Sunday, November 24, 2013

[Matt's Messages] "The Lord Looks at the Heart"

“The Lord Looks at the Heart”
A Heart for the Heart of God: The Message of 1 Samuel
November 24, 2013 :: 1 Samuel 16:1-23

This chapter is the hinge chapter that the entire book turns on. For 15 chapters, the main characters have had names that begin with the letter “S.” Samuel and Saul.

And Samuel has done well (by and large), but Saul has been a big disappointment.

In fact, last week, we saw the kingdom of Israel actually being torn away from Saul because of his half-hearted disobedience.

Even though he retains the name of king and continues to be recognized as king by the people, in God’s eyes, Saul is no longer the legitimate head of Israel.

God has another plan for another king.

And in this chapter, we meet him.

We meet another main character who is going to carry on through this book and the next.

I won’t say his name yet, but I’ll bet you know it.

It begins with the letter “D.”

Today, I want to do this sermon a little differently. My plan is to read the whole chapter, and as we read it–like we often do–I’ll provide some running commentary on the story–showing you what is there.

And then after we’ve read the whole chapter, we’ll come back to verse 7 which is the hinge verse of this hinge chapter. Everything swings on it.

It’s the verse that says, ‘The LORD does not look at the things man looks at. Man looks at the outward appearance, but the LORD looks at the heart.”

“The Lord Looks at the Heart.”

Our series is called “A Heart for the Heart of God,” and Saul just didn’t have it.

Is there someone who will?

Let’s back up to verse 35 of chapter 15 to get the context.

“Until the day Samuel died, he did not go to see Saul again, though Samuel mourned for him. And the LORD was grieved that he had made Saul king over Israel.”

Chapter 16, verse 1. A new day begins.

“The LORD said to Samuel, ‘How long will you mourn for Saul, since I have rejected him as king over Israel? Fill your horn with oil and be on your way; I am sending you to Jesse of Bethlehem. I have chosen one of his sons to be king.’”

A new day is dawning. There is still hope for Israel.

Saul has been rejected, but the LORD has another plan.

Samuel is to get up and get going. God has another mission for him.

He is being sent to the little town of Bethlehem to see a man about one of his sons.

The man’s name is Jesse. And he happens to be the grandson of Boaz and Ruth (who we met last year in our series on the Book of Ruth.

Jesse is from the tribe of Judah, a tribe that many things have been prophesied about.

And now, the Lord has said that one of Jesse’s son has been picked to be the next king.

In chapter 13, verse 14, Samuel had told Saul, “[Y]our kingdom will not endure; the LORD has sought out a man after his own heart and appointed him leader of his people, because you have not kept the LORD’s command.”

And now the LORD is going to tell Samuel who that appointed leader is.  V.2

“But Samuel said, ‘How can I go? Saul will hear about it and kill me.’ The LORD said, ‘Take a heifer with you and say, 'I have come to sacrifice to the LORD.' Invite Jesse to the sacrifice, and I will show you what to do. You are to anoint for me the one I indicate.’”

Samuel is concerned that Saul may have spies. Saul may have eyes on Samuel to see what he might be doing in the way of kingmaking.

But God gives Samuel a cover mission, a sacrifice, (a real and true sacrifice) to cover over his main objective in heading to Bethlehem. V.4

“Samuel did what the LORD said. When he arrived at Bethlehem, the elders of the town trembled when they met him. They asked, ‘Do you come in peace?’”

Perhaps they are concerned about trouble with Saul, as well. Or maybe they are worried that a heifer sacrifice means an unsolved murder has happened, and they are worried about what that might mean. Or maybe they’re just concerned because they know that Samuel is a dangerous person. He recently killed King Agag. He is a priest and prophet, but he is not to be trifled with. But Samuel reassures them. V.5

“Samuel replied, ‘Yes, in peace; I have come to sacrifice to the LORD. Consecrate yourselves and come to the sacrifice with me.’ Then he consecrated Jesse and his sons and invited them to the sacrifice.”

And now, he’s got his eyes on them. It’s time to look these boys over and see who will be the replacement for Saul. V.6

“When they arrived, Samuel saw Eliab and thought, ‘Surely the LORD's anointed stands here before the LORD.’”

Oh! This guy’s got “winner” written all over him.  He looks tough and smart, and he’s even tall!  V.7

“But the LORD said to Samuel, ‘Do not consider his appearance or his height, for I have rejected him. The LORD does not look at the things man looks at. Man looks at the outward appearance, but the LORD looks at the heart.’”

