The Heart of the Matter

INTRODUCTION: In August 1994 I prepared word study notes for use at a prayer meeting, and I have now reviewed and revised these notes into a written study for use in this edition of the MPN. The revisions include additional research to "flesh out" the verses which contain the target word of the study. The English word heart is found 765 times in the KJV Bible: in the Old Testament 666 times, and in the New Testament 99 times. Several Hebrew words were translated as heart. The two most commonly used also were translated as mind and understanding in other passages. The Hebrew word most commonly translated as soul, was also translated as heart 15 times. In the New Testament, the Greek word translated as heart was cardia, which is used today in medical terms related to the blood pumping organ. This single New Testament Greek word provides association for meditation about the parallel between the heart of the body, and the heart of our soul.

The study of the word heart throughout scripture could provide many directions and points of focus. I am no longer sure of all of the elements in my selection of the verses in the original study from 1994, but my notes did indicate that I used some other key words to narrow my search for verses, which were then organized into an outline. The key words included: man's heart - 10 verses, heart of God - 2 verses, your heart - 35 verses, whole heart - number not recorded, trouble* + heart - 12 verses. God has much to say to us about our heart, mind, and soul; and about his own heart for man. The following provides only a brief look at this subject.

NOTE: Bible text is from the King James Version.


A - FROM THE FALL TO THE FLOOD

Over the many centuries after the fall, mans' heart was continually in sin with rebellion against God. Because of the response of his heart to this condition of his creation, God brought a conclusion to those times with destruction of all which had the breath of life on the face of the earth, except for those which were carried in the vessel of God's grace, constructed in faith. Then the work of altar-building and sacrifice by Noah was a sweet pleasure to the Lord. God made a promise to sustain the cycles of physical provision as long as the earth exists [generation after generation, until that day when the earth is replaced with a new heaven and a new earth, no longer groaning in anticipation of the rebirth of the whole creation]. God used eight people who were saved by grace, to repopulate the earth, but man's heart still carried the seed of Adam's fallen nature, which will bear fruit after its kind. God eliminated Cain's line, but the line of Seth continued through Noah and his three sons, through whom all now living must trace their ancestry.

Genesis "6:5 And GOD saw that the wickedness of man [was] great in the earth, and [that] every imagination of the thoughts of his heart [was] only evil continually. 6 And it repented the LORD that he had made man on the earth, and it grieved him at his heart.

Genesis "8:21 And the LORD smelled a sweet savour; and the LORD said in his heart, I will not again curse the ground any more for man's sake; for the imagination of man's heart [is] evil from his youth; neither will I again smite any more every thing living, as I have done. 22 While the earth remaineth, seedtime and harvest, and cold and heat, and summer and winter, and day and night shall not cease.


B - PREPARATION OF A PEOPLE AND THEIR HEARTS

Of the three sons of Noah, it was Shem's line, which would carry the message of the grace of God for all mankind. God began to mark off special people with the call of Abram, and then changed his name to Abraham as an indication of the work God would do through him. Jacob was renamed Israel to denote another significant work of God, and generations of a people then became identified by this mane. Moses was selected by God to be the instrument to call out from bondage his chosen nation, and to give them the law of God. Even though God set apart his people Israel by distinctives from other peoples, with the provision of the law for them, his desire was for the heart of man to be inclined toward him. The law was only beneficial if it was combined with faith demonstrated by obedience and service emanating from the heart, and circumcision of the heart is a change, which remains as a mark of covenant. God cautions us to beware of the deceitfulness of our own hearts. An obedient study and practice of the word of God fortifies against temptation, and provides evidence of the spiritual circumcision which must be performed within our hearts, where God can see, but man cannot.

Deuteronomy "10:16 Circumcise therefore the foreskin of your heart, and be no more stiffnecked."

