How God sees people – 1 Samuel 9-16

During our recent OBF Conference, Pastor Scott Jones of Bellevue Bible Church preached a good sermon entitled, How God Sees People. His message was based on the difference between Saul and David in 1 Samuel 9-16. This message will be loosely based on the ideas he presented during that time.

Political ads are flooding our emails, television, radio, and phone calls. Each candidate has a nice picture, a clever slogan, the backing of some groups, and claims to be better than the other candidate. If you were to just listen to one person, you might be convinced that he has a good heart, is more patriotic, and deserves your vote. Sometimes it is difficult to make that decision without investigating the candidate’s opinion yourself. So, despite the effort needed, we do that but may still be left with a faulty perception of who they really are. Then after a few months in office, we find out the truth.

Have you ever considered how God sees people? Being that He is omniscient (all knowing), nothing deceives or surprises Him. He can see what we cannot. He sees deep into the heart of a person and knows who they truly are. He knows which political candidates are being honest and which are not. But as you nod your heads in agreement, realize that God knows your heart as well. This message will address not only how God sees others but also how He sees us.

Let’s take a few moments to compare the lives of two promising candidates for king of Israel. As candidates, they were each seen by the people. However, their real character was already known to God and later revealed to the world.

  1. Saul (1 Sam. 9-14)

    a. How he was seen by people

    The people had been demanding that Samuel give them a king like the other nations had. While Samuel didn’t like their talk, God allowed them to have what they wanted. But what would this king look like?

    Saul was tall and handsome (1 Sam. 9:1-2).

    Did you notice how the Bible describes Saul? He was a one-in-a-million man. He was both tall and handsome. In fact, he is described as more handsome than any other man in Israel. When he walked into town, all of the girls noticed him. But when he walked into town, all of the men noticed him, too, because he was so tall.

    Sharon and I know a young man who recently signed a two-way contract with an NBA team. The interesting thing is that he is 6′ 10″ tall and weighs 248 pounds. When he enters the room, I imagine that everyone notices.

    Saul was timid (1 Sam. 10:22-24).

    Despite his good looks, Saul was timid. He didn’t have the swagger of a proud man who knows he is good looking. Instead, when Saul announced him as the first king of Israel, they couldn’t find him. He was finally found hiding with the luggage. Whether this helped his image or not, I am not sure. Some may have viewed him as a coward while others were too excited to think anything negative about him.

    Saul was valiant (1 Sam. 11:11-12).

    Saul’s timid nature was completely forgotten when the Amalekites besieged Jabesh Gilead. Nahash had promised to maim the inhabitants of the city if they made peace with him. When Saul heard about this, the Spirit of God came upon him and he quickly raised an army. With God’s help, Saul and his army destroyed the wicked invaders. None of his previous detractors had any basis for doubting his courage after that.

    b. How God saw him

    You would think that God’s perception of Saul was good to this point. But later events show us what God already knew about him.

    Saul had potential (1 Sam. 12:13-15).

    In this chapter, Samuel rebuked the Israelites for their habitual rebellion against God. Just like their fathers, they were rejecting the Lord in wanting a king to rule them. But Samuel reminded them that they and their king had the potential to please the Lord and to find his blessing. If they had a proper fear of God and obeyed His commands, they would have a good relationship with God. But if not… Sadly, the “if not” came to pass.

    Saul was impatient (1 Sam. 13:11-14).

    During a war against the Philistines, Samuel had instructed Saul to wait seven days for his arrival (13:8). Saul waited the seven days but became impatient when Samuel did not arrive when expected. The Philistines were nearby, the army was dissolving, and Saul couldn’t wait any longer. He offered a burnt offering without Samuel’s permission. He “unlawfully took on himself the priestly task of offering community sacrifice” (BKCOT 445). This was a direct violation of God’s law… and an impatient choice. Samuel addressed his sin and announced to Saul that his kingdom would be removed from him.

    Saul was rash (1 Sam. 14:24-26).

    There is no doubt that Samuel’s message affected Saul’s attitude and ability to lead the people. We learn later that his thinking became clouded and that God sent a spirit to trouble him. What this chapter shows us is that Saul’s son Jonathan was a better man than he. After Jonathan’s victory against a small band of Philistines, the Lord allowed Saul and his army to chase the enemy away.

    But things weren’t going as well as they could have. Saul had made a rash order that nobody could eat anything until they were done fighting that evening. can you imagine the consternation amongst the soldiers? No food, but we have to keep fighting? What is the king thinking? Even Jonathan noted the foolishness of his father’s order.

    Saul was rebellious (1 Sam. 15:19-21).

    Surprisingly, the Lord sent Samuel to Saul with one more opportunity to be obedient. He was instructed to utterly destroy the Amalekite population and their livestock. While this may seem overly harsh, the Lord viewed their past sin and probably their present wickedness as reasons for this judgment.

    Saul gathered an army of 210,000 soldiers to fight against the Amalekites. He was successful in defeating them but did not completely obey God’s command. He saved Agag, the king, and the best of the livestock. When Samuel arrived, Saul acted as if he had been obedient but Saul heard the bleating of sheep and knew better. His announcement from the Lord was that God considered him evil, rebellious, and stubborn (15:22-23). This was the last straw and God rejected Saul from being king.

