But the Lord said to Samuel, “Do not consider his appearance or his height, for I have rejected him. The Lord does not look at the things people look at. People look at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.” 1 Samuel 16:7
Few figures in the Bible are as memorable as David, King of Israel. His life was messy, filled with triumph and pain. From it, we understand God and his character; we can reflect on our own lives and learn from his failures.
So, today, we will look at the meaning of 1 Samuel 16:7 and seek to understand how God’s words apply to our lives today.
The Context of 1 Samuel 16:7
To better understand the 1 Samuel 16:7 meaning we first need to understand the context.
Though King David is known throughout the world, this chapter is our first introduction to the shepherd who would become king. Though we know of his battle with Goliath, his ascent to the throne, and his sin with Bathsheba, David and his family do not. To them, he is the youngest brother, the goofy teenager responsible for caring for the sheep.
Into this household enters Samuel, a prophet of God. In 1 Samuel 15, King Saul disobeys God and refuses to accept responsibility for his wrongdoing. Samuel pronounces that the Lord has rejected him as king. The kingdom will pass to another.
This chapter closes with Samuel’s departure from Saul’s presence. The two men will never meet again, though the prophet will mourn his fall. This is the scene against which 1 Samuel 16 is set—a fallen king with the right credentials, but the wrong heart.
The Meaning of 1 Samuel 16:7
In 1 Samuel 16, God calls Samuel to rise, travel to Bethlehem, and anoint the coming king from the house of Jesse. Jesse’s seven eldest sons are consecrated. The eldest, Eliab, fits the bill so much so that Samuel thinks, “Surely the Lord’s anointed stands here before the Lord” (1 Samuel 16:6).
This is the moment God whispers, “Do not consider his appearance or his height, for I have rejected him. The Lord does not look at the things people look at. People look at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.”
These words tie back to Saul. In 1 Samuel 9:2, we learn that Saul was a head taller than other men, physically imposing, an obvious choice for a warrior king. God is reminding Samuel that their current king failed in what was essential—a right heart. The character of the coming king mattered, for though God could clear a battlefield with the wave of his hand, he would not force a person to become what they are not. He did not need a warrior, a warrior he could make; he needed a leader.
The word “heart” in 1 Samuel 16:7 is noteworthy. Throughout Scripture, it is interpreted to mean heart, understanding, and desire. It conveys the seat of a person’s desires, passions, and courage. We struggle to define it but can easily recognize it—the essence of a person. God sought a person whose being was drawn to righteousness.
We then read that David’s seven brothers pass before him and are rejected; the future king is not among them. When asked if Jesse has another son, David is called from the field. God calls Samuel to rise and anoint him king. He goes on to become the most famous Israelite king in all of history, and from his family line, the Messiah will spring.
This passage, though, reveals as much about David’s character as it does about God’s. David has a right heart, yes, but more importantly, we learn that it is leaders with right hearts whom God seeks. The young shepherd did not look the part because God does not judge us by our beauty or strength; it is the inner character that matters to him. He understands that the integrity to do what is right, even in secret, cannot be learned in a classroom or taught by a book; therefore, he prizes it above all else. When we stand before God, it is not our outward appearance that he considers but our heart.
How 1 Samuel 16:7 Applies to Your Life
Cultivating a right heart is essential for the follower of Christ. But how can we apply the meaning of 1 Samuel 16:7 to our lives today? How does one develop the right spirit?
Through connection to God. Righteousness is not synonymous with rule-keeping or learning, but with abiding in God’s presence. In John 15:5, Jesus says, “I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing.” Relationship, then, that is the key. In God, we can bear fruit. Apart from him, we can do nothing. This is the essence of the story of David—God’s presence, not his might, was his strength.
Though it is tempting in our journey as followers of Christ to do what is right, I encourage you to be what is right. Make a connection to God the priority. When we become right with God, we do the right things—just as David did. Then, we, too, can become people after God’s own heart.
Now check out: 5 Lessons From The Story Of David And Goliath
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