Mention the word heart, and most of you will form an image in your mind, either of your physical heart or some representation like Valentine’s Day. You may conjure up good memories, or possibly the ultimate rejection because you didn’t get a valentine from the person you wanted to like you. We see emojis everywhere with hearts for eyes or just different hearts that we use to text and email. Lovers carve their initials into trees with a heart. But how much do we think about or understand the heart of God? Do we want to know His heart and dreams for us?
While walking one of my favorite trails this week, I happened upon two leaves that had fallen onto the path. One was crinkled and broken, crushed from people traffic. The other had just made a landing that morning. I stopped to take a photo of the first one, contemplating the brokenness I saw before me.
There is not a person alive who hasn’t had a broken heart at some point. Maybe more than once. Ask someone to remember when another person broke their heart, and most people won’t have trouble remembering. Perhaps they might not want to share the experience with you, but we have all been there. I suspect even Jesus was brokenhearted at the callous disregard for the love He wanted to imbue in everyone. He was definitely broken in heart and spirit about people’s selfish choices. And we know He wept with grief over the death of Lazarus.
Finding that one leaf on the path set me on a mission to become more aware of when scripture mentions the heart. According to what I read, there are approximately 791-963 times, depending on the translation. I started in the Old Testament. In the Psalms, David talks to God, asking Him to give him a clean heart and renew a right spirit within him. He certainly knew what it was like to have an unclean heart. But he also found that he could regain that cleansed state if he confessed his sin.
The second leaf I saw was new, still fresh, and green. As new creatures in Christ, we can only stay fresh and unhindered by the trampling of the world if we keep our hearts in sync with His Word and Holy Spirit. We do this through reading scripture, confession, repentance, and restoration as part of our relationship with Him.
The scripture talks about giving us a new heart. It says: “I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you; I will remove from you your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh.”* Most of us do not want a heart of stone. But we can harden our hearts if we are not careful with whom we walk and with what we fill our days. We are duly warned in Hebrews (13:13) to be wary lest the deceitfulness of sin hardens our hearts. Let us continually strive to have that comment not fall upon our shoulders.
The heart God gave us is capable of good for His kingdom and glory. But it is also capable of evil. As an example of this, Timothy spoke about false teachers who would arise before Christ’s second coming. Their consciences had been seared and were thus capable of only evil.
“Now the Holy Spirit tells us clearly that in the last times some will turn away from the true faith; they will follow deceptive spirits and teachings that come from demons. These people are hypocrites and liars, and their consciences are dead.” **
Proverbs exhorts us to guard our hearts, for it determines the course of our lives.*** Our hearts are capable of being renewed, reborn from hearts of stone, and made into hearts in His likeness, just like the new leaves in the spring. Even if we experience a broken heart, God can restore it.
The next time you are out walking, think about how your Lord shares His love for you every day, straight from His heart.
“The Spirit of the Sovereign LORD is on me, because the LORD has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, . . . .”
Is 61:1 NIV
*Ezekiel 36:26 NIV
**I Timothy 4:1-2 NLT
***Proverbs 4:23 NLT
Here is a selection from The Complete Word Study Old Testament by Spiros Zodhiates
“In the Bible the whole spectrum of human emotions is attributed to the heart.”
“Wisdom and understanding reside in the heart (1Kings 3:12, Proverbs 16:23)
“However, it can be deceived (Isaiah 44:20).”
“It can be hardened (Exodus 10:1, Joshua 11:20).”
It also can be “the seat of moral evil (Jeremiah 17:9).”