More than Meets the Eye

by Kim Harrington



The Lord seeth not as man seeth; for man looketh on the outward appearance, but the Lord looketh on the heart

I Samuel 16:7

When I first came across the picture of David that we're using with this article, I liked it so much I hung it in my office. Nevertheless, the more I saw of it, the more I began to find fault with it. The artist pictured him as pretty, almost effeminate—why his legs are as shapely as a woman's! He looks like he's wearing eye makeup! Is that any way to picture David, the mighty warrior, the man after God's own heart?

So I turned to 1 Samuel chapter sixteen to check the biblical description of David…

"Now he was ruddy (reddish hair, that is) and withal of a beautiful countenance, and goodly to look to," (vs 12). Not quite in the macho mold of Stallone or Schwarzeneggar, I gathered. The New American Standard adds that he had "beautiful eyes." He apparently didn't look too tough or God wouldn't have had to warn Samuel about judging by outward appearance. After checking the Word, I came to the conclusion that our picture is probably pretty accurate.

Now, don't get me wrong. David was pretty, but not effeminate or limp-wristed by any stretch of the imagination, as his subsequent history proves. Nevertheless, he obviously didn't fit the physical description of mighty warrior and captain of God’s army.

He was considered the least of his father's children. When Samuel came to anoint the next king of Israel among Jesse's sons, they didn't even think to bring in David from the field. Samuel rejected all of the other sons, one by one, before Jesse even remembered he had another son out keeping the sheep. I'm sure both father and sons were quite shocked—and perhaps insulted—when Samuel announced, "This is the one," and chose young David over them as the future king of Israel.

David was perhaps thought of as tender and over-sensitive by his burlier older brothers. He'd rather sit around and play his psaltery (not-too-distant cousin of the guitar, sometimes called a harp) than engage in a game of football (or the equivalent). After all, there's got to be something wrong with a kid that writes songs and poems about the Lord all day long! We believe in God, too, David, but let's be reasonable—we’ve got our own lives to live, too. Why is it that people always consider a man (or boy) a sissy if he leans toward the artistic or musical, or worst of all, the spiritual? David was destined to prove them all wrong, but he probably suffered a lot of grief at the hands of his brothers before that day arrived.

When the older brothers followed Saul into battle against the Philistines, David was left at home to tend the sheep. I can just picture him, desiring with all his heart to fight the Lord's enemies—but his brothers no doubt said, "Forget it, Davey--go sing to your sheep or something… I suppose you re still believing what that senile old Samuel said last year about you being king. Don't count on it."

Everyone really began wondering about this presumptuous youth when he stood up to fight Goliath, as recorded in 1 Samuel 17. Eliab, his oldest brother, rebuked him sharply. "What are you doing here, you proud, naughty little brat?" He actually used the word "naughty" to indicate his utter contempt for the young David.

King Saul tried to talk him out of fighting Goliath. "Thou art not able to go against this Philistine to fight with him: for thou art but a youth, and he a man of war from his youth." He wasn't about to let him go fight the giant, but when David mentioned the Lord, the backslidden king got under conviction and decided to send him out after all.

Goliath thought the whole thing was a big joke. "When the Philistine looked about, and saw David, he disdained him: for he was but a youth, and ruddy, and of a fair countenance." Like Samuel and many others the giant was judging David by his pretty exterior; but there was more to David than what met the eye, as the Philistine was shortly to find out.

However, there apparently were a few discerning folks in Israel who had noticed the underlying greatness of David. In 1 Samuel 16:18, when Saul is seeking deliverance from the demonic spirit oppressing him, one of the servants recommends David. He’s described here as "cunning in playing, and a mighty valiant man, and a man of war, and prudent in matters, a comely person, and the Lord is with him."

This servant noticed more than just his prettiness, and saw the mighty man of God underneath, while others were still woefully ignorant of what God was doing in this young man. The servant especially noted that the Lord was with him; and If anyone could handle Saul's demon it had to be someone with a special anointing of God—someone like David.

Perhaps Saul's servant had heard the stories about the bear and the lion. It seems David had courageously defended his father's flock from these predatory beasts, and actually slew them in hand-to-hand combat. Here was a man of great valor indeed; God must surely be with him or such feats could never have been accomplished. I’m sure that older brother Eliab must have dismissed these stories as exaggerated tall-tales, but there were those that believed, nevertheless.

In any case, only a very few had seen David as the Lord saw him before that fateful day in the valley of Elah. We all know what happened on that occasion. The mocking Philistine found out that he was not facing a mere lad, but a man who came in the name of the Lord of Hosts. In a few seconds the contest was over and Goliath lay dead upon the ground, the victorious David standing over him.

Suddenly the pretty-faced boy was the hero of Israel. He was soon made a captain in Saul's army, and the women were dancing in the streets, singing his praises. The shepherd from Bethlehem was beginning to come into his own.

What Lessons Does This Hold For Us Today?

1. Be Content to Work Quietly in the Background. Sometimes it seems as though nobody really appreciates what you’re doing. You may be faithfully laboring along in some inglorious position, while others are being advanced all around you. This was David's experience as a shepherd-boy, the youngest of Jesse’s stalwart sons. Never fear. God has a way of rewarding His chosen vessels and exalting them to a place of prominence as they’re faithful in the little things. Be patient and stay tender and sensitive before Him.

2. Don't Promote Yourself. David later wrote, "promotion cometh neither from the east, nor from the west, nor from the south. But God is the judge: He putteth down one, and setteth up another." (Psalm 75:6,7). David never had to blow his own horn, or push himself upon people in order to have them recognize his greatness. God did it for him in due time. Likewise, you, too, wait for the Lord to promote you and your ministry

3. Don't Allow Yourself to be Limited by Your Supposed Weaknesses and Inability. God is big enough for both of you as long as you stay humble and trust Him. There is no lion, bear, or Philistine that you can not overcome through Him "which always causeth us to triumph in Christ," (2 Cor. 2:14). Even a "sissy" can be a mighty man of God if he keeps his heart right.

4. Finally, Don't Judge by the Outward Appearance. The greatest men of the day, and even some very spiritual ones, failed to recognize in David the qualities that God valued most. I'm sure after a while Samuel sat back and blessed God for His wisdom in choosing David, but at first even the old seer himself failed to appreciate what the Lord was doing.

You see, some of those who appear to be great at this moment in time may turn out to be very inconsequential (like Eliab) or even wicked (like Saul) in the long run. Others who appear to be totally insignificant may turn out to be the real heroes of the age, especially when viewed from the perspective of heaven. The Lord has a way of making the last first, and using the weak things of the world to confound the mighty.

There was a lot more to David than what met the eye. He was just the opposite of many today who pretend to be something they aren't—he put on no pretense whatsoever, and left his eventual recognition in the hands of God. Who knows, if you follow his example, you just might end up in God's Hall of Fame, too.


Copyright © 2002 Kim Harrington, Masterbuilder Ministries. All rights reserved.

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