16:7 Saul also had appearance and stature, but he had proved unworthy.
16:7 stature, because I have rejected him. The reference to “stature” as a false measure of an individual’s qualification to be king, along with the notice that this son of Jesse is “rejected,” is reminiscent of Saul, who was notable for his height (9:2; 10:23) but was rejected (15:23, 26).
the Lord looks on the heart. It is an axiom that God’s standards are inward, not outward (13:14 note; Rom. 2:28, 29). See “God Sees and Knows: Divine Omniscience” at Prov. 15:3.
16:7 the heart God emphasizes that superficial and non-spiritual considerations are not to be critical criteria for the choice of God’s leaders.
16:7 man looks on the outward appearance, but the Lord looks on the heart. Outward appearance cannot predict whether someone will faithfully obey the Lord, for a person’s actions flow from his heart (cf. 2 Chron. 16:9; Ps. 51:10; Prov. 4:23; Mark 7:21–23; Luke 6:45; 1 Thess. 2:4). The “heart” in Scripture refers to a person’s inward moral and spiritual life, including the emotions, will, and reason.
16:7 The choice of David contrasts with people’s looking on outward appearance (10:23–24). The contrast prefigures people’s rejection of Christ’s humiliation and suffering (Isa. 53:3; 1 Cor. 1:18–31).
16:7 his appearance … height of his stature. Samuel needed to be reminded that God’s anointed was not chosen because of physical attributes. This was initially a difficult concept for Samuel as he was accustomed to a king whose only positive attributes were physical. the Lord looks at the heart. The Hebrew concept of “heart” embodies emotions, will, intellect, and desires. The life of the man will reflect his heart (cf. Mt 12:34, 35).
16:7 — 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.”
Even a godly man like Samuel couldn’t help but judge a man’s character by his appearance. This is why we must continually go to the Lord for His wisdom; only He sees the heart.
Ver. 7. Look not on his countenance, or on the height of his stature.—God’s estimate of human availability:—
This enunciation of one fixed principle in the Divine government is of immense value as having a practical bearing upon all the mighty relations which each man sustains to his Maker.
- Let us try to analyse the statement on the negative side, to begin with. The Lord does not look upon the outward appearance in fixing His judgment of any human soul. It so happens that this very narrative actually specifies many of those particulars which men are wont to regard as highest in value.
- For example, the Lord does not look upon one’s social rank. The family of Jesse had no conspicuousness or remarkableness, as the world reckons. Moreover, David was the one that made it royal, and when he was chosen he was by no means the head of it. Good Lady Huntingdon used to say she thanked God for the letter M, for he did not tell Paul to say “not any,” but “not many.” Now it is certainly true that the best part of the world’s highest worth has risen from what would by some be called its lowest sources. It is usual to sneer at the plebian birth of Oliver Cromwell as well as that of Napoleon Bonaparte; but this had nothing to do with any vices they displayed or any virtues they possessed. These men were kings of other men by reason of a manhood which Charles the First never got from the contemptible Stuarts, nor Louis the Sixteenth from the more contemptible Bourbons. The pride of rank is prone to run into an extreme of superciliousness, of self-seeking, and of oppression. Cornelius Agrippa actually institutes an argument to prove that there was “never a nobility which had not a wicked beginning.
- Furthermore, the Lord does not look upon one’s family history. The lineage of Jesse, Obed, and Ruth was quite humble in its origin. David’s mother is not even mentioned by name in the Scriptures. It is pitifully mean and conceited for anyone to set himself up as meritorious because his family once had a hero among its members.
- Again, the Lord does not look upon one’s fortune. If anyone supposes that the wealth of the “rich kinsman” Boaz had come down by inheritance into this family estate, we are surely without hint that the property had anything to do with the lot of the shepherd-boy David.
- Nor does the Lord look upon one’s appearance. It is interesting to notice that in the margin of our English Bibles the words in the seventh verse of this chapter, “the outward appearance,” are rendered more literally “the eyes;” and also the words in the twelfth verse, “a beautiful countenance,” are rendered “fair of eyes.” That is to say, David is not chosen for his good looks, nor is Eliab rejected because of his; they may both have had fine eyes, but the Lord doth not regard such things in His selection of men for high service of Himself. John Milton was blind, and Thomas Carlyle was not considered attractive in showy company. Paul was diminutive and half blind, in bodily presence weak and in speech contemptible; “but,” says Chrysostom, “this man of three cubits’ height became tall enough to touch the third heaven.”
- Once more: the Lord does not look upon one’s age in making His choice of men. He sometimes selects children, and then trains them at His will. Polycarp was converted at nine years of age, Matthew Henry at eleven, President Edwards at seven, Robert Hall at twelve, and Isaac Watts at nine. God chooses His best workers often in the beginning of their intelligent existence; they that seek Him early are sure to find Him.
- Turn to the positive side of the statement concerning the Divine choice of men. The Lord does not look upon the outward appearance: what does he look upon? What is meant here by the word “heart?” “The Lord seeth not as man seeth; for man looketh on the outward appearance, but the Lord looketh on the heart.” It is not necessary that we try to be abstruse and philosophical in giving an interpretation to this familiar word “heart.” The entire nature of the individual is brought into view.
III. In a sober review of what has already been said, it seems as if there might be wisdom in picturing our own lives for a little while, in holding them out before careful and discriminating analysis. Then we can put some fair questions.
- For example, this: Do we hope for God’s favour on the ground of a long line of personal recommendations? Some there are who conceive of their advantages as far higher than those of others, although many men with whom they compare themselves are on much superior elevations both in experience and in communion with God.
- Then again: this subject leads us to inquire whether our personal salvation is to be settled by what the world around us thinks about our showy piety, or by what the Lord Himself thinks. There is an outward sanctimoniousness which looks very like sanctity: will it all end the same way?
- Finally, in view of this subject, there would follow this question: How much of what worldlings prize will vanish when the Lord makes known His register of actual worth? Calmly does that eye of God keep gazing down upon men: it registers us all justly; and that estimate will stand for ever undisturbed. (C. S. Robinson, D.D.)
Men of the world worship outward beauty, but if they find it nothing more than an appearance without a reality in manner and deed, it soon tires them. An old writer compares beauty to an almanac; if it last more than a year it is a marvel. Men weary of that beauty which is nothing more than an ornamental show. A modern writer aptly says that “the highest beauty is the expression of an honest heart and a sweet disposition.” There is a flower known by the name of “Imperial Crown,” which is admired on account of its showy appearance, but you throw it away because of its unpleasant perfume. The Lord values men and women, not by their diamonds, their gold, their carriages, and their titles, but by the purity of their heart and the helpfulness of their disposition. In God’s mind, there is no distinction of plebeians and aristocracy. The only nobility God recognises is the truth of the heart, and the goodness of the life.
- God has created us in order that we may acquire true beauty. If we are honest, we shall admit that in heart we are not beautiful. The New Testament confirms this; but the gospel is good news, revealing that every man may be transformed into the children of light by the indwelling of the beautiful spirit of God. When governed by the new nature, which God gives to every one that asks, all mankind shall become beautiful. He is still a man, but he has received the nature of a God. Do you think God sent you into the world only to stitch at that machine, or to go up a ladder with bricks, or to sweep that gutter? He sent you into the world to be made a beautiful being, with a holy character, a sweet disposition, an angelic life. Let us live for our high destiny. Do not be troubled though it takes many years to grow beautiful.
