Look at the Heart

4th Sunday of Lent. 1 Samuel 16:1-13

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

I Samuel 16:7 NIV

“Arise, anoint him, for this is he.”

These are the words of the Lord to the prophet Samuel about David, the youngest of eight sons of Jesse, a youth, a shepherd, an unexpected choice, who would be King of Israel. Saul, the first king of Israel had displeased God by caring more about what the people of the kingdom wanted than serving God with an honest heart.

Now, God is very clear on the choice for a new king, and equips his called one powerfully: “And the Spirit of the Lord rushed upon David from that day forward.”

Why David? Was it because “he was ruddy and had beautiful eyes and was handsome.”? This might get him on the cover of Sheep Herders Monthly, but the Lord cautioned Samuel, “Do not look on his (David’s oldest brother Eliab’s) appearance or on the height of his stature, because I have rejected him,” for his kid brother.

The writer of Psalm 78 helps us better understand God’s choice of David as leader of his people:

He chose David his servant and took him from the sheepfolds; from following the nursing ewes he brought him to shepherd Jacob his people Israel his inheritance.  With upright heart he shepherded them and guided them with his skillful hand.  God looked at David’s heart, the natural skills given to him, saw his life experiences and even knew his heart would stray, like one of his lambs. God looked, knew, loved, forgave and empowered David as shepherd leader.

PRAY Psalm 139. “Search me, O God, and know my heart!” Trust God to look into your heart and take time to make this beautiful prayer your own.  First, spend some time in gratitude for how wonderfully God has made you and how intimately God knows you and loves you.  Then, allow the God who knitted you together in your mother’s womb to search your heart. What emotions come up as you read these verses? What thoughts do you have about your own heart issues? See where the Spirit calls out some things you need to make right with God or others.

PRACTICE. Availability and Vulnerability are two practices from a monastic society that offer a way to share open hearts of honesty and reality in your community. See how the Spirit leads you into these practices this week:

Avail­abil­i­ty is about being open to life, to God and to oth­ers. It is to be open to those who cross my path, believ­ing that there is good rea­son to give from my heart, to see their heart, and see our interactions as a gift.

Vul­ner­a­bil­i­ty is a way of hav­ing integri­ty and open­ness about who I am — the good, the bad, and the ugly–and how I deal with heart issues in the con­text of my faith. It is will­ing­ness to offer my heart without an agenda to fix the other or receive anything in return.

From Nathan Foster, Renovaré, on Availabilty and Vulnerability: I some­times won­der how often we spend time with peo­ple free of agen­da. I’ve come to favor sub­mit­ting my words and agen­da to God. With­out fail, when I sim­ply seek to be present with peo­ple, it gives spaces for God to guide, bring­ing won­der­ful­ly hon­est con­ver­sa­tions. We show up and sim­ply offer the great­est gift we have to give, our time and pres­ence. There is great free­dom in lay­ing before God our need to be impor­tant, noticed, or hav­ing some­thing help­ful to say. In relin­quish­ing my desire to con­trol, it gives space for God to work in other’s lives through our exchanges. Gen­er­ous lis­ten­ing can require great patience and effort, but it is a skill worth prac­tic­ing that forms some­thing deep with­in us. We bring who we are, thus the state of our heart. 

BREATH PRAYER. As you continue your Lenten prayers and practices, talk to the Lord, who sees you, who looks at your heart and asks: “What do you want me to do for you?” (Luke 18:41) Make it a breath prayer: On the inhale use a name for God. On the exhale answer the question of Jesus, “What do you want me to do for you?” Inhale: name of God, Exhale: your need.

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