The Heart
Dr. Joe Temple

Introduction

Turn in your Bibles, please, to the book of Proverbs, that portion of the Word of God we have been thinking about. We want to continue our discussion in the second portion of the book of Proverbs. We reminded you that the second division begins with chapter 10 and goes to chapter 22, verse 16. This section is referred to as the personal proverbs of Solomon. You will notice the statement in chapter 10, verse 1: “The proverbs of Solomon…” We have inserted the word personal to indicate to you that there is a difference between this particular section in the book of Proverbs and the other portion of the book.

We have suggested to you that the subject matter of this particular section is difficult to discuss because the proverbs are not chronologically related to subject. Rather, they are related to subjects scattered throughout the entire portion. So, of the many ways that we might discuss this portion of the Scripture, we said that we were going to use the principle discussion—that is, taking all of the proverbs that are related to a certain principle or a certain doctrine and discussing those proverbs with you.

We include in our discussion every reference to the principle that we present unless that principle is related to another principle in the same proverb, which takes precedence over it. We don't repeat the proverbs.

We are going to be discussing with you the subject of the heart in this lesson. When we mention that we are going to discuss with you the subject of the heart, to many there comes to mind the picture of the physical organ which we know as the heart. You might wonder exactly what we would have to say about it. I think it would be wise for us to recognize how the Bible uses the term heart , and then we will be able to understand what we are actually talking about.

The Bible does make reference to the physical organ which we know as the heart, but it is a great mistake to assume that every time the word heart is used in the Scripture, it is referring to the physical organ. I think it would be wise for us to recognize at the very outset the definition of the heart as it is presented in the Word of God. From the Hebrew standpoint, the first thing that we would draw to your attention is that the word heart comes from the Hebrew Word leb , which is related to the feelings, to the will, and to the intellect. It might be wise to keep in mind, as well, that it comes from the root word lebab , which means “to be enclosed as if with fat,” or as some others have suggested,“the most interior organs.” Since this is the very literal meaning of the word, it was selected to describe those innermost feelings of our personality, which are described by the words, feelings, will and intellect. Remember, when you are thinking about the word heart , you are thinking about such things as feelings, will, and intellect.

The subject in the Greek is even clearer than it is in the Hebrew, and so we would offer that to you even though our texts are all in the Old Testament for this present discussion. The Greek word for heart is the word kardia , and it has in mind the thought, the feeling and the mind itself. The root word, of course, means “to quiver or palpitate.” That brings to mind the physical organ. Since the heart is thought to be the source of physical life, it is only natural that the translators of the Scripture would choose that word to express the innermost feelings of the individual personality, so we find that every reputable Greek lexicon giving you a definition of this particular Greek word suggests that the heart is the center and the seat of spiritual life; the soul or the mind is the seat of thought, passion, desires, appetites, affections, purposes and endeavors.

If we had time we would pursue the study of the word kidney in the Bible, and we would find that most references to it are not related to its physical function. We would find the word bowel in the Scripture, and we would find there is no reference to any great extent to the physical function of the bowel. They have a spiritual connotation because they are related to those things that are connected with the emotions and the feelings, the mind and the will.

We are going to examine this word heart in several categories, trusting the Holy Spirit to fix firmly in our minds what we have to say to you because there is quite a bit of ground to cover, and all we are going to have time to do is put these various passages of Scripture in their various categories and have little comment, letting them speak to your heart as the Word does and can. Of course, there is really very little need for comment because in your reading of the book of Proverbs, they are somewhat self-explanatory.

We would like to think with you about this word heart found in the book of Proverbs, as it is related to the mind and the will, so we would suggest that you put out of your mind for the moment any reference to the physical organ. When we talk about the heart, remember that in this particular category, we are talking about the mind.

