WHAT DOES IT MEAN TO HAVE THE LAW PUT INTO THE MIND AND WRITTEN ON THE HEART?
(Saturday, May 16, 2020)
“But this is the covenant I will make with the house of Israel after those days, says the LORD. I will place my law within them, and write it upon their hearts; I will be their God, and they shall be my people” No longer will they teach their neighbour, or say to one another, ‘Know the Lord,’ because they will all know me, from the least of them to the greatest.” (Jeremiah 31:33-34 and quoted in Hebrews 8:16). What does it mean to have the law put into the mind and written on the heart? This is the mark of the New Covenant, but what does it accomplish? Is it just for show? Is God just doing some unusual exercise in calligraphy? All indications are that the law is written on the mind and in the heart for a purpose. The divine intention is that the law would be perfectly fulfilled in each individual life. The purpose is that God’s people should be lovers of the law and doers of the law. In James 1:22 we read, “Do not merely listen to the word and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says.” Clearly those who only hear are self-deceived.
Isaiah 54:13, Jeremiah 31:33-34 and Hebrews 8:10-11 articulate, those who had the new law written on their hearts would know the Lord and would no longer need others to teach them. This describes our union with Christ. One with the Lord we have the mind of Christ (1 Corinthians 2:16). His Spirit dwells in us and teaches us all things (John 14:26). Nothing that God chooses to do is impossible for Him. Thousands of years ago He wrote His law on two tables of stone when He made the law covenant with the nation of Israel at Mount Sinai. Even while the law covenant with its basic commandments engraved in stone was still in effect, God told of His purpose to transfer his law to human hearts by means of a new covenant. In Isaiah 54:13, Jeremiah 31:33-34 and Hebrews 8:10-11 we further read, “Behold, the days come, saith God, that I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel, and with the house of Judah” [Two House theology primarily focuses on the division of the ancient United Monarchy of Israel into two kingdoms, Israel and Judah. The United Monarchy of Israel was traditionally dated between 1050 BCE and 930 BCE, during the reigns of Saul, David and Solomon. The United Monarchy of Israel became divided after King Solomon’s reign passed to his son Rehoboam in about 931 BCE. Rehoboam refused to grant the northern 10 tribes’ relief from Solomon’s taxation and they subsequently formed their own autonomous nation in the north, making Jeroboam their king. Thus, the divided into two kingdoms were: the Kingdom of Israel, including the cities of Shechem and Samaria (where 10 lost tribes- Reuben, Simeon, Issachar, Ephraim, Zebulum, Manasseh, Dan, Asher, Naphtali, Gad and some of the tribe of Levi inhabited) in the north; and the Kingdom of Judah containing of the city of Jerusalem (where tribe of Judah, tribe of Benjamin & some of the tribe of Levi inhabited) in the south.]. But this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, saith God: I will put my law in their inward parts, and in their heart will I write it; and I will be their God, and they shall be my people.” He will now write his commandments only on hearts that are receptive and responsive to Him, that open to him in lowliness and humility, that are pliable and willing to change under the impact of His words. So, it is not a question of whether God can write on your heart or not. The question is, May He? Will we permit it willingly? Matthew 7:6 says, He is not interested in having His truth reach even the ears of hypocritical and swinish men, much less their hearts. So, does our heart qualify as a suitable writing surface for God’s principles and precepts?
Now here’s the thing: The law hasn’t changed. Whether Torah is written in stone, on scrolls or in our hearts… the instructions to live a life Holy and pleasing to our LORD haven’t changed. The Way to Truth hasn’t changed. The Way to Righteousness hasn’t changed. The Way to Salvation through the blood hasn’t changed. God’s Mercy and Grace haven’t changed. God does not change! Then, what does it mean to have God’s word in our heart? It is God’s word dwells within us and is the guiding force of our lives: we know it, understand it, respect it, love it and practice it willingly.
2.0 HISTORY OF GOD’S LAW IN PEOPLE’S HEART
2.1 Old Covenant people were to have God’s word in their heart
“You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your might. And these words which I command you today shall be in your heart; you shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, when you walk by the way, when you lie down, and when you rise up” (Deuteronomy 6:5-7). To do this we must know God’s word. “You shall lay up these words of mine in your heart and in your soul” (Deuteronomy 11:18). We store valuable data carefully. Do we store God’s word in our heart and soul?
“For this commandment which I command you today, it is not too mysterious for you, nor is it far off. It is not in heaven, that you should say, ‘Who will ascend into heaven for us and bring it to us, that we may hear it and do it?’ Nor is it beyond the sea, that you should say, ‘Who will go over the sea for us and bring it to us, that we may hear it and do it?’ But the word is very near you, in your mouth and in your heart, that you may do it” (Deuteronomy 30:11-14). If God’s word is in our heart, it will also be in our mouth because someone with God’s word in his heart, speaks about God’s word. “The mouth of the righteous speaks wisdom, and his tongue talks of justice. The law of his God is in his heart” (Psalm 37:30, 31). “Your word I have hidden in my heart, that I might not sin against You” (Psalm 119:11). When God’s word is in our heart, we know what pleases and displeases Him, and we want to please Him. “My son, keep my words, and treasure my commands within you. Keep my commands and live, and my law as the apple of your eye. Bind them on your fingers; write them on the tablet of your heart” (Proverbs 7:1-3). God’s people were told repeatedly to write His word on their heart, but most did not do so.
