Samuel himself was just a small boy when he was called as a prophet to all Israel. By choosing Samuel at such an early age, God had already demonstrated that He wasn’t impressed by age or experience.
Because Eli was so backslidden, a time came when God no longer desired to use him.
Eli, a priest and judge of Israel, had become slack in his spiritual responsibilities. He was so lazy in providing leadership for his own household that God called Eli’s two sons, Hophni and Phineas, the “sons of Belial” or the sons of the devil (1 Samuel 2:12). (For more on the phrase “sons of Belial,” see Chapter Nine in my book Dressed To Kill.) Because Eli was so backslidden, a time came when God no longer desired to use him.
Eli possessed a wealth of life experience. He was the chief theologian of his day. He possessed extensive leadership skills acquired through years of ruling Israel. Naturally speaking, no one was more equipped to rule than Eli. Yet even with all of Eli’s years of experience, God rejected him and turned to young Samuel.
To think that a young boy could become the national prophet of Israel! Yet that is precisely what happened. God chose Samuel because his heart was right, and Eli’s heart was wrong. The heart has always been THE issue with God!
In Job 32:6-9, Elihu said these famous words: “…I am young, and ye are very old; wherefore I was afraid, and durst not shew you mine opinion. I said, Days should speak, and multitude of years should teach wisdom. But there is a spirit in man: and the inspiration of the Almighty giveth them understanding. Great men are not always wise: neither do the aged understand judgment.”
Job is the oldest book in the Bible. In reading these words of Elihu, we learn that from the beginning of time, man has wrongly assumed that age, education, and experience are the most important qualities to attain in order to be used by God. But as early as the book of Job, the Spirit of God was trying to communicate that it isn’t age or experience that impresses Him. The heart of man is what God deems most important.
By the time God told Samuel to anoint Saul as king, it had been many decades since Samuel first stood in front of Israel and uttered God’s prophetic words to the nation. An old man himself now, Samuel found himself standing before a dashing, intelligent, good-looking young man. This striking young man looked impressive — even to the prophet of God. Young Saul definitely looked like the right choice for a king.
Even as Samuel lifted his horn of oil to pour it onto the head of Saul, God was aware that a fatal flaw lay hidden in Saul’s character that would one day destroy him. God knew Saul’s kingdom wouldn’t last long.
But He allowed this situation to arise to demonstrate a vital truth: It isn’t the outward appearance that impresses God, but the heart.