************ Sermon on 1 Samuel 16:7 ************
By: Rev. Adrian Dieleman
This sermon was preached on November 9, 2003
1 Samuel 16:1-13
"The Lord Looks at the Heart"
[A number of months ago I read/heard something on this text but cannot remember who, what, or where; some of my ideas need to be attributed to this source.]
Topic: See GodWhen we think about it, we have to admit that many things in life are like the anamorphosis portrait of King Edward VI – they can be appreciated only when viewed from a certain vantage point.
Subtopic: How We Can
Title: The Narrow Perspective That Reveals Him
The royal portrait looked like a bad joke. It seemed as if the future King of England had been mocked. William Scrots, the court painter, appeared to have done a great injustice to Edward VI. The skull ballooned in back, the forehead bulged, the nose looked like a beak, and the chin undershot the face. But Edward's attitude must have changed when Scrots told him the secret. By squinting at the picture through a peephole in the side of the frame, a fine representation with no deformities could be seen. One who viewed it described Edward as having a "handsomely proportioned countenance."
This unusual painting along with about 100 others like it toured the country in 1986 in an exhibit of what is called "anamorphosis art." It's a specific kind of art that can only be appreciated when viewed from one certain vantage point.
Today we are reminded that where man sees the ugly and weak, the Lord sees the beautiful and strong; and, where man sees the beautiful or handsome, the Lord sees the ugly and spiteful. We are also reminded that we can judge ourselves and those around us by the world's standards or we can try to look at ourselves and those around us from the standards of God.
I Man Looks at the Outward Appearance
A A new king was needed in Israel. So the Lord sent Samuel to Bethlehem to anoint one of the sons of Jesse as king in the place of Saul.
Samuel was met in Bethlehem by the elders of the town. He explained to them he had come to offer a sacrifice and he issued a special invitation to Jesse and his sons to join him for the sacrificial meal. When Jesse and his boys arrived, Samuel saw Eliab, Jesse's first-born, and thought, "Surely the LORD'S anointed stands here before the LORD" (vs 6). Samuel saw Eliab and thought he was the one God wanted to be king.
According to the Lord, Samuel picked Eliab because Samuel was looking "at the outward appearance" (vs 7). Evidently Eliab was tall, handsome, and muscular. He was the kind of person you would want as a king.
B As Samuel should have known already, appearances can be very deceiving. When God revealed to Israel that He had chosen Saul to be her first king, both Samuel and the people applauded the Lord's choice. Scripture says,
(1Sam 10:23-24) ... as he (ie, Saul) stood among the people he was a head taller than any of the others. (24) 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!"The Bible tells us twice that Saul was a head taller than the rest of the Israelites (1 Sam 9:2; 10:23). That impressed Samuel and whether or not we like to admit it, height means something to us too. It's not a joke to say that we look up to tall people.
Another good thing about Saul was that he wasn't proud. In fact, Saul didn't seem all that anxious to be king. When the Lord revealed Saul to be His choice as king the people asked, "Where is he?" Samuel told them that Saul was hiding (1 Sam 10:22). And, as we all know, modesty is a virtue.
In addition to being tall and modest, Saul was a dynamic, energetic leader. He was the kind of person the Democrats and Republicans would love to have on their ticket. When Nahash the Ammonite threatened, the people were so scared they decided they would rather be slaves than fight. "Okay," said Nahash, "but only on the condition that I gouge out the right eye of every man." When Saul heard this, he swung into action. He gathered the scared, gutless people together and in a few hours had them eager to fight the Ammonites. In the battle that followed, Saul led the armies of Israel into such a great victory that not two of Nahash's soldiers were left together – instead, they fled the battlefield, every man looking out for himself (1 Sam 11). King Saul was a hero. From the outside, at least, he looked like everyone's picture of the ideal king. But, as I already mentioned, looks can be deceiving.
Shortly after Saul became king the Philistines assembled a mighty army to fight Israel. When Samuel was late in coming, Saul broke the law of God by doing what only a priest or prophet could do – he offered the customary sacrifice before the battle. To Samuel he explained his action by saying:
(1Sam 13:11-12) "When I saw that the men were scattering, and that you did not come at the set time, and that the Philistines were assembling ... I felt compelled to offer the burnt offering."
