The Heart of the Matter
In 1Samuel 16, God commands Samuel to go to the house of Jesse in Bethlehem to find a new king who would replace the rejected King Saul. Upon entering the house, Samuel was looking at Jesse’s sons and wondering, “Surely the Lord’s anointed is before Him.” The Lord corrected Samuel in verse 7 by saying, “Do not look at his appearance or at the height of his stature, because I have rejected him; for God sees not as man sees, for man looks at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart”. The wickedness of the heart is not always visible from the outside. Jesus illustrated this point with the Pharisees in Matthew 23:25-26 when He said, “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you clean the outside of the cup and of the dish, but inside they are full of robbery and self-indulgence. You blind Pharisee, first clean the inside of the cup and of the dish, so that the outside of it may become clean also.” God is interested most in the condition of the heart.
David turned out to be so favored by God because he was a man after God’s heart, “who will do all My will” (Acts 13:22). The heart is the place where man’s value judgements are determined, where his priorities are decided. Jesus said, “For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also” (Luke 12:34). The problem that man has is that his heart is “desperately wicked” in its unregenerate form and needs the work of a righteous God to test his heart and mind (Psalm 7:9). With all the corruption that one faces living in a fallen world and under the influences of fallen angel (Satan), man needs the spiritual guidance of the Lord of Righteousness. A conscious decision of the heart to recognize the authority of God and His Word and a willingness to obey puts the believer in line to receive the best of His bounty.
A Spiritual Man
For he is not a Jew who is one outwardly, nor is circumcision that which is outward in the flesh. But he is a Jew who is one inwardly; and circumcision is that which is of the heart, by the Spirit, not by the letter; and his praise is not from men, but from God. Romans 2:28-29
When the heart is open to God, man invites Him in to accomplish what the man is not capable of doing. The spiritual man, whether Jew or Christian has allowed the Holy Spirit to circumcise his heart, a removal of excess skin that is symbolic of eliminating the excesses of life that only produce a compromised relationship with Him. These excesses may take on the form of too much of this or too many of that; to be filled with the Spirit is to be free of excesses (Ephesians 5:18). The son became a prodigal when he left his home of order and moderation for loose living.
Walking by the Spirit and not the letter (i.e.. living under rules and regulations without the heart behind them) defines the one who is pleasing God and not man. Paul says in Philippians 3:3 that the true circumcision are those who “worship in the Spirit of God and glory in Christ Jesus and put no confidence in the flesh”.
The power of sin
The heart is also the place where the believer gains victory over the power of sin. The writer of Psalm 119 understood this well when he wrote verse 11, “Your word I have treasured in my heart, that I may not sin against You.” The believer wrestles with the power of the sin nature; the Word of God, treasured (placed in high esteem) in the heart provides the avenue to victory. Paul explains in 2Timothy 3:16 that, “All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness.” The authority of God’s Word delivers the believer from all his carnal battles. In Psalm 24, King David asks the questions, “Who may ascend into the hill of the Lord? And who may stand in His holy place?” He is asking who has conquered his own fallenness. His answer in verse 4 is, “He who has clean hands and a pure heart, who has not lifted up his soul to falsehood and has not sworn deceitfully.” Since his heart is continuously under the authority of the Word of God, David is consistently being convicted to let that authority deliver David’s heart.
It’s time to risk it all
What God wants from His people is an honest, transparent relationship in which there are no secrets. Jesus declared in the Sermon on the Mount, “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God”. This purity of heart includes the sense not only of clean, but also genuine, real, not phony or hypocritical. The one who approaches God on the basis of transparency is the one who trusts God to his own hurt; he is risking it all. But isn’t that exactly what God asks of the one whom He invites into His sanctuary. Placing one’s confidence completely in the Person and work of Jesus Christ is to deny that any reliance on personal ability or performance makes any difference with God. David understood this reality when he said in Psalm 27:4, “One thing I have asked from the Lord, that I shall seek: that I may dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life, to behold the beauty of the Lord and to meditate in His temple.”
God is looking for anyone willing to make that kind of commitment to Him. In fact, in 2Chronicles 16:9, “For the eyes of the Lord move to and fro throughout the earth that He may strongly support those whose heart is completely His”. This kind of relationship with Him requires the whole heart, not holding back out of fear or feelings of unworthiness. The measure of a godly man is in his confidence in Who God is and what He has accomplished to man’s benefit.
The heart of the matter is a matter of the heart