Most of the people in the Bible didn't learn about God through the Bible. They simply discovered God's working in their own lives. There are occasions when this experience started only after someone first observed what Yahweh was doing in the life of another, then reflected on how the same thing was happening to him or her.

No one was more "reflected on" at the beginning of the first millennium before Christ than King David. The first reading (1 Sm 16: 1,6-7,10-13) not only gives an example of how God worked in David's life, but also provides a pattern for how God worked in the lives of other biblical characters.

Have you noticed that Isaac, Jacob and Judah weren't the first-born in their families? In each case, there was at least one older brother whom Yahweh pushed aside to choose "also-rans" to become great patriarchs. Scripture scholars remind us that the Genesis stories of these famous men were composed after the event narrated in the first reading and were highly influenced by it.


Samuel is about to commit an act of treason: anointing a new king while Saul, the old king, is still on the throne. He disguises his actions by pretending to go to Jesse's Bethlehem home to offer a communion sacrifice, something in which all Jews loved to participate. (There was lots of food!) Actually, his mission was to anoint one of Jesse's sons king.

The sacred author makes much of Samuel's thinking he knows which boy is royal material by simply looking at him. But, seven times, Yahweh re-minds him, "Not as man sees does God see, because man sees the appearance but Yahweh looks into the heart."

Because Jesse can't believe none of his boys has been divinely chosen, Samuel must employ a bribe to force him to bring in "the youngest who is tending the sheep." "We will not begin the sacrificial banquet until he arrives here!"

When David eventually walks in the door, Yahweh proclaims, "There! Anoint him, for this is the one!" Lest anyone miss the point, the sacred author states, "From that day on, Yahweh's spirit rushed upon David."

This divine "rushing" takes effect without God's being impeded by the limits we habitually impose on His actions. Though most people in Israel thought Yahweh worked only through first-born males, David's experience provided an example for others to ponder.


The phenomenon also provided Paul a basis for seeing how his community of believers in Ephesus had within them the "light" which "produces every kind of goodness, and righteousness and truth" (Eph 5: 8-14). Only by going through life with eyes shut could we ignore God's working through us, no matter our birth rank or gender. That's why Paul breaks into an ancient Christian hymn: "Awake, O sleeper, and arise from the dead, and Christ will give you light."

It's this light which the man born blind receives long after he's received his physical sight (John 9: 1-41). That light arrives when he starts to believe that Jesus, the Son of Man, is also God. God grants him light so he can see the divine light in Jesus.

As a Scripture scholar, I long ago stopped "praying for vocations." There's no need to pray for something we already have. For over 3,000 years, God's followers have presumed God's spirit is constantly rushing upon ourselves and the people around us. I simply pray that we're able to awake from sleep, and break down the barriers which stop us and our leaders from acknowledging the Spirit's rush.

For us modern Catholics, it might be good to reflect on what bribe God is employing today to force us to bring the "kid" in from the fields.