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Man Looks On the Outward, God Looks On the Heart

April 16, 2023 Speaker: Allen Snapp Series: Highlights in 1st Samuel

Topic: Character Passage: 1 Samuel 16:1–6, 1 Samuel 16:11–14

Highlights from 1 Samuel

Allen Snapp

Grace Community Church

April 16, 2023


Man Looks On the Outward, God Looks On the Heart

Let’s pick back up in 1 Sam chapter 16, and this morning we’re going to meet David. Pray.

16 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.

Let’s just pause a moment here because I think it’s worth noting that Samuel has been grieving over Saul. It’s too easy when a high profile Christian leader or someone we know falls in some way for there to be a feeding frenzy of gossip, where we cluck our tongues and criticize and say, I saw it coming. Leaders – especially Christians leaders – need to be held accountable when they sin, but we should mourn more than we do. Mourn for their families. Mourn for those in their church. Mourn for them. And pray.

I will send you to Jesse the Bethlehemite, for I have provided for myself a king among his sons.” And Samuel said, “How can I go? If Saul hears it, he will kill me.” And the Lord said, “Take a heifer with you and say, ‘I have come to sacrifice to the Lord.’ And invite Jesse to the sacrifice, and I will show you what you shall do. And you shall anoint for me him whom I declare to you.” Samuel did what the Lord commanded and came to Bethlehem. The elders of the city came to meet him trembling and said, “Do you come peaceably?” And he said, “Peaceably; I have come to sacrifice to the Lord. Consecrate yourselves, and come with me to the sacrifice.” And he consecrated Jesse and his sons and invited them to the sacrifice.

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 Sam. 16:1-6

Samuel is sent by God to the house of Jesse to anoint the next king and Jesse presents his sons in their birth order to Samuel.When Eliab the firstborn stands before Samuel, Samuel thinks, “break out the oil, this is the guy!” He was big and strong and handsome. King material for sure.

But God says, no, he’s not the one. So Jesse has son #2 stand before Samuel and Samuel hears the Lord say, “not the one I’ve chosen.” Number 3 son, number 4 son, until all seven sons have stood before Samuel but none of them is the one God has chosen to be king.

11 Then Samuel said to Jesse, “Are all your sons here?” And he said, “There remains yet the youngest, but behold, he is keeping the sheep.” And Samuel said to Jesse, “Send and get him, for we will not sit down till he comes here.” 12 And he sent and brought him in. Now he was ruddy and had beautiful eyes and was handsome. And the Lord said, “Arise, anoint him, for this is he.” 13 Then Samuel took the horn of oil and anointed him in the midst of his brothers. And the Spirit of the Lord rushed upon David from that day forward. And Samuel rose up and went to Ramah.

14 Now the Spirit of the Lord departed from Saul, and a harmful spirit from the Lord tormented him. 1 Sam 16:11-14

  1. Man looks on the outward but God looks on the heart

In Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice, as Elizabeth Bennett is starting to realize that she may have misjudged both Darcy and Wickham, she says to her sister, One has got all the goodness and the other all the appearance of it.

We fall for appearances because ultimately that is all we can see. We can’t see into one another’s hearts so we have to judge based on what we see. Now over time we can grow to trust someone’s character based on what we’ve seen as a pattern in their lives and that’s healthy and good, but the truth is there are some who are incredibly good at appearing good – charming and amiable and kind – but inside are something else completely.

Or we think someone is an amazing person because they look all put together or they’re charismatic or they’re achieved great things or whatever – and it’s not that those things are bad or mean they’re not decent people, but it also doesn’t mean they are. We look on the outward cause we have to.

God doesn’t have that problem. God looks on the heart. He sees every impulse of our heart: every desire, every motive, every secret, every hypocrisy, every insecurity, every fear. He sees the noble aspirations to love and be compassionate and caring. And He sees the dark thoughts and unloving impulses.

Eliab was an impressive looking man…on the outside. On the inside we’re going to see clues that he wasn’t such a great guy. He was quick to accuse David, quick to despise David, and quick to quake in fear when a real threat came in the form of Goliath – but I get ahead of the story…

David wasn’t a perfect man, he had his flaws, but as David walked in those quiet fields tending sheep, as he sat on a hill at night watching and protecting the sheep, God examined his heart. He watched as David sang songs of worship and praise to God. He saw the courage and faith that rose up in David when a lion and a bear attacked the sheep and David killed them both with his bare hands. He saw a shepherd’s heart. Let’s come back to that in a few minutes.

