1 Samuel 16:7

Sermon preached on March 8, 2009 by Laurence W. Veinott. © Copyright 2009. All rights reserved. Other sermons can be found at http://www.cantonnewlife.org/.

Quotations are from The Holy Bible: New International Version (NIV). Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984 by International Bible Society. Used by permission of Zondervan Publishing House.

If someone is injured and the paramedics suspect a neck injury, one of the first things they do is immobilize the injured person. They do that to prevent further injury that could lead to the person being paralyzed. Many years ago I had a friend who was paralyzed as the result of a car accident. One rainy night he slid off the road and hit a tree. He didn't think he was hurt badly and he got out of the car and stood by the side of the road and waited for help to arrive. A crowd had gathered he was standing beside some of the people who were there to see what had happened. He said the last thing he remembered before waking up in the hospital was that he looked up at the rain that was falling. He had broken his neck in the accident and that simple act of looking up is what sealed his fate. If they had immobilized his neck—he might not have been paralyzed. But I think that all happened before the paramedics arrived. It's a very sad story.

To the people standing beside him—I'm sure that he looked okay. He didn't even look like he was injured. On the outside, he seemed fine, perhaps a few scratches and bruises. But inside he was severely injured.

Outward appearances can be deceiving. That's often the way that it is. It even happened to Samuel. He was told by God to go to Bethlehem to Jesse and anoint one of his son's to be king over Israel. When Samuel arrived and saw Eliab, he thought,

"Surely the LORD'S anointed
stands here before the LORD."

Eliab was tall and handsome, a very impressive young man. But God said to Samuel,

"Do not consider his appearance or his height,
for I have rejected him.
The LORD does not look at the things man looks at.
Man looks at the outward appearance,
but the LORD looks at the heart."

God looks at the heart. He doesn't look at the outward appearance. Many people are like Eliab—impressive on the outside, but inwardly have many flaws. You'll remember how Eliab rebuked David when he was preparing to fight against Goliath. Saul was like that too. He was an impressive young man who was tall and good looking. It was true of David's son Absalom as well. 2 Samuel 14:25 tells us that,

"In all Israel there was not a man so highly praised
for his handsome appearance as Absalom.
From the top of his head to the sole of his foot
there was no blemish in him."

Yet Absalom killed his brother and attempted to kill his father. His heart was full and evil and hatred.

Outward appearances can be deceiving to us. But they do not deceive God. God looks at the heart. He sees things as they really are. This great truth has great implications for us.

The first is that

God knows your heart and that should be a great incentive for you to be holy.

One of the keys to correct living is to realize that you can keep no secrets from God. He knows everything about you. He knows your inner thoughts and feelings. You can hide nothing from Him. You cannot deceive Him. He is the all-knowing One. He knows your heart.

Some people don't understand this and that makes it easy for them to sin. In Psalm 94:3-11 the Psalmist said,

"How long will the wicked, O LORD,
how long will the wicked be jubilant?
They pour out arrogant words;
all the evildoers are full of boasting.
They crush your people, O LORD;
they oppress your inheritance.
They slay the widow and the alien;
they murder the fatherless.
They say, 'The LORD does not see;
the God of Jacob pays no heed.'"

Those wicked people thought that God did not see what they did. They thought they could hide certain things from Him. That's why thy were so inclined to sin. But God does see. The psalmist continued,

"Take heed, you senseless ones among the people;
you fools, when will you become wise?
Does he who implanted the ear not hear?
Does he who formed the eye not see?
Does he who disciplines nations not punish?
Does he who teaches man lack knowledge?
The LORD knows the thoughts of man;
he knows that they are futile."

God sees everything. He knows us completely. The first 12 verses of Psalm 139 are very revealing in this regard. It shows some of the depth of God's knowledge of us. David wrote,

"O LORD, you have searched me and you know me.
You know when I sit and when I rise;
you perceive my thoughts from afar.
You discern my going out and my lying down;
you are familiar with all my ways.
Before a word is on my tongue
you know it completely, O LORD.
You hem me in—behind and before;
you have laid your hand upon me.
Such knowledge is too wonderful for me,
too lofty for me to attain.
Where can I go from your Spirit?
Where can I flee from your presence?
If I go up to the heavens, you are there;
if I make my bed in the depths, you are there.
If I rise on the wings of the dawn,
if I settle on the far side of the sea,
even there your hand will guide me,
your right hand will hold me fast.
If I say, Surely the darkness will hide me
and the light become night around me,
even the darkness will not be dark to you;
the night will shine like the day,
for darkness is as light to you."

God sees us. As we read in Proverbs 15:3,

"The eyes of the Lord are everywhere,
keeping watch on the wicked and the good."

Psalm 11:4,

"The LORD is in his holy temple;
the LORD is on his heavenly throne.
He observes the sons of men; his eyes examine them."

Psalm 44:20-21,

"If we had forgotten the name of our God
or spread out our hands to a foreign god,
would not God have discovered it,
since he knows the secrets of the heart?"

