NextSunday Worship

June 17, 2018

“The Lord Looks on the Heart”

Dr. Marion D. Aldridge 1 Samuel 15: 34 -16:1-13. Year B - Fourth Sunday in Pentecost (Proper 6 (11)

“Then Samuel left for Ramah, but Saul went up to his home in Gibeah of Saul. The Lord said to Samuel, ‘How long will you mourn for Saul, since I have rejected him as king over Israel? Fill your horn with oil and be on your way; I am sending you to Jesse of Bethlehem. I have chosen one of his sons to be king.’

But Samuel said, ‘How can I go? If Saul hears about it, he will kill me.’

The Lord said, ‘Take a heifer with you and say, “I have come to sacrifice to the Lord.”  Invite Jesse to the sacrifice, and I will show you what to do. You are to anoint for me the one I indicate.’ Samuel did what the Lord said. When he arrived at Bethlehem, the elders of the town trembled when they met him.

They asked, ‘Do you come in peace?’

Samuel replied, ‘Yes, in peace; I have come to sacrifice to the Lord. Consecrate yourselves and come to the sacrifice with me.’ Then he consecrated Jesse and his sons and invited them to the sacrifice. When they arrived, Samuel saw Eliab and thought, ‘Surely the Lord’s anointed stands here before the Lord.’

But the Lord said to Samuel, ‘Do not consider his appearance or his height, for I have rejected him. The Lord does not look at the things people look at. People look at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.’

Then Jesse called Abinadab and made him pass in front of Samuel. But Samuel said, ‘The Lord has not chosen this one either.’ Jesse then made Shammah pass by, but Samuel said, ‘Nor has the Lord chosen this one.’ Jesse made seven of his sons pass before Samuel, but Samuel said to him, ‘The Lord has not chosen these.’ So he asked Jesse, ‘Are these all the sons you have?’

‘There is still the youngest,’ Jesse answered. ‘He is tending the sheep.’

Samuel said, ‘Send for him; we will not sit down until he arrives.’ So he sent for him and had him brought in. He was glowing with health and had a fine appearance and handsome features. Then the Lord said, ‘Rise and anoint him; this is the one.’ So Samuel took the horn of oil and anointed him in the presence of his brothers, and from that day on the Spirit of the Lord came powerfully upon David. Samuel then went to Ramah.”


This text, and especially the key verse, “The Lord does not look at the things people look at. People look at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart,” is one of the most memorable in the Hebrew Scriptures. We know, intuitively, that it must be true.

Steven Hawking, though he was a severely crippled man as the result of ALS (Lou Gehrig’s disease), changed the way we think about the universe.

Rosa Parks, an African-American seamstress, started a movement that ultimately changed the laws of America to give equal legal rights to all men and women regardless of their skin color.

Muggsy Bogues, five feet and three inches tall, played fourteen years in the National Basketball Association.

Abraham Lincoln, the world’s most unlikely leader, burdened by a genetic disease, an unhappy home life, and a Civil War, is acknowledged as the best President ever of our United States.

For every John F. Kennedy who was born with a silver spoon, there is an unlikely Nelson Mandela who was born black in a segregated country. In spite of spending twenty-seven years in a South African jail, Mandela overcame adversity to live honorably and well. Ultimately, he thrived as the leader of his nation.

The Lord does not look at the things people look at. People look at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.”

One of the earliest sophisticated words many of us learned is “prejudice.” It wasn’t a part of our everyday vocabulary—words such as dessert, school, family, and games.

It was a strange word: prejudice.  It meant to pre-judge someone or something, to assume all white folks were smarter than all dark-skinned folks, or that all brown men and women were lazy or that all white people are mean.  Those prejudices are massive mistakes.

We have to learn these lessons all over again.  Some presume that all old white men voted for Donald Trump and that all African-Americans voted for Hillary Clinton. Then, they continue their muddled thinking by assuming that, if they know who you voted for, they know how you feel about one hundred other things—from immigration to homosexuality to economics to gun control.

That’s not the way people work.  Most of us are far more complicated.

The Lord does not look at the things people look at. People look at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart,”

This text is not just about David but is also about Saul and Samuel. An impatient reading of First Samuel might make you think that Saul was a worthless king.

Before his battle with depression, he was a national hero. Which was he, a national hero or a depressed loser? He was both, at different times. That’s one reason why trying to get too quick a read on someone might lead you down a wrong path.

I had a friend about whom people said, “He has a steel-trap mind.” I spent a lot of time with this colleague for a few years, and I agreed with that assessment. He is smart, clever, and perceptive. He could look at a situation, analyze it, and come to a quick conclusion, one that was usually correct. The problem was the steel trap.  Once a trap is closed, it’s hard to get open again.

