God Sees the Heart

God Sees the Heart


Saul had not worked out as King. He was head strong, ruthless, unbalanced. He was tall, physically strong, could lead men in battle but he was lacking in more subtle people skills. He also failed to discern God’s will. God needed a replacement and sent Samuel to Bethlehem, of all places that little out of the way village Bethlehem, to search for a replacement. The hill country of Judah was backward and poor. Jesse who was he, not even a tribal elder?

X GOD NEEDED A REPLACEMENT X GOD SEES THE HEART X ADVERTISINGSamuel had to be subtle. It’s not like he could publicly announce he was going to look for a replacement for the King. That kind of errand could get you killed. He said he was going to Bethlehem for a special ritual – a sacrifice. God had said to look among Jesse’s sons for a new king, so when Samuel arrived he asked Jesse to bring to him all of his sons. Jesse presented the oldest first, Eliab. He was tall, strong, mature. “Surely, this is the Lord’s anointed,” Samuel said to himself.


But the LORD said to Samuel, “Do not look on his appearance or on the height of his stature, because I have rejected him; for the LORD sees not as humans see; humans look on the outward appearance, but the LORD looks on the heart.”

One after another Jesse paraded seven sons before Samuel, but none had been chosen by God. “Are all your sons here?” Samuel inquired.

“There remains yet the youngest, but behold, he is keeping the sheep,” Jesse, replied.

“Send and fetch him.” And when they brought David in from keeping the sheep, behold God said, “Anoint him, this is the one.”

God does not look upon the outward appearance, God sees the heart. Wisdom and prayer beget discernment.


Discernment is an important gift as we seek to see through the appearances of life to the reality of things. Life is full of many deceptions. We live in a world full of lies. Most advertising seeks to deceive us into buying something we don’t really want or need, and often isn’t even good for us. I think of all the billions of dollars that were spent on making smoking look cool. Or the money still spent on marketing fast food. By the time the pictures are doctored it might even look good enough to eat. Or consider how cars are advertised as if a vehicle can impart sex appeal.


X DECEIVED BY OUR GREED X FLAVORS OF PROPAGANDAOr consider all the schemes that are too good to be true — just one dollar down and only fifteen dollars a month – for the rest of your life. All of the fine print, the smooth talking, the hidden fees, intended to deceive the unwary. If it is too good to be true, then it is too good to be true, but how many of us have to learn the hard way. Most of time when we are deceived, it is because someone has hooked our greed.


And now all of the principles of marketing and advertising are applied to our political life and the media. Most of our news is publicity. We just have a choice of what flavor of propaganda we like. Fox on the right, MSNBC on the left, CNN more in the middle. It becomes hard to find any straight information. Everything has spin. All meanings become shaded if not outright double speak. We speak of downsizing rather than firing, detainee instead of prisoner, enhanced interrogation rather than torture, ethnic cleansing instead of genocide. Trying to discern the truth in our public forum is difficult. How do you know when they are lying, when their lips are moving?


Intentional public deception is easier to discern than our private non-intentional deceptions. We all try to put our best foot forward – our public face. When people ask us, “How are you?” We just say, “Fine.” After all who wants to hear about our aches and pains and complaints? Although as Dana Gallaher pointed out some years ago that at United Church you don’t have to put on your church clothes and your church face and always insist you are fine. When people here ask, “How are you?” They really want to know. And when the diagnosis is “cancer” it is O.K. to have tears and you don’t have to pretend you are strong and not afraid. That is what it means to be a community where people pray with and for one another.


X PUTTING OUR BEST FOOD FORWARD X ALLOWING OTHER PEOPLE TO KNOW OUR REAL SELVESIf we are always wearing our public faces, we can’t really become intimate with other people. In order to draw close enough to really be friends, we have to be willing to allow some of our more vulnerable selves shine through. We have to be willing to share some of our neediness. We even have to be willing to let other people know we have a dark side. Part of no matter who you are or where you are on life’s journey is allowing other people the opportunity to know our real selves. Our unintentional private deceptions are the masks that separate us.


Although we must acknowledge that deception is at the heart of humor. Let me illustrate with a joke.

A man is driving down the road and his car breaks down near a monastery. He goes to the monastery, knocks on the door, and says, “My car broke down. Do you think I could stay the night?”

The monks graciously accept him, feed him dinner, even fix his car. As the man tries to fall asleep, he hears a strange sound. A sound unlike anything he’s ever heard before. The Sirens that nearly seduced Odysseus into crashing his ship comes to his mind. He doesn’t sleep that night. He tosses and turns trying to figure out what could possibly be making such a seductive sound.

