LORD, I know that people’s lives are not their own; it is not for them to direct their steps. (Jeremiah 10.23 NIV)
God’s Scrutiny of His Creatures
Here is a brief bible study to trace the revelation of heart’s transparency to God. Perhaps, prior to Samuel, it was not readily recognized from what perspective God tested humans. The book of Hebrews repeats what is revealed both explicitly and implicitly in the Old Testament: “Nothing in all creation is hidden from God’s sight. Everything is uncovered and laid bare before the eyes of him to whom we must give account.” (4.13 NIV). This transparency to God is also recognized by every person who has ever lived (though it is often suppressed): “since what may be known about God is plain to them, because God has made it plain to them” (Ro. 1.19 NIV).
The Era of Samuel the Prophet
The Prophet Samuel, when he went to anoint a replacement for King Saul, thought that David’s oldest brother was the Lord’s choice but God taught him differently: “Do not look on his appearance or on the height of his stature, because I have rejected him. For the Lord sees not as man sees: man looks on the outward appearance, but the Lord looks on the heart.” (1 Sa. 16.7 ESV). As far as I can tell from the scriptures, this new explicit truth was revealed first to Samuel, a Levite and prophet, specifically born and chosen to transition Israel from the relative darkness of the era of the Judges to King David who received the Covenant that Messiah would be born of his lineage.
Samuel was a Levite and so could minister in the tabernacle wearing an ephod before the negligent High Priest Eli (1Chron. 6.27-28, 1 Sam. 2.11, 18). The birth of Samuel was auspicious after Hannah’s suffering abuse from her rival (see 1Sam. 1). Hannah’s song and prayer in 1 Sam. 2.1-10 reflect important truths concerning God and His future king. Her song is prophetic in itself noting a coming judgment and king (vs. 10).
Samuel was a pivotal figure raised up to Judge Israel at a critical time in that nation’s history. Samuel’s calling by God in 1Sam. 3 reflects the judgment of Eli the High Priest and his line. God would guide the nation through Samuel until the choice of David the man after God’s own heart. Samuel functioned as Israel’s prophetic leader much the same way as Moses served as a conduit for the Lord’s word during the Egyptian Exodus and subsequent wilderness wanderings. This functional leadership is referenced in Jer. 15.1: Then the LORD said to me: “Even if Moses and Samuel were to stand before me, my heart would not go out to this people. Send them away from my presence! Let them go! (NIV). Also, in the the book of Acts after Peter healed a man lame from birth preached to the people noting the foundational place Samuel ministry functioned in the prophecy of Messiah’s coming and work of redemption: Indeed, beginning with Samuel, all the prophets who have spoken have foretold these days (Acts 3.24 NIV).
Explicit References After Samuel to God’s Vantage
Again, David (who evidently was taught by Samuel) in Ps. 7.9 affirms this truth: “Oh, let the evil of the wicked come to an end, and may you establish the righteous— you who test the minds and hearts, O righteous God!” (ESV). In the book of Proverbs, Solomon reveals the same concept: “Sheol and Abaddon lie open before the Lord; how much more the hearts of the children of man!” (15.11 ESV). He (Solomon) also concludes the book of Ecclesiastes after surveying everything under the sun: “For God will bring every deed into judgment, with every secret thing, whether good or evil.” (12.14 ESV). All these truths, it seems, were handed down to him by his father David: “And you, Solomon my son, know the God of your father and serve him with a whole heart and with a willing mind, for the Lord searches all hearts and understands every plan and thought. If you seek him, he will be found by you, but if you forsake him, he will cast you off forever.” (1 Chron. 28.9). This Solomon, the wisest man on earth, would later pray at the First Temple’s completion in Jerusalem, the place where God revealed to David that He would place His name forever: “then hear from heaven your dwelling place and forgive and render to each whose heart you know, according to all his ways, for you, you only, know the hearts of the children of mankind” (2Chron. 6.30 ESV).
Also in the Biblical Prophets God gives Jeremiah this same truth to reiterate to His people: “I the Lord search the heart and test the mind, to give every man according to his ways, according to the fruit of his deeds.” (17.10 ESV).
In the New Testament, not only do we have the Book Hebrews affirming heart transparency to God, Paul says the same thing in 1 Cor. 4.5: “Therefore do not pronounce judgment before the time, before the Lord comes, who will bring to light the things now hidden in darkness and will disclose the purposes of the heart. Then each one will receive his commendation from God.” (ESV).
When talking to others or writing, we do not need to first establish a case for God’s existence or exclusivity. When we set forth Christ, we should just give the word as we know it and testify what Jesus has done for us. All Christians should be ready to give an answer for the hope they have (1Pe. 3.15). Also, the commission Christ gave to His disciples applies to us if we are His disciples (Mt. 28.19-20). Finally, we will only be strong in the Lord and victorious spiritually if we prepare ourselves to speak the gospel to others whenever the Spirit opens the door to hold forth the power of Christ’s redemption (Eph. 6.15).