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Author:Rev. Ted Gray
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Congregation:First United Reformed Church
 Oak Lawn, Illinois
 www.oaklawnurc.org/
 
Title:The Lord Looks at the Heart
Text:1 Samuel 16:7 (View)
Occasion:Regular Sunday
Topic:Life in Christ
 
Preached:2012
Added:2020-12-30
Updated:2021-01-12
 

Order Of Worship (Liturgy)

409 - Rejoice, Ye Pure in Heart

RR - Psalm 139  (Page 974)

290:1-2, 4-5  - O Lord, My Inmost Heart and Thought

288:1-3 - Lord, Thou Hast Searched Me

397 (Red) - Search Me, O God

Dox: 326:1-2 -  Savior, Again to Thy Dear Name                                 

Scripture:  1 Samuel 16:1-23 

                                         

* As a matter of courtesy please advise Rev. Ted Gray, if you plan to use this sermon in a worship service.   Thank-you.


Pastor Ted Gray
08/05/2012            
“The Lord Looks at the Heart”
1 Samuel 16:1-23
 
More has been written about David than any other person in the Bible except for “the greater David,” Jesus Christ.  Some 66 chapters of the Old Testament record David’s life; most of the Psalms were written by David, and in the New Testament there are 59 different references to David.
 
I suppose that it is understandable.  David was truly remarkable, so remarkable that Scripture says of him, not once but twice, that he was man after God’s own heart (1 Sam 13:14; Acts 13:22). And yet when I mention the name “David”, many of you probably immediately think, “Bathsheba.”  After all, David is well known for his carefully engineered plot to kill Bathsheba’s husband, Uriah, in an effort to cover the adulterous affair he had with her.
 
In addition, he sinned greatly when he counted the troops, when he took a census, apparently to measure his might by the number of soldiers.  He also had a turbulent family life that brought great grief to him and so many others.  His kingship itself was bloody, with coup after coup.  So much blood was shed by David, as a military leader and as a king, that he was denied the desire he had to build the temple.
 
But we also read about his adoration and love for the Lord. He wrote many of the Psalms; seventy three are directly attributed to David and the New Testament references two other Psalms to him. The Psalms he wrote extol God’s greatness both in creation and sovereign rule, and they extol His grace, mercy and love. Also, in the Psalms, David often acknowledged his sin and the need for the forgiveness that only God can give.
 
There are so many facets to David’s life that it is little wonder that more is written about him than any other person beside Jesus. But whenever we look at those chapters, and the corresponding Psalms in their historical context, our focus is not to be on David, but on God. The Bible always takes us beyond the human to the divine.  We read about David, but we are really reading about the work of God displayed in the events of his life. And in those events we see a foreshadow of “the greater David”, Jesus Christ.
 
We see that already in this 16th chapter of first Samuel, the chapter which introduces David to us. In the verses we read this evening we see a number of truths, not just about David, but about God. As the chapter opens we see in the first verse already that God is the One who chooses who will reign: “The Lord said to Samuel, ‘How long will you grieve over Saul, since I have rejected him from being king over Israel? Fill your horn with oil, and go. I will send you to Jesse the Bethlehemite, for I have provided for myself a king among his sons.’”
     
It should be comforting to us to know that God, now as then, rules over the earthly powers that we see. We live in turbulent times that often don’t make sense to us.  But the same was true in David’s timeframe, around 1000 years before the birth of Jesus.
 
The nation of Israel, in which David lived, had been ruled by judges after being brought into the promised land of Canaan.  That period in her history was marked by corruption, immorality and false religion as the book of Judges describes.  Samuel and his sons were the last of the judges.  The people had come to Samuel and asked to be like the other nations. They wanted a king. 
 
In asking for a king the people were rejecting the Lord and seeking to be like all the other nations around them. The Lord said to Samuel, in 1 Samuel 8:7-8: “Listen to all that the people are saying to you; it is not you they have rejected, but they have rejected Me as their king. As they have done from the day I brought them up out of Egypt until this day, forsaking Me and serving other gods, so they are doing to you.”
 
