The Lord does not see as mortals see; they look on the outward appearance, but the Lord looks on the heart. 1 Samuel 17:7
People have always wanted to be like everybody else, to do the popular thing, and the Israelites were no exception.
“We’re tired of worshiping an invisible God. Everybody says, ‘Where’s your king?’ And we have to say, ‘Oh, he’s in the heavens.’ We want a leader here on earth, Samuel. We want to be like all the other nations. Look at the Philistines, and the Moabites and the Jebusites and all the other nations. They’ve all got kings. We want to be like all of them!”
They didn’t say, “We want to wait on God to provide what we need.” This broke Samuel’s heart, and so he went to God in prayer about it.
So, God let them have exactly what they wanted. Did He ever!
The man they chose, Saul, was tall, dark, and handsome. That’s how people choose kings. They go for someone who looks good. “Wow, he’ll be a good image for Israel. Saul’s our guy. Saul’s our hero.”
So Saul came on the scene and swept them off their feet. He had a measure of humility to begin with, and he seemed able to rally people around a cause. He had enough moxie to get an army together, and before long the Israelites thought, “He’s the man for the job.”
But guess what? Even though Saul was forty years old when he started to rule, before long he became thin-skinned, hot-tempered, and given to seasons of depression, even thoughts of murder. Some hero he turned out to be.
So much for the man who was the people’s choice.
David was born about ten years after Saul became king. Talk about being born into volatile times! The people of Israel were on a long drift from God, and now, to make matters worse, they were becoming disillusioned with the leader they had chosen.
But what do you do when your king doesn’t walk with God? What do you do when you’ve gotten your own way and it’s all wrong. It’s the most disillusioning, insecure feeling in the world, yet you can’t put your finger on what’s wrong.
But graciously, God does not abandon His people. Through Samuel, He intervenes.
God always knows what He’s doing. So He says to Samuel, “You go to Bethlehem, and there you will find the man I have already chosen.” This is the first Samuel has heard that God had already zeroed in on a man to replace Saul.
God says, “I’ve selected a king for Myself. The people haven’t chosen this man. He’s My man.”
What a person is down in their depths, down underneath the clothes, skin, intellect, beauty—this area the bible calls the heart—is what will determine the life of a person. And yet for most of us this is the very last thing that we look at in another person.
In the cultural moment that we live in, we are obsessed with the outside and we almost completely ignore the inside of a person.
In an October, 2011 article of the Wall Street Journal there was an interview about this…
Daniel Hamermesh, an economics professor at the University of Texas in Austin, measures out the benefits in his book, “Beauty Pays: Why Attractive People Are More Successful.”
According to his research, attractive people are likely to earn an average of 3% to 4% more than a person with below-average looks. That adds up to $230,000 more over a lifetime for the typical good-looking person, Dr. Hamermesh estimates. Even an average-looking worker is likely to make $140,000 more over a lifetime than an ugly worker.
I searched the article and could not find a dollar value for humility, patience, or gentleness. We tend to fixate on the outside, when God pays attention to the inside.
How will you see those you come in contact with this week? The spouse you quarreled with last night. The co-worker that is mildly annoying to you. The neighbor that has a dog that just won’t stop barking.
When the Bible calls David “a man after God’s own heart” what in the world does that mean? Well, it certainly cannot mean that David has some kind of squeaky clean moral perfection. This man is a piece of work. Hardly hero material. One writer said that when you look at David from only a human point of view he looks like a “blood-thirsty, over-sexed, bandit.”
I like the way John Calvin put this.
“Let us therefore remember that David is like a mirror, in which God sets before us the continual course of His grace.”
The David stories are not stories about how we should live; they are a mirror of how we do live. And how God’s grace works and operates in our broken lives. In David’s story there is very little morality, absolutely no miracles, but there is a lot of mess.
I find comfort in that. It tells me that my failures in life do not push me out of reach from the God who says He loves me. If God can love David, maybe, just maybe, he would love me too.
Create in me a clean heart, O God,
and put a new and right spirit within me.
Do not cast me away from your presence,
and do not take your holy spirit from me.
Restore to me the joy of your salvation,
and sustain in me a willing spirit.
We see David talking to God in all of the moments of his life. Through his working and his playing. Through his betrayals and his faithful friendships. We see David talking to God in his innocence and in his deepest guilt. In the best moments of his life and in his most desperate moments.
That is a person after God’s heart. Someone who turns their imperfect life towards God’s presence. Someone who lives their flawed life deeply with God. God wants us to live our lives, messy as they are, with Him. And that makes God the hero of our story.
I love what former Watergate conspirator and Nixon hatchet man Chuck Colson said before he died a few years ago:
“The real legacy of my life was my biggest failure—that I was an ex-convict. My great humiliation—being sent to prison—was the beginning of God’s greatest use of my life; He chose the one experience in which I could not glory for His glory.”
Is it possible that, as you move into the messiness of your life, that that is exactly where God will meet you and restore you to who he intended you to be when he thought you up before he created a single particle of dust?
Let God be your hero. That may not be the popular way, but it is the Jesus way.