Acquire a Heart Agreeable to Jehovah
“Create in me even a pure heart, O God, and put within me a new spirit, a steadfast one.”—PSALM 51:10.
1, 2. Why should we be interested in our heart?
HE WAS tall in stature and attractive in appearance. Upon seeing him, the prophet Samuel was so impressed that he concluded that this eldest son of Jesse was the one God had chosen to be king after Saul. But Jehovah declared: “Do not look at [that son’s] appearance and at the height of his stature, for I have rejected him. . . . Mere man sees what appears to the eyes; but as for Jehovah, he sees what the heart is.” Jehovah’s choice proved to be Jesse’s youngest son, David—“a man agreeable to his heart.”—1 Samuel 13:14; 16:7.
2 God can read the human heart, as he later made clear: “I, Jehovah, am searching the heart, examining the kidneys, even to give to each one according to his ways, according to the fruitage of his dealings.” (Jeremiah 17:10) Yes, “Jehovah is the examiner of hearts.” (Proverbs 17:3) What, though, is the heart in a man that Jehovah examines? And what can we do to acquire a heart agreeable to him?
“The Secret Person of the Heart”
3, 4. In what sense is the word “heart” primarily used in the Bible? Give examples.
3 The word “heart” occurs about a thousand times in the Holy Scriptures. In most cases it is used in a figurative sense. For example, Jehovah told the prophet Moses: “Speak to the sons of Israel, that they may take up a contribution for me: From every man whose heart incites him you people are to take up the contribution of mine.” And those making contributions “came, everyone whose heart impelled him.” (Exodus 25:2; 35:21) Clearly, one aspect of the figurative heart is motivation—the inner force that urges us to action. Our figurative heart also reflects our emotions and feelings, our desires and affections. A heart can be consumed with anger or filled with fear, torn by grief or elated with joy. (Psalm 27:3; 39:3; John 16:22; Romans 9:2) It can be proud or humble, loving or hateful.—Proverbs 16:5; Matthew 11:29; 1 Peter 1:22.
4 Accordingly, “heart” is often associated with motivation and emotions, whereas “mind” particularly has to do with intellect. This is how these terms are to be understood when they occur in the same context in the Scriptures. (Matthew 22:37; Philippians 4:7) But the heart and the mind are not mutually exclusive. For instance, Moses urged the Israelites: “You must call back to your heart [or, “must recall to your mind,” footnote] that Jehovah is the true God.” (Deuteronomy 4:39) To the scribes scheming against him, Jesus said: “Why are you thinking wicked things in your hearts?” (Matthew 9:4) “Understanding,” “knowledge,” and “reasoning” can also be associated with the heart. (1 Kings 3:12; Proverbs 15:14; Mark 2:6) The figurative heart, therefore, can also involve our intellect—our thoughts or our understanding.
5. What does the figurative heart stand for?
5 According to one reference work, the figurative heart stands for “the central part in general, the inside, and so for the interior man as manifesting himself in all his various activities, in his desires, affections, emotions, passions, purposes, his thoughts, perceptions, imaginations, his wisdom, knowledge, skill, his beliefs and his reasonings, his memory and his consciousness.” It represents what we really are on the inside, “the secret person of the heart.” (1 Peter 3:4) That is what Jehovah sees and examines. Hence, David could pray: “Create in me even a pure heart, O God, and put within me a new spirit, a steadfast one.” (Psalm 51:10) How may we acquire a pure heart?
“Apply Your Hearts” to God’s Word
6. What exhortation did Moses give to Israel as they were encamped on the Plains of Moab?
6 When admonishing the sons of Israel gathered on the Plains of Moab prior to entering the Promised Land, Moses said: “Apply your hearts to all the words that I am speaking in warning to you today, that you may command your sons to take care to do all the words of this law.” (Deuteronomy 32:46) The Israelites were to “pay good heed.” (Knox) Only by being thoroughly familiar with God’s commands could they inculcate them in their offspring.—Deuteronomy 6:6-8.
