HEART AND SPIRIT

alternate textAnyone who desires to understand the Word of Yahweh properly, needs to make sure that he or she understands (at least a little bit of) the Hebrew way of looking at life, the Hebrew way of thinking and the Hebrew way of expressing oneself. With one or two possible exceptions, all of the writers of the books of the Bible (including the New Testament!) came from a Hebrew background. When they described certain historical events, they described and evaluated those events from a Hebrew mindset. The psalms and the songs and the proverbs and the letters that they wrote, were all filled with Hebrew idioms and images. The prophesies and the dreams and the revelations originated in a Hebrew setting and were addressed to a predominantly Hebrew audience and even the commandments, instructions and encouragements will in many cases be misunderstood completely if one tries to understand it from a Greek or Westernized point of view. The Scriptures are filled with many such examples.

Let us take, for instance, the frequent use of the well-known word, “heart”, in Scriptures. In the Torah reading portion for this week, this word is found – not once but twice, in a hidden way – in Genesis 34:3 “And the being of Shechem clung (or became attached) to Dinah the daughter of Yaakov and he loved the girl and spoke kindly to the girl.” So where is the word “heart” in this sentence? one may ask. By simply looking at the English translation, it cannot be seen, but the word “heart” actually appears twice in this sentence: Firstly in the word “being” and secondly in the word “kindly”. “Being” is a translation of the word “nefesh” which, according to dictionaries, has the meaning of “soul” or “heart”. And “kindly” is a translation of “al-lev” which literally means “to the heart”. So what this verse is really trying to tell us, is that the heart of Shechem became attached to Dinah and that he spoke to her heart, because he loved her.

Some of you may have heard the insinuation before that the Old Testament is mainly about the flesh and the body and the outward appearance, while the New Testament is mainly about the heart and the spirit and the inward relationship with Yahweh. There is absolutely no truth in such an idea. There are many words related to the concept of “heart” used in Scriptures. With the help of a concordance I have tried to summarize how many times, from Genesis to Revelation, words are being used that are related to the concept of “the heart.” Here is a quick wrap up:

Genesis to Deuteronomy: 428 times
Joshua to Ester: 381 times
Job to Song of Songs: 598 times
Isaiah to Daniel: 384 times
Hosea to Malachi: 85 times

Matthew to Acts: 235 times
Romans to Hebrews: 212 times
James to Revelation: 64 times
New Testament: 511 times
All of Scriptures: 2387 times

Simply by looking at this summary, one can clearly see how important the concept of the heart has always been within the Hebrew mindset and also that the concept of the heart is equally important, both in the Old and the New Testament. When the Bible writers refer to the heart of a person, what they have in mind, most of the times, is the capacity of human beings to know, to feel, to will, to think, to remember, to choose and to understand. This may be seen quite clearly in verses like Eccl 1:16 (I spoke to my own heart); 1 Kings 3:9 (a heart that can hear the people); 2 Kings 5:26 (My heart walked with you); 1 Sam 17:32 (let your heart not fall down because of him); Ezek 22:14 (Will your heart stand when I deal with you?); Ps 16:9 (Therefore my heart is glad); Lam 2:18 (their heart cried out to Yahweh); Isa 40:2 (Comfort the heart of Jerusalem); Deut 15:10 (your heart shall not be grieved); Deut 20:3 (do not let your heart be faint); 1 Kings 12:33 (he devised wrongdoing out of his own heart); Luk 2:19 (she meditated in her heart); John 14:1 (do not let your heart be troubled); Acts 2:37 (when they heard this, they were stabbed in the heart); Rom 1:21 (their undiscerning heart was darkened); 2 Cor 3:15 (when Moses is being read, a veil lies on their heart); Col 3:21 (fear Elohim with singleness of heart); Heb 3:10 (their hearts always go astray).