Deuteronomy "11:13 And it shall come to pass, if ye shall hearken diligently unto my commandments which I command you this day, to love the LORD your God, and to serve him with all your heart and with all your soul, 14 That I will give [you] the rain of your land in his due season, the first rain and the latter rain, that thou mayest gather in thy corn, and thy wine, and thine oil. 15 And I will send grass in thy fields for thy cattle, that thou mayest eat and be full. 16 Take heed to yourselves, that your heart be not deceived, and ye turn aside, and serve other gods, and worship them; 17 And [then] the LORD'S wrath be kindled against you, and he shut up the heaven, that there be no rain, and that the land yield not her fruit; and [lest] ye perish quickly from off the good land which the LORD giveth you. 18. Therefore shall ye lay up these my words in your heart and in your soul, and bind them for a sign upon your hand, that they may be as frontlets between your eyes. 19 And ye shall teach them your children, speaking of them when thou sittest in thine house, and when thou walkest by the way, when thou liest down, and when thou risest up. 20 And thou shalt write them upon the door posts of thine house, and upon thy gates:"


C - ENTERING THE PERIOD OF THE JUDGES

After entering the land, with many foes already conquered, Joshua directs the attention of the people to be faithful to their God, diligently keeping his commandments with heart and soul, while completely forsaking the false gods in their midst. The Lord early in chapter 1 of Joshua had directed Joshua to the commandments, and then after many good years of following the Lord himself, he passes that same instruction to the next generation, emphasizing that the manner must be by fullness of heart and soul.

Joshua "1:6 Be strong and of a good courage: for unto this people shalt thou divide for an inheritance the land, which I sware unto their fathers to give them. 7 Only be thou strong and very courageous, that thou mayest observe to do according to all the law, which Moses my servant commanded thee: turn not from it [to] the right hand or [to] the left, that thou mayest prosper whithersoever thou goest. 8 This book of the law shall not depart out of thy mouth; but thou shalt meditate therein day and night, that thou mayest observe to do according to all that is written therein: for then thou shalt make thy way prosperous, and then thou shalt have good success. 9 Have not I commanded thee? Be strong and of a good courage; be not afraid, neither be thou dismayed: for the LORD thy God [is] with thee whithersoever thou goest."

Joshua "22:5 But take diligent heed to do the commandment and the law, which Moses the servant of the LORD charged you, to love the LORD your God, and to walk in all his ways, and to keep his commandments, and to cleave unto him, and to serve him with all your heart and with all your soul."

Joshua "24:23 Now therefore put away, [said he], the strange gods which [are] among you, and incline your heart unto the LORD God of Israel."


D - THE BEGINNING OF THE PERIOD OF THE KINGS

When God began to establish a line of kings which would bring his planned blessings in Messiah, he rejected the first king from the tribe of Benjamin, and sought from the tribe of Judah (which had been blessed by Jacob), a man after God's own heart.

1 Samuel {spoken by Samuel to Saul} "13:14 But now thy kingdom shall not continue: the LORD hath sought him a man after his own heart, and the LORD hath commanded him [to be] captain over his people, because thou hast not kept [that] which the LORD commanded thee."

David knew that God had accomplished all good things during his reign as king, not David himself; and had revealed future blessings, which would come through his line, which were as sure to be accomplished as the events already completed. This understanding of God's working from the past up to the present, and having complete trust in his word for the future, is a key quality of the heart of David.

1 Chronicles "17:16 And David the king came and sat before the LORD, and said, Who [am] I, O LORD God, and what [is] mine house, that thou hast brought me hitherto? 17 And [yet] this was a small thing in thine eyes, O God; for thou hast [also] spoken of thy servant's house for a great while to come, and hast regarded me according to the estate of a man of high degree, O LORD God. 18 What can David [speak] more to thee for the honour of thy servant? for thou knowest thy servant. 19 O LORD, for thy servant's sake, and according to thine own heart, hast thou done all this greatness, in making known all [these] great things. 20 O LORD, [there is] none like thee, neither [is there any] God beside thee, according to all that we have heard with our ears. 21 And what one nation in the earth [is] like thy people Israel, whom God went to redeem [to be] his own people, to make thee a name of greatness and terribleness, by driving out nations from before thy people, whom thou hast redeemed out of Egypt? 22 For thy people Israel didst thou make thine own people for ever; and thou, LORD, becamest their God. 23 Therefore now, LORD, let the thing that thou hast spoken concerning thy servant and concerning his house be established for ever, and do as thou hast said. 24 Let it even be established, that thy name may be magnified for ever, saying, The LORD of hosts [is] the God of Israel, [even] a God to Israel: and [let] the house of David thy servant [be] established before thee. 25 For thou, O my God, hast told thy servant that thou wilt build him an house: therefore thy servant hath found [in his heart] to pray before thee. 26 And now, LORD, thou art God, and hast promised this goodness unto thy servant: 27 Now therefore let it please thee to bless the house of thy servant, that it may be before thee for ever: for thou blessest, O LORD, and [it shall be] blessed for ever."

