Hearts of Shalom: Nothing Missing, Nothing Broken

I had a completely different post planned for today, but then I started looking more closely at 2 Chronicles 16:9 on Wednesday (it’s Day 19 of the Double-Minded scripture writing list that I brought up in last week’s post) and I just had to keep studying it. Here’s that verse in a few different translations to start us out:

“For Yahweh’s eyes run back and forth throughout the whole earth, to show himself strong in the behalf of them whose heart is perfect toward him.” (WEB)

“Certainly the Lord watches the whole earth carefully and is ready to strengthen those who are devoted to him.” (NET)

“For the eyes of Adonai move here and there throughout the whole earth, to show himself strong on behalf of those who are wholehearted toward him.” (CJB)

“For the eyes of the Lord range throughout the earth to strengthen those whose hearts are fully committed to him.” (NIV)

2 Chronicles 16:9

I think it’s fascinating to realize God is actively looking to be strong in and on behalf of certain people. The description of those people is what I want to focus on today. Even though I’ve looked up the Hebrew words used here before I hadn’t really thought that deeply about what they mean, and I’ve found studying deeper into this topic of “perfect” hearts both fascinating and encouraging.

A short Hebrew study

As you can see, the description of the people who catch God’s eye is translated in several different ways–“them whose heart is perfect,” “those who are devoted to him,” “those who are wholehearted toward him,” and “fully committed to him” (and there are even more in other translations). In Hebrew, the word “heart” is leb or lebab, and it is “the richest biblical term for the totality of man’s inner or immaterial nature” (Theological Wordbook of the Old Testament, entry 1071a). While leb can just mean the muscle that pumps blood through your body, in a context like this it means your inner person, mind, emotions, will, understanding, and soul (BDB lexicon, H3824). It’s because this word encompasses so much of our minds, wills, and natures that I think “whole-hearted” is the opposite of “double-minded.”

Though “heart” is a fascinating study, it’s the “wholeness” part that caught my eye this time. The word that’s behind the translators’ decision to use words like “whole,” “perfect,” “devoted,” and “committed” is shalem (H8003). If that looks a lot like shalom (the Hebrew word for peace, H7965), it should. They are both part of the same word family derived from the root sh-l-m (TWOT, 2401). Shalom is used most often (over 250 times); shalem is an adjective form used 26 times.

Of all those times that shalom is used in the Bible, it only means “absense of strife” about 50-60 times (TWOT, 2401a). Far more often, it means something that a single English word like “peace” is woefully inadequate to express. Trying to fix this problem, the King James Version used about 30 different words in the Old Testament to translate shalom.

The root meaning of the verb shālem better expresses the true concept of shālôm. Completeness, wholeness, harmony, fulfillment, are closer to the meaning. Implicit in shālôm is the idea of unimpaired relationships with others and fulfilment in one’s undertakings.

TWOT by Laird R. Hariss, Gleason L. Archer, Jr., and Bruce K. Waltke, entry 2401

My favorite short version of a definition for shalom is one I’ve heard used by a Messianic rabbi. Shalom is wholeness–nothing missing, nothing broken. That’s the kind of heart that God creates in us (filling in the missing things and healing the brokenness) and which He is looking for as His eyes roam the earth.

Hearts of shalom

All the times when shalem is paired with “heart” are found in discussions of Israel’s kings. As you read through the books of Kings and Chronicles (and one verse in Isaiah), you’ll see phrases like “his heart was not perfect with Yahweh his God, as the heart of David his father” (1 Kings 15:3, WEB) or sometimes “the heart of Asa was perfect all his days” (2 Chron. 15:17, WEB). Once, when talking about Amaziah, there’s even the curious phrase, “He did that which was right in Yahweh’s eyes, but not with a perfect heart” (2 Chr. 25:2, WEB). Apparently, you can “do what’s right” without actually being wholehearted (which makes sense when we think of the hypocrisy that the Jesus called-out the Pharisees on because they “say and don’t do“).