Dividing the subject, particularly, we are speaking first about the wise mind. The first reference we have to the wise mind is found in chapter 10, verse 8:

Proverbs 10:

8 The wise in heart will receive commandments: but a prating fool shall fall.

What this Proverb is saying is that the person with a wise mind—that is, with a wise intellect—will be glad to be instructed. The individual who is a prating fool will be glad to listen to just a lot of empty words. Turn to chapter 14, and notice verse 33:

Proverbs 14:

33 Wisdom resteth in the heart of him that hath understanding: but that which is in the midst of fools is made known.

We are interested in the first part of the statement, and the best way that I know to express it is that the mind that is wise provides a home for wisdom; that is, wisdom is at rest in a wise mind, and wisdom is uncomfortable in a foolish mind. We might examine our own hearts in the sense we have been explaining today and find if wisdom is ill at ease with us. If it is, we do not have the kind of mind that God wants us to have. Turn, please, to chapter 15, verse 14, and read:

Proverbs 15:

14 The heart of him that hath understanding seeketh knowledge: but the mouth of fools feedeth on foolishness.

The first statement is of interest to us, and I don't know of a better way to express that other than to say that such a heart is hungry for the truth. We might ask to provoke your thinking, how hungry are you for the truth of God's Word? The proof of how hungry you are will be the effort you put forth to get the truth. If you are content with the mouthing of empty platitudes from the pulpit, not interested in the real study of the Word, then you are not very hungry for the truth, regardless of what you might say. Look at verse 28:

Proverbs 15:

28 The heart of the righteous studieth to answer: but the mouth of the wicked poureth out evil things.

The best way I know to express that is to say that the wise heart, the wise mind, will think before it speaks. Of course, the amount of time you give before you answer indicates the amount of truth you have upon which you can draw in order to give the answer. Notice chapter 18, verse 15:

Proverbs 18:

15 The heart of the prudent getteth knowledge; and the ear of the wise seeketh knowledge.

The statement, “the heart of the prudent getteth knowledge,” very literally rendered is, “The heart of the prudent mind is open to new ideas.” I would like to take time to elaborate on that last thought, and I would like for you to think about it. One thing that is needed in relation to believers is that they need to be open to new ideas. Some of us have our minds closed to anything new, and it is difficult for the Holy Spirit to get the message across to us.

The Minds of Fools

Thinking about the categories that we have been considering together, remembering that we were thinking about the heart as it is related to the mind and the will, we now would like to think with you about the minds of fools because wise men have minds and intellects, but fools have intellects, too. The difference in the way that they are used is what is of interest to us. Notice chapter 12, verse 23:

Proverbs 12:

23 A prudent man concealeth knowledge: but the heart of fools proclaimeth foolishness.

The last statement, “the heart of fools proclaimeth foolishness,” should be interpreted in the light of the first statement: “The prudent man concealeth knowledge.” The literal rendering of that is, “A prudent man does not go around boasting about what he knows, but a self-confident fool advertises what he knows.” Here it is in the Word of God. When you find a person who has an answer for everything on the tip of his tongue, without giving a studied answer, it might be wise for you to keep in mind that God says that such an individual is not a brilliant man at all. He is is a self-confident fool. Notice in chapter 15, verse 7:

Proverbs 15:

7 The lips of the wise disperse knowledge: but the heart of the foolish doeth not so.

The last statement is the one that attracts our attention: “but the heart of the foolish doeth not so.” What doesn't he do? He does not disperse knowledge as does the wise. I refer to these individuals as empty fools . It isn't that they don't open their mouths; they do. They seem to have their tongue running loose all the time, not giving any knowledge that is really worth listening to.

Check your relationship to others; check your own relationship on the basis of how you feel about your mind. Is it a wise mind, open to the truth, or is it a foolish mind, ready to let everybody know what you think you know, and it turns out you don't know anything at all?

Willful, Contrary, and Stubborn Hearts

We are thinking about the heart in the book of Proverbs as it is related to the wise mind and the foolish mind as it is related to the will. We would now like to think with you about those passages in the book of Proverbs that fall into the category of the will of the individual.

The first thing that we would draw to your attention is what the Scripture refers to as the froward heart . As you see, that is not spelled forward , but froward , and that is not a misspelling. That is the Anglo-Saxon word for the word that could be described by our own English words willful, contrary, and stubborn . Look at this next passage of Scripture and see if you know any individuals with froward hearts. Notice Proverbs, chapter 11, verse 20:

Proverbs 11:

20 They that are of a froward [willful, contrary and stubborn] heart are abomination to the LORD: but such as are upright in their way are his delight.

You see why we are using the word will . It is related to the will. Individuals are willful, contrary and stubborn. God says such people are disgusting to Him.

