Pure in Heart continued
Solomon’s trouble was not with the people. He was popular and admired. They loved his liberal thinking and permissiveness. But that was precisely why he was in trouble with his religious convictions. They did not allow the clattering of his heart with foreign gods and wives. This cost his son the kingdom and the deterioration of his dynasty. Solomon ended up following his heart rather than the ordinances of the Lord. No matter how good the heart may feel, it cannot govern itself without principles or set laws. The heart does not always know what is best. It even amends laws at times to suit its own desires. A case in point was Moses’ permission for a man to divorce his wife. He had yielded to the hardening of the heart of his fellow men and violated the law of God. Jesus corrected this error by insisting that God had made the union between a man and a woman and no one could separate them except infidelity (Mt. 19:1-9).
The heart, according to Jesus, was like a storehouse. It could be filled with good or bad things (Lk. 6: 45). Within that storehouse was a pressure valve. What ever was more abundant opened the valve first. The mouth would only speak that which would come to the surface from a crowded heart (Mt. 12:34). It was also within that storehouse where either good or evil were allowed to take root and grow. The heart’s filter is conscience. Conscience is like radar that detects irregular activity or danger. Like radar, conscience must be connected to reliable guidelines that help us see right from wrong; that is, long before one lays a hand on a woman, one has planned adultery in his heart (Mk. 7:20-23). We shall have a chapter on conscience at the end of these series. The heart can also be deceitful. While the mouth utters praise, the heart can be somewhere else (Mk. 7:6). It can be stoned or hardened. The Greek verb is “poroo” and the noun is “poros”. It stands for a porous rock formed by volcanic ashes. It is hard but also brittle as glass. And so is the heart, volcanic, hard and brittle.
I have noted these characteristics in our grandchildren. I watched a five year old practically enjoying her brother cry his heart out over a toy. She would not share it with him. She pushed her eighteen-month old brother with her foot and remained heartless. But, in the presence of her parents, she cannot be sweet enough to her little brother. However, when she was made to give up a toy, she became as brittle as glass. The same characteristics were present in the other grandchildren. In fact, if they could not have what they wanted, they became volcanic and porous. Their outbursts were brief and so were their tears. They made up quickly and went on playing as if nothing had ever happened. This perhaps was what Jesus had in mind for adults. He held that offenses were unavoidable, but they should never be allowed to remain as stumbling blocks. Adults persist in filling those pores in their hearts with grudges, greed, covetousness, and a host of desires that violate God’s laws. But when those pores are kept open and clean, then the heart brings forth gentleness, lowliness, forgiveness and praise. Out of such a heart would flow “rivers of living water” (Jn. 7:38). Such a heart will have room for goodness, prayer and faith. It will focus on values that have eternal merit and not on things that perish and destroy.
The heart is like a musical instrument. It requires tuning, before and after every important performance. A master tuner is needed to keep the instruments at their highest level of performance. Now the tuners do not rely only on their ears but also on other musical instruments. And this is the way it ought to be with the human heart. It too requires other examples and teachers to keep it tuned. Far too often our heart has become accustomed to one tune and intolerant to new or other sounds. My father loved one kind of music and it had to come from an accordion. He purchased several instruments, but only one grandchild learned to play a few hymns. There were other grandchildren who played in orchestras, performed in front of large audiences and one was a music teacher, but they did not measure up to the one who played the squeezebox. When it comes to religion, all of us appear to hang on to one musical instrument or one type of music. It is comforting to be reassured that our faith is the best. But is it when our hearts have become dull and stale? I am retired and began to visit different churches and found predominantly heart-music. These were and now are almost everywhere emotional compositions that are out drumming all traditional sounds. Gone are the Lord’s Prayer, the Doxology, the Gloria Patri, the Apostle’s creeds, most of the old hymns and the Benedictions. If it were not for the prayers that are made in the name of Jesus one would not know that one has been in a Christian church. We have deliberately forced the new wine into old bags and destroyed both the bags and the old wine. We have forgotten that it was Jesus who said that both the old and the new wine must be allowed to exist and serve their purpose (Lk. 5:37-39).
One area of our heart that requires additional tuning is our conscience or our ability to discern. When people do not agree with us or sing our heart-felt songs, we outlaw them from our fellowship. Like the disciples of Jesus, we want to stop those who do not adhere to our way of life. We do recall that Jesus corrected his narrow – minded followers by saying, “Do not stop him, for whoever is not against you is for you”(Lk. 9:49). Those who brought a woman to be stoned for her indiscretions did not survive his suggestion, “If any one of you is without sin, let him be the first to throw a stone at her” (Jn. 8:7). A boy was brought before a judge for stealing a watermelon. When the lad was asked whether he had anything to say in his defense, he asked this question, “Judge, have you ever stolen a watermelon?” Oh, yes, there was laughter in the court. The judge remembered his youth. He did not laugh. He dismissed the case.
The pure in heart were not born pure nor were they endowed with special gifts that kept them pure. Neither were they pure because they were happy or content with their lot in life. It is doubtful that they would credit God with their failures or successes. They were not following the lame excuse that they were what they were because God made them thus. It is true that in the beginning God had made things that were good. However, since then, we have done a lot of altering. We have tried to improve on God’s creation and have ended up being what we are. We also have the power to change it back and turn things around. But that calls for admitting that we have made mistakes and must correct our lives before they can be productive. Look again at David who was considered being a man after the heart of God. According to our laws, he would be incarcerated for life. But according to God’s grace, he was allowed to repent and purify his heart. David was blessed because he knew how to put his heart in the right place.
During vacation Bible school, children placed their little hands on their hearts and pledged to the USA flag. Mary put her hand on her head while pledging allegiance. When the teacher asked why, she gave this answer, “Well, that’s where my heart is. Mother always puts her hand on my head and says, ‘Bless your little heart, Mary'” (Do.123). When Sir Walter Raleigh’s head was on the block, the executioner asked, “Does your head lay aright?” Mr. Raleigh replied, “It matters little my friend, how the head lies, provided the heart be right” (Wal. 1301). Is our heart right or is it only in the right place in our body? Does it condemn us or excuse us (I Jhn. 3:20-21)? Can it see what God wants it to be and do? Does it express on the outside what is on the inside? I have not always been able to resemble on the outside what I felt on the inside. Far too many Circumstances stood and still stand in the way of a merry heart. It is during such times that we are told to anoint and wash our faces, and pretend that everything is as it should be, when in reality it is not (Mt. 6:17). It has been a time, at least for me, to lean on the Lord more than at any other time. Until our hearts do, we shall not feel blessed of God nor shall we be dispenser of grace. And the most remarkable grace we can share is a clean heart. An unknown poet penned these words:
“We marvel at the silence that divides
The living and the dead;
Yet more apart
Are they who all life long
live side by side;
Yet never heart by heart” (Wal. 1300).