I find all this fascinating. First, I’m puzzled why a shalem heart is only used in very specific contexts. It’s used by a king talking to the next king (1 Chr. 28:9), the people in relation to a king (1 Chr. 12:38), a king instructing the people (1 Kings 8:55, 61; 2 Chr. 19:9), those keeping records about kings, or a prophet speaking to a king, which is where we started this post. Even David, the man after God’s own heart who was held up as the exemplar of what it meant to be a king with a perfect heart, doesn’t pair shalem or shalom with leb in his psalms (at least not in the same verse, see Psalm 4:4, 8 and 37:4, 11, 31, 37).

Still, though the use of this phrase is limited to one particular section of the Bible, we can see the benefits of having a whole, perfect, and complete heart. There’s great value in cultivating a relationship with God where nothing’s missing or broken. He wants that from kings serving Him, and Revelation tells us that God intends for us to become kings and priests (or in some translations a kingdom of priests; Rev. 1:6; 5:10). We might not be ruling monarchs of ancient Israel, but God still wants us to have hearts like David’s.

Characteristics of David’s heart

Though David doesn’t link hearts and peace directly, he does write extensively about the heart’s relationship with God. Since we know he had a shalem heart, reading his writing on hearts can help us develop hearts like this as well. According to the psalms, a heart like David’s is …

That’s quite a list. And this wasn’t even a super in-depth study (I ran out of time to study this topic any more before today’s post)–just a search on MySword Bible app for psalms attributed to David that mention “heart.” Still, it gives us a fantastic starting point for developing hearts that are whole, perfect, and complete in their relation to God. I also find it really encouraging that it’s David who’s held up as an example for us to follow. God doesn’t need to start with perfect people in order for us to have whole hearts with “nothing missing, nothing broken.” David was far from perfect–he even killed the husband of the woman he committed adultery with–and yet God still loved Him and kept working with him after David repented and asked for a clean heart.

If God didn’t give up on David, then I know He’s not going to give up on me. And He’s not going to give up on you. We just need to make sure we don’t give up on ourselves either and keep coming back to God, cultivating a heart that’s wholly focused on Him. Then, God will make sure to give us hearts full of shalom.

Now may the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, that you may abound in hope, in the power of the Holy Spirit.

Romans 15:13, WEB

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Guarding What God Has Put in Your Heart

I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard messages on the importance of guarding our hearts. God wants relationships with people who are pure in heart and who are whole-heartedly devoted to Him. In order to be like that, we need to be careful what we let into our hearts. Guarding our hearts, we’re often told, is about not letting bad things in.

Though that aspect of guarding our hearts is of vital importance, there’s also another side to this. To quote a daily devotional I’ve been reading, “We are to keep things in –things like the Spirit of Jesus, the humility and gentleness, the servanthood and sacrifice, the worship and thankfulness” (Chris Tiegreen, 365 Pocket Devotions, p.23). We need to be careful that we’re not so focused on keeping bad things out that we forget to keep the good things in.

Keep Truth In Your Heart

When Samuel was sent to anoint David, Yahweh told him, “God does not view things the way people do. People look on the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart” (1 Sam. 16:7, NET). What’s in our hearts is what matters most to God. We don’t want to let in things that would corrupt our hearts, but we’re also not evaluated based on what we’ve kept out. God looks at what we keep in.

My child, pay attention to my words;
listen attentively to my sayings.
Do not let them depart from your sight,
guard them within your heart;
for they are life to those who find them
and healing to one’s entire body.
Guard your heart with all vigilance,
for from it are the sources of life.

Proverbs 4:20-23, NET

This is the one Bible passage that clearly instructs us to guard our hearts. It starts out by telling us to put wise words inside us and then “keep them in the center of your heart” (v. 21, WEB). It’s about guarding the good things in our hearts because what’s inside us determines what comes out of our lives, for good or evil.

He said, “What comes out of a person defiles him. For from within, out of the human heart, come evil ideas, sexual immorality, theft, murder, adultery, greed, evil, deceit, debauchery, envy, slander, pride, and folly. All these evils come from within and defile a person.”

