March 5, 2023

Not as Man Sees (1 Samuel 16:1-7)

Preacher: Bryce Morgan Series: Our Bible Reading Plan (2022-2023) Topic: One Truth: Walk in Truth Scripture: 1 Samuel 16:1–7

message video button copy

Children's Lesson (click here)

I. “Imagined Perfection”

Listen to how one writer describes the present plight of so many of our girls and young women in light of social media platforms like Instragram. She writes...

If we’re looking at someone else’s curated photos, we’re seeing an imagined perfection and we have no possible way to ever measure up. Of all the platforms, research shows Instagram is the worst at this. It’s those images that grab our emotions and stick in our minds. “My body is something that God created intentionally for a reason,” [college student] Kaylee told me. “And he looks at that and says, ‘I love this.’ And for me, with social media, it was really hard to be able to say, ‘I’m going to choose to believe that.’ [Especially] when you’re looking at all these other people that are the societal norm of perfect.” [The writer continues] No wonder Instagram is associated with eating disorders and appearance anxiety, especially among girls who are going through puberty or who are supposed to be at their most physically attractive age. No wonder that one in three girls who feel bad about their bodies feel worse after logging into Instagram. And no wonder teens who use social media more than five hours a day are twice as likely to be depressed as non-users—that depression rate, by the way, starts climbing after just a single hour of use.” (“Scrolling Alone”, Sarah Eekhof Zylstra)

Now there's a lot there. But one thing this excerpt communicates clearly is that how we see matters. How we see matters. Turn over with me to the Old Testament (OT) book of 1 Samuel. Let's look together this morning at chapter 16, verses 1-7, one of the passages you looked at last week in Our Bible Reading Plan.


II. The Passage: “The LORD Looks on the Heart” (16:1-7)

Before we look together at this passage, let remind you of where we are in the biblical story. I'll do that by means of three names: Moses, Joshua, and Samuel. Moses... as you may know, was a leader appointed by God to lead the nation of Israel out slavery in Egypt and into the land of Canaan (a land that God had promised to give to their ancestors). Joshua. When Moses sinfully forfeited his opportunity to lead the nation into Canaan, God raised up Joshua to do that very thing. The people not only looked to Joshua, but more importantly to God, and by his grace, they were established in that Promised Land. Samuel. After many generations in the land, generations of both spiritual rebellion and repentance, a final “judge” (as they were called) named Samuel had helped the nation turn back to God (fyi: he also functioned like a priest).

But the Israelites were tired of judges like Samuel. They wanted a king instead. And God granted that request by giving them a leader named Saul. Samuel anointed Saul to be the king, but in time, Saul proved himself to be unworthy of the title. God soon rejected Israel's first king, and set about to replace him. And that's exactly where we find ourselves as the story continues in chapter 16. Let me read, beginning in verse 1...

The LORD [this is the divine, personal name Yahweh... “Yahweh..”] said to Samuel, “How long will you grieve over Saul, since I have rejected him from being king over Israel? Fill your horn with oil, and go. I will send you to Jesse the Bethlehemite, for I have provided for myself a king among his sons.” [2] And Samuel said, “How can I go? If Saul hears it, he will kill me.” And the LORD said, “Take a heifer with you and say, ‘I have come to sacrifice to the LORD.’ [3] And invite Jesse to the sacrifice, and I will show you what you shall do. And you shall anoint for me him whom I declare to you.” [4] Samuel did what the LORD commanded and came to Bethlehem. The elders of the city came to meet him trembling and said, “Do you come peaceably?” [5] And he said, “Peaceably; I have come to sacrifice to the LORD. Consecrate yourselves, and come with me to the sacrifice.” And he consecrated Jesse and his sons and invited them to the sacrifice. [6] When they came, he looked on Eliab and thought, “Surely the LORD’s anointed is before him.” [7] 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.”

