Samuel took his tape measure with him on the trip to Bethlehem. The Lord had told him to bring his horn filled with oil for the anointing of Israel’s next king. And so Samuel did. But because he was only human, Samuel brought his tape measure also.
When he turned off the interstate and took the exit for Bethlehem, Samuel drove the pickup straight to city hall and found Jesse, one of the town fathers. This was per his instructions, for God had told Samuel to find this man. The prophet gets Jesse to assemble the finest branches of his paternal tree, and before long Jesse’s best sons are standing before Samuel. Once again, this was per instructions. God told Samuel to anoint one of these lads king of Israel. The horn of oil was at the ready.
But so was the tape measure. We all have one. It is how we size up people and situations. Samuel’s tape measure was not the 25ft retractable contractor’s grade model from Home Depot. Samuel’s measure was more like that which a tailor or seamstress would use. It was a measuring tape. Samuel was ready to see how the boys measured up, the tape stretched between his two hands.
First, he saw Eliab – no doubt Jesse’s eldest. Samuel started salivating. Look at those shoulders! They are as broad as a barn. Thighs like an oak. Look at that spear arm! The inseam? Well, never mind – let’s just say it was impressive. Samuel steps back and thinks to himself, “This is the best physical specimen that I have seen since that kid who won the decathlon in Montreal – Bruce, ah, Whats-his-name? Surely this is my guy.”
But God said, “No.”
How could God reject Eliab? Didn’t he see the measurements?
“But 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 sees not as man sees: man looks on the outward appearance, but the LORD looks on the heart.”” (1 Samuel 16:7 ESV)
What metrics do you use at work? Do you work in ml at the hospital or cubic feet at the job site? Do you measure voltage, MHz or psi? Lines of code? Do you use the postage scale or the Bouffant scale? Dollars, Euros or Yen? What metrics do you use? How do we measure our own worth? Is it by money, influence, or high achieving children? (If it is by high achieving children perhaps we should all move to Lake Wobegon, where Garrison Keillor assures us that all the children are above average) How do we measure our church’s worth? Do we use attendance figures, buildings, mission trips, or coffee shops in the lobby?
As I have been preaching through the seven letters to the seven churches in Revelation, I noticed something interesting about two of the churches. The churches at Smyrna and Philadelphia are the only two churches who received no criticism from the Lord. The other five find a rebuke inside the envelope postmarked “The Throne in Heaven.” There is something else that these churches have in common. According to our metrics, they would not have measured up. These two churches were not large or rich or powerful. By our standards, they were weak.
But they were faithful. The folks at Smyrna and Philadelphia recognized that they had an audience of One. It did not matter what anybody else thought of them, they would do what Jesus told them to do.
If this is so, then today perhaps the smallest church in Aleppo, Syria – holding on by a thread in the face of violence – is greater in the eyes of Jesus than the largest church in Houston, TX. The same would hold true for individual believers. Status, wealth, and influence do not cut much mustard before the throne of God. But faithfulness to our calling does. Each church and each follower of the Lord must examine their own hearts and decide if being faithful to Jesus is their utmost calling or if something else is.
In the seven letters and the in the account of Samuel’s trip to Bethlehem in 1 Samuel 16, we are told that God was more impressed with little David’s heart than Eliab’s shoulders or Saul height. Are we?
What metrics do you use?