Inner Formation of the Heart

Part 3: Old Testament Emphasis on the Heart

    Posted by Klaus Issler on October 27, 2009

            Jesus Christ’s teaching about the centrality of inner heart formation is really not new information. This teaching is an amplification what was taught much earlier in the Old Testament Hebrew Scriptures. According to Dr. Waltke, “’Heart’ (leb/lebab) is the most important anthropological term in the Old Testament . . . but the English language has no equivalent. It occurs 46 times in Proverbs and 858 times in the Old Testament” (p. 90).


(Quotations are from Bruce K. Waltke, The Book of Proverbs: Chapters 1-15, NICOT, Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2004).


Consider these two passages from the Book of Proverbs.


Proverbs 4:23: “Above all else, guard your heart, for it is the wellspring of life.”


“This direction or bent of the heart [wise, pure, or perverse] determines its decisions and thus the persons’ actions. . . . Since the heart is the center of all of a person’s emotional-intellectual-religious-moral activity, it must be safeguarded above all things ([Prov] 4:23)” (p. 91-92).     


 “It . . . is the heart that governs all activity” (p. 298)


Proverbs 7:1-3:  “My son, keep my words and store up my commands within you. Keep my commands and you will live; guard my teachings as the apple of your eye. Bind them on your fingers; write them on the tablet of your heart” (emphasis added).


“ Most importantly, however, the figure [“write on the tablets of your heart”] connotes their indelible impression on one’s character. As they are assimilated as a way of life within a person’s governing center, that person’s character changes and develops so that one keeps [the commands] from within” (p. 369).


            Deep spiritual formation requires that we attend to the core of our self—our heart—and yield to God’s good work within.

[Bible quotations are from the TNIV, unless otherwise noted]

We welcome your comments about this musing by going here.

Dr. Klaus Issler