Getting God’s Law on Your Heart
“Oh taste and see that Jehovah is good.”—Ps. 34:8, AS.
1. What questions are raised by what facts regarding certain desert seeds?
THE seeds of certain desert plants seem to have an intelligence of their own. They will not sprout until a rainfall of at least half an inch, and preferably more. The seeds and the soil around them are just as wet after a tenth of an inch of rain as they are after two inches, yet the seeds refuse to sprout after the lighter rainfall. But how can a dormant seed measure rainfall? It is just as soaked in a thimbleful of water as it is when thrown into a lake. Why does it not sprout when thoroughly soaked by the lighter rainfall? How can it measure the amount? How does it know to wait for more? Also, these seeds seem to know the direction from which the water comes. When enough rain has fallen and soaked down into the soil they will sprout, but if the water soaks up from below they refuse to germinate. How can they tell the direction? And why should it make a difference? The answers to these questions illustrate part of the process of getting God’s law on your heart. If we sincerely want Jehovah’s law on our heart it can be written there. How?
2. What cleansing and erasing must be done before Jehovah’s law can be written on the heart?
2 To write, a clean surface is needed, and an eraser may be needed to remove previous writing. To add new writing over the old would cause conflict and confuse. Hearts alienated from Jehovah are scribbled over with wrong writing. Of man before the Flood Jehovah said: “Every inclination of the thoughts of his heart was only bad all the time.” After the Flood the heart of fallen man still needed cleansing: “The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately corrupt.” But the account goes on to show that Jehovah will heal the heart of those that want it. Many have made their hearts hard, calloused to sin, untouchable by pity, impenetrable by goodness, insensitive to appeals. The writing on such hearts is like that on Judah’s: “The sin of Judah is written with a pen of iron; with a point of diamond it is engraved on the tablet of their heart.” Inasmuch as “he who hardens his heart will fall into calamity,” “why should you make your heart unresponsive just the way Egypt and Pharaoh made their heart unresponsive?” Rather, why not pray: “Create in me a clean heart, O God, and put a new and right spirit within me”? Such a heart presents a clean surface for the writing of Jehovah’s law.—Gen. 6:5, NW; Jer. 17:9, 14, 1; Prov. 28:14, RS; 1 Sam. 6:6, NW; Ps. 51:10, RS.
3. What scriptures show how to get God’s law on your heart?
3 To his strayed and scattered people Jehovah said when foretelling their recovery to true worship: “I will sprinkle clean water upon you, and you shall be clean from all your uncleannesses, and from all your idols I will cleanse you. A new heart I will give you, and a new spirit I will put within you; and I will take out of your flesh the heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh.” The cleansing waters of truth effect a change in our heart if faithfully applied. It is by frequent discussion of truth that parents are to get it into the heart of their children: “These words that I am commanding you today must prove to be on your heart, and you must inculcate them in your son and speak of them when you sit in your house and when you walk on the road and when you lie down and when you get up.” By preaching the apostle Paul caused Jehovah’s law to be written, not on stone tablets, but on human hearts: “You are shown to be a letter of Christ written by us as ministers, inscribed not with ink but with spirit of the living God, not on stone tablets, but on fleshly tablets, on hearts.” Of one blessed by Jehovah it is written: “On his law he meditates day and night.” By studying and remembering Jehovah’s teachings and commandments and high principles you can “write them on the tablet of your heart.” They become a part of us.—Ezek. 36:25, 26, RS; Deut. 6:6, 7; 2 Cor. 3:3, NW; Ps. 1:2; Prov. 3:1-3, RS.
HOW DISCIPLINE HELPS
4. In addition to filling the mind with Jehovah’s law, what further action may be necessary to get it on the heart?
4 Filling the mind with Jehovah’s truth does a cleansing work, crowds out the former wrong thoughts, makes the mind over. But maybe the old ways are so deeply engraved on the heart that the hearing and reading of God’s law does not erase them. Study and meditation have shown you what you should do and you would like to comply, but the heartfelt desire to do so is missing. The new writing is still near the surface. It is not yet as deep as the old so as to obliterate the old ways; it has not reached the inner man, the figurative heart where the seat of desire and motive is. But you want the old writing erased and replaced by Jehovah’s law, all the way into your innermost thoughts and feelings. So what must you do? Discipline yourself, force yourself to do what you know to be right. Persist in this course, and if you are sincere you will win over your own heart to the side of righteousness. The Scriptures support this procedure.