God allowed David to prepare plans and materials for his son, not himself, for the building of the temple, but David praised God from the overflow of his heart as he unswervingly believed that God would bring about what David would not see completed. Solomon's name means peaceful, which was significant for the temple builder, and Solomon completed the temple within the first twelve years of his forty-year reign. We know Solomon for his wisdom, his great wealth, the establishment of the temple and the temple service, and that God gave him peace on every side. And yet in the latter years of his reign, he did not remain true to God alone, to serve him with his whole heart, but actually set up places of sacrifice for strange gods, which are not gods at all. Solomon began the open and blatant practice of making the true and living God, common with idols. The account illustrates how easily we stray even from manifold blessings of God, when we follow our own heart; but that despite the rebellion of man's heart, God will continue his program for his own glory, and for the benefit of the object of his love.

1 Kings "11:1 But king Solomon loved many strange women, together with the daughter of Pharaoh, women of the Moabites, Ammonites, Edomites, Zidonians, [and] Hittites; 2 Of the nations [concerning] which the LORD said unto the children of Israel, Ye shall not go in to them, neither shall they come in unto you: [for] surely they will turn away your heart after their gods: Solomon clave unto these in love. 3 And he had seven hundred wives, princesses, and three hundred concubines: and his wives turned away his heart. 4 For it came to pass, when Solomon was old, [that] his wives turned away his heart after other gods: and his heart was not perfect with the LORD his God, as [was] the heart of David his father. 5 For Solomon went after Ashtoreth the goddess of the Zidonians, and after Milcom the abomination of the Ammonites. 6 And Solomon did evil in the sight of the LORD, and went not fully after the LORD, as [did] David his father. 7 Then did Solomon build an high place for Chemosh, the abomination of Moab, in the hill that [is] before Jerusalem, and for Molech, the abomination of the children of Ammon. 8 And likewise did he for all his strange wives, which burnt incense and sacrificed unto their gods. 9 And the LORD was angry with Solomon, because his heart was turned from the LORD God of Israel, which had appeared unto him twice, 10 And had commanded him concerning this thing, that he should not go after other gods: but he kept not that which the LORD commanded. 11 Wherefore the LORD said unto Solomon, Forasmuch as this is done of thee, and thou hast not kept my covenant and my statutes, which I have commanded thee, I will surely rend the kingdom from thee, and will give it to thy servant. 12 Notwithstanding in thy days I will not do it for David thy father's sake: [but] I will rend it out of the hand of thy son. 13 Howbeit I will not rend away all the kingdom; [but] will give one tribe to thy son for David my servant's sake, and for Jerusalem's sake which I have chosen."

Solomon's son, Rehoboam, seemed to fit this proverb as he rejected wise counsel, and the kingdom became split into two kingdoms during his rule, which fulfilled the prophecy spoken during Solomon's reign.

Proverbs "28:26. He that trusteth in his own heart is a fool: but whoso walketh wisely, he shall be delivered."

The northern kingdom started in the guidance of man's own heart, in direct rebellion against the true worship of God, and Jeroboam rejected what had been offered to him by God through the prophet. Apparently, none of the kings of the northern kingdom recovered the lost grace of God, as they never drew close enough to him for forgiveness and reconciliation. Throughout the period of the kings, characterization of kings in the north was relative to the sin of Jeroboam (underscoring man's rebellion), and in the south it was relative to the heart of David (seeking evidence of the active grace of God).