That’s really important, and we’re going to come back to it at the end and apply it to our lives.

The LORD has not chosen Eliab to be the next king.

He may look good on the outside, but on the inside? Not so much.

“Do not consider his appearance or his height, ... The LORD does not look at the things man looks at. Man looks at the outward appearance, but the LORD looks at the heart.”

Ok. So, it’s not Eliab. V.8

“Then Jesse called Abinadab and had him pass in front of Samuel. But Samuel said, ‘The LORD has not chosen this one either.’ Jesse then had Shammah pass by, but Samuel said, ‘Nor has the LORD chosen this one.’ Jesse had seven of his sons pass before Samuel, but Samuel said to him, ‘The LORD has not chosen these.’”

1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7.

That’s full number of sons.


The LORD said that He had picked one of these guys, but He’s saying it’s not one of these guys?! V.11

“So he asked Jesse, ‘Are these all the sons you have?’ ‘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.’”

Ok. Nobody eats until we see the youngest!

Jesse seems almost embarrassed to mention his youngest.

The Hebrew word for “youngest” here could be translated, “smallest.”

He’s probably the shortest. He’s probably the “runt of the litter.”  He’s still, in many ways, a boy.

You always give the worst job to the littlest guy. He’s out with the smelly sheep!

He’s the opposite of Saul...

...And that’s just what they need.  V.12

“So he sent and had him brought in. [Still haven’t heard his name.] He was ruddy, with a fine appearance and handsome features. [But that might not mean anything. What matters is in the heart...] Then the LORD said, ‘Rise and anoint him; he is the one.’

So Samuel took the horn of oil and anointed him in the presence of his brothers, and from that day on the Spirit of the LORD came upon David in power. Samuel then went to Ramah.”

So, his name is David.

He’s the youngest (God seems to have a thing for picking younger sons for big jobs.), he’s not the tallest.  He’s not perfect (as we will see time and time again), but apparently, this young man named David has a heart for the heart of God.

And he has the Spirit of the LORD. V.13 again, “from that day on the Spirit of the LORD came upon David in power.”

Anointed not just by oil but by the Spirit Himself.

Empowered for a great ministry.

And He will need that Spirit-anointing. Because, from now on, he’s going to encounter trouble after trouble!

Just because you’re anointed doesn’t mean that you are saved from trouble.

In fact, it’s just the opposite. The most anointed find themselves in the most trouble.

David is now anointed.

The Hebrew for “anointed” in verse 13?  “Mashach” Messiah.

David is the Messiah, the anointed one.

Now, it doesn’t say much more than that.

You know, I never noticed it until this week, but it doesn’t say that Samuel said anything when he anointed David.  He might not have said for what ministry David is anointed.

I’ve always assumed that David knew that he was being anointed to be the next king, and that’s possible.

But this week, it seemed to me that it might have been more of a mystery at this point what the ministry David would have would be.

Perhaps it was unclear to Jesse’s family and even to David at this point and began to unfold as God’s plan became more clear.

What is clear is that the Spirit was now with David.

And there is going to be a great crisscross in the fortunes of the old king and the new.

In the last part of the chapter, the two of the meet each other, quite ironically. V.14

“Now the Spirit of the LORD had departed from Saul, and an evil spirit from the LORD tormented him.”

Wow, what a contrast with verse 13!

“The Spirit of the LORD came upon David in power.”
“The Spirit of the LORD had departed from Saul.”

And more than that, “an evil spirit” or a “miserable spirit,” a “ruinous spirit” from the LORD tormented Saul.

This is a judgment upon Saul for his disobedience.

Saul is tormented as a consequence for his failure to love the LORD with all of his heart, soul, mind, and strength.

I don’t think the spirit was as much a “morally evil” spirit as a “calamitous evil” spirit, that is, that it doesn’t tempted Saul, it troubles him.

Saul gets depressed. He gets pulled down. The spirit yanks him into a funk.

And Saul doesn’t know what to do about it.  V.15

“Saul's attendants said to him, ‘See, an evil spirit from God is tormenting you. Let our lord command his servants here to search for someone who can play the harp. He will play when the evil spirit from God comes upon you, and you will feel better.’

[Music therapy. It just might work.]

So Saul said to his attendants, ‘Find someone who plays well and bring him to me.’

One of the servants answered, ‘I have seen a son of Jesse of Bethlehem who knows how to play the harp. He is a brave man and a warrior. He speaks well and is a fine-looking man. And the LORD is with him.’

