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Don't Judge A Book By Its Cover
"Men judge by the sight of the eyes, but God does not." - Matthew Henry
We are all familiar with the saying - "You can't judge a book by its cover" - meaning that you cannot know its contents - whether it be good or bad - simply by looking at the cover. This being true - yet, at one time or another, we have all been guilty of judging people, things, or situations by the exterior - while overlooking the interior.
There was a young man in the Bible named Eliab. This young man's very name meant - "whose Father is God." So, every time that his name was called or mentioned, there was a powerful message coming forth about his character.
Just by his name, you got the impression that he was on-fire for God...truly dedicated and consecrated to His service...sincerely conformed to His image and likeness in his attitudes and disposition...and of an excellent spirit - displaying a kindness, gentleness, and compassion unlike any other.
Was this true of Eliab?
The Scriptures tell the real story.
1 Chronicles 2:13 introduces this man to us in this way - "And Jesse begat his firstborn Eliab..."
1 Chronicles 27:18 identifies him as a "ruler" - "Of Judah, Elihu, one of the brethren of David..."
"Eliab" and "Elihu" were names that were interchangeable. Hence, from this information, we find that "Eliab" was the firstborn of Jesse - David's father - and was considered to be a "prince" in the family's tribe of Judah.
Physically speaking - this man was very impressive to the eye. How do we know this? Because 1 Samuel 16:6 reveals the Prophet Samuel's reaction to him when he came to anoint the next king of Israel out of Jesse's clan - "And it came to pass, when they were come, that he looked on Eliab, and said, Surely the LORD's anointed is before Him." Just from this statement alone, we get the impression that Eliab was tall, strong, and handsome. His outward appearance was so stately that Samuel thought he was surely the one whom God had chosen to be Israel's next king.
He stood like a king...talked like a king...walked like a king...and conducted himself like a king.
Was he God's choice for the next king of Israel?
1 Samuel 16:7 gives the answer - "But the LORD said unto Samuel, Look not on his countenance, or on the height of his stature; because I have refused him: for the LORD seeth not as man seeth; for man looketh on the outward appearance, but the LORD looketh on the heart."
Wow! What a shock this was to the Prophet! And a slight rebuke from the Almighty - we might add!
Here the Lord God was teaching us all a very important lesson that we would need to utilize throughout our lifetime here on earth.
Samuel was looking strictly to the outside for information concerning Eliab. And what he saw was very impressive. No one in their right mind would have overlooked this "prince" of a man. No one - that is - but God! He instantly rejected him.
The answer is implied in His final statement to the prophet - "...but the LORD looketh on the heart."
From this message of truth, we gather that man - in judging others - has a tendency to "pick and choose" according to what he sees. God - on the other hand - chooses strictly on what man cannot see - the heart condition.
Although Eliab - in the natural - looked like the likely candidate - insomuch that even the Prophet Samuel was overtaken by his outward demeanor - yet God knew all along that there was something lacking in his character - something was definitely wrong with his heart condition - so much so that he would be just as bad as his predecessor - King Saul - if chosen.
The last thing Israel needed was another Saul. And that is what they would have gotten if Samuel would have anointed Eliab as king - that is, if God did not stop him and teach him a very valuable lesson in discernment.
How can we say for sure that Eliab would have been another King Saul?
We don't really know Eliab's heart condition until we read his reaction to his youngest brother David - as recorded in 1 Samuel 17:28 - "And Eliab his eldest brother heard when he(David) spake unto the men; and Eliab's anger was kindled against David, and he said, Why camest thou down hither? and with whom hast thou left those few sheep in the wilderness? I know thy pride, and the naughtiness of thine heart; for thou art come down that thou mightest see the battle."