Mark 7:20-23, NET

If what’s inside our hearts is bad, the fruit our lives produce will be bad also, no matter how much we polish up the outside. We can, however, with God’s help, replace the bad things with good things. Change has to happen in our hearts as we internalize the words of God, and then we need to guard those good things that He gives us.

Attach Your Hearts to Good Things

Putting His law inside people’s hearts is one of the central aspects of God’s new covenant. When He prophesied the new covenant, He said, “I will put my law within them and write it on their hearts and minds. I will be their God and they will be my people” (Jer. 31:33, NET). That’s what’s happening as part of the covenant Jesus instituted with His sacrifice (Heb. 8:7-13; 10:14-18). In order to have good things come from our lives we need to have good things in our hearts, and that comes from entering this covenant with God. We also need to diligently guard what God is teaching and giving us.

“Don’t lay up treasures for yourselves on the earth, where moth and rust consume, and where thieves break through and steal; but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust consume, and where thieves don’t break through and steal; for where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.”

Matthew 6:19-21, NET

Part of guarding our hearts involves being careful about what “treasure” we attach ourselves to. If the things that we care about most and pour our energy into are worldly, that’s where our hearts will be. But if we put our efforts, time, and affection into good and godly things, then that is what our hearts and souls will treasure.

Entrust God With Your Heart

There is one other verse that uses the phrase “guard your hearts.” This time, though, it’s not an instruction for us. It’s something God does for us when we trust Him with our hearts and minds.

Do not be anxious about anything. Instead, in every situation, through prayer and petition with thanksgiving, tell your requests to God. And the peace of God that surpasses all understanding will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.

Philippians 4:6-7, NET

We talked about this type of peace at length just a couple weeks ago in a post called “Finding Peace On Earth Today.” The peace that God offers is a sort of peace that’s not dependent on external circumstances. Rather, it is a product of a heart that is committed to fully trusting God. True, lasting, godly peace comes when we trust God to take care of the things that threaten to take away our peace. When we pray in every situation, God shares His peace with us and it works to guard our hearts.

The task of guarding our hearts–keeping good things in and stopping bad things from taking over–is a life-long process. It’s something that God expects us to be actively involved in, and it’s something that He’s committed to helping us with.

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The Beatitudes, Part Six: Blessed Are the Pure in Heart

We’ve been looking at the Beatitudes from Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount over the past several weeks. Now we’re up to the sixth of these attitudes that Jesus says result in blessings from God. Those who are “blessed” in this sense are fully satisfied by God, and each also receives a specific blessing to go along with that. For example,

Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God. (Matt. 5:8, all quotes from WEB translation)

Those pure in their hearts are fully satisfied by God, and they get to see Him. It’s a wonderful thing to think about, though when you start to ponder the idea of seeing God more questions come up. What does it mean to see God? How and when will this happen? And what does it actually mean to have a pure heart in the sense used here?

Washing By Jesus

Purity starts with something God does. Jesus told His disciples that they were “pruned clean because of the word” He spoke to them (John 15:3), and that’s the same Greek word translated “pure” in Matthew’s gospel (G2513 katharos). He also said they were “completely clean” if they let Him wash them (John 13:8-10). Extending this to all believers, Peter talks about God’s work with the Gentiles, saying, “He made no distinction between us and them, cleansing their hearts by faith” (Acts 15:9). It is God’s work in us that gives us pure hearts; we can’t get to that state on our own.

But when the kindness of God our Savior and his love toward mankind appeared, not by works of righteousness which we did ourselves, but according to his mercy, he saved us through the washing of regeneration and renewing by the Holy Spirit, whom he poured out on us richly, through Jesus Christ our Savior (Titus 3:4-6)

We are washed by the blood of Jesus from all uncleanness that comes from sin. None of us are exempt from the consequences of sin, nor can we fix that problem on our own. We can come to Jesus boldly, though, knowing that He will take care of cleansing us from our sins and making us fit to not only enter God’s presence but become part of His family.

let’s draw near with a true heart in fullness of faith, having our hearts sprinkled from an evil conscience, and having our body washed with pure water (Heb. 10:22)

Cleansed In God’s Presence

Back in Old Testament times, God had clear criteria for who He would allow into His temple and therefore His presence. Part of this criteria had to do with ceremonial cleanliness, but even under the first covenant there was a deeper application as well.

