Deuteronomy 6:5; 1 Samuel 16:7; 2 Chronicles 12:14; Psalm 9:1; 51:10; Proverbs 16:23; Jeremiah 17:9; Matthew 5:8; Hebrews 3:15
The Hebrew word for heart (לב leb) is used 593 times in the Hebrew Old Testament. It is a masculine noun which can mean “the center of a thing” (i.e. the heart of the earth) or the physical blood pumping organ. Most often, however, it refers to the inner nature of a person, including his thoughts, fears, and innermost feelings. “Leb” also refers to the place where a man’s wisdom and understanding reside, and to the seat of the will. “Hardening one’s heart” is willful disobedience to the command of God. The Greek word (καρδία kardia) is found 160 times and has similar meanings in the New Testament.
In our Scripture readings today, we discover that we are to love the Lord our God with all of our hearts, that God searches our hearts, that the heart controls the will, that we should thank the Lord with our hearts, and that we need the Lord to create in us a clean heart. We also learn that the heart can speak out wisdom, the heart is desperately wicked, we should be pure in heart, and we should not harden our hearts against God.
Popular culture tells us that we have no control over the “affairs of the heart”. We “fall in love”, completely beyond our ability to resist. We tell our adolescent children that since they are unable to resist the temptation to sexual sin, they should use “protection”. We tolerate theft, greed, murder, sexual impropriety, gluttony, and all other types of sin because “he was desperate”, “that’s just the way he is”, “she was mentally ill”, “he had a bad environment”, or “the system drove her to it”. We refuse to acknowledge that medical diagnoses can have moral components…and causes. Rejecting the truth that a holy God has absolute power and authority and will judge our thoughts, words and deeds, punishing us for our disobedience, we struggle to explain the world in ways that will let us behave the way we want.
Mankind has no more power to forestall the judgment of God than we do to change the rotation of the planets. He is sovereign, and our efforts to break His laws only result in us breaking ourselves and those around us.
Jesus, fully God and fully man, understands our nature, our weakness, and our sin. He died and rose again so that by following Him, we can be free from the tyranny of wickedness that defines us. He will surely judge, and those who do not accept His love will bear the full responsibility for their sin. But in His grace, God has given us a way out. He will create in us a clean heart. He will search out our hearts and root out the evil within them. He will bring those who love Him to eternal life. This Christmas season, let us remember to control our hearts, and to worship and enjoy Him who will finally make them clean.
It Came Upon a Midnight Clear
It came upon the midnight clear,
That glorious song of old,
From angels bending near the earth
To touch their harps of gold:
“Peace on the earth, goodwill to men
From heav’ns all gracious King.”
The world in solemn stillness lay
To hear the angels sing.
Yet with the woes of sin and strife
The world has suffered long,
Beneath the angel strain have rolled
Two thousand years of wrong;
And man, at war with man, hears not
The love song which they bring:
O hush the noise, ye men of strife,
And hear the angels sing!
All ye beneath life’s crushing load,
Whose forms are bending low,
Who toil along the climbing way
With painful steps and slow;
Look now, for glad and golden hours
Come swiftly on the wing;
O rest beside the weary road
And hear the angels sing.
For lo! the days are hastening on,
By prophets bards foretold,
When with the ever-circling years
Comes round the age of gold,
When peace shall over all the earth
Its ancient splendors fling,
And the whole world give back the song
Which now the angels sing.