January 7, 2001: Do You Pass Or Fail God’s SAT Test?

Let us pray: Dear Savior, how easy it is for us to get caught up in the superficial and to base out attitude about others on their outward appearance. Lord, if all those standing at the foot of Your cross had done that—basing their faith on the bloody wreck of Your body, there would be no Christians on earth today. Dear Jesus, cause all of us to look past appearance and delve into the hearts of those around us. For it is there we will find the best of Your Godly gifts. Amen


TEXT: I Samuel 16: 1-13

Fellow Redeemed Sinners:

Life is a continual set of tests. I’m not just talking about the MCAS tests given to Massachusetts students, either. No, every day at work is a test to see whether you can perform up to company standards, or not. Every car you buy is a test to see whether or not you did your homework and got the best deal possible. Every investment you make, or stock you buy, is a test to see whether or not you’ve picked the right answer. Indeed, every friend you make, every decision you debate is a test to see how insightful you really are.

In the church, most think of tests in terms of confirmation examination day. But, in reality we face two kinds of continual tests no matter our age. One is the daily temptations trotted out by Satan designed to trip us up. The other is the daily testings, or probings, by God to see how much we’ve learned and where we’re currently at in our spiritual life. Yes, God really does give all of us Spiritual Aptitude Tests, or SAT tests! With that thought in mind, today we’re going to all take a formal SAT test. So, I ask you,



To fully comprehend our text you need some background. King Saul, God’s chosen standard-bearer for His people, had given up his faith. He was a prideful man who looked every inch a king, tall, good-looking, athletic, and the like. But, after a while he had begun to view his blessings as stemming from his abilities instead of God’s grace. Finally, Saul directly disobeyed God’s instructions on dealing with a vanquished enemy, but made it appear on the surface that his actions were more holy than even God had asked for. The prophet Samuel called Saul on this. And what did this “show” king do? He cried crocodile tears and tried to express outward humility. But all the while his heart wasn’t really in it. Humans were fooled by this, but not God. For “Man looks at the outward appearance, but he Lord looks at the heart.” The result of all this was Samuel was commanded by God go to Bethlehem and anoint a new king from the sons of Jesse, the sheep rancher.

Samuel well knows that Saul will hear of this and seek Samuel’s life. After all, ungodly pride will do anything to appease and protect itself. So, God devises a stratagem in taking the heifer along and offering sacrifice. God also says: “Invite Jesse to the sacrifice, and I will show you what to do. You are to anoint for me the one I indicate.” (Again, anointing wasn’t just pouring oil on a person’s head, it was singling them out as special to God and putting His seal of approval upon them—in this case, choosing them as king.)

Samuel passes this spiritual aptitude test. He does exactly what God says. That’s the hallmark of all passing grades when it comes to Christianity.—We must follow God’s Word of truth and not our own whims. Then Samuel lays his eyes on Jesse’s sons. First, he spies the oldest, Eliab and thought, “Surely the Lord’s anointed stands here before the Lord.” But, what did God say to this? “Do not consider his appearance or his height, for I have rejected him. The Lord does not look at the things man looks at. Man looks at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.”

Next comes Abinadab, then Shammah, and then four more of Jesse’s sons. But, God doesn’t choose any of them. We don’t know a lot about the other four sons, but we can glean a few facts about the three that are mentioned. First, David, the youngest, was a teenager. That would make the oldest in their early 30’s or late 20’s. We know that later when Israel faced off against Goliath, these three were in Saul’s army. We know that the oldest mocked David when he came to do his father’s bidding and bring them food. We also know that all three were a bit cowardly in their dealings with Goliath and his army. Yes, hindsight proved the Lord’s judgement. None of them would have made a good king because they lacked intestinal fortitude, or guts!


But, what about David? So Samuel asked Jesse, “Are these all the sons you have? There is still the youngest,’ Jesse answered, ‘but he is tending the sheep.’” David, the teenager, is sent for. He comes in young, sun-burned, and red-haired!—according to some commentators. “Then the Lord said, “Rise and anoint him; he is the one.’ So Samuel took the horn of oil and anointed him in the presence of his brothers, and from that day on the Spirit of the Lord came upon David in power.”