2.2 Few under the Old Covenant had God’s law in their heart
Although God sent prophets to call them to repentance, although the faithful encouraged their unfaithful brethren to know the Lord, few of the physical descendants of Jacob had God’s law in their hearts.
Thus God proclaimed: “‘Behold, the days are coming,’ says the LORD, ‘when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah, not according to the covenant that I made with their fathers in the day that I took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt, My covenant which they broke, though I was a husband to them,’ says the LORD. ‘But this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel: After those days, says the LORD, I will put My law in their minds, and write it on their hearts; and I will be their God, and they shall be My people. No more shall every man teach his neighbour, and every man his brother, saying, “Know the LORD,” for they all shall know Me, from the least of them to the greatest of them,’ says the LORD. ‘For I will forgive their iniquity, and their sin I will remember no more’” (Jeremiah 31:31-34).
2.3 New Covenant people have God’s law in their heart
This prophesy was fulfilled by Jesus Christ who came to bring God’s New Covenant. Christ had God’s law in His heart: “Then I said, ‘Behold, I come; In the scroll of the Book it is written of me. I delight to do Your will, O my God, and Your law is within my heart’” (Psalm 40:7, 8). Because Jesus was sinless, He was qualified to bear the punishment for our sins, and to replace the Old Covenant with the New: “For He made Him who knew no sin to be sin for us, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him” (2 Corinthians 5:21). Under the New Covenant, by definition, God’s people consist of those who have God’s law in their heart: “For Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to everyone who believes. For Moses writes about the righteousness which is of the law, ‘The man who does those things shall live by them.’ But the righteousness of faith speaks in this way, ‘Do not say in your heart, “Who will ascend into heaven?”’ (that is, to bring Christ down from above) or, ‘“Who will descend into the abyss?”’ (that is, to bring Christ up from the dead). But what does it say? ‘The word is near you, even in your mouth and in your heart’ (that is, the word of faith which we preach)” (Romans 10:4-8).
And the Holy Spirit also witnesses to us; for after He had said before, ‘This is the covenant that I will make with them after those days, says the Lord: I will put My laws into their hearts, and in their minds I will write them,’ then He adds, ‘Their sins and their lawless deeds I will remember no more’” (Hebrews 8:10-12; 10:14-17). The law of the Lord written into your heart is your Father’s spiritual DNA. It is the seed of God birthed in you by the Holy Spirit. It’s Jesus himself. Shortly after the death and resurrection of Christ Jesus, at Pentecost, the old law covenant was replaced by the new covenant that brought with it an inward, heartfelt love of righteousness and increased knowledge of God. (Jeremiah 33; Galatians 3:24-25; Colossians 2:14; Hebrews 8:6-13) Only those anointed with God’s spirit to be of the heavenly class are taken into this new covenant, but all those who gain everlasting life on earth share the blessings from it, and even their hearts must be receptive to God’s commandments, just as before the new covenant existed faithful men could write: “Thy law is within my heart,” and “I have laid up thy word in my heart.” (Psalm 40:8; 119:11).
3.0 BAD THINGS SHOULD NOT BE PUT INTO THE MIND AND WRITTEN ON OUR HEART
Our degenerate society is always ready to write its godless opinions and materialistic principles on our hearts. How is this done? Mainly through the media, schools and social contacts. To have God’s law written on our hearts, bad influences must be avoided and resisted. We must be careful what we read, what we watch, what we listen to. We must be careful who our friends are: “Do not be deceived: ‘Bad company ruins good morals’” (1 Corinthians 15:33). We must also be careful who our virtual friends are. People in films can easily influence the way we think and feel. Even the “good guys” are often rather bad. Much of this evil influence is insidious. Immorality, for example, is presented on television, in films and at school as normal, acceptable behaviour, and is falsely portrayed as having no bad consequences. This is inspired by the devil. The Internet is also an enticing source of evil influence.
“Can a man take fire to his bosom, and his clothes not be burned?” (Proverbs 6:27). If we eat garbage, we get sick. If we fill our mind with garbage, we will have a sick mind. If we fill our heart with vanity, our life will be in vain. On the other hand, if we fill our hearts with the word of God, we will be healthy and strong spiritually. Let us rededicate our hearts to God. “Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly” (Colossians 3:16). May the word of God permeate our hearts to provide spiritual guidance for our lives. May God’s word be in our conversation. Let us teach His word to our children, talk of it when we are at home, when we ride in the car, when we lie down, and when we rise up. Let us write the commands of God on the tablet of our heart. Only then may we call ourselves the people of God.
