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God Looks on the Heart. Do You?

by David L. Antion

When God was choosing a king to replace Saul, He sent Samuel to the house of Jesse to pick one of Jesse’s sons. Samuel wanted to choose the first born son but God told him, "…look not on his countenance, or on the height of his stature…for man looks on the outward appearance, but the LORD looks on the heart" (1Sam. 16:7). David was a man after God's own heart (1 Sam. 13:14). Jeremiah pleaded with the people to circumcise the "foreskin of your heart" (Jer. 4:4).

God sometimes tests us to know fully what is in our hearts. While God can read our mind and our heart, there are situations in which He Himself wants to know just where we stand (2 Chron. 32:31). The word translated "heart" is the Hebrew word "lebab (lay-bawb)" which means the inner man, mind, will, understanding, resolution and determination. There is a second Hebrew word ("leb") which has identically the same meaning.

There are many influences of the heart (mind). Wine makes it glad and food strengthens it (Psa. 10415). We know that when a person's blood sugar is low, food revives energy and the mind works better. Students who stay up all night "cramming" for exams often eat constantly during that time.

We are to trust God with all our heart and not to lean solely to our own understanding (Prov. 3:5; 4:4). Here we are told that the only One where we can put our entire trust is GOD. We should never lean soley to our own understanding. Our perceptions are often fallible as are our memories. It would be the height of folly to lean soley to our own understanding without getting feedback from others and council from others.

The Bible describes the heart in many ways. It talks of a "deceived heart", a "foolish heart", "anguish of heart", "blindness of heart" (Isa. 44:20; Rom. 1:21; 2 Cor.2:4; Eph. 4:18). The mind can be blind to new knowledge and information. Our minds can be deceived and even become foolish regardless of our IQ.

There is even a mention of an "evil heart of unbelief" (Heb. 3:12). A sin, like a crime, is punished based on the "mens rae" or criminal mind. In the books of the Law, mention is made of a sin that was done in ignorance or by accident as opposed to one that is done "presumptuously" or by will. Suppose I run over your foot with my car I didn't mean to do it. I might have to pay for your medical bills and for your time off work and losses as well as for pain and suffering. This is only right because I DID hurt you even though I did not mean to do so. But if I deliberately ran over your foot in an attempt to hurt your or cripple you -- my heart was that of a criminal. It would therefore be a criminal offence not just an injury. So, in addition to having to pay for your injuries and losses, I would also be tried for criminal wrong doing.

The state of mind -- what's in the heart -- makes all the difference as to what kind of person I am. One would be a good person who committed an accidental wrong. The other would be a be a person of evil intent who did a deliberate wrong!

We are told that we are to have a pure heart (Matt. 5:8; 1Tim. 1:5). A pure heart is one in which there is no criminal or sinful intent. A person, by pulls of the flesh or other temptations, may yield to them in a sinful way. This is different from a person who plans and determines evil such as criminals do.

A heart can be open or closed. Paul said his heart was wide open to the Corinthians (2Cor. 6:11). Remember, the Bible is really talking about the mind. To open one’s heart is to open one’s mind regarding another and to be able to receive new and accurate information. But some people close their "heart" even to those they used to love. One offence and there is no more chance with them -- you're simply out of their lives. I have seen people abandon all contact with their son or daughter because that person did something "wrong" in their sight. Where is the open heart? Their heart (mind) is hardened in that it will not take in new information and like a computer is supposed to do -- update itself.

We now explore what you do with your heart and just how important the heart is to God and in our human relationships. Remember, the word translated "heart" is the Hebrew word "lebab (lay-bawb)" which means the inner man, mind, will, understanding, resolution and determination. There is a second Hebrew word ("leb") which has the same identical meaning. The Greek word is "kardia" which means heart but is a metaphor for mind, inner man, etc.

Here are things you can do with your heart. You can purpose with your heart as when you decide how much or whether to make a donation (2 Cor. 9:7). You can have care in your heart for others (2 Cor.8:16). And you can even hold people in your heart (Phil. 1:7). If you have love in yourself for others, you would hold them in your heart. You probably have many memories of people near and dear to you that you "hold in your heart." I often think of my wonderful grandparents who have been dead for many years. I still hold them in my heart. I hold in my heart the memories of so many Brethren whom I have served over the years as pastor of churches. I look forward to seeing many again when we visit the Tulsa area.

