The contents of the heart

by Kathleen D Mitchell
21 April 1014

This week as I was riding on the Jerusalem train from one side of the city to the other, I had the opportunity to overhear a Jewish father speaking to his six-year-old daughter.  This man was teaching his daughter through the use of stories. It is well known that the Jewish people have been created to be both worshippers and teachers, in order to serve as a light to the nations. Many of us instruct through the art of sharing stories. Teaching through the method of storytelling comes naturally to us.  Certainly Yeshua was the greatest Jewish teacher of all. He frequently taught His disciples, and those of the population, who gathered around Him, through parables and stories. It's not surprising, then, that throughout the generations, rabbis have taught their students and their congregations through storytelling.  Please allow me to share with you the instructive conversation that over heard on the train here in Jerusalem just a few days ago.

Shortly after I sat down across from them, a Jewish father began teaching his daughter by sharing a story. The story began that two Jewish friends had been speaking together about how they wished they might win the lottery. Week after week these two friends would purchase their own lottery tickets.  Inevitably, when the results of the drawing were announced, neither one would be proclaimed as the winner.  One day the two men decided to strike a deal. They decided that each week they would individually buy a ticket. Then, if either one of them was announced as possessing the winning ticket, the two men would share the prize equally. In this way they both would have an increased chance of winning the financial reward. They shook hands and sealed the agreement.  Many months passed until one day Moshe heard some loud, frantic, pounding on his front door. When he opened the door there stood Rubin shouting excitedly. “Have you heard, Moshe?  Your ticket won the lottery!”  Moshe was beside himself with joy after hearing this news.  Rubin said, “The prize is $2 million.  According to our deal, both of us will be one million dollars richer.”  Moshe slowly shook his head. Looking very thoughtful, he said, “Ruben, I don't think our deal was for us to share the winnings equally. I remember that we were supposed to give a $500 gift to the one, whose ticket didn't win.” Rubin responded, “Are you sure, Moshe? I am almost certain that our arrangement was for us to share the winnings equally.” “No”, replied Moshe. “I am absolutely certain that we agreed on a $500 gift to the other.” “Well”, said Rubin, “If that's what you remember, I trust you to be an honest man. After all $500 is $500. That's better than having nothing but a losing ticket.”  Moshe energetically took Ruben's hand, and thanked him for being such a good friend … promising to give him $500 as soon as he received his cash prize.  Just at that moment, Ruben put his hand on Moshe’s shoulder: telling him how much he appreciated having been given the clarity in their arrangement, so that there would be no mistakes or misunderstanding between the two good friends. He then went on to announce that it was really his ticket that was the winner, not Moshe’s.  

After this story was told, the father on the train asked his small daughter this question: “Which man was more displeasing in the eyes of the Lord?” The little girl thought for a few moments and said, ”Abba, I think Moshe was more wrong.  He was the one who lied first about their deal. Because he lied, he suffered the consequences of loosing the money. His lie gave Rubin the opportunity to keep most of the money.”  The little girl's father then asked her if it was right for Ruben to trick Moshe in the way he did. The little girl thought for a minute and replied, “No … he was wrong too”. She went on to say that friends shouldn't deal with friends that way because that is not the way Ha Shem (the Lord) wants us to show love to each other.  Her father complimented his little girl’s understanding of both God's heart and of His desire for us to walk in that heart. While I was sitting there listening with great admiration, the father continued on in his teaching. He said, ”Sarah, sometimes it's very difficult to be certain of who is most right and who is most wrong in any situation. It's for this reason that the Lord wants His people to look with His eyes at the heart of the matter, and at the heart of the person. Our eyes and ears can be tricked and confused, so we can’t depend up them to give us the truth all the time.”

