Friday, November 21, 2008

God Looks at the Heart

After examining what the flesh values, such as youth and appearance, Romans 12:2 reminds believers to not conform to the patterns of this world. While many parts of God’s creation are pleasing to the human eye, God’s perspective proves different.
First Samuel 16:7 explains: “Man looks at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.”

Obviously, this is not referring to the muscle that pumps blood throughout the body, but to the soul and reflection of Christ within a godly woman. First Kings 8:39 says that God is the only one who knows the hearts of all mankind. The Lord even goes as far to search “all hearts and understands every intent of the thoughts” (I Chr 28:9). The Scriptures are very detailed as to what the Lord is looking for in a beautiful heart, so God has outlined His specific checklist for being beautiful in His eyes.

Each piece of a beautiful heart is woven together with God’s clever craftsmanship within His word to describe beauty in the eyes of the supreme Beholder. Each characteristic of a beautiful heart in the Bible matches the description and instruction to worthy women in the passages God intended especially for His daughters. God created men and women equal, but He made them different and clearly defined His plan for biblical womanhood throughout His word.

Today’s recurrent message of the feminist’s “independent woman” directly contradicts the reality of God’s design and gift of femininity. The woman He desires His daughters be and the heart He favors knows His word, keeps His commands, and demonstrates love, wisdom, purity, gentleness, compassion, and humility.

First, a beautiful woman of God knows her Father’s Word. Developing intimacy with God involves spending time with Him and seeking to know Him as He knows His children. Envision a baby girl in her daddy’s arms. At this age, she can only understand His love and strength. As she gets older, she can understand him in many roles, such as her authority and her provider. A relationship with Christ is the same. By becoming familiar with His teachings, a beautiful woman can fully grasp the Heavenly Father’s teachings.

Psalm 119:11 encourages believers to treasure His word in their hearts to prevent sin. Therefore, the responsibility is more than just knowing what the Bible says. Biblical women should model His word in daily life. Deuteronomy 30:14 says, “But the word is very near you, in your mouth and in your heart, that you may observe it.” Ultimately, women of God know what pleases and displeases their Father and respond with respect, or fear of the Lord.

A biblical woman’s fear of the Lord should be praised above charm and beauty (Prov 31:30). Earlier in the passage, it is written that a worthy woman is blessed by her children and praised by her husband (Prov 31:28). Being praised by those closest to her illustrates her authenticity. She demonstrates her fear of the Lord with “chaste and respectful behavior” (1 Pet 3:2). Only a woman who had sought to embrace her role within Scripture would be able to receive such praise.

Along with being able to discern right from wrong, a woman God would deem as beautiful accepts the duty of keeping His commands. Deuteronomy 5:29 reveals God’s desire for His children to have “such a heart in them, that they would fear Me and keep all My commandments always.” So in addition to her fear of the Lord, she desires to keep His commands always. This does not mean she keeps the commands that are easy to follow. Regardless of the level of difficulty, Abba Father has commissioned His daughters to remain faithful. As God searches a woman’s heart, He may even test her to examine her heart and her faithfulness to keep His commands (Deut 8:2).

God knows His children’s specific weaknesses, and in love, He cautions about them in His Word. While He warns man against such things as being “double-tongued or addicted to much wine,” He cautions woman against becoming “malicious gossips” (1 Tim 3:8;11, Tit 2:3). Most women can testify that this is a daily battle. Deborah Tannen, regarded as an expert in gender and linguistics, notes that women use gossip as a means of building relationships. By communicating something that she would not necessarily ever say out loud or in front of a large group, a woman discloses something personal, producing a closeness that women desire in relationships. However, God, the ultimate authority, instructs to not “associate with a gossip” (Prov 20:19). No matter the struggle, when God’s trials come, a God-fearing woman knows what He has called her to do and should follow His instruction.

According to Jesus, the greatest and foremost commandment is to “love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind” (Matt 22:37; Mark 12:30; Luke 10:27; Deut 6:5). In the next few verses of all the New Testament passages sited above, Jesus states the second greatest commandment is to “love your neighbor as yourself” (Matt 22:39). Not only does the Lord desire His daughter’s entire heart, but He desires her heart first; He longs for it to be full of His love and for her to pour out that love on others.

In His perfect plan, He uses this beautiful trait of love in His daughters so that others may come to know Him through knowing her. The challenge has often been presented to believers of examining if one were put on trial for being a Christian if there would be enough evidence for conviction. Surely, keeping the greatest commandment and possessing a loving heart would be critical evidence.

Those who choose not to keep His commands will be ruined while “the wise of heart will receive commands” (Prov 10:8). Therefore, a beautiful woman is also wise. God’s academic agenda has a completely different location and set of priorities than what man perceives as wisdom. While the world is consumed with head knowledge, God is concerned with heart knowledge. The name most associated with wisdom in the Bible is King Solomon. First Kings 3:12 shows that God gave Solomon a “wise and discerning heart” and I Kings 10:24 says “all the earth was seeking the presence of Solomon, to hear his wisdom which God had put in his heart.” Specifically, James 3:17states, “The wisdom from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, reasonable, full of mercy and good fruits, unwavering, without hypocrisy.”

