If you had walked around the English naval port of Portsmouth 200 years ago, you might have seen a man who had lost his right arm and was blind in one eye. Since he suffered all his life from seasickness, you would have been surprised to know that he was a sailor. But not only was he a sailor, he was the foremost seaman in the world. He was Lord Admiral Horatio Nelson, England's greatest naval hero. An ignorant passerby might have looked at his appearance and failed to see all that he was.
Appearances can be deceiving, as we see in 1 Samuel 16, when the prophet Samuel was sent to the house of Jesse to anoint a new king for Israel.
Samuel's standard for a king was his appearance. He had already picked one Arnold Schwarzenegger-type for king, Saul--and he was a disaster. Now Samuel looked at Jesse's eldest son, Eliab, and thought, "This is definitely king material!" But God told him, "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" (v. 7).
Jesse's judgment wasn't any better. When God rejected each of his seven sons, his attitude was, "Oh, I almost forgot, I've got another son. But you wouldn't want that one." David was his youngest son, and he was also the least in his father's estimation.
But God's standards are different: "The Lord has sought for Himself a man after His own heart" (1 Samuel 13:14). David is the only person in scripture with that description. But that doesn't mean he was perfect. No, he had many flaws. But he wanted what God wanted, because he wanted God to get the glory.
God confines Himself to using humans in His work. And the reason He uses flawed men and women is so that His own glory will be more obvious. In 1 Corinthians 1, Paul says that God calls "not many wise, not many mighty, not many noble." Why? "That no flesh should glory in His presence" (vv. 26, 29).
The skill of the one doing the work is more dramatic when he uses inferior tools. Nobody in business would have chosen the men in Jesus' inner circle of disciples. Peter had a habit of saying the wrong thing at the wrong time. James and John were focused on who would be the greatest. Matthew was a hated tax collector. Thomas was a pessimist. But these were the ones Jesus hand-picked as His own. God doesn't call the qualified; He qualifies those He calls.
There's no better description to aspire to in life than to be a person "after God's own heart." No matter what our appearance or our innate abilities, God can see our hearts, and that is what's most important to Him. "For the eyes of the Lord run to and fro throughout the whole earth, to show Himself strong on behalf of those whose heart is loyal to Him" (2 Chronicles 16:9).
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