    Although Saul had potential to become a godly king, he chose instead to do what he wanted to do. His potential was spoiled by his impatience, rash commands, and rebellion against God. After his character was revealed by his actions, the Lord rejected him as king of Israel (see 1 Sam. 15:26).

    Isn’t it interesting how such a promising candidate looked so good to the people but turned out so badly? It must have been a big surprise (for the people who had such high hopes initially) when Saul became a rebellious, disobedient king. How had they been fooled by him!

  2. David (1 Sam. 16)

    a. How he was seen by people

    When Saul was introduced to Israel, people noticed his outward characteristics. He was tall and handsome. But when David was anointed as king, he was not what anyone was expecting.

    He was not Samuel’s first choice (1 Sam. 16:6).

    When Samuel secretly met with the elders of Bethlehem, he invited Jesse and his family to the sacrifice. When Jesse’s firstborn arrived, Samuel was impressed by his outward appearance. He was convinced that this was the one God had chosen.

    He was young (1 Sam. 16:11).

    When seven of Jesse’s sons had passed by Samuel, none of them had been chosen by the Lord. Samuel asked Jesse if all of his sons were there. Jesse told him that only the youngest was left and he was watching the sheep. David was not the oldest, most experienced, or most honored of the family. There were seven brothers older than him.

    He was good looking (1 Sam. 16:12).

    But what he lacked in age, he made up for in appearance. The Bible describes him as “ruddy, with bright eyes, and good-looking.” I like to think that ruddy means that David had red hair (since I began with that hair color). One commentator agrees with me. “When this verse says that David was ‘ruddy,’ it means that he had red hair—and he had a temper to match his red hair, a hot temper. But in addition to the fact … he was a fine-looking fellow” (McGee 155).

    What people saw about David was not especially promising. While he was a good-looking person, he was too young and didn’t look like the first choice of someone who would be the next king of Israel. But man’s perception, in this case, was different than what God saw.

    b. How God saw him

    David had potential (1 Sam. 12:13-15).

    In this chapter, Samuel reminded the people that they and their king had the potential to please the Lord and to find his blessing. If they had a proper fear of God and obeyed His commands, they would have a good relationship with God. But if not, things would go poorly for them. While Samuel was originally addressing Saul and the people, the same principle applied to David and the kings that followed.

    He saw his heart (1 Sam. 16:7).

    Of all the verses we will look at today, this one is probably the most memorable because it teaches us how God sees people. When Samuel considered Eliab to be the one the Lord would pick, God corrected his perception. He told Samuel not to look at his appearance or stature because God looks deeper than people do. God looks directly into the heart of a person to see their true character.

    What did God see in David’s heart? If you turn back to 1 Samuel 13:14, you will see that God had sought and found someone who was “after his own heart.” David’s inner character was not perfect, but it was especially inclined toward the Lord. You can see it in the psalms that he wrote and in the actions that he took. When confronted about his adultery with Bathsheba (not after God’s heart), he repented and admitted his fault to the Lord (after God’s heart). While David did sin grievously, the main thing known about him was his heart for the Lord.

    He had faith in God (1 Sam. 17:45-47).

    God’s final perception of David’s character is seen in what is recorded in the inspired record of his fight with Goliath. When all others were fearful of the boasting Philistine, David was incredulous that no one would take the challenge. After hearing the giant’s “big words,” David volunteered to fight him and answered his ridicule with a faith-filled speech of what God would do that day to the one who had blasphemed the God of Israel. What faith in God! As you may recall, the Lord honored David’s faith in Him, the giant was killed, and the Philistine army was chased away.

    Isn’t it interesting how such an unexpected candidate, who lacked some of the physical attributes of the former, turned out so good? It must have been a big surprise (for the people who had such high hopes for Saul) when David became a good king. How they were fooled by his outward attributes.


God sees people differently than we do. People notice what they can see from the outside, but God sees what they are on the inside. After reading through these narratives, we know this to be true. But how can this knowledge help us?

  1. You don’t have to be a superhero to be valuable to God.

    If you are of the opinion that you are subpar, consider the fact that God made you and gave you the abilities that you have whether great or small. He knows who you are and loves you anyway. He also knows your heart and is interested more in that than any outward characteristics that you could show.

    Instead of trying to become appealing, powerful, or popular, think about what God sees and spend time becoming someone that He values. Remember that “exercise profits a little, but godliness is profitable for all things, having promise of the life that now is and of that which is to come” (1 Tim. 4:8). Your inward person is more important to God than what others can see on the outside. With God’s help, seek to become someone who has godly character.

  2. Your perception of others should reflect what God sees.

    Have you noticed how many people are very different than you are? Their outward appearance is entirely opposite from your own. Where they come from, how they talk, how they dress, and what they do may be disgusting to you. But have you ever thought of how God sees that person? Could it be that the person you would normally avoid is someone in whose heart God has been working? Could it be that the Lord cares about those who seem strange to you? And could it be that God could use you to help them to become a child of God one day?

    God sees people differently than we do. And when we conform our view to God’s view of people, we will have a better perception of both ourselves and other people. Will you allow the Lord to change how you see people today?


Blaikie, W. G., The First Book of Samuel, Minneapolis: Klock & Klock, 1887, reprint 1978.

McGee, J. Vernon, Thru the Bible with J. Vernon McGee, Joshua through Psalms, Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 1982.

Merrill, Eugene H., “1 Samuel” in The Bible Knowledge Commentary Old Testament, USA: SP Publications, 1989.

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