But the Lord said to Samuel, “Do not look on his appearance or on the height of his stature, because I have rejected him. For the Lord sees not as man sees: man looks on the outward appearance, but the Lord looks on the heart” (1 Samuel 16:7, ESV).
Israel’s first king was Saul. He got an A+ on the image side—tall, dark, and handsome—with no character. And the nation went into a tailspin because they fell for the guy who looked the part.
Israel’s second king was David—the runt of the litter. When God sent the prophet Samuel to anoint the new king in Bethlehem, He specified that the new king would be one of Jesse’s sons. So Samuel organized a big, public ceremony, and each of Jesse’s sons paraded before Samuel. As each son passed by, starting with the handsome firstborn, a buzz went through the crowd, and Samuel thought, Surely this is the one. And each time God said “no.” In fact, God chided Samuel for looking at the wrong criteria: “Do not look on his appearance or on the height of his stature, because I have rejected him. For the Lord sees not as man sees: man looks on the outward appearance, but the Lord looks on the heart.”
What a profound truth! We tend to look at and judge people based on what we see. God looks past all external appearances and actions right to your heart. He sees why you make the choices you do and what really motivates you.
Think of the implications for how we assess others. As soon as you see someone driving a certain type of car, you think . . . As soon as you see someone carrying a specific brand of purse, you assume . . . We make immediate assessments based on appearances and externals, and God forgive us for that. God doesn’t look at any of those things we tend to value.
And in this story, He looked past birth order; He looked past height; He looked past handsome appearances. Seven sons, seven rejections. Finally Samuel asked Jesse, “Are all your sons here” (1 Samuel 16:11)? The youngest son, David, was so insignificant in his father’s eyes that he wasn’t even invited to the ceremony. He was on sheep duty. What a disgrace for David. Slaves were shepherds, and the fact that David was relegated to shepherd shows how much his dad thought of him.
Samuel made Jesse send for his eighth son, and they all waited. You can imagine what his big brothers were thinking: He’s just a little kid. He smells like sheep. Samuel must be joking.
As soon as David arrived, God gave Samuel the signal: This is the one. And in front of his seven, big brothers, the little shepherd boy was anointed as God’s chosen king. God didn’t value David for his appearance. God saw his heart.
The same is true for us. God looks past all the externals and sees straight to our hearts. That’s both encouraging and scary. When He looks at your heart, what does He see?
Father God, You see so differently than I do. Forgive me for being distracted by external appearances and actions. Forgive me for valuing what’s shallow. When I look at others, help me to see as You see. Teach me to look at the heart, at what’s real, true, and lasting. Please purify my heart that I may please You. In the name of Jesus, Son of David, amen.