Does God Look on the A. Outside or B. Inside? #241
Happy Monday, dear friends. If you have been following our fire saga in California, I am happy to let you know that as of Sunday night, things have gotten a little better. Air quality is now simply ‘bad’ instead of ‘you will die within 3 seconds of exposure,’ which is an improvement! On the other hand, a friend just posted an article that noted the chance of a big earthquake has suddenly increased due to an active swarm of smaller earthquakes, so there’s that. Fortunately, the Bible doesn’t say anything about earthquakes, right? Right? Oh…alas. Well, if the daily Bible podcast all of the sudden goes dark, I guess you’ll know what happened! Today’s Bible readings are 1 Samuel 16, Lamentations 1, Psalms 32 and Romans 14. Romans 14 is one of the most important and practical passages in the Bible, so please do let me say a little something about it, before we consider God’s view of humanity. Actually, let’s let Tim Keller say a little bit about it, because he says it better than me:
Paul says, “Accept him whose faith is weak, without passing judgment on disputable matters.” Right away, we’re getting into how Paul is moving us way beyond the modern view of tolerance. “Accept him whose faith is weak, without passing judgment on him.” Modern people say to accept one is to say no negative evaluation. “I’m not going to say you’re right or wrong or you’re better or you’re worse.” Here’s what Paul says. “Accept your brother without judgment, though he’s wrong. He’s weak. He’s theologically wrong. He’s spiritually immature.”
In other words, Paul comes in with this very negative evaluation of this person and says, “Accept this person without being judgmental.” Modern people say to be judgmental is to evaluate someone negatively and say, “Well, your religion is wrong, or your religion is weak,” or something like that.
I want you to know Paul is actually talking about the opposite, because I’ve had people over the years in New York say, “Oh, you believe Jesus is the way to the Father? Great! Every religion is right,” but they don’t want to have anything to do with me. They think I’m narrow-minded, so they won’t evaluate me negatively. They won’t argue with me. They won’t disagree with me, but they don’t want to have a relationship with me.
Paul is saying the exact opposite. Let me show you how radical he’s being. He says, “I want you to enter into a relationship with someone you are convinced is seriously, significantly wrong, wrong about reality, wrong about God, wrong in their beliefs.” You say, “What do you mean relationship?”
The word accept is translating a Greek word, proslambanō which means to pull toward you and alongside of you. It means to take in alongside of you. The most radical example of what I’m trying to say is in verse 1. Verse 1 says, “We who are strong ought to bear with the failings of the weak …” Again, the translation doesn’t tell us how radical this is.
There’s a great commentary on the book of Romans, very, very long, very technical, lots of scholarship into it, by Doug Moo. He says this is a remarkable statement. It says the strong should bear with, and it’s a word that means literally like to bear a burden. It means to enter under something, and he says it really ought to be translated, “The strong ought to bear the weaknesses of the weak.”
Timothy J. Keller, The Timothy Keller Sermon Archive (New York City: Redeemer Presbyterian Church, 2013).
If we Christians would pay close attention to the teachings in Romans 14, my oh my would there be so many less issues and divisions in the church!! Let’s read it and THEN come back and discuss King David.
Good stuff, right? That one may be worth your time to read again later on today – my time too. So, over to 1 Samuel. God has rejected the tall, brave, powerful, winsome, charismatic and handsome King Saul because he has continually done things his own way, and rejected the commands of God. So God sends the aging Samuel to anoint and set apart the next king, who ends up being one of the sons of Jesse. As soon as Samuel – the old, wise, powerful and seasoned man of God sees the sons of Jesse, he assumes he knows who will be king: Eliab. Apparently, Eliab was strikingly handsome and quite tall and well built, because he had a kingly appearance…but it turned out that Samuel guessed wrong, and the mild rebuke that God gave him for guessing wrong is incredibly important for us to realize. Let’s go read the passage.
Did you catch it? “7 But the Lord said to Samuel, “Do not look at his appearance or his stature because I have rejected him. Humans do not see what the Lord sees, for humans see what is visible, but the Lord sees the heart.” If Samuel – the mighty and wise man of God can make such a mistake, you can believe that you and I can make the same kind of mistake too. So – what does it mean that God doesn’t look at the visible – God sees the heart? Great question! First of all – does it mean that God examines our blood pumping mechanism to see how sound it is? Not at all. This is a metaphorical statement, just like Jeremiah 17:10:
I, the Lord, examine the mind,
I test the heart to give to each according to his way,
according to what his actions deserve.
Now, if you were a Hebrew person, you would immediately see something in Jeremiah 17:10 that those of us who are English only don’t see. Even though most modern translators go with ‘heart’ in Jeremiah 17:10, the actual Hebrew word used there is…wait for it…KIDNEYS!! Wait a minute, you are saying – we don’t think or act with our KIDNEYS – what sorcery is this? Well, I hate to spoil it for you, but we don’t think and act in our heart either – the heart is a muscle. This doesn’t mean that God is mistaken on anatomy 101 – He made us, after all – both Jeremiah 17:10 and 1 Samuel 16:7 are using the inner organs to represent the inner person – the inner man. Here is another example – a funny one to those of us that are still in fifth grade (and also, me)
And Joseph made haste; for his bowels did yearn upon his brother: and he sought where to weep; and he entered into his chamber, and wept there.
Genesis 43:30, KIng James Version
HIS BOWELS yearned for his brother? WHAT, WHAT, WHAT?! Well, this simply means that he deeply (to the literal depths of his being) desired to see his brother. Have you ever seen something that made you sad, or made your heart ache, and felt it in your insides? I remember a two week mission trip to Peru that happened in 2004 when I was a young father. I missed my wife and kids so much that sometimes it made me feel strange in my gut…this is what all of these passages are referring to…not our organs, but our internals – our thoughts, feelings, emotions, the inner person – not how we look, or how tall we are, or how strong we are, etc. God is concerned about our thoughts, our motives, the inner person that drives the actions and the words of the outer person:
All a person’s ways seem right to him,
but the Lord weighs motives
Jesus also looked internally into people and did not regard their outer appearance, or the accouterments of wealth and power:
24 Jesus, however, would not entrust himself to them, since he knew them all 25 and because he did not need anyone to testify about man; for he himself knew what was in man.
What are the implications of this truth for us? Is this just information for us as to the character of God? Not at all – as Jesus says, this is a posture that we must adopt as well:
24 Stop judging according to outward appearances; rather judge according to righteous judgment.”
In a world of Instagram influencers, TikTok celebrities, and the fabulously wealthy, may we take this to heart (or to the kidneys) and stop judging with our eyes.