The Lord responded by giving them what they wanted, a king, and He gave them someone who initially seemed to be the perfect political candidate. Saul was chosen. He had a “kingly appearance”; he was a head taller than all the other men. Initially he seemed humble and godly, but inside he was anything but godly.  In the previous chapter Saul had sunk to a new low.  He offered a burnt offering instead of waiting for Samuel to make that offering. That was the last straw as the Lord sent Samuel to Saul saying, “The Lord has torn the kingdom of Israel from you today and has given it to one of your neighbors, to one better than you.” (1 Sam. 15:28)
 
As we see the favor of the Lord leaving the kingship of Saul, and as we read about the anointing of David, we are reminded that God always has, is now, and always will be sovereign over the kingdoms of men.  Romans 13:1 teaches us that there is no authority except that which God has established. And the Lord declares, in Proverbs 8:15-16: “By Me kings reign and rulers make laws that are just; by Me princes govern, and all nobles who rule on earth.”
 
The nations may be in an uproar, but God is yet in control, working His plan.
 
He Who Searches Hearts
       
The second truth that we see about the Lord in this passage is that God looks at the heart, not the outward appearance. By contrast we are conditioned to look at the external rather than the internal.  Yet, because we “judge a book by its cover” we often lead ourselves astray.  If it could happen to Samuel, the prophet of the Lord, it can certainly happen to you and to me.
 
I once worked for a sales manager who frequently said to his staff and to clients, “I can’t read your heart...”  It is true that we cannot completely know another person’s heart; we are often surprised when we see, by the Spirit’s conviction, just where our own heart is. But God knows us completely, just as we read (responsively) in Psalm 139.  There are no secrets with God.  2 Chronicles 16:9 reminds us that “the eyes of the Lord range throughout the earth to strengthen those whose hearts are fully committed to Him...” 
 
As the Lord examines hearts, he looks for what he, by His Spirit, has put in the heart of His people. By nature, our hearts are dark and deceptive, but God, in immeasurable grace, gives His people a new heart.  Ezekiel 36:26-28 gives this promise of the Lord: “I will give you a new heart, and a new spirit I will put within you. And I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh. And I will put My Spirit within you, and cause you to walk in My statutes and be careful to obey My rules.  You shall dwell in the land that I gave to your fathers, and you shall be My people, and I will be your God.” 
 
The Lord always looks beyond the external. In the words of 1 Thessalonians 2:4 God “tests our heart.” The Lord tested Saul’s heart and found it lacking; He tested David’s heart knowing that it was a heart in which God Himself had instilled His grace.
 
A third truth we see about God in this passage is that He empowers His people and allows temporal as well as eternal judgments on those who reject Him.
 
The task that David was anointed for was an incredibly hard task. It would take a training period in the school of hard knocks as David would experience Saul’s jealousy and wrath.  It was a task that would call for patience, wisdom, and military savvy, all challenges that would be enormous for anyone, and perhaps especially for one who grew up being a shepherd.
 
Consider how the media today would have a field day in vetting David. They would find him totally unqualified. But God not only had David anointed for this extremely hard task, but also promised him the power of His Spirit. 
 
And the same is true for us today.  God still empowers His people by His Spirit for whatever tasks or hardships come their way. As the Lord said to Zechariah, in Zechariah 4:6 “...Not by might nor by power, but by my Spirit,’ says the LORD Almighty.” Whenever a task is put before us, including the most intimidating ones, we are to echo the words of the apostle Paul in Philippians 4:13, “I can do all things through Him who strengthens me.”
 
Much has been written about the Spirit being given to David and taken from Saul, as verse 14 records. Those who believe that you can lose your salvation love to point to verse 14 and say, “There’s proof that you can lose your salvation.”
 
However, these verses are not describing the Holy Spirit’s special work in regeneration, but the Holy Spirit’s general operations in the work of equipping people for service.  David would need that extra measure of wisdom and strength to govern Israel. That wisdom and strength came not from himself, but from the Spirit’s work within him.  Saul had also been anointed by Samuel, and was given that spiritual anointing, not with saving grace, but with the presence of the Spirit in a degree of wisdom to govern the people.
 
Also, much has been written about the evil spirit that plagued Saul. Verse 14 describes how “the Spirit of the Lord departed from Saul, and a harmful spirit from the Lord tormented him.” Many people question why an evil spirit is described as coming from the Lord. Although God does not do anything evil, He does allow evil to be used for His own purposes.  For instance, He allowed an evil spirit in Joseph’s brothers to cause them in jealousy to sell Joseph to the Ishmaelites. But as Joseph would later tell his brothers, “You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good” (Gen. 50:20).
 
In much the same way, the evil spirit that God allowed to inflict Saul was used by the Lord to weave His sovereign plan in bringing David to be king. But before becoming king of Israel David would undergo many trials and hardships. Those trials and hardships – like ours – shaped him and molded him, and caused him to rely solely on the Lord.
 