5. What helpful process does the enactment of legislation set in motion?
5 It is true that morality cannot be legislated, as U.S. News & World Report, May 13, 1955, said editorially: “Tolerance and unselfishness—like morality and generosity—cannot be successfully legislated.” But enacting the legislation may set in motion a process that will finally create morality. The mere existence of the law turns attention to the subject and may induce a climate of opinion more favorable toward it. Then if the law is enforced and people obey it to avoid penalties, they may come to see that good results follow and their attitude changes. Then they obey because of the good results, and not because of fear of penalties.
6. What instance shows that discipline and enforcement of a law can change the heart attitude?
6 This was shown by the New York Times Magazine, May 22, 1955, in an article entitled “Can Morality Be Legislated?” It discussed the United States Supreme Court decision outlawing segregation, and showed that in certain instances, such as employment, public housing and armed forces, persons unfavorable to mixing races were integrated anyway and as a result lost their prejudices: “White housewives who had been assigned to public housing projects which were racially integrated tended to develop favorable attitudes toward Negroes, while the vast majority of those who occupied segregated housing tended to remain the same in their racial views. A study of integration in the army reached a similar conclusion.” By coming in closer relationship prejudiced persons found that their preconceived ideas were often false and that feared evils never materialized. The investigation and analysis led to the conclusion that “the majesty of the law, when supported by the collective conscience of a people and the healing power of the social situation, in the long run will not only enforce morality but create it.”
7. How did a magazine article show that training, discipline, enforced manners and external behavior influence internal feelings and change the heart?
7 The Ladies’ Home Journal, September, 1955, had an article by Dorothy Thompson that showed the necessity of educating the emotions rather than the intellect to overcome juvenile delinquency. She said: “His actions and attitudes as a child largely determine his actions and attitudes as an adult. But these are not inspired by his brain, but by his feelings. He becomes what he is encouraged and trained to love, admire, worship, cherish, and sacrifice for.” Further along she said: “In all this manners play an important role, for good manners are nothing more or less than the expression of consideration for others. . . . Internal feelings are reflected in external behavior, but external behavior also contributes to the cultivation of internal feelings. It is hard to feel aggressive while acting considerately. Good manners may be only skin deep to start with, but they seldom remain so.” She also observed that with rare exceptions goodness and badness “are not conditioned by the brain but by the emotions,” and that “criminals become so not from hardening of the arteries but from hardening of the heart.” She stresses that emotion governs our conduct more often than the mind, and that the way we are trained, the way we act, even if forced at first, influences internal feelings and changes the heart.
8. What scriptures show the power of discipline to change the heart?
8 God’s Word the Bible long ago indicated that training and discipline to make us act as we should would affect the heart, the seat of motive and the source of actions. Proverbs 22:6, 15 (RS) states: “Train up a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not depart from it. Folly is bound up in the heart of a child, but the rod of discipline drives it far from him.” Discipline changes the youthful heart, erases the folly written there, and puts in its place guiding principles from which he will not depart in later life. When he is grown the parental rod of discipline no longer exists to make him go the right way, but he nevertheless does so by choice because of the childhood training that reached his heart. The same principle applies to adults who are Jehovah’s children, whom he disciplines for their training and improvement: “No discipline seems for the present to be joyous, but grievous; yet afterward to those who have been trained by it it yields peaceable fruit, namely, righteousness.” The discipline may sadden at first, but “by the sadness of the countenance the heart is made better.”—Heb. 12:11, NW; Eccl. 7:3, Da.
9. So what should we do when we know what is right, and what will happen to our heart if we fail to do it?
9 So when we know what is the right thing to do we should do it, even if our heart desires something else. We should discipline ourselves, make ourselves do it, and in time our hearts will be won over to righteousness and gain peace and serenity. Otherwise, our hearts will become set in a wrong course. If there is no discipline, no forcing into right conduct, the heart sets in an evil way and cannot be softened for reshaping or for taking upon itself the impression of writing, the receiving of Jehovah’s law: “Because sentence against an evil deed is not executed speedily, the heart of the sons of men is fully set to do evil.” This clearly implies that if disciplinary action was executed the heart meditating evil would relinquish this view, would turn away from it in a change for the better. So if we do not let our hearts get away with it they will not become set in it.—Eccl. 8:11, RS.