Knowing that God sees you, in everything you do—ought to keep you from sinning.

No one should ever think,

"The LORD does not see;
the God of Jacob pays no heed."

In Job 24:15 we read,

"The eye of the adulterer watches for dusk;
he thinks, 'No eye will see me,'
and he keeps his face concealed."

So whenever you're tempted to sin you should call to mind that God is watching you. As we read in Proverbs 5:21,

"For a man's ways are in full view of the Lord,
and he examines all his paths."

And Psalm 33:13-15 says,

"From heaven the LORD looks down
and sees all mankind;
from his dwelling place he watches
all who live on earth—
he who forms the hearts of all,
who considers everything they do."

Many people do their evil deeds when it's dark, when they think that no one will see.

A few years ago I went into the prison for a Bible Study on an unusually dark and foggy night. After I signed in I was passing through some of the security gates. Two of them are outdoors. There were several inmates there who were also going through the security gates. I think they were going back to their units after their cleaning jobs in the offices. We went in one gate and the gate closed behind us. They wait until the inner gate is locked before they open the other gate. They usually open the other gate right away, but this night there was a little bit of a delay and we had to wait there a minute or so. We were all waiting there in silence on this dark, dark, foggy night when one of the inmates said,

"What a night for a robbery!"

It was so funny. To think that someone actually thought in those terms surprised me. Most people would think of such a night in negative terms, that we wouldn't want to be out driving or walking on a road on such a night or something like that. But he was thinking in terms of robbery. It was a good night for a robbery was because it was so dark and foggy. It would be hard for anyone to see the robbers who committed a break and entry.

Evil deeds are often associated with darkness. In Isaiah 29:15 we read,

"Woe to those who go to great depths
to hide their plans from the LORD,
who do their work in darkness and think,
'Who sees us? Who will know?'"

Many people seek to hide their sin from other people. They would never show their sin to other people. In front of other people they try to appear and good, upright and proper. It's when it's dark, when they think that no one sees, that they do their evil deeds.

But God sees. God not only sees, but He uses what He sees to make judgments about man and either blesses or punishes men on the basis of that judgment.

As we read in Hebrews 4:13,

"Nothing in all creation
is hidden from God's sight.
Everything is uncovered and laid bare
before the eyes of him
to whom we must give account."

God judges on the basis of what He sees. I've already quoted from Psalm 94, but some lines bear repeating.

Does he who implanted the ear not hear?
Does he who formed the eye not see?
Does he who disciplines nations not punish?

God punishes on the basis of what He sees. So the next time you're tempted to sin, remember that God is watching. What does it matter if you can hide it from other people—God is the One who counts. He sees. He judges us on that basis. That should prevent us from sinning. What an incentive to be holy. Eliab did not become king. David did. God not only sees what's in your heart, but He makes judgments on the basis of it. He uses and blesses those whose hearts are pure. They go on to great and glorious things. That's what happened to David. He went on to defeat Goliath. He want on to become king. He went on to give Israel great victories over the Philistines and many other of Israel's enemies.

Now of course David had many trials and troubles. Saul tried to kill him. He had to flee from Saul and become a fugitive. Even after Saul's death he had to fight for the kingdom. So when I say that God uses and blesses those whose hearts are pure—I don't mean that in earthly terms. Sometimes those who hearts are pure are greatly used by God and yet, from an earthly perspective, they suffer greatly. That was true of the apostle Paul. (Acts 9:15-16) But Paul was greatly blessed in the true meaning of the word. He received the great crown of righteousness at the end of his life. (2 Timothy 4:8) The same was true of righteous Job.

But in the truest sense of the words, God uses and blesses those whose hearts are pure. God chose David because of his heart. God used David. God blessed David. As we read in Psalm 33:18-19

"But the eyes of the LORD
are on those who fear him,
on those whose hope is in his unfailing love,
to deliver them from death
and keep them alive in famine."

Psalm 73:1 says,

"Surely God is good to Israel,
to those who are pure in heart."

And 2 Chronicles 16:9 tells us,

"For the eyes of the LORD
range throughout the earth
to strengthen those whose hearts
are fully committed to him."

There's also a lesson here for those who are pure in heart and yet who aren't yet being used or (it seems) blessed by the Lord. The lesson is:

Be patient.

David was anointed by Samuel to be king. Yet he had to go through many trials and much suffering before he became king. It may be the same with you.

Prisoners, you who love the Lord, be patient. God knows your heart. Keep doing what is good. God knows you're doing it. He will reward you. You will not lose out. He knows everything you do. Be patient. Psalm 27:14 says,

"Wait for the LORD;
be strong and take heart
and wait for the LORD."

God came to David to lift him up to be king. God came to Joseph in prison to exalt him to be Pharaoh's right hand man. God came to Job to exalt Him and bless him greatly. Wait on the Lord. The Lord will reward you. As Jesus said in Matthew 10:42,

"And if anyone gives
even a cup of cold water
to one of these little ones
because he is my disciple,
I tell you the truth,
he will certainly not lose his reward."

