What is ‘the heart’ from a biblical perspective? What does the Bible mean by ‘the heart?’ The heart is not just that little organ that pumps blood around the human body. You cannot read the scripture without realising that the heart means several things. For example:
- In John 14, when Jesus said to the disciples “Let not your heart be troubled,” It is a clear indication that the heart is the centre of emotions.
- In Mark 2:8, when Jesus said to the pharisees, “Why do you question these things in your hearts?” It is a clear indication that the heart is the centre of our intellect.
- In Daniel 1:8, when the Bible said, “Daniel purposed in his heart that he would not defile himself with the king’s food.” It is a clear indication that the heart is the seat of our will.
When the Bible speaks of the heart, it is often referring to the master control switch of our whole being, the Bible is speaking about the command centre of all areas of our lives. Because the heart is the command centre, therefore it becomes the very source of our trouble. Jeremiah (17:9) tells that, “The heart is more deceitful than all else and is desperate sick, who can understand it.” Jesus the Lord himself said in Matthew 15:19, “For out of the heart come evil thoughts, murder, adultery, sexual immorality, theft, false witness, slander.” No wonder the Bible says (Proverb 4:23) to, “Watch over your heart with all diligence, for from it flows the springs of life.”
It was said of David that he was a man after God’s own heart, and yet, he messed up royally. Lust of the heart led to him abusing his power in authority by him commiting adultery with another man’s wife and arranging for the man’s wife to be killed in battle. But when he finally came to repentance, the cry of David’s heart after was, “Create in me a clean heart of God and renew a steadfast within me.” – Psalm 51:10.
A person does not become a liar when they lie, but he/she lies because the heart is already deceitful. A person does not become a thief when they steal, but he/she steals because the heart is already greedy. A person does not become a criminal when they break the law of the land, but he/she breaks the law because the heart is already rebellious. A person does not become a sinner by committing a sin, but rather, he/she commits a sin because they are a sinner by nature. Sodom was already inside of Lot before he was inside of Sodom.
“The human heart, I have found out, no matter how emotionally exulting or full of praise (or heartfelt repentance, even), can be trusted, including, and maybe specially, my own. But God, and the Word of God, has never let me down.” – Mark Quayle.
God is the only one who is able to know our hearts perfectly. We don’t even know our own hearts. We tend to judge one another. Most often we tend to misjudge one another, but only God who can really see us as we really are. We are not free to judge a person’s motive, only God can judge people’s motive, not us. We can judge people on the basis of their action, fruit and what we see, but not on what we do not see. People judge us on the basis of our appearance, words, & actions. Our conscience judges us on the basis of our behaviour pattern and needs, but only God who judges us on the basis of our motives. All earthly courts pronounce judgement and deal with a person who has been accused of an action (e.g. something a person did or said), but only the heavenly court is able to judge a person based on his/her thoughts. Quite Scary to think that the courts of heaven judges our thoughts.
The Lord Jesus taught that “It is out the abundance of the heart that the mouth speaks.” – Luke 6:45. James, the younger brother of Jesus also knew that the tongue is the highway from the heart. He tells us in James 1:26 that “If you consider yourself religious and yet you do not bridle your tongue, you are only deceiving your own heart and your religion is worthless.” If you cannot say something to the person, don’t say it about the person. We can tell an awful lot about the state of our heart by looking at and listening to our tongues.
“Hearts which are cold are going to be speaking cold words; Hearts that are bitter will speak bitter words; Hearts that are vengeful will speak damaging words; Hearts that are jealous will speak jealous words; Hearts that are angry will speak inflammatory words; Hearts that are critical will speak critical words; Hearts that are proud will speak pompous words; Hearts that are selfish will speak selfish words. But a heart that is filled with the word of God will speak words that bring life and comfort and hope and blessing.” – Paul Oliver
Wounds made by the sword would heal quickly. But wounds afflicted by words, wounds afflicted by the tongue fester the soul and scars the mind. “With the tongue we bless our Lord and Father, and with it we curse people who are made in the likeness of God. From the same mouth come blessing and cursing. My brothers, these things ought not be so.” – James 3:9-10.
