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.” 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 Samuel 16.1-7 (ESV)
1 Samuel 16 gives the account of the anointing of David as king of God’s people following the disobedience and the consequent rejection of Saul as king, and among other things it helps us to answer the question posed this morning ‘How does God see?’
Samuel is sent to Bethlehem and specifically to the house of Jesse because, God tells him that, he has provided for himself a king for his people among Jesse’s sons.(v.1)
This is, in itself, an interesting form of words in the NIV ‘I have chosen one of his sons to be king’ or in the ESV ‘I have provided for myself a king among his sons’.
In both translations the appointment of the king is central but in the ESV the emphasis is on this king been chosen by God ‘for myself’ whereas Saul had been chosen at the request of the people, who wanted to be like all the other nations which they were not for they were God’s chosen people. But their desire remained even after Samuel had warned them what a king would do. (1 Samuel 8)
So we are alerted to the fact that this ‘anointing to kingship’ is different from that which went before.
Jesse brings forward the first of his sons and Samuel sees him as the one. (v.6) but God sees differently. We look at (see) the outward appearance but the LORD looks on (sees) the heart.
It has been noted by some commentators that this could be translated ‘the LORD looks (sees) with the heart.’
One further intriguing thing before we consider the implications of such seeing. The Hebrew word translated ‘chosen’ in the NIV and ‘provided’ in the ESV is רָאָה (ra.ah) which occurs no fewer than 1200 times in the Old Testament and at its root, it is all about seeing.
The ‘seeing’ of God is therefore of great significance with regard to how he sees us, how we see ourselves and how we see other people.
God sees differently to man. God sees with the heart and his heart is perfect and therefore his seeing is perfect.
In the light of such perfection we need to look at ourselves and understand that we cannot hide anything from God who sees us completely. This is, at the same time, frightening and encouraging. Frightening because if we are honest it reminds us that we cannot approach God on our own and encouraging in that ‘he knows our frame; he remembers that we are dust.’ Psalm 103.14 and because he loves us, has made a way for us to be made fit for his presence through the death of his Son.
This means that we have to see other people in the same light. It is not outward appearances that matter but the heart. If we look with our eyes at others we will be drawn to some and possibly even repelled by others with a whole range of reactions in between. But as we grow in godliness so we should seek more and more to see others as God sees them and us and therefore love them and have compassion on them as Jesus did.
It is a big challenge.