Outward Appearance?

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An appearance … isn’t that just what Jesus spent a great part of His ministry talking about? How many times did the disciples make an error in judgment regarding a person or situation because of appearances? John records for us a time in which Jesus was being judged by appearances.

John 7:24 Do not judge by appearances, but judge with right judgment.” ESV

The word appearance as used here is opsis in the Greek and it refers to an outward show or action. Jesus was being judged by an outward action, which the Jews observed with their eyes. He had made a man whole on the Sabbath Day and they were judging Him according to their “database” … the law. It appeared that Jesus had broken the law to all outward appearances. But the issue was not the outside but the inside. The Lord addressed this same issue in the anointing of David by Samuel.

Samuel asked Jessie to bring forth his sons so that the Lord could anoint the next King of Israel. Who should be the first but the eldest and most handsome, Eliab. Samuel took one look at Eliab and said surely the LORD’s anointed is before him (1 Sam 16:6). It was at that point that Samuel could have taken the situation in hand and anointed the wrong man. If he had done that, where would we have been? Remember, this is the same Eliab that was hiding from Goliath with the rest of Israel’s army when David showed up.

But Samuel did not trust his eyes completely.  He trusted that still small voice inside that spoke to his spirit:

1 Sam 16:7 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 man sees: man looks on the outward appearance, but the Lord looks on the heart.” ESV

In the Hebrew the word appearance (ayin) as used here does not refer to an action but to one’s countenance or presence. The Lord expounds on this through the words Do No Look and Looks On. Look Not (nabat) means to look intently and regard with pleasure. Look On (raah) means to approve.

When Samuel looked at the appearance of Eliab, he made an initial judgment that this must be the next king simply by this appearance. But the Lord said wait a minute Samuel, do not look at him with pleasure (approve him) because of the way he looks. Man approves someone by his appearance or countenance but God approves a man by his heart. Is that what we do?

I have had a major struggle in my life with judging others by their outward appearance or action. It has taken the Lord a very long time to get me to begin to observe not only with my eyes but also with my spirit.  God has His eye set on eternity and I frequently only focus on the present or the temporal. Look at what happened when Samuel was obedient to the spirit and David was brought in from the field:

1 Sam 16:12 And he sent and brought him in. Now he was ruddy and had beautiful eyes and was handsome. And the Lord said, “Arise, anoint him, for this is he.” ESV

If Samuel had gone with his natural eyes, he would never have seen David. Had he judged the situation based upon his natural senses the history of Israel would have been altered or, more likely, God would have had to come in and straighten things out. As it was, his attention to The Spirit accomplished God’s purpose.

Paul commented on this in his second letter to the Corinthians:

2 Cor 4:18 as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal. ESV

God sees everything for what it is while we often see things for what we think or want them to be … Oh how well I know!

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