The Intents of the Heart

“The Word of God is quick, and powerful, and sharper than any two edged sword, piercing even to the dividing asunder of soul and spirit, and of the joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart. Neither is there any creature that is not manifest in his sight: but all things are naked and opened unto the eyes of him with whom we have to do.” —Hebrews 4:12,13

IT IS not surprising to be reminded by the Scriptures that the great Creator of the universe is able to read our thoughts and to discern even the intents of our hearts. It would be unreasonable to suppose that he who created the brain would not be able to read the thoughts which are recorded on the brain. We are reminded of this in connection with the anointing of David to be the successor of Saul in the rulership of Israel. David was a son of Jesse, and Jesse had several sons. And when the Prophet Samuel appeared to anoint one of these to be king of Israel, David, apparently the youngest, was not even considered. He was left in the field to care for the sheep.

The rejection by God of the other sons of Jesse was indicated, and when Samuel asked if there were still others, David was brought in and proved to be the Lord’s choice, with the explanation that while man looks on the outward appearance as his way of judging character, “God looketh on the heart.”

The fact that our thoughts are naked before the Lord should make us exceedingly careful of our words, thoughts, and doings. What a control this should be upon our thoughts and our lips! Many times, probably, words which we would speak in the presence of the brethren would be kept sealed up in our thoughts if we remembered that the Lord knows about them anyway.

On the other hand, the knowledge that God knows our weaknesses should not be a great discouragement, for it reminds us that we have a sympathetic High Priest to whom we can go for mercy when we have failed, and find grace to help in time of need. And we are encouraged through our knowledge of the atoning blood of Christ to go boldly to the throne of grace if we are sincere in our hearts. Sincerity and a conscience in harmony with the Lord’s will are two of the vital needs of a follower of Jesus.

Jesus Our Exemplar

In Psalm 40, verse 9, we find Jesus prophetically speaking of himself and saying, “I have preached righteousness in the great congregation: lo, I have not refrained my lips, O Lord, thou knowest.” Knowing that God can read our hearts, can we say to him as Jesus said, “O Lord, thou knowest”? Can we say to him, “Search me, O God, and know my heart: try me, and know my thoughts”?—Ps. 139:23

The Apostle Peter seemed sure of the determination of his heart to serve the Lord. We have an example of this in his conversation with Jesus on the shore of Galilee after the Master had been raised from the dead. “Jesus saith to Simon Peter, Simon, son of Jonas, lovest thou me more than these?” (John 21:15) On the night before the crucifixion, when Jesus said that all his disciples would forsake him, Peter affirmed that even if all the others did he would not. Thus he claimed a greater love for Jesus than did the others. It turned out that he was the only one who denied Jesus. So now Jesus was asking, “Lovest thou me more than these?”

Peter did not then claim to love Jesus more than the others did, but he did affirm his love. He said, “Yea, Lord; thou knowest that I love thee.” Then Jesus asked Peter again the second time, “Simon, son of Jonas, lovest thou me?” Peter answered, “Yea, Lord; thou knowest that I love thee. He saith unto him, Feed my sheep.”

Then Jesus said to Peter the third time, “Simon, son of Jonas, lovest thou me?” Peter was grieved because Jesus had asked him the same question the third time, and he replied to the Master, “Lord, thou knowest all things; thou knowest that I love thee. Jesus saith unto him, Feed my sheep.”—John 21:17

Peter’s experience in denying the Lord had taught him that his Master, like the Heavenly Father himself, could read the thoughts and intents of the heart, for Jesus had told Peter of his forthcoming denial and Peter asserted that he would never do anything like this, but he did, so now he knew that Jesus could read his thoughts and the intents of his heart. God knew Peter’s heart, and he knows ours. This would be terrifying but for the knowledge that we have an Advocate with the Father, who is Jesus, and who in his love made provision through his blood for our unwilling imperfections.

