My first life verse, 1 Samuel 16:7, comes from the Old Testament, and is part of the introductory narrative of King David. The future monarch at this stage however is but an untried, obscure adolescent. So obscure in fact, that when the prophet Samuel decides to choose from amongst Jesse’s sons for a suitable successor to anoint to replace King Saul, Jesse does not even consider bringing his eighth and youngest son, David. But when Eliab, the first of Jesse’s sons, passes before Samuel, the Word of the Lord comes to the prophet: “But the Lord said to Samuel, ‘Do not look at his appearance or at his physical stature, because I have refused him. For the Lord does not see as man sees; for man looks at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.” Samuel then reviews six more of Jesse’s sons. But God has not chosen any of them, and so the last son, the very youngest, is sent for. David has been keeping the sheep, and when he arrives, Samuel anoints him in the midst of his brothers, and furthermore, we are told that at this point, the Spirit of the Lord descends upon the young man.
We can understand this verse in its context, as simply part of the narrative of King David, demonstrating how God chooses to work through unexpected people, in unexpected circumstances. There is a contrast too between the previous King Saul, who was chosen precisely because of his imposing height and kingly bearing, even though he turned out to possess none of the interior qualities needed to be a man of God. David, on the other hand, although to all external appearances still a raw and untested youth, nonetheless had a heart that was ready to serve God, and lead His people into obedience towards the Lord. But this verse also carries a deep personal significance for me, because I believe that having “eyes to see the heart” is one of the most important spiritual gifts that we can utilize! So often, we are distracted by external, superficial factors. Maybe we don’t like the way someone dresses, or their personality rubs us the wrong way—maybe we feel uncomfortable because of cultural, economic, or racial differences. Whatever the reason, we become focused on something that’s not ultimately the true measure of the person—which is their interior being, their character, and their heart. 1 Samuel 16:7 urges us, I believe, to look for the best in someone else, to find and encourage their hidden potential. I know I have been blessed over the years to be the beneficiary of people around me who have been able to see past some of my external flaws, and look into my heart, to encourage and affirm me in following God’s calling for my life. Abraham Lincoln once said, “if you look for the bad in people, expecting to find it, you surely will.” It’s easy to be a cynic, but as Christians we are called to look at others with the love of Christ, and that means pressing past the surface to see into their hearts. When someone does that for you, and when you can do that for someone else, it makes all of the difference in the world!
A second life verse comes at the very end of John’s Gospel, John 21:25—“And there are also many other things that Jesus did, which if they were written one by one, I supposed that even the world itself could not contain the books that would be written. Amen.” Although it’s hard to pick a favorite Gospel, and certain verses and passages in each one are dear to me, the Book of John stands out. Biblical scholars have noted its distinctive nature as compared with Matthew, Mark, and Luke. These three are referred to as the synoptic Gospels. The most-accepted theories are that Mark was probably written first, and then Matthew and Luke came afterwards, drawing much of their source material from Mark. But John stands apart, in terms of the time of composition, its unique literary style, and its Christology. John offers no birth narratives or genealogies to explain Christ’s background. Instead it beings with the famous prologue—“In the beginning was the Word”. More than any other Gospel, John presents Jesus as the Divine Son of God from the outset, and we see that Jesus has been present with, and equal to God fsince before time began. John also clearly uses stories of signs and miracles by Jesus to act as proof of Christ’s identity as the Messiah. John explains the central theme of his Gospel with a laser-like intensity. Everything is recorded for one sole and ultimate purpose—“that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that believing you may have life in His name.” (John 20:31)
John wants us to know that he has taken pains to only record certain very specific events from the life of Christ (as really have all of the Gospels—which is why for example we have virtually no information about the so-called “hidden years” of Jesus life from age 12-30). And yet at the same time, moreso than any other Gospel, John hints at the sheer magnitude of untold stories of Jesus in the beautiful and poetic verse 21:25 which closes his Gospel. I take this verse to mean on the one hand that within His physical lifetime here on earth, Jesus engaged in many other episodes of teaching, healing, and working, including those years spent in the carpenter shop in Nazareth with Joseph. But the verse truly comes alive for me when we start to think about all the works of Christ that have been done through those who believe in His name across the centuries. Remember that in John 14:12, Christ promises the disciples “Most assuredly, I say to you, he who believes in Me, the works that I do he will do also; and greater works than these he will do, because I go to my Father.” Combining this with John 21:25 we see that the power of Christ resides in the fact that not only was He the Savior of the World while on earth, but that He has continued to work in and through His children up until the present day! When I reflect upon all the works of Jesus in my own life, and then add that to all that Christ has accomplished through the faithful over the years—that “great cloud of witnesses” that Paul describes in Hebrews 12:1, it becomes apparent that John’s words at the end of his Gospel are not mere literary hyperbole. Surely the world itself cannot contain the full story of how Jesus has worked, is working, and will work in the hearts of men and women who are called to follow Him as Lord and Savior. John 21:25 is a perfect reminder then of how life verses are those points where we enter into the Biblical story—a story that is truly ongoing, and in fact, will never end—stretching into eternity!