May God Write on Your Heart?
“Saith Jehovah: I will put my law in their inward parts, and in their heart will I write it; and I will be their God, and they shall be my people.”—Jer. 31:33, AS.
1. On what kind of hearts will Jehovah write?
NOTHING that Jehovah chooses to do is impossible for him. Thousands of years ago he wrote his law on two tables of stone when he made the law covenant with the nation of Israel at Mount Sinai. He will now write his commandments only on hearts that are receptive and responsive to him, that open to him in lowliness and humility, that are pliable and willing to change under the impact of his words. So it is not a question of whether God can write on your heart or not. The question is, May he? Will you permit it willingly? He is not interested in having his truth reach even the ears of hypocritical and swinish men, much less their hearts. So, does your heart qualify as a suitable writing surface for Jehovah’s principles and precepts?—Matt. 7:6.
2. Where is Jehovah’s purpose to write on hearts disclosed, and whose hearts must be receptive?
2 Even while the law covenant with its basic commandments engraved in stone was still in effect, Jehovah told of his purpose to transfer his law to human hearts by means of a new covenant: “Behold, the days come, saith Jehovah, that I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel, and with the house of Judah. But this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, saith Jehovah: I will put my law in their inward parts, and in their heart will I write it; and I will be their God, and they shall be my people.” Shortly after the death and resurrection of Christ Jesus, at Pentecost, the old law covenant was replaced by the new covenant that brought with it an inward, heartfelt love of righteousness and increased knowledge of Jehovah. (Jer. 31:31, 33, AS; Gal. 3:24, 25; Col. 2:14; Heb. 8:6-13) Only those anointed with Jehovah’s spirit to be of the heavenly class are taken into this new covenant, but all those who gain everlasting life on earth share the blessings from it, and even their hearts must be receptive to Jehovah’s commandments, just as before the new covenant existed faithful men could write: “Thy law is within my heart,” and “I have laid up thy word in my heart.”—Ps. 40:8; 119:11, RS.
WHY ON THE HEART?
3. Where does Jehovah look when he takes a man’s measure?
3 When Jehovah takes a man’s measure it is based on no superficial evidence; he probes deep, to the very heart of the matter: “Mere man sees what appears to the eyes, but, as for Jehovah, he sees what the heart is.” He is not deceived by outward appearances: “Know the God of your father and serve him with a complete heart and with a delightful soul, for all hearts Jehovah is searching and every inclination of the thoughts he is discerning.” Jehovah’s judgment is not swayed by a beautiful face or graceful body or striking apparel, but is determined by the inner person hidden beneath the surface: “Do not let your adornment be that of the external braiding of the hair and of the putting on of gold ornaments or the wearing of outer garments, but let it be the secret person of the heart in the incorruptible apparel of the quiet and mild spirit, which is of great value in the eyes of God.”—1 Sam. 16:7; 1 Chron. 28:9; 1 Pet. 3:3, 4, NW.
4. What is symbolized by the heart?
4 What is symbolized by the heart? The Hebrew word translated “heart” is often used figuratively to denote the seat of affection and motives, of conscience and moral conduct. Ships were spoken of as being in the heart of the sea and Jonah was thrown into the heart of the sea, meaning into the midst of it, and in this sense the word refers to the midst of us or what we actually are within ourselves, the inner person. That is the real person: “As he thinketh in his heart, so is he.”—Prov. 23:7, 34; 30:19; Jon. 2:3.
5. How may some practice deception, but what will eventually be manifested, and why?
5 Outward appearances may be deceiving because of words spoken for effect or acts performed for show, as in the case of some hypocritical religionists. To the Pharisees Jesus applied Jehovah’s words through Isaiah: “This people honors me with their lips, yet their hearts are far removed from me.” Also, Jesus said of them: “All the works they do they do to be viewed by men.” (Matt. 15:8; 23:5, NW) But the true heart condition cannot be forever concealed by carefully calculated words and acts, because it is out of the abundance of the heart that you eventually speak and act: “Either you people make the tree fine and its fruit fine or make the tree rotten and its fruit rotten; for by its fruit the tree is known. Offspring of vipers, how can you speak good things, when you are wicked? for out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks. The good man out of his good treasure sends out good things, whereas the wicked man out of his wicked treasure sends out wicked things.” If the heart is wicked it will impel or motivate its possessor to do wickedly: “Out of the heart come wicked reasonings, murders, adulteries, fornications, thieveries, false testimonies, blasphemies.”—Matt. 12:33-35; 15:19, NW.
