"But the Lord said to Samuel, 'Do not look at his appearance or at the height of his stature, because I have refused him. For the Lord does not see as man sees; for man looks at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart'" (1 Samuel 16:7)
A few mornings ago, I attended a men's meeting in which a question arose about David the shepherd boy who became king of Israel. He also became an adulterer who took another man's wife, a murderer who caused the woman's husband to be killed, and to sum it up—he was a sinner in the sight of God and in our sight as well. Why did God love this man so much? After all, he broke God's commandments in a variety of ways, demonstrating in his life why monogamy as a way of life is better than polygamy, proving that honesty is always the best policy and loving conduct is better than greedily wanting what or who is not yours. I found myself, in that meeting, remembering this year's Valentine's weekend of a few nights before, and decided to share with the men those events that the Lord connected in my heart to David and the love the Lord had for him. I'll share with you also.
On Friday, the night before Valentine's Day, I took my wife to a Valentine's event at a nice hotel in Irvine, California, which included desserts, music, dancing and an interesting talk by a Christian speaker. We arrived late (which is why they call me "the late Ron Beckham"), and our late arrival meant that we were able to only have one dance before the music portion of the evening was completed. On the next Sunday morning, after church, a man who had attended the Friday evening event and must have seen our one dance, approached me and said, "I wish I could dance..." I replied this way: Yes, dancing is somewhat about the steps taken in the dance, but it's more and the steps are only part of it. It's feeling and responding to the music, moving yourself and your wife in in concert with it. It's the response of the joyful soul to the words and music of the composer and the musicians.
On Sunday evening, I had reservations and took my wife to the "Room At The Top," a restaurant at the top of a nearby hotel. We ate, listened to the music produced by the pianist and decided to dance once more. We danced many times and must have done well because I saw many genuine smiles and heard the greetings when we left the floor for a rest. Many of the tunes were from the American 1930's or 40's and I knew a lot of the words. I was "feeling it" and since I like to sing, began to sing those words as we resumed dancing once more. And by the way, my apologies if you are one of those who thinks dancing is inappropriate. Scripture teaches, "Husband love your wives as Christ loves the church..." and for me to truly love someone is not to merely give them what I would like, but instead what THEY like. My wife was raised within a context of ballet and her happiest memories involve dancing. Christ, in His life, death and resurrection gave us what we really NEED and for me to give my wife what she needs is to dance with her. It's hard to find places to dance that don't include alcohol and behavioral problems, but I'm trying.
David danced and the Lord loved him. I dance, not with David's fervor or likely his skill, but we danced on Sunday evening because I love my wife. The very talented musician, the piano player, who was alone on the stage until we and one other couple joined him, was delighted, presenting us with huge, encouraging smiles, and deciding that we liked up-tempo music, he played faster as the night rolled on. He liked my singing, too, and told me so as we passed him and his piano from time-to-time. I wasn't singing for him, though I'm glad he was pleased—I sang to my wife, and deep inside, I always sing in praise to God, for it was Him who gave me a voice.
I confess to you, just as I did to those at the men's meeting, that I did not get all of the steps right. It had been too long since we danced, I am older, and I was "rusty" to say the least. But in our case, it's a joy for us to dance, whether we perform perfectly as my wife is prone to do, or less perfectly, which is me. When I started singing, it was obvious that many brain cells containing the words to those songs were and are long gone, as I remembered one verse but forgot others. Just as David got out of step, so did I, and so do we all. In Romans 3:10, God, through Paul the Apostle, looked into the hearts of all of us and observed, "There is none righteous, no not one," which was a look back at David's words in Psalm 53:1—"There is none who does good, No, not one."
My singing is not the best, I get out of step when I dance and I'm imperfect in many ways, not unlike David, who clearly got out of step with God's will. Our Scripture for today is from 1 Samuel 16:7—"...For the Lord does not see as man sees; for man looks at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart." At the time of that chapter, Israel was at a critical point in history. The people had demanded a king and God gave them Saul, a religious person but his faith was revealed to be in himself, not in the Lord. He was still on the throne, but here in today's Scripture was the prophet Samuel, arriving at the house of Jesse, father of David, sent by God to anoint the next king even while the current and first one still outwardly ruled.