And then, before the battle started King Saul, in a sudden fit of holiness, made a foolish oath cursing anyone who ate food before evening. So none of the troops tasted food and had to fight all day on an empty stomach. As any general or private can tell you, soldiers who don't eat, can't fight. King Saul's foolish oath kept the Philistine defeat from being as total as it otherwise would have been (1 Sam 14:24f).
Another time Saul was commanded by the Lord to attack and kill all the Amalekites and totally destroy everything that belonged to them. This was the Lord's punishment for what the Amalekites did to Israel as they came up from Egypt. After the battle what did Saul do? He spared the life of Agag the Amalekite king and he saved the best of the Amalekite sheep and cattle in order to sacrifice them to the Lord. Again, he failed to obey the Lord and, to make matters worse, he tried to pass the blame on to the people (1 Sam 15:20f).
I repeat what I said before, looks can be deceiving. Saul looked so impressive. But he didn't obey the Lord so the kingdom was taken from him.
C Like Samuel, we also tend to look at the outward appearance. Take our current Presidential campaign. It is based mostly upon appearance. Candidates who want to be taken serious are expected to dress, talk, and behave in a certain way. Media advisors actually tell candidates to buy a new wardrobe if their suits and ties do not look good on TV. Or, consider that even in the Christian school the most popular guys and girls are the good-looking ones with lots of athletic abilities. Yes, we too tend to look at the outward appearance.
Those who look at the outward appearance also try to put up a good outward appearance. We see this in the prophecy of Amos. The people of his day came to the temple week after week, Sabbath after Sabbath. They looked so holy and pure, devout and sincere, while at worship. In fact, they made a big deal of their worship. They sang their songs of praise as loud as they could. They prayed with tears running down their faces. They put sacks of gold and silver in the offering box. They brought sacrifice after sacrifice and offering after offering to the Lord at the Temple. But during the week they robbed from the poor, took advantage of widows and orphans, bribed judges, cheated customers, and sent the innocent to jail (Amos 5). Those who look at the outward appearance put up a good outward appearance.
Is that us? Do we emphasize the outward appearance? Do we put on a good show on Sunday, but during the week live like pagans?
D So Samuel was in Bethlehem. Just like he did with King Saul, he looked at the outward appearance of Eliab, and thought this is the one God has chosen to be king. "Not so," says God. Jesse had seven of his sons pass before Samuel (cf 1 Chron 2:13f for their names). But not one of them was the Lord's chosen king.
"Are these all the boys you have?" Samuel asked. "There is still the youngest," Jesse answered, "but he is tending the sheep." Samuel said, "Send for him; we will not sit down until he arrives." When David appeared, the Lord said, "Rise and anoint him; he is the one" (vs 12).
Why David? Why did God pick him? What did God see in him that Samuel did not see?
In 1501 the Italian artist Michelangelo sculpted a statue of a 16 year old King David. It's a huge statue, almost 17 feet tall, of a nearly perfect human form. David's arms are thick and rounded, bursting with power. His chest is almost triangular--tapering down from the broad shoulders to the muscular waist. His hips bulge with muscle, and his thighs and calves are packed with strength.Is this the David we see in the Bible? Did Samuel see a superior specimen of manhood standing in front of him? The Bible says David had a fine appearance and handsome features. So he wasn't ugly in any way. But neither was he a jock like Saul or Eliab. David was just a shepherd boy. From the outside, at least, there was nothing special about him, nothing to show him as being marked by God for great things.
II The Lord Looks at the Heart
A So why did the Lord pick David? What did God see in David that neither Samuel nor Jesse saw? We need to first talk about the will, the promises, and the eternal plan of God. Remember Father Jacob on his death-bed? He called for his sons and blessed them. He had a word for each of them and to Judah he said,
(Gen 49:10) The scepter will not depart from Judah, nor the ruler's staff from between his feet, until he comes to whom it belongs and the obedience of the nations is his. The anointing of David, the son of Jesse, of the tribe of Judah, must be seen as a fulfillment of this promise. The Lord picked David, then, in order to remain true to His covenant promise. And, of course, this promise found its ultimate fulfillment in Jesus Christ "the son of David, the son of Abraham" (Mt 1:1).
B Why else did the Lord pick David? What did God see in David that neither Samuel nor Jesse saw? A second answer is provided by our text. God Himself said:
(1Sam 16:7) "The LORD does not look at the things man looks at. Man looks at the outward appearance, but the LORD looks at the heart."Man looks at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.