The physical heart is an organ that pumps blood but in Scriptures the heart is primarily a spiritual organ that drives man’s thoughts, words and behaviour. In order to stand in a proper relationship with Yahweh, our hearts need to be aligned with Yahweh’s heart. He wants us to desire what He desires, to approve what He approves and to reject what He rejects. In our walk with Yahweh, we should grow towards a level of maturity where we rejoice over the things that are acceptable and pleasing to Him and where our hearts are comforted, not by worldly aspirations and ambitions, but by the pure words that He had already given us through his prophets, his true messengers and his Son, Y’shua.

Where does all of this start? The best starting place is to listen carefully, and take seriously the words of Ezekiel 36:26-27 “I will give you a new heart, and I will put a new spirit within you. And I will take away the stony heart and I will give to you a heart of flesh. And I will put My Spirit within you and cause you to walk in My statutes, and you shall keep My laws and ordinances and do them.” This may sound straightforward, but its not that simple. Some people are all for a new heart but they have a natural dislike of the laws and the ordinances of Yahweh. Very few people will enjoy being blamed for having a cold or a stony heart, but the flip side of the coin is equally true: Very few people understand what happens when Yahweh put his Spirit within a person. It means, first of all, that that person begins to think like Yahweh thinks and thereby starts to reflect the true character of Yahweh. Being filled with the Spirit of Yahweh, is not a shortcut to bypass the seriousness of the words and the instructions of his Word.

Receiving a new heart is not the end of the road, it is the beginning of a new walk with Yahweh. The rebellious tendencies and the selfish inclinations of the old heart will not vanish from our lives instantaneously. Y’shua reminded his followers that out of the hearts of men proceed evil thoughts, adulteries, fornications, murders, thefts, greedy desires, iniquities, deceit, lustful desires, a wicked eye, blasphemy, pride and recklessness (Mark 7:21-22). Jeremiah 17:9 declares, “The heart is deceitful above all things, and it is incurable; who can know it?” And in Genesis 6:5 Yahweh saw that the evil of man was great on the earth, and every imagination of the thoughts of his heart was only evil all the day long. What these verses are clearly telling us, is that most of the times, when people are saying, “In trying to find out what is right and what is wrong, I am just following my heart”, they are actually deceiving themselves. Our own hearts are simply not trustworthy. Our hearts may deceive us. We all have an incurable heart disease for which only Yahweh has a cure.

When David prayed to Yahweh to be filled with a “steadfast spirit”, he asked in the same breath: “Create in me a clean heart, o Elohim” (Ps 51:1). Throughout Scriptures the clear message is echoed again and again that when people are filled with Yahweh’s Spirit, their hearts are in the process of being cured and they are in the process of returning back to obedience to the very words of Yahweh:

Isa 42:1-4 See, My Servant whom I uphold, My Chosen One My being has delighted in! I have put My Spirit upon Him; He will bring forth right-ruling to the nations … He will establish righteousness in the earth. And the coastlands wait for His Torah.”

Isa 48:16-17 And now the Master Yahweh has sent Me, and His Spirit. Thus said Yahweh, your Redeemer, the Set-apart One of Yisrael, I am Yahweh your Elohim, teaching you what is best, leading you by the way you should go.

Isa 59:21 As for Me, this is My covenant with them, said Yahweh: My Spirit that is upon you, and My Words that I have put in your mouth, shall not be withdrawn from your mouth, nor from the mouth of your descendants, nor from the mouth of your descendants’ descendants … from this time and forever.

Gal 5:25 If we live in the Spirit, let us also walk in the Spirit.

1 John 3:24 And the one guarding His commands stays in Him, and He in him. And by this we know that He stays in us, by the Spirit which He gave us.

Let us not neglect the Word of Yahweh, the same Word that Y’shua and his early followers regarded as their “Bible”, and let us allow this Word to touch and to shape and to heal our hearts, so that it may once more reflect the character of our heavenly Father, in the same way that Y’shua’s life reflected the character of his Father. Heb 4:12 For the Word of Elohim is living, and working, and sharper than any two-edged sword, cutting through even to the dividing of being and spirit, and of joints and marrow, and able to judge the thoughts and intentions of the heart.

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