1 Kings "12:26 And Jeroboam said in his heart, Now shall the kingdom return to the house of David: 27 If this people go up to do sacrifice in the house of the LORD at Jerusalem, then shall the heart of this people turn again unto their lord, [even] unto Rehoboam king of Judah, and they shall kill me, and go again to Rehoboam king of Judah. 28 Whereupon the king took counsel, and made two calves [of] gold, and said unto them, It is too much for you to go up to Jerusalem: behold thy gods, O Israel, which brought thee up out of the land of Egypt. 29 And he set the one in Bethel, and the other put he in Dan. 30 And this thing became a sin: for the people went [to worship] before the one, [even] unto Dan. 31 And he made an house of high places, and made priests of the lowest of the people, which were not of the sons of Levi. 32 And Jeroboam ordained a feast in the eighth month, on the fifteenth day of the month, like unto the feast that [is] in Judah, and he offered upon the altar. So did he in Bethel, sacrificing unto the calves that he had made: and he placed in Bethel the priests of the high places which he had made. 33 So he offered upon the altar which he had made in Bethel the fifteenth day of the eighth month, [even] in the month which he had devised of his own heart; and ordained a feast unto the children of Israel: and he offered upon the altar, and burnt incense."


E - SONGS OF THE HEART FOR ALL WHO WOULD FOLLOW GOD

The Psalms were compiled after the ark of the great flood, and before the cross of man's redemption, but they have no lack in application to our lives on this side of the cross, because of the richness of our eternal God. They have been available through the inspiration of the Holy Spirit for centuries, to instruct in the development of man's heart for God. The counsel of the Psalms benefited only the believing remnant of Israel from Solomon's time forward, and they are active only for the chosen during the church age. May we, who are quickened by salvation in Christ, take to heart the lasting treasure of the Psalms.

Psalms "9:1 {To the chief Musician upon Muthlabben, A Psalm of David.} I will praise [thee], O LORD, with my whole heart; I will shew forth all thy marvellous works."

Psalms "62:8 Trust in him at all times; ye people, pour out your heart before him: God [is] a refuge for us. Selah. 9 Surely men of low degree [are] vanity, [and] men of high degree [are] a lie: to be laid in the balance, they [are] altogether [lighter] than vanity. 10 Trust not in oppression, and become not vain in robbery: if riches increase, set not your heart [upon them]."

Psalms "95:8 Harden not your heart, as in the provocation, [and] as [in] the day of temptation in the wilderness:"

Psalms "111:1 Praise ye the LORD. I will praise the LORD with [my] whole heart, in the assembly of the upright, and [in] the congregation."

Psalms 119:2, 10, 34, 58, 69, 145 "119:2 Blessed [are] they that keep his testimonies, [and that] seek him with the whole heart. | 119:10 With my whole heart have I sought thee: O let me not wander from thy commandments. | 119:34 Give me understanding, and I shall keep thy law; yea, I shall observe it with [my] whole heart. | 119:58 I intreated thy favour with [my] whole heart: be merciful unto me according to thy word. | 119:69. The proud have forged a lie against me: [but] I will keep thy precepts with [my] whole heart. | 119:145 KOPH. I cried with [my] whole heart; hear me, O LORD: I will keep thy statutes."


F - WHY MAN FALLS, AND THE WAY BACK TO GOD

Following the imagination of our own heart will inevitably lead to sin, because that course has been declared by God to be continual evil. The law of God must train our thoughts. We also can be lead astray by the traditions of our fathers if they have trained us to follow false gods, which they have chosen. Our only hope is in God, as he gives us the heart to seek him and to return to him. We will undoubtedly receive his grace and mercy if we "rend our heart and not just our garments", in repentance from the sin within our hearts.

Jeremiah "9:14 But have walked after the imagination of their own heart, and after Baalim, which their fathers taught them:"

Jeremiah "24:7 And I will give them an heart to know me, that I [am] the LORD: and they shall be my people, and I will be their God: for they shall return unto me with their whole heart."

Jeremiah "29:13 And ye shall seek me, and find [me], when ye shall search for me with all your heart."