Then Saul sent messengers to Jesse and said, ‘Send me your son David, who is with the sheep.’ So Jesse took a donkey loaded with bread, a skin of wine and a young goat [probably provisions for David] and sent them with his son David to Saul.

David came to Saul and entered his service. Saul liked him very much, and David became one of his armor-bearers. Then Saul sent word to Jesse, saying, ‘Allow David to remain in my service, for I am pleased with him.’

Whenever the spirit from God came upon Saul, David would take his harp and play. Then relief would come to Saul; he would feel better, and the evil spirit would leave him.”

How’s that for irony?

The old king on his way out takes the newly anointed king into his own service!

And David is loyal to Saul!

David joins his service and serves Saul, and serves him well.

Someday, this old king will try to kill the new one.

But at this point in the story, he’s very pleased with him.


You know it’s possible that David thought at this point that Samuel had anointed him for this music ministry.  I read a commentator this week who pointed that out as a possibility (Bill Arnold, pg. 245).

Perhaps he thought, “I’ll try to be faithful to whatever calling the LORD has for me.”

What a great thought that is!

What we do know is that (v.18), “The LORD [was] with him.”

And we’re going see that again and again and again as the story goes from here on out.

But let’s return now to verse 7 which is the hinge verse of this hinge chapter.

The LORD selects the new king based on something that Samuel couldn’t see.  Look at verse 7 again.

“But the LORD said to Samuel, ‘Do not consider his appearance or his height, for I have rejected him. The LORD does not look at the things man looks at. Man looks at the outward appearance, but the LORD looks at the heart.’”

The Lord sees inside.

He see the thoughts, the attitudes, the desires, the motives.

He sees what a person really believes, really worships, really loves.

The Lord looks at the heart.

On Wednesday nights, our youth boys class memorizes a proverb every week.

And recently, we memorized Proverbs 15:11 which says,

“Death and Destruction lie open before the LORD–how much more the hearts of men!”

And we decided that that meant that great and terrible things like Death and Destruction (Sheol and Abbadon), great and terrible things that we could never understand are an open book to the Lord.

And if that’s true, how much more does God understand what is in our hearts?!

The Lord looks at the heart.

I want us to think briefly about how that truth applies to us in three different ways.


I think that we need to keep verse 7 in mind as we relate to other people.

“Man looks at the outward appearances, but the LORD looks on the heart.”

Part of what that means to us today is to not forget what is truly important when we are choosing our friends, or our spouse, or our leaders.

We tend to look at the outward.

We look at big or beautiful someone is.

Take finding a spouse, for example.

Many guys are looking for a looker.

And many ladies are doing the same.

They want a hunk.

Now, there is nothing wrong with beauty. I happen to have found the most beautiful woman on the planet and tricked her into marrying me.

But Proverbs says “Charm is deceptive, and beauty is fleeting; but a woman who fears the LORD is to be praised.”

Young attention to that.

Young close attention to who they are, not just how they look!

“Man looks at the outward appearance, but the LORD looks at the heart.”

For another example, take picking a leader, like God does here.

We tend to look at someone’s strengths, their gifts, their popularity, their status.

What are they good at?  Are they tall?

How popular are they?  How much are they worth? Do they already have a good position? Do they have clout?

Now, those are not bad things in and of themselves.

But they are just outward. What is their heart like?

What do they think, what do they want, what do they worship, what do they love?

“Man looks at the outward appearance, but the LORD looks at the heart.”

Of course, we can’t see into a person’s heart. That’s part of what this verse is saying.

Only God can do that.

But I think it’s also saying that the LORD looks at what is really important, and we need to realize that and look for the best clues as to what is going on in others.

As we pick friends, and lovers, and leaders.

You can tell a lot about what is in someone’s heart by their words.  Because out of the overflow of the heart, the mouth speaks.

You hear a lot of dirty things come out of their mouths, you can be sure they have a lot of dirt in their heart.

But our words can also be deceiving, so it’s important to also watch what others do.

Because our actions reveal what’s in our hearts, as well.

If you see someone who has mismatch between their mouth and their hands, or their feet, or their loins, then you know something wrong is going on in their heart.

No matter how attractive they are outside, it’s what’s inside that counts.

“Man looks at the outward appearance, but the LORD looks at the heart.”

And the key question about the heart is do they have a heart for the heart of God?

All King Saul had was a heart for the heart of Saul.

And that takes us to the second area of application.


“Man looks at the outward appearance, but the LORD looks at the heart.”

Here’s the question for this area:

When He looks at our hearts, what does He see?

Because we cannot fool Him.

We might be able to fool others.

