Saul himself was a man whose heart God had touched: "God gave him an other heart" (verse 9). Saul's life prior to this time had not been a model of piety. But God touched his heart. He was changed. He became king of Israel after the royal touch.
And so today God takes weak, sinful mortals, and when you and I respond to His loving touch, He can use us in His service.
Why this emphasis on the heart? Why doesn't the text say, "There went with him a band of men, whose faces God had touched." Handsome men, such as Saul, could attract the admiration and support of the people for the new king. Many models earn a handsome salary for having their photographs appear on magazine covers. But "no outward beauty can recommend the soul to God. The wisdom and excellence revealed in the character and deportment, express the true beauty of the man; and it is the inner worth, the excellency of the heart, that determines our acceptance with the Lord of hosts." —Patriarchs and Prophets, p. 638.
Yes, God looks at the heart. He does not measure men by their stature, by their physical appearance, or by the cut of their clothing. He measures them by the condition of their hearts.
Many years ago it was my sad duty to participate in rescinding the credentials of a minister. God had touched his face, for he was handsome, and he was a good speaker. But his heart had not been touched. He did not measure up morally as a minister.
Our text could read: "There went with him a band of men, whose heads God had touched." As king of Israel, Saul needed intelligent men to counsel and support him. Surely God's work today can be well served by men of intellect. But intelligence and academic preparation in a man whose heart God has not touched are of no real value to His cause.
King Solomon said, "Every way of a man is right in his own eyes: but the Lord pondereth the hearts" (Prov. 21:2). The program we are running in our conference or institution or department or district or church may be right in our own eyes, but let us never forget that God ponders the heart. He examines our motives.
Again the text could read: "And there went with him a band of men, whose mouths God had touched." Silver-tongued orators extolling the virtues of Saul could keep his name popular among the people. Surely God's work today can be enhanced by persons gifted in oratory. But though "I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love," if my heart has not been touched by the spirit of God, my speech is dis pleasing to Him for it is as "sounding brass, or a tinkling cymbal.'' In order for the message to sink deep into the heart of the hearer, the mouth that proclaims the message must belong to one whose heart God has touched. "It is not great and learned men that the ministry needs; it is not eloquent sermonizers. God calls for men who will give themselves to Him to be imbued with His Spirit." —Gospel Workers, p. 64.
And, too, our text could say, "There went with him a band of men, whose hands God had touched." The administration of the kingdom of Israel required much hard work and large outlays of funds, and men with the "touch of Midas," capable in labor and finance, could bring economic security to the reign of Saul. Surely today God's cause can be well served by individuals of varied skills who are adept in financial in vestments, whose business acumen is razor sharp. But such a man or woman without a heart touched by God brings no real credit to His cause.
Jacob's return from twenty years of exile in Padan-aram was not without many misgivings concerning his impending encounter with Esau. He decided to spend a night in prayer pleading with God to soften his brother's heart. With earnest cries and tears he made his prayer before God. That night Jacob wrestled with Christ Himself. So intense was his battle for life and for the assurance of forgiveness and acceptance that he clung with all his might to his assail ant. It was not the touch on Jacob's thigh that changed him. It was the touch to his heart that caused his name to be changed from Jacob to Israel. "Through humiliation, repentance, and self-surrender, this sinful, erring mortal prevailed with the Majesty of heaven." —Patriarchs and Prophets, p. 197.
Balaam's mouth was touched by God, and he pronounced upon the children of Israel the words of blessing that God gave him to speak. However, Balaam's heart was not touched. Blinded by covetousness, "he did not seek to do the will of God, but chose his own course, and then endeavored to secure the sanction of the Lord" (ibid., p. 440). Balaam is linked with Judas in this sad declaration: They "had received great light and en joyed special privileges, but a single cherished sin poisoned the entire character and caused their destruction." —Ibid., p. 452.
Christ's washing of Peter's feet was only symbolic of the cleansing his heart needed. Peter could not be effective in his ministry until his heart was touched and he was converted. Then he could respond to Christ's call, "Feed my sheep."
It was not the touch to Saul's eyes in that dramatic encounter with Christ on the road to Damascus that changed him from Saul the persecutor to Paul, the ardent preacher of Christ and Him crucified. His heart was touched, and he was obedient to the heavenly mandate to bear the name of Christ before the Gen tiles and kings and the children of Israel (Acts 9:15).
God says to you and to me, "My son, my daughter, give me your heart." If He has the heart, then He has everything else: time, talent, treasure, all there is of us. Nothing will be held back. Faces, hands, mouths, feet, eyes—all will be His if the heart has been touched.
A trapeze performer was explaining how he executed a breathtaking triple somersault: "To catch the swing," he said, "you must time your dive perfectly. It takes lots of practice."
"It surely must take a lot of courage," the listener commented.
"The secret is to throw your heart over the bar," the performer answered. "When you do that, your body will fol low."
How can we identify a heart that has been touched by God? Here are some indicators:
A contrite heart. "A broken and a contrite heart, O God, thou wilt not despise" (Ps. 51:17). How can we lead men and women in contrition to the foot of the cross unless we ourselves have con trite hearts?
A clean heart. King David was a "man after . . . [God's] own heart" not when he dallied with sin but when, repentant, he cried, "Create in me a clean heart, O God; and renew a right spirit within me" (verse 10). Ellen G. White wrote: "He requires the whole heart. No part of it is to be reserved for the development of hereditary or cultivated tendencies to evil." —The SDA Bible Commentary, Comments on 2 Cor. 5:17, p. 1101.
A ministering, unselfish heart. "It is heart missionaries that are needed. He whose heart God touches is filled with a great longing for those who have never known His love." —The Ministry of Healing, p. 150.
A sound heart. I do not refer to the heart's physical soundness, though this is important. The psalmist exclaimed, "Let my heart be sound in thy statutes; that I be not ashamed" (Ps. 119:80). A sound heart is well grounded in the Word of God. For how can we preach a mes sage that we have not made our own?
A loving, compassionate heart. A heart that is sensitive to the needs of others. "Without the love of Jesus in the heart, the work of the Christian minister is a failure."—The Desire of Ages, p. 815.
A humble heart. "In choosing men and women for His service, God does not ask whether they possess worldly wealth, learning, or eloquence. He asks, 'Do they walk in such humility that I can teach them My way? Can I put My words into their lips? Will they represent Me?' " —The Ministry of Healing, p. 37.
A courageous heart. Such a heart had David. The times before us will demand courage and trust in God. "A man whose heart is stayed upon God is just the same in the hour of his most afflicting trials and most discouraging surroundings as when he is in prosperity." —Ellen G. White, Thoughts From the Mount of Blessing, p. 32.
The experience of King Saul demonstrates that a heart once touched by God can become "untouched" through dis obedience and self-exaltation. What a tragic end was that of the first king of Israel! "Wherefore let him that thinketh he standeth take heed lest he fall" (1 Cor. 10:12).
One touch does not suffice. Daily, hourly, moment by moment, we need God's touch to keep our hearts clean, our faith strong, our minds pure, and our spirits willing to answer His call.
Christ is the great heart surgeon. He can make the hard heart soft. By His touch the stony heart becomes flesh. The cold heart becomes warm and vibrant. The deceitful heart is made honest. The mean, spiteful heart trembles with forgiveness. The hateful heart overflows with love. The selfish heart is made generous. The closed heart opens to His tender touch. The sad heart sings with joy and gladness. The weary heart finds rest in Him.
May we be able to rejoice with the songwriter: "He touched me, and O the joy that floods my soul. Something happened and now I know, He touched me and made me whole."