6. How does Jehovah lay bare the heart condition?
6 Sometimes the innermost thoughts and feelings are not exposed until brought into the open by a trialsome ordeal. Jehovah tested Israel to lay bare its heart: “Jehovah your God made you travel these forty years in the wilderness, in order to humble you, to put you to the test so as to know what was in your heart, as to whether you would keep his commandments or not.” Centuries later he said to his people: “I have tried you in the furnace of affliction.” Approved Christians are similarly tested: “You have been grieved by various trials, in order that the tested quality of your faith, of much greater value than gold that perishes despite its being proved by fire, may be found a cause for praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ.” (Deut. 8:2, NW; Isa. 48:10, RS; 1 Pet. 1:6, 7, NW) The target of these tests is the heart, to see whether the motives for serving Jehovah are pure, to measure the depth of devotion and love, to reveal whether the individual’s integrity has a breaking point: “The refining pot is for silver, and the furnace for gold; but Jehovah trieth the hearts.”—Prov. 17:3, AS.
7. What truth about the literal heart is disclosed at Proverbs 4:23?
7 The vital role of the heart is emphatically stated at Proverbs 4:23 (RS): “Keep your heart with all vigilance; for from it flow the springs of life.” The life is in the blood, and from the pulsating heart the blood bubbles like clear springs to flow to all parts of the body, carrying oxygen and nourishment to the cells and removing the wastes from them. So the literal heart must be kept as healthy as possible in order for it to keep the springs of life flowing. Not only our physical condition but also our mental and emotional state must be watched with vigilance, for it has its effect on the heart’s operation. Though medical science did not know clearly about the circulation of the blood until Dr. Harvey’s demonstration of it, followed years later by his book published A.D. 1628, the writer of this Bible proverb knew about it a thousand years before Christ and gave warning to keep the heart with vigilance so that it would keep the blood with the life in it circulating.
8. Why must the figurative heart be guarded, as instructed at Proverbs 4:23?
8 But this Bible writer was using the literal heart only as an illustration to emphasize the need to keep vigilantly the figurative heart pumping out to us the right things. If we fill our mind with Jehovah’s law and keep his precepts in our memory, then if we fix our desires and affections on him and his promised blessings so that our words and acts spring from pure motives within us, then our figurative heart has spiritual health and will work toward our living forever. It will pump to us spiritual nourishment and move us to speak and act in harmony with Jehovah’s will, which will be as springs of life to make us abide forever in Jehovah’s new world. Never in hypocrisy, but from the heart we shall think and talk and work and live in the way Jehovah approves. So we must be vigilant to keep our heart receptive to Jehovah’s law, that from our heart we shall act in a way that will mean life for us.
LAW ON HEART EXCELS LAW ON STONE
9. How have modern nations demonstrated their recognition of the goodness of Jehovah’s law on stone?
9 Jehovah’s law written on stone tablets was good, so good that it became the foundation of the laws of modern nations. The book Biblical Law by Clark says on page 22: “Though the law of Moses was proclaimed to a particular people, much of it has become a universal law to mankind.” In Section 411 the same book quotes the following from the court decision Moore v. Strickland (1899): “The morality of our laws is the morality of the Mosaic interpretation of the Ten Commandments, modified only as to the degree or kind of punishment inflicted.” But just as ancient Israel did not obey the law on stone tablets, so nations today do not comply with all the laws on their statute books. Unless persons know the law, remember it, agree with it, and have a strong inner desire to obey it, they will be violating it when they can do so without being caught. In other words, if they do not have the law in their heart they will break it when they wish to and think they can avoid its penalties.
10. What divine precepts are considered unenforceable, as shown by Cooley’s Constitutional Limitations?
10 There are some precepts of Jehovah’s law that are considered unenforceable, such as: “You must love your fellow as yourself.” (Lev. 19:18, NW) This and other features of God’s ancient law were restated in Christianity; were enlarged on, in fact, so that Christianity contains many principles of conduct that men call unenforceable by written statute and unpunishable by penalties prescribed by law. Thus Cooley’s Constitutional Limitations says on pages 975, 976: “It is frequently said that Christianity is a part of the law of the land. In a certain sense and for certain purposes this is true. . . . Some of those precepts, though we may admit their continual and universal obligation, we must nevertheless recognize as being incapable of enforcement by human laws. That standard of morality which requires one to love his neighbor as himself we must admit is too elevated to be accepted by human tribunals as the proper test by which to judge the conduct of the citizen; and one could hardly be held responsible to the criminal laws if in goodness of heart and spontaneous charity he fell something short of the Good Samaritan. The precepts of Christianity, moreover, affect the heart, and address themselves to the conscience: while the laws of the State can regard the outward conduct only.”
