, ‘The sabbath was made for man, not man for the sabbath; the Son of Man is master even of the sabbath.’
“… but the Lord looks into the heart”
Society has grown accustomed to judging people based on their appearance, despite famous warnings such as ‘never to judge a book by its cover’. The emphasis on physical appearance has become a bane for the mental health field as an increasing number of children and adolescents are being diagnosed with eating or image-related disorders. School bullying would also go unnoticed and the repercussions would surface in young adulthood.
I was bullied in school for my size and, for many years, I hated who I was and how I looked. I fell into depression and my grades were badly affected, often just scraping through to make it to the next year. Some adults in church used to tell me that I had a kind heart, but I hated that description of me because it didn’t have the same impact as being pretty or good-looking. I questioned whether God hated me and thus gave me an appearance that was not acceptable to my peers, and that question became a belief which I held onto for many years of my life.
2 years ago, I was received into the Catholic Church and my godmother, who knew my struggles, reminded me that the Lord looks at the heart. I used to argue with her over this because of my perception of God towards me. It took quite a lot of time before I started to notice the slight shift in my beliefs, where I was more forgiving and accepting of myself. I would still get upset with my appearance but to a lesser degree.
The nature of my work also started to reinforce that appearances do not matter as much as the genuineness of a person; and the heart is more important than how tall or slim or pretty one is. The clients I work with remind me on a daily basis that it is the heart that matters – it is kindness, compassion and love for mankind that triumphs over physical appearances. I learnt that when I start to love myself a bit more, and when God sent people into my life to remind me of His love and what is important to him.
Brothers and sisters, the Lord reminded Samuel in today’s reading that what pleases Him is the heart of the person and not the outward appearance. Let us remember to look beyond first impressions and not to judge others because they are different from us.
(Today’s Oxygen by Hannah Huang)
Prayer: Heavenly Father, we pray for the desire to look beyond appearances and to look at the heart of the people in our lives.
Thanksgiving: Dear loving Father, we thank you for loving us and not judging us even though we sometimes judge other people. Thank you for giving us reminders to look beyond what we can see.