“TASTE AND SEE”
10. What invitation should be heeded relative to Bible reading?
10 Psalm 34:8 (AS) invites: “Oh taste and see that Jehovah is good.” Do you have a Bible? Do you read it? Do you feed your mind on the spiritual food it contains? Do you taste Jehovah’s Word to see how good it is? Do not confuse this with listening to an orthodox sermon or following religious tradition or believing some set creed. Such things often conflict with the Bible, as Jesus said to religious leaders: “You have made the word of God invalid because of your tradition.” (Matt. 15:6, NW) Read the Bible for yourself, without preconceived ideas or prejudices, and see how good it is. Many openly admit that they do not believe the Bible, not because they have read it, but because they believe evolution, or have been soured on the Bible by what some say it contains, or by the way some act who are supposed to be Christians. They have not tasted for themselves. They are like persons who say they do not like a certain food before they ever taste it, and who steadfastly refuse to try it.
11. After reading and studying the Bible, what additional food should be tasted to learn of its deliciousness?
11 Many who say they believe the Bible and who read it somewhat fail to follow its teachings. They talk God but serve Satan. Jesus said: “Not everyone saying to me, ‘Master, Master,’ will enter into the kingdom of the heavens, but the one doing the will of my Father who is in the heavens will.” (Matt. 7:21, NW) They should get a taste of doing Jehovah’s will. They might learn to like it, might find it is a strengthening food for them. Jesus said: “My food is for me to do the will of him that sent me and to finish his work.” But so many see the meal of work set out for the Christian and immediately say to themselves: “I would not like that food. I would not want to go preach to the people and be snubbed or scorned or rudely used.” But why do they not taste the work and see what a delightful food it can be? Jesus found it so, as foretold: “I delight to do thy will, O my God.”—John 4:34, NW; Ps. 40:8.
12. When a sincere person disciplines himself to taste both the studying of God’s Word and the doing of his will, what occurs that results in a changed heart for him?
12 They should discipline themselves, make themselves study Jehovah’s Word, learn its truths, and preach them to others. After tasting it, they may delight in the peace and contentment, the serenity and clear conscience, that come from this food. At first the person may not want to, only knowing in his mind that he should do it but not desiring to in his heart. But suppose he determines to taste and see if it is good. Without his heart being in it, he lives his daily life like a Christian and preaches God’s Word to others. He continues to do it for a time, and then begins to see the good results, experiences the good that follows from this course, and gradually he appreciates it in his heart, comes into heart sympathy with it, and a desire to do it sprouts and grows in his heart. Not only in his intellect but in his heart also God’s law is being written. By his learning it, weighing it, trying it, practicing it, enjoying its good results, thrilling to the joy he sees in others as a result of his preaching, his heart comes to appreciate it and desire it and he is impelled by his feelings and emotions to do it. So the heart is written on, changed, and what once had to be forced is now done by emotional choice and desire, with no further battling with the heart necessary because it has been conquered, has been purged of its former desires and now motivates its possessor into the course prescribed by Jehovah’s law. And all because it was disciplined to taste what it thought it could never like.
13. How do some react when they learn a little about Jehovah and his will, and why is this premature or hasty?
13 The heart is the seat of affection, and those who love Jehovah from the heart will taste and eat and relish the menu of work provided by him, not finding it burdensome: “This is what the love of God means, that we observe his commandments; and yet his commandments are not burdensome.” They seem so to many, however. Oftentimes persons study with Jehovah’s witnesses, learn the work God commands to be done, and see what a big change it would make in their way of living if they accepted these duties. It would mean not only stopping the works of the flesh, but starting the works of preaching, and they do not want to stop the former or start the latter. They do not desire the change of heart that would move them to do it. But they do not want to admit this, so they busy the mind to conjure up excuses that cover over the real reasons in the heart. They say they are too busy, or pick imaginary flaws with some doctrine, or decide the witnesses are too radical. They decide against the faithful course before their eyes are opened to the happiness it brings, before they have tasted its joys. If they would continue studying they would come to appreciate all the blessings Jehovah has provided—the earth, its plants and animals and scenic wonders, Jesus as Ransom, the new world of righteousness, opportunity to live in it forever—and his love thus manifested toward them would cause them to love him in return. Then obedience to him would be a joy: “As for us, we love, because he first loved us.” Thus their seat of affection would change and God’s law get on their heart.—1 John 5:3; 4:19, NW.
