Sounds like: lev/leb or le’vahv.
The heart is a symbol that you find everywhere this time of year. It seems as soon as Christmas is over, the stores fill up with red and pink candies and chocolate filled hearts. And, just like that, “love” is in the air.
In the Bible, however, heart is not a symbol. It isn’t an internal organ in your body either… Heart is your conscience. It’s the status of your deepest feelings. It’s the truth of who you are. Sometimes, in the Bible, this word is translated as “mind” or “conscience”, but most commonly it is “heart”.
YHWH knows us, inside and out. He reads our heart and fully knows every secret that we think remains hidden:
If we had forgotten the name of our God or extended our hands to a strange god, would not God find this out? For He knows the secrets of the heart [lev].
Heart is your Conscience
So “heart” is our conscience and YHWH is fully aware of it. He is aware of our thoughts, our biases, our not-so-great feelings about certain people in our lives, our inner sorrows and our inner angers. That should give us pause.
As troubling as that may be, it’s also good to know that we were created with unique minds and that it’s okay to feel sadness sometimes, and it’s okay to feel anger. It’s also extremely lovely to know that God is a willing, and understanding, soundboard for us. Jeremiah most certainly went to YHWH with his troubling questions!
“Righteous are You, O YHWH, that I would plead my case with You; Indeed I would discuss matters of justice with You:
Why has the way of the wicked prospered? Why are all those who deal in treachery at ease?
You have planted them, they have also taken root; they grow, they have even produced fruit. You are near to their lips but far from their mind. But You know me, O YHWH; You see me; And You examine my heart’s [libi] attitude toward You…”
Jeremiah recognized that YHWH completely saw him, inside and out. It’s a frightening thought, but it is also freeing, in a way. How many of our friends would still be our friends, if they knew every thought we had; if they knew the complete attitude of our heart? God never gives up on His children, no matter the condition of their heart.
Truth is, our poor hearts tend to flip-flop continuously between good and evil throughout our lives, thanks to that word that we don’t like to use: sin.
Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross freed us from the burden of living with our flip-floppy hearts. Relying on the Spirit within us is our number one heart-boost! Leaning on the Spirit gives our heart the best chance to be good and marching in the right direction. But sometimes we don’t lean on the Spirit like we should, and the first thing to give us away is our mouths. Jesus rightly pointed out that what we speak reflects the status of our heart:
“For there is no good tree which produces bad fruit, nor, on the other hand, a bad tree which produces good fruit. For each tree is known by its own fruit. For men do not gather figs from thorns, nor do they pick grapes from a briar bush. The good man out of the good treasure of his heart brings forth what is good; and the evil man out of the evil treasure brings forth what is evil; for his mouth speaks from that which fills his heart [Greek: cardias].”
Our words are a reflection of our heart. It’s an easy, harsh, and truthful measuring system.
Devoting our heart to YHWH
Still, YHWH wants us to commit our flip-floppy, imperfect, hearts to Him. Devoting all of our heart to God is what we are called to do:
“Hear, O Israel! YHWH is our God, YHWH is one! And you shall love YHWH your God with all your heart [l’vav’ka] and with all your soul and with all your might. These words, which I am commanding you today, shall be on your heart [l’vav’eka].”
This also frees us. When we devote our hearts to God we accept all the promises He gave us, including the promise to be a God who Saves us:
For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life. For God did not send the Son into the world to judge the world, but that the world might be saved through Him.
We all know we should love our God so much that we should devote our whole attention to Him, but life often gets in the way. We stumble with love, especially when love has broken us. There is so much broken-heartedness in this world that sometimes we feel ripped apart from it.
But You, O YHWH, my Lord [Adonai], deal kindly with me for Your name’s sake; Because Your lovingkindness is good, deliver me; For I am afflicted and needy, and my heart [w’libi] is wounded within me.
YHWH and the BrokenHearted
Throughout the Tanakh (Old Testament) YHWH consistently showed lovingkindness to the brokenhearted:
YHWH is near to the broken-hearted [l’nish’b’re lev] and saves those who are crushed in spirit.
God knows our heart and our conscience. He knows that we humans have fragile hearts and He is there to lift us up!
For it is good to sing praises to our God; For it is pleasant and praise is becoming. YHWH builds up Jerusalem; He gathers the outcasts of Israel.
He heals the brokenhearted [lish’b’re lev] and binds up their wounds. He counts the number of the stars; He gives names to all of them.
Great is our Lord [Adonenu] and abundant in strength; His understanding is infinite.
Yeshua (Jesus) was a great healer of the brokenhearted. It was a key part of his mission and he claimed it from the beginning of his ministry when he entered the synagogue of his home town in Nazareth and read from the sacred scrolls. The passage he read was Isaiah 61:1-2.
And He [Yeshua] came to Nazareth, where He had been brought up; and as was His custom, He entered the synagogue on the Sabbath, and stood up to read. And the book of the prophet Isaiah was handed to Him. And He opened the book and found the place where it was written,
The Spirit of the Lord [Adonai] GOD [YHWH] is upon me,
Because YHWH has anointed me to bring good news to the afflicted;
He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted [l’nish’b’re lev],
To proclaim liberty to captives and freedom to prisoners;
To proclaim the favourable year of YHWH.
And He closed the book, gave it back to the attendant and sat down; and the eyes of all in the synagogue were fixed on Him. And He began to say to them, “Today this Scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing.”
