We know God’s mind works differently than human minds do. He knows more fully, sees the big picture, and understands motives in a way that we can’t. His thoughts aren’t like our thoughts nor His ways like our ways (Is. 55:8). This means that when He looks at human beings, He often sees something different than others see, or even something different than the person sees about themselves.
Yahweh, you have searched me,Psalm 139:1-4, WEB
and you know me.
You know my sitting down and my rising up.
You perceive my thoughts from afar.
You search out my path and my lying down,
and are acquainted with all my ways.
For there is not a word on my tongue,
but, behold, Yahweh, you know it altogether.
There’s a comfort as well as a nervousness that can go along with being known this well. We may long for someone to really know the truest version of us, but the idea of being fully seen can also be frightening. It’s reassuring, then, to look at what God shares in His word about how He sees the people He works with. In many cases, He has a higher opinion of us than others do and a greater belief in our potential than we do ourselves.
In the book of Judges we see a pattern emerge in Israel’s history. After the death of Joshua, the people would rebel against God, God would punish them using their enemies, they’d turn back to God, and He’d raise up a judge to deliver them and guide them back toward righteousness. This went on for many years. At one point, “The children of Israel did that which was evil in Yahweh’s sight, so Yahweh delivered them into the hand of Midian seven years” (Judges 6:1, WEB). When they cried out to God for help, God called Gideon as the next judge.
Yahweh’s angel came and sat under the oak which was in Ophrah, that belonged to Joash the Abiezrite. His son Gideon was beating out wheat in the wine press, to hide it from the Midianites. Yahweh’s angel appeared to him, and said to him, “Yahweh is with you, you mighty man of valor!”Judges 6:11-12, WEB
Gideon is hiding in a winepress trying to thresh wheat when the angel shows up with this greeting. Then a little later, when Yahweh tells Gideon to tear down the altar to Baal that Gideon’s father had created, Gideon “did as Yahweh had spoken to him. Because he feared his father’s household and the men of the city, he could not do it by day, but he did it by night” (Jug. 6:27, WEB). Again, he hid what he was doing because he was afraid. Gideon is also the one who famously asked Yahweh for a sign twice before he could muster the courage to go and do as Yahweh commanded in order to drive out the Midianites (Jug. 6:36-40).
That doesn’t sound much like a “mighty man of valor” to us. It sounds like someone with low self-confidence and a lot of fears and worries to overcome. But God saw something different, and He used Gideon in mighty ways (Judges 6-7). Gideon’s fear, second-guessing, and his statement that “my family is the poorest in Manasseh, and I am the least in my father’s house” (Jug. 6:15) didn’t stop God from doing something mighty with him.
King David is the most well-known example of God looking past the outward appearance. In this story, God sent Samuel to Jesse’s house with instructions to anoint one of his sons as the next king of Israel. When Samuel sees the first son he’s so impressed he says, “Surely Yahweh’s anointed is before him.” God has a different perspective (1 Samuel 16).
But Yahweh said to Samuel, “Don’t look on his face, or on the height of his stature, because I have rejected him; for I don’t see as man sees. For man looks at the outward appearance, but Yahweh looks at the heart.”1 Samuel 16:7, WEB
They go through seven sons before finally running out of the ones that are close at hand. Brining in David is an afterthought; he’s just the youngest boy, out tending the sheep. He wasn’t important enough for his dad to call him to the sacrifice earlier in this narrative and he certainly wasn’t one of the options for being the next king of Israel. God turns that expectation up-side-down. David becomes the greatest king of Israel. God even calls him “a man after my heart” (Acts 13:22, WEB). Once again, God sees potential for greatness in someone others overlooked.
At the beginning of 1 Samuel we’re introduced to Hannah. She was one of two wives of an Ephramite named Elkanah. Her husband loved her, but she had no children and the other wife teased her mercilessly for it, especially when her family went to Shiloh to worship at Yahweh’s temple. One year, grieving Hannah goes off alone to beg Yahweh for a son. She was “in bitterness of soul, and prayed to Yahweh, weeping bitterly.”
Now Eli the priest was sitting on his seat by the doorpost of Yahweh’s temple. … As she continued praying before Yahweh, Eli saw her mouth. Now Hannah spoke in her heart. Only her lips moved, but her voice was not heard. Therefore Eli thought she was drunk. Eli said to her, “How long will you be drunk? Get rid of your wine!”1 Sam. 1:9, 12-14 WEB
The priest thought she was drunk and accused her without knowing all the facts. Eli softened toward her when he heard her story, but God already saw her heart and heard the prayer she spoke in His temple. The next time “Elkanah knew Hannah his wife,” we’re told “Yahweh remembered her. When the time had come, Hannah conceived, and bore a son; and she named him Samuel” (1 Sam. 1:19-20, WEB). It’s not just the kings and great leaders that God sees with compassion and clarity. It’s also those longing for specific blessings and desiring good things in line with His will.
Moses grew up as a prince of Egypt, then fled after murdering an Egyptian. He spent 40 years as a shepherd before God showed up in the burning bush and told Moses that he’d be the one God used to deliver Egypt (Exodus 3-4). Moses was understandably shocked by this.
Moses said to God, “Who am I, that I should go to Pharaoh, and that I should bring the children of Israel out of Egypt?” …
Moses answered, “But, behold, they will not believe me, nor listen to my voice; for they will say, ‘Yahweh has not appeared to you.’” …
Moses said to Yahweh, “O Lord, I am not eloquent, neither before now, nor since you have spoken to your servant; for I am slow of speech, and of a slow tongue.” …
Moses said, “Oh, Lord, please send someone else.”Exodus 3: 11; 4: 1, 10, 13
Moses saw himself as unable to speak, utterly unqualified, and unwilling to do something so dangerous and so great. God had an answer for each of these protests, promising Moses could do what needed to be done because God would be there providing guidance and power. They finally reach a sort of compromise, with God letting Moses’s bother Aaron act as spokesman. Despite this rocky start, God helped Moses live up to the potential He saw in him. Moses even became one of God’s closest friends (Ex. 33:11; Num. 12:6-8).
What About Us?
Those are just four of many examples in the Bible of God seeing something in people that no one else did. Gideon was hiding and uncertain, David was overlooked by his family, Hannah was misinterpreted and rebuked by a priest, and Moses was convinced he couldn’t do the things God called him to do. But God looked at those situations and saw great potential for valor, kingship, motherhood, and leadership.
“For I know the thoughts that I think toward you,” says Yahweh, “thoughts of peace, and not of evil, to give you hope and a future.”Jeremiah 29:11, WEB
I’ve written before about how God defines our identities in Him. God sees you as someone worth dying for (Rom. 5:8). He says you belong to Him (1 Cor. 6:19-21). He sees you as salt and light in this earth (Matt. 5:13-14). He says you are called, holy, and chosen (1 Pet. 2:9). You are friends and siblings of Jesus Christ (John 15:14, Rom. 8:16-17). You are greatly loved and highly valued by both the Father and the Son (John 3:16; 15:13-14). We’re precious to God and He sees a glorious future for us where we’re part of His family, partaking in His divine nature. In Him, we can be courageous overcomers, recipients of abundant blessings, and eventually kings and priests in His kingdom (1 Pet. 2:9; Rev. 5:7-10). That’s the potential God sees in each of us.
Featured image by Manfred Richter from Pixabay
Song Recommendation: “You Say” by Lauren Daigle