Commentary by Walter Albritton


December 12, 2004


Inward Qualities More Important than Outward Appearance


1 Samuel 16:1-4b, 6-13; 2 Samuel 7:8-16


Key Verse: The Lord does not see as mortals see; they look on the outward appearance, but the Lord looks on the heart. – 1 Samuel 16:7


Gullible is not a characteristic by which we want to be known. We prefer to think of ourselves as smart, not naive. The truth, however, is that most of us are often easily fooled by the outward appearance of people. God, on the other hand, sees clearly what we often miss.

When a plump little old lady joins our church, we are all tempted to think, “The sweet thing will be good for a bowl of potato salad for a covered dish supper.” In time we may be shocked to discover that the chubby lady is a brilliant teacher of the Word. Then we have to admit again that God is right: we look on the outward appearance and fail to see what God sees.

Physical attractiveness is not one of the qualities God looks for in choosing leaders. The story of David underlines this truth. The prophet Samuel, assigned by God to anoint a new king for Israel, was impressed by the appearance of Jesse’s fine sons. They were tall, handsome, and good looking. He was sure one of them was the one God wanted to be king.

God, however, rejected each one, explaining to Samuel in this memorable passage, “Do not look at his appearance or at his physical 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.”

It is worth noting that David, the one chosen finally, was also good looking. But it was not for his good looks that he was chosen. God saw what Samuel could not see, David’s heart. Our study today will focus on the inner qualities that God must have seen in David.  

First, David could see the big picture. He wanted to honor God, protect God’s honor, and do great things for God. He felt himself to be on a mission for God. He was unafraid to “think big” as he fought to strengthen Israel. His boldness was without equal among the kings of Israel.

Second, David was able to think “outside the box.” He was not bound by traditions. He cared more about pleasing God than pleasing people. This he demonstrated by leaping and dancing before the ark of the covenant when it was brought to Jerusalem. David’s own wife was embarrassed by David’s behavior and criticized him for it. His reply is instructive for all of us who are prone to be “men-pleasers,” “It was before the Lord . . . that I have danced.” He could lose himself in selfless praise before God.

Third, David identified with his people. He knew how to walk with the common people and learn from them. He earned their respect by refusing to think of himself as better than others. An example is found in 2 Samuel 23:14-17. David is thirsty for water from the well near the Bethlehem gate but the Philistine soldiers were guarding it. Three of David’s soldiers risked their lives to secure water from the well and brought it to David.

David, however, refused to drink it, pouring it out to the Lord, saying, “Far be it from me, O Lord, that I should do this! Is this not the blood of the men who want in jeopardy of their lives?”  Such an attitude inspired his followers to admire and love him.

Fourth, David possessed unusual courage in the face of great danger. His courage no doubt came from his strong faith in God. He faced Goliath fearlessly, believing that God would help him defeat this formidable enemy of Israel. He fought the Philistine armies with the same undaunted courage, certain that God would lead him to victory.

Fifth, David realized the source of his strength was in God and not in himself. We find David constantly “inquiring of the Lord” what he should do. He realized that what he needed most, only God could supply. David understood that his victories resulted from the spirit of the Lord being “mightily upon him.” His downfall came about only when he thought too much of himself and forgot to “inquire of the Lord.”

As Christians we understand that we can serve God effectively only by the grace of God. Whatever our inner qualities, we are nothing without the strengthening grace of God. That being true, we must constantly seek to be aware of God’s presence with us, and never become cocky about our gifts.

The good news is that our success is not dependant upon our being physically attractive. Abraham Lincoln was not a good looking man, but he was a man God used to accomplish great things for God. Like David, Lincoln was constantly “inquiring” of God and more interested in pleasing God that the people.

We may not “look” like much to others, but if our hearts are right, God can use us in mighty ways to achieve his purposes. We may not all be able to do great things for God, but we can all do small things with great devotion to God.

We may be capable of doing more than we ever dreamed possible if we are willing to depend on God and not ourselves. David was a man after God’s own heart. Surely Paul was also, and the secret of his usefulness he made clear when he said, “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me” (Philippians 4:13). If we would be effective servants of God, this faith must be one of the inner qualities that God sees when he looks upon our hearts.

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