God Sees The Heart 1 Samuel 16:1-13
Rita Belle met Richard Walters at a senior center, a mission in downtown Phoenix for the poor and homeless. “He always came in with a little backpack and cap on.” While Richard was reserved, Rita was outgoing and offered to visit with him and they became friends. He had never married, didn’t have children, and was estranged from his brother. He told her he had no home and slept on the grounds of the senior center. He ate at the hospital and used a telephone there when needed. Appearances can be deceiving. What Rita didn’t know about Walters was that he was a retired engineer; an honors graduate of Purdue with a Masters degree; and a Marine. In time when Walters became ill Rita became his nurse and ultimately the executor of his estate. Walters was wealthy. He left behind 4 million dollars, which was given to places like the senior center. Among his few passions was a radio. You may have heard on the radio an announcement like this: “Support for NPR comes from the estate of Richard Leroy Walters, whose life was enriched by NPR, and whose bequest seeks to encourage others to discover public radio.” He also left $400,000 to NPR. The way someone appears doesn’t tell the whole story. We are sometimes taken in by the appearances of others.
1. The Problem of Judging By Appearances
Mysterious mystery writer Agatha Christie wrote, “The human face is, after all, nothing more nor less than a mask.”
When we judge by appearances we can give credit to those who don’t deserve it, and we can fail to acknowledge those who deserve to be encouraged. Deciding who is worthy of our love and friendship based on outward appearances is a problem for humans. Pre-judging someone is prejudice. It can be racial, based on gender, country of origin, religion, body shape, or even the way we dress. We know not to judge a book by its cover, but we do it anyway.
When Saul became King there was an interesting mixed reaction. Saul himself tried to hide from all the attention, but Samuel was having none of that.
1 Samuel 10:23-24; 26-27 They ran and brought him out, and as he stood among the people he was a head taller than any of the others. Samuel said to all the people, “Do you see the man the Lord has chosen? There is no one like him among all the people.” Then the people shouted, “Long live the king!” … Saul also went to his home in Gibeah, accompanied by valiant men whose hearts God had touched. But some scoundrels said, “How can this fellow save us?” They despised him and brought him no gifts. But Saul kept silent.
By all appearances Saul would be a great king – and he did have a good start. But those who knew him best didn’t think so highly of him. Even when Saul failed miserably due to a lack of integrity and faithfulness, Samuel mourned the loss of his reign.God chose a new king and Samuel was sent to anoint him.
Whenever we judge someone by their appearance we should remember this staggering truth:
We cannot see what is in the depths of a person’s soul, but the Lord can. More – he can see what is in our heart. That’s a provocative truth. For some it is likely frightening … the exterior masks we wear might fool others, but God is in the know. For others it is comforting … God knows us more intimately than any human could, but he loves us more deeply than anyone could.
Steven Charnock was a Puritan clergyman in London who died in 1680 wrote, “God knows all that is done in the most secret caverns of the heart. No place is deprived of his presence.”
That’s what Samuel finds out in his meeting with Jesse and his sons.
1 Samuel 16:5b – 13 Then he consecrated Jesse and his sons and invited them to the sacrifice. When they arrived, Samuel saw Eliab and thought, “Surely the Lord’s anointed stands here before the Lord.” 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.” Then Jesse called Abinadab and had him pass in front of Samuel. But Samuel said, “The Lord has not chosen this one either.” Jesse then had Shammah pass by, but Samuel said, “Nor has the Lord chosen this one.” Jesse had seven of his sons pass before Samuel, but Samuel said to him, “The Lord has not chosen these.” So he asked Jesse, “Are these all the sons you have?” “There is still the youngest,” Jesse answered. “He is tending the sheep.” Samuel said, “Send for him; we will not sit down until he arrives.” So he sent for him and had him brought in. He was glowing with health and had a fine appearance and handsome features. Then the Lord said, “Rise and anoint him; this is the one.” So Samuel took the horn of oil and anointed him in the presence of his brothers, and from that day on the Spirit of the Lord came powerfully upon David. Samuel then went to Ramah.
David does have an attractive appearance, but that is not what leads the Lord to appoint him as the next King of Israel. It is his heart.