“Man looks at the outward appearance...” and you and I can put on a pretty good show!

But “the LORD looks at the heart.”

He sees the real me.

He knows my very thoughts.

He knows what I really want.

He knows what I worship, what moves me, what I truly love.

He knows me better than I know myself.

Hebrews 4:13 “Nothing in all creation is hidden from God's sight. Everything is uncovered and laid bare before the eyes of him to whom we must give account.”

When God looks inside of you, what does He see?

God is hunting for people with a heart for His heart.

Are you chasing after the world or chasing after Him?

When God looks inside of you, what does He see?

I know that He see some sin. We are all sinners. We are not perfect.

None of us are perfect. Far from it, in fact.

David was far from perfect, as we will see again and again.

But there was something else inside of David as well, apparently.

And I think that the Psalms show us what it is.

Those songs that David wrote?

David also had a love for the LORD.

“The LORD is my shepherd, I shall not want.”  Psalm 23.

Or Psalm 34:

“I will extol the LORD at all times; his praise will always be on my lips.
My soul will boast in the LORD; let the afflicted hear and rejoice.
Glorify the LORD with me; let us exalt his name together.
I sought the LORD, and he answered me; he delivered me from all my fears.
Those who look to him are radiant; their faces are never covered with shame.
This poor man called, and the LORD heard him; he saved him out of all his troubles” (Vv.1-6).

Or Psalm 103:

“Bless the LORD, O my soul: and all that is within me, bless his holy name.” (V.1, KJV)

Does the Lord see that in your heart, as well?

If not, then repent. Turn away from a heart that does not bless the Lord and ask Him for a heart that does.

Because you will not fool him.

To steal and change Abraham Lincoln’s quote, “You can fool all the people some of the time, and some of the people all the time...” but you cannot fool the Lord.

The Lord looks on the heart.

Give Him yours.

Which leads us to the third and last area of application of verse 7.


With our Messiah, our anointed one.

“The LORD does not look at the things man looks at. Man looks at the outward appearance, but the LORD looks at the heart.”

There was never a greater proof of this verse than when men judged Jesus.

Many, many people looked at our Savior and decided that He wasn’t worth the time of day.

Great David’s Greatest Son was despised and rejected by men.

Isaiah 53, “...a man of sorrows, and familiar with suffering. Like one from whom men hide their faces he was despised, and we esteemed him not.”

“He had no beauty or majesty to attract us to him, nothing in his appearance that we should desire him.”

He’s the stone the builders rejected.

“Hey, guys, how about this stone? Do you think it would work here?”

“No way! That’s the wrong shape. That’s too small. That’s the wrong size. That stone doesn’t look right. Throw it away.”

But! (Psalm 118, the Lord looked at Jesus’ heart.) “The stone the builders rejected has become the capstone; the LORD has done this, and it is marvelous in our eyes.

This is the day the LORD has made [this day of salvation!]; let us rejoice and be glad in it. O LORD, save us; O LORD, grant us success. Blessed is he who comes in the name of the LORD. From the house of the LORD we bless you. The LORD is God, and he has made his light shine upon us. With boughs in hand, join in the festal procession up to the horns of the altar.

You are my God, and I will give you thanks; you are my God, and I will exalt you.

Give thanks to the LORD, for he is good; his love endures forever.”

This Thanksgiving, we Christians have every reason to be truly thankful.

Because the stone that the builders rejected has become the capstone.

Jesus became our Savior.

He died on the Cross, despised and rejected and carrying our sins.

But He did not stay dead.

God looked at His heart!  And He brought Him back from the dead to give us new live and salvation!

“LORD has done this, and it is marvelous in our eyes!”

Maybe you need to make a new appraisal of Jesus today.

Perhaps you came in here today thinking that Jesus was one thing–looking at the outward appearance.

But you have now come to think about Him in a new light.

Jesus invites you to trust Him as your Rescuer and King, your Savior and your Lord.

Perhaps you’ve been chasing all of the other candidates for King.

And they look good on the outside, but they all disappoint.

God is speaking today and saying to you like he said to Samuel, “The LORD has not chosen these.”

Choose Jesus.

He is the One.


A Heart for the Heart of God

01. Hannah's Prayers
02. Those Who Honor Me I Will Honor
03. Speak, LORD, for Your Servant Is Listening
04. God In A Box
05. Who Can Stand in the Presence of the LORD, This Holy God?
06. Be Careful What You Ask For
07. "Go and Look for the Donkeys."
08. From Here On
09. Who Knows?
10. How to Grieve the Lord