So our goal this morning is twofold. First, we want to make sure we understand what this passage is actually saying. What was the ancient writer's intention here? Why did he write? How would his first readers have understood these words and their significance? Second, we want to make sure we understand how and why this passage is important... for us. What is God's intention here... for us? Why did He inspire these words for future generations... like us? How does he want to use them in your life this morning?

To tackle that first goal of understanding what the passage is actually saying, let me break this story down according to Samuel and his relationship with some other character in the text. So for example, let's talk first about...


1. Samuel and Saul's Rejection (vs. 1-3)

The very first verse in this chapter, in this passage, actually points us back to the last verse of the previous chapter. Look with me at 1 Samuel 15:35, “And Samuel did not see Saul again until the day of his death, but Samuel grieved over Saul. And the LORD regretted that he had made Saul king over Israel.” Clearly Samuel has not moved on or moved past his hope that Saul would be the kind of leader Israel needed.

But as verse 2 reveals, Samuel is also concerned about Saul out of a concern for his own safety. If Saul gets word that Samuel is off to anoint a new king over Israel, there's a good chance he will lash out and attempt to crush what Saul would consider treasonous behavior. Now, clearly, these fears just confirm the fact that God has rightly rejected Saul... and deep-down, Samuel knows that to be true. But in the next verses, the focus turns to...


2. Samuel and Jesse's Invitation (vs. 4-5)

Using a sacrifice as the stated reason for visiting Bethlehem, we read in verse 4 that the elders of the town are themselves concerned. Why has Samuel the judge (!) come to their community? But Samuel is quick to reassure them. Now, in verses 4 and 5, we finally meet Jesse, the man mentioned in verse 1. And given the connection here between these verses, it almost seems as if Jesse is one of the “elders of the city”. Notice we don't read that Samuel had to call for Jesse. It seems he's already there. And this lead to Samuel consecrating both him and his sons.

So finally the scene is set for the crucial piece of the puzzle here. Consider with me...


3. Samuel and Yahweh's Estimation (vs. 6-7)

So in light of verses 1-3, Samuel is prepared to anoint one of Jesse's son as the new king over Israel. Let's reread verses 6 and 7, considering more carefully Samuel's mindset...

When they came, he looked on Eliab and thought, “Surely the LORD’s anointed is before him.” [7] 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.”

Okay. Let's make sure we understand why Samuel is thinking the way he's thinking. Back in 8:20, when the nation asked for a king, the people made it clear what they were looking for in a leader: “...that we also may be like all the nations, and that our king may judge us and go out before us and fight our battles.” And when Saul is finally anointed and presented to the people, this is how Samuel presents him. 1 Samuel 10:24... “And Samuel said to all the people, “Do you see him whom the LORD has chosen? There is none like him among all the people.” Clearly, Samuel believes that being big and strong physically are important criteria when it comes to being an effective leader.

But God directly confronts this mindset, doesn't he? Verse 7: “Do not look on his appearance or on the height of his stature...” Yes, God granted the people a man like Saul to be their first king, and he was big and strong. But I believe God did that in order to show them the foolishness of having the king they wanted... instead of having the king they needed. For the true battles that needed to be won in Israel did not depend on a physically strong king, but a spiritually strong king. That's why God corrects Samuel here, reminding him that how you see matters. People tend to focus first on the outside. But God's first concern is always what's on the inside.


III. Heart Concerns

Okay, having understood better what this ancient story is saying, let's talk about how and why this passage is important for us today. In terms of an application for you and me, let me suggest a good, better, best approach. So not one application, but three. But all of them are tied together by the clear emphasis of this passage: God wants us to see that the heart should always be our first concern. Okay. Good, better, best. So let's begin with a good application...

First, strive too see as God sees, with inward-focused eyes. This passage teaches us that not only did Samuel need to be corrected, but it reminds us of the reason Saul was rejected as king. Though he looked the part of an earthly king, his heart rejected what it meant to be a godly king. And thus, he was rejected by God.