7. What is involved in ‘applying our heart’ to God’s Word?
7 A key requirement for acquiring a pure heart is that of gaining accurate knowledge of God’s will and purposes. There is only one source of that knowledge, the inspired Word of God. (2 Timothy 3:16, 17) Head knowledge alone, though, is not going to help us to acquire a heart that pleases Jehovah. For knowledge to affect what we really are inside, we must ‘apply our heart’ to, or “take to heart,” what we are learning. (Deuteronomy 32:46, An American Translation) How is this done? The psalmist David explains: “I have remembered days of long ago; I have meditated on all your activity; I willingly kept myself concerned with the work of your own hands.”—Psalm 143:5.
8. What questions can we ponder as we study?
8 We too should appreciatively meditate on Jehovah’s activity. When reading the Bible or Bible-based publications, we need to ponder over such questions as: ‘What does this teach me about Jehovah? What attributes of Jehovah do I see displayed here? What does this account teach me about what Jehovah likes and dislikes? What are the consequences of following a course that Jehovah loves as compared with following one that he hates? How does this information connect with what I already know?’
9. How valuable are personal study and meditation?
9 Thirty-two-year-old Lisa* explains how she came to appreciate the value of purposeful study and meditation: “After my baptism in 1994, I was quite active in the truth for about two years. I attended all the Christian meetings, devoted from 30 to 40 hours per month to the field ministry, and associated with fellow Christians. Then I started to drift away. I sank so low that I even violated God’s law. But I woke up and decided to clean up my life. How glad I am that Jehovah has recognized my repentance and accepted me back! I have often pondered: ‘Why did I fall away?’ The answer that I keep coming back to is that I neglected purposeful study and meditation. Bible truth just had not reached my heart. From now on, personal study and meditation will always be a significant part of my life.” As we grow in our knowledge of Jehovah, his Son, and his Word, how vital that we make time for meaningful reflection!
10. Why is it urgent that we make time for personal study and meditation?
10 In this busy world, finding time for study and meditation is indeed a challenge. However, Christians today stand at the threshold of a wonderful Promised Land—God’s righteous new world. (2 Peter 3:13) Startling events, such as the destruction of “Babylon the Great” and the attack by “Gog of the land of Magog” upon Jehovah’s people, are in the offing. (Revelation 17:1, 2, 5, 15-17; Ezekiel 38:1-4, 14-16; 39:2) What lies ahead may put our love for Jehovah to the test. It is urgent that we now buy out the opportune time and apply our heart to God’s Word!—Ephesians 5:15, 16.
‘Prepare Your Heart to Consult God’s Word’
11. How can our heart be likened to soil?
11 The figurative heart can be likened to soil in which the seed of the truth can be planted. (Matthew 13:18-23) Literal soil is usually cultivated to ensure the healthy growth of the crop. Similarly, the heart should be prepared, or made ready, so that it is more receptive to the Word of God. Ezra the priest “prepared his heart to consult the law of Jehovah and to do it.” (Ezra 7:10) How may we prepare our heart?
12. What will help prepare the heart for study?
12 An excellent preparation of the heart when we consult God’s Word is heartfelt prayer. Christian meetings of true worshipers open and close with prayer. How appropriate that we begin each period of personal Bible study with a sincere prayer and then maintain a prayerful attitude during our study!
13. To acquire a heart agreeable to Jehovah, what must we do?
13 The figurative heart must be prepared to set aside preconceived opinions. The religious leaders of Jesus’ day were unwilling to do this. (Matthew 13:15) On the other hand, Jesus’ mother, Mary, drew conclusions “in her heart” based on truths that she had heard. (Luke 2:19, 51) She became a faithful disciple of Jesus. Lydia of Thyatira listened to Paul, “and Jehovah opened her heart wide to pay attention.” She too became a believer. (Acts 16:14, 15) May we never rigidly hold to personal ideas or cherished doctrinal views. Rather, let us be willing to “let God be found true, though every man be found a liar.”—Romans 3:4.
14. How may we prepare our heart to listen at Christian meetings?
14 Preparing the heart to listen at Christian meetings is particularly important. Distractions may turn our attention away from what is being said. The spoken words can exert little influence on us if we are preoccupied with things that happened during the day or are concerned about what is awaiting us tomorrow. We need to be firmly resolved to listen and learn if we are to benefit from what is being said. What benefits we can receive if we are determined to understand the scriptures being expounded and the meaning that is being put into them!—Nehemiah 8:5-8, 12.
