For I tell you that unless your righteousness surpasses that of the Pharisees and the teachers of the law, you will certainly not enter the kingdom of heaven. Matthew 5:20 NIV
Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God, the LORD is one. Love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength. These commandments that I give you today are to be upon your hearts. Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up. Tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads. Write them on the doorframes of your houses and on your gates. Deuteronomy 6:4-9 NIV * “The Shema”
* Sh’ma: literally means listen, heed, or hear and do (according to the Targum, accept).
Some may think that only the New Testament presents the idea that God desires a relationship with us. I have been impressed, intrigued and challenged by the many times the word “heart” occurs in the Bible and especially in the Old Testament. Often it is used in a way that describes an intimate relationship and dialogue between a person and the God of the Universe. Here are some examples:
But if from there you seek the LORD your God, you will find him if you look for him with all your heart and with all your soul.
Deuteronomy 4:29 NIV
And now, O Israel, what does the LORD your God ask of you but to fear the LORD your God, to walk in all his ways, to love him, to serve the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul, and to observe the LORD’s commands and decrees that I am giving you today for your own good?
To the LORD your God belong the heavens, even the highest heavens, the earth and everything in it. Yet the LORD set his affection on your forefathers and loved them, and he chose you, their descendants, above all the nations, as it is today. Circumcise your hearts, therefore, and do not be stiff-necked any longer. For the LORD your God is God of gods and Lord of lords, the great God, mighty and awesome, who shows no partiality and accepts no bribes. He defends the cause of the fatherless and the widow, and loves the alien, giving him food and clothing. And you are to love those who are aliens, for you yourselves were aliens in Egypt. Fear the LORD your God and serve him. Hold fast to him and take your oaths in his name. He is your praise; he is your God, who performed for you those great and awesome wonders you saw with your own eyes. Deuteronomy 10:12-21 NIV
Create in me a pure heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me. Do not cast me from your presence or take your Holy Spirit from me. Restore to me the joy of your salvation and grant me a willing spirit, to sustain me. Then I will teach transgressors your ways, and sinners will turn back to you. Save me from bloodguilt, O God, the God who saves me, and my tongue will sing of your righteousness. O Lord, open my lips, and my mouth will declare your praise. You do not delight in sacrifice, or I would bring it; you do not take pleasure in burnt offerings. The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise. Psalm 51:10-17 NIV
Do you see the relationship being cultivated between God and man in these verses? When the Bible speaks of the heart, it is not talking about the physical muscle that beats and pumps blood throughout our bodies, keeping us alive. Instead, it is referring to “the center of the human spirit, from which spring emotions, thought, motivations, courage and action”. * Proverbs 4:23 advises us “Above all else, guard your heart, for it is the wellspring of life.”
* NIV study Bible text note on Psalm 4:7 1985 edition
Of course, the New Testament presents this idea as well. Je.sus quotes the Jewish “Shema” in Matthew 22:37-40 in answer to the question of “which is the greatest commandment?” He also talked of the connection between the heart and our words and actions in Matthew 12:34-35,
“You brood of vipers, how can you who are evil say anything good? For out of the overflow of the heart the mouth speaks. The good man brings good things out of the good stored up in him, and the evil man brings evil things out of the evil stored up in him.”
I believe the God of the Universe desires our hearts, souls, minds and bodies to be in a living breathing relationship with Him. Amazing! Look at what
I will sprinkle clean water on you, and you will be clean; I will cleanse you from all your impurities and from all your idols. I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you; I will remove from you your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh. And I will put my Spirit in you and move you to follow my decrees and be careful to keep my laws. Ezekiel 36:25-27
Think of how the Lord Almighty has always desired a relationship with His creation. Think of how He provided the way for that to occur as you pray the Lord’s prayer today. If you want to study some other heart verses, here are some good ones to read, meditate on and pray over: Joshua 22:5, I Samuel 16:7,
I Chronicles 28:9, Psalm 73:26, Psalm 119:2, 10, 36, 58, 69, 161, Lamentations 2:19, Ezekiel 11:18-20, Joel 2:12-13, Acts 1:24, 15:8, 16:14, Romans 10:9-10, Hebrews 4:12.