But don't we also need the same correction Samuel received? Remember the words of verse 7, “For the LORD sees not as man sees...”; that is, as human beings see. We do judge books by their cover, don't we? We often celebrate what looks good over what is good, don't we? In so much of what we do, we try to 'look the part', don't we? We tend to emphasize right behaviors over right motives, don't we? Our ugly struggles with things like racism and age-ism and body shaming and so many things are squarely rooted in that category... “as man sees”, not as God sees. And all around us, every day, we see the unhealthiness of those outward-focused eyes, that surface level vision. It feeds pride and judgment, it fuels depression and self-condemnation, and it fails to truly help us or heal us. But listen to just one healthy perspective on seeing...

"I have a dream... that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character." Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was pointing us back to those inward-focused eyes, eyes informed by what God says truly matters most. That contrast and the truth about what God emphasizes is beautifully expressed in a verse like Proverbs 31:30,Charm is deceitful, and beauty is vain, but a woman who fears the LORD is to be praised.” As Jesus himself encouraged us, “Do not judge by appearances, but judge with right judgment." (John 7:24) Right judgment is rarely surface level.

How do we judge or discern with “right judgment”? We allow God to teach us about the human heart; to teach us what matters most when it comes to the human heart. And the Scriptures do just that. Though his word, strive to see as God sees. But... here's an even better application.

Second, see your own heart with those eyes, then seek a new one. As is clear from the account of God's rejection of Saul, and his choice of a new king, God knows the human heart. He truly sees the heart! In fact, this is what he told us through the prophet Jeremiah, "I the LORD search the heart and test the mind, to give every man according to his ways, according to the fruit of his deeds." [Jer. 17:10]. You see, God knows every heart, including yours. And this is what God knows about the human heart. Listen to the previous verse in Jeremiah 17... “The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately sick; who can understand it?” (v. 9)

If Saul was rejected, and even Samuel had to be corrected, then there's not one of us who sees as we should. Why? Because our hearts are sick; selfish, stubborn. But thanks be to God that he offers us a brand new heart. As God promised through another OT prophet... “And I will give you a new heart, and a new spirit I will put within you. And I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh.” (Ezk. 36:26) And that leads to the very best application.

Third, let that new heart point you to the heart of the King. Everything in this passage, in fact, everything in this part of 1 Samuel, in fact, everything in this book is about one thing: the heart of the king. Because God sees not as man sees, he understands the kind of king his people need, and he knows the very man who will fill that role. Back in 13:14, Samuel was clear with Saul... “But now your kingdom shall not continue. The LORD has sought out [in contrast to Saul] a man after his own heart...” A thousand years later, the Apostle Paul spoke of God's selection in Acts 13:22... “[God] raised up David to be their king, of whom he testified and said, 'I have found in David the son of Jesse a man after my heart, who will do all my will.'”

But the reason this application point is the very best is because of what Paul says next in that same message. This is Acts 13:23... “Of this man’s offspring God has brought to Israel a Savior, Jesus, as he promised.” Jesus Christ was the promised king! But as yet another OT prophet declared about Jesus... ”he had no form or majesty that we should look at him, and no beauty that we should desire him.” But Jesus was the king they needed. Unlike Saul, but like David, Jesus was and is a man after God's own heart. But unlike even David, Jesus was and is perfectly a man after God's own heart. Why? How? Because he is also God in human flesh. In the end, God's choice of David was simply preparation for God's choice of Jesus.

But like Saul, Jesus suffered rejection. But he did so for us. Brothers and sisters, friends, Jesus Christ came and died for the visually-impaired; the spiritually, sinfully, visually-impaired!That's us. But Jesus rose again to secure that new heart for us, the same one promised by the OT prophets. Remember... God wants us to see that the heart should always be our first concern. If you accept that this morning, then seek the new heart only God can give, and do so in light of the heart of King... the King of kings... Who love us and gave himself for us. And when, and as, you look to him in faith, that vision really will transform your vision... to see as God sees.


other sermons in this series