- If we would be beautiful in the sight of God, and exhibit this character to our fellow-men, we must learn His will, and do it, and on no account grieve Him.
- Another foundation for a beautiful character is that you are not only to love God, but also love your fellow-men. If you would be beautiful in your life, you must copy the disposition of Jesus, Who lived for one great object, namely, to bless and save mankind. (W. Birch.)
Man looketh on the outward appearance, but the Lord looketh on the heart.—God’s estimate of human character:—
- God’s purpose claims a specific direction: the “Lord looketh on the heart.” What does this mean? David’s own understanding of the examination through which he in company with his brothers passed in this instance comes to view afterward in the rehearsal of one of his historic Psalms for the temple use: “The Lord shall judge the people: judge me, O Lord, according to my righteousness, and according to mine integrity that is in me.” The chief of all the words he here employs is “integrity:” this he accepts cordially for himself and repeats with equal candour for the aid of others. Now we know that the word “integrity” is derived from the Latin integer; and the meaning of integer is “whole;” and wholeness is our old strong Saxon for holiness. That is to say, what God means by stating that He looks upon, not the outside of a man, but his “heart,” is, that He considers the wholeness of one’s nature, and desires it to become holiness. He looks at each man through and through, and registers him by his soundness, his genuineness, his entire character.
- God’s purpose erects a fixed standard. A man’s “heart,” as thus understood in the religious sense and as worthy of the Divine regard, depends upon the thoroughness with which the man adjusts each exertion of his will to the Divine wall. That is to say, God’s heart is the test of man’s heart, God’s wish, God’s plan, God’s purpose—in a single word, God’s law—showing the perfect standard.
III. God’s purpose starts a permanent revolution in a human character. The most interesting verse in this narrative, as well as the most valuable, is that which announces how “the Spirit of the Lord came upon David from that day forward.” It is wonderful to think of these changes now wrought upon this anointed stripling. Henceforth he is to be the shepherd of Israel; so he continues to manage his father’s flocks a while longer, in order that he may learn the shepherd’s duty. Henceforth he is to be the sweet singer of Israel; so he lingers out under Bethlehem sunsets and Syrian stars, in order that he may seek poetic images a while longer for some additional Psalms. Henceforth he is to be the monarch of Israel; so he is led a while longer among fierce outlaw experiences, consorting with the oppressed and the poor, in order that he may learn to understand his own subjects before he has hold of the sceptre by which be is to rule them wisely. And during this entire period this crownless king is hastening unconsciously forward in the lines of God’s unfaltering purpose. The Unseen One is the All-seeing One. He does not look on the outward appearance at all, save as one of His ways of knowing the man’s heart. This leads to another question: What is the use of wasting years of weary life in just trying to keep up appearances before men and women and before God? Oh, how full this old world is of those who spend their time and energy in fashioning parades of unreality and hypocrisy and emptiness, not one of which is looked on by God, not one of which is respected by men! And this, too, to the neglect of the heart, upon which are grounded the decisions of present favour and future destiny. What disappointments at the day of final reckoning there will be for men and women who have fought for a title, a star, or a ribbon, in the vain hope of being looked upon because of it! What disclosures of folly, what revelations of surprise! How ignoble their aims, how empty their achievements, how absurd their ambitions, how fierce their rivalries, how useless their victories, how unimportant even their worst defeats! The call of God does not confer on any one the privilege of pride or the indulgence of haughtiness; it calls a servant to service, and kingship comes further on. It only makes a true soul more knightly and more humble to know that he has been summoned in secret into the grand purposes of God. (C. S. Robinson, D.D.)
The standard of God’s judgment:—
- We learn the difference between God’s judgment and man’s. God looketh on the heart; man on the outward appearance. The greatest heart, in that family beat in the humblest bosom. God saw the only kingly heart in the shepherd boy, and He made him king. So the world stands before God. He divests men of the trappings of wealth, the robes of office, the assumptions of power. These things are temporal and adventitious circumstances, mere cobwebs we have woven round us. Man looks on the face, God on the heart; man on the body, God on the soul. Man’s judgment is false; God’s is true.
- Then we learn that appearances are often deceitful. Our race has had bitter lessons of this truth. Our first parents learned that the glittering folds of the serpent only covered the malignant spirit of the devil. How often have we learned “one may smile and smile and be a villain.” I remember that the grandest man I saw in the war, grand in the splendour of his military equipment, was an ignorant and presumptuous corporal; and the plainest and most unpretentious man was the greatest general. In the Saviour’s time the most pretentious men, who “thanked God they were not like other men,” were the Pharisees, who paraded their virtue and advertised their pride before the ignorant and astonished multitude.
III. We learn that honour belongs to no station. This man was a shepherd. His brothers were warriors. God put the shepherd over the soldiers. When He would select a man to write the immortal “Pilgrim’s Progress,” where did he find him? A noble from the English court? A professor from the Oxford faculty? No; but a tinker from Bedfordshire. Here is his own description of himself: “I was of low and inconsiderable generation; my father’s house being of that rank that was meanest and most despised of all families in the land. I never went to school to Aristotle or Plato, but was brought up in my father’s house in a very mean condition among a company of poor countrymen.” James A. Froude says of this man: “This is the account given of himself and his origin by a man whose writings have, for two centuries, affected the spiritual condition of the English race, in every part of the world, more powerfully than any other book or books except the Bible.” God saw the heart of a kingly man beneath the tinker’s coat of John Bunyan. Do you wonder at the astonishment of the people when a poor peasant stood up in the synagogue in his own village and said: “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me.” Do you wonder that they said, “Is not this a carpenter, the son of a carpenter?” That is the language of men.
- Finally, let us be content with an humble station. David’s life is an illustrious example of this. He was, doubtless, never so happy or contented as when following his father’s sheep over Judea’s hills. His greater honours only brought him greater cares and greater sorrows. Then let us learn humility and contentment in our lot. (E. O. Guerrant, D.D.)
The imperfection of human insight:—
From the outset of David’s life, then, we may draw three important conclusions. First, that God makes choice of those to inherit His best blessings whose hearts He knows to be right. Secondly, to be very cautious in our opinions concerning ourselves. Thirdly, to be equally circumspect in our judgments concerning others.
- First of all it is to be observed, that, when the Scriptures speak of persons as ordained and predestinated to future blessings, it is only either because their lives and conversation are pleasing to God, or, if not so, because He foreknows that they will afterwards prove so. When it is said of Abraham that “he shall surely become a great and mighty nation, and all the nations of the earth shall be blessed in him;” a reason immediately follows: “For I know him that he will command his children and his household after him, and they shall keep the way of the Lord to do justice and judgment.” When the honour of giving existence to John the Baptist is bestowed on Zacharias and Elizabeth, the sacred historian takes pains to inform us that “they were both righteous before God, walking in all the commandments and ordinances of the Lord blameless.” When Cornelius was chosen to be the first-fruits of the Gentile harvest, we are told: “He was a devout man, and one that feared God with all his house, which gave much alms to the people, and prayed to God alway.” The case of St. Paul, which is ordinarily brought forward as an especial proof of God’s arbitrary selection, is, indeed, a confirmation of what we are now saying. The heart of Paul was especially adapted for receiving, embracing, and diffusing the mercies of the Gospel. Man, who looked on the outward appearance, judged otherwise;—Ananias, who knew him only by the fame of his persecutions, would remonstrate with God: “Lord, I have heard by many of this man, how much evil he hath done to Thy saints at Jerusalem; and here he hath authority from the chief priests to bind all that call on Thy name.” But the Lord replied as he did to Samuel; he confuted the proud self-complacency of human penetration, with “go thy way, for he is a chosen vessel unto Me.” Similarly in the text, the reason given for the selection of David from all the sons of Jesse is, “the Lord looketh on the heart.” The Lord knew the sincerity and the piety of his intentions, and therefore, although he was despised of men, he was accepted of God. This conduct of the Lord, with respect to David, is especially important, because it is only a sample of His dealings in regard to ourselves. The Lord is now looking on the heart of every one amongst us. It should be remembered that the greatest sinner may be anxious to preserve a good reputation with the world, because without this, it would be impossible to maintain a comfortable existence: but it should also be remembered that reputation is not virtue, but only its semblance: and those who strive to obtain a good name are generally successful, since man looketh only on the outward appearance. Doubtless, a good name is a valuable possession; but we are not to suppose that we are good precisely in proportion as we are so reputed. We may act from a desire to stand well with the world, instead of a wish to approve ourselves to God. Regard not the opinion of the world as any standard of your situation in respect of God. Like Eliab, you may win the admiration and affection of the world, and yet not be accepted by God.
