Externals and Internals
Search me, O God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. See if there is any offensive way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting. (Psalm 139:23-24)
How much do externals matter to you? If your answer is, ‘Not at all’, you’re certainly an exception! Externals drive so much of life today and keep our economies going. Wearing ‘designer labels’, having the latest fashions, updating the car to the latest model, being seen with ‘the right people’ or in ‘the right places’; all of these are externals that most of us embrace at times. What a contrast to how God sees things! For God is not interested in externals; what matters to him is the heart.
Throughout Scripture, God prioritizes the heart over everything. So, a bad heart always leads to judgment; like when he saw ‘how great man’s wickedness on the earth had become, and that every inclination of the thoughts of his heart was only evil all the time’ (Genesis 6:5) and so had to send the flood; or that ‘these people come near to me with their mouth and honour me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me’ (Isaiah 29:13) and so had to send his people into exile.
But a good heart always opens the door for God to act; like when Samuel, when looking for King Saul’s replacement, was reminded, ‘Do not consider his appearance or his height, for I have rejected him. The Lord does not look at the things man looks at. Man looks at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart’ (1 Samuel 16:7); or when Josiah was told that it was ‘because your heart was responsive and you humbled yourself before God’ (2 Chronicles 34:27) that his prayers were heard.
Having a good heart isn’t about being perfect. After all, David was seen by God as ‘a man after his own heart’ (1 Samuel 13:14), and yet he failed dismally many times in life. Having a good heart is about knowing that it’s the inside that matters more than the outside, and letting God in to deal with it, just as David did in today’s introductory prayer. It’s a prayer that the wise among us will still pray today.
Above all else, guard your heart, for it is the wellspring of life. (Proverbs 4:23)
Copyright © 2017 Martin Manser and Mike Beaumont