David’s trials and hardships were also a foreshadow of the life of Jesus. The life of Jesus is graphically described in Isaiah 53:3: He was despised and rejected by men, a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief; and as one from whom men hide their faces He was despised, and we esteemed him not.”
 
Likewise, the author of Hebrews describes the great suffering of Jesus in many passages. And he makes this astounding statement: “For it was fitting that He, for whom and by whom all things exist, in bringing many sons to glory, should make the founder of their salvation perfect through suffering.” (Hebrews 2:10).  ­He who is eternally perfect, was yet “perfected” by His suffering on earth.
 
How is that possible? In what way was Jesus perfected by suffering? One way is that by suffering as a truly human person, Jesus became the faithful and sympathetic High Priest whom the author of Hebrews extolls. He points out: “For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin. Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.” (Hebrews 4:15-16). Jesus is our perfect intercessor because He perfectly knows the hardships, pain, and temptation of being human. He knows what it is like to be in your shoes and in mine.
 
Just as trials shaped and molded David, so also trials and hardships shape and mold us after the likeness of Christ. After describing how we are justified by faith and have peace with God through the redeeming work of Jesus Christ, the apostle Paul writes, in Romans 5:2-5: “…We rejoice in hope of the glory of God.  Not only that, but we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God's love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.”
 
Peter points to the same truth (1 Peter 1:6,7) as does James and many other writers of Scripture, including the Psalmist who declares in Psalm 119:67, “Before I was afflicted I went astray, but now I keep Your word.” And again, in Psalm 119:71: “It is good for me that I was afflicted, that I might learn Your statutes.”
 
The Mirror Revealing the Heart
 
Although the anointing of David occurred some 1000 years before the birth of Christ, this passage is filled with applications for our lives today, including first, that we are to make every effort to look beneath the surface, to the heart. The best indication of the heart is found by a person’s actions and words.
 
While there is a certain amount of truth in what my former sales manager said, when he would so sincerely say, “I can’t read what’s in your heart”, it is also true that actions and words convey quite clearly what is in a person.  Jesus says, in Matthew 15:19, “For out of the heart come evil thoughts, murder, adultery, sexual immorality, theft, false testimony, and slander.”
 
Our actions, and the actions of others, do convey what is in the heart. While we do not have the perfect vision of our Lord, we do have spiritual eyes which give us discernment in knowing what lies beneath the surface. In Luke 6:45 Jesus says, “The good man brings good things out of the good stored up in his heart, and the evil man brings evil things out of the evil stored up in his heart. For out of the overflow of the heart the mouth speaks.”  A person’s heart – including yours and mine – is revealed to a significant degree by our words and our actions.
 
The reason why our words and actions reflect what is in our heart, is because they reveal the influence of God’s word in our life, “for the word of God is living and active. Sharper than any double edged sword, it penetrates, even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart.” (Hebrews 4:12)
 
Consider how James describes the foolishness of someone who listens to God’s word but doesn’t put it into action. He says it is like a man looking into a mirror, and then forgetting what he looks like. And the Holy Spirit, through James, gives this warning: “Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says.”  (James 1:22)
 
God’s Sovereign Rule
 
A second application is that there is great comfort in knowing the Sovereign hand of God is in the rule of individual lives, nations, and the entire cosmos.
     
In this chapter we see where individual lives are guided by the Lord for His own purposes.  In doing so, it reminds us that God also guides our individual lives. When David entered Saul’s service he certainly had no idea of the misery that would come to him because of Saul.  David would be on the run, running for his very life from the man that the Lord’s providence had brought him to minister to.
 
At times it made no sense to David, and we see that in some of the sorrowful Psalms that he wrote. But many times, God’s providence in our lives doesn’t seem to make sense either.  Why does He allow a breadwinner, supporting a family, to lose his job and ability to provide?  Why does He allow sickness or an accident that changes a life in a millisecond?  For that matter, why does He allow, at times, young people, in the prime of life, to be snatched away in sudden death?
 
We don’t know the answer to life’s questions, but we know that God is sovereign in the rule of individual lives, in the rule of whole nations, indeed, He is sovereign in the rule of the entire cosmos. And that should give us great encouragement in all the sorrows of life that every person faces.           
 
The same is true when we look at our nation. Those of us who are old enough to remember some of the better years in our national history are saddened and surprised at how quickly and radically our nation has changed from what she once was. But this, too, is in God’s sovereign hand.  He is the one who chose Saul, He is the one who chose David; He is the One who has established the powers that exists. 
 
