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God sees the heart, shouldn't we?

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Read 1 Samuel 16:1-13

Being a grandfather has given me the chance to relive some childhood stories and music. I think I can even put a sermon to the tune of Wheels on the Bus.

The People on the Bus say, God loves you, God loves you, God loves you.

The People on the Bus say, God loves you all day long.

The People on the Bus try to love one another, love one another, love one another.

The People on the Bus try to love one another all day long.

Except for when all the seats are gone, seats are gone, seats are gone.

Except for when all the seats are gone, then it’s an eye for an eye.

Little did I know until I listened to my granddaughter tell the story of The Three Bears that it had changed somewhat.

It is not all soup, chairs, and beds. There is other stuff to be compared, but in the end, only one turns out to be just right.

Papa Bear posted too many hunting pictures on his page. Mama Bear didn’t post enough pictures of her grandkids on her page.

But Baby Bear’s page was just right.

There is always one that is just right.

When we buy a car or a house, we normally look at several before we make our decision. We may not get everything that we want, but we have our lists of expectations and try to see how close we can get to just right.

We have some criteria that we want to apply to make sure we get the right one. We want to get a car or a house or a pet from the shelter that is just right.

And in the process, we pass on several choices and just say, “Oh, no thank you.”

Perhaps, we just say, “Not this one, not that one.”

We can’t always articulate what we are looking for in a house or a car or a pet. Sometimes, you just know it when you see it.

About 10 years ago we went to the shelter to pick out a dog. Our dog of about 10 years had died a few months earlier and it was time for another dog. We knew that whatever we picked would be different, but we knew what we were looking for even if we couldn’t write out our specifications.

And so we finally came upon this little brown dog that seemed to be attracted to us. It seemed sweet. It seemed loveable. It seemed like it could become a part of the family.

It was hard to tell if the dog was a boy or a girl from the outside of the cage. The keeper said it was a boy. Well, we didn’t want to be in the puppy business, so that was a plus.

We really wanted a dog that was house broken, and the keeper said he was pretty sure this one was.

So we petted the dog and it seemed to be a loveable dog.

So we paid the fee, took our dog straight to the vet to get shots. That was the first time that we had a close inspection of the animal and he was not a he.

Oh well, we would take care of the puppy issue later.

When we got home we quickly found out that she was not house trained.

We also discovered that she shed her hair all the time. In the course of a week there was enough dog hair in our vacuum to make 3 more dogs.

Over the course of the next few months we determined that our new acquisition had probably lived on the streets for a year or two before being captured and confined.

She had probably belonged to a gang in her youth for she surely tagged many places in our home with different signs.

Looking back, I wonder how did we pass on so many and get this psychologically damaged dog?

There were plenty of dogs in the pound. How did we get this jewel?

Then I realized that we had not passed by other dogs thinking, “Not this one” or “Not that one.” Sierra, that’s her name, at least officially—I sometimes have other names for her—had let others prospective owners pass by thinking, “Not those people.”

She decided on us. If she could just get us to take her home, then she could quit pretending to be a sweet dog.

All the while, we thought we were doing the choosing.

We thought we were looking for the one that is just right. Sometimes we don’t see the whole story.

God’s people wanted a king.

They had done just fine for over 400 years without one.

Moses was their leader for 40 years.

Joshua took the mantle of leadership into the Promised Land and then there was a time of judges. After Joshua there was a time of tribal or community leadership for the most part.

But the nations that surrounded God’s Chosen People had kings and large armies and the people thought that the only way they could survive is if they had a king as well.

And so the people came to the Prophet Samuel and asked for a king. Samuel’s sons were not worthy to succeed him but still Samuel was upset that the people wanted a king.

Samuel went to God and God told him that he was the one who should be upset for his own people were rejecting him, but if it was a king they wanted, then they would have a king.

Before this line of kings would be established, God wanted to make sure that the people knew what they had asked for.

Samuel told all the words of the Lord to the people who were asking him for a king. He said, “This is what the king who will reign over you will claim as his rights: He will take your sons and make them serve with his chariots and horses, and they will run in front of his chariots. Some he will assign to be commanders of thousands and commanders of fifties, and others to plow his ground and reap his harvest, and still others to make weapons of war and equipment for his chariots. He will take your daughters to be perfumers and cooks and bakers. He will take the best of your fields and vineyards and olive groves and give them to his attendants. He will take a tenth of your grain and of your vintage and give it to his officials and attendants. Your male and female servants and the best of your cattle and donkeys he will take for his own use. He will take a tenth of your flocks, and you yourselves will become his slaves. When that day comes, you will cry out for relief from the king you have chosen, but the Lord will not answer you in that day.”

1 Samuel 8

And after hearing all of this, the people said, “Give us a king. You betcha. We will take the king and all the baggage that goes with him. You betcha.”

Had I know what I was getting into at the animal shelter 10 years ago, I am not sure I would have made the same decision.

