Be Encouraged That God Looks at Our Heart, not Outward Appearances

Author of Someplace to Be Somebody
Be Encouraged That God Looks at Our Heart, not Outward Appearances

A homely, Christian man who owned a diesel repair shop never worried about dressing up for work. Anything he wore while there ended up covered in engine grease. After one week of service, his work shirts were so soiled with soaked-in grease, his wife threw in the towel and threw the shirts in the trash. He used to joke he made more money than the president, but one would never know of his wealth by his appearance and his countenance. He was a humble man who loved the Lord, was kind, and loved his family and others until he died.

When he went before God after his death, do you suppose God asked him about his money? Or his power because of his wealth? We may chuckle because we know the answer. God looks at a person’s heart, not at their status, family, wealth, etc. In fact, 1 Samuel 16:7 says “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 people look at. People look at the outward appearance, but the LORD looks at the heart.’” Let’s take a look at why this is so important.

What Is the Context of 1 Samuel 16:7?

In 1 Samuel 16:1, God told the prophet Samuel to stop mourning for Saul since He rejected Saul as king of Israel. God then sent Samuel to Jesse the Bethlehemite, “For I have provided Myself a king among his sons” 

When Jesse brought forth the oldest, Samuel thought his appearance and stature was what singled him out as the Lord’s choice for the next king of Israel. “But the Lord said to Samuel, ‘Do not look at his appearance or at his physical stature, because I have refused him. For the Lord does not see as man sees; for man looks at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart’” (1 Samuel 16:7).

What we need to remember about this passage is the king’s heart. The nation of Israel had rejected God as their king and instead, the people wanted a king “like all the other nations” (1 Samuel 8:5-6). God chose David as king because he was a man after His own heart, so it is a look at God’s king (David) vs. the people’s king (Saul). (cf. Genesis 17:6, Deuteronomy 17, and Judges 21:25)

What Does This Verse Mean?

Even the best of men look at a person’s outward appearance; Samuel is no exception. In 1 Samuel 13:14, God told Saul through Samuel He sought for Himself a man after His own heart. That’s the benchmark for us as we review 1 Samuel 16:1. For what is God’s heart like? 

In the Bible, the heart is deemed the center of life or potency. Therefore, it is a summation of God’s entire Being. God can never be fully understood by us, but the things He reveals belong to us and our children forever (Deuteronomy 29:29, 30:11-14). His heart is an “open book” to us as we read the Bible — what many call “God’s love letter” to us.

God is love (1 John 4:8), and it is His love for us that brought Jesus to die for us (John 3:16). He is righteous in all His ways. That reveals God’s heart, and for a person to be considered as after God’s own heart speaks of one who seeks to “love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might” (Deuteronomy 6:5). God first—above all else. All the person desires is to be agreeable with God’s will, and not his own. Such was David, whom God chose to be king.

1 Samuel 16:7 agrees with the above passage in that it says our omniscient God knows our hearts – every one of our hearts. He knows each person’s heart condition and the motives behind everything we think, say, and do. Man cannot see another’s heart; only God can see a man’s heart — the seat of who he intrinsically is.

Why Does It Matter That God Looks at Our Hearts?

Our hearts matter to God for eternity. We humans are fallible, changeable, and sinful. Our hearts are wicked, and, as Jeremiah 17:9 says, “The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately sick; who can understand it?” Man cannot, but God can. 

We, as humans, were born into sin. In Psalm 51:5-6, David acknowledged, “Behold, I was brought forth in iniquity, and in sin did my mother conceive me. Behold, you delight in truth in the inward being, and you teach me wisdom in the secret heart.” David ascribed all knowledge and salvation to God alone.

No matter how hard we strive to be righteous, we cannot do it of our own volition and strength. We can assess another person’s heart only by outward appearances, which lie. Actually, we have no business doing that because we don’t know anyone else’s heart condition but our own, and at times we even lie to ourselves in an effort to feel better about who we are.

King David exalted the Lord God throughout the Psalms, and the many ways David spoke to God about his and our hearts populate the psalms. Here are a few:

- The Lord put joy in his heart. (Psalm 4:7)

- God saves the upright in heart. (Psalm 7:10)

- He would give thanks to God with his whole heart. (Psalm 9:1)

- God will strengthen the heart of the afflicted. (Psalm 10:17)

- Lies come from a dishonest heart. (Psalm 12:2)

- His heart rejoiced in salvation from the Lord. (Psalm 13:5)

- God tries our hearts. (Psalm 17:3)

- God’s laws bring joy to our hearts. (Psalm 19:8)

- God is the One who judges our hearts, and we pray to please Him by their meditations. (Psalm 19:14)

- Our hearts take courage as we wait for the Lord. (Psalm 31:24)

- When we delight in the Lord, He gives us the desires of our hearts. (Psalm 37:4) When we delight in Him, we want what He wants.

- He is fearfully and wonderfully made by God. (Psalm 139:14) The word, soul, used in this verse is akin to saying his “heart” knows it very well.

How Should This Impact the Way We Live?

People can lie to themselves about their own sinful, sorry state. They might do something they know is wrong but pass it off as something they had to do to fix someone else’s actions or attain a selfish desire, etc. 

All things are best left up to God, because when God acts, His whole character is within each action. His heart (and actions) are perfect, holy, just and loving. We only make a hash of things due to how wicked our human hearts are, and God does not accept mere lip service (Matthew 15:8; Colossians 3:23; Ephesians 6:5-8).

We humans cannot do anything with complete purity because our sinful hearts lead us into areas of vast sin, and there is only one way they can be fixed: Jesus Christ.

He is the only way toward a pure heart, and He is the only One whose nature (heart) is perfect. So, salvation is the first action we enjoy as God draws us to Himself through Jesus (John 6:44). 

Thank God for Jesus, for when God looks at us (Christians), He sees Jesus and his perfect atonement for us. Was there ever another perfect man with a perfect heart? No. Jesus is the only perfect God-man (John 1:18).

Look at David’s life, the one God called “a man after My own heart.” What did he do that made him attain such a commendation from the Lord God? David sinned, yes, but his first actions were acknowledgment, confession, repentance, and exalting God for His forgiveness. Psalm 51 is a sterling example of this. In verse 10, David said, “Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a right spirit within me.” David knew the Lord is the only One who could cleanse his heart. 

A good lesson for all of us.

Photo credit: ©Getty Images/Aaron Amat

Lisa Baker 1200x1200Lisa Loraine Baker is the multiple award-winning author of Someplace to be Somebody. She writes fiction and nonfiction. In addition to writing for the Salem Web Network, Lisa serves as a Word Weavers’ mentor and is part of a critique group. She also is a member of BRRC. Lisa and her husband, Stephen, a pastor, live in a small Ohio village with their crazy cat, Lewis.