Who may ascend to Yahweh’s hill? Who may stand in his holy place? He who has clean hands and a pure heart; who has not lifted up his soul to falsehood, and has not sworn deceitfully. (Ps. 24:3-4)

You needed a pure heart to get into God’s presence. Jesus’ sacrifice washing us clean takes care of all our ceremonial uncleanness, and it also purifies our hearts. Through Him, we have access to God at a deeper level than was typically possible before the New Covenant. This doesn’t take all the responsibly out of our hands, though. Once our hearts are purified, we play a role in keeping them that way. We do that by following God faithfully and by asking Him for new cleansing if we stumble.

Seeing you have purified your souls in your obedience to the truth through the Spirit in sincere brotherly affection, love one another from the heart fervently, having been born again, not of corruptible seed, but of incorruptible, through the word of God, which lives and remains forever. (1 Pet. 1:22-23)

Seeing God’s Face

This idea of being purified to enter God’s presence connects with seeing God’s face. Ultimately, we will see God “as He is” after the resurrection when He welcomes us as spirit-beings into His kingdom (Job 19:26; 1 John 3:1-2). Until then, no ones sees the Father’s face but many people have seen God through Jesus Christ (John 1:18; 14:8-9). We can actually have a “faces to faces” relationship with God today in the sense that we can know Him, see who He really is, and form a close relationship with Him.

seeing it is God who said, “Light will shine out of darkness,” who has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ. (2 Cor. 4:6)

Seeing God will be literal in the future, but for now it’s more metaphorical. John said, “He who does evil hasn’t seen God,” which implies that those who do not do evil have seen God (3 John 1:11). When we pursue a relationship with God and commit to living life the way He expects of us, out of a pure heart, then we get the chance to “see” God.

One thing I have asked of Yahweh, that I will seek after: that I may dwell in Yahweh’s house all the days of my life, to see Yahweh’s beauty, and to inquire in his temple. … When you said, “Seek my face,” my heart said to you, “I will seek your face, Yahweh.” (Ps. 27: 4, 8)

What a blessing it is to have Jesus personally purify our hearts so that we can have a face-to-face relationship with Him and His Father! There is nothing more precious than the chance to know God intimately and be known by Him.

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The Heart of Jesus for Reconciliation

What was Jesus’ reason for coming to earth and preaching the Good News of the gospel? What are the core desires of His heart when He looks at human beings? How can we become more like Him in how we preach and what we desire?

I’ve been thinking about these questions, and others, a lot this week. Part of it’s prompted by some messages I heard last Sabbath and part by recent events. There is a lot of strife and division in today’s world. We fight and bicker and separate ourselves by classes, genders, races, and churches. Such division is not what God desires. In fact, I don’t think it is going too far to say that such things break His heart.

God is grieved deeply by human sinfulness and suffering. He’s also deeply motivated to change things for the better, which means we should be motivated to work toward a better future as well. This truth carries with it a great deal of hope and purpose for us both in this life and in the future. And it’s all connected to the reasons Jesus came to this earth and the core desires of God’s heart.

Why Jesus Came

Jesus Christ is our example. He is the Word made flesh; God who became man. We’re supposed to mimic Him and to tell other people about Him and why He came to this earth. In order to do that, we need to understand these things for ourselves. There’s no better place to start than with what Jesus Himself said about why He came to this earth.