The Perverse in Heart

Then there are what I am going to call the perverse in heart . I use the word suspicious because you understand that better than you do the word perverse . Notice chapter 17, verse 20:

Proverbs 17:

20 He that hath a froward heart findeth no good: and he that hath a perverse [suspicious] tongue falleth into mischief.

The perverse heart is the individual who findeth no good. What does that mean? It means that he is suspicious of everything and everybody, and you mark what I am telling you, Beloved, when you run into an individual who has this kind of froward heart and cannot see any good in anything at all, you can mark him down as a suspicious individual. He suspects everything, and it is because he has a froward heart, one that is willful, contrary and stubborn.

The Warped and Crooked Heart

The next thought that we would bring to your attention is what we referred to a moment ago as a perverse heart , and if we would use the words warped and crooked , we would have a good idea of what we are talking about. Notice in chapter 12, verse 8:

Proverbs 12:

8 A man shall be commended according to his wisdom: but he that is of a perverse heart shall be despised.

We use the word perverse to a certain extent, but we don't use it widely. Many of us do use the word warped in this sense quite often, don't we? We read about an individual doing some unusually evil thing, and we say, concerning that individual, “That must be a warped fellow. There is something wrong with him. He is just crooked, that's all.” That's right, but the reason that he is warped and crooked is that his will is warped and crooked. We are talking now not about a physical organ, but about the will.

The Proud in Heart

Closely related to the will of every individual is pride , so naturally we would need to think about the proud in heart and call your attention to Proverbs, 16, verse 5:

Proverbs 16:

5 Every one that is proud in heart is an abomination to the LORD: though hand join in hand, he shall not be unpunished.

We remind you that the word abomination is just as well translated by the word disgusting , and we remind you that the individual who is proud at heart is disgusting to the Lord.

We find some other things about proud people in the Word of God. If you will look at chapter 18, verse 12, you will notice that these proud people are slated for destruction, for there we read:

Proverbs 18:

12 Before destruction the heart of man is haughty, and before honour is humility.

Read it: “Before destruction the will of man is proud…” You know, that is one of the biggest problems in people doing what God would have them do. Their wills are haughty, and they are not going to humble their wills for anybody for any reason.

Notice chapter 21, please, still thinking about the proud individual, suggesting to you that we dare not just dismiss this matter of pride as failing as some of us are faced with, but rather, exactly what it is. Notice verse 4:

Proverbs 21:

4 An high look, and a proud heart, and the plowing of the wicked, is sin.

Primarily we are interested in this proud heart. A proud heart, as far as God is concerned, is sin. We don't excuse it as weakness, saying of a certain individual, “Well, you know it's difficult for him to do thus and so because he is a mighty proud man, and because he is such a proud man, we have to make allowances for him.” God says you had just better look upon it as sin, and sin needs to be confessed and covered by the Lord Jesus Christ because that is the only proper way to deal with it.

The Importance of a Sound Heart

I would like for us to pass on to another category regarding the way heart is used in the Scripture and as it is related to the spirit and the emotions. When we use the word heart in this category, we are thinking about the spirit and the emotion. What you are going to have here in the next few moments is a concentrated lesson in Christian, scriptural psychology. Notice in Proverbs, chapter 14, verse 30, the importance of a sound heart:

Proverbs 14:

30 A sound heart is the life of the flesh: but envy the rottenness of the bones.

Exactly what do we mean by a sound heart? The original word and the way it is used in the context indicates that we are talking about a calm, tranquil and yielded heart. I would like for you to let that sink in because it grieves me the trouble that believers have that is not related to physical ailments. It has a physical effect, but the cause is not always physical. You will notice in this portion of the Word that a calm, tranquil, yielded heart is the life of the flesh.

Notice that word yielded . Many of our problems are related to the fact that our heart is not yielded to the Lord. Notice the comparison in the proverb. “Envy is the rottenness of the bones,” indicates that many hearts are not calm and tranquil because they are full of envy. Hearts which are filled with envy become sick hearts. Notice chapter 13, verse 12:

Proverbs 13:

12 Hope deferred maketh the heart sick: but when the desire cometh, it is a tree of life.

A sick heart, a weak heart, is sick and weak because it is not calm and yielded. Hope—the thing that a person wants, the thing that a person has hoped for—is deferred and he is not yielded enough to accept God's timing. He becomes full of envy, and the first thing you know, he is afflicted with rottenness of the bones.

A Heavy Heart

There is another kind of heart that is mentioned here in this portion of the book of Proverbs, and that is a heavy heart. Turn, please, to chapter 12, verse 25:

Proverbs 12:

25 Heaviness in the heart of man maketh it stoop: but a good word maketh it glad.

I use the word anxious here because the word heaviness comes from the Hebrew word deagah , which means “anxious.” When we are speaking of a heavy heart in this instance, we are talking about an anxious heart, a heart that is anxious because it is full of worry and concern.

