Friday, June 01, 2012

a heart matter

Letter 184 (heart)                                                                                         06/06/03

“It’s a matter of the heart”, or “let’s get to the heart of the matter”, are rather common idioms. After last summer’s heart attack, I became acutely aware that I too have one, which up until then just beat away, seemingly minding its own business while my mind went about its daily affairs and allowed me to be cognizant of the many things around me.  As we all know, the scriptures also speak about the “heart” (in a figurative manner), to which I would like to hold a stethoscope in this letter, as that spiritual organ is totally essential to the functioning of the ‘whole man’, yet, like the physical heart, most of the time we don’t even know that it is there. 

The first mention of “heart” (“lev” in Hebrew) in the scriptures, is YHVH’s observation about His created being called “man”:   “And Elohim saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every imagination of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually.  It grieved the heart of YHVH because of the condition of man’s heart”  (Gen. 6:5-6).  Even after He judged that generation and destroyed it with a flood, the basic condition, or nature of man did not change, as seen in the following passage: “And YHVH said in his heart, I will not again curse the ground any more for man's sake, for the imagination of man's heart is evil from his youth; neither will I again smite any more everything living, as I have done” (Gen 8:21).   YHVH continues to point to the heart of man through the prophet Jeremiah:
"The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked; Who can know it?” (17:9). Yeshua also describes the heart’s condition: “For from within, out of the heart of man, evil thoughts proceed, fornications, thefts, murders, adulteries, coveting, wickedness, deceit, lasciviousness, an evil eye, railing, pride, foolishness” (Mark 7:21-22).

The definition for heart (not physical) refers to it as mind, spirit, inner man, will or emotion.  My modified version of these definitions is that the heart is (supposed to be) the ‘holy of holies of the human tabernacle’.  It is the part that houses the spirit, and thus is the seat of man’s inherent nature (in its pure or corrupt form).  I believe that the soul of man is the “holy place”, where the mind, will and emotions are resident; these simply react to, or imitate the spiritual nature of the inner man.  The scriptures say that “the word of YHVH is quick, and powerful, and sharper than any two edged sword, piercing even to the dividing asunder of soul and spirit, and of the joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart (Hebrews 4:12). Thus we must use the Word of YHVH to discern and know the heart’s true condition.

How in the world did man’s spiritual nature change from that which was full of delight (“eden”), while his soul fellowshipped in the presence of the Creator in the environment of love and acceptance, to the condition YHVH describes in the above verses? Before man’s disobedience there was no veil of separation in man’s tabernacle, no burning turning sword to keep him out of this beautiful relationship with the tree of life (Yeshua).  What happened to the heart of man after he partook of the tree of knowledge, which represented an altogether different spiritual way of life (or should I say “death”)?  The fruit of the tree of knowledge of good and evil was poison to the soul of man.  The seed of that tree was in the fruit, and was planted in the soil of man’s heart.  It grew and reproduced itself, hardening the rich soil of the heart, turning it into stone.  Satan is seated in this tree and uses it to fulfill his evil purposes to lie, steal and destroy the works of YHVH.  The nature of that tree is to consume its host.  It feeds like a parasite or cancer off man’s soul, ultimately having an effect upon the physical body in the form of sickness, disease and death.

The root system of this tree is embedded deeply in the soil of man’s heart, and it is a system that is diametrically opposed to YHVH’s; instead of love and truth it is made up of hatred and lies.  These roots give rise to a trunk made up of rebellion, disobedience or unbelief.  “Since therefore it remains that some must enter it, and those to whom it was first preached did not enter because of disobedience or unbelief” (Heb. 4:6).  (Interestingly, the Greek word for unbelief and disobedience is the same, “apeithieia”, reminiscent of the English word “apathy”.)  From this trunk grow three main limbs, lust of the eyes, lust of the flesh and pride of life.  “For all that is in the world -- the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life -- is not of the Father but is of the world” (1 John 2:16).  These three areas were first revealed in the garden, when Eve looked at the tree of knowledge of good and evil. “So when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, that it was pleasant to the eyes, and a tree desirable to make one wise” (Gen. 3:6).   From that beginning point this tree spread out its branches and started to bear fruit.

Cain was the firstborn of this expression, which his heartbeat clearly displayed in the form of disobedience when he withheld the first fruits of his labor. In selfishness and self-centeredness he lusted for the cream of the crop.  He didn’t offer to his Creator that which belonged to Him. Thus Cain’s sacrifice was rejected, and so was he from his firstborn place in the family.   Bitterness and rejection formed the basis of his expression. This resulted in unforgiveness and resentment, and from these two branched out anger and hatred, which then climaxed in murder.  

The heart is where all our attitudes are formed toward YHVH, toward our own self and toward others.  Because the heart is in this unloving condition, it is impossible for man to love God, himself and his neighbor (as himself).  With this being our state of being, what must we do to change this situation?   Obviously we are not able to transform our hearts, but YHVH declares that through His grace and mercy He would enact another covenant with the house of Israel and the House of Judah, through which He would give us a new heart and put a new spirit with in us, writing His commandments upon our hearts of flesh. “This is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, says YHVH: I will put my law in their inward parts, and in their heart will I write it; and I will be their Elohim, and they shall be my people” (Jer. 31:33).  And I will give them a heart to know me, that I am YHVH and they shall be my people, and I will be their Elohim; for they shall return unto me with their whole heart” (Jer. 24:7).  

YHVH, speaking through the prophet Ezekiel, says that “A new heart also will I give you, and a new spirit will I put within you: and I will take away the stony heart out of your flesh, and I will give you a heart of flesh” (36:26).  Again He says, "I will give them one heart, and I will put a new spirit within them, and take the stony heart out of their flesh, and give them a heart of flesh” (11:19).  He promises to “cast away from you all your transgressions, wherein ye have transgressed; and make you a new heart and a new spirit: for why will ye die, O house of Israel” (Eze. 18:31).

Rav. Shaul, writing to the believers in Rome about the new covenant, strikes right at the heart of the matter when he declares “O wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death? I thank YHVH -- through Yeshua Ha Mashiach our Lord!” (Rom. 7:24-25). 

At Passover YHVH dealt with our transgression, and now, on Shavuot, He gives us a new spirit. (To be continued)…