There are many stories about the life of King David that may run through our minds as we contemplate him. He is the Songwriter of Israel; consider the Psalms he wrote.
In Acts 13:22 God testified concerning him: ‘I have found David son of Jesse, a man after my own heart; he will do everything I want him to do.’
But no matter how many great things we remember, there’s always that horrific fall with Bathsheba … and the murder of her husband Uriah. Appearances are not deceiving to the Lord. We may fool others, but we can never deceive Him. King Saul tried to cover up his sin and thought he could escape the judgment of God. What we learn from David is what God desires from us when we fall short: A Contrite Heart
Have mercy on me, O God, according to your unfailing love;
according to your great compassion blot out my transgressions.
Wash away all my iniquity and cleanse me from my sin.
For I know my transgressions, and my sin is always before me.
Against you, you only, have I sinned and done what is evil in your sight; so you are right in your verdict and justified when you judge.
Surely I was sinful at birth, sinful from the time my mother conceived me. Yet you desired faithfulness even in the womb; you taught me wisdom in that secret place.
Cleanse me with hyssop, and I will be clean; wash me, and I will be whiter than snow. Let me hear joy and gladness; let the bones you have crushed rejoice. Hide your face from my sins and blot out all my iniquity.
Create in me a pure heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me. Do not cast me from your presence or take your Holy Spirit from me.
Restore to me the joy of your salvation and grant me a willing spirit, to sustain me. Then I will teach transgressors your ways, so that sinners will turn back to you.
Deliver me from the guilt of bloodshed, O God, you who are God my Savior, and my tongue will sing of your righteousness. Open my lips, Lord, and my mouth will declare your praise. You do not delight in sacrifice, or I would bring it; you do not take pleasure in burnt offerings.
My sacrifice, O God, is a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart you, God, will not despise.
A homeless man might be a millionaire; a popular King might not be what he presents himself to be; the population might be fooled into believing a deception; people might pre-judge others based on appearances.
God sees the heart. I encourage you to see this as a comforting truth. He knows you best, and loves you most.
“Love is what God is, love is why Jesus came, and love is why he continues to come, year after year to person after person…May you experience this vast, expansive, infinite, indestructible love that has been yours all along. May you discover that this love is as wide as the sky and as small as the cracks in your heart no one else knows about, and may you know, deep in your bones, that love wins. – Rob Bell
When we give our heart to God he can cleanse us, save us, and strengthen us. The heart is where He does his best work. Whatever troubles your heart, come to God.
LIFEGROUP DISCUSSION QUESTIONS
1. Can you remember what your favorite Halloween costume was when you were a kid? If you could buy the perfect costume for halloween this year, what would it be?
2. Not only was Eliab tall and handsome, he was also Jesse’s firstborn son (1 Samuel 17:13), the one who normally would have been chosen first in Israel’s culture. Even though we know better, why do we sometimes favor / judge favorably those who look good to us?
3. Aside from outward appearance, what other factors influence how we accept/judge others? When is a time you discovered you had judged someone wrongly once you got to know them better? Can you think of people you know or have known whose inner qualities and abilities far exceeded what their meek exterior might suggest? Perhaps even an example from a movie or book might be good for the group to hear.
4. Last week a School Board in Biloxi, Mississippi banned the well known novel To Kill a Mockingbird. The language used in the book (a racial slur) made some uncomfortable. Ironically, the book presents a perspective against racial prejudice. Racial tensions remain a continuous struggle in our world today. What could we draw from this story to help Christians re-frame any feelings about relating to various races in our global community?
5. God sees the heart. What would you suggest to help someone who feels frightened or ashamed at that truth?
6. The Bible presents many ideas about the heart. Take turns in the group reading and reflecting on these selected passages from Psalms and Proverbs. Feel free to share with the group other passages about the heart that you remember.
7. Billy Graham wrote, “Don’t ever hesitate to take to [God] whatever is on your heart. He already knows it anyway, but He doesn’t want you to bear its pain or celebrate its joy alone.” How can we be more accepting of God’s grace and
not allow shame to hinder our prayers?