6 And it came to pass, when they were come, that he looked on Eliab, and said, Surely the Lord’s anointed is before him. 7 But the Lord said unto Samuel, Look not on his countenance, or on the height of his stature; because I have refused him: for the Lord seeth not as man seeth; for man looketh on the outward appearance, but the Lord looketh on the heart. 1 Sam. 16:6-7
One time, our church’s overseer, the very top man in our denomination, was invited by the leader of a big denomination to go and minister in his church. This pastor decided to take along with him one of his fellow elders. Now, our overseer is a man of slight build, while the man he took with him is big and tough looking. Moreover, our overseer dresses in the simplest way possible; but the elder prefers a more flamboyant look. On this particular day, the elder had chosen to wear a sharp-looking suit with a tie to match. The overseer wore only a shirt and coat. No tie.
When they arrived at the church where they had been invited, they found a big welcome team of pastors and elders awaiting them. With the exception of the host pastor, none of the others were acquianted with the visitors. Upon arriving, it was clear to the welcome team who the “bishop” was: it was the man in the suit and tie! Everyone hastily congregated around our church elder, pumping his hand and telling him, “Welcome, bishop!” After which they walked over to the overseer to give him a far less enthusiastic welcome.
Our elder, noticing what was happening, coughed and offered to speak up. When he had gained their attention, he said, pointing at our overseer, “Guys, he is the bishop!”
Much as we would like it to appear otherwise, we are all victims of the above scripture. The first reason for this, of course, is because God has said it; and if God says something, it is exactly as He has stated it to be. Therefore, here, as stated by God Himself, we are all victims of looking at men “on the outward appearance”. There is no exception. Whoever you are, reading this post right now (with all due respect), better own up. Don’t think for one moment that you are free from this one.
There is a way, of course, under the New Covenant, by which we can be free of this impairment in our spiritual lives; a freedom that God desires so much for us. And what, pray, is this way?
It is to have the Lord Jesus Christ firmly enthroned in our hearts. In other words, it is to identify our lives fully with the sufferings, death and resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ, as the Apostle Paul says of himself in Galatians 2:20:
“I am crucified with Christ…”
This is what we have been called to: to crucify our lives with Jesus. That is why the Apostle Paul talked of
“the preaching of the cross” (1 Cor. 1:18)
Without crucifying our lives with Jesus, we are very much prone to being influenced by men on the outside, i.e. their outward appearance. We will be easily swayed by power, wealth, culture, and color. There are just too many Christians today who are enslaved by these things!
When Samuel therefore looked at this man, Eliab, he was easily swayed by just two things: the man’s countenance and stature. Eliab must have looked like an MMA fighter, but a handsome face. But God would have none of that nonsense. Notice His short reply to Samuel:
“I have refused him”.
Samuel was taking God into territory He does not play in. God does not look at a man’s face or stature. Nor in anything that is natural. God told Samuel,
“for the Lord seeth not as man seeth; for man looketh on the outward appearance, but the Lord looketh on the heart.”
God looks on the heart, not on any natural qualities or accomplishments we might have.
What am I leading up to in saying all these things?
Believers today think they may persuade God with things like much prayer, song, and hard work in ministry. But that’s just not right and it is unacceptable with God. Prayer, worship and ministry are all good, but the only thing with which we can persuade God are our hearts. A good heart is the first pre-requisite to any attempt at persuading God to be on one’s side.
A good heart goes a long way towards accomplishing the will of God than all the prayers in the world. God knew that, in the long term, David’s heart would work out His will more than his brothers’ seemingly outstanding worldly attributes.
You can always tell the man who is after God’s heart. It is not the man who is perfect (no one is). Rather, it is the man who trembles and who can humble himself. Humility is key to doing God’s will. A humble man will go far with God in the long term. If he sins, he can ask God for forgiveness. And God can continue using his humble heart, for in a humble heart God is free to move about and do what whatever He wants to, whenever He wants.
[Our overseer (seated to the left) is a simple man of God]