You can make plans in your heart (Prov. 16:1). But what you think in your heart reveals what kind of person you really are (Prov. 23:7). You can hold a haughty pride in your heart which seeks to lift itself up above others -- a thing which God hates (Prov. 16:5). You can be mistaken or err in your heart as did the Israelites when, because they had no faith, sought to put God to the proof (Heb. 3:10).

Because the heart is deceitful even to its owners (Jer. 17:9), God has to search the heart and test the reins (which literally means kidneys -- another metaphor for mind -- Jer. 7:10). There is no doubt that our minds are fallible and even deceive us. That is why we are admonished to trust God with all our heart and not to lean soley to our own understanding. Have you ever had your mind play tricks on you? It happens to people all the time. We can even halluncinate and hear and see things that are not really there. The heart (mind) is deceitful even to us! Nevertheless, in making decisions we must use our minds and whatever understanding we have at that moment. We should search God's Word and get wise (not just any) council so we can make informed and wise decisions.

Evil things can come our of the heart of man (Mark 7:21). Jesus enumerated them -- evil thoughts, adulteries, fornications, murders, thefts, covetousness, wickedness, deceit, lasciviousness, an evil eye, blasphemy, pride, and foolishness (v. 22).

Did you know that you can deceive your own heart (James 1:26)? Think of it. To deceive your own mind, a part of you must know the truth and deliberately keep the truth back from the other part of your mind. You can also train your heart in evil (2Peter 2:14 NAS).

What we need is a good heart that does not condemn us. In other words we need a clear conscience (1John 3:20-21). Why? Because it is the heart which is converted and which believes! "…if you confess with your mouth Jesus as Lord, and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved, for with the heart a person believes, resulting in righteousness, and with the mouth he confesses, resulting in salvation"(Rom.10:9-10 NAS). When God converts us and makes us new, where does He write His laws? In our heart (Heb. 10:10)! Writing to the Corinthians, Paul told them that they themselves were his letter of commendation written in their hearts by the Spirit of God (2 Cor. 3:3).

But there are people who have no interest in the heart of another. Writing to the Corithians, in chapter 5 of the second letter, Paul explained that he was not again commending himself to them. What he was doing was giving them reasons to be proud of him so that they might be able to answer "those who pride themselves on a man's position and not on his heart (2Cor.5:12). There are people who simply do as Samuel began to do -- i.e. look solely on the external appearance. They make all their judgments based on appearance alone. Some people make their judgments on the basis of titles. Some on the basis of a position or claim of authority. And others who make decisions on outward appearances.

Some people look on appearances. They say, "This person looks good, like a leader, I believe him or her." But others who look on appearances make another kind of mistake. They say, "That person looks good, so they could not be a leader or know truth." What they want is someone who looks "humble" and not so good. In both cases people judge from outward appearance and not on a person's heart. Why? Because it takes more effort and time to know a person's heart than it does to make a quick decision on ouitward appearance. We must look beyond the surface to deeper things. In the case of evaluating messages -- written or spoken -- we must compare them to the Word of God and our good common sense.

Good relationships, as well as marriages, depend on our ability to look on the heart of a person who may offend us. A personal example I have been late in sending a birthday card to my father on several occasions over my adult life. I either forgot it or just was too busy to get to it in time. I have called him and said, "Dad, I'm sorry you won't get your card or gift in time for your birthday." His reply has always been, "That's OK. Don't worry about it. I know you love me and that's what counts." In that statement he has looked on my heart and not merely on my actions.

Some years back I was visiting at my parents house. My mother's brother -- "Uncle Eddie"-- came over as he ususlly did to visit with us. We were sitting on the back porch talking and I asked him, "How is Aunt Louise?" I had completely forgotten that Aunt Louise -- his first wife -- had died some years back. My mother's face looked horrified as did my dad's. But Uncle Eddie said, "You forgot. You just forgot that she died about 6 years ago." He said it in the kindest of tones and with the warmest of expressions to me. What he was really saying to me was "I know your heart. You would never mean to say something to hurt me."

Do you know your spouse's heart? Do you know that your loved one would never do something deliberately and with malice just to hurt you? To know their heart -- that it is pure toward you is one of the most important things in maintaining good relationships. Or do you look only on the surface and react strongly to mistakes like forgetting a birthday card, saying the wrong words??

In our relationship to God we need to remember the words of Psalm 19:14 "Let the words of my mouth, and the meditation of my heart, be acceptable in thy sight, O LORD, my strength, and my redeemer."

Taken from Guardian Ministries

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Last modified: Wednesday March 06, 2002