I think we would be terribly unfair to the Scriptures if we didn't remind you that there is a word to those of you who may not have a heavy heart, but can do something about the individuals who do. Look at verse 25 again:

Proverbs 12:

25 Heaviness in the heart of man maketh it stoop: but a good word maketh it glad.

My, how good it would be if we could enter into the heaviness, the burdens, that other hearts are carrying and make a glad heart. In chapter 14 of the book of Proverbs, we have another description of a heavy heart. Notice verse 13:

Proverbs 14:

13 Even in laughter the heart is sorrowful; and the end of that mirth is heaviness.

I have the word grieved by this word heart even though the word heaviness is used in the English text. The reason for that is that this word heaviness comes from an entirely different Hebrew word, the word that is more often translated grief . Someone has suggested that this verse might be translated,: “Laughter cannot mask the heavy heart. When the laughter ends, the grief remains.”

I wonder how many of us have had the experience of smiling when we did not feel like smiling, of laughing when we did not feel like laughing? God says, concerning such heavy hearts, “When the laughter ends, the grief remains.”

It might be wise for us to be sensitive to the Holy Spirit of God, sensitive enough to recognize that heavy hearts are not always marked by long faces. Sometimes individuals who are laughing on the outside are crying on the inside. Who knows, perhaps you have had just such an experience as that.

A Merry Heart

I am glad we do not have to abide here too long, thinking about the heavy heart because the Bible speaks about another kind of heart. Keep in mind we are not talking about the physical organ, but the heart as it is related to the spirit and to the emotions. When we read about a merry heart in the Word, we invite you to turn to chapter 15, verse 13:

Proverbs 15:

13 A merry heart maketh a cheerful countenance: but by sorrow of the heart the spirit is broken.

That may sound a bit contradictory to the last statement I made, but we are talking about true joy and false joy. Sometimes when hearts are filled with grief, there is a false note of laughter to cover up, but a merry heart maketh a cheerful countenance, and oftentimes the condition of the heart can be seen on the countenance itself.

Perhaps it would be wise to pause right here and suggest that some of us who don't smile as much as we ought to might learn to smile a bit so that we won't mislead people about the condition of our heart. If you have a merry heart, let it shine out on your face and let folk know a bit more about what is on the inside. Look at verse 15:

Proverbs 15:

15 All the days of the afflicted are evil: but he that is of a merry heart hath a continual feast.

I like that: “A man who has a merry heart has a continual feast.” Someone has suggested the translation: “When a man is gloomy, everything seems to go wrong; when he is cheerful, everything seems to go right.” You have days like that, don't you? Gloomy days—everything seems to go wrong. Happy days—everything seems to go right. Turn to chapter 17, verse 22:

Proverbs 17:

22 A merry heart doeth good like a medicine: but a broken spirit drieth the bones.

This is good psychology: “a merry heart doeth good like a medicine.” Some of you folk who have been in sick rooms know how that is. Somebody comes in the room and says, “My, you look so bad.” You already feel bad, and that makes you feel worse. By the time the third person has told you that, you wonder why the undertaker hasn't made a call on you. But someone can come in the room when you are feeling terrible, and they can say, “You are looking so good.” Of course, the first time you are irritated and you say, “I don't feel good, and there is no point in saying I look good.” But somebody else comes in and says the same thing, and you find yourself thinking, “Well, maybe I do.” By the time the third person says it, you are feeling good. So practice it. The Bible says exactly that:

Proverbs 17:

22 A merry heart doeth good like a medicine: but a broken [drab] spirit drieth the bones.

A Bitter Heart

I wish that we did not have to pass on to this other heart, but we have to if we are consistent with what the Word of God has to say because the Bible speaks about a bitter heart. The Bible warns that we as believers should be consistently on our guard that a root of bitterness does not spring up in our hearts and thereby many be defiled. It is so easy for bitterness to come.

