Now the name of the man was Nabal; and the name of his wife Abigail: and she was a woman of good understanding, and of a beautiful countenance: but the man was churlish and evil in his doings; and he was of the house of Caleb. 1 Sam. 25:3
Many years ago, when I was a small boy, my school organized an expedition for some of us to visit a ship at the coast. When we arrived, the ship’s captain led us on a tour of the big ship; but I do recall that the one thing that made a permanent mark on my mind was the engine room. It was huge. When we walked down there, it was like we had entered a different world altogether. At that young, impressionable age, the engines appeared to be a hundred stories high! Surprisingly, there was not much activity going on down there. In fact, I recall it was like we found no one down there. Just the large engines powerfully humming away by themselves.
Then the captain spoke to us about the engines. I remember the word he used. He said, “The engine room is the heart of the ship.”
The engines, he told us, drove everything on that ship. Nothing could work on that ship if the engines were dead. The engines were the life of the ship. In other words, the engines made the ship to become a ship! Without the engines, that ship was just a big piece of scrap metal sitting uselessly (and possibly dangerously) on top of the ocean waters.
It is the same with us. The heart is our engine room. It is our very life. Our heart controls everything we do. And God, in his infinite wisdom, is concerned only with what issues from our hearts, for this is where our life is. As far as God is concerned, if we are to do things without the heart, we might as well not do them. God does not regard anything that is not done from the heart. That was exactly what He meant when He told Samuel:
““…for the LORD seeth not as man seeth; for man looketh on the outward appearance, but the LORD looketh on the heart.”
The man who wrote the Book of Proverbs probably received one of the greatest insights into God’s working, for he wrote:
“Keep thy heart with all diligence; for out of it are the issues of life.” (Proverbs 4:23)
Out of a man’s heart comes every issue of his life. His character comes out of his life; and so does his success, his prosperity – and even his beauty. And, in more ways than one, this inner life comes out and brightens a man’s exterior life.
That said, we cannot, as spiritual people, measure success, beauty or prosperity in material terms. No, we measure these things through what comes out of a man’s heart.
Consider Joseph. The Bible says of him,
“And Joseph was a goodly person, and well favoured.” (Gen. 39:6)
What does the Bible mean by “goodly”? Does it mean he was good-looking, handsome? He might have been, but that is not what the Bible is talking of here.
Or, “well favoured”; what does that mean? Does it mean Joseph was built like Hercules? By no means. We might not even have any inkling of Joseph’s physique, for that is not what the Bible is referring to here.
The Bible is not interested in these things. Rather, in using these terms, the Bible is trying to show us the kind of heart that Jospeh had. Joseph had a “goodly” heart (not physique); and the term “well favoured” means he had the grace of God in him. And, through having this kind of heart, Joseph prospered.
How about Moses? The Bible record about Moses states:
“By faith Moses, when he was born, was hid three months of his parents, because they saw he was a proper child; and they were not afraid of the king’s commandment.” (Heb. 11:23)
Does that mean that Moses was more handsome than his siblings and that his parents therefore gave more consideration to him than to the others?
Hardly. On the contrary, the writer here is talking in the Spirit. In the Spirit, Moses’s parents saw into his heart. They somehow saw, in the Spirit, that this boy would turn out to be a vessel in God’s hands. And for that reason (for they were people of faith), “they were not afraid of the king’s commandment”; and they hid Moses.
Finally, let us consider the life of what most people regard as the Bible’s favorite character, David. In most people’s imagination, as well as in folklore and in countless modern-day movies on the subject, David is given the character of a strapping, handsome young man. My guess is that all this comes from what people read about David in 1 Samuel 16:12:
“… Now he was ruddy, and withal of a beautiful countenance, and goodly to look to. And the LORD said, Arise, anoint him: for this is he.”
But th church has no place for Hollywood’s portrayal of a Biblical figure. All the attributes that the Bible lays out here talk, not of David’s physical appearance, but of his heart. Yes, the commendations that this particular scripture places on David are many, but that is because the heart of David had so many credentials to it.
Many of us would love to have such credentials attached to our names in God’s heavenly Kingdom; but there is a price to pay. And these men and and women were willing to pay the price.
The price we have to pay to become beautiful in our spirits, as the writer of Proverbs tells us, is to guard our hearts. And, when it comes to guarding our hearts, there is no way around it apart from denying our selves, taking up our cross, and following Christ.
Need we wonder, then, why the Apostle Paul would preach such a singular gospel,
“Jesus Christ, and him crucified”? (1 Cor. 2:2)
It was because he realized the power of the cross. The Apostle Paul said,
“Whereunto I also labour, striving according to his working, which worketh in me mightily.” (Col. 1:29)
Christ worked in Paul’s heart mightily. The Apostle Paul was one of the most beautiful people spiritually. It was because he allowed the cross to work in him. When our hearts are well, we are the most beautiful people in the world.