- Moreover the Christian will acquire another important lesson from the text, as regards the consideration of his own condition. No one among us ought to esteem himself unhappily circumstanced, whatever may be his situation, or whatever his afflictions. Remember that of the sons of Jesse seven were honoured and esteemed by their father, and among men; one was neglected and despised; yet were all the former rejected by the Lord, while the poor unhonoured David was taken from the sheepfold to be a king and the ancestor of the blessed Messiah. But at the same time remember, that David was not chosen because he was despised among men, but because his heart was right towards God; poverty and lowliness of estate in themselves give us no title to the favour of God; but the poor who endeavour to do their duty in their station, and the afflicted who bear their afflictions patiently, have no reason to repine: the Lord has looked on their hearts, and pronounced concerning them.
III. What the text instructs us with regard to our judgments of others. The text shows the extreme unreasonableness, no less than wickedness of such conduct. We can only judge by outward appearance after all: Samuel, a religious man, chosen by God to be His minister and interpreter, is mistaken in his estimate of Eliab: and, after this, we must acknowledge that the wisest among us have little chance of an insight into the character of others, so long as our opinions must be guided by outward appearance. But above all, this incapability of seeing the hearts of men should restrain us from all curious speculation on the characters of those with whom we have no concern. Could we see their hearts as clearly as we can observe their outward conduct, we should still be inexcusable, as frail and fallible creatures, in passing judgment on our brethren: but, as it is, our judgments may be false as they are cruel and criminal: like Jesse, nay, like Samuel, we may despise those whom God has not despised. (H. Thompson, M.A.)
David anointed king:—
Samuel’s grief over Saul’s failure and consequent rejection seems natural. To Samuel Jehovah had first revealed the fact that Saul was to be king Samuel had anointed him. Samuel stood sponsor for him. Between them had grown up a warm attachment, so that one ground of his grief would be the sense of personal disappointment. Then he also grieved for the nation. But even sacred and sincere grief may transgress its law and become sinful. There is a natural and healthy sorrow for what is gone, that is right. And there is a morbid and unreasonable clinging to what we cannot call back, that is wrong. There is a stubborn refusal to accept the situation, that is rebellious and wicked. Then Jehovah states the ground for this chiding: “How long wilt thou mourn? I have rejected him.… I have provided me a king among the sons of Jesse.” Kings come and go, but the kingdom stays. God’s workers appear and disappear, but His work goes on. The importance of a single individual to the success of God’s work is often exaggerated. The very life of this church is said to depend on the ministrations of a certain pastor. The loss of this generous and devout layman, we are told, would kill the church. But if the rank and file are steady and faithful, the loss of a leader does not bring inevitable defeat. God provides against emergencies. At every great crisis, God speaks and says: “I have provided me a man.” When the time has come for missionary work among the Gentiles, Paul is ready When the time is ripe for the Reformation, Luther is ready. When American slavery is to be fought with words and laws and grape shot, Wendell Phillips and Lincoln and Grant are ready. Every large doorway of opportunity is filled with a large man. But back behind all emergencies God sits and waits. His great right hand is full of men, and when the hour strikes he speaks to the crisis and says: “I have provided me a king.” Men who do not know God wonder at the opportune appearance of the right man at the right place and just in the nick of time It all comes naturally and inevitably in the order of Providence. When summer comes, the beasts of the field need shade trees to protect them from the heat of the sun. But the same sun that brings the necessity for shade calls out the leaves to furnish it. There is purpose and unity in it all. The children of God never marvel at the meeting of the man and the occasion. And in this passage, one hand of God was rejecting Saul, was clearing the ground for a new and better reign; and the other was already reaching for David, anointing him king, and leading him up to the empty throne. “I have rejected, I have provided,” are the two sides of the picture, the two hands of God’s activity. One makes the emergency, the other makes and moves the needed man to meet it. The chief grounds for choosing Saul, the former king, had been his physical and fighting excellence. Now in the face of this failure, which resulted from the lack of inward fitness, it was natural that Jehovah should say to Samuel: “Look not on his countenance, or on the height of his stature; … for the Lord seeth not as man seeth; for man looketh on the outward appearance, but the Lord looketh on the heart.” Saul was selected for his outward excellence, but now a man must be chosen who has the inner qualities of faith and obedience; one who, because of that inner attachment to God may become in spite of faults and sins a “man after God’s own heart.” The Lord seeth not as man seeth. Jehovah is not simply asserting his keener judgment, but that his seeing is bent on different objects. It goes for the inwardness of things. And it is important that God’s children should have firm hold of this same canon of judgment—not the outward, but the heart. It is a valuable principle in judging individual men and in judging wide movements of men. Some proposed social or industrial reform may wear an attractive outward appearance, but we are to look to the real inwardness, the heart of it. In the last analysis what will it do for the spirit of man, for the man who lives in and back of all the outward prosperity and adversity with which the reform deals? The purpose of society is not so much to get the bodies of men well fed, well housed, well clothed, as to make men. And you can only make men as you get down to where the man lives, where the man is. Within all prosperity or adversity dwells an ethical and spiritual being, and he must be faced and provided for. And all social efforts must look at the heart and recognise that nothing but the bringing of the heart into harmony with the Divine order will secure permanent and prosperous harmony in things outward, So that, before we can anoint any movement and call it king, we look at its inwardness. Thus instructed by the spirit of the Lord as to the principle of right judgment, Samuel reviews the remaining sons of Jesse with new eyes. He realises now that we cannot put a man on the scales and weigh him or stand him against the wall and measure him and tell how much man we have God in choosing kings and leaders breaks away from our little man-made rules of primogeniture. He ignores our petty conventionalities as to grades of honour and dishonour in kinds of honest work. His choices seem to go across lots and break down the little fences men have built along the lines of succession. The Spirit of God, which is the only anointing and ordaining power in the Church or in the world, goeth where it listeth. So in this lesson the spirit of God looked over the tops of the little objections Jesse laid in the way, on out to the fields where the last son of the family was humbly tending sheep, and recognising the royalty in him, said: “Send and fetch him: we will not sit down until he comes hither.” And when David came the Lord said: “Arise, anoint him: for this is he.” Here was another proof of the central thought, that the Lord seeth not as man seeth. David had done nothing kingly yet. The signs and tokens of coming royalty were not in any outward marks or deeds. He was all in the bud. But the Lord looked on the heart and saw inside of the shepherd, a king, and he knew that it only required time to make the kingliness live and grow and sit upon its throne. (C. R. Brown.)