THE SEEDS OF TRUTH ON THE SOIL OF THE HEART
14. How did Jesus illustrate different heart conditions?
14 By means of an illustration Jesus stressed the importance of the heart condition. A sower spread the seed and some fell on hard ground alongside the road and birds ate it; some fell on rocky ground with little soil and after it sprouted the hot sun scorched it; some fell among thorns that choked it out, but other seed landed on good soil and matured and yielded fruit. Great crowds heard this illustration, but only a small group got the sense of it by hearing Jesus’ explanation. The seed is the truth, “the word of the kingdom,” the soil is the heart. The seed on the packed roadside that birds ate is like the truth on hard hearts it cannot penetrate and hence it is snatched away by Satan through his agents. Truth on a shallow heart may be enthusiastically embraced at first, but when persecution comes it withers because of not being deeply rooted. It is like the seed on shallow, rocky soil that sprouted fast but withered the same way when the sun got hot. The seed choked by thorns is like the truth sown on a heart full of worldly anxieties, materialism, ambition and love of pleasures. The truth from God is soon choked out. But the fruitful seed on the good soil is like the truth on a right heart. It becomes written on such a heart, and the writing overflows onto other hearts also.—Matt. 13:3-9, 18-23.
15. What shows that hearts can undergo change?
15 But never forget that soil can be changed. Packed soil can be plowed, rocks can be picked out, and thornbushes can be uprooted. If the possessor desires it, it is not impossible to soften a hard heart. Jehovah spoke of replacing a heart of stone with one of flesh. And certainly materialism, profitless worrying and excessive pleasure-seeking can be weeded from the soil of the heart to make room for Kingdom truth. Hearts that now have God’s law on them were previously defaced by wrong writing. They changed and now live, “no more for the desires of men, but for God’s will.” They decided they had wasted enough time in loose living and changed, to the puzzlement of former worldly friends: “Because you do not continue running with them in this course to the same low sink of debauchery, they are puzzled and go on speaking abusively of you.” Their hearts were cleansed of worldly philosophies, washed by repeated applications of waters of truth, and in time God’s law became rooted there like seed in good soil, to produce spiritual fruitage instead of the former fleshly works.—1 Pet. 4:1-4; Gal. 5:19-23, NW.
16. What does 1 Corinthians 3:5-9 show?
16 Turning now from Jesus’ parable of the four kinds of soil on which wheat seed or some other edible grain was sown, we call to mind the apostle’s words: “What, then, is Apollos? Yes, what is Paul? Ministers through whom you became believers, even as the Lord granted each one. I planted, Apollos watered, but God kept making it grow; so that neither is he that plants anything nor is he that waters, but God who makes it grow. . . . You people are God’s field under cultivation.” (1 Cor. 3:5-9, NW) Here the importance of watering the seeds of edible plants in a cultivated field is emphasized, in order for God to bless the seeds with growth. This shows the importance of watering interested persons with the water of additional truth after the original seed of truth has been planted in them.
17. (a) Why do some desert seeds refuse to sprout because of the soil, unless rain is heavy and the moisture comes from above? (b) Why do some refuse to germinate, except under certain conditions, because of their covering?
17 The importance of watering is seen even in the discerning desert seeds mentioned in the opening paragraph to serve as an illustration. Remember that they would not sprout until a generous rain had fallen, and that the water had to come down from above instead of soak up from below. Why so? Some seeds refuse to germinate when there are certain salts in the soil. These salts are soluble in water; so when it rains heavily the salts are dissolved and carried deeper into the soil by the water. Thus removed from the vicinity of the seeds, the salts no longer prevent germination. However, if the rainfall is light, even though it thoroughly soaks the topsoil, it will not remove the salts and the seeds will not sprout. And water soaking up from below has no leaching action so it does not carry away from the seed the salts. Sometimes the trouble is not with the soil but with the seeds. Some desert seeds have in their covering water-soluble substances that hinder germination, and while a light rain may soak the seeds it takes a heavy rain to wash away all of these hindrances in their covering. Some seeds delay germination for a few days after a rain and then sprout if the soil is still moist. Others have sprouting-preventers in them that can be removed only by the action of bacteria, which requires prolonged moisture. And some seeds refuse to sprout until they have been wet by a series of rains.