Had the keeper said:

· This is essentially a wild dog that we have in a cage.

· Anything in your house will appear to be a bathroom.

· She will jump over fences and bolt through the front door for no reason at all.

· She has a special gland that secretes methamphetamines into her system so she will never sit still and not be happy unless she is driving you crazy.

· She will shed more hair than a dog five times her size. Plan to buy a new vacuum cleaner every three months.

Who knows what I would have done. We still have the dog. In fact we are taking her to a groomer tomorrow. We know in advance that we can never take her there again, but at least this year I won’t have to shave her for the summer.

God told his people that if they had a king, he would:

· Conscript their sons into military service and send them into battle.

· Some will be made to make weapons and armor for battle.

· Some will just be manual labor for the king.

· If you grow it or raise it or make it, the king will take some of it to use as he pleases.

· And the girls don’t get off the hook. If they are good looking or can cook or can’t do anything but the king wants them in his court, he shall have them.

· Essentially, you will go back to being slaves. You were slaves for 400 years 400 years ago and that’s where you will be again if you really want a king.

In all fairness, the people would get a return on their investment. In return they would get a king that they wish they never had and they will be stuck with kings and God just won’t listen to their whining on this subject.

And the people said, “OK. That works for us.”

And so Samuel would anoint Israel’s first king. He had all of the qualifications of a king. He was taller than everyone else and came from a family that had donkeys.

I don’t know that the qualifications for political leadership have changed too much in the past 3000 years.

Saul became the king.

Saul won some battles.

Saul was not a man after God’s own heart.

God’s favor was withdrawn from Saul.

The people would need a new king.

Saul would continue as king for a while, but his successor would be selected now.

So God sent the Prophet Samuel to the City of Bethlehem. He was to meet with Jesse and anoint one of his sons.

Now Samuel had not been to see Saul since he told Saul that God’s favor was no longer upon him. Saul had rejected God’s word and God had rejected Saul as king. Those were pretty much the parting words between these two men, though Samuel did stay long enough for this king without favor to worship the Lord once more with the prophet.

So when Samuel arrived in Bethlehem he was greeted rather tenuously. The elders of the town wanted to know if he came in peace. He said he had come to make a sacrifice and told the local leaders to get cleaned up and join him, and oh by the way, have Jesse and his sons get cleaned up and join them as well.

The sacrifice was how God set aside Samuel’s fears. Samuel was concerned that Saul would have him killed, especially, if he had come to confront him again. The fact that he had come to anoint the next king would not go over well either.

So the sacrifice was the cover story but also made an appropriate gathering to anoint a new king.

And in came Jesse and his sons. The first son to present himself was Eliab. Samuel must have thought, “Well this will be an easy task. This son is a fine specimen.”

But God had other plans. God said, “Not this one.”

And then came Abinadab but God said, “Not this one.”

And then Shamah, but no, he was not the one either.

So all of Jesse’s sons that had accompanied him to this gathering were rejected by God.

God didn’t tell Samuel, “This one is too big or too small,” or “This one is too hot or too cold.”

But the Lord said to Samuel, “Do not consider his appearance or his height, for I have rejected him. The Lord does not look at the things people look at. People look at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.”

1 Samuel 16:7

So Samuel is out of prospects and he asks Jesse, “You got any more sons.”

To which he replies, “Just my youngest, David. Somebody had to stay with the sheep.”

Samuel fires back, “I just got 7 no answers from God. Go get this kid.”

And David arrives. He is described as flush full of color—ruddy if you will—a healthy sort of muscle tone to him. He was handsome. He had a fine appearance. He may not have been dad’s first pick but he was God’s only selection that day.

God told Samuel, “Anoint this one.”

God wanted a man after his own heart. He found this man in David, son of Jesse.

Why did Israel have to go throw Saul to get to David?

That is an interesting question. Perhaps so they could experience all the things that God had promised in a king.

And while there was nothing wrong with David’s appearance—he was by all means a somewhat handsome man; God rejected his brothers and selected David based upon his heart.

People Magazine.

Esquire.

Cosmopolitan.

Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Edition

These are publications that rely a whole bunch on appearance.

Actors and actresses like to see themselves on the cover of magazines but only the ones where they get to put their best side forward.

I enjoyed sharing the Good News on the Hour of Power radio broadcast for a few years before it also became a webcast.

I enjoyed it more when it was only radio. I just wanted to bring my message and not worry if I had thrown on a shave or not.

We live in a world where people want to see things. We are visually stimulated. Sometimes we are visually over stimulated.

But that is our human nature. We want to see all that we can, take in the beauty, take in the oddity, experience the uniqueness of a landscape or a sports contest or a traffic accident.

We look at what is on the outside. And that is not entirely our fault. God did not equip us with X-Ray Vision.

God looks at the heart. God looks at this mysterious thing that constitutes our being.