The Divine method of judging character:—
- It is exclusively Divine. It is not given to man, not given perhaps to the highest created intelligence, to peer into the depths of another spirit, and there sound all the motives and impulses of action. In sooth, man is unable to detect or ascertain all the varied forces even within himself, which prompt his own actions. “Who can understand his errors? cleanse Thou me from secret faults.” Still less able is he to penetrate into the motives of his fellow-men.
- It is manifestly just.
- To judge from appearance would be very inaccurate judgment.
(1.) Some of our external actions have no intentions at their root. They start from blind impulse, break forth from a sudden rush of passion. Such actions are scarcely ours. From a sudden gust of feeling the soul has lost its balance, and an act is performed which is regretted the moment after its execution. Surely it would be wrong to judge a man from these sudden outbreaks of impulse, the rare exceptions of his life.
(2.) Actions apparently bad spring sometimes from good intentions. Saul persecuted the Church of God from good intentions.
(3.) Sometimes actions apparently good have their rise in bad intentions.
- To judge from appearance would be a very partial judgment. Suppose it were possible to catalogue all your external actions, say for one week of your existence, and then catalogue also the unembodied desires, wishes, volitions, cravings, aspirations of the soul during that week, what would be the one compared to the other? A page to a volume. Our inner activities are incessant, varied, and almost innumerable. Therefore to judge a man by his external conduct would be a very partial judgment. From this it seems clear that God’s method of judgment is after all the true method.
III. It is alarmingly suggestive.
- It suggests the imperfection of the best of us in the sight of Heaven.
- It suggests terrible revelations at the last day.
- It suggests the necessity of a heart’s renovation. (Homilist.)
The fallibility of human judgment:—
Here is a principle of the Divine government which is well worthy of attention; for it is put before us in direct contrast with our own natural tendencies and habits; and put before us in a way powerfully calculated to show us the fallacy and the carnality of our own mode of judging of each other. “The Lord seeth not as man seeth.” Now, it is not to be supposed that man is condemned because he has not the omniscience of the Deity: it is not man’s sin that he does not look at the heart; he cannot look at the heart. But the error into which Samuel fell, and into which the majority of men fall, is, a carnal readiness to form a conclusion, in a manner not delegated to them, upon inadequate grounds. It is wisdom in such a case to recognise our unfitness to form a judgment, owing to the scanty range of our knowledge: and yet we see how frequently the reverse is the case, and how, on inadequate grounds, men rush to an immediate conclusion. Samuel suffered all the testimony of his experience, founded on Saul’s wilful and impenitent conduct, to be silenced by the outward personal attractions of Eliab: and though he had manifest proof of the unfitness of Saul for the throne, he did not allow himself to entertain the idea which his experience might have suggested to him, that, in this case also, a comely exterior might cover a weak understanding and a depraved heart. This, then, is the difference between the judgment of man and the judgment of God. God looks through all the motives, and forms a just and impartial judgment from all the premises before Him: man sees but little indeed; but he forms a hasty, and partial, and inferior judgment from all the evidence that is really before his eyes. The various scenes of life present unnumbered instances of the evil to which we refer.
- With a view, therefore, to correct this evil, allow me to illustrate it by a reference to several facts of Scripture. The Scripture supplies us with some very striking cases which exemplify this impartial judgment of the Lord.
- The judicial decision in the garden of Eden is a remarkable instance of it. Both Adam and Eve throw the blame from themselves. But how wisely and justly does the holy Lord God discriminate between them, and so fairly apportion to each their due measure of punishment, as to leave it beyond all question that “the Lord searcheth the heart.”
- There are some striking instances in which God marks and discerns the wickedness that is unseen by man. The instance of Enoch is one of these. The ungodly men of his days had spoken hard speeches against him, and decided him and his prophecies: but, in the meantime, “Enoch walked with God;” and the eye of God was upon him, and he saw not as men seeth.
- The history of Moses presents to us a similar instance. In his early endeavours to benefit his people, he was misunderstood; and, having interfered for their welfare at the risk of his life, he was driven by the treacherous conduct of those whom he laboured to serve, to leave the palace and seek shelter in the wilderness. But there the Lord recognised him as a chosen servant; and from hence, at length He called him to be the leader and commander of His people and the law-giver to the whole world.
- There is a still more striking case in the mysterious dealing of God with Job. The misfortunes which burst simultaneously upon him, deceived his best friends; and, judging from outward appearances, they pronounced him a wicked man. But, in the midst of all these trials, the Lord knew him to be “a just man, one who feared God and eschewed evil;” and, in the end, He brought forth his judgment as the light and his righteousness as the noon-day.
- We pass on to the instance of the Redeemer Himself. Our blessed Lord was regarded by the priesthood and the people as a madman and a deceiver. Men accounted Him a blasphemer; but the Lord declared that “grace and truth were in His lips.” Man regarded His death as a satisfaction due to the broken law of His own nation; the Lord accounted Him the spotless victim in the cause of redeeming mercy. There never has been a more striking exemplification of the difference between the judgment of God, and that of man.
- A similar difference of estimation, also is found with reference to the Apostles, the first preachers of Christian truth. Men thought lightly of their character. He speaks of their being regarded as “reprobates.” But what in the midst of this contempt of men, is the judgment of God? “We are unto God a sweet savour of Christ, in them that are saved, and in them that perish.” They were approved by the Divine wisdom as the ministers of God, and in all their varied labours they had his testimony with them.
- We may just glance at other instances, where those who obtain the favourable estimation of men, stood condemned before Him who searcheth the heart. This was the case with Saul, who was still honoured before the people, long after God had rejected him: with Absalom, whose personal appearance stole away the hearts of the people, and seduced the subjects of David from their rightful sovereign: with Nebuchadnezzar, who, walking in his pride, commanded the adoration of the people to a golden image, which he blasphemously set up to represent himself: and the Lord doomed him seven years to a degraded condition in the wilderness. It was the case also with Herod, who, while the people cried, seduced by his oratory, “It is the voice of a god, and not the voice of a man,” was smitten by the angel of the Lord, and was eaten of worms, because be gave not the glory to God.
- We ought to endeavour to profit by these considerations: and although we cannot impart to ourselves the accuracy of full and unerring observation and judgment, yet, at least, the consideration of the circumstances in which we are placed, and of our tendency to error, ought to lead us to watch with jealousy the judgment we form.
- In the first place, then, we should suspect the judgment that we form of the outward appearance, and the importance we are sometimes led to attach to it. Why should we estimate so highly that which is so soon to decay? Let us learn from the pestilence that walketh in darkness, and from the destruction that wasteth at noon-day, the madness of priding ourselves on distinctions which a single hour may destroy.
- How erroneous is the estimate that men in general are disposed to form of character. We are perpetually the slaves of our own prejudices; led by a few general blandishments, we mistake that which is faulty for that which is good, and account all that glitters gold.
- How much deeper is our error in the defective and partial standard by which we judge ourselves; and yet we are willing to acknowledge we stand on a very different ground for judgment. Conscience brings us near to God; even we do not bear with the outward appearance. No man can so completely turn away from his inward conscience as not to know something that is passing within—something of his defects; in some measure, in fact, to look at the heart. One of the great sins of man, however, is the settled, resolute habit of looking only to external and superficial merits, and trying to destroy all consciousness of the future by the follies of the life that is present.