While I sat in my seat, absorbing the moment, and reflecting on the wisdom I just had heard, the father launched into yet another teaching moment. He spoke of the Passover, and of the bondage suffered by the Jewish people under the Pharaoh of Egypt. He spoke of how the Lord delivered us, His people, from that bondage. In the process of giving us our freedom, the Pharaoh of Egypt, and the nation of Egypt, suffered God's punishment. As the father spoke about this reality in our history, he presented his daughter with the situation that has been studied by countless Jewish rabbis over the centuries. The little girl’s father said, “It was the Lord Himself, who told His people, that because of our sin and rebellion against Him, we, as, a nation would go into slavery in Egypt for 400 years (Gen 15:13).  Slavery in Egypt was a God-ordered sentence for the Jewish people. Why then, when Pharaoh was following the mandate of the Lord for the Jews to be slaves in his country, was he and his nation punished so severely?  Was the Lord being fair?”  The little girl appeared to be slightly confused at the question. She said, ”Abba, Ha Shem is always fair. I don't know why he did that to Pharaoh, even though Pharaoh did some very, very, bad things.”  The wise father went on to explain that even though the Lord had commanded forth this period of slavery in Egypt, to refine His people, He also had the plan and the right to demand their release. Pharaoh was not willing to obey YHVH by releasing the Jewish people, when he was ordered to do so. In addition to this sin, Pharaoh and Egypt were punished for at least two other serious things. First, he and his nation had forgotten how the Jewish people, through Joseph, had become wealthy during the time of great famine … and how they had wonderfully survived as a nation through that horrific time … because of the hand of the Lord moving through Joseph. As the years passed the nation of Egypt flourished greatly because of the gifts and talents applied in Egypt by the Jews. “It is a great sin to forget the blessings of the Lord, which have come through God's chosen people to the nations” the father said. “Secondly, Pharaoh and the Egyptians became very jealous and greedy as years passed. They used and abused the Jews, rather than treating them fairly. They began to hate them for their prosperity and for their abilities. Their hearts grew cold and very cruel. Because of these two great sins of the heart … the one of forgetfulness and the other of arrogance to the point of cruelty and murder … Ha Shem had to judge Egypt in His righteousness.”  In his concluding comments, this father cautioned his daughter against forgetfulness … not only of the goodness of God, but also of those He has given to us, and used, to bring blessings into our lives. “We are to have an attitude of respect, honor, and gratitude for those, who have contributed to our lives and served the Lord's purposes on our behalf. If our hearts become forgetful they can become unloving and bitter.” He went on to caution his daughter a second time; saying, “A prideful heart can easily become a jealous heart. It can become suspicious, and from suspicion it can move into cruelty and rejection of someone, who has been important to us, and precious to the Lord.  Lord surely looks at the heart and judges by what he sees there before He judges our actions. Out of the heart the mouth speaks and the hands move. If the heart of the Lord is within us, then the word and the way of the Lord will arise from us; pleasing Him and blessing all those around.”

You can probably imagine what I was thinking and feeling when I arrived at the station where I was to get off the train. That precious father's teaching had been completed moments before my stop, but it continued to minister to my heart for many hours. Oh, how I want the words of that father, which reflect the truth of the Kingdom of Heaven, to indelibly impact my own heart and understanding! For a few minutes I would like to consider this man’s words of wisdom and their truth with you.

In the story of Moshe and Rubin, we might see some familiarity with an experience, or with a decision made, somewhere in our own lives. Have we ever tried to put someone at a disadvantage, so that we might gain something for ourselves? Have we ever tried to adjust the terms of a promise, of a covenant/contract, or of an arrangement, once we discovered that, as it presently stood, we would be at a bit of a disadvantage?  Have we ever tried to get out of an agreement or commitment, when we found out that it benefited another person more than it benefited us? Very clearly these are matters of the heart. The Lord calls us to have a heart of steadfast commitment and integrity. He calls us to abandon the flesh inclination toward greed and self-promotion. We are to reject the lust for things or for personal power, which might put us at risk to being tempted toward dishonesty or betrayal of another person. Our YES is to be YES, and our NO is to be No.  Before we enter into a contract or into a relationship, we are to discern the call of God regarding that arrangement.  Sometimes we cannot anticipate the challenges and implications of making commitments, but if the Lord is leading us to enter into a relationship or arrangement, then we must remain steadfast and faithful, until the Lord, Himself, removes us from it. The Lord does not look with favor upon those, who cheat others materially, or who undermine them, by seeking to replace or supplant them in opportunity, in authority, in position, or in ability.

