The Lord Looks at the Heartby Ed de la Cour on June 10, 2013
1 Samuel 16: 1 - 13 ::
"The Lord Looks at the Heart"
There are countless assumptions that all of us make every day. We assume men prefer blondes. We assume leaders of major corporations will be tall. If you’re going to run for president, you need to look good to the camera. Many assumptions either can be proven or are commonly accepted as true whether they are true or not. Basic to all assumptions is the fact that everyone tends to judge a book by its cover. If it looks good, it must be good. If it feels right, it must be right. If she’s pretty, she must be nice.
According to the Bible, God does not see life nor does God see people the way we do, not at all. Isaiah 55: 8 says, “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are my ways your ways.” In our childish immaturity, we disagree with God, as amazing as that idea may be. We choose to believe our preconceived notions. We hold onto spiritual assumptions that are untrue. In order for us to remember God’s truth, I’m thinking we probably ought to have that verse from Isaiah stenciled right across our foreheads.
God called Samuel to rise up out of his funk. Samuel had been grieving over Saul as though Saul’s failure to trust and obey God was somehow Samuel’s fault. We often spend lots of time thinking about what might have been. It was obvious Saul ruined the opportunity God gave him. Saul failed to take advantage of the opportunity God gave him by making his own bad choices. But Samuel held onto this romantic notion, this attachment to the past. How often have I held on to some idea, some dream that was gone and truly in the past out of a fleshly desire to keep something that was familiar over whatever new thing God was offering? It’s hard to let go of the past. Even though you know it’s wrong, it is still hard to release something that never had a chance.
Now God was ready to call another man to take Saul’s place as king. He sent Samuel to the home of Jesse in Bethlehem. There, Samuel surveyed Jesse’s crop of young sons, each one strong, each one handsome, each one brave, but none taller, none stronger, none better looking than Eliab – Jesse’s firstborn son. The text indicates that Eliab stood tall over his brothers. Samuel looked at him, smiled, reached for his ram’s horn full of anointing oil, and thought to himself, “Surely, the Lord’s anointed stands here before the Lord.”
Samuel had looked on Eliab’s physical appearance. Maybe Eliab had that leadership “look,” or some kind of charm factor, a darkly handsome face, the sense of gravitas, the shock of curly hair that is a sure sign of a quality leader. Whatever it was, Samuel allowed what he saw with his eyes to forecast what kind of king this strong young man might make. He took stock of those broad shoulders and physical stature of this young man. He looked at the smoke and mirrors and believed what he saw. Somehow Samuel knew he had found his man.
That was when God spoke into Samuel’s heart and told him that the way Samuel judged people is simply not consistent with reality. There are two versions of reality in this world: God’s reality and whatever we think is going on. Here is the truth: God’s ways are not only different from our ways, but God’s ways are right. God’s ways define reality because God sees reality clearly. God’s perception of reality is not fogged the way our perception is so often. God sees straight through the fog. God cuts through the unending questions and the blurred boundaries of our perpetual indecision. God bypasses what appears to be exterior ugliness and reveals the beauty of flower within. God sees and correctly understands the nature of the human heart. In Jeremiah 17:10, God says, “I the Lord search the heart and examine the mind.” Who else is capable of searching the human heart? Who else can read the soul? You might be perceptive, but you can be fooled. God says He examines the mind. God digs deep and uncovers hidden motives and agenda.
When God looks at your heart and at my heart, what does God see? When God turns over what lies on the surface, what does He uncover? First of all, He sees what we cannot see. We see the window dressing. We see the clothing, the makeup, the toothy smile. In Jeremiah 17: 9, the prophet shares what the Lord says about what He sees: “The heart is deceitful above all things and beyond cure. Who can understand it?” That’s a rhetorical question because the answer is: only God understands the human heart because only God knows the truth. What God understands is that you and I are desperately wicked.
The heart is the seat of our sense of personhood, the basis for who we are, the place where our personal reality dwells. Even so, our hearts lie. Jesus said in Luke 6: 45, “The good man brings good things out of the good stored up in his heart, and the evil man brings evil things out of the evil stored up in his heart. For out of the overflow of his heart his mouth speaks.” Our hearts are storehouses of good and evil. It is impossible for us to correctly assess how much of what is stored there is good because we live in a sea of ambiguity. Only God can make the necessary determination. We think, that person hates me, or I know what she is thinking. Step back before you open your mouth and commit yourself by saying something you cannot possibly know for certain. Our hearts are deceptive and wicked. Our hearts practice deceit, and they plot to gain their own way in any way they can.
If your way of thinking, or if your way of living, differs from God’s way of thinking, or from God’s statements regarding holiness, your way is wrong. Our way of thinking about how to live life is just our opinion. God does not have an opinion about immorality, or an opinion about ethics, or an opinion about what is right and what is wrong. God doesn’t have opinions; He has judgments and His judgments are altogether righteous.