- Consider again, bow this view of the dealings of God exalts the grace of redemption. “The Lord looked down from heaven,” we are told; and when he saw there was none righteous—no, not one, then His own arm brought salvation. He knew the amount of the evil that was in the creature He determined to redeem, or the remedy would not have been adequate. But what a thought it is that the Lord should so provide for the cure of sin in all its disgusting forms, and, in His pity, should blot it out for ever by the blood of His own Son! It is almost inconceivable that such a price should be paid for such a race and nothing but such evidence as God has vouchsafed, could make us believe it.
- “The Lord looketh at the heart.” If His inspection is such at all times, how much more solemn is the thought of His coming, when He shall judge the secrets of men’s hearts at the last day! (E. Craig, A. M.)
Judgments, Human and Divine:—
Admiration for physical height and bulk natural to warlike peoples. Regarded by them as indispensable qualification for leadership. Thus Herodotus tells us that the Ethiopians “confer the sovereignty upon the man whom they consider to be of the largest stature, and to possess strength proportionable to his size.” And again, after stating that the armies of Xerxes numbered more than five millions of men, he continues: “But of so many myriads, not one of them, for beauty and stature, was more entitled than Xerxes himself to possess the power.” Saul then was just the kind of man to fulfil such conditions as these. “From his shoulders and upward he was higher than any of the people.” Nor was he deficient in other qualities, courage for instance, such as would recommend him to a bold and warlike people. But in judgment he was lacking, and in action self-willed. The malady which came upon him during his later life was the fit precursor of his tragic end. His sun set in darkness and in blood upon the mountains of Gilboa. The gloom of Saul’s closing years had been deepened by the knowledge that he had been superseded by the Divine decree, and that as he had been the first so he was to be the last of his family to occupy the throne. Some years before the death of Saul, Samuel had been sent to Bethlehem to anoint one of the sons of Jesse king in his room. We must not however suppose, because David was chosen by Him Who “looketh not on the outward appearance, but upon the heart,” that he was not well-favoured and attractive. Physical beauty even, if more than skin deep, if it result from the shining through the windows of the beautiful tenant within the house, is and always has been a great moral force in the world. The thing to be noted, however, is that while these attractions were well fitted to be the handmaids and helpers of the internal qualities which the fair young shepherd boy possessed, it was not on account of his graces of form and feature that the Lord “chose David His servant, and took him from the sheep folds,” etc. (Ps. 78:70–71.)
The principle on which the selection was made is clearly indicated in the words, “The Lord looketh on the heart.” What was there in the heart of David to commend him? There was that in the heart of David which in some way or other rendered applicable to him the designation which was thus prophetically given him, and which has clung to him ever since. “Saul had been man’s man, David was to be God’s man.” And yet rash and sinful though Saul was we do not find that he descended to such depths of wickedness as those which David, in his later history, fathomed. We encounter something like the same difficulty here as we are familiar with in the matter of the Divine preference, shall I say? of Jacob to Esau (Malachi 1:2, 3; Romans 9:13). Naturally Esau’s was the more generous and open nature, just as there are magnanimous traits in the character of Saul which it would not be easy to find so prominent in the disposition of David. But the truth is that both in Jacob and in David, with all their faults and failings, there were aspirations after goodness, which were altogether foreign to the natures of the two men with whom, on the page of history, they stand contrasted. We cannot imagine Esau occupying the place, or undergoing the experience of Jacob at Peniel. Neither can we think of Saul as the author of such outpourings of “a broken and a contrite spirit” as the penitential psalms. And one of the best answers that can be given to the question, How comes it that such an one as David could be spoken of as “a man after God’s own heart?” is to be found in such words as those of Thomas Carlyle on the subject. The text then presents us with a contrast between human judgments and the Divine judgment of men and things. “The Lord seeth not as man seeth,” for “Man looketh on the outward appearance.”
- Here we have the secret of the imperfection, the necessary imperfection of human judgments.
- The “outward appearance” may lead us to over estimate the values of things. In small things and in great we are to a large extent at the mercy of the impressions made upon us through the senses. How slow we are to learn that an attractive exterior may conceal a false and faithless heart; that the value of a deed depends not upon the scale on which it was done, but upon the motive which inspired it; that the only true greatness, whether of men or of actions, is that which is moral and spiritual.
- But, on the other hand, we must also remember that we may easily be led by the “outward appearance” to the undervaluing of men’s motives and characters. There are a hundred and one facts which ought to be taken into the account before a perfect judgment of any man can be formed, facts of which his fellow men are, and must be, largely ignorant. Again, “The Lord seeth not as man seeth,” for “The Lord looketh on the heart.”
- While our judgments must be partial and imperfect because our knowledge is so limited, there is One Who knows. The features in any man’s life and character, our ignorance of which disables us from appraising at their proper worth his words and actions, are all known to God: the hereditary bias towards some form of evil which has made his life a continual battle field; the educationary influences which surrounded him in early youth, and which have necessarily done so much to make him, for good or evil, what he is to-day; all these and many other factors in the problem which every human life presents, are fully known to Him.
III. This great and solemn truth yields us two lessons:—
- One of warning. We may impose upon our fellow-men, and even delude ourselves, but we can never deceive God.
- One of consolation and encouragement for all who have been made the victims of the slander and misrepresentation of their fellows, etc. What does He see when He looks upon your heart and mine? (F. R. Bailey.)
Deceptiveness of appearance:—
Were men to be guided by the appearance of things only, in forming their judgment, how erroneous and deceptive would it be! The sun would be no more than a few miles distant and a few inches in diameter; the moon would be a span wide and half a mile away; the stars would be little sparks glistening in the atmosphere; the earth would be a plain, bounded by the horizon a few miles from us; the sun would travel and the earth stand still; nature would be dead in winter and only alive in summer; men would sometimes be women and women men; truth would often be error and error truth; honest men would be rogues and rogues honest men; piety would be wickedness and wickedness piety. In fine, there is scarcely any rule so deceptive as the rule of appearance; and there are multitudes who, in many things, have no other rule by which they form their judgment. Hence the errors of their speech and life; the ridicule and blunders into which they plunge themselves before the world. If appearance were the only rule of judging, what would you say of Jesus in His humble birth; in His lowly training; in His fasting and temptation; in His servant-form; in His persecutions from the people; in His poor disciples; in His bloody sweat; in His base trial; His mock kingship; His ascent up Calvary; His crucifixion with two thieves; His dying exclamation? What would you say of Christianity as the religion of this Man and His poor Apostles? But you are not to judge Jesus and His religion by the appearance, any more than nature and man.
The Lord’s choice:—
The world loves that which strikes the eye, something or somebody who is imposing in appearance, and who makes an impression. How far is this from the thought of God! He would not have a repetition of Saul. It was just because Jesus had “no beauty”—according to the eyes of men—“that they should desire Him,” that the people of Israel despised and rejected Him. They wanted one whose pomp would vie with the court of Rome. They wanted one who should resist evil; one who should value earthly glory; another Solomon. And they saw a Man coming from the carpenter’s shop, meek and lowly in heart, associating with the very poorest, touching the leper, allowing the vilest of women to weep over His feet, eating with publicans and sinners: One whose only might was over sin, sickness, sorrow, and death. And they despised His meekness and poverty of spirit; there was nothing in Him that the world could pride itself upon; so they cast Him out and crucified Him. (M. Baxter.)
