"When they came, he looked on Eliab and thought, "Surely the Lord 's anointed is before him." But the Lord said to Samuel, "Do not look on his appearance or on the height of his stature, because I have rejected him. For the Lord sees not as man sees: man looks on the outward appearance, but the Lord looks on the heart."
1 Samuel 16:6-7
We are constantly judging people by what we see; we really have no other basis for making a judgment call since we can’t see people’s hearts. Sometimes we don’t even take the time to look very hard; we just make our judgment of a person’s character on the basis of a glance at their clothes, their skin color, the car they drive, their haircut. That’s called prejudice: pre-judging someone's character and motives after a cursory glimpse of outward appearances. It’s not a good thing.
But God looks on the heart. When God makes a judgment it’s based on His full knowledge of what’s going on in the secret place of the heart, what happens behind closed doors where no one else can see, and on His insight to our motives and our innermost thoughts and desires. That makes for a completely impartial judge, but it also means “there is nothing hidden from the eyes of Him with whom we have to do.”
We might as well be honest with Him and admit our sinful thoughts and secret sins, because He already knows it all anyway. We might even successfully deceive ourselves sometimes, but never Him.
That would be a terrifying thought if we didn’t know that the same Judge who sees everything and knows everything is also our merciful Savior and Friend, who already paid the price of our sin and now intercedes for us.
"Who is to condemn? Christ Jesus is the one who died—more than that, who was raised—who is at the right hand of God, who indeed is interceding for us."
Aren’t you glad that people can’t see what’s going on your heart? Aren’t you glad you can’t see what goes on in their hearts? We aren’t nearly so forgiving as God, and neither are they.
It would be good for us to bear in mind that since we aren’t able to see people’s hearts it’s better to leave the judgment of people’s motives to God, who not only knows everything but is merciful and forgiving, just as we would like them to refrain from judging our hearts without really knowing us.
Lord, thank you for forgiving what You see in my heart, for Jesus’ sake. Help me to stop looking at outward appearances and assuming I know what’s in other people’s hearts. Give me the grace to see other people the way that You see them. Fill my heart with the attitude of your heart. Amen.
Pastor Dan Giles