1 Samuel 17:12-15 tells us where Eliab was at the time when David encountered him - "Now David was the son of that Ephrathite of Bethlehemjudah, whose name was Jesse; and he had eight sons: and the man went among men for an old man in the days of Saul. And the three eldest sons of Jesse went and followed Saul to the battle: and the names of his three sons that went to the battle were Eliab the firstborn, and next unto him Abinadab, and the third Shammah. And David was the youngest: and the three eldest followed Saul. But David went and returned from Saul to feed his father's sheep at Bethlehem."
David had a place at court. God had left King Saul because of his disobedience. One of the consequence of this sin was that an evil spirit came and tormented him. David was called into the court to play his musical instrument and sing praises to his God - the only possible remedy for King Saul's mental and spiritual relief.
No doubt - Eliab was "challenged" by his younger brother's advantage. His only consolation was that he was on the front lines of battle with King Saul. Here he hoped to one day be recognized for his valor on the battlefield.
That is, until Goliath - the "champion"(1 Samuel 17:4) of the Philistine's - showed up. Even Eliab - in all his physical attractiveness - could not impress this "Giant" of a man.
From this we gather that it was going to take something beyond the exterior to meet "Goliath's" match. And Eliab fell very short in doing so.
At the time of the battle, David was tending to his father's sheep at Bethlehem. One day, however, his father - Jesse - sent him on an errand to the camp of Israel with provision of bread and cheese and also to see how his brethren fared in the battle(1 Samuel 17:17-20).
When Eliab saw that David came to the battle and spoke boldly for the Lord in the face of the "uncircumcised Philistine" - Goliath(1 Samuel 17:26), he became angry and immediately began to run his younger brother down in the presence of the other men - "...Why camest thou down hither? and with whom hast thou left those few sheep in the wilderness? I know thy pride, and the naughtiness of thine heart; for thou art come down that thou mightest see the battle"(1 Samuel 17:28).
Wait a minute! Wasn't this the man whose name meant - "whose Father is God"? And wasn't he the tall, strong, handsome, and promising leader who stood before Samuel the Prophet to be anointed Israel's next king?
What are we seeing here? What is coming forth out of this man's mouth and flowing from his heart?
What pride, jealousy, strife, and selfishness was hidden from the Prophet's eyes! Listen to the ill-favored, unjust, unkind, and ungrateful language that was pouring out of his heart toward his younger brother. What an unfair representation he gave to the others of David - referring to him as a proud, idle, lazy, careless, and unfaithful lad - not fit to be taken notice of - only fit to be tending after his father's "small flock" of smelly sheep.
Instead of Eliab being stirred by David's faith in God and resultant boldness, he was infuriated by it - simply because it made himself look bad.
Wouldn't you say that we have another King Saul in the picture?
In order to make himself look good, he had to tear down and discourage his younger brother. He had to kill any vision or passion in his heart.
It almost seemed as though he would have rather had Goliath triumph over Israel than to have David triumph over him!
When he looked upon Eliab for the first time, the Prophet Samuel said - "...Surely the LORD'S anointed is before Him." But God had to straighten out his thinking very quickly with the retort - "...Look not on his countenance, or on the height of his stature; because I have refused him..."
One question you must ask yourself today is - Who or what am I judging by the outward appearance?
Proverbs 14:12 warns - "There is a way which seemeth right unto a man, but the end thereof are the ways of death."
There may be a person...ministry...job...or direction that you are pursuing after because it "seems right." Everything on the outside appears to be favorable and promising. However, have you stopped to ask the Lord Jesus what He thought about it? After all, He sees not as man sees. He knows the end from the beginning of everything.
Have you ever thought that you could be "dead" wrong - like the Prophet Samuel - in your judging of what is best for the situation at hand?
Did it ever occur to you that you could really mess up your life through one wrong decision?
Just how important is it that you find God's will on every matter?
Let this message be a warning to all not to judge "any book" by its cover.
Be sure to cry out for discernment from the One Who sees beyond the exterior. His name is Jesus. He will help you make the right choices in life.
May God Bless His Word.