The Lord looketh on the heart.—The life of the heart:—
Judge not realities by appearances. Let me point out to you a most thriving and prosperous man, whose case will explain exactly what I mean. There is no question that in trade he is very successful. He drives into town every morning as well? Yes. And generally has a flower in his button-hole? Yes. His name is seldom seen on a subscription list, and he makes but a poor figure amongst the charities which are popular in the circle in which he moves. He is called stingy and mean: people say sharp things about him when his back is turned. You saw him putting down five pounds just now, and you thought the figure looked shabby without a cypher at the end of it; but you don’t know that last year he paid a thousand pounds of his father’s debts, for his father, though an honourable man, had been ruined in business; nor do you know that only this morning, on which he gave the despised five pounds, he sent a cheque for fifty guineas to his two sisters, and that he sends them a cheque of the same value four times in the course of every year! nor do you know that he is paying for the education of two brothers, and that he is laying by what he can afford to give them a nice start when they are ready for business. Judge not, that ye be not judged! The Lord looketh on the heart! There is another side to this picture. Here is a fine dashing fellow, who is the charm of every circle into which he enters. A free-handed, genial, sparkling man. Many a ten-pound note he gives away; many a subscription list he nobly leads. Wherever he is known he is praised as a charitable man. Could you have heard as I have heard him, your feelings would undergo no trifling change. I have heard his words in secret, and seen his face when the true expression of the soul was upon it. “Why not lessen your expenses?” said a confidential friend. “Appearances,” he sternly replied, “must be kept up. We must get money somehow. What securities have we in hand? Mortgage them, sell them, do what you like with them—only get me what money I want.” He must keep the blacking on his boots and the nap on his hat, for if he fail in surface he will fail altogether. He is made up of surface. A pin point could scratch it off. So let him beware, for a touch may topple him over into his own place. Man has a heart-life as well as a hand life. It is upon the heart-life that God looks, and upon it that He pronounces His judgment. We cannot put all that is in our heart into our hand. God knows our advantages and disadvantages, and His judgment is the result of His omniscience. There was a sharp discussion the other day in a gentleman’s kitchen. One speaker said to another, “I am ashamed of you; we ought not to be in the same house together; you are common and vulgar-looking, besides being scratched and chipped all over. Look at me; there is not a flaw upon all my surface; my beauty is admired; my place in the house is a place of honour.” The other speaker was not boisterous; there was no resentment in the tone of the reply: “It is true that you are very beautiful, and that I am very common, but that is not the only difference between us. See how you are cared for; you are protected by a glass shade; you are dusted with a brush made of the softest feathers; everybody in approaching you is warned of your delicacy. It is very different with me; whenever water is wanted I am taken to the well; when servants are done with me they almost fling me down; I am used for all kinds of work; and there never was a scullery maid in the house who did not think herself good enough to speak of me with contempt.” It is so with men. Some of us live under glass shades; others of us are as vessels in common wear; but we could not change places; each must do his proper work, and each will have his appropriate reward. The Lord looketh on the heart! There are two grave-stones in yonder churchyard which occasion a good deal of remark. You will be pleased to hear something about them. The first is considered a marvel of art. The marble and the granite of which it is composed are the purest that can be found, and what can exceed the brilliance of their polish? The stone tells you that it is put up to commemorate the life of the best of mothers. It was erected by her son, who resides in the chief mansion in the vicinity. He is proud of the stone. For nothing else is he known but for that stone. He has never written his name on the holy roll of charity. No poor family would miss him were he to have a similar stone put above his own head. The other stone is modest, but really good. There is not one line of pretence about it. It, too, was put up by filial piety to commemorate motherly excellence. You should hear how it is talked about by the man who owns the fine stone. He says: “I am ashamed of such men! It is true enough that he was not very well off when his mother died, but look how he has got on since! Why, he must be worth some thousands a year. I wonder he is not ashamed of himself, to let that thing stand there—he should take it up and put another in its place. I don’t know how men can do such mean things.” And having so said he walks towards his own stone, and heaves a sigh that has meaning in it. And how about that other son? Thus! He never allows a poor woman to go from his door without help, because her presence reminds him of what his own mother used to be in the days of her poverty, and never does he give the help without saying in his heart: “Sacred to the memory of my dear mother.” He never sees a poor woman go along the road but he looks after her and says: “Once my mother was very much like that, and for her sake I must do something for this poor creature.” It is in this way that he sets up his gravestones; in this way that he honours his mother. He says nothing about it. He writes epitaphs on hearts, not on stones; and though he is misjudged by man there is One who makes an imperishable record of his love—for the Lord looketh on the heart!
- The Lord looketh on the heart,—This must be terrible news to a bad man.
- The Lord looketh on the heart,—This is the joy of all men who live in truth.
- The Lord looketh on the heart,—Then man’s supreme concern should bear upon his spiritual life. Fool is he who filters the stream when he might purify the fountain. How is it with our hearts? (J. Parker, D.D.)
Man’s heart under God’s eye:—
The man who simply looks at himself in the light of the opinions which his fellow men form of him, is in imminent danger of making fatal mistakes. The man who even looks at himself in the light of the favourable judgment which the Church of Christ may form of him, is in a most dangerous position. But no man is in this danger who has formed the habit of always judging of himself, as he appears to himself when he stands face to face, if I may use this phrase, with God. The reason of our mistakes upon most subjects is, that we have too much fellowship about them with God’s erring creatures, and too little communion with Himself.
- God’s knowledge of human nature. It is—
- Immediate and direct. His acquaintance with us men is not through outward appearance; it is not in any sense by the outward; He looketh on the heart. The body does not intercept His vision. The body is not even a medium. He sees the body, and knows the body as perfectly as He knows the spirit. He is not dependent on our words for His knowledge of sin. He is not dependent upon our actions for knowledge of us, neither upon our history. He has no informant. God’s knowledge of human nature is not second-hand or inferential, but immediate and direct.
- Being immediate and direct, God’s knowledge of man is perfect. His eye is upon your thoughts and your thinkings. His eye is upon your reason and upon your reasonings. His eye is upon the emotional part of your nature, and the rising and falling of your emotional susceptibilities. Sin, while being conceived, He sees.
- Because God’s knowledge is direct and perfect it surpasses men’s knowledge of each other, and of themselves. It surpasses what can be known by men of themselves, and of each other. Men, with reference to self-knowledge, consult their consciousness. I do not say the conscience. The word consciousness is a more general word, including a state of the entire nature; but I speak not of the state of one faculty, but rather, I repeat, of the whole being. Men consult consciousness, and they consult memory. But then, “the heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked;” so that men, with relation to self-knowledge, are very often self-deceived. Now, on all these grounds, God’s knowledge surpasses that knowledge of ourselves, and of each other, that is even possible to us. But yet, more, does it surpass what is actually known; because none of us, or few of us, have the knowledge of human nature, the knowledge of ourselves, or of each other, which we might have, perhaps, if we sought for it. This seems to be the doctrine of the text.
- Now let us consider the life lessons it yields.
- The first practical thing here taught us is, the folly of permitted self-delusion. Now do not call the words permitted self-delusion, a contradiction, for they do not involve a contradiction, or, if they do, it is just one of those contradictions that we so often find in human nature. Permitted self-delusion is not uncommon in other spheres. The case of a man who, in trading, knows perfectly well that he is not solvent, but tries to believe that he is solvent, and goes on as though he were solvent, is a case of permitted self-delusion. The man does not actually face his business circumstances. I say that is a case of permitted self-delusion, and there is something very much like this in professed religious life. Men more than half know that they are not Christians, but they try to persuade themselves that they are Christians. Now the doctrine we have been looking at, or rather, the fact of God’s perfect knowledge of human nature, shows the utter stupidity of all this. Delusions and deceptions with reference to character cannot continue. Just as in the spring and autumn, you have often seen the early mists dispelled by the sun, so all mists on all subjects, and especially on the character of man, will ere long be dispersed by the strong light of God’s light, and every man will appear to be just what he is—exactly what he is.
