“But the Lord said to Samuel, ‘Do not look at his appearance or at the height of his stature, because I have rejected him; for God sees not as man sees, for man looks at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.’” – 1 Samuel 16:7
During the early days of the nation of Israel, the people started to clamor for a king. They wanted to be like other nations. They wanted a king to guide them and protect them.
The Lord’s feelings must have been hurt, but he decided to give them what they wanted (most likely to show them the limitations of an earthly king). Even though, clearly, it was God who was their king. And, as such, they had no hope of being like any other people.
The ensuing debacle of King Saul’s reign is a picture of the appearances we strive for versus the truth of what God calls us to. Saul was big and strong and handsome. He had the appearance of a king.
We love the mountaintops because everything appears great. Things look good and feel good. But the full truth of our experience is not measured by earthly standards. There is more going on. The outward appearance of successful circumstances is a worldly hallmark.
But the Lord measures differently. The Kingdom of God is not about circumstance of appearance. It is about heart. Character. The choices we make and the relationship we have with God.
While there were better (and worse) kings to come, the first worldly sovereign of Israel was an object lesson to all of us – a dependency on appearances is nothing short of idolatry. If we chase after it, we are outside the will of God. But if we pursue the things of the heart, the depths of truth, we are pursuing that which matters most to God.