From that description, man’s definition of intelligence looks much easier in comparison. However, James 1:5 says, “But if any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to all generously and without reproach, and it will be given to him.” For example, the passage in Proverbs 31 referred to so many times describing a worthy woman was an intense word given to King Lemuel by his mother (Prov 31:1). This God-breathed advice comes to the hearts of women straight from the heart of none other than a biblical woman. God knew and understood the need for women to use words to build relationships; He created His daughters to be this way.

Ponder for a moment on the impact of this passage in Scripture and the detailed insight God delivered through a woman who more than likely had never received formal education. This is the type of speech that will build relationships to replace gossip among sisters in Christ! Rather than corrupted conversation that tears another down, her pure perception continues to encourage and challenge women of the Word.

Just as Paul taught Timothy years later, this king’s godly mother modeled how the goal of instruction is “love from a pure heart and a good conscience and a sincere faith” (I Tim1:5). Purity is a distinguishing characteristic, separating beautiful women of the world from beautiful women of the Word. In the instance of the Persian kingdom of Ahasuerus, there is a distinct difference between Vashti and Esther. In old Persian, Vashti actually translates to mean “beautiful woman.” When the king sought to find a queen to replace her, he obviously desired more than physical beauty. He requested for “beautiful young virgins” to be brought to his palace (Esther 2:2). Purity set Esther apart, and accompanied with wholesomeness and modesty, it continues to separate biblical women from worldly women.

Matthew 5:8 illustrates the honor that accompanies a pure heart, revealing that the pure in heart will see God. However, John 1:18 says, “No one has seen God.” In her book on the beatitudes, Dorothy Patterson beautifully states that God’s divine character can be seen as He grants spiritual discernment. “The God who is
invisible becomes visible through the Son.” Therefore, a biblical woman realizes in order for Him to increase, she must decrease (John 3:30). Jesus is the only one to ever walk this earth without sin in His heart, so to acquire a pure heart, a beautiful woman must no longer live, but let Christ live in her (Gal 2:20). While God created physical beauty to be enjoyed, the Lord warns against beauty being marked by merely physical appearance, like Vashti.

Rather, the Father encourages “the hidden person of the heart, with the imperishable quality of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is precious in the sight of God” (1 Pet 3:3-4). While external beauty is passing, her gentle spirit is permanent. Many feminists protest against the teaching of gentleness, manipulating the term to imply frailty. Rather, gentleness manifests a tender strength. “Meekness is not weakness…It is submissiveness under provocation, the willingness to suffer than to inflict injury. The meek [or gentle] person leaves everything in the hand of Him who loves and cares.” Therefore, a biblical woman puts full trust and faith in her Lord rather than trying to live life on her own.

Unbelieving (and some believing) feminists cringe at the mention of woman giving up her “right to independence” for total dependence on anyone, including God. However, a biblical and beautiful woman realizes that her God is all-knowing, all-powerful, and almighty. She trusts in the fact that she is clothed in strength that comes from the Lord. A worthy woman is bound “with strength and makes her arms strong, and she is not afraid of the snow for her household” (Prov 31:17; 21;25). Repeating themes of strength, boldness, and courage in this passage eliminate weakness from her image. She realizes she has been chosen of God and accompanies her heart of gentleness with complementing attributes, such as compassion and humility (Col 3:12). She humbles herself, recognizing that she is subservient to Almighty God. Jesus said, “Learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart” (Matt 11:29). If Jesus, who possessed God’s power and lived a sinless life, responds to God in meekness, how much more should His sinful children submit to Him?

Reflect on the hours leading to Christ’s crucifixion. Jesus did not resist or fight back. As prophesied, Jesus was led like a lamb to slaughter; “He was oppressed and He was afflicted, yet He did not open His mouth” (Is 53:7). In place of resentment, Jesus offered compassion, requesting that God forgive them because they did not know what they were doing (Luk 23:34).

Compassion is defined as “a feeling of deep sympathy and sorrow for another who is stricken by misfortune, accompanied by a strong desire to alleviate the suffering.” Scripture teaches to take this desire that comes with compassion and respond with mercy through serving and giving to God and others. Prov 31:20 describes, “She extends her hands to the poor, and she stretches out her hands to the needy.” As a genuine and generous servant, a beautiful woman doesn’t just offer care at her convenience. She extends and stretches her hands, and she even “works with her hands in delight” (Proverbs 31:13). She goes out of her way to joyfully express sensitivity and to invest in others. As stated in 2 Corinthians 9:7, “Each one must do just as he has purposed in his heart, not grudgingly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver.”

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