What God Sees
by Matthew Bassford
One of the great themes of 1 Samuel in the Old Testament is the difference between personal appearance and personal worth. Saul gained immediate approval as king of Israel because he stood head-and-shoulders above everybody else. In the words of Shakespeare, he was “every inch a king.” However, he failed the tests of kingship, revealing only his moral and spiritual shortcomings.
After Saul’s failure to obey in 1 Samuel 15, God sends Samuel out to anoint Saul’s replacement. However, even though Samuel has witnessed Saul’s failure, he fails to draw the correct conclusion. When God directs him to the sons of Jesse, he again evaluates the candidates on the basis of appearance.
In response, God makes the point that Samuel has missed. “For the Lord sees not as man sees: man looks on the outward appearance, but the Lord looks on the heart.” God isn’t concerned with height or attractiveness. He cares about character.
Indeed, even though there is no evidence that David ever reached any great stature, he proved to be everything that Saul wasn’t. A chapter later, the Philistine Goliath sneers at David because of his unimpressive appearance. In the end, it is the towering champion and not the shepherd boy who loses his head.
This should be tremendously encouraging for all of us. We can’t control our height. We can’t control our looks. We can’t control how impressive other people find us. However, we can control our character. We can purify our hearts and bring them into subjection to God. Once we do that, even if others don’t look on us with favor, He will.
What’s more, as long as we devote ourselves to Him, God can use us for His purposes, as He used David. This too doesn’t have a whole lot to do with the things the world considers important. The apostles were a ragtag crew of fishermen, frustrated rebels, and Herodian collaborators. They were all Galileans, a bunch of hicks from the sticks. Nobody in that time would have given Peter and the rest a second glance, but with God’s help, they turned the world upside down.
We have the same gospel the apostles preached, and it always has been the word—not the miracles that confirmed it—that transforms lives. In worldly terms, most of us aren’t terribly impressive either. Doesn’t matter. We don’t have to be impressive if God is with us. He’s more than impressive enough for all of us!
God is faithful. If we are for Him, He will be for us. The question lies in the “if.” What does God see when He looks in our hearts? Does He see people who will boldly trust in Him like David, or people who will timidly shrink back to destruction like Saul? This isn’t about how He made us. It’s about who we choose to be. We can have the least impressive exteriors imaginable, but if we are determined to be lions for the Lord, lions we will be. We can be nobodies, but in Christ, we will do great things.