To this day, I hold a vivid memory of an event in middle school wherein the Physical Education teacher lined all of the students against the gymnasium wall as he slowly walked by us and evaluated us physically with nothing but a look. Each of us young men folded our arms across our chests so that we could use the backs of our hands to make our biceps appear to be larger than they actually were. That was so “middle-school” of us, but each of us desperately wanted to be declared at least “acceptable” by this harsh evaluator, though in the end, very few of us were. It was a humiliating experience, and another blow to my already-fragile ego.
Making value assessments of others based on outward appearances is a faulty practice at best, and a dangerous one at worst. It is faulty because my external appearance has nothing whatsoever to do with my inner man. It is dangerous, because expressed judgements based on external attributes can have a devastating impact on the sense of self-worth of our target. Just last week, a thirteen-year-old girl in my home town took her own life because her ego had been repeatedly crushed by judgemental peers.
Even the world knows that we ought not “judge a book by its cover,” or a “gift by its wrapping paper,” but those of us in the family of Christ have much deeper insight into why this is true. “And God, who knows the heart, testified to them giving them the Holy Spirit, just as He also did to us.” (Acts 15:8 – NASB) “For who knows a person’s thoughts except the spirit of that person, which is in him?” (1st Corinthians 2:11 – ESV) None of us truly knows what is happening inside another person’s skin. At best, we have external clues, and these clues are not reliable indicators of an individual’s true worth, abilities, intentions, or emotional state.
In 1st Samuel 16, the prophet Samuel is moping about because he knows God has rejected Saul as king over Israel. Following a gentle rebuke, God instructed Samuel to fill his horn with anointing oil, and then sent him to Jesse in Bethlehem to anoint one of Jesse’s sons as the new king, saying “…for I have selected a king for Myself from among his sons.” (1st Samuel 16:1 – NASB)
When Samuel arrived in Bethlehem, he noted Jesse's first-born son, Eliab, and thought that surely he was the one to be anointed of the Lord as king. "Do not look at his appearance or at the height of his stature," God said, "because I have rejected him; for God sees not as man sees, for man looks at the outward appearance, but the LORD looks at the heart." (1st Samuel 16:7 - NASB)
When the people of Israel rejected God as their king, they chose Saul to be an earthly king over them. But God rejected Saul. When Samuel was tasked with anointing a king in Saul”s place, Samuel “chose” Eliab, based on his kingly stature, but God rejected Eliab. God sees life from a vantage point entirely foreign to our own point of view.
After seven sons of Jesse were paraded past Samuel, not one of them was acknowledged by God as the king-to-be. Only David, the youngest of the eight who was out busily tending the sheep – that was the man God had chosen, not for physical attributes, but rather because “I have found David, the son of Jesse, a man after my heart, who will do my will.” (Acts 13:22 – NASB)
Listen again to the words of God to Samuel – take them to heart: “Do not look at his appearance or at the height of his stature, because I have rejected him; for God sees not as man sees, for man looks at the outward appearance, but the LORD looks at the heart.” (1st Samuel 16:7 – NASB)
Victoriously in Christ!