- At the same time it shows us the utter uselessness of all hypocrisy. The two things are so closely connected together that it is only for the sake of giving force to them that I can at all separate them. Say that instead of a man being thus willingly self-deceived, he wears a mask, and does not mind saying, in certain quarters, and to certain persons, that he wears a mask—how utterly useless that mask is! because the eye with which we chiefly have to do, has never rested on that mask, as on a surface; it has always gone right through it—piercing it at every point. On the mask there is the eye of a saint, and on the eye of the real face there is the eye of a lascivious, sensual sinner. But God has never been cheated by that mild saint’s eye.
- Then we learn, further, the exposed position of all our sins. But there is another view we may take of this subject, that may help us in another direction.
- We see through God’s perfect knowledge of human nature, His thorough competency to save us. Men die of diseases with which their medical attendants are unacquainted, as the best physician and surgeon would frankly acknowledge. Every day mistakes are made—unavoidably made, I say, not carelessly made. Men go down to the grave, and all about them are ignorant of what has taken them down to the tomb. Now, suppose God were in this position with reference to our sins. You see at once that He could not entirely save us. We have accustomed ourselves, therefore, really to look on God’s searching the qualifications to redeem us.
- There is another lesson we may learn here, that is, the duty of being passive under Divine discipline. Troubles may come upon you, and you may perplex yourself as to their intent. You cannot see what faults they are sent to correct. But, generally, you will find, when God chastens, there is a close connection between the sort of chastening and the fault He chastens for, so that you can tell whether the affliction be a correction—whether it be a chastening or not. But very often sorrows are sent not as chastisements. And they are sent for what purpose? They are sent to prevent sin; not to correct you for sin already committed, but to prevent you committing some sin.
- And we see, the reasonableness of our acting on God’s judgment of men. Do let us look upon mankind, brethren, with the light of God’s Word about men. You will find here, in the truth of the text, an antidote for disquiet under misconception and misrepresentation; a motive to diligence in keeping the heart. And you will learn, further, the advantageous position of Him who is now our Lord and Master, and Who will come to be our Judge. Let us just recognise our ignorance even of our own nature. There is a sort of rebuke here, or if not a rebuke, God points with His finger at our limited knowledge. “The Lord seeth not as man seeth.” That implies that we do not see all; we see only in part; we see only imperfectly. Let us recognise the limit of our knowledge, let us recognise the fact that we do not, except as we see ourselves, in light of God’s light, see our own real hearts, and that we are not in a position, alone, even to understand ourselves. Let us apply this rule in judgment of our fellow men, cherishing, at the same time, if we be God’s children, a child-like trust in God’s knowledge. I see nothing terrible in this truth if a man be sincere. I see everything terrible in it if a man be willing to deceive himself, or if a man be a hypocrite. (Samuel Martin.)
God looketh on the heart:—
God does not judge of the heart by the actions, but of the actions by the heart. In His sight the stream of our conduct is pure or impure according to the state of the heart—the fountain of action: “Out of the heart proceed evil thoughts, murders, adulteries, fornifications, thefts, false witness, blasphemies.”
- That it is the exclusive prerogative of God to look upon the heart. The heart is covered with an impenetrable veil, through which no eye can pierce; it is a field of operation into which we cannot look. Within its secrecies the meanest feelings are fostered, and the most generous purposes rise unnoticed and unknown. The knowledge of the human heart is, in fact, a portion of the experimental philosophy, and is only to be acquired by a careful investigation of facts. It is a solemn consideration, but it is possible that our hearts may be filled with enmity or love to the Creator, our minds may be essentially carnal or spiritual, while our nearest earthly friend is wholly ignorant of the relation in which we stand to the eternal world. Were our most intimate friend, to endeavour to unbosom his mind to us, with how little would he make us acquainted; how much must there ever remain wrapt in obscurity, and in all the darkness of secrecy! All we know of the hearts of others is what they are pleased to tell us; but we are frequently deceived; our confidence is often betrayed, and we receive the thrust of an enemy through the professions of a friend. We are not even free from deception and mistake if we turn to our own hearts. We very frequently persuade ourselves that we are actuated by right motives, whilst a secret principle of selfishness is contaminating the fountain of action. The Lord looketh on the heart, not as implying a curious search, arising from previous ignorance. It is said of the angels concerning the mysteries of redemption, that they desire to look into them, but there are no secrets with the Divine Being. When it is said that “God looketh on the heart,” it is implied that He regards the state of the heart: it is not an inoperative knowledge, a passive contemplation, but an influential regard in opposition to the procedure of man, who is only influenced by the outward appearance. The state of the heart is not a matter of indifference to Him, but His watchful eyes are ever engaged in a vigilant inspection of human spirits. No barriers can interrupt His view. He marked the sin of Achan when his covetousness was excited by the wedge of gold, and the Babylonish garment; He detected the same sin when Gehazi robbed Naaman, and lied unto the prophet, and he exposed the guilt of David in the matter of Uriah.
- The administration of the Divine government proceeds on the principle of my text. The Lord looketh on the heart, not only in the administration of His laws, but the scheme of Providence in all its ramifications is but an adaptation of His perfections to this truth. However inscrutable His dispensations may appear to us, they are not an unmeaning exercise of power, a blind bestowment of favour, or a tyrannical infliction of pains and penalties, they are the exercise of His power according to the dictates of infinite wisdom and goodness. In selecting instruments to carry into effect these purposes of His will, the Lord looketh on the heart: He sent Samuel to Bethlehem to the family of Jesse, and ordered him to anoint one of Jesse’s children, whom He would point out to him, to be king over Israel. In illustration of the same truth, we may refer you to His choice as the messenger of His grace to the Gentile world. Who would have selected the persecutor breathing out threatenings and slaughter against the church of God, to display a warmer zeal and holier courage in building up the temple he once attempted to destroy? Infinite wisdom discerned the fitness of the instrument, and consecrating it to the most hallowed purposes. Whenever the church has revived, and Zion has arisen from the dust and put on her beautiful garments, individuals have been selected eminently calculated to effect the desired object. Witness the holy energy and unconquerable perseverance of Luther. In the field of missionary labour we have a Brainerd and a Swartz a Morrison and a Milne. The venerable Carey, whose power in acquiring languages has only been equalled by his unpretending piety, and his devotion to the sacred work of his Master, was selected by that God who looks on the heart, and was raised to a dignity and moral elevation which the grace of God could alone enable him to adorn. By the same principle God over-rules the machination of wicked, and the errors of good men, for His own glory. In the ordinary dispensations of His Providence He acknowledges the same principles of operation. He has perpetual reference to the state of the heart. He is subjecting us to a moral discipline, by which we are to be trained up for glory, and virtue, and immorality. We must not imagine that affliction is the only way by which God manifests a vigilant attention to the heart. He makes the opposite state of felicity and enjoyment a proving time. How frequently has the accumulation of wealth proved to be the touchstone of a man’s character. But not only in the arrangements of our worldly affairs, but in His gracious dealings with us, the Lord looketh on the heart. The discipline to which Christians are subject, arises from the intimate acquaintance which God has with the hearts of all men.