Now I have been knocked out on an operating table while the heart surgeon ran his camera up my femoral artery and had a look at my heart.

When I sobered up from whatever they used to put me out, the doctor said, “You have large arteries and they are very clean. Oh by the way, your heart is doing just fine.”

I think that business must have been slow for the doctor when he signed me up for the procedure. I could have taken my wife to another cruise to Mexico for what I paid after the insurance, but the doctor thought he needed a look at my heart.

But we know this is not the heart that God looks at. We know what the prophet meant when he said heart. We still use this description today for soul, constitution, being, makeup, character and so many other qualities that just need to be rolled up into a single word.

That word is heart.

God looks at the heart.

The world might look at a scar or a birth mark or a haircut or the clothes that you wear.

God looks at the heart.

The world rates beauty on a scale. She is a 8 or a 10.

God looks at the heart.

Companies want to see resumes and portfolios.

God looks at the heart.

We look at the cars people drive.

God looks at the heart.

OK, in Oklahoma we look at the tractors and the F350 trucks people drive.

God looks at the heart.

God looks at the heart.

In the mid 1970’s I was at Owen Field in Norman, Oklahoma. A couple of my friends had student tickets to the Bedlam Game and as one of them had a job in the press box, he didn’t need to use his. I was the only OSU guy in my section.

That is to say that I was living it up because the Cowboys were taking it to the Sooners. My friend sitting next to me said, “I can’t believe you guys might beat us.”

These were the years when the Sooners racked up some championships and on this day the Cowboys were putting a whooping on them.

OSU had to punt and got off a good kick.

Joe Washington, five foot ten inches Joe Washington, fielded the punt and immediately 10 Cowboys converged on him. Yes! This was going to be the game of games in taking the Sooners down on their own field.

Then in an instant, out of this mass or orange and white, popped little Joe Washington who ran unimpeded to the end zone.

To look at this guy, you might say, “His mom and dad should keep him at home so he doesn’t get hurt.”

In that little five foot ten inch frame was the heart of a champion.

I got a glimpse of that heart for a few moments on a fall day almost 40 years ago.

Sometimes we misjudge the outward appearance.

We are cautioned not to judge a book by its cover, but people buy books with attractive covers.

Sometimes we see little Joe Washington pop out of the mass of orange humanity and run for a touchdown.

At other times we see the outward appearance and don’t know what is going on inside. We don’t know the heart of the person.

But we are God’s children and he wants us to have eyes to see.

God looks at the heart.

We are God’s children and he wants us to have eyes to see.

The Pharisees thought they had eyes to see, but Jesus called them blind.

They knew all the rules and could see who walked too far on the Sabbath, but they were blind to the heart of a loving God.

They only knew what they read and saw. The scriptures should have helped them to have eyes to see, but still they did not see.

How can we be different?

How do we see the heart of a person?

How can we see the heart of a person?

What must we do to see the heart of another person?

Because of our limitations, we can’t do this at a glance.

We can’t just look and know.

Sometimes we think that we can, but we can’t.

We can come to know the heart of a person, but we must walk with them and talk with them and work with them and treat them as our brothers and sisters.

This cannot be a transactional thing. We make transactions with vending machines.

But we need to come to know the people that cross our paths.

God looks at the heart. So should we.

It takes a little more deliberate effort on our part. But if our Father has eyes to see the heart of a person, shouldn’t that be what we strive for as well, not to get hung up on appearances but to see the heart.

It is a very tough thing to do. We are programmed to make decisions upon what we see and hear, but if we can’t see the heart, then we might just say, “Not this one” to the wrong person.

What I am talking about is a tough thing. It is to get to know the people in our lives, especially the ones that we want to know the least.

God sees the heart.

In David, the youngest son left to tend the sheep, God found a man after his own heart and Samuel anointed him as king.

God sees the heart.

It was God’s business to see the heart of this young boy who would be king.

But we are called according to God’s purpose. We don’t need to see the heart so we can choose a king.

We are not king-makers. We have our King.

We need to see the heart so we can minister.

We need to see the heart of a person so we can encourage them to use their God-given gifts for the glory of God.

We need to see the heart if we are to be a part of the healing in so many painful lives.

We need to see the heart because that is where we will find the image of God.

We are made in the image of God, but we look so different.

We need to see the heart.

Haircuts and hairspray, low-cut blouses and high hemlines, logos and designer clothing, suntans and sunglasses, shiny cars and fancy phones all appeal to our visual nature.

We have lived our lives looking at what is one the outside.

Our Father looks at what is on the inside.

We could just leave it at that; except, we are his children and we are to take his light, love, and salvation into the world.

Shouldn’t we strive to see as he sees?

Let us make a real effort this week to see beyond what is on the outside and see as God sees.

Let’s do our best to reach the heart of those around us.

God looks at the heart.

Let us strive to see one another as he sees us.

Amen.

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