We should not be too hard on Samuel because our surface judgments are really not very different from his. We strive for expediency – whatever will get the job done. We look for the easy way out. When life becomes painful, we’ll do something to dull the pain. Because we cannot see the heart, because we cannot understand its motives, we will make bad choices and unwise decisions. How often at each and every opportunity to make a life choice have we chosen poorly? Listen, friend: you need to seek the Lord today, while He may be found. You need to call on Him while He is near. Today, now, this is the time; this is the opportune moment. God’s ways are deeper than ours; trust Him. God’s choice is rarely obvious or rarely easy; but God’s way is always pure, always right, and always morally true.
God’s ways are often messier and are frequently slower than what we’d like to see. Samuel had to learn he could not run ahead of God. So, start to learn what Samuel learned and learn to wait on God. When all is said and done, it is later, at the end of the story that we will get to see how God’s judgments have built our character and taught us how to live life by trust and not by sight.
Has all this caused you to wonder about the condition of your own heart? I hope so, because I believe that is one of God’s purposes today. 1 Corinthians 11: 28 says, “A man ought to examine himself.” Do a heart check. Take an inventory of your life. Recognize that you are not terribly smart, nor are you able to be accurate in your assessments. Ask God to do the examining. Ask God to perform the heart check. Don’t be afraid. Ask God to speak into your life: “Father, my heart is an open book to You, and from You I cannot hide. Open my heart, Lord, and look within. What is the state of my heart?”
I believe that’s an assessment every Christian needs to have made, and the more often the better. Why allow boulders, rocks, and impediments to remain in your way, blocking your relationship with God?
I want to allow some time for us to think about what it is that Samuel came to do to the son of Jesse. He came to anoint the son of Jesse as king. Because people are always making choices that are bound up in folly and foolishness and with wicked and sinful intent, God would anoint His choice. God’s choices are chosen in wisdom for a righteous and redemptive purpose.
God told Samuel in verse 1, “Fill your horn with oil and be on your way.” We anoint sparingly with the “little dab will do ya” approach, but in those days, if you were anointed, you were drenched. Oil was poured over your head and it ran down your face and beard, down onto the collar of your robe, just as Psalm 133 says. The person anointed would not scream about the dry cleaning bill, but would appreciate the significance of what had just happened. Anointing meant God’s approval for you as a person. It meant God’s presence was given to you. It meant God is empowering for your life. It especially meant God’s blessing as you were given a specific task or calling. Anointing means you have been called by God. Anointing means you belong to God. It means that your life has been given over to God, and that you have a place in the purposes of God.
While anointing may be symbolized by oil poured out, it is really an inside job, a work of the Spirit of God in the life and heart of the one anointed. Often when a person was anointed, he was anointed secretly, with no witnesses, no fan fare, and no announcement. The anointed man might have been perceived as a direct threat to power, so the anointing took place away from public view. The power of anointing does not come from it being a highly visible act, but it comes from the Spirit of God working on the inside of a person, working within as God works out His purpose in the life of the one anointed.
Let me say today that because Jesus gave His life for you on the cross, you have been anointed. The blood of Jesus was poured over your lives and has washed you clean. His blood made you holy of God’s sight, and by virtue of His blood, God now provides you with the His daily and moment-by-moment presence in your life. You have been anointed; therefore, live like it! You are holy. You are set apart to God and set apart for God. Your life is now His and His alone.
Romans 5: 5 says, “And hope does not disappoint us, because God has poured out His love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit, whom He has given us.” God anoints us with His love. You can tell if God is working in your life; have you been anointed with His love? Are you loving people or are you grumbling at people?
In Titus 3: 5 – 6 we read, “He saved us through the washing of rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit, whom He poured out on us generously through Jesus Christ our Savior.” Because we make judgments based on outward appearance, God makes His judgment by looking at the heart. The work God does in us is rarely done on the outside, where it can be easily seen. God makes changes on the inside, where it counts, where the work of God is deep and lasting. In 1 Kings 8:39, we see there that God is able to forgive, God is able to work forgiveness and change within a person, because God “alone knows the hearts of all men.”
The anointing of the Holy Spirit in your life is not based on your looks, on how much money, prestige, power, or any other thing, or any other attribute you might be able to bring to the table. Nor is the anointing a one time in a hundred years event, as it was in the Old Testament. Today, every believer is an anointed believer!
How do you sense the anointing of God on your life? If you have trusted in Jesus, you have been anointed by God. You are chosen, set apart, called, and blessed. You are anointed with the love of God, according to Romans 5: 5. You’ve been anointed with the Holy Spirit according to Titus 3:6. So, while God has said that you are filled and ready to go, examine yourself first. Don’t be running off based on what things look like on the outside. Remember that God is the one who looks at the heart, so allow Him to examine your heart. We often turn a blind eye to real spiritual problems in our lives because we are deceiving ourselves. Or, we decide we are too messed up to serve God with our lives. That’s why we need to allow God to do the examining!--
Edmund C. de la Cour, Jr.
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