Hearts, Faces, the Law, and Grace

heartGod looks at hearts the way that we look at faces.

I wish I knew where I first heard that but I don’t.  I only know that it is a truth.

A story that illustrates that is when Samuel goes to Jesse to anoint one of his sons as king.  Immediately Jesse knows which of his sons is king material.

Eliab is the oldest.  He is strong, tall, and handsome..

Samuel thought, This has got to be the guy.

But he’s not.  God speaks to Samuel words that go so against the grain of our human understanding that we can read them a thousand times and still not understand them.

He says,  “Do not look on his appearance or on the height of his stature, because I have rejected him.  For the Lord sees not as man sees;  man looks on the outward appearance, but the Lord looks on the heart.”

“The Lord looks on the heart…”  What a mystery!

You mean He doesn’t look at all the great things I do?  You mean He doesn’t look at the way I’m nice to someone, even though I feel like calling them out or yelling at them.  You mean He doesn’t see my self-control — which is something I can be quite proud of –and He doesn’t think I’m pretty special because of it?

No, He’s looking at my heart.

So when I put a large check in the offering, and the lady next to me puts a five dollar bill in the offering plate, He doesn’t care about the dollar amount?  No, He’s looking at my heart.  And her heart.  Which I can’t see or even guess about.

And when I dress modestly, so people will see my modesty, and think what a wonderful Christian woman I am, doesn’t He think so too?  No, I’m really no better than the woman who dresses immodestly, but who has put on her best clothes for the Lord.  In fact, I’m worse.  Pride is written all over my heart, and purity — yes, purity –is written on hers.  Or, at least it could be.  I don’t know, because I can’t see.

I’m blind, blind, blind.  I’m blind to everything, except what God has revealed to me.

I’ve been studying the land of Samaria.  The Samaritans are an interesting lot. Their land was part of the Promised Land.  It became the Northern Kingdom of Israel — and, with its very first king, Jeroboam, took a nose-dive into idolatry.  The people of Samaria worshiped golden calves and shunned Jerusalem.

Then, when the Northern Kingdom fell to Assyria, all the Israelites there were taken captive and shipped off to other lands.  Assyria plopped other people that they had taken captive in Samaria — to live in the cities built by Israel, to farm the land cleared by Israel, to drink water from the wells dug by Israel.  When lions came to eat the newcomers, the Assyrian king figured that he wasn’t doing enough to appease “the god of the land.”  He didn’t understand that it wasn’t just the god of the land, but the Maker of heaven and earth Himself.

Anyway, the Assyrian king said, “Round up a priest and sent him back to Samaria so he can teach them how to keep this god-who-sends-lions happy.”

So they did.  And the Samaritans were born.  People who took a smattering of this religion and a dabble of that one, and made up their own mongrel religion, which, of course, everyone despised because there was nothing pure about it all.  Judah especially despised it.

And, in turn, the Samaritans despised the Jews.

A mutual lack-of-admiration society.

It was these awful Samaritans, who worshiped in every wrong way possible, that Jesus used as an example of a neighbor in his story of the Good Samaritan.

It was one of these women that Jesus met at the well.  And talked to.  And told about the living water.

If the Samaritans were that awful, why did Jesus bother at all with them?

It’s because He sees the heart.  He can see hearts that are truly seeking Him.  It doesn’t matter if the outer shell of a person is Samaritan or Catholic or evangelical or Methodist or charismatic or a murderer or an immoral woman or a dirty scruffy homeless person who used the last few dollars he was given to buy a bottle of the cheap stuff.

When God looks at us, He sees our hearts.

And that, my friend, is the ultimate Grace.

The law guides us, but it also condemns us.  Jesus came not to condemn the world, but that the world, through Him, might be saved.

Grace.  God looking at our hearts.  And loving us.

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