I Know Thy Works

The ability of our Heavenly Father to read the thoughts and intents of our hearts was also possessed by Jesus, and especially so following his resurrection and exaltation to the divine nature. In his messages to the seven churches, as recorded in the second and third chapters of Revelation, this is brought very vividly to our attention. To the church at Ephesus Jesus said, “I know thy works, and thy labor, and thy patience, and how thou canst not bear them which are evil: and thou hast tried them which say they are apostles, and are not, and hast found them liars: and hast borne, and hast patience, and for my name’s sake hast labored, and hast not fainted.”—Rev. 2:2,3

Would this be true of us, or would the Lord also say to us as he did to the church at Ephesus, “I have somewhat against thee, because thou hast left thy first love”? Do we remember our “first love”—our enthusiasm over the vision of truth? At that time nothing could stand in our way. There was no task in connection with the service of God that was too difficult, and no sacrifice too great. The dull, drab cares of life took on a brightness we never knew before. “Sweet prospects, sweet birds, and sweet flowers” all gained new sweetness. We loved the Lord’s people, not just on occasion or when we would see them at meeting, but all the time, and were willing to lay down our life for them at any time. We sought out every possible opportunity for service to the brethren, and for bearing witness to the glorious Gospel of the kingdom.

This was our first love. Can we now say to the Lord, as Peter did, “Thou knowest that I love thee.” Yea, I love thee and love thy people and love the truth today more than I ever did before. Thou knowest that I have lost none of my enthusiasm, none of my first love zeal. Thou knowest that today, even as when you revealed yourself to me through the truth, I have the same consuming zeal to serve thee as I had at the beginning. You know, dear Lord, I have not lost my “first love.” Would we want to admit to the Lord that this was not true?

To Thyatira

To the church at Thyatira the resurrected Jesus said, “I know thy works, and charity, and service, and faith, and thy patience, and thy works; and the last to be more than the first.” (Rev. 2:19) What a wonderful commendation this was! And why should it not be also true of us? Instead of losing our first love and zeal, why should it not increase? Why not more works now than at the beginning? The Lord is the same; the truth is the same. Why should we allow ourselves to change and become indifferent to the privileges the Lord has opened up to us through the truth? And why not more charity, or love—a love that manifests itself toward the Lord, the brethren, and the truth; a love that urges us on to sacrifice time and strength and means in the promotion of the truth, bearing witness to the glorious Gospel of the kingdom?

And why not more faith? Certainly since we first knew the Lord the outworking of his plan in fulfillment of prophecy should have increased our faith. The overruling of his providential care in our lives should also have increased our faith. The joys of sacrificial service for the Lord, and truth, and the brethren should also have increased our faith.

In our earnest desire to please the Lord and to be worthy of his love, should we not go to him in our prayers and give assurance that we are aware that he knoweth all things, even the thoughts and intents of our hearts, and ask him to help us overcome any selfish spirit we may have, ask him to detect the smallest beginnings of defiling sin in our hearts and to cleanse us from secret faults? And since he knows all things, he knows that the greatest desire of our hearts is to hear him say, “Thou art worthy,” and to know when we hear this that he is speaking to us.

Promises to the Churches

In addition to Jesus’ appraisal of the heart condition of his people in the seven churches, he also makes promises to the truly faithful among them. Surely we want to be worthy of the Master’s love, that these promises may in due time be fulfilled in us. We want to be worthy in order that we may “eat of the tree of life, which is in the midst of the paradise of God.” We want to be faithful unto death, that we may receive the promised crown of life. We want to be worthy of eating of the hidden manna—the antitype of the golden bowl of manna which was placed in the ark of the covenant in the Most Holy of the tabernacle.

And what a precious promise is the one pertaining to a white stone! We want to be worthy to receive this “white stone, and in the stone a new name written, which no man knoweth save he that receiveth it.” How wonderful it will be to receive that new name!

We want also to be worthy of receiving power over the nations, even as Jesus promised, so that in the outworking of his great plan we may ultimately have the opportunity of blessing those of the nations who come into harmony with the righteous rulership of the glorious thousand-year kingdom of righteousness and life. We want to be worthy of having our names written in the book of life, and of experiencing the ineffable joy of having our names confessed before the Father and before the angels.

What a joy it will be to have written upon us the name of our God and the name of the city of our God—the new Jerusalem. May we be worthy of receiving this high honor from our Heavenly Father! We know that all these wonderful promises will be fulfilled in the bride of Christ, who throughout the age has been making herself ready and worthy.

Now that we are in the end of the age and in the time of the Master’s second presence, have we heard his knock, and have we invited him to come into our hearts and sup with us?

May the dear Lord help us, indeed, to hear and obey what “the spirit says unto the churches.” Let us ever remember that our thoughts are naked before him; that he can read not only our thoughts, but the intents of our hearts. Can we sincerely say to him, “O Lord, thou knowest that I love thee”?

Dawn Bible Students Association
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