III. We must improve our subject, which is full of instruction.
- It teaches us the necessity of uprightness. Does God look upon the heart? How vain will it be, then, to garnish our exterior, whilst the soul remains unclean and polluted!
- Again, our subject teaches us the nature of all acceptable worship. God is a spirit, and must be worshipped in spirit and in truth. Mere formality must ever appear hateful to Him. Where the heart is not engaged, there can be no true worship.
- Our subject teaches us the awful condition of the impenitent sinner. He lives forgetful of God, but God is not forgetful of him.
- Our subject is a source of encouragement to the church collectively, and to the individual believer. Are the affairs of this world managed, and the interests of the church superintended on the principle that the Lord looketh on the heart?
- But it is not only a source of encouragement, but our text is a motive to holiness. All the dispensations of His Providence, and the operations of His grace should furnish a separate motive to purity. (S. Summers.)
- The Divine superiority to human prejudices. The prophet was misled by a mere prejudice. Very frequently the outside show, the mere accidental circumstances of personal appearance, wealth, or position, are taken as criteria of worth. Now we may observe respecting such modes of estimation:—
- That the standard is obviously false.
- It is one of which many take advantage. Many avail themselves of this common prejudice for purposes of the darkest villany. It is the convenient cloak of the base and the hypocritical.
- It is often the cause of great wrong. Much injustice is perpetrated through the force of this prejudice. The wicked are justified while the righteous are condemned.
- The certainty of the right-hearted being preferred. Those whose hearts are right with God may be contemned by the world, but they may be sure of approval in His sight “who looketh on the heart.” That such will ever be the case may be argued:—
- From universal conviction. False as are the principles on which men choose to act, their convictions are generally on the side of the right. The common conscience of humanity testifies to the worth of right-heartedness.
- From the voice of revelation. The Bible is decisive in its assertion of this principle. It pronounces as with a voice of thunder, its indignant repudiation of the prejudice by which human conduct is governed, and maintains the opposite as the eternal rule of Divine preference.
- From their own consciousness. The wrong-hearted are self-condemned, while those whose hearts are right with God enjoy a cheering consciousness of His approbation.
III. The importance of attending to heart culture. It is of vital importance to have the heart made and kept right with God. How is this to be secured?
- It can be attained only through Christ. The heart will never be right with God till it is made so through the redemptive work of Christ.
- It requires the operation of the Holy Spirit. To obtain such views of “the truth as it is in Jesus,” and such affinity for it, as shall issue in the rectification of the heart Godward, there must be the co-operation of the Spirit.
- It demands the most strenuous efforts. The most strenuous efforts, on the part of man, are required to become and continue right-hearted. Learn—
(1.) To value men as God values them.
(2.) To consider the question, is thy heart right with God?
(3.) To give greater attention to the culture of the heart. (S. A. Browning.)
Man measured from the depths:—
When in Scotland recently, I went to a very interesting place, the Observatory at Paisley. I there saw an instrument for measuring earthquakes, a seismological register. A block of stone, twenty-four solid feet in depth, was thrust into the ground; down and down it went, standing like an isolated column in the vacuum carefully preserved on every side of it. On the top a delicate instrument was poised, which actually wrote with a pencil a record of the vibrations and oscillations that were taking place in every part of the globe. Said the gentleman in charge, “If an earthquake were to take place in Japan, its motions would be written here as faithfully as though we were on the spot to measure it.” “Then what about the rumbles here in Paisley?” said I. “You make noises enough in your streets: would they be registered by your instrument?” “No,” was the reply. “We do not trouble about vibrations on the surface. We measure from the depths.” That is the way to measure—truth in the inward parts. We do not measure by a man’s profession, but by what comes from the depths of his nature. (R. J. Campbell, M.A.)
16:7 People look at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart. The heart is viewed as the seat of the emotions (1 Sam. 1:8; 4:13; 17:32; 25:36; 28:5), will (6:6; 7:3), motives (17:28), reason (21:12), and conscience (25:31; 2 Sam. 24:10). A person’s “heart,” or mind, is relatively inaccessible to human beings, but the Lord is able to probe people’s innermost regions and assess one’s true character (Jer. 11:20; 20:12).
When God chose Saul as king, he gave the people the kind of physically imposing individual that they, like other nations, would find desirable (1 Sam. 8:5; 9:2; 10:23–24). Samuel himself falls into this superficial way of thinking when he reasons that Jesse’s son Eliab, who apparently is physically impressive (v. 7), is God’s chosen king (see as well his words in 10:24). Humans tend to look on the outward appearance when evaluating someone’s suitability for a task, but God is more concerned about what is on the inside. He accommodated himself to the people’s wishes and standards when he selected Saul, but he will choose Saul’s replacement in accordance with his own standards.
7 Like Eliab, Saul’s appearance (mar’ēhû)//height (lit., “the height of stature”) had been noteworthy. See on 9:2; 10:23.
I have rejected him: the Lord had already decided on David before sending Samuel to Bethlehem (v. 1). Or is this perfect verb performative (see 17:10), with the Lord rejecting him by uttering “I hereby reject him” to Samuel? The same verb *m’s is used in 15:23, 26; 16:1 for the rejection of Saul. According to Mettinger, “Eliab is something of a ‘new Saul,’ so that in his rejection Saul is denounced in effigy.”
My way of seeing is not like man’s way of seeing: literally, “ (I am) not as man sees.” Most of the modern translations supply “the Lord” or “God” as the subject: for example, “The Lord does not look at the things man looks at” (NIV); cf. “For I am not as man sees” (Syr.).35 However, the MT as it is could be translated “ (I am) not,” the subject being understood from the immediate context; this is supported by the Syriac version, though Joosten proposes a different Hebrew Vorlage. The same phenomenon can be recognized in Hab. 1:5b “ (I am) going to do” (NIV; also LXX; NASB; cf. NRSV: “a work is being done”; also JPS), the subject being supplied from the context.
The expression by the eyes (la‘ênayim) means “by what he sees”; compare “the outward appearance” (NRSV; NASB; NIV); “only what is visible” (JPS). The preposition by is a lamed of specification; see GKC, §119u. Driver mentions a similar expression in Lev. 13:15 and Num. 11:7, though “eye” is singular there. This structurally perfect parallelism can be analyzed on surface:
a (NP) — b (VP) — c (advPh) man judges by eyes
a′ (NP) — b′ (VP) — c′ (advPh) Lord judges by heart
But, semantically c//c′ are twisted in terms of their possessors: the “eyes” are the eyes of the man who is judging, while the “heart” is the heart of the one being judged, not of the Lord.
The expression judges by the heart (yir’eh lallēbāb) literally means “sees to the heart”; the Lord judges man according to the man’s heart, that is, his internal condition. Compare “looks at the heart” (NIV; NASB; cf. NRSV: “on”); “sees into the heart” (JPS).39
 Sproul, R. C. (Ed.). (2005). The Reformation Study Bible: English Standard Version (p. 402). Orlando, FL; Lake Mary, FL: Ligonier Ministries.
 MacArthur, J. F., Jr. (2006). The MacArthur study Bible: New American Standard Bible. (1 Sa 16:7). Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson Publishers.
 Stanley, C. F. (2005). The Charles F. Stanley life principles Bible: New King James Version (1 Sa 16:7). Nashville, TN: Nelson Bibles.