Jehovah Sees the Heart
January 1, 2023 / No. 4174
For the five weeks in January we are going to study a number of historical accounts that took place during the time of the kings of Israel. They will be random events not tied to each other, but all of them will reveal how God leads and preserves His church of all ages. Most of the accounts will be too long to read from the Bible, so it might be wise to have a Bible on hand to follow along as I relate and apply the account for our purposes.
The first event, which we consider in today’s broadcast, is found in I Samuel 16:6-13. This account deals with the anointing of David as king of Israel. Though we are unable to read all of these verses, the one verse that stands out is I Samuel 16:7. So we will quote that verse and explain it later. I Samuel 16:7: “But the Lord said unto Samuel, Look not on his countenance, or on the height of his stature; because I have refused him: for the Lord seeth not as man seeth; for man looketh on the outward appearance, but the Lord looketh on the heart.” This verse lies at the heart of the events surrounding David’s anointing as king recorded in this chapter of Scripture.
You see, after the period of the Judges, Saul was anointed to be the first king of the nation of Israel. In the sight of the people, he had knelt before Samuel, who then poured the oil of anointing upon his head. This anointing meant he had been called by God and qualified by the Spirit to reign as king over Israel. Saul was a powerful king who established the borders of Israel. He fought many mighty battles against Israel’s enemies and established this nation as a kingdom to be reckoned with.
But it soon became apparent that Saul was not doing this in the service of God but for his own praises. Because of Saul’s sins, God told Saul through Samuel that He had rejected Saul as king. And although Saul continued as king for a good number of years yet, God was no longer with him. For this Samuel mourned. Yet, all of this took place providentially according to God’s eternal plan. God was soon to place another man on the throne of Israel that would be a man after God’s own heart. This man would be David, who was as yet but a young shepherd boy who lived in Bethlehem with his father.
This is why we find Samuel now taking a journey to the little town of Bethlehem to make a sacrifice to the Lord there. The real purpose of Samuel’s visit to Bethlehem, however, was to anoint a new king that would replace Saul after Saul’s death. Samuel did not know as yet who that would be, but he traveled to Bethlehem for that purpose. The elders and people of Bethlehem trembled at Samuel’s appearance. Samuel’s fame and power were well known in Israel. Why would he come to this little Bethlehem, an insignificant town in Judah? Had he come peaceably? The passage we consider today explains for us what took place with this visit of Samuel, that is, the anointing of David to be king.
I. God’s Choosing
The man Jesse was an unknown in Israel. He was not someone great or noble, rich and famous. He was a sheepherder who had a flock of sheep that were led to graze upon the hills of Bethlehem each day. You can imagine Jesse’s surprise and fear when the great prophet Samuel commanded him in particular and his sons to be sanctified along with the elders of the city in order to attend the sacrifice Samuel was offering in town. The sanctification process was not some elaborate ritual but was merely a washing of oneself and his clothes as a sign of preparing one’s heart to come into God’s presence. When Jesse and seven of his sons arrived they were presented to Samuel. Whether this took place before or after the sacrifice we are not told. Neither are we told whether what took place was in private or in public before the elders. More than likely this anointing took place in front of the elders of the town since eye witnesses to David’s anointing would be necessary to establish the authenticity of it. Samuel probably told Jesse beforehand why he required him to attend this sacrifice with his sons. One of them was going to be anointed to be the next king of Israel. So, one by one Jesse presented his sons to Samuel beginning with the oldest, Eliab.
When Eliab appeared, Samuel was convinced he was the one to anoint. It was then that Jehovah said to Samuel the words of the verse we read earlier. God refused Eliab because He does not look upon the outward appearance as Samuel did, but God looks upon the heart. He sees what a man is made up of in the heart. It was not as if God refused or rejected Eliab because he was an unbeliever. But God did not see in Eliab (because God Himself did not work this in him) the qualifications needed to be a king over all Israel. We will come back to this verse in a little while. But the oldest son of Jesse was refused.
So it was that, one by one each one of the brothers present were brought before Samuel to see if the Lord had chosen one of them to be anointed. All seven of Jesse’s sons passed before Samuel, and God refused every one of them. Now, Samuel did not know that Jesse had one more son that was not present. It must have been discouraging to see each one of seven sons pass before him whom the Lord had not chosen to be king. Samuel then asks Jesse, “Are all of your children here?” Jesse replied, “There is one more, my youngest, but he is out taking care of my sheep.” Samuel then replied, “Send and fetch him for we will not sit down until he comes.” When David arrived, God commanded Samuel to arise and anoint him to be the next king after the death of Saul. This Samuel did.