The Lord looked at David's heart and He liked what He saw. When Saul wrongfully took over the function of the priest by offering the sacrifice, Samuel announced that Saul would be replaced as king by "a man after God's own heart" (1 Sam 13:14). So the Lord looked at David and what did He see? He saw "a man after his own heart."
C What does it mean to be "a man after God's own heart"? We find out by looking at David's psalms.
With his flock bedded down for the night, young David drew a weathered cloak around his shoulders and laid back on the grass of the hillside. With eyes full of awe and wonder, he lost himself in the great sea of stars. Softly, reverently, he began to sing:
(Ps 8:1) O LORD, our Lord, how majestic is your name in all the earth! You have set your glory above the heavens.
Day after day David was with the sheep. He led, guided, protected, sheltered, watered, and fed them. Slowly it dawned on him that he was the sheep needing the tender care of a Shepherd:
(Ps 23:1-2) The LORD is my shepherd, I shall not be in want. (2) He makes me lie down in green pastures, he leads me beside quiet waters ...
When storms came David was forced to find refuge in a cave or in the shelter of some great rock. He started thinking as the thunders crashed, the lightning flashed, and the rain poured down:
(Ps 18:2) The LORD is my rock, my fortress and my deliverer; my God is my rock, in whom I take refuge. He is my shield and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold.
As David traveled with his flock of sheep in search of pasture and water he often found himself in unfamiliar territory. Or, the path split and he was not sure which way to take. This reminded him that God always points the way:
(Ps 32:8) I will instruct you and teach you in the way you should go; I will counsel you and watch over you.
(Ps 119:105) Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light for my path.
David was a man after God's own heart. God was David's constant companion. David loved God with all his heart, soul, mind, and strength. David put God first in his life and related everything in his life – everything he saw and heard, everything he felt, everything he did – to his relationship with the Lord.
What a picture Scripture paints: David and God, the young shepherd and the Great Shepherd, walking together through life.
D Are you a man, woman, or child after God's own heart? Are you like David? "I want to be," you might say. "But my life is too busy. I've got to pay my bills. I've got to cart the kids to baseball, soccer, music, basketball, play practice. I'm in the consistory or on the school board. I'm busy in the Mother's Circle and various committees."
At first glance, it appears that David had many advantages. After all, he was a shepherd. He had time for solitude and reflection. He could lay for hours on his back and watch the stars and the sheep. No wonder David could enjoy his relationship with the Lord. No wonder he was a man after God's own heart.
So it's easy to think, "I can be like David if I can change my life." "I can be like David – a man or woman after God's own heart – if I can break free from the rat race and find a different job or get into a different living situation." "I can be like David if only some of the pressures and problems ease up a little." "If this changes or that changes, then I can have a better relationship with Jesus."
All of this sounds good until you consider David's brothers. Scripture says David had seven older brothers. Brothers who grew up in the same home he did. Brothers who watched over Jesse's flocks as he did. Brothers who wandered down the same paths, camped in the same places, went through the same training, learned from the same mother and father. But here is the strange part: we aren't told that any of them was a "man after God's own heart." Why? They had such marvelous circumstances and opportunities! They could all have been "men after God's own heart." But they weren't.
Would you be a different person if you could change your life situation? Would you love God more if you had a different job, a different home, a different schedule, fewer kids, less homework? Chances are you would not. The fact is, if your heart does not hunger for God right now, right where you are, it will not hunger for God somewhere else either. If you find yourself drifting from fellowship with God, you do not need a change of scene. You need a change of heart.
The Lord called David to be a shepherd, and as a shepherd David used every opportunity to serve and love the Lord. What has the Lord called you to do? Where has the Lord placed you? Are you making the most of every opportunity right now to serve and love Him? Or do you find yourself so buried with cares and responsibilities and activities that God gets placed low on your list of priorities?
Life goes by so quickly, and the solemn fact is that you are either developing a life of companionship with God or you are rejecting it. You are either becoming a David or you are becoming like one of his brothers.
Do you sense deep inside that your life is shallow ... empty ... estranged from Christ? Then why not make a real change in your life today? Make time to get alone with God. Make time to read and study His Word. Make time to pour out your heart to Him in prayer. It will never "just happen." But with God's help, by His Spirit's power, you can make it happen and become a man, a woman, a child after His own heart.
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