The Heart

“Keep thy heart with all diligence; for out of it are the issues of life.” —Proverbs 4:23

THE word heart appears in the Bible about 800 times, nearly all of which are symbolic. The first time it appears is in Genesis 6:5: “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.” The last appearance of the word heart in the Bible is in Revelation 18:7. Here we are told that the wicked woman, Babylon, “saith in her heart, I sit a queen, and am no widow, and shall see no sorrow.”

In describing the various heart conditions which are possible, the Bible uses such expressions as integrity of the heart, and the heart that fainteth, a heart that is hardened, a willing heart, a discouraged heart, all thine heart, speaking in the heart, a heart that is not deceived, a heart that is grieved, and a heart that is filled up.

The Bible also speaks of blindness of heart, astonishment of heart, and hearts that are melted. There are glad hearts, merry hearts, rejoicing hearts, trembling hearts, understanding hearts, singing hearts, and sorrowful hearts. The Bible also speaks of clean hearts, and hearts that are strengthened. There are enlarged hearts and lonely hearts, burning hearts and bleeding hearts. There are broken and contrite hearts. There is also singleness of heart.

The heart is what we really are, not what we appear to be or perhaps would like to have others believe that we are. The Apostle Peter contrasts the outward adornment with what he refers to as “the hidden man of the heart.” (I Pet. 3:4) It is the heart we are to keep; for God looks on the hearts, not on the outward man. In other words, God sees us as we really are; and if we keep our hearts, he will note that and bless us accordingly. In Proverbs 23;6,7 we read: “Eat thou not the bread of him that hath an evil eye, neither desire thou his dainty meats: For as he thinketh in his heart, so is he: Eat and drink, saith he to thee; but his heart is not with thee.”


Psalm 57:7 reads, “My heart is fixed, O God, my heart is fixed.” Here the marginal translation suggests the word prepared instead of fixed. We are to be prepared for all emergencies in our Christian lives, for we know not the details of the way which is before us. If we are properly prepared by our trust in God and in his promises for us, we will not be afraid of evil tidings. When we are passing through adversity and trials of various sorts, we will not be afraid of the outcome, because we will be assured that the Lord will be with us and continue to guide and strengthen us in all these difficult situations. How important it is that our hearts be prepared—through study of the Word, through fellowship with the Lord’s people, through prayer, and by all the means of grace which he has provided.

Unbelieving Hearts

Hebrews 3:12-15 reads, “Take heed, brethren, lest there be in any of you an evil heart of unbelief, in departing from the living God. But exhort one another daily, while it is called today; lest any of you be hardened through the deceitfulness of sin. For we are made partakers of Christ, if we hold the beginning of our confidence stedfast unto the end.” This admonition follows a statement by Paul in which he reminds us that many of the ancient Israelites did have unbelieving hearts. It was because of this that they failed to receive the inheritance which God had promised to them. Surely it is important for us to remember this example of unbelief and the loss to which it led. Paul explains that an unbelieving heart leads to a departing from the living God. In other words, it means that one does not have full confidence in his Word, setting it aside and misinterpreting its meaning in keeping with worldly and fleshly ambitions.

To have an unbelieving heart leads to a hardening of one’s attitude toward the Lord through the deceitfulness of sin. May we ever remember that all of God’s precious promises to us are conditional upon our obedience to him, and that we are actually made partakers of Christ “if we hold the beginning of our confidence steadfast unto the end.”

Let us continue, then, to draw near to God “with a true heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled from an evil conscience, and our bodies washed with pure water. Let us hold fast the profession of our faith without wavering; (for he is faithful that promised).” (Heb. 10:22,23) God has promised to do this for us if our hearts are pure before him—“the eyes of the Lord run to and fro throughout the whole earth, to show himself strong in the behalf of them whose heart is perfect toward him.”—II Chron. 16:9

Hearts Perfected

Imperfections of the heart can be partially removed through a proper and sincere use of the Word of God. Paul wrote, “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.” (Heb. 4:12) If we are sincere in our use of the Word of God, we will find that it is indeed very exacting in setting forth the will of God for us. It will seem that many times when we read the Scriptures directing the way in which we should walk, the Lord has directed us to these certain texts in order that we may be properly corrected—corrected in matters which we would perhaps hesitate to discuss with others; but we should be thankful that the Lord, as a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart, is assisting us through his Word in the perfecting of ourselves as new creatures in Christ Jesus.

And how fortunate it is that the Lord does guide in this manner! We could not depend upon even our best intentions to accomplish what needs to be accomplished, because, as we read in Jeremiah 17:9, the human heart is “deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked.” In other words, we could be deceived in our own hearts without the help of the Lord. Only by the Lord’s help can our hearts be purified and kept pure.

In Psalm 51:10 we read, “Create in me a clean heart, O God; and renew a right spirit within me.” Here the marginal translation reads “constant spirit.” Our hearts need to be established, not wavering. We know that just as the Lord is the same yesterday, today, and forever, we should endeavor likewise to remain constant in our devotion to him and in our steadfast endeavor to know and to do his will. And we have the assurance of his Word, over and over again, that he will help us as we cooperate with him through obedience to his Word.

Deceived Hearts

James gives us an example of the evil results of a deceived heart. He wrote, “If any man among you seem to be religious, and bridleth not his tongue, but deceiveth his own heart, this man’s religion is vain.” (James 1:26) Here is a very strong warning against the improper use of our tongues. We may think that our words to one another and to the world are not important, and that we can give vent to our feelings any time it seems good to us to do so and the Lord will not take this into account. But if that becomes our attitude we are deceiving our own hearts, for what it means is that our religion is really vain.

The final test in keeping our hearts pure before the Lord is the test of love. The Apostle John wrote, “Let us not love in word, neither in tongue; but in deed and in truth. And hereby we know that we are of the truth, and shall assure our hearts before him.” (I John 3:18,19) Just as we know, for example, that if we do not bridle our tongues we are deceiving our hearts, we also know that if our love is true and full and sincere, our hearts may be assured that the Lord is caring for us, loving us, and approving us both now and, if we continue faithful, approving us finally; and we will hear that welcome, “Well done, good and faithful servant … enter thou into the joy of thy Lord.”

Dawn Bible Students Association
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