A brief encounter with Saul is not enough to tell the whole story. King Saul was on the verge of being dethroned. Nobody wants to be replaced, to be made, as the English say, redundant.  In verse 26 of chapter 15, Samuel says to Saul, “The Lord has rejected you.” That’s pretty blunt.

One of the reasons I admire Jimmy Carter so much is that after his defeat for a second term as President of the United States, the peanut farmer picked himself up, brushed himself off, and started all over again.

The Lord does not look at the things people look at. People look at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.”

Another primary character in this narrative is Samuel.  It was a tough time in Samuel’s life. He’d been the undisputed prophet of God. He’d had a miraculous childhood. He was the last Judge of Israel. He may be the most important transitional figure in the Hebrew Scriptures, serving as judge, prophet, and priest, but never as king. Only one person in the Bible was Prophet, Priest, and King, and that was Jesus. Samuel did, however, anoint the first two kings of Israel: Saul and David.

We can’t imagine what was going on in Samuel’s heart and mind during these challenging times. He was a man who was revered, but who was certainly not flawless.

Did you notice that the people were afraid of him when he showed up in their village? They asked, “Do you come peaceably?” He reassured them.  He had appointed his sons to be judges, but they were deemed unworthy of that responsibility, thus the need for a new leadership strategy.

It’s obvious that Samuel grieved over the failures of his own family, of Saul, and of Israel.  How much did he blame himself? How much did he blame others? How can we know?

The Lord does not look at the things people look at. People look at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.”

Another character in this story is Jesse, the father of the boy who would become King David. We can’t get a proper appraisal of him in these few verses.  Isn’t that the point?

Jesse is between a rock and a hard place.  Saul is the king. It might be flattering to think that one of your children will become the next king of Israel, but the current king could certainly have you executed.  This is a tale of treason. Jesse, entirely passive in this text, simply follows the instructions given by Samuel.

He lines up his sons. Did he begin with the oldest? The tallest? The most athletic? Jesse had two daughters. Would they have been summoned if the Holy Spirit had not prompted Samuel when young David was presented to him? We don’t know.

There had been female judges, and since the monarchy hadn’t existed for even a single generation, there was hardly a precedent. If we are to take the key text in this passage seriously, we must allow for the possibility of a queen being selected instead of a king.

The Lord does not look at the things people look at. People look at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.”

There’s an ironic twist at the end of the text.  David, it turns out, according to verse twelve, was tall, dark, and handsome. We know from other places in the Bible that he was a skilled athlete and musician.  He was what commentators, nowadays, would call the “total package.” He was a Renaissance man.

So, prejudice can work in multiple directions.  Do you know anyone who despises someone because they are rich, or beautiful, or successful? Be careful.  We can’t know their hearts either. But God does.

God’s word, for each of us, with whatever deficiencies we exhibit and whatever gifts we possess, is this: “You are chosen.” We may not all be kings or queens, but we are all children of God.


About the Writer; Dr. Marion D. Aldridge was born in Savannah, GA and raised in North Augusta, SC.   He is a graduate of Clemson University with a Bachelor of Arts degree and received Master and Doctoral degrees from The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, Ky. He was recently awarded the Order of the Palmetto, South Carolina’s highest civilian honor.

Marion has written several books, the most recent Overcoming Adolescence, a book for grown-ups who have not yet grown up. ( )

He has also written hundreds of articles for South Carolina Wildlife magazine, Tennis Magazine, Sandlapper and others. He is married to Sally and has two adult daughters, Jenna and Julie.  Marion especially enjoys fishing and baseball games with his grandson, Lake.


Scripture and Music:

1 Samuel 15:34 – 16:13

Ezekiel 17:22-24

Psalm 92:1-4, 12-15  

2 Corinthians 5:6-10, (11-13), 14-17            

Mark 4:26-34



Be Exalted, O God

Eternal Father! strong to save

Give Thanks for Life

Give to the Winds Thy Fears

God Moves in a Mysterious Way

God, Whose Giving Knows No Ending

Gracious Spirit, Holy Ghost

How can I keep from singing all the day

How firm a foundation, ye saints of the Lord

I Love to Tell the Story

Jesus, Savior, Pilot Me

Lord Jesus, Think on Me

My Faith Has Found a Resting Place


The Lord will be a refuge for the oppressed

The Sails Were Spilling Wind

When Peace, Like a River

Whole-hearted Thanksgiving to Thee I Will Bring

You Are the Seed

Posted in Dr. Marion D. Aldridge, Sermons on May 20, 2018. Tags: , , , , ,