Summary: Man looks at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart. We sometimes base our opinion of someone on the way they look. This is risky, because a person’s appearance has nothing to do with their character.
I buried a friend of mine twelve years ago this June (6/4/09); it was a funeral unlike any I’d ever attended. My friend was a biker. He rode a big loud Harley Davidson motorcycle, wore leathers, a bandana on his head, and had a beard that covered his entire chest. His arms were covered with tattoos, and his sleeveless denim jacket bore a patch on the back that identified him with his club.
There were about 300 people at the memorial service; most were members of the club to which Jimmy belonged. This was a rough-looking crowd. The combination of leather, denim and ink was staggering. I was one of five people dressed in a suit; the other four worked for the funeral parlor. Even the pastor wore jeans, a flannel shirt and cowboy boots. If you saw these people parked at the Dairy Queen, you would lose your craving for an ice cream cone.
I’ve been to biker funerals before, but this one was different. The gang that Jimmy belonged to was the Rolling Saints, a local chapter of Motorcyclists for Jesus Ministries (MJM), a national club for Christian bikers. This biker funeral was held in a church, and though the group didn’t look or dress like we do, they spoke of God’s love as shown to them by “Pappy” (as they knew him). One by one, these rough looking characters came to the microphone and gave glory to God for Jimmy’s life and his role in leading them to Jesus. The bikers weren’t the only ones crying. Jimmy’s favorite Bible verse is printed in your bulletin (1 Sam 16:7), and its reference was tattooed on his forearm. Appearances may be deceiving…
[Man looks at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart. We sometimes base our opinion of someone on the way they look. This is risky, because a person’s appearance has nothing to do with their character. Open your Bible to 1 Samuel 16 as we examine a similar case in the life of Samuel.]
I. APPEARANCES DECEIVE KING SAUL (16:2-3)
1. Chapter sixteen follows God’s rejection of Saul as King of Israel. We don’t know the specific error of Saul’s ways other than that he is disobedient, not seeking (following) God’s direction as he leads the nation.
2. God appointed Saul to be king at the request of the Israelites (8:5-6). Now, he rejects Saul in favor of one he has chosen (16:1), an interesting twist of irony.
3. As the chapter opens, God directs his prophet Samuel to go to the house of Jesse in Bethlehem, where he will anoint one of Jesse’s sons as the new king.
4. Samuel hesitates; if Saul learns of his mission, he will kill him. God has a plan; he tells Samuel to take a heifer with him, and as he passes through Gibeah where Saul lives, he can tell him he is on his way to sacrifice to the Lord; a true, but incomplete statement meant to deceive Saul.
[The biblical writer doesn’t tell us of interaction between Saul and Samuel at this point, so we must assume that it seems Samuel is simply going to Bethlehem to offer a sacrifice; appearances can be deceiving. Man looks at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.]
II. APPEARANCES DECEIVE THE ELDERS IN BETHLEHEM (4-5)
1. When Samuel arrives, the elders in Bethlehem panic, asking, “Do you come in peace”? (4)
A. They may have heard of his recent execution of Agag (king of the Amalekites) (15:32ff).
B. They may believe that Samuel’s coming sacrifice means that they’ve had a murder in their territory. Such a sacrifice often initiates legal proceedings.
2. In either event, the people of Bethlehem tremble at Samuel’s appearance. They don’t know his intention or his mood; they simply assume that his presence means bad news.
3. Have you ever had such an experience? Someone appears at your home or at work, or leaves a message on your answering machine, and for some reason you assume its bad news. You want to avoid interaction because you fear the worst.
[The people of Bethlehem are afraid when they see Samuel. Their perception of him influences their thoughts. Man looks at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart. Samuel falls victim to the same phenomenon. Look at how appearances deceive him. . .]
III. APPEARANCES DECEIVE SAMUEL (6-11)
1. Samuel visits Jesse and invites him to the sacrifice. Jesse arrives with seven of his sons, and as soon as Samuel sees Eliab (the eldest), he is certain that this is the son God will choose to be king. Eliab is “tall, dark and handsome”; the perfect choice for Israel’s new leader!
A. God, however, tells Samuel to ignore Eliab’s appearance, for he rejects him. For the first time, God tells Samuel that he does not look at the things man looks at. Where man looks at the outward appearance, God looks at the heart.