Saul was the tallest man in Israel (1 Samuel 9:2), which Samuel carefully was considering as he stared intently at the sons of Jesse. In Verse 6, we find him as he "looked at Eliab and said, 'Surely the Lord's anointed is before him,'" but the Lord responded to Samuel's heart with our Scripture for today—"the Lord does not see as man sees; for man looks at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart" (1 Samuel 16:7). As the chapter in 1 Samuel unfolds further, we see that an excited Jesse paraded Abinadad and seven more of his sons before Samuel (1 Samuel 16:8-10). In response, an exasperated Samuel snarled at Jesse, "The Lord has not chosen these," and he must have frowned as he demanded, "Are all the young men here?" Samuel wanted to see more sons, and at last Jesse replied, "There remains yet the youngest, and there he is, keeping the sheep."
This was not the favorite, most respected son of Jesse, which can be inferred from Jesse's answer, which was something like, "Well, there's another kid, but he's just the little one we send out to the sheep." God does not see us as we see each other and as we see ourselves. There is music playing, and we are all out of step, which is contained within the meaning of a verse that has become a favorite of many: "ALL have sinned and come short of the glory of God" (Romans 3:23). David took a woman who was not his wife and arranged for the murder of her husband, as in 2 Samuel Chapter 11, actions which were terribly wrong. No human court of law would exonerate him, but we are not dealing with a human court.
In what we call "The Sermon on the Mount," Jesus gave us God's position on murder and adultery. He does not excuse bad behavior—the truth about God's regard for the Law is more scary than we thought. The reality is—we're all guilty of the worst sins imaginable! Jesus was surrounded by religious people who had questions about God's Law, and they were astonished as Jesus spoke about the sin of murder: "You have heard that it was said to those of old, 'You shall not murder, and whoever murders will be in danger of the judgment,' but I say to you that whoever is angry with his brother without a cause shall be in danger of the judgment...whoever says, 'You fool!' shall be in danger of hell fire..." (Matthew 5:21-22). And note in Verse 20 of that chapter that Jesus began the section with the amazing statement that unless our good thoughts and behavior exceeds the righteousness of exceptionally religious people, we cannot enter the kingdom of heaven.
Have you ever been angry? You can reply, "Well, yes I was, but it was his (or her) fault—they deserved it!" But by doing so, you imply they are a "fool" for what they did and your angry heart makes you guilty of murder in God's first degree. David committed the sin of murder, but from God's perspective, our angry heart, our thoughts make us just as guilty as David. He sinned, but so has everybody else.
And what about David's sin of adultery? Jesus continued in Matthew 5:27-28—"You have heard that it was said to those of old, 'You shall not commit adultery.' But I say to you that whoever looks at a woman to lust for her has already committed adultery with her in his heart." David committed the sin of adultery. He sent for the woman and physically committed adultery with her. But even before the act was consummated, you can read in 2 Samuel 11 that David had already looked on her in the manner Jesus described as "adultery..in his heart."
We have a problem. Bad thoughts lead to bad actions which is why the world is in such a mess today. We are out of step with God. As you read the Psalms written by David, his humanity can easily be seen. He became angry, grieved, shouted, cried—and had faith in the Lord. Psalm 51 is one of the places where David acknowledged his sin and his response was like ours should be—he went to God openly confessing what he had done, believing that God is merciful to those who honestly look to Him. God is indeed our Judge, but he is also full of mercy as faithful David understood.
We are all out of step with the Lord. He knows your heart, your thoughts are open to Him, your failures are seen, but He loves you. David cried out, "I acknowledge my transgressions, and my sin is ever before me. Against You, You only have I sinned, and done this evil in Your sight...create in me a clean heart...restore to me the joy of Your salvation..." That's David's Psalm 51, which he concludes in Verses 16-19, by stating that God is not satisfied by our mere religious observances, our sacrifices. Instead He wants a "broken and a contrite heart," and if we come to Him in such a manner, he will then even accept our attempts at religion.
The legal ground for the forgiveness given to David is available in every time and place. The world is filled with religious leaders who've filled history with words and deeds, but you have to wonder, what does it do for me? We need GOD's way of forgiveness, something, Someone reaching forward and backward in time, embracing all who are out of step with God—we need Christ who died for you and me—"looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith, who endured the cross, despising the shame..." (Hebrews 12:2). The Lord through the cross, in His love, made possible the faith of David, and offers saving faith to you and me. Take your heart to Him. He sees and is waiting with love—for you.
Dear Lord Jesus, I have sinned. I am out of step with You and Your commands. Please forgive me. I am Yours. I trust in You. Thank You, Lord, for saving me. In Jesus Name. Amen.