Understanding the heart...Part 2

When you ask people what they think the heart is you'll get a range of responses from "it's that organ that keeps your body going and your blood flowing" to "it's the seat of our emotions, especially of love." Walk into any Hallmark card shop around Valentine's day and you'll understand what our Western culture believes about the heart. To us the heart is love, the seat of our emotions, but to the ancient hebrews it meant much more. The word used over 500 times in the Old testament for heart is "lev." It is first used in Genesis when speaking about God's heart, and continues to be used to portray the seat of not only emotion but of the will, the inner man, from which all thought and actions come. It can also be described as our essential nature, the thing that is deeper than the mind. The problem is that our essential nature is flawed, wicked, deceitful, cunning. Our old heart needs replacing. Psalms 51:10 says "Create in me a pure heart (lev), O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me." However, the word for "create" here needs special attention. Usually the Hebrew word used for "create" is "Yatsar" which means to form or fashion pre-existing material, much like you would play dough. But that is not the word used here. The Hebrew word used specifically in this verse is "bara," the same word that's also used in Gensis 1:1 when God is creating the universe. It means to form or fashion out of nothing. So instead of fixing or repairing our old self, our old heart, God has fashioned a brand new one for us. He has literally taken out our old one and replaced it with himself. The Hebrew letters often form word pictures, it's part of how their language works and many Rabbi's would use these word pictures to get across important biblical truths. The two letters used for the word "Lev" are Lamed and Beit. Lamed carries the picture of a shepherd's staff and points upward as the tallest letter. Beit has the picture of a house or dwelling place. So the word picture for the heart is literally a "dwelling place for the shepherd." Wow!

I want to delve into this a bit deeper both for myself and for you, so stick with me here. The original Hebrew is important. The Hebrew letter Lamed can also be broken down into three smaller parts:

  • the yud, or smallest Hebrew letter, symbolizing the head, the mind, the intellect

  • the chaf, which represents the body physically

  • and the vav, which connects the two previous and looks like a hook

So the word picture here is also that the heart is the pathway from the body to the mind. This goes back to what the Hebrews believe about the heart, the inner man, the seat of all things unconscious, that which is deeper than the mind, the place where all thought and action flow out of.

Okay, that was a bit boring, even for me, but important because now that we know what the heart is, we can move forward with how utterly crucial it is to your relationship with God and daily life, and why it is the main target for the enemy in this war we're born into.


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