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God’s Heart

Jeremiah 32: 37-41    

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God has a heart, but he does not have a physical heart like we do. Where the Bible writers refer to God’s heart, they are using a figure of speech for God’s emotions, thoughts and desires.

Hundreds of years before the time of Jesus, the prophet Jeremiah (appropriately called “the weeping prophet”) wrote about the heart of God, the hearts of God’s rebellious people, and his own grieving heart—grieving over the sins of his fellow Israelites. Sometimes Jeremiah recorded the words of God himself, as when God spoke of unfaithful Israel (here referred to as Ephraim):

Is not Ephraim my dear son, the child in whom I delight?
Though I often speak against him, I still remember him.
Therefore my heart yearns for him; I have great compassion for him (31:20).

Here we see God’s heart, yearning not only for the Jewish people of long ago but for every Jewish person today, for you and me, and for everyone on earth.

Every human being also has a heart. Actually, we have two hearts: a physical one and a mental/emotional/spiritual heart. We have no choice in the matter, and it is good for us to be mindful of both hearts.

Hardly anyone ever thinks of the remarkable reddish-brown organ beating in their chest. I know I didn’t, until I learned that I had a heart problem. My heart illness worsened until I needed open heart surgery and eventually needed, and received, a heart transplant. My old heart was so weak that, when the surgeons opened my chest and looked at my heart, it was barely moving. It was trying hard to pump but was merely quivering. It was very, very close to stopping completely when the doctors removed it and put another one in its place.

It has now been over ten years since one person died and, by filling out a donor form while alive, provided me with a new heart. Every day my new biological heart, like yours, beats about 100,000 times and pumps about 2,000 gallons of blood. Think of a gallon container of milk. Then place 2,000 of these containers on a parking lot or on the street in front of your house. You may arrange them in a rectangle 20 jugs wide and 100 jugs long.

Now think of these gallon containers not as white but as red. This is the amount of blood your little, eleven-ounce heart pumps in one day. Every day. Without a break, except for the half-second of “rest” between beats. For 70, 80, 90 or more years!

God has made our physical hearts so strong that if you take a tennis ball and squeeze it tightly, you will feel how hard your beating heart has to work each time it pumps blood. No muscles in the body are as strong as those of the heart, except those of a woman’s uterus when she delivers her baby.

God has also given each of us a non-physical heart. When the Bible refers to the human heart in this sense it is speaking of the mental, emotional and spiritual
“center” of our being. This is not our brain nor our physical heart. Perhaps we may think of it as our soul-spirit, or simply as our “spiritual heart,” or even our inner “control center.” What we love, hate, desire, think about and choose—these all come from our spiritual heart, which the Bible says is “deceitful above all things and beyond cure” by human improvement schemes (Jeremiah 17:9).

Fortunately, our spiritual heart, when quickened by God, is able to cry out to God for mercy, inner peace, purity of mind and soul, and genuine love for God and others.

When our spiritual heart is truly made alive by the new birth (John 3) we have an almost unlimited capacity—by God’s indwelling Holy Spirit—to pump adoration to God, holiness to our lives, and compassion to others. “May he strengthen your hearts so that you will be blameless and holy in the presence of our God and Father when our Lord Jesus comes with all his holy ones” (1 Thessalonians 3:13) . Because our spiritual heart is the powerful control center of our lives, the Bible warns us solemnly “Above all else, guard your heart, for everything you do flows from it” (Proverbs 4:23).

I want to close this brief essay by saying a little more about the characteristics of God’s heart. When we think about the truly remarkable strength of our physical heart it will be good for us to dwell on the infinitely more powerful, wise, holy and compassionate heart of God.

Isaiah the prophet records words that almost certainly come from God himself, although they express the heart-cries of the prophet as well. After lamenting, “My heart cries out over Moab” (15:5), the Lord declares, “So I weep, as Jazer weeps.…I drench you with tears!…My heart laments for Moab like a harp, my inmost being for Kir Hareseth” (16:9, 11).

Yes, God grieves deeply over sin. He hates it, and sometimes must chasten us to bring us back to himself. But his compassion never fails, as we see in his words to his people Israel.

I will bring them back to this place and let them live in safety. They will be my people and I will be their God. I will give them singleness of heart and action.…I will never stop doing good to them, and I will inspire them to fear me, so that they will never turn away from me. I…will assuredly plant them in this land with all my heart and soul (Jeremiah 32:37-41).

In much the same tone the Lord says, “Return, faithless people…. Then I will give you shepherds after my own heart, who will lead you with knowledge and understanding” (Jeremiah 3:14-15). These words, along with the following words of the Good Shepherd while on earth, reveal the astonishing depths of God’s ever-inviting heart.

Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light (Matthew 11:28-30).

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For you who would like some very encouraging material for your personal or group Bible study, I include here this outline from The NIV Study Bible, 2011 edition, page 2239. (The initials NIV refer to the New International Version.)

God’s Relationship to the Human Heart:

He knows it (1 Samuel 16:7)

He searches it (Psalm 7:9; Jeremiah 17:10)

He tests it (I Chronicles 29:17; 1 Thessalonians 2:4)

He influences it (Ezra 7:27)

He directs it (Proverbs 21:1)

He opens it (Acts 16:14)

He touches it (1 Samuel 10:26)

He makes light shine in it (2 Corinthians 4:6)

He cleanses it (Hebrews 10:22)

He writes his law on it (Jeremiah 31:33)

He strengthens it (I Thessalonians 3:13)

He keeps it loyal (I Chronicles 29:18)

He gives a new heart (Psalm 51:10; Ezekiel 11:19)

Remember, “Above all else, guard your heart, for everything you do flows from it” (Proverbs 4:23).

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