Now, before we move along to why God chose David, we need to understand that it was God who did the choosing here. This is evident in the various verses of this account before us. The Lord has not chosen him, were the words repeated after each son passed before Samuel. God was doing the choosing here. Not Samuel, but God. This is significant to note because the nation of Israel was chosen by God to be His people. This was not a heathen nation. Israel’s king would not be elected by the people and for the people. Israel was not a democracy. But neither was it a monarchy whose king rules, as is said, by divine right. The nation of Israel was a theocracy. God ruled over His people in this nation. This was His people whom He had delivered out of Egypt and brought into the land of Canaan. God, therefore, would choose the king who would rule under Him. God had chosen Saul and placed him upon the throne to rule on his behalf. But Saul had failed. He ruled for his own glory and not on behalf of the true King of Israel. For that reason, God also would remove him and his sons from the throne. The house of Saul would perish, and God would give the kingdom to another—a man who was after God’s own heart.
But let us not forget God’s sovereign purpose behind choosing David as the next king. When the angel of Jehovah announced to Mary that she would give birth to the Messiah, we read in Luke 1:32 that God would give to Jesus the throne of his father David. God chose David because the Messiah, the Christ, would be born out of the line of his generations. It was not by chance that Christ was born in Bethlehem. He was the heir of David. He was the king who would reign over the house of David forever. In fact, David is indeed a type or picture of Christ even in this anointing. The name Christ means Anointed One. Christ is anointed to be our King who reigns over His church. Even now He sits in the heavens and rules over all nations of the earth for the sake of His church. Now, this humble little shepherd boy was chosen by God not merely to represent Christ in his anointing but chosen by God to be the very father of our Savior!
The events that now took place in Bethlehem did not take place by chance. This is not just some quaint Bible story that does not have any significance for the church of Jesus Christ today. We find in the account before us the sovereign purpose of God with respect to the very salvation of His people! Although God’s covenant was established with the entire body of the nation of Israel, God chose, specifically out of Judah, David to reign as the next king and as representative of God’s covenant with Israel. Christ would be born out of David’s line, at the very heart of God’s covenant, in order to redeem God’s people from sin. God’s choice of David was not arbitrary, but according to His eternal plan for all things.
How sad when people refuse to see the connection of the Old Testament with that of the New—when they fail to connect the dots, so to speak. Those who see the Old Testament as disconnected entirely from the New Testament and therefore of little significance for the church today have lost the beauty of the Scriptures! No, they have failed to grasp hold of the very gospel revealed on the pages of Scripture from beginning to end.
II. David’s Heart
The Word of God before us in this message also gives us the reason God chose David. God knew the heart of David. We are told of David in verse 12 that he was ruddy, that is, rugged and manly. He was of a beautiful countenance. This means that David conducted himself in a joyful, godly, respectful manner. He was enjoyable to be around, a likable person. Finally, he was goodly to look to. He was handsome and of a goodly stature, strong, and exuding confidence. From all outward appearances he would make the perfect king. But then, so would have Eliab. We read of God’s response to Samuel when Samuel thought Eliab would make the perfect king in verse 7: “Look not on his countenance or the height of his stature.”
Although there might be a certain appeal to a person’s outward looks and behavior, this is not the determining factor in God’s eyes. The determining factor is what God sees in the heart of a man. The Lord sees not as a man sees, God reminds Samuel, the Lord looks on the heart. A person can be an unbeliever and appear to men as if he is a sincere and godly person. But a person’s heart can be far from God, and therefore he or she may look good on the outside but within they are ugly! Now, we ought not to misunderstand what God says in verse 7 of our text. God was not saying that Eliab was an unbeliever. God was not pronouncing His divine judgment on Eliab and his brothers. But God did see and know their hearts, and God did know that these men were not of the strongest spiritual stature to perform the work of king as God wanted one to do. The one whom God was going to choose was going to be one strong in faith and willing to defend His people from their enemies and lead them in the way of righteousness.
That David’s older brothers were not of this caliber becomes evident a little later when they, together with the rest of Israel’s army, cowered in fear before the giant Goliath, who mocked and disdained Jehovah God. These same brothers became angry at David when David chose to fight Goliath. That account reveals to us the difference between David and his brothers.
