The Story: The Lord Looks At the Heart

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 man looks at. Man looks at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart. — 1 Samuel 16:7

The “appearance industry” is big business in our culture. Fashion moguls determine the latest trends from handbags to shoes to jewelry to hair styles. The average American women spends $100 a month on cosmetics. Added up, that comes to over $7 billion a year. Plastic surgery, weight loss pills, tanning beds, Rogaine…we are simply immersed in sea of appearance-enhancing options as Americans.

We might ask: Is there anything inherently wrong with all of this? And my answer would be, “Not necessarily.” Taking time to consider our daily appearance is probably wise, so we need not heap undue guilt upon ourselves. However, I think it is likely an easy trap to fall into when we begin to focus too much effort and energy on our outward appearance to the neglect of “weightier matters”. This is probably the word we need to hear the most.

Do you spend an inordinate amount of time each morning in your closet deciding what to wear?

How much do you spend on cosmetics each month? Isn’t it folly to spend so much to simply wash it all off?

Are you obsessed with your appearance? Are you equally obsessed with prayer? Service? Loving God and loving others?

These are the questions we probably need to ask ourselves.

God’s Story affirms a radical perspective: a God who examines not the physical specimen but rather the condition of the heart. The prophet Samuel is sent to the house of Jesse to anoint a new king over Israel in the wake of Saul’s moral failings. Seven sons of Jesse are presented to Samuel, yet the Lord rejects them.

Eliab, Jesse’s firstborn son, emerges at the head of the line. We picture an alpha male, a strapping, natural-born leader. He looks the part and then some. Samuel thinks to himself, “This guy has ‘King’ written all over him. Surely he is the Lord’s anointed.”

God says, “Nope. Try again.”

One by one, Jesse’s sons trot out before the old prophet and each one is summarily turned down. Samuel turns to Jesse and says, “Jesse, you have any more boys?”

“Uh, well, yes. There’s my youngest son, David. But he’s out tending the sheep.”

And Samuel says, “Go fetch him. We won’t sit down until he arrives.”

The Bible says David was “ruddy” with handsome features (1 Sam. 16:12). But those aren’t the features that most impress the Lord. There is something about David’s heart that sets him apart. Later on, we will come to understand: David is a man after God’s own heart.

His heart beats for the Lord.

The song in his heart is a song of praise.

And the Lord says, “Rise and anoint him; he is the one.”

So right there, with his bewildered older brothers smirking on the sidelines, David, the youngest of the clan of Jesse, is anointed by the prophet Samuel. And the Bible says from that day on, the Spirit of the Lord came upon David in power.

David’s heart was available only to the Lord. It was spoken-for space, occupied by the Lord who shepherded over David as he spent those many nights watching over his flock. David understands who he is and, more importantly, he understands who God is — the Great and Sovereign Shepherd. God is powerfully present to David — through his anointing, but even more powerfully in the still and quiet of the fields of Bethlehem.

David sings, “There is no foe as great as the God of my soul.”

David declares, “Though I am surrounded by death’s valley, fear will never claim my heart. For you are with me.”

And this conviction of God-presence will make all the difference in the next chapter of David’s story.

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