2 Chronicles 16:9

Greetings and (belated) Happy New Year! I trust that the year 2014 will be the best year of your life so far, in the things that matter most.

About 50 years ago I discovered an unusual and fascinating expression in the Bible. These words have been tremendously encouraging to me, over and over, through all of my life since then. I will quote the whole sentence and then discuss the expression, as well as the rest of the verse:

For the eyes of the LORD run to and fro throughout the whole earth, to shew [show] himself strong in the behalf of them whose heart is perfect toward him” (2 Chronicles 16:9, King James Version – KJV).

The words that especially struck me are “the eyes of the LORD run to and fro throughout the whole earth.” I knew that, even though God does not have physical eyes (and that this expression is therefore an “anthropomorphism”), the Bible writer is here presenting a remarkable truth.

The picture that comes into my mind when I read these words of scripture, then and now, is that of a supreme being (a very powerful, wise and kind human-like ruler) seated or standing in the heavens and looking slowly and carefully over the earth. His eyes are roaming (the Hebrew form indicates continuous activity), not in a nervous, frantic manner but in a calm and all-knowing search, aware of every person and the heart of every person.

The New International Version (NIV, 2011) translates the verse somewhat differently from the KJV:
For the eyes of the LORD range throughout the earth to strengthen those whose hearts are fully committed to him.

Instead of God’s eyes running “to and fro” they “range” over the earth. Here is the doctrine of God’s omniscience” (literally “all-science”): God knows everything. Whatever the Bible translation (both of the above are accurate), we know unmistakably that God is intensely aware of what is going on here on earth, and what people—including you and me—are thinking and doing.

The reason for God’s careful searching activity throughout the earth is “to shew [show] himself strong in the behalf of them whose heart is perfect toward him” (KJV). This is also remarkable: God studies every inhabitant of the earth (now over seven billion people) to see which ones are fully devoted to him, in order to “show himself strong” on their behalf. In other words, God actually looks for opportunities to do mighty things for those who love and serve him! And whatever he chooses to do, it will be very good for us—“immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us” (Ephesians 3:20).

Whether, as with the KJV, we think of God’s showing himself strong on our behalf or, as with the NIV, we think of God’s strengthening us directly (the latter is the more accurate translation), the great truth is the same: God’s mighty power is released to accomplish wonderful works in, for and through his faithful ones.

So far we have written only of the things that God does and will do. But the most important part of the verse for our everyday lives has to do with our part:” what must we do, and be? We know that God will do his part—the text states that very clearly and powerfully. But our responsibility is to have hearts that are “fully committed” to him (NIV), “perfect” toward him (KJV) or “blameless” before him (English Standard Version).

The words “perfect” and “blameless” may discourage some Christians because they know (as we all know) that they (and we) are far from being perfect and blameless. God’s people may say, “Well I guess God will not be strengthening my heart. Why even hope for that?”

The best translation, however, is that of the NIV: “fully committed” to God. The purpose of this scripture text is not to discourage us, but to encourage us. From the context of verse nine (especially verses seven and eight) and chapter 15 (especially verse 17) we can see that the “fully committed” child of God—King Asa in this case—is one who relies totally on the Lord, not on their own perceived strength and resources. When Asa did the latter, sadly, he grieved the Lord and trouble followed him the rest of his days.

The Hebrew term translated “fully committed” (shalem) does not mean perfect or blameless in an absolute sense. The idea of the word is complete, whole, safe, at peace and especially—praise God—friendly! It comes from the root shalem: to be safe in mind, body and belongings. It is related to shalom: safety, peace, wholeness, happiness and friendship, especially in a covenant of peace and friendship.

Our responsibility, then, in order to see God do mighty things in, for and through us—to experience God’s powerful inner strengthening—is to be at peace with God in a covenant relationship of friendship! (Three times in the Bible Abraham is called “the friend of God” even though he surely was not “perfect.”) If our hearts are “fully committed” to God, living daily with him in peace as our covenant partner and friend, trusting fully in him and not in ourselves, doing those things that please him and shunning those things that displease him, we will experience great and mighty things, not only this year but for the rest of our earthly lives—and forever!

I ask myself as I ask you: when God’s eyes examine our hearts
carefully, what does he see and how will he act in light of that knowledge in
2014? He will assuredly do his part!