11. What shows the superiority of having the law on your heart rather than just written on statute books?
11 Here is acknowledgment that many vital principles and high moral standards must be written, not on statute books, but on the hearts of men if they are to be followed. Otherwise, they are unenforceable. You may tell a man to love his neighbor, but how can you make him? You may force him to act in a certain way toward his neighbor, but you cannot make him love his neighbor. That feeling must come from his own heart, and then from a loving heart he will act considerately and unselfishly toward his neighbor. And if the law of neighbor love is in his heart, written laws requiring and forbidding specific actions will be superfluous. Obedience to the so-called unenforceable must come from the heart, and that is the true test of morality. The New York Times Magazine, July 3, 1955, published an article entitled “The Test: Obedience to the Unenforceable,” and in it said: “When confronted with an evil we Americans are prone to say, ‘There ought to be a law.’ But much of the evil of the world is beyond the reach of the law. Law cannot prevent gossip. It cannot restrain a man from avarice or gluttony, or from betraying a friend. . . . Warm human relationships do not result from . . . laws which prescribe decency and good manners in detail. They can come only by creating obedience to the unenforceable.”
12. Why is more than an intellectual agreement with the law necessary, and what is needed for progress in the right direction?
12 With the mind we may know what is right and have good intentions of doing it, but if the affections in our heart want to do otherwise it is likely that we will. We may force ourselves to do right and in time the heart will come into agreement, but if it does not come around, in the tug of war between heart and mind that follows the heart will eventually win and the mind will be enslaved to think up justifications for taking the course the heart dictated. We like to think we are following logic, even as emotion drags us around by the scruff of the neck. Reason marshals the facts, but emotion usually makes the choice. If our hearts are properly stirred by the facts then reason and emotion pull together in the right direction. So for enduring obedience to principles unenforceable by written statutes we must both know what is right and want to do what is right. Even then we may fail at times, fallen flesh sometimes making us do what we do not want to do, but such intermittent failures will be the exceptions rather than the practice, and will become less frequent as good becomes more and more habitual. But the only way to progress in this right direction is to get God’s law inscribed deeper and deeper on our hearts.
13, 14. (a) How does Jehovah’s law on our heart safeguard us from hypocrisy, sin and backsliding? (b) Why is a good heart more vital than a fine brain?
13 Christ summarized Jehovah’s law as follows: “You must love Jehovah your God with your whole heart and with your whole soul and with your whole mind and with your whole strength,” and, “You must love your neighbor as yourself.” (Mark 12:30, 31, NW) If we get the love for Jehovah and the love for neighbor in our heart, the seat of motive and affection, then out of that heart we shall say and do what pleases Jehovah. But if we do not have love in our heart, right words and works will be unacceptable, will be hypocritical and doublehearted. (Ps. 12:2; Rom. 13:8-10; 1 Cor. 13:1-3; 2 Cor. 9:7) But if Jehovah’s law of love is written in our heart it is a part of us, a part of our personality, an integral part of our seat of motive and hence it will be the source of our motives and the thing that will always move us to act properly.
14 “The law of his God is in his heart; his steps do not slip.” Steps directed from a heart inscribed with Jehovah’s law are carefully, surely and firmly placed on solid footing and there will be no slipping or backsliding, no falling from the path of integrity. This world reeks with sin because it has God’s word only in a book, not in its heart: “I have laid up thy word in my heart, that I might not sin against thee.” (Ps. 37:31; 119:11, RS) So a heart filled with Jehovah’s law is a safeguard against sinning and backsliding. This world stresses mental brilliance, but Jehovah looks on the heart. What good is the world’s wisdom when out of a wicked heart it is moved to misuse it and make it foolish in Jehovah’s sight? Is it not better to have an average mind directed into right uses by a good heart than to have a brilliant one misdirected into harmful channels by an evil heart? Do not world leaders even now admit that it is the world’s morals rather than its brains that cry for improvement? But this wicked system refuses the change of heart it needs for survival of Jehovah’s war of Armageddon, though many individuals are abandoning it in order to get the heart change required for preservation, namely, the erasing of wrong precepts from the figurative heart and getting Jehovah’s law written there in their place. How is this done? Please read the next article for the answer.