Israel’s first king, Saul, is a good example of an unbeliever who reigned from an insincere heart—a heart that was always far from God. Saul feigned, for the first part of his rule, faith in Jehovah. He deceived the people to think that he was valiantly fighting on behalf of God. The people thought him to be a king after God’s own heart. But Saul was far from God in his heart. We must understand that too, people of God. Saul was not a believer for a little while and then changed his mind. Saul never was a believer, although everyone around was convinced that he was. The Spirit of God was upon Saul, qualifying him to be a good king, giving him the necessary strength and courage to fight the foes of Israel. With Saul’s anointing, the Spirit of God led him to reign well for a time, until God withdrew that anointing Spirit. But Saul was never truly a believer. This was not going to happen with David. God now looked upon the heart of David and saw in him a man who would reign over Israel on God’s behalf.
You see, the heart of a man is the spiritual center of a man’s existence. I know that so many in our day make the heart the determining factor by which we ought to judge things. “If I feel in my heart it is right, then it must be right.” But such people make the heart synonymous with feelings. That concept of the heart caters to the relativism of our day, that is, that there is no objective right and wrong. My heart, they say, when really they mean feelings, determines for me what is right or wrong, and the heart of another determines what is right or wrong for him or her. For that reason, I may not judge a person’s actions—ever. That is relativism, and against such the Bible is dead set.
There is an objective right and wrong. It is determined by God in His Word. According to God’s Word, judgment is to be made. The heart, however, is not feeling. The heart is the center of, the root and source of, a person’s spiritual being. From a spiritual point of view, as the heart is so also the thoughts and desires of a person go. If the heart is filled with wickedness, so also will be the thoughts, desires, and actions of a person, because out of the heart are the issues of life. If the heart is renewed and cleansed in the blood of Jesus Christ, our thoughts and desires will be toward God. If the heart is the abode of the Holy Spirit, then our heart is holy. So, the heart is the spiritual seat of the soul.
God looks upon the heart of a man. It is not the good looks of a man, it is not the outward works of a man, that God sees and examines. God examines what goes on in the heart. For that reason, outward formal worship is not pleasing in God’s sight. He is not happy when we only go through the motions. God is pleased with a broken and a contrite heart. These God does not despise. But there is more. God knows what is in a man as far as spiritual qualifications are concerned. Is a man equipped with a strong disposition, a steadfast nature? God knows. God knows because God is our Creator who has equipped us in this way. God therefore knows whether a man is capable, both spiritually and naturally, to serve Christ in an office in the church. Such was the heart of David. He was naturally equipped with the qualifications of a king. But spiritually, too, young David was a man of faith. God had sent forth His Spirit to dwell within the heart of this young man. He was renewed and regenerated in the blood of the Lamb who was to come. He loved God and was fearless in the cause of Jehovah. That reveals itself in the next chapter when he goes out to fight that giant Goliath, which we will consider in our next broadcast, the Lord willing. So we have Samuel receiving the command of God, “arise, anoint him, for this is he.”
III. David’s Anointing
We read in verse 13 that Samuel took the horn of oil, pouring it on the head of David, and in this way anointing him into office. In order to hold any office in the Old Testament, a man needed to be anointed in this way. Prophets and priests were also anointed. David was now anointed in the midst of his family, his brothers and father, and perhaps also the elders of Bethlehem. David did not immediately become king, however. This anointing was with a view to the death of Saul. David would be the next king over Israel. This young man, probably still in his late teens, received the anointing. This qualified him for the office he was to hold in a number of years.
He later would defend Israel, lead Israel, feed Israel, in short, care for the flock of Jehovah. To this task David as shepherd was well qualified.
But we learn too that the Spirit of Jehovah came upon David from that day forward. Again, the Spirit qualified David to take up his task as leader in Israel. From that day on, David was confirmed and therefore steadfastly sought to be king of Israel. He was not timid and reluctant to take his place as such in Israel, although he did wait until the time Saul died. But David now was bold in the Lord. He became a mighty warrior before the Lord even before he became king. He fought Goliath with that view in mind, as we will find next time. He won victories as the captain of the army of Israel. God gave him a heart and demeanor that made him a natural ruler. This same Spirit is given those who are called and ordained to serve in the offices of the church today. As believers we need always to pray for our pastor, elders, and deacons and support them in their labors in the church. We must be of encouragement to them as they serve Christ’s church with hearts sincere and in faith. May God give to His church such faithful men to serve the church as David did. Then the church today too will flourish under the hand of God.