And that should give us comfort, even in the unsettling events of our nation and the nations of the world, for “The king’s heart is a stream of water in the hand of the LORD; He turns it wherever He will (Prov. 21:1). And “Let every person be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those that exist have been instituted by God.” (Rom. 13:1)
 
The same is true for every other aspect of life.  God reigns over all.  Psalm 103:19 exclaims: “The Lord has established His throne in heaven; His kingdom rules over all.”  As the Lord said to Isaiah, “Heaven is My throne and earth is My footstool.” (Isa. 66:1-2; Acts 7:49-50) 
 
Events may not make sense to us – whether in our national life, individual lives or the events of the world – but this passage reminds us that God is sovereign over all events, and we can rest our cares in that certain knowledge.  
   
The Heart Cleansed by Precious Blood
 
A third application is that since God looks at our heart we must also examine ourselves and seek the cleansing of “the greater David,” Jesus Christ.
 
Although David is called a man after God’s own heart, his heart was often far from God. He had a conflicted heart.  Sin divided his heart keeping him from always being the person God desired him to be and he desired to be.
 
The same thing happens to us, doesn’t it?  We find that Jeremiah 17:9 gives an all too accurate description of ourselves when it declares, “the heart is deceitful above all things and desperately wicked; who can know it?”  The more we mature in our faith, the more sin we see in our lives.  We realize that although we are justified by faith in Christ, saved from our sin, we are yet sinners, and the depth of the sin in our heart surprises and saddens us.
 
Our sin is so deep and pervasive that we cannot measure its depth. When we see the enormity of our sin, including that we often neglect to do the good that we should do but instead do the evil that we should not do, we call out, as the apostle Paul did in Romans 7, “Wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death?  Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord!” (Rom. 7:24-25a).
 
It is only through saving faith in Christ, and His shed blood, that we are cleansed from our sin, purified, and presented spotless and without blame before our triune God, for “God presented Christ as a sacrifice of atonement, through the shedding of His blood – (propitiation) – to be received by faith.” (Rom. 3:25a)
 
Any Christian who honestly examines themself cannot help but see that issues of a sinful heart are issues in their lives, whether immoral thoughts, jealousy, greed, or words that cut and injure and swear. All these are heart problems.  No wonder Proverbs 4:23 tells us, “Above all else, guard your heart, for it is the wellspring of life.”
 
And as we guard our heart, we also are to ask for the cleansing of our heart that only God can provide, that cleansing which comes through faith in the greater David, Jesus Christ.  As we see the sin in our own heart we need to pray as David did, in Psalm 51:10, “Create in me a pure heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me.”
 
Whenever we study David’s life may we see far beyond David, to see more of “the greater David”, Jesus Christ. May we focus with ever increasing faith on the majesty, power and grace of the one true living God whom David wrote about and had faith in.  Amen.
 
 
 
                                       - bulletin outline -
 
 
 
“... The Lord does not look at the things man looks at.  Man looks at the
outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.” - 1 Samuel 16:7
 
                         “The Lord Looks at the Heart
                                     1 Samuel 16:1-23
 
I. In the anointing of David to be king we see that:
    1) God chooses who will reign (1; Proverbs 8:15-16)
 
 
 
    2) God looks at the heart, not the outward appearance (7; 2 Chronicles 16:9;
        1 Thessalonians 2:4d), and it is God who graciously gives His people a
         new, obedient heart (Ezek. 36:26-28)
 
 
 
    3) God empowers His people by His Spirit (13) and allows temporal as well
         as eternal judgments on those who reject Him (14)
 
 
 
II. Applications:
     1) We are to use God’s Word as a mirror, by actively doing what it says
          (Luke 6:45; James 1:22-24; Hebrews 4:12-13)
 
 
 
     2) We can take comfort knowing that the sovereign hand of God rules individual
          lives, nations, and the entire cosmos (Psa. 103:19; Prov 21:1; Rom 13:1)
 
 
 
     3) Since God looks at our heart (7) we must guard and examine ourselves
          (Proverbs 4:23; 2 Cor. 13:5) seeking the cleansing of “the greater David,”
          Jesus Christ (Psalm 51:10; Acts 15:8-9)
 

 

 




* As a matter of courtesy please advise Rev. Ted Gray, if you plan to use this sermon in a worship service.   Thank-you.
(c) Copyright 2012, Rev. Ted Gray

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