In the matter of Pharaoh's heart, we find a huge warning for the nations and for us as individuals; regarding the people that the Lord has used to bless us. I believe that it was jealousy, competition, comparison, and covetousness that made the Egyptians forgetful; putting them on the path toward abusing the Jewish people.  Many times I've seen how these four characteristics of Satan's kingdom can slither into the hearts and into the minds of godly people. I believe these four sins entered into the hearts of many Gentile believers, so that they could turn a blind eye to the Holocaust of the Jews taking place all around them during World War II. Even today, I see anti-Semitism gaining power worldwide, because the hearts of human beings have forgotten the tremendous gifts that the Lord has brought to the world through the Jewish people. As their hearts are seized with jealousy, competition, comparison, and covetousness, their minds forget about the rich treasure the Jews have brought spiritually and materially to all of their lives. After all it was the Lord, Himself, who declared that through the Jews all the nations would be blessed … and He was not merely referring to the amazing medical, scientific, and technological discoveries the have come through Jewish minds and hands. The Jewish people have been the example that the Lord chose to set before the world, to illustrate His sovereignty, His reality, and His love.  All the hatred of hell has come against the Jewish people for being the vessels through which YHVH brought forth the Torah, the Scriptures, and the Messiah upon the earth. YHVH is the One who has caused this nation to endure against all odds, so that He might be made known to the world. Each one of us needs to reflect, under the power of the Holy Spirit; to examine where we have become forgetful, and where our hearts have become arrogantly suspicious or cold toward those of Jewish blood.  We must also examine our hearts and minds regarding every other person that the Lord has used to bring blessing into our lives. It may be parents. It may be spiritual authorities. It may be friends or relatives or total strangers. Where have we been prideful? Where have we been jealous? Where have we been become competitive to the point of undermining another person, so that we might advance or feel more secure? Where have we abandoned those, who have blessed us in our lives; operating under the prideful rationale that we don't need them anymore?  Where have we been abusive with our disdain and our slander, so that we could arise in our own personal kingdom to declare our own worth, status, and abilities? Where have we misrepresented the truth, so that we could more easily forget the responsibilities that accompany living in the truth?

As the father on the train shared with his daughter: “Is the heart of the Lord found within us, so that we are actively bearing the fruit of His way and word in our daily lives?”  How can we please Him with a selfish, arrogant, or hardened heart? Consider the following scriptures:

1 Samuel 16:7 (NASB)

But the LORD said to Samuel, “Do not look at his appearance or at the height of his stature, because I have rejected him; for God sees not as man sees, for man looks at the outward appearance, but the LORD looks at the heart.

Zechariah 1:14b-15

‘Thus says the LORD of hosts, “I am exceedingly jealous for Jerusalem and Zion.  “But I am very angry with the nations who are at ease; for while I was only a little angry, they furthered the disaster.”

These two texts contain a very serious warning for all of us. We are so easily inclined to judging and to evaluating and to rejecting others based upon our assessments of what they are saying and doing, before we look at their heart … before we ask for the Lord’s heart regarding another people or a situation. We are all imperfect human beings, who occasionally misspeak and misbehave. Rather than arising in quick judgment and condemnation … rather than rejecting and writing-off another person … we must consider the heart, the motive, and perhaps even the pain being carried within the heart of that individual. Our call is for compassion, and for truth as the Lord sees it. We must leave the judgment of the heart to the Lord. At the same time, there are times when we must apply appropriate boundaries, as indicated by the Lord, when they are needed. In all these things, the heart of the Lord operating within us must be leading us, rather than own own flesh. It is so vital that the Body of the Messiah come into this understanding and into this practice of love. Very soon the already deluded and cold hearts of the unbelieving nations (and even of the deceived church), will turn their full rage against Israel and against the Jews. We are already seeing the evidence of these things around the globe. Scripture tells us that the hearts of MANY will grow cold.  People will betray those close to them, in order to improve their own status or chance of survival. Will we be covenant keepers?  Will we be steadfast truth tellers? Will we both remember and also speak of the blessings that the God of Israel has given to the world through His chosen people? Will we allow the God of Israel to judge and to correct His own people in the way that He sees fit … rather than arrogantly assuming, decreeing, condemning, and punishing them for not complying with the will of the world?  Our Passover season for this year may be ending tonight; but the message that I heard on the train, regarding the justification of YHVH for judging Pharaoh and Egypt, must continue to grow in the days ahead.  The message of the story about Moshe and Rubin, also must be realized daily.  The Lord clearly knows the contents of our hearts. It would be well for us to explore that truth as well, before the unaccounted coldness, jealousy, deceit, pride, and the like, bump up against YHVH’s judgment.  He wants to bless us richly, so we must position ourselves in the heart posture, which will enable Him to freely bless us in the extravagant way He desires.  May the Lord lead us as we undertake in the matters of our heart. May He inspire us to walk in truth and in humility as individuals, as families, and as nations.  If we have His heart operating within us, we will display His Kingdom in all that we say and do.  In this, He will be well pleased.

The Cleft of the Rock Ministries