NOTE: These are being published to St. Paul’s Website as well. I’ll post them on here a few days after they are on St. Paul’s site.
If in a group, take prayer concerns.
“Jesus, we come to you with full hearts. You have loved us and have cared for us. Too often in the busyness of our lives, we forget about you. Today we gather to remember your great love. We lift up those mentioned [feel free to pray the names] and pray your presence touches them. We thank you for this day and pray we would live to glorify you. In Jesus’ name, amen.
1 Samuel 16:1-13
The people of Israel, wanting to be like the surrounding nations, asked Samuel for a king. Even though God was disappointed because the people were rejecting him, and after warning them about the disadvantages of a king, he gave them a king anyway, Saul. Saul turned out not be the king they were looking for. He started out humble, but later decided he did not need to rely on God. After becoming impatient waiting for the prophet Samuel, Saul decided to perform a sacrifice himself, even though he was not permitted to, so God rejected him as king. The days of Saul’s kingship were over.
In this passage, God calls Samuel stop mourning Saul’s rejection and anoint a new king, one of Jesse’s Sons.
We tend to “judge a book by its cover” even though we are told we can’t. Appearances mean quite a bit to us and we not only judge others by their appearance, we work hard to make sure our appearances are acceptable.
As Samuel looks for the next king, he learns that God does not look at appearances. The first of Jesse’s sons to pass before him is Eliab. Eliab must look kingly, because Samuel remarks, “Surely, the Lord’s anointed is now before the Lord! (verse 6)” Yet, he was not the next king.
God said to Samuel, “Do not look on his appearance or on the height of his stature, because I have rejected him; for the Lord does not see as mortals see; they look on the outward appearance, but the Lord looks on the heart. (verse 7)” God knows that we judge books by their cover and people by their outward appearance, but that’s not what God does. God looks at our hearts. He knows what’s within.
Centuries later, Jesus confronted the Pharisees telling them that they spend their time cleaning the outside of the cup, leaving the inside filthy. Jesus went even further calling them whitewashed tombs, looking good on the outside, but inside containing death.
We can easily fall into the pattern of focusing on our appearance and forgetting that God continues to look at our heart. Like the Pharisees, we might look good on the outside, but inside we have envy, jealousy, bitterness, lust, pride, etc.
Jesus offers us hope. Jesus said he would be with us always, and his Spirit abides in our lives (see John 15) cleansing us from the inside out. We do not have to ‘keep up appearances’ because Jesus’ love cleanses us and transforms us from the inside out. When we open our lives to Jesus and are receptive to his will and way, we find our appearance reflects Jesus’ love empowering us from the inside.
The Good News is your heart can be transformed from the inside, and your new heart can empower your outward appearance. No matter who you are, or what you’ve done, God offers his gift of grace right now. Ask him to come and cleanse you from the inside…out.
Have you ever found yourself trying to “keep up appearances?” What would it mean, for you, if your words and actions accurately reflected who you most deeply were? Could you use a transformed heart?
Not only does God look at our heart, he has made a way, through Jesus, for our heart to be healed, cleansed, transformed, and renewed, so we might reflect his amazing grace and love revealed and reflected through Jesus.
Giving While Away: Online Giving allows you to give faithfully, even when you can’t be at St. Paul