Recently I published an essay on some words of the Bible that can cause some confusion.
One word – concept or idea – I did not mention deserves an article to itself. This is the translated word, ‘heart’.
“Love the Lord your God with all your heart…” (Deuteronomy 6:5)
“Esau said in his heart…” (Genesis 27:41)
“… their heart failed them …” (Genesis 42:28)
“For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.” (Matthew 6:21)
“… out of the abundance of the heart, the mouth speaks.” (Matthew 12:35)
“… their heart is far from me.” (Matthew 15:8)
In the Old Testament – Hebrew – the word translated heart is לֵב which transliterates into English as ‘lav’ and pronounced as ‘lawv’. (Strong’s H3820 if one wishes to check.) The meaning of the word is
inner man, mind, will, heart, understanding; midst (of things); heart (of man); soul, heart (of man); mind, knowledge, thinking, reflection, memory; inclination, resolution, determination (of will); conscience; heart (of moral character); seat of appetites; seat of emotions and passions; and, seat of courage
I do not find it strange the word is rather misunderstood. (Reminds me of the word, “karma” – which means ‘destiny, fate, Cosmic reward, comeuppance or blind dumb luck – depending on speaker and context.)
It means ‘heart’ in the simplest sense. However, one must understand the ancient Semitic peoples believed the heart (as in blood-pump) was the organ that contained the thinking, deciding and emotion centers of a person. (Which is reflected in the Egyptian practice of carefully removing and preserving the heart in mummification, while the brain was removed and unceremoniously thrown in the trash.)
The Greek word – in the New Testament – is fairly similar. The Greek word is καρδία (Strong’s G2588) transliterated as ‘kardia’, pronounced ‘car-DEE-uh’. From this word comes the English word ‘cardiac’ and so forth. The Greek language used it to express
that organ in the animal body which is the centre of the circulation of the blood, and hence was regarded as the seat of physical life (or, as I prefer, ‘blood pump’); denotes the centre of all physical and spiritual life; the vigour and sense of physical life; the centre and seat of spiritual life; the soul or mind, as it is the fountain and seat of the thoughts, passions, desires, appetites, affections, purposes, endeavours; of the understanding, the faculty and seat of the intelligence; of the will and character; of the soul so far as it is affected and stirred in a bad way or good, or of the soul as the seat of the sensibilities, affections, emotions, desires, appetites, passions; of the middle or central or inmost part of anything, even though inanimate
One notes several of these meanings are figurative or metaphorical use.
In modern English, we use heart in many of the same ways as the Hebrew and Greek words. “Loving with all [one’s] heart”, the sporting team ‘… has heart …’, ‘I learned it by heart!’, ‘I don’t have the heart for …’, ‘The heart of the problem is…’ and we should not forget “Deep in the Heart of Texas”.
In my understanding, ‘heart’ is the basis of our viewpoints, rationale and reactions to the world.
In the book of he prophet Ezekiel (living during the Babylonian Captivity in the Seventh Century B. C.), the prophet is directed by God to say to the people of Israel, (Ezekiel 36:26) “I will give you a new heart, and I will put a new spirit within you. I will remove the heart of stone from your body and give you a heart of flesh.”
Since ‘heart’ refers to one’s inclinations and ‘point of view’, or basis for thinking; God is promising to give His people a new way of seeing everything; life, the universe and – everything. No longer would the people of Israel view the world from their own humanistic, limited and self-centered perspective, but from God’s Divine, Unlimited and Eternal perspective.
When I was considering this, I thought about computers and ‘operating systems’. The ‘operating system’ is what allows the computer to compute; it forms the basis for all the programs to work. Here’s the important part, not all programs will function with all operating systems. (In fact, a program – writing, spread sheet or games – is written for a particular operating system. Windows is Windows and MAC is MAC and never (hardly ever?) the twain shall meet. It is rumored that some operating systems are superior in function and error resistance to other systems.
So, merely befuddled, I submit to you all this is the modern analogy to ‘heart’. As a Christian, God changes your ‘operating system’. New ways of doing suddenly make sense. New ways of thinking appear. New ways of living are possible and attractive, even. The old ways of doing seem to make less sense, are not as desirable and sort of just fade out. Not, by the way like a computer where the change is instant and radical, but gently and over time.
God provides us not a ‘new understanding’, but a new way of looking at – everything. A new understand of who God is in reality, a new understanding of man’s place – and the individual’s place – in the universe, a new understanding of how man relates to God.
By the way, this is why some people – non-believers – will admit they don’t ‘get’ certain aspects of Christianity. The operating system they have isn’t compatible. However, the new operating system – not merely a patch or periodic upgrade – is available for free. Apply directly to God.