FFF 8:12 (Dec 1962)
The frequent mention of the heart in Psalm 119 would imply that some serious consideration ought to be given to this, the very centre of our moral beings. The heart in that wonderful Psalm is mentioned some twelve times.
That the heart is the centre of the moral being, the source of character, and the seat of the will, affections, and emotions, is readily conceded. Consequently, the heart is the citadel of life, and as such it should be carefully guarded. Solomon wrote, “Keep thy heart with all diligence; for out of it are the issues of life” (Prov. 4:23). Ezra, we read, prepared his heart to seek the law of the Lord and to do it, and to teach it. Solomon was given a wise and understanding heart, and also given wisdom and largeness of heart (1 Kings 3:12; 4:29).
It is taken for granted, of course, that each reader has accepted the Lord Jesus as his own personal Saviour.
In this beautiful Psalm the first mention of the heart is in verse 2. This reference expresses the desire of a disciple, a learner. “Blessed are they … that seek Him (the Lord) with the whole heart.” Perhaps in earlier days we were more eager to read God’s Word and to learn His ways than we are today.
In the second reference (V. 7), we read, “I will praise Thee with uprightness of heart.” God wants His people to be upright in character. The late Robert Telfer used to speak about “six o’clock Christians.” He meant that as the hands of the clock are straight up and down at that hour, God wants His children to be straight up and down.
It is no vain repetition that in verse ten, we again read, “With my whole heart have I sought Thee: O let me not wander from Thy commandments.” The Lord does not appreciate a half-heartedness in divine things. When first saved, we delighted to sing, “All for Jesus, all my being’s ransomed powers.” Has this seeking after God, this setting of the mind on things above, increased or decreased with the passing of the years? Let us remember, an idle heart is the devil’s workshop.
The eleventh verse contains another reference to the heart, “Thy Word have I hid in mine heart, that I might not sin against Thee.” God’s Word is a good thing, in my heart is a good place to hide it, that I might not sin, is a good purpose. Joseph exclaimed in a moment of severe temptation, “How then can I do this great wickedness, and sin against God?” (Gen. 39:9). The Word of God in the heart will likewise preserve us from sin and lust.
“I will run in the way of Thy commandments,” wrote the Psalmist, “when Thou shalt enlarge my heart” (V. 32). Enlargement of heart in this connection means to arouse the affections. The Lord said to His disciples, “Love one another.” There are many similar allusions to that old commandment in the writings of the Apostle John. The Apostle Peter in like manner refers to it in his First Epistle; he writes, “See that ye love one another with a pure heart fervently” (1 Pet. 2:22). He also writes, “Be ye all of one mind, having compassion one of another, love as brethren, be pitiful, be courteous” (1 Pet. 3:8).
The Psalmist makes another strong assertion in verse 34, “Give me understanding, and I shall keep Thy law; yea I shall observe it with my whole heart.” The phrase, “with my whole heart” would equate the current one, “With an eye single for God’s glory.” That indeed is the manner in which we ought to observe God’s Holy Word.
The thirty-sixth verse suggests that when the heart is inclined to keep God’s Word, it will not indulge in covetousness. “Incline my heart unto Thy testimonies, and not to covetousness.” Oh, the danger in this sin! David said of the judgments of the Lord, “More to be desired are they than gold, yea, than much fine gold; sweeter also than honey and the honeycomb” (Psa. 19:10).
“I intreated Thy favour (“Face,” reads the margin) with my whole heart.” The Psalmist is reviewing some heart experience in the past in this verse (58). In this connection he also states, “I thought on my way and turned my feet unto Thy testimonies.” This indeed is the proper manner to correct our wandering feet, to examine our ways, and to seek God’s face in communion, with all the heart.
The reference to the heart in verse 69 seems to imply a stout heart. “The proud have forged a lie against me: but I will keep Thy precepts with my whole heart.” Although men opposed him, and made life difficult for him, with a stalwart heart he intended to pursue the precepts of the Lord.
The connotation of the word “statutes” suggests the permanent character of the Word of God. In verse 80 the Psalmist longs for a heart immovable in the permanent Word of God. “Let my heart be sound in Thy statutes; that I be not ashamed.” Of such a condition of heart none need be ashamed. E. M. Sager once said, “Brethren, be firm on the fundamentals; be pliable on incidentals or non-essentials.” Such steadfastness in the things of the Lord is very needful today.
In reading verses 145-146 one wonders to what danger the writer was exposed: “I cried with my whole heart: hear me, O Lord: I will keep Thy statutes. I cried unto Thee; save me.” One recalls with appreciation the advice of an aged Christian who had been in Christ for over sixty years: “When fear grips your heart, let God grip your hand.”
How frequently throughout these many references we have God’s Word in one form or another definitely influencing the heart and life of the child of God! In this, the last reference, the Word of God produces a holy awe, a reverential fear. One has the feeling that not too many, even among the Lord’s own, can truthfully say, “My heart standeth in awe of Thy Word. I rejoice at Thy Word, as one that findeth great spoil” (V. 161-162).
“Seven times a day do I praise Thee,” says the writer of this Psalm (V. 164). Our meditations upon the many allusions to the heart should lead us to praise God and that many times a day. Seven is the perfect number in Scripture; if our hearts are in accord with the standards of the Word of God, perfect praise will ascend to the Lord.
May God’s Holy Word be the greatest influence in our hearts and homes until the day dawn and the shadows flee away. In view of the chaotic condition of world affairs, let us often recall the words of the Master: “Let not your heart be troubled: ye believe in God, believe also in Me. In My Father’s house are many mansions: if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again, and receive you unto Myself; that where I am, there ye may be also” (John 14:1-3).