15. How does humility help us to be more teachable?
15 Just as adding the proper supplements may enhance the physical soil, so our cultivating humility, hunger for spirituality, trust, godly fear, and love for God can enrich our figurative heart. Humility softens the heart, helping us to become more teachable. Jehovah said to Judean King Josiah: “For the reason that your heart was soft so that you humbled yourself because of Jehovah at your hearing what I have spoken . . . and began weeping before me, I, even I, have heard.” (2 Kings 22:19) Josiah’s heart was humble and receptive. Humility enabled Jesus’ “unlettered and ordinary” disciples to grasp and apply spiritual truths that escaped “wise and intellectual” men. (Acts 4:13; Luke 10:21) May we “humble ourselves before our God” as we try to acquire a heart agreeable to Jehovah.—Ezra 8:21.
16. Why is effort needed to cultivate a hunger for spiritual food?
16 Jesus said: “Happy are those conscious of their spiritual need.” (Matthew 5:3) While we are endowed with a capacity for spirituality, pressures from this wicked world or such traits as laziness may dull our consciousness of our need. (Matthew 4:4) We must develop a wholesome appetite for spiritual food. Even if we at first do not find pleasure in Bible reading and personal study, with persistence we will find that knowledge will ‘become pleasant to our very soul,’ so that we eagerly look forward to study periods.—Proverbs 2:10, 11.
17. (a) Why is Jehovah worthy of our complete trust? (b) How can we cultivate trust in God?
17 “Trust in Jehovah with all your heart and do not lean upon your own understanding,” admonished King Solomon. (Proverbs 3:5) A heart that is trusting in Jehovah knows that whatever He asks or directs through his Word is always right. (Isaiah 48:17) Jehovah is certainly worthy of our complete trust. He is able to carry out all that he has purposed. (Isaiah 40:26, 29) Why, his very name literally means “He Causes to Become,” which builds confidence in his ability to fulfill what he has promised! He is “righteous in all his ways and loyal in all his works.” (Psalm 145:17) Of course, to cultivate trust in him, we need to “taste and see that Jehovah is good” by applying what we learn from the Bible in our personal life and by reflecting upon the good that this produces.—Psalm 34:8.
18. How does godly fear help us to be receptive to God’s guidance?
18 Pointing to yet another quality that makes our heart receptive to divine guidance, Solomon stated: “Fear Jehovah and turn away from bad.” (Proverbs 3:7) Jehovah said concerning ancient Israel: “If only they would develop this heart of theirs to fear me and to keep all my commandments always, in order that it might go well with them and their sons to time indefinite!” (Deuteronomy 5:29) Yes, those who fear God obey him. Jehovah has the ability “to show his strength in behalf of those whose heart is complete toward him” and to inflict punishment upon those who disobey him. (2 Chronicles 16:9) May reverential fear of displeasing God govern all our actions, thoughts, and emotions.
‘Love Jehovah With Your Whole Heart’
19. What role does love play in making our heart responsive to Jehovah’s direction?
19 More than all other qualities, love truly makes our heart responsive to Jehovah’s direction. A heart filled with love for God makes a person eager to learn what pleases God and what displeases him. (1 John 5:3) Jesus said: “You must love Jehovah your God with your whole heart and with your whole soul and with your whole mind.” (Matthew 22:37) May we deepen our love for God by making it a habit to reflect on his goodness, by regularly speaking to him as to an intimate friend, and by eagerly talking about him to others.
20. How may we acquire a heart agreeable to Jehovah?
20 By way of review: Acquiring a heart agreeable to Jehovah involves allowing God’s Word to influence what we are inside, the secret person of the heart. Meaningful personal study of the Scriptures and appreciative meditation are a must. This is best done with a prepared heart—a heart free from preconceived ideas, one that is filled with qualities that make us teachable! Yes, with Jehovah’s help, a good heart can be acquired. However, what measures can we take to safeguard our heart?
Name has been changed.
How Would You Respond?
• What is the figurative heart that Jehovah examines?
• How may we ‘apply our heart’ to God’s Word?
• How should we prepare our heart to consult God’s Word?
• After considering this material, what do you feel motivated to do?
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David appreciatively meditated on spiritual things. Do you?
[Pictures on page 18]
Prepare your heart before studying God’s Word