  • To preach. “He said to them, ‘Let’s go elsewhere into the next towns, that I may preach there also, because I came out for this reason.’” (Mark 1:38, all quotes from WEB translation)
  • To call sinners to repentance. “Jesus answered them, ‘Those who are healthy have no need for a physician, but those who are sick do. I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance.’” (Luke 5:31-32)
  • To give abundant life. “The thief only comes to steal, kill, and destroy. I came that they may have life, and may have it abundantly.” (John 10:10)
  • To die as a sacrifice in our place. “Now my soul is troubled. What shall I say? ‘Father, save me from this time?’ But I came to this time for this cause.” (John 12:27)
  • As a light for those in darkness. “I have come as a light into the world, that whoever believes in me may not remain in the darkness.” (John 12:46)
  • To testify to the truth. “Jesus answered, ‘You say that I am a king. For this reason I have been born, and for this reason I have come into the world, that I should testify to the truth. Everyone who is of the truth listens to my voice.'” (John 18:37)

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God Knows Your Heart, But Do You Know His?

The key to having intimacy with the Lord is to understand his kindness. That’s a statement the Rabbi at a Messianic congregation said in a two-part message called “The Mystery of Kindness” and “The Mystery of Chesed,” and I’ve been thinking about it quite a bit lately.

Chesed is a Hebrew word for goodness, mercy, kindness, and faithfulness. It’s often translated “loving kindness” when used of God, and it’s one of the key attributes of His character. He is “Yahweh, a merciful and gracious God, slow to anger, and abundant in loving kindness and truth” (Ex. 34:6, WEB).

This sort of kindness is something God wants to be known for because it’s a core part of His being. As Christians, we’re supposed to develop His character in us as we “put on Christ” (Rom. 13:14; Gal. 3:27). In order to become like Him, we need to understand who He truly is and that includes an understanding of His chesed.

The Ways God Knows Us

God knows our hearts even better than we know ourselves. He has “searched me and known me.” He knows when I sit down and when I stand up. He knows all my thoughts, my ways, and my words (Ps. 139:1-4). And He knows all of you that way as well because He searches the depths of our hearts.

The heart is deceitful above all things, and it is exceedingly corrupt: who can know it? I, Yahweh, search the mind, I try the heart, even to give every man according to his ways, according to the fruit of his doings. (Jer. 17:9-10, WEB)

God can see and understand us thoroughly all the time. He knows everyone on earth that way. But there are some people that He also knows in a closer, more personal way. He calls those people His friends. If we want to be friends of God a change is required in our hearts. We have to become like God to know God.

God Knows Your Heart, But Do You Know His? | LikeAnAnchor.com
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David’s Heart of Chesed

The Lord described King David as “a man after my heart, who will do all my will” (Acts 13:22, WEB). He’s one of the examples given in scripture for us to look to and learn how to have a heart like God’s heart. One of the ways that David’s God-like heart showed up was in his kindness.

David sent messengers to the men of Jabesh Gilead, and said to them, “Blessed are you by Yahweh, that you have shown this kindness to your lord, even to Saul, and have buried him. Now may Yahweh show loving kindness and truth to you. I also will reward you for this kindness, because you have done this thing. (2 Sam. 5-6, WEB)

Even though Saul persecuted David, David still respected his position as king and mourned when Saul died. And instead of punishing those who honored Saul with a proper burial, the new king commended them for their kindness and showed kindness to them in return. He didn’t stop there either.

David said, “Is there yet any who is left of Saul’s house, that I may show him kindness for Jonathan’s sake?” (2 Sam. 9:1, WEB)

After locating Jonathan’s son Mephibosheth, David had him brought to the palace.

David said to him, “Don’t be afraid of him; for I will surely show you kindness for Jonathan your father’s sake, and will restore to you all the land of Saul your father. You will eat bread at my table continually.” (2 Sam. 9:7, WEB)

The Lord’s Kindness

David showed this sort of kindness — chesed — because he’d learned it first-hand from God. He’s the one who wrote, “loving kindness shall follow me all the days of my life,” which we talked about a couple weeks ago. Since it was such a big part of David’s faith, Yahweh’s loving kindness is a frequent theme in his psalms.

