The more deeply we grow into the psalms and the more often we pray them as our own, the more simple and rich will our prayer become.
It is the glory of God to conceal a matter; to search out a matter is the glory of kings.
I am a sucker for BIG landscape pictures; the Grand Canyon, the Tetons, ocean sunsets, canoes on lakes, animals in their habitats, rivers and waterfalls, waves crashing onto beaches, birds flying high on cliffs… you get the idea. The range of landscapes I have on my computer's wallpaper varies from salmon-chasing bears to storm-surrounded lighthouses. Creation puts on a display… majestic, gorgeous, beautiful, and dangerous scenery all for the beholding. Describing such landscapes and scenes, there is no other book of songs and poetry that captures such grand descriptions of creation's finest as the Bible’s Book of Psalms.
A close second to seeing or reading about an amazing image is finding an inspiring quote. Wisdom, humor, instruction, truth, warning, love… all my favorite topics. I believe I got my appreciation for well crafted sentiments from my Dad who would often share profound quotes with my brothers and me growing up. The Bible’s Book of Proverbs has long held the #1 place for quotes on Life’s wisdom and instruction.
In all the Bible, the Psalms and then Proverbs hold the most references regarding the heart. The Bible Knowledge Commentary states, “Of all the books in the Old Testament the Book of Psalms most vividly represents the faith of individuals in the Lord. The Psalms are the inspired responses of human hearts to God’s revelation of Himself in law, history and prophecy.”1 Both books illustrate and paint pictures of the significance of the heart.
“I will praise you, O Lord, with all my heart; I will tell of all your wonders. I will be glad and rejoice in you; I will sing praise to your name”.
Psalm 9:1-2 (NIV)
David is the author of this Psalm and its occasion was to honor God as the vindicator of the nation, Israel.2 David writes of the heart often in the Psalms as the source or “wellspring” in which he offers either his praise or the place from which he declares his pain and grief.
In Psalm 37:3-4 David sings,
“Trust in the Lord and do good; dwell in the land and enjoy safe pasture. Delight yourself in the Lord and he will give you the desires of your heart.”
David connects desires and the heart. Many Bible teachers would have believers think that the desires of the heart are solely wicked, perverse, and not to be trusted. David is actually promoting that our desires are connected, if not housed in, our hearts and to trust God with our desires is a way to delight in our relationship with Him. After all, He is the one who cares for us completely.
Psalm 51:10 says,
“Create in me a pure heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me.”
David longs for an inward renewal at this deepest core place, the heart. David requests that it be uncontaminated. He knows that only God can make this deep cleansing happen, only God can make a heart pure. It doesn’t make sense for the scriptures to record something that is, or would be, unattainable or somehow too lofty to be accomplished. When David asks for a pure heart it is best to see it as an invitation for me to consider doing the same.
The book of Proverbs is a book of Wisdom; of moral and ethical instructions. A How To Manual inviting us to choose wise and godly paths, while at the same time instructing us how to avoid the pitfalls of unwise and ungodly choices.3
The Bible Knowledge Commentary actually says that,
“Proverbs were employed by parents and teachers to impart wisdom in a manner that made learning an adventure and a challenge4.”
The Proverbs frequently address sons. “My son(s)” is used 24 times. Proverbs in that day would be the equivalent to our home school curriculum today. What was entrusted to the father when he was a boy and tested by time as he grew up is now what he must offer to his son as the way to see life, live life, have life, and guard life. Proverb 3: 1-6 states,
“My son, do not forget my teaching, but keep my commands in your heart, for they will prolong your life many years and bring you prosperity. Let love and faithfulness never leave you; bind them around your neck, write them on the tablet of your heart. Then you will win favor and a good name in the sight of God and man.
Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge him, and He will make your paths straight.”
Here the son is warned of the negative consequences of forgetting, and encouraged with the positive of remembering (keeping) the father’s teaching. “Teaching” here translates in the Hebrew as torah5, the commandments and law of God. The term heart here is used as reference to a “library or storing house”. The promise is that God will actually move aside the obstacles and make the path straight.6 The path is actually excavated by God for a boy who is on his way to becoming a man, who chooses to lean on God as Father for direction and safety.
Proverbs 4: 4, 21, 23,
“he (my earthly father) taught me and said, ‘Lay hold of my words with all your heart; keep my commands and you will live.’… 'Do not let them out of your sight, keep them within your heart' … 'Above all else, guard your heart, for it is the wellspring of life.”
Solomon, the collector and author of Proverbs is talking about his father, David, as the one from whom he learned about life and how to live in the kingdom that was Judah. What Solomon learned from his father, David, he then in turn, generationally passes along as the truth. Chapter 4, verse 1, shows Solomon is speaking to his sons and quoting his father. Wisdom is personified in this passage and as a “person”, wisdom is invited to live in (take residence in) the heart. What a great image of the heart and of the relationship between father and son, sharing about the things that matter most vitally to life.
Proverbs 22: 17, 18 and 19b
“Pay attention and listen to the sayings of the wise; apply your heart to what I teach, for it is pleasing when you keep them in your heart and have all of them ready on your lips- So that your trust may be in the Lord.”
Solomon is training up his children. He instructs his sons that the heart is to be engaged (applied), perceiving, and processing what he is sharing. There is effort, work, strain, and application that can come from the heart. Solomon exhorts his children to be in the ready position! The connection is to be made that the effort will be worth it, and the affect of your life will be great.
I hope you will grab a concordance and begin to seek the buried treasure found in all of the Psalms and Proverbs and keep a sharp eye out for the 127 references in Psalms on the heart, as well as the 75 contained in Proverbs.
1 John F. Walvoord, Roy B. Zuck, “The Bible Knowledge Commentary: Old Testament ”, (Colorado Springs: Cook Communications, 2000), 779
2 Walvoord and Zuck, OT 2000, 791
3 Walvoord and Zuck, 2000, 901-2
4 Bible Navigator 3.0, Holman Software: “Bible Navigator- Special Academic Edition: History and Culture of the Bible- Manners”, copy write 2004
5 Bible Navigator: “International Standard Bible Encyclopedia”- Children
6 Walvoord & Zuck, 2000, 910-911