I don't suppose there are any of you who have not been done wrong in some way. I don't suppose there is anybody who has not suffered unfairly in some fashion. It is awfully easy to get bitter, so God, in discussing this subject of the heart, reminds us of the seriousness of a bitter heart. Turn to chapter 14, verse 10:

Proverbs 14:

10 The heart knoweth his own bitterness; and a stranger doth not intermeddle with his joy.

That is the reason I suggest that a bitter heart is a lonely heart. People can help you with nearly anything in the world except bitterness, but when you let bitterness get in your heart and get control, there is very little people can do for you. All you want to do is talk about how bitter you are against the person who has treated you the way they have treated you.

That in itself is bad enough, but we suggest something else to you here in chapter 19, verse 3. So often people cease to blame men and begin to blame God. Notice verse 3:

Proverbs 19:

3 The foolishness of man perverteth his way: and his heart fretteth against the LORD.

Did you notice what that first statement said? It is our own foolishness that gets us into a lot of the trouble that we get into, but what do we do? We spend our time fretting against the Lord. We spend our time being bitter against Him. The word fretting and the word bitter have a relationship in the original tongue. When bitterness has filled your heart, do you get to the root of it and find out what the trouble is and do something about it or do you spend your time fretting and blaming God because of what has happened? I am afraid that many of us, using a colloquial expression, are “turned off on God” because something has happened due to our own foolishness, and we blame Him for it. My, the things for which God is blamed that He has nothing to do with.

The Heart as Related to Spiritual Experiences

We are coming to the close of our message and suggest the last category in which this word heart is used—the heart as related to soul or to spiritual experiences. The heart and the soul are used interchangeably in the Scripture. We talk about “sinful hearts” and “sinful souls,” so we are talking now about spiritual relationships. We would like to make that clear as we draw your attention to what is recorded in chapter 14, verse 14:

Proverbs 14:

14 The backslider in heart shall be filled with his own ways: and a good man shall be satisfied from himself.

“The backslider in heart…” Beloved, let me remind you that there is such a thing as backsliding. A lot of people don't believe it, but they practice it. I would like to remind you that it begins in your heart. That is where it starts. “A backslider in heart is filled with his own ways.” Someone has suggested: “The backslider gets bored with himself,” and you know he does. There is nothing so miserable in the world as a man who is out of fellowship with God. That is what this word backslider means. I hope you have enough doctrine embedded in you that you don't think that a backslider is a person who loses his salvation. It is the person who has lost his fellowship with the Lord. “…filled with his own ways”—what does that mean? It means that he is bored with himself. You will notice the last part of that particular verse by way of comparison: “…a good man shall be satisfied with himself.” A good man in this connotation is always a Christian man, so you might read the verse: “The backslider gets bored with himself, but the godly man's life is exciting.”

I like that, for you know it is true. If you are bored and disinterested in life and you wonder why everything is sour, why don't you check up and see if you are backslidden. Why don't you check up and see if you are out of fellowship because a man who is walking in fellowship is living an exciting life. He isn't bored at all.

Who Can Make the Heart Clean?

The last thing we would say to you in this particular category is found in chapter 20 of the book of Proverbs, verse 9. It is an appropriate note with which to close our discussion, for if anybody can answer this question affirmatively, I would just as soon you didn't tell me because I don't have any respect for liars. That is what you would be if you answered this question affirmatively. Notice verse 9:

Proverbs 20:

9 Who can say, I have made my heart clean, I am pure from my sin?

As far as I am concerned, there are two questions there: “Who can say, I have made my heart clean…” You can't make it clean even though you might say you can. Job said, “If he washed with snow water until he was ever so clean, he would still have to admit he was dirty.” Everyone in the sound of my voice has to admit that he is an unclean individual.

Who can answer that second question? “I am pure from my sin,” which means “sinless.” The same thing that John was talking about in I John, when he said, “If we have no sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us.”

I am glad I learned a long time ago that I could not make my heart clean, but I learned somebody who could. His name is Jesus. He shed His blood that I might be clean, and I accepted the proclamation of that truth, yielded my heart and my life to it. Though I can't stand up here and say to you that I have made my heart clean, I can say to you that my heart is clean because it has been washed in the blood of the Lamb.

Conclusion

I can't stand up here and tell you that I am free from sin because the sin nature is still with me and will be with me until the Lord Jesus Christ takes me out of this world. That is the reason I have the temptations that I have, and that is the reason I yield to those temptations. That is the reason that I am a sinner saved by grace. The only difference between me and some other folk I know is that they are sinners, but they have not been saved. Thank God for His grace that takes care of sinners like me. I hope, if you haven't let the grace of God take care of your heart and life, you will, for His grace is able to save.


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