Why did God pick David? Was it because he was innately handsome, intelligent, and had special abilities that no one else possessed? No. God picked David because He looked into David’s heart and saw therein: faith. He saw the faith that had been engendered in David when he underwent the covenant of circumcision—the old testament precursor to baptism for infants. I remember years ago when I baptized and confirmed a young adult. A fellow pastor who knew that person’s background heard about it and later asked me, “Did it take?” I replied, “I certainly believe so.” Well, we cannot read hearts, so we put the best construction on another’s confession. But, God can read hearts. He knew that in David’s case the gift of faith had taken hold and now, in a continuation of that grace, God chose to bless David with even more gifts of the Spirit. (To illustrate just how important God was in David’s life, read the story of his triumph over the giant Goliath in I Samuel 17. Note especially when David says: “Who is this uncircumcised Philistine that he should defy the armies of the living God!?”—Yes, God’s glory was always foremost in David’s mind!)


Today we live in a society where teens undergo cosmetic surgery and have various implants because “it will give them self-confidence!” We live in an age where looks mean everything and character is denigrated. And it’s easy for us to get swept along by such superficiality. So, how can you pass God’s SAT test? By looking past the outward appearance and trying to discern what’s inside another and in the process making sure your heart is focused on the right things of life. Specifically, God looks for and so you should also look for evidence of the fruits of the Spirit. “Love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.”

The love spoken of here is not having a lustful appearance, or even being friendly. No, it is compassionate, put-yourself-out-for-another love. Do others have it? Do you? Also, do you possess a joy over life and an appreciation of all of the blessings God throws your way, or not? Are you, and those you value people who seek peace—peace with God first, and peace with other humans second? Or, are you willing to sacrifice truth, or justice, or morality for the sake of superficial peace—kind of like David’s older brothers? Patience is a great Christian virtue. Do you take the long view of life and see issues against the backdrop of God’s eternal stage, or are you one of those people who just takes advantage of the moment and writes others off because they’re not worth your time right now? Kindness is vital if you want lasting friendships and if you want inner joy. And where does true kindness come from? It comes from Christ, who kindly gave His life to save ours. Who didn’t repay our sins with anger, but repaid them for His forgiving blood. Goodness and faithfulness. David certainly was faithful to his father. He kept his word and defended the flock under his care—on one occasion against a lion, and on another against a bear! He obeyed his father and took food to the army as they cringed in fear at Goliath. And David’s sense of goodness toward Godly justice gave him the courage to fight for God’s people against all odds and win! Just as Christ fought for us against the temptations of Satan and won! Most would look at David, the man of war, and conclude that he was far from gentle and possessed little self-control. But, nothing could be further from the truth! Gentleness doesn’t mean being a wimp. It doesn’t mean backing down to a bully, or letting evil get the upper hand. No, gentleness means that you’ll fight when you must for Godly morality and justice. But that you’ll also gladly put down the sword when you’ve won. Indeed, where would America, or the world, be today if Christian GI’s in WWII had not had a healthy dose of such gentleness and later self-control after they had won? For self-control is vital so that your pride and anger don’t get the upper hand and make you into the exact thing you’re fighting.

The bottom line is that all of us fail God’s SAT test on our own. But, we’re not really on our own, are we? We have Jesus in our corner. In baptism each of us put on Jesus’ perfection. The Holy Spirit put on us Jesus’ passing grade. He made it our own possession through His gift of faith.

Later in life David fell into terrible sin through his adultery with Bathsheba and the murder of her husband, Uriah, to cover it all up. But, God sent the prophet Nathan to David to pierce his arrogant pride. As a result, David composed the 51st psalm in which he states: “Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a right spirit within me.” If that is your prayer today and everyday, you will never, ever, have to worry about passing God’s Spiritual Aptitude Test! For such a prayer means your heart truly has been and is being cleansed by the priceless blood of Christ. Amen