The next morning, he asks the monks what the sound was, but they say, “We can’t tell you. You’re not a monk.” Distraught, the man is forced to leave.

X DECEPTION AND HUMORX BEFORE THE TRUTH CAN SET YOU FREEYears later, after never being able to forget that sound, the man goes back to the monastery and pleads for the answer again.

The monks reply, “We can’t tell you. You’re not a monk.”
The man says, “If the only way I can find out what is making that beautiful sound is to become a monk, then please, make me a monk.”

The monks reply, “You must travel the earth and tell us how many blades of grass there are and the exact number of grains of sand. When you find these answers, you will have become a monk.”

The man sets about his task. After years of searching he returns as a gray-haired old man and knocks on the door of the monastery. A monk answers. He is taken before a gathering of all the monks.

“In my quest to find what makes that beautiful sound, I traveled the earth and have found what you asked for: By design, the world is in a state of perpetual change. Only God knows what you ask. All a man can know is himself, and only then if he is honest and reflective and willing to strip away self-deception.”

The monks reply, “Congratulations. You have become a monk. We shall now show you the way to the mystery of the sacred sound.”

The monks lead the man to a wooden door, where the head monk says, “The sound is beyond that door.”

The monks give him the key, and he opens the door. Behind the wooden door is another door made of stone. The man is given the key to the stone door and he opens it, only to find a door made of ruby. And so it went that he needed keys to doors of emerald, pearl and diamond.

Finally, they come to a door made of solid gold. The sound has become very clear and definite. The monks say, “This is the last key to the last door.”

The man is apprehensive. His life’s wish is behind that door! With trembling hands, he unlocks the door, turns the knob, and slowly pushes the door open. Falling to his knees, he is utterly amazed to discover the source of that haunting and seductive sound…

But, of course, I can’t tell you what it is because you’re not a monk.


All a person can know is herself, and only then if she is honest and reflective and willing to strip away self-deception.

This week Joe Parker posted some words of wisdom about self-deception: “Before the truth can set us free we need to recognize which lies are holding us hostage.” Self-deception keeps us in bondage to our prejudices, our fears, our appetites, our unhealthy attachments, our sufferings. And self-deception can be very difficult to detect. When someone else is lying to us, we usually know.


But when we are lying to ourselves, how do we know? Therapy, good spiritual friends, sometimes even in prayer, meditation or journaling we can detect our subtle self-deceptions. But even when we are able to see ourselves honestly how many times do we want to acknowledge and act on those painful truths? As a counselor I have found that honest revelation is often better left unsaid until a person gives some indication they are open to the possibility of change. Truth can sometimes drive people even deeper into denial.


X WHEN WE ARE LYING TO OURSELVES X OUR SENSES CAN DECEIVE USOur senses can be another source of deception in our lives. The philosophy of materialism that only physical objects are real can induce us to rely solely upon our senses. After all if we can’t see it, touch it, hear it, taste it, or smell it, it isn’t real – right?. Seeing is believing? But our physical senses are imperfect. Sometimes we hear things that aren’t there. Or we experience an optical illusion that plays our senses false.


Our physical senses are not our only way of knowing. We have spiritual senses ways of perceiving intangible realities, if we are willing to acknowledge and use them, and our spiritual sense of the divine is deeper, more subtle, less tangible than our physical senses.


X PATHWAYS TO THE DIVINE X THE HEART OF REALITYA few years ago a clergy group in which I participated traveled and read extensively seeking how people connect with the divine. They identified twelve pathways to the divine: sacred texts, ritual practice, community, sacred places, silence, awe, hospitality, compassion, mission and ministry to the world, prayer, spiritual guide, transcendence in the presence of the divine. Rose Rushin even organized a Jazz Vespers around these pathways to the divine. These are all practices that can help to develop our spiritual senses. Encountering the divine matures our discernment so we rely less upon outward appearances and grow in our ability to see the heart of reality.


For the heart of reality is hidden from our physical eyes, a wondrous creator who loves us. The gift of community, that we need not be alone in our journey. The miracle of new life, that greets us each spring and the promise that our hope is not for this life only. The mystery of love, self-sacrificing love, that lies at the heart of the universe can only be known with the heart. We cannot see these truths with our eyes, or hear them with our ears, or touch them with our finger tips, or smell them in our nostrils, or taste them with our tongues but they are open to our hearts.


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