All this also means that

you should never be satisfied with a mere external obedience.

If God sees your heart, it's obvious that it's not enough to be pure on the outside. Remember what Jesus said about the Pharisees in Matthew 23:27-28? He said,

"Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees,
you hypocrites!
You are like whitewashed tombs,
which look beautiful on the outside
but on the inside are full of
dead men's bones and everything unclean.
In the same way, on the outside
you appear to people as righteous but on the inside
you are full of hypocrisy and wickedness."

Jesus knew their hearts. He also knows your heart. He sees it clearly.

This means that you need to be pure on the inside. This teaching reminds me of what Jesus said in Matthew 5:8,

"Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God."

There are two common ways in which purity of heart is understood. On the one hand, to have a pure heart means to have a heart that is without hypocrisy. It is single, open, sincere, devoted to one purpose. We see an instance of this in Psalm 86:11 where the psalmist prayed to God,

"give me an undivided heart,
that I may fear your name."

In other words, a pure heart is one in which there is no hypocrisy. There is no division. There is not one part pulling toward sin and the other pulling toward God.

Mackenzie King was a Canadian Prime Minister who led Canada for 22 years from the 1920's to the 1940's. There's a book about him called,
A Very Double Life. It's a very apt title. On the one hand he gave the appearance of a very proper Christian man. But he had another very dark side. He led a double life. He would teach Sunday School in the morning and in the evening he would frequent the red light district and visit brothels. An advertisement for the book says,

"In his diaries, he confessed his uncontrollable passions, his "strollings" at night, and the anguish and guilt that followed."

He didn't have a pure heart. A heart like that is no good. It's divided. We need undivided hearts whose main focus is the glory of God.

But that is not the only meaning of the term 'purity'.

The deeper meaning of purity of heart refers to a heart that is cleansed, a heart that is not defiled but rather is pure.

The only way to get a pure heart is to get it from God. Our natural hearts are corrupt. They are no good. We see this in Ezekiel 36:25-27 God said to the people of Israel.

"I will sprinkle clean water on you,
and you will be clean;
I will cleanse you from all your impurities
and from all your idols.
I will give you a new heart
and put a new spirit in you;
I will remove from you your heart of stone
and give you a heart of flesh.
And I will put my Spirit in you
and move you to follow my decrees
and be careful to keep my laws."

That teaching is similar to what Jesus said to Nicodemus in John 3:3,

"I tell you the truth,
no one can see the kingdom of God
unless he is born again."

We need to be born, from above, from God, from the Spirit. We need God to give us new hearts.

If you're not a Christian, what you should realize from this is that there's no way that you can pass God's examination of your heart. Psalm 14:2 says,

"The LORD looks down from heaven
on the sons of men to see
if there are any who understand,
any who seek God.
All have turned aside,
they have together become corrupt;
there is no one who does good,
not even one."

Or as we read in Romans 3:19-20,

"Now we know that whatever the law says,
it says to those who are under the law,
so that every mouth may be silenced
and the whole world
held accountable to God.
Therefore no one will be declared righteous
in his sight by observing the law;
rather, through the law
we become conscious of sin."

You can change some of your external behavior by yourself. (Or so it seems.) But you can't change your heart. You need Jesus to give you a new heart.

He died in the place of sinners. You need Him to save you. As Peter said in Acts 4:12,

"Salvation is found in no one else,
for there is no other name under heaven
given to men by which we must be saved."

John 3:16

"For God so loved the world
that he gave his one and only Son,
that whoever believes in him
shall not perish but have eternal life."

The last lesson from our text is for those of you who are teens and young adults.

Young people, when you're looking for someone to date or marry, someone to spend your life with, don't just choose merely on the basis of outward appearance.

Now I'm not saying that outward appearance is not a consideration. David, the one that God chose was handsome. Verse 12 says of David,

"He was ruddy,
with a fine appearance
and handsome features."

David had a healthy complexion. He was good looking.

So David wasn't much different than Eliab in terms of outward appearance. He was younger, not as well developed physically, but he was a handsome young man.

But the point is that God did not choose David because of his outward appearance. He chose him because of what was in his heart. God said,

"The LORD does not look at
the things man looks at.
Man looks at the outward appearance,
but the LORD looks at the heart."

Young people, don't be fooled. Don't choose on mere outward appearance. Indeed, the main criteria must be that the one you're dating or marrying be a Christian. (1 Corinthians 7:39, 2 Corinthians 6:14)

In this regard it's interesting that in 1 Peter 3:3-5 Peter gave instructions about beauty and he stressed the need for inner beauty. He wrote,

"Your beauty should not come
from outward adornment,
such as braided hair
and the wearing
of gold jewelry and fine clothes.
Instead, it should be that of your inner self,
the unfading beauty
of a gentle and quiet spirit,
which is of great worth in God's sight."

External beauty is only skin deep. Real beauty is in the heart, a heart that is pure, a heart that loves the Lord. That's what you need to look for.