The most eloquent of people, they may be able to mesmerise others with their words but they can never see lives truly changed. Only the power of the Spirit of God can change lives, convict, convert souls, and take the words of the Good News causing it to penetrate deep into our hearts (like a surgeon using a scalpel for a life-changing surgery).
Even as new creatures in Christ with a newly transformed heart, no matter how hard we may try, we will still often fall short of God’s glory time after time because of the reality of sin in this fallen world. In all truth, we will often fail to love God and our neighbour perfectly. Jesus made it clear that the first and greatest commandment of all is, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.” – Matthew 22:37. And the second greatest commandment is to: “LOVE your neigbhour as yourself.” – (John 14:15). This two commandments are basically a summary of the 10 commandments. And no matter how hard we may try, we can never obey the 10 commandments perfectly. But through the love of God, we can live it, because to love is the fulfilment of the law (Romans 13:10). The love of God that is poured into our heart will empower us to live the 10 commandments (not perfectly).
The Bible encourages us to often examine ourselves (2 Corinthians 13:5). When I look in the mirror to do self-examination, I find that my love is often cold, I find that my heart often seems to harden up naturally. I find that at times my love for people and my love for God grows weak. So many times my heart is filled with awful things, so many times my heart needs healing and cleansing. And when I plead with the Lord to break my stone-cold heart and to make me whole, I’m often reminded of a song I learnt in my very early years in life. It is a song (credited at the end) that takes me to the garden of Gethsemane (Matthew 26).
At the garden of Gethsemane, when Jesus was praying to the Father while his disciple were asleep, the intensity of Jesus’ prayer was so incredible that physically, blood was coming out of his pores (Luke 22:44). Jesus bloody sweat is evidence of great grief. Hematidrosis is a very rare condition in which a person sweats blood when under extreme physical or emotional stress. The artist Leonardo da Vinci wrote about a soldier who had bloody sweat after battle. When under stress, the body goes into flight-or-fight mode. This flight-or-fight response can trigger the rupture of capillaries in the body. Capillaries are tiny blood vessels located throughout tissue. They carry essential nutrients to different parts of the body. Capillaries are also located around the sweat glands. In cases of severe fear or stress, these tiny blood vessels can burst and cause blood to exit the body through the sweat glands.
Jesus was exceedingly sorrowful in His soul to the point of death that He sweat blood, knowing full well that His hour was at hand. That moment of separation from His Father for the very first time since before eternity was at hand. Not only would Jesus have to endure physical pain and torture at Calvary, but even worse, Jesus would experience the full wrath of a sin-hating Father, when the sin of humanity would rain on His sinless body at that moment of separation from His Father. Such absolute, total, wrenching, and crushing heartache. It is not surprising to me atleast that Jesus died remarkably sooner than expected while the two thieves that were crucified by His side died hours later. I heard of a Danish doctor by the name Richtor, who dedicated himself to the studying of torture of the Crucifixion. After years of study, he concluded that Jesus died of a brokenheart… The very heart of Christ is Compassion. Jesus died in darkness so that we may live in light; Jesus died in silence so that we may forever have a word from the LORD; Jesus died forsaken so that we may be accepted… I’ll never know how much it cost, to see my sin upon that Cross.
When my love to Christ grows weak,
When for deeper faith I seek,
Then in thought I go to thee,
Garden of Gethsemane.
There I walk amid the shades,
While the lingering twilight fades,
See that suffering, friendless One,
Weeping, praying there alone.
When my love for man grows weak,
When for stronger faith I seek,
Hill of Calvary, I go
To the scenes of fear and woe.
There behold His agony,
Suffered on the bitter tree;
See His anguish, see His faith,
Love triumphant still in death.