The heart of the matter

He grew up before him like a tender shoot, and like a root out of dry ground. He had no beauty or majesty to attract us to him, nothing in his appearance that we should desire him. (Isa 53:2)

Isaiah was speaking about Jesus; he was describing our Lord seven hundred years before he was born. The Bible says that there was nothing in his appearance that would have attracted us to him. Think about that.

Jesus was not physically attractive in any way. That doesn't mean that he was unattractive, but neither did he possess striking features or a majestic presence that would have turned heads. Jesus was Mr Normal; he was Mr Average. Even though he was God, he didn't have a superhuman body that set him apart from other men.

Jesus was average height and average build. That is why Judas, his betrayer, said, 'The one I kiss is the man; arrest him (Mat 26:48).' There was nothing about our Lord, physically, that made him stand out in a crowd. There was a reason for that, and it was a spiritual reason.

God looks at the heart

When Samuel went to Bethlehem to anoint the new king of Israel, he thought that Eliab must be the one God had chosen. But God said to him:

'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.' (1Sa 16:7)

Samuel was looking at Eliab's outward appearance, but God was looking at his heart. A person's heart is infinitely more important to God than their physical features, and who had a heart more pure and perfect than our Lord's?

Eliab must have been a fine looking man because God said, 'Do not consider his appearance or his height.' Saul, who was king at the time, was also a fine looking man who stood head and shoulders above everyone else (1Sa 9:1–2), but his heart was no longer right before God.

God didn't choose Eliab but his younger brother David to be king. It's true that David was handsome and of fine appearance (1Sa 16:12), but that was not the reason he was chosen. As we've seen, God doesn't look at outward appearances, he looks at the heart; and the body he gave his Son demonstrated that.

Physical beauty is fleeting; it soon disappears (Pro 31:30). Nowadays some women resort to surgery as they age because they cannot bear to see their beauty fade; but the heart is the important thing as far as God is concerned. They are trying to make their bodies look right in the sight of the world, but do their hearts look right in the sight of God?

What the heart represents

What does the Bible mean when it talks about the heart? Is it talking about the physical organ that pumps blood around our body? No, not at all.

Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength. These commandments that I give you today are to be upon your hearts. (Deu 6:4–6)

God doesn't want us to love him with our physical heart. The heart, in this sense, represents the real us: the centre of our thoughts, our feelings and our emotions—particularly the emotion of love. Even the secular world accepts that definition and uses the heart to portray these things. What symbol is used to represent love in the world? A heart.

After God's heart

When God rejected Saul as king he told him that he had chosen a man after his own heart to replace him (1Sa 13:14). That man was David. We need to ask ourselves whether we are people after the Lord's heart, as David was. We certainly should be. But what does it mean to be a person after the Lord's heart? Act 13:22 tells us:

After removing Saul, he made David their king. He testified concerning him: 'I have found David son of Jesse a man after my own heart; he will do everything I want him to do.'

A man or woman after God's heart is someone who will do everything he wants them to do. They are so devoted to the Lord that they want his will to be done in their lives more than anything else. They are zealous to obey and do the will of God. God occupies first place in their hearts.

Heart attitudes

His Spirit in our hearts

When we are born again we become a temple of the Holy Spirit (1Co 6:19). But where in our body does the Holy Spirit dwell?

Now it is God who makes both us and you stand firm in Christ. He anointed us, set his seal of ownership on us, and put his Spirit in our hearts as a deposit, guaranteeing what is to come. (2Co 1:21–2)

The Holy Spirit dwells in our hearts.

His laws on our hearts

This is the covenant I will make with the house of Israel after that time, declares the Lord. I will put my laws in their minds and write them on their hearts. (Heb 8:10)

It's easier for Christians to obey God under the New Covenant than it was for Israel to obey him under the Old Covenant.

Under the Old Covenant God gave his people a series of laws, written on scrolls and tablets of stone, which they tried to obey with their sinful nature. That was impossible. Under the New Covenant God has written his laws on our hearts and given us his Spirit so we can obey them.

Guard your hearts

Let's end this study with Jesus.

Therefore, when Christ came into the world, he said: 'Sacrifice and offering you did not desire, but a body you prepared for me… Then I said, "Here I am—it is written about me in the scroll—I have come to do your will, O God."' (Heb 10:5,7)

David (a type of Christ) was chosen by God because he would do everything God wanted him to do. When Jesus came into the world he did everything God wanted him to do, perfectly, even to dying for our sins on a cross.

God prepared a body for his Son and we can be sure it was exactly as Isaiah had predicted. There was nothing in our Lord's appearance that would have attracted us to him, because the beauty and majesty of our physical bodies is not important—it's the heart that matters.

The world in which we live puts so much emphasis on the way we look. Are we dressed correctly? Are we following the latest fashions? Are we using the best skin creams and lotions? These things affect our outward appearance, but they don't impress God. God looks at the heart.

Brother or sister, is your heart right before God? We need to examine our hearts regularly to make sure that nothing has crept in to divert us from our sincere and pure devotion to Christ (2Co 11:3), because the human heart is deceitful and difficult to understand (Jer 17:9).

Above all else, guard your heart, for it is the wellspring of life. (Pro 4:23)

The Hebrew word translated 'wellspring' in that verse can mean either end, limit or starting point. That means the human heart is the alpha and omega, the beginning and the end: the most important part of our being as far as eternal life is concerned.

The Christian's heart is a battle ground and we must guard our hearts above everything else.

Michael Graham
June 2004
Revised May 2017

Scripture taken from the Holy Bible, New International Version ®. NIV ®. Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984 by International Bible Society. Used by permission of Zondervan Publishing House. All rights reserved.

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