“But the LORD said to Samuel, “Do not consider his appearance or his height, for I have rejected him. The LORD does not look at the things people look at. People look at the outward appearance, but the LORD looks at the heart.”” 1 Samuel 16:7 NIV
Leadership does matter in any given situation, so choosing and developing the right kinds of people for leadership is really important. It’s also quite a challenge. Who or how do we really choose? This verse gives us a clue. But we need to understand what it is not saying. It is not saying that we must look at a person’s heart before we appoint him or her into leadership. Only the Lord can see a person’s heart; we can only guess. In fact, this verse says that we can only see the outward appearance of a person, and even make judgments based on that alone (which is foolish). Second, it is not saying that a person’s heart must be completely right, or mature enough, before we appoint him or her into leadership. Why? Well, who is this verse really referring to? In saying that the Lord “looks at the heart,” does it mean that the Lord sees the heart of one of the sons of Jesse (i.e. the one Samuel sees before him when the Lord spoke to him) or was he referring to David, the shepherd boy (who was not here when this happened). It is tempting to think that the Lord was referring to David. But, I believe, that David, at this point in time, and even later in his life, was not exactly “worthy” to be king. In fact, later on he will sin against the Lord big time. Now it’s true that later on he will be called a man after God’s own heart, but that was later, after the end of his life. He was far from being perfect when God chose him to replace Saul at this time. In other words, he was simply chosen by the grace of God. So who was the Lord referring to in this verse? I believe he was referring to Saul. He was rejecting and removing Saul because his heart was not right before God. You see, the Lord saw his heart and rejected him as king. That was the lesson God was teaching Samuel. So choosing people for leadership is really by faith. We don’t know exactly what would happen after we have chosen and invested in people (just like Samuel did with Saul). But the Lord knows. We can only teach potential and current leaders to always guard their hearts, because the Lord will judge them based on their hearts, not based on anything external (like their success or good looks). So choose well, and prayerfully, trusting in the Lord’s wisdom to guide you.