Joel "2:12. Therefore also now, saith the LORD, turn ye [even] to me with all your heart, and with fasting, and with weeping, and with mourning: 13 And rend your heart, and not your garments, and turn unto the LORD your God: for he [is] gracious and merciful, slow to anger, and of great kindness, and repenteth him of the evil."

Zechariah "7:10 And oppress not the widow, nor the fatherless, the stranger, nor the poor; and let none of you imagine evil against his brother in your heart."


G - FOR THE CHURCH

God has continued to unfold his plan over the centuries since the cross, and all the evil which man brings forth from his own heart cannot thwart the goal of God. Throughout the various times of nations, judges, kings, and our present time of the gentiles and the church, God has always provided for those whose heart is right before him, and he has always brought to pass that which he planned to accomplish. The New Testament offers special blessing to those who believe in Christ as savior and Lord, because our hearts are given a sure and firm comfort.

Luke "12:34 For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also."

John "14:1 Let not your heart be troubled: ye believe in God, believe also in me. | 14:27 Peace I leave with you, my peace I give unto you: not as the world giveth, give I unto you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid."

Ephesians "5:19 Speaking to yourselves in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody in your heart to the Lord;"


--- REFLECTIONS IN PRAYER ---

Lord, I am overwhelmed as I see from scripture what my heart can do in rebellion against you, and that this condition has been within man since the fall. All rejection of your grace is self-deception and rebellion, and all religious effort without faith is futile. Each generation seeks counsel from contemporaries to reinforce the popular mind set of the day, and also chooses to follow those things from previous generations which feed the desires of our deceitful heart, inherent within us from our father, Adam. Thank you Lord, for revealing truth to me through your word, that I might understand my condition, and flee from unrighteousness, to cleave to the rock of my salvation. Thank you also Lord, that you have recorded examples of past believers who have been blessed by the power of your Holy Spirit to act within them to overcome the temptations of the world, the flesh, and the devil.

And now Lord, strengthen me to be diligent to study, meditate on, and to heed your law, to love you with all my heart, mind, and soul, to follow in your ways and to serve you, to hold on to you only, forsaking any other god that I might follow. For who am I O Lord, that you would save me, and provide blessings in my life. And if that were not enough, you have promised to prepare a place, and to come again to take me to be with you forever where you are. You have done this because of Christ, and according to your own heart, and I have only praise for you because there is none like you, neither is there any God beside you! Your word has placed the desire in my heart to pray before you, so may it please you to bless my service to you, for when you bless, the blessing cannot be turned away.

By your grace, I will praise you with my whole heart, and place my trust in you alone as my refuge. Do not allow me O Lord to trust any of the temporal riches of this present world, or to harden my heart to your mercy, when I pass through times of testing. Deepen my resolve to praise you with my whole heart, in the assembly of the righteous. You surely bless those who keep your covenant and commandments. I am seeking you with my whole heart, and ask you to restrain me from wandering away from your word. Guard my heart that I might not oppress the widow, nor the fatherless, the stranger, nor the poor; and let me not imagine evil against my brother. Give me understanding so I can observe your law with my whole heart, and grant me your mercy according to your word. Thank you for bringing me to the point of rending of my heart, and further still to the point of mourning as I more clearly understood the depth of my own sin, for as I turned to you I found your grace, mercy, great kindness, and how truly slow you are to anger.

You know all of my physical needs of shelter, clothing, and food. Help me Lord to seek your kingdom first, and fully trust that you will add those things to sustain me while I am on the pilgrimage to my heart's home. May I daily lay up my treasure in another place where it is absolutely secure, in faith that I will leave this place which is not my home, at the time appointed. Until my departure time, keep my heart from being troubled, as I trust in you, Lord God Jesus. You have left the gift of your firm, unshakable peace that is with me through the seal of the Holy Spirit: you did not give that which will pass away, as the world gives. You assure me by saying, "Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid". With all of this in mind, may I remember to continually speak to other believers in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody in my heart to the Lord. Hallelujah, amen!

Published 29 May 2004, first issued 16 December 1999