Jesus announced his mission in his hometown. He would bandage up the brokenhearted and to allow humans to escape the prison of fear they were living in. By his sacrifice they would become joyfully free!
Having a Joyful Heart
YHWH is my strength and my shield; My heart [libi] trusts in Him, and I am helped; Therefore my heart [libi] exults, and with my song I shall thank Him.
YHWH is their strength, and He is a saving defence to His anointed. Save Your people and bless Your inheritance; Be their shepherd also, and carry them forever.
How do we find that kind of joy, where our heart exults in YHWH? Seek it! According to may of the Old Testament writers, we should seek out the face of YHWH.
Seek His Face and Find a New Heart
One thing I have asked from YHWH, that I shall seek:
That I may dwell in the house of YHWH all the days of my life,
To behold the beauty of YHWH and to meditate in His temple…
…When You said, “Seek My face,” my heart [libi] said to You,
“Your face, O YHWH, I shall seek.”
Do not hide Your face from me,
Do not turn Your servant away in anger;
You have been my help;
Do not abandon me nor forsake me,
O God of my Salvation!…
…Wait for YHWH;
Be strong and let your heart [li’beka] take courage;
Yes, wait for YHWH.
When we earnestly seek His face, He will let you find Him! One of His promises was to provide a new heart for us… to take our heart of stone and make it a heart of flesh… living and breathing for YHWH through the gift of the Spirit:
YHWH: “I will give you a new heart [lev chadash] and put a new spirit within you; I will remove your heart of stone [lev ha-eben] and give you a heart of flesh [lev basar]. And I will put My Spirit within you and cause you to walk in My statutes and to carefully observe My ordinances. Then you will live in the land that I gave your forefathers; you will be My people, and I will be your God.”
Lev Shalem (Pure Heart)
Ultimately our aim should be to have a whole/perfect/pure heart for God. In Hebrew it is called a Lev Shalem, which literally means “the heart perfect/pure” or “the heart whole”. Shalem comes out of the root word for peace (shalom). To have a pure heart is to have full peace!
King David recognized that seeking God and serving him with a “lev shalem” (whole/pure heart) was paramount to good kingship:
1 Chronicles 28:9
King David to his son: “As for you, my son Solomon, know the God of your father, and serve Him with a whole heart [b’lev shalem] and a willing mind; for YHWH searches all hearts [l’vavot], and understands every intent of the thoughts. If you seek Him, He will let you find Him; but if you forsake Him, He will reject you forever.”
This news isn’t always well received. Many years later the prophet Hanani addressed Asa, King of Judah, telling him that he would be judged because he turned away from God and trusted, instead, in foreign allies:
2 Chronicles 16:9a
Hanani to King Asa: “For the eyes of YHWH move to and fro throughout the earth that He may strongly support those whose heart is completely [l’vavam shalem] His. You have acted foolishly in this. Indeed, from now on you will surely have wars.”
King Asa did not appreciate being called foolish, (although that is exactly what he was), and he immediately imprisoned Hanani. But the prophet was not wrong. God had read Asa’s heart… it was corrupt. His life was filled with war. He never turned back to God and died after suffering with a terrible disease in his feet. (2 Chronicles 16:7-17).
The Apostle Paul understood the importance of a lev shalem (whole heart). In his letter to Timothy, written in Greek, he breaks up the Hebrew word lev into two Greek concepts: heart and conscience. Essentially he wanted Timothy to know that a pure heart/conscience and sincere faith was quintessential in sharing the message of Salvation/Yeshua:
1 Timothy 1:5
But the goal of our instruction is love from a pure heart and a good conscience and a sincere faith.
Let your Heart Sing
Paul also wrote that we should be… “speaking to one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody with your heart to the Lord” (Ephesians 5:19). Our heart should sing when we think of YHWH. We should remember the sacrifice of Jesus, our Messiah, and not wallow in sorrow but rejoice in our freedom!
My heart is steadfast, O God, my heart is steadfast; [Nakown libi, Elohim, nakown libi];
I will sing, yes, I will sing praises! Awake, my glory! Awake, harp and lyre! I will awaken the dawn.
I will give thanks to You, O Lord [Adonai], among the peoples; I will sing praises to You among the nations.
For Your lovingkindness is great to the heavens and Your truth to the clouds.
Be exalted above the heavens, O God; Let Your glory be above all the earth.
When we follow the way of Jesus we can make other people’s hearts sing! Job shared what it was like for him to follow YHWH’s commands:
For those who heard me called me blessed, and those who saw me commended me, because I rescued the poor who cried out and the fatherless who had no helper.
The dying man blessed me, and I made the widow’s heart sing for joy. I put on righteousness, and it clothed me; justice was my robe and turban. I served as eyes to the blind and as feet to the lame. I was a father to the needy, and I took up the case of the stranger.
Job understood what it meant to be a follower of YHWH. He would most certainly agree with the following advice given in Proverbs:
Do not let kindness and truth leave you; Bind them around your neck, Write them on the tablet of your heart [li’beka]. So you will find favour and good repute in the sight of God and man.
Trust in YHWH with all your heart [li’beka] and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge Him, and He will make your paths straight.
Give your heart and conscience the freedom it deserves. Put your trust in God… hand your heart over wholly to Him…be filled with His Spirit… study His word… and let your heart sing!
Next week: Dream