It goes deeper than that, of course. God doesn’t just look on our hearts, He wants a relationship with our hearts. He wants to be first in our hearts. He wants our hearts to bend towards Him in faith, trust, love, honesty, confession, obedience.

David didn’t just write worship songs about God, he wrote about my God. On those quiet days and nights as he tended the sheep, he forged a deep and loving relationship with God. God tuned his heart to His in those times, and that would guide him when he became the king of Israel.

Man looks on the outward but God looks on the heart. So let’s walk in the light of honest confession to God. When we say we are Christians but live one way in front of people and another way behind closed doors, we are like the baby who thinks because she puts her hands over her eyes, mom can’t see her.

It’s two years old now, but I spent nearly two hours this week listening to the independent report about Ravi Zacharias and the predatory ways he abused and manipulated women and deceived people so completely. He hid it from people very well, but God saw it all, and now the world sees it.

We are all flawed and imperfect, saved only by the mercies of God, cleansed only by the blood of Christ. But let’s seek to live honest lives transparent with God and honest with people. God sees our hearts anyway, I don’t want to spend my life covering my eyes and saying “peek a boo” to God!

  1. God loves to use people people think are unusable

We’ll learn that David’s brothers despised him as useless for anything other than menial jobs. His father didn’t even offer to call him in from the sheep, what’s the use? He seemed to think, if my older, more impressive sons aren’t good enough to be king, David sure isn’t. He’s the least of the lot. He is unusable to God.

In so many ways David is a foreshadowing of Jesus. Jesus was written off as an uneducated imposter by the religious leaders. They mocked and scorned him as a liar and blasphemer. They had Jesus crucified to rid the world of him. God had Jesus crucified to save the world through him. He was the stone the builders rejected but God said, “that’s my cornerstone!”

God loves to do that with us too. Speaking of Christians, 1 Cor. 1 says God chose the foolish things, the weak things, the lowly things, the despised things, to confound the wise, the strong, the boasting. He chose the things that are not, to nullify the things that are.

The reason God does this is He doesn’t want us boasting about how great we are, he wants us to boast in the Lord. Look what God did! Look at what God can do through the weak, the lowly, the foolish, the despised things.

God wants to use your life to make a difference. To lead that co-worker to faith, to encourage that person who is ready to throw in the towel to keep fighting the good fight, to love that lonely person into the kingdom, to bind up the wounds of the broken-hearted. I don’t know how – that’s between you and God – but He does!

Please get this settled in your heart: you can’t be too small for God to use. You can’t be too weak, too timid, too poor, too ineloquent, too untalented for God to use. We can be too big for God to use but we can’t be too small.

God loves to use the people that people think are unusable.

  1. God uses our unique life experiences to equip us for His service

Jesse said, he’s out in the fields tending the sheep. As in, that pretty much disqualifies him as a candidate for king. Actually God used that season to shape David into the best king who ever lived except for Jesus. So powerful is his legacy that it is said that Jesus will forever sit on the throne of David. Jesus is infinitely greater than David, but God identifies the throne as David’s to honor this imperfect man who had a heart after God’s own heart.

It was as David tended sheep that he learned about leading people. He learned about the heart of God because God is a shepherd.

As David sat on the hill tending the sheep, it came to him: the Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want. He writes in Ps. 100 we are the sheep of His pasture. David realized God takes care of His people like I’m taking care of these sheep. Leading them to food and water, protecting them from danger, chasing after them when they wander. God has the heart of a shepherd. Jesus said “I am the Good Shepherd.”

God was preparing David for a massive job in the obscurity of a lowly job. Does God have you in a place where you feel unusable to Him? Are you in a situation that you can’t possibly see how God can use this situation or you for His purposes?

Here’s what we learn from David: be faithful in that place. Serve the Lord faithfully and do whatever it is your hand finds to do with all your heart, because it may well be that God is using this season to shape you for the next. Using this assignment to prepare you for the next. And using this time to help tune your heart to His, if you will let it.


Some are restless. Want to be used by God but feel like you’re on a shelf. If this message has spoken to you in some way, I want you to mix faith with the words you’ve heard and respond. Say, God, here I am, send me! Use me! Do a fresh work in me and through me!

Maybe God has put something on your heart but you have no idea how to get there or what it means. That’s ok – God knows. But mix faith and ask God to reveal His will to you. Ask God to show you the next step. Jesus is the Good Shepherd and he knows how to lead his sheep. Listen for his voice.

If you’re not a Christian…

More in Highlights in 1st Samuel

June 4, 2023

God’s Work in the Wilderness Part One

May 28, 2023

A Beautiful Friendship Part Two

May 21, 2023

A Beautiful Friendship Part One