God Looks at the Heart – For Better or For Worse

You probably remember the scene. The Lord had chosen a new king of Israel, and He sent Samuel to anoint this new king. He told Samuel that the new king was one of the sons of Jesse, and so the prophet went to Bethlehem and lined up the boys waiting for the Lord to announce his choice.

They were a sight to see – each one seeming to have the look of a king, and yet each one was rejected by the Lord until there was only one left. David, the youngest, was out tending the sheep, and against all visible signs, he was to be the next king:

“Do not look at his appearance or at the height of his stature, because I have rejected him; for God does not see as man sees, since man looks at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart” (1 Samuel 16:7).

This is comforting, isn’t it? It’s comforting because we don’t look like much. We aren’t the best looking, the smartest, or the most strategic. But external appearances don’t matter that much, because even when the rest of the world relies on what is visibly apparent, God looks at the heart.

But, of course, that principle goes both ways. David, that young man with the heart bent toward God, later penned these words from Psalm 139:

Where can I go to escape your Spirit?
Where can I flee from your presence?
If I go up to heaven, you are there;
if I make my bed in Sheol, you are there.
If I fly on the wings of the dawn
and settle down on the western horizon,
even there your hand will lead me;
your right hand will hold on to me.
If I say, “Surely the darkness will hide me,
and the light around me will be night”—
even the darkness is not dark to you.
The night shines like the day;
darkness and light are alike to you (Psalm 139:7-12).

As you read it, you can sense perhaps a bit of frustration in David:

Can I get some time to myself? Can I please be alone for a few minutes? Everywhere I go – in the darkness, in the light, it doesn’t matter. You’re always there!

And perhaps we can relate to that sentiment at least a little bit as well. Because with God, there is no private time. There is no let down. There is no secret being kept; no rock not overturned. If God looks at the heart, then we are all laid bare before the Lord at any given moment. He knows the real us. Better than anyone else. Better than ourselves. And to make matters worse, this One from whom we cannot hide is the One to whom we must give an account. In a world in which we carefully construct our platforms, our personas, our masks, that is a terrifying thought.

Indeed, the presence of God is terrifying for it means we are never alone.

Both are true. And the place where both realities intersect is the gospel. Because it’s only through the gospel that that the presence of God ceases to be terrifying and begins to be comforting. Yes, it is true that God knows us better than we know ourselves, and that everything in all creation is laid bare before Him to whom we must give an account. But it is also true that knowing all that, while we were still sinners, Jesus Christ died for the ungodly.

What an amazing thought for those too afraid to let anyone truly know them – that God already does, and He loves us still. When we believe the gospel, the terrifying nature of a God who knows all is transformed into the comforting nature of our heavenly advocate. It’s at that point that we know that God is not only with us, He is for us in Christ.

This post originally appeared at thinke.org. 

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