“The Lord doesn’t see things the way you see them. People judge by outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.” (1 Samuel 16:7)
In today’s Old Testament reading (1 Samuel 16:1-13), the LORD — who has rejected Saul as king over Israel — sends His prophet Samuel to Bethlehem to anoint a new king from among the sons of Jesse. And when Samuel takes one look at the eldest son, Eliab, he thinks to himself, “Surely, this is the Lord’s anointed!” (verse 6) But the LORD cautions Samuel, “Don’t judge by his appearance or height, for I have rejected him. The Lord doesn’t see things the way you see them. People judge by outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.” (verse 7)
The story reminds me of how willingly I base my assessments of others on nothing more than external appearance. Although both experience and God’s Word have given me reason to know better, I often form opinions based on little more than a person’s clothes and hairstyle, or on their tattoos and piercings (or lack thereof). And who knows how many meaningful encounters I’ve missed, simply because I’ve forgotten that God has a way of showing up in people and places that we might not expect to see Him?
Then again, I’m not able to look beyond appearance and to see the heart of others in the way that the Lord can. Some days, I can barely see the truth of what’s going on in my own heart. And perhaps that’s why this story invites me to ask what might be the more important question: When the Lord looks at my heart, what does He see? Does He see a child who trusts Him? A servant who obeys Him? A worshiper who rejoices in Him? A disciple who’s eager to follow Him and become more like Him?
Today, Lord, help me not to look at others through the lens of my all-too-limited biases and judgments; but instead, to leave such evaluations to you, who alone can see the heart. And when you look at my heart, please grant that you will see a reflection of your own heart; so that I, too, can by anointed with your Spirit to serve your purposes, both in me and in the world.