January 7, 2007: The Lord Looks At The Heart

Let us pray: Dear Savior, as we ponder our own lives, the temptation is to compare ourselves to others. Our pride wants to accentuate the positive in our own lives by dwelling on the negatives in the lives of others. Thank You for not doing that! Thank You for showing us all our shortcomings and for not playing favorites. Thank You for forgiving our dirty sinfulness by washing it away through our baptisms. Yes, thank You for changing our hearts from prideful arrogance to humble gratefulness. Amen

GRACE MERCY AND PEACE ARE YOURS FROM CHRIST, THE KING OF OUR HEARTS!

TEXT: I Samuel 16: 1-13

Fellow Redeemed Sinners:
Appearances can be deceiving. I’m not sure when I first learned the truth of that statement, but its veracity has been born our time and again in my life. For example, I recall the time my lovely wife and I were perusing a high-end art gallery on Newbury Street. Prices ranged from a few thousand dollars to over $100,000 per item. We got to talking to the owner about his clientele. And he remarked that he had learned to treat every one coming into his shop with equal solicitude as just the week before a fellow dressed as a lumberjack came in and bought a $50,000 painting!

When it comes to judging people very often we make snap assessments of them based on their clothes and physical appearance. But after getting to know them, almost just as often we end up disappointed because the outward image didn’t conform to the inward person. We see that same truth playing itself out in today’s text which reminds us that unlike you and me:

THE LORD LOOKS AT THE HEART

I

Samuel was a prophet of God. He was chosen by God as a little boy to convey God’s holy will to His people, Israel. By this time, Samuel was an older man, well-known, and well-respected—even feared—throughout the nation. Years before God’s people had been manipulated by their love affair with appearance into choosing Saul as their King. Saul looked the part. He was handsome, tall, athletic, smart, and had a charming personality. The problem was: Saul was also in love with himself. He thought he knew better than God when it came to governing the nation. Saul’s character flaw was pure pride. Over the years it got worse and worse and eventually alienated him from God’s grace and blessing. We know that later in life Saul even gave himself over to the dark side, was possessed by a demon, and consulted the witch of Endor for guidance before his death—instead of relying on God. Samuel knew all this. God knew all this. And now it was time for God to take matters into His own hands and choose a new King to save His people from themselves.

King Saul was intensely jealous of his power. He distrusted God’s prophet Samuel. He even had spies that kept track of Samuel’s whereabouts because he feared for his throne.—In this we see that Saul knew God’s favor didn’t rest on him any longer. So, Samuel had to be careful in anointing a new King in order to prevent Saul from killing the man.—Here is a powerful parallel with the jealousy of King Herod and the murder of the innocents at Bethlehem.

God tells Samuel to go to Bethlehem to anoint a new King because: “I have rejected him as king over Israel.” But Samuel says: “How can I go? Saul will hear about it and kill me.” Of course, our wise God had a master plan—both then and now—and tells Samuel a plan, a subterfuge, in order to make it all happen. “Take a heifer to sacrifice, invite Jesse to the sacrifice, and I will show you what to do.”

Samuel, the faithful prophet, obeys. And he is greeted with fear and trepidation by Jesse and his clan. They well knew Samuel’s Godly power. They well knew Saul’s hatred of him. And they were caught in the middle. Hence their response to him, “Do you come in peace?”

II

Next comes the sacrifice and the celebration following it. Samuel has his eye out for the person God has chosen. Like most of us when shopping for a car, Samuel kicks and tires, gazes at the paint job and lines of the vehicle, and tries to judge it based on appearance. But this is not God’s way. God cares about what’s under the hood. He cares about the heart. The first prospect is Eliab who is tall, strong, and athletic. He looks the part. Samuel even says to himself: “Surely the Lord’s anointed stands here before the Lord.” But what is God’s response? “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.”

Next comes Abinadab, then Shammah, then five other sons.  None measures up before God. All are found wanting. Finally, after inquiring if this were all Jesse’s sons, David is fetched from the field. He is there tending the sheep.—Much like Christ tends us. David comes. He obeys his father’s summons. He is young, robust, and even handsome. But a King? He’s too young and inexperienced! Yet, the Lord said: “Rise and anoint him, he is the one.” Samuel obeys. “And from that day on the Spirit of the Lord came upon David in power.”

III

Do any of us deserve to be princes and princesses of God’s kingdom? Are any of us so beautiful, so smart, so wise and good that we deserve to be chosen by God, too? Of course not! We’re all sinners. We all have fatal flaws within. Christ catalogues those flaws on numerous occasions such as when He states: “For from within, out of man’s heart come evil thoughts, murders, sexual impurity, theft, greed, false witness, and slander. All these come from within and defile the man.”

And yet, in pure love, God has chosen us to be His children through faith in Jesus Christ. When you and I were baptized, Christ sent the Spirit upon us with power, too. He cleansed our hearts by forgiving our sins. He turned our thoughts from doing what makes us look good to doing what makes Him look good. He took away those fatal flaws of sin within us by the life-changing cleansing of His holy blood.  When God rejected Saul He told him via Samuel: “you do not have in mind the things of God but the things of man.” But now through baptism that is reversed! By the Spirit’s indwelling in us God has put Himself into our hearts and caused us to glorify Him for it!

Today God is gazing into your heart, too, just as in David’s case. What does He see? Does He see a humble sinner longing for sainthood? Or does He see something else? David’s heart was filled with longing for the future Savior in Jesus Christ. Does that same over-arching thought dominate your heart? Dwell on God’s grace given you at your baptism and it can and it will! And then you and I will have nothing to fear when the Lord looks inside each of us. Amen