All the paths of Yahweh are loving kindness and truth to such as keep his covenant and his testimonies. (Ps. 25:10, WEB)

But I will sing of your strength. Yes, I will sing aloud of your loving kindness in the morning. For you have been my high tower, a refuge in the day of my distress. (Ps. 59:16, WEB)

Because your loving kindness is better than life, my lips shall praise you. (Ps. 63:3, WEB)

Yahweh is merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and abundant in loving kindness. (Ps. 103:8, WEB)

The Lord even showed kindness to David after he committed adultery and murder (2 Sam. 11:1-12:13; Ps. 51:1). The Law demanded a death penalty for both those sins, but in this case the Lawgiver decided to show kindness the same way He would in the future as Jesus Christ. The Lord knew that David, as a man after God’s own heart, would repent and change if given the opportunity. David got to taste the Lord’s gracious kindness even before Messiah came to earth (Ps. 34:8; 1 Pet. 2:3-4).

A Change In Our Hearts

God Knows Your Heart, But Do You Know His? | LikeAnAnchor.com
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David’s son Solomon also recognized the importance of chesed. He wrote, “The merciful man does good to his own soul” and, “He who follows after righteousness and kindness finds life, righteousness, and honor” (Prov. 11:17; 21:2, WEB). Not only does being kind mean we’ll be good to others, but it is also good for us as well.

Don’t let kindness and truth forsake you. Bind them around your neck. Write them on the tablet of your heart. So you will find favor, and good understanding in the sight of God and man. (Prov. 3:3-4, WEB)

We need to have kindness written in our hearts to make our hearts like God’s. This happens when the Spirit of God dwells in us.

But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faith, gentleness, and self-control. Against such things there is no law. Those who belong to Christ have crucified the flesh with its passions and lusts. If we live by the Spirit, let’s also walk by the Spirit. (Gal. 5:22-25, WEB)

God reveals Himself through His spirit (1 Cor. 2:6-16). That’s how He shares His heart and mind with us, and transforms our hearts and minds to be like His. Our “fleshiness” can get in the way of this if we’d let it, but we don’t have to. Walking in the spirit is a choice that God, in His kindness, empowers us to make. We can know Him intimately and learn His kindness just as David did.

Should You Do What You Think Is Right?

“Always let your conscience be your guide.”

“Follow your heart.”

“Trust yourself.”

Those are the kinds of self-affirming advice we often hear. The basic argument is that most of us are pretty good people and if we listen really closely to our inner guiding light, then we’ll make good decisions.

But as Christians, we’re not supposed to do what’s right in our own minds. We’re supposed to do what God thinks is right. To some, this might just seem like a subtle shift in semantics. Of course what I think is right and God thinks is right are the same thing. Aren’t they?’

Not necessarily. While the holy spirit is transforming us to “have the mind of Christ,” we’re not all the way there yet. That’s one reason why it’s so important to spend time studying scripture — to make sure we know how God thinks and line-up with Him.Should You Do What You Think Is Right? | marissabaker.wordpress.com

What God Has To Say About Your Heart

When God made the choice to destroy everyone but Noah and his family in a flood, He did so after seeing “that every imagination of the thoughts of man’s heart was continually only evil” (Gen. 6:5, WEB). Even though we are made in God’s image, every single person has sinned and we’re corrupted by the fallen world we live in. And yet even in this state, human’s tend to trust that they know what’s right. But we’re often very wrong.

Yahweh says: Cursed is the man who trusts in man, and makes flesh his arm, and whose heart departs from Yahweh. … The heart is deceitful above all things, and it is exceedingly corrupt: who can know it? I, Yahweh, search the mind, I try the heart, even to give every man according to his ways, according to the fruit of his doings. (Jer. 17:5, 9-10, WEB)

Human being can’t trust their hearts. You might get some things right, but you can’t even really know yourself unless you ask God to share His perspective on you. But that verse in Jeremiah is addressed to the person who’s heart departs from the Lord. What about once you are in relationship with God and making Him the one your trust? What does that do to your heart? Read more