Look at the Heart
Now the Lord said to Samuel, “How long will you mourn for Saul, seeing I have rejected him from reigning over Israel? Fill your horn with oil, and go; I am sending you to Jesse the Bethlehemite. For I have provided Myself a king among his sons.” And Samuel said, “How can I go? If Saul hearsit, he will kill me. But the Lord said, “Take a heifer with you, and say, ‘I have come to sacrifice to the Lord.’ Then invite Jesse to the sacrifice, and I will show you what you shall do; you shall anoint for Me the one I name to you.” So Samuel did what the Lord said, and went to Bethlehem. And the elders of the town trembled at his coming, and said, “Do you come peaceably?” And he said, “Peaceably; I have come to sacrifice to the Lord. Sanctify yourselves, and come with me to the sacrifice.” Then he consecrated Jesse and his sons, and invited them to the sacrifice. So it was, when they came, that he looked at Eliab and said, “Surely the Lord’s anointed is before Him!” 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.”
So Jesse called Abinadab, and made him pass before Samuel. And he said, “Neither has the Lord chosen this one.” Then Jesse made Shammah pass by. And he said, “Neither has the Lord chosen this one.” Thus Jesse made seven of his sons pass before Samuel. And Samuel said to Jesse, “The Lord has not chosen these.” And Samuel said to Jesse, “Are all the young men here?” Then he said, “There remains yet the youngest, and there he is, keeping the sheep.” And Samuel said to Jesse, “Send and bring him. For we will not sit down till he comes here.” So he sent and brought him in. Now he was ruddy, with bright eyes, and good-looking. And the Lord said, “Arise, anoint him; for this is the one!” Then Samuel took the horn of oil and anointed him in the midst of his brothers; and the Spirit of the Lord came upon David from that day forward. So Samuel arose and went to Ramah. (1 Samuel 16:1-13)
God looks at the heart. I wonder what that must look like? Can you imagine looking at the people in your life around you and being able to see deep into their spirit? Imagine seeing more than their outward appearance? What would it be like to be able to see into the heart of the people we encounter each day?
We will never have that opportunity but it is a question and a desire that should guide us in the way we interact with others. The fact is, there is always significantly more going on in a person’s spirit than what we will experience in our encounters with them. The important thing is not that we somehow magically conjure up the ability to look into their soul, but that we stay closely connected with the Holy Spirit who can guide us according to God’s knowledge of the heart. That is, it is enough that God looks at the heart so long as he also guides and directs us to respond to our neighbor accordingly.
I heard the story of a person who was taking a late-night subway home from work. Exhausted, he looked forward to a quiet journey where he could collect his thoughts and consider the events that day. To his deep frustration there was a young man on the subway with two small children about three and five years of age. The two boys were completely out of control, running up and down the aisle, slugging each other and yelling at the top of their voices. Rather than discipline them, the young father sat emotionless, staring out the window as if in a fog.
After tolerating the noise and disruption for about half of the subway trip, my friend had finally had enough. He got the man’s attention and asked him quite sharply, “could you please control your children and show them a little discipline?” The young father looked surprised and, as if coming out of a trance, realized what his boys were doing. He immediately called them over and told them to sit and be quiet. They obeyed. He then looked up at the man and said, “I’m sorry, they are a little out of control. We've just come from the hospital. My wife passed away today, and I guess they just don’t know how to deal with the grief of losing their mother. I apologize, I’ll do my best to keep them quiet.”
As you can imagine, the man was dumbfounded and deeply regretted his insensitivity. All he could see was an irresponsible father and two ill-mannered kids. Once he received this news, his heart nearly broke with compassion. Before the ride was over he engaged the young man and was able to pray for him and share his deep sorrow for his loss.
What kind of baggage are the people around you carrying through life today? Are you willing to let the Holy Spirit guide you so that you are ready to minister whenever you are needed, despite the external evidence?
Today you will encounter a number of people whose hearts are heavy, discouraged, despairing, hopeless and desperately in need of a word of grace, encouragement and hope. Open your heart and ask God to make you sensitive to things you cannot see. Commit yourself today to look, really look at the people you encounter. For each one say a quick silent prayer, “Lord is there an opportunity to minister to this person today?” See how many divine opportunities God brings your way if you are willing to look past the externalities and, with the mind of Christ, look at the heart.
Lord of all creation, it is so easy for me to go through life treating people only according to what I see. I make judgments too hastily, live with false assumptions, and allow the busyness of my day to rush me past people desperately in need of a word of hope. Lord, create in me an open and sensitive spirit that I may not miss an opportunity today to minister in your name. I know that this prayer will likely bring disruption and inconvenience into my life. Give me the grace and the faith to set aside my agenda that I might embrace your vision for my life. Please Lord, don’t let me miss an opportunity to love my neighbor. Overwhelm my spirit with your spirit, give me your eyes and your mind but I may be ready to be your hands and feet in this world, even in places I may not expect. I’m here, Lord, use me today. In Jesus’ name. Amen.