18. How does this illustrate the sprouting of seeds of truth in the soil of the heart?
18 It is rare indeed to find a person that fully accepts the truth seed the first time it is sown and watered. Almost always there are beliefs or prejudices in the heart that prevent the immediate sprouting of the seed of truth. Perhaps belief in trinity keeps a person from believing Jehovah is supreme, without equal. Repeated applications of truth water are needed to wash out this obstacle. Or maybe belief in soul immortality obscures his understanding and appreciation of the resurrection, or perhaps the view that the earth will be destroyed by fire prevents him from accepting the truth that the literal earth is to abide forever, or possibly he cannot appreciate that the earth is to be inhabited forever because of thinking everyone will go either to heaven or to hell. Maybe misplaced faith in a false religious leader blinds him to Bible truth. Only after much water of truth has been applied by means of doorstep sermons, back-calls and home Bible studies will these obstacles to Christian growth be removed from the soil of the heart. A little water, a few scriptures, a handful of favorite texts like some religions use repeatedly, are not enough. Many, many scriptures must stream from God’s Word to remove all objections and to ensure continued growth to Christian maturity.
19. How are some truths like the seeds whose covering hindered sprouting, and what purpose is thereby served?
19 What about those seeds that had hindering substances in their covering? Some truths are that way. Some are likened to meat hard to digest and are not assimilated until many simpler truths have been digested. In fact, some truths are deliberately covered over to prevent quick understanding. The one about needing the right heart condition is a case in point. This was concealed behind an illustration about a sower and seed falling on different types of soil, and Jesus said it was deliberately hidden to prevent comprehension by those who were undeserving. It would not lodge and grow to fruitful maturity in their hearts; hence it did not even start to sprout there. So the desert seed by its covering refuses to sprout under unfavorable conditions that would mean its early death, before fruitfulness. But when sufficient water falls it germinates, and, similarly, when Jesus’ listeners showed sufficient interest and stuck with him to hear his further words that removed the covering from the illustration, the truth it held grew in their hearts. The additional waters of truth made the seed of truth sprout and grow, and the interest and thirst shown by the individuals that persisted would indicate they were the kind who would stick until bearing Christian fruitage.
20. What is illustrated by the water coming from above and the moisture that soaked up from below?
20 In the case of the desert seeds the water had to come from the top down, not from the bottom up. Jehovah has a channel for the spiritual waters to flow in, and that channel is from the top down also. Jehovah, the topmost one, inspired men to write the Bible, he interprets it, Christ spoke for him when on earth, and his present earthly witnesses declare his message. In these last days Jehovah has a visible organization, “the faithful and discreet slave whom his master appointed over his domestics to give them their food at the proper time,” through which he channels waters of truth to the people. From Jehovah comes the “river of water of life, clear as crystal, flowing out from the throne of God and of the Lamb,” and the invitation widely proclaimed is: “Let anyone thirsting come; let anyone that wishes take life’s water free.” (Matt. 24:45; Rev. 22:1, 17, NW) The water offered by the orthodox religions of Christendom does not theocratically come down from above, but babbles up from the bottom, from mere men, and consists of the traditions and philosophies and private interpretations of men. Such a water supply does not produce Christian fruitage, as a glance at Christendom’s corruptness proves.—Matt. 7:15-20.
21. What is Satan trying to do, but what should we ask Jehovah to do for us, and how should we let him do it?
21 Which water will you drink, that from the top or that from the bottom? Whom will you let write on your heart, Jehovah or Satan? Satan is out to win or steal or capture your heart and so cram it with his demonic propagandas that no space will remain for the writing of Jehovah’s law on it. If you let Satan write on your heart it will be your epitaph, but if you ask Jehovah to write his law there it will point the way to everlasting life. Hence reason urges that we let Jehovah be the one to write on our heart. We must let him do it by our opening our minds to his Word, by our studying it and meditating on it, by our disciplining ourselves to put his laws into practice, by tasting the good that results from this obedience, and thus eventually loving to do it. And then faithfully serve as one of Jehovah’s witnesses, helping to get God’s law on the hearts of others.