Photo by Seemann on Morgue File.
Look in the mirror. Does the person you see match the person you feel like on the inside? How much stock do you put in appearances?
Mirror, mirror on the wall, who is the fairest . . . Oh, never mind. I am not looking to be the fairest in the land; probably a good thing for me! Appearances can be used, portrayed, manipulated, exaggerated and downplayed. We can make our appearances to, as best they can, reflect how we feel inwardly. Conversely, we can make our appearances be the exact opposite; masking and hiding what we feel on the inside.
I do not think I would say appearances, in themselves, are bad things; but, I think we do have to be cautious in putting too much stock in them. I have met people whose appearances, at first glance, said something about them that simply was not true. Of course, this can work both ways, good and bad. There are some who appear to be clean-shaven, well-to-do, honest and trustworthy, upstanding men or women in society, only to prove to be cons and miscreants.
While appearance has its place, I do not think it is the best indicator of a person’s true self. Who a person truly is resides on the inside. It is their heart or spirit, or whatever name you want to give it.
In the bible, God proves this very point many times over. One telling example of this is when the prophet Samuel is sent by God to the house of Jesse to anoint the next king of Israel. Of course, this trip had to be kept on the down low, because there was still a king in Israel at that time: Saul. However, Saul, because of his disobedience to God, had been rejected by God and his kingdom would one day be taken away from him. Thus, God commanded Samuel to go to Jesse and to anoint one of his sons; the one that God would reveal to him would be the next king of the nation.
Samuel goes to the house of Jesse and informs Jesse of the purpose of his visit. Jesse, beaming with pride and amazement that one of his boys would be the next ruler of the nation, quickly parades his sons in front of the man of God. First, he brings in his most strapping, most physically impressive, his most handsome son. He thought if any of his sons was to be the next king, it surely had to be the one who most looked the part; that is, the one who had the presence and appearance of royalty.
Samuel too, when he saw this first son was convinced he was the one. Samuel deduced he had the look. His appearance looked like what a king should look like. He had it all going for him. Samuel was ready to pull out the anointing oil and bless him as the next king of Israel.
Only one small problem, he was not God’s choice. He did not make the cut. Now I am sure he was a great guy, perhaps even a godly young man; but, he was not the chosen one. God stays Samuel’s hand from applying the anointing oil, so Samuel asks for the next son up.
Jesse proceeds to bring in each of his sons, one by one, each impressive. Each having a certain appeal or look that bespoke of kingship, of rule, of a strong leader. Each to varying degrees had the appearance of what a person would want their king to look like. But, time after time, son after son, God rejected each. Each time Samuel saw the next son walk through the door he was convinced he was staring in the face of the future king; but each time God shot it down, each time God said no, he was not the one.
Then, a funny thing happened. Jesse seemed to run out of sons! Son after son had come before Samuel and son after son God had rejected. As the last son passed by, Samuel looked for the next one . . . but, there was no next one. No one stepped through the door. I am sure, at this point, Samuel must be thinking he had missed something. Samuel maybe thought his spiritual radar had fallen into disrepair. Maybe he had lost a step or two has he had grown older. Maybe he missed God’s chosen one; maybe he misheard what God had said.
Finally, confused and unsure of what to do, he asks Jesse if these are all of his sons. Is that it? Is this all of them? Jesse replies that there is one last son, the youngest (or smallest) of the lads. But, he is busy tending the family’s sheep herd. He is not a military man like his brothers. He has not been trained in the art of warfare. He has not sat in councils of strategy and diplomacy. In short, he does not know the first thing about being a king!
Samuel insists that David be brought before him. Samuel, perhaps, is just as skeptical about his chances as Jesse at this point. But, in comes David and as soon as he appears before the prophet, God tells Samuel he is the one and to anoint him as future king. Samuel does what God commanded. And so, David is anointed, chosen by God to be the future king of Israel. Of course, it would take some 18 years for him to actually become king; but he would be king nonetheless.
In this whole episode of parading sons, God taught the prophet a valuable lesson, and through him we should learn it as well. God 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.” (1 Sam. 16.7)
Appearances are fine and there is a certain expectation we have of them. However, even more importantly is what is on the inside. God sees past the appearance, be it good or bad or indifferent, and sees the heart; he sees the true self.
This is why many years later, God would chastise his people for their facade of religion. He would scorn them for their religious hypocrisy. You see, the people were just going through the motions. Oh, they were holding to the letter of the Torah, but not its spirit. They were still sacrificing and attending Temple services. They were still observing their holy days and feasts. They still listened to the reading of Torah and prayed their prayers. In fact, if you had been a visitor to Jerusalem during those days it would have looked impressive indeed. You would have thought, Surely, these are God’s people. Surely, they are living lives honoring to the Lord. The problem is it was all a facade.
Religion to them had become nothing more than ritual. They jumped through the proverbial hoops. They dotted their i’s and crossed their t’s, but inside . . . inwardly, they were full of lust and idolatry. For no sooner had they paid lip service to the true God, they were out on the high places giving their allegiance to the Baals and Asherah.
God is not interested in ceremony for the sake of ceremony. God is not interested in ritualistic observances for their own sake. God is concerned with consecration, not ceremony. God is interested in relationship, not rituals. If the ceremony is accompanied by consecration, fine. If the rituals are an expression of a deep-felt relationship, great. But, most important is the heart.
God showed himself time and time again not to be like the pagan gods. He was not a god to be placated by lip service or rituals. God, unlike the false gods of human creation, saw and knew the heart. He wanted the heart, relationship and love.
What was true of God in the Old Testament, is true of God in the New Testament. God so loved the world he gave his Son. It is by Christ we can be fully consecrated to God. It is through Christ we can have that heart-felt relationship with God.
There is a place for appearances, if they express the true self within. But of greater importance is not so much what your outward appearance looks like; but rather, what your heart, your soul looks like.