As a young man, I was challenged to read the world’s best-selling book from cover to cover. At a young age I had fallen in love with books. In Junior High I would ride my bike to the Library and check out six or seven books at a time and read them all before the due date so I could return them and check out another six or seven books and devour them as well.
I read mysteries, thrillers, spy stories, science fiction, even mythology and historical war dramas. I couldn’t get enough of books.
So, when my pastor’s wife challenged me to read the world’s best-seller I couldn’t resist. Little did I know that she was talking about the Bible. I took her challenge to read one chapter every night before I went to sleep, starting in the book of Genesis.
At first, I enjoyed it, doing it more as a duty than out of any sense or expectation of spiritual benefit. Soon I began to get bogged down, especially in Leviticus and later in the book of Deuteronomy.
Still, I plowed onward, until I came to the book of 1 Samuel, and there I found my first hero within the Bible in the person of David. Here was a person who I could identify with. Here was a hero so noble, so humble, and yet so very human.
What I found most intriguing, and even sad, about David is in the way he was called and anointed by God to be the next King of Israel.
The set-up for David’s anointing is that, after hundreds of years of having only God as their king, the people of Israel demanded to have a King like all the other nations around them. God was grieved. His people were rejecting Him as their King, and God gave them what they asked for.
Be careful what you ask for.
What they wanted was a king “…such as all the other nations have” (1 Samuel 8:5) and so God gives them a man named Saul who was tall and strong and good-looking. He was also, sadly, a king “such as all the other nations” had. He was prideful, shallow and at heart, a man-pleaser, not a God-pleaser.
And so, as Saul defies God in favor of the will of his people, he has the kingdom ripped from his hands and given to another. Samuel says to Saul, “But now your kingdom will not endure; the Lord has sought out a man after his own heart and appointed him leader of his people, because you have not kept the Lord’s command” (1 Samuel 13:14).
So, God tells Samuel, the prophet of God, to go to the house of Jesse and to anoint one of his sons as the next King over Israel. Jesse is told to assemble all of his sons together because the Lord has chosen one of them to be the next King.
When Samuel arrives, each son of Jesse passes before him.
As the oldest son, the first-born of Jesse, passes by, Samuel says in his heart, “Surely the Lord’s anointed stands before the Lord,”because this son was tall, and strong and good-looking. But God warns Samuel by saying, “Do not consider his appearance or his height, for I have rejected him. The Lord does not look at the things man looks at. Man looks at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.”
How often do we assume that someone is God’s anointed because they are tall, or strong, or talented, or beautiful? Perhaps we attribute God’s favor and blessing to someone because they’re a good preacher, or a good writer, or they can pray eloquently, play the guitar skillfully? But God does not consider our appearance. He does not look at our talent, or our ability. He doesn’t judge from the outside in, but from the inside out.
One by one, each of Jesse’s sons is paraded before the prophet Samuel. One by one, God rejects them all. Until the final son is brought before Samuel and he assumes that this, at last, must be the chosen one of God. Still, God says, “No.”
Samuel, as you might imagine, is puzzled. “Are these all the sons you have,” he asks? Jesse’s response is telling. He shrugs and says, “There is still the youngest, but he is out tending the sheep.”
This is what amazes me about the calling of David. Even his own father didn’t consider David to be the sort of person that God would ever choose to be King over Israel. When he is told to gather every one of his sons into one place so that one of them can be anointed the next King, Jesse gathers all except for David. Only David is singled out, among all of his father’s sons, as the one who is unworthy of the honor to be chosen as King.
Sometimes, in our life, our own Father or Mother may determine that we are not the right sort of person to be of any use to God, or to anyone else. Sometimes our own brothers and sisters may look at us and judge that we just don’t have what it takes to be anything special.
Please, do not miss the point of David’s anointing. God, who is good, looks at the heart alone. It doesn’t matter what our friends think about us. It doesn’t matter if we’re not talented enough, or strong enough, or funny enough. It doesn’t matter if our own flesh and blood leaves us out on the hillside to spend the night with the smelly sheep while the rest of the family gathers for a celebration.
Here’s what matters; The heart. If God looks at the heart, I have to wonder, what is it that He sees? What is it that He’s looking for? I think it’s simply humility. If David, at this point in his life, could be characterized by one word, it would be humility. Sitting alone on the hillside, tending the sheep, writing his simple songs of love to God, it was the humble heart of David that touched the heart of the Almighty. Scripture supports my theory:
“God opposes the proud, but gives grace to the humble” (Proverbs 3:34)
“For whoever exalts himself will be humbled, and whoever humbles himself will be exalted.” (Matthew 23:12)
If God looks at the heart, what’s in your heart? Do you lean completely upon God for your strength, or do you rely on your own talent, your own strength, your own ability?
How sad would it be to depend on your own ability and have God say of you, “I have rejected this one, because the Lord looks at the heart and not on the outward appearance.”
If God looks at the heart, then it’s the heart that we need to make available to Him, and when He has your heart, He will have all of you.
I was in college when I first heard God’s voice speaking to me. Walking in the mountains of New Mexico, at a Baptist Retreat facility called “Glorietta” I heard God speak the most amazing, and convicting thing to me. It literally stopped me in my tracks.
I was returning from a workshop on spiritual warfare and on my way to the cabin to join my friends for an afternoon meal, enjoying the sunshine, the crisp mountain air, and feeling very good about myself. I started to just talk to God as I strolled along. I was telling God how much I loved Him, how thrilled I was to be up here in this holy, special place with all my Christian friends to focus on Him for five days.
That was when God spoke and stopped me cold. He said, “Keith, I can’t use half a man or half a heart.” That was it. Nothing more.
I stood there by the side of the trail, my head hanging down, my Bible tucked under my arm. I was stunned by these words.
Did God mean to suggest that I had not yet surrendered all of myself to Him? Was He warning me that, in order to really serve Him the way He wanted, I would be expected to fully and completely surrender all of myself, all of my heart, to Him?
As I stood there under the blue New Mexico sky, the sound of the wind in the pine trees overhead, the thunder of blood in my ears, I knew the answer. I knew that God was asking for all of me. Anything less was unacceptable.
It was with a much slower, more deliberate step that I continued my walk towards the cabin where my friends were preparing to share a lunch.
I didn’t respond at first. But, I took these words seriously.
I still do.
Excerpted from the forthcoming book “Jesus Unleashed” by Keith Giles. Available 2020.
Keith Giles was formerly a licensed and ordained minister who walked away from organized church 11 years ago, to start a home fellowship that gave away 100% of the offering to the poor in the community. Today, He and his wife live in Meridian, Idaho, awaiting their next adventure.
His new book “Jesus Unbound: Liberating the Word of God from the Bible”, is available now on Amazon and features a Foreword by author Brian Zahnd.
He is also the author of the Amazon best-seller, “Jesus Untangled: Crucifying Our Politics To Pledge Allegiance To The Lamb” with a Foreword by Greg Boyd.
Keith also co-hosts the Heretic Happy Hour Podcast on iTunes and Podbean. BONUS: Want to unlock exclusive content including blog articles, short stories, music, podcasts, videos and more? Visit my Patreon page.
Join me this summer at one of these upcoming events:
*Costa Mesa, CA – June 22 “United We Stand”
*Hot Springs, NC – July 11-14 “Wild Goose Festival”
Want Keith to come speak at your church or in your home town? Learn more HERE