4.0 HOW CAN WE HAVE GOD’S LAW IN OUR HEART?
Because God’s laws are for our good (Deuteronomy 10:13) we need to write them on our heart. A Bible on our bookshelf is not enough, or even in the memory of our phone. To guide us spiritually, God’s word must be in our heart. We must prepare our hearts to receive the word. In the parable of the sower, God’s word bears fruit only in good and noble hearts (Luke 8:15). Of King Rehoboam it is said: “And he did evil, because he did not prepare his heart to seek the LORD” (2 Chronicles 12:14). Ezra, on the other hand, “had prepared his heart to seek the Law of the LORD, and to do it” (Ezra 7:10). Our hearts must be receptive. God told Ezekiel: “Son of man, receive into your heart all My words that I speak to you, and hear with your ears” (Ezekiel 3:10).
The word of God must be received: “Therefore lay aside all filthiness and overflow of wickedness, and receive with meekness the implanted word, which is able to save your souls” (James 1:21). It is not enough to attend religious services each Sunday. The law of God must be written on our hearts. Paul told the believers at Corinth that they were a letter of Christ, “written not with ink but by the Spirit of the living God, not on tablets of stone but on tablets of flesh, that is, of the heart” (2 Corinthians 3: 2-3).
When God’s law is written on our hearts, it permeates our whole being: it influences our thoughts, words and actions. Following are some of the ways to have God’s Law in our heart:
4.1 Meditating in the God’s Law
We see first of all that the mark of the righteous man is that he meditates constantly on God’s law. The Bible says, “Blessed is the man who does not walk in the counsel of the wicked or stand in the way of sinners or sit in the seat of mockers. But his delight is in the law of the LORD, and on his law he meditates day and night” (Psalm 1:1-2). One of the words for meditation in Hebrew is ha-gah, which means “to mutter.” God desires that we literally talk to ourselves about his things. This helps establish them and makes them clearer in our minds. The other word for meditate is si-ach, to muse, or to ponder, brood and reflect on God’s law. It is common to hear Jewish people muttering and chanting to themselves as they are on journey or walk along the streets reading God’s Word. We see in Genesis 24:63 that Our father Isaac went out into the field to meditate in the evening. In Psalm 77:12, the Psalmist says, “I will meditate on all your works and consider all your mighty deeds.” Paul even instructed young Timothy to meditate on God’s things in order that his spiritual progress would become evident to all (1 Timothy. 4:13-15). Today the devil has almost stolen meditation from the believer. Meditation is so much a part of the New Age and Occult movements that believers tend to shun it, not realizing that it is the heritage of the righteous that has been stolen away and perverted.
If God’s word is in our heart it will also be at the heart of our day. We must redeem the time because the days are evil (Ephesians 5:16; Colossians 4:5). This means that we must spend our time profitably. Most of our day is unavoidably occupied with routine chores. Only a small part can be spent any way we wish. How do we use this prime time? Absorbing God’s word? Or do we waste it in self-indulgence? To allow God to write His word on our hearts we must attend services and Bible studies regularly. We need to read the Bible or listen to Bible recordings each day. If our daily schedule does not allow this, maybe we ought to rearrange our schedule. We might also dedicate larger blocks of time on certain days to taking God’s word into our hearts.
4.2 Loving the Law
The longest passage in the whole Bible is Psalm 119. In that Psalm, the writer extols the law of the Lord in several ways, and at the same time sheds light on what it means to love the law. He says, “Oh, how I love your law! I meditate on it all day long.” (Psalm 119: 97); “I hate double-minded men, but I love your law” (Psalm 119: 113); “I hate and abhor falsehood, but I love your law” (Psalm 119: 163). In many other places in Scripture the love of the law and obedience to it are extolled. In Psalm 37:30-31 we read, “The mouth of the righteous man utters wisdom, and his tongue speaks what is just. The law of his God is in his heart; his feet do not slip.” In Matthew 7:24-27, Jesus tells us: “So then, anyone who hears these words of mine and obeys them is like a wise man who built his house on rock. The rain poured down, the rivers flooded over, and the wind blew hard against that house. But it did not fall, because it was built on rock. But anyone who hears these words of mine and does not obey them is like a foolish man who built his house on sand. The rain poured down, the rivers flooded over, the wind blew hard against that house, and it fell. And what a terrible fall that was!”
If we get the love for God and the love for neighbour in our heart, the seat of motive and affection, then out of that heart we shall say and do what pleases God. But if we do not have love in our heart, right words and works will be unacceptable, will be hypocritical and doublehearted. (Psalm 12:2; Romans 13:8-10; 1 Corinthians 13:1-3; 2 Corinthians 9:7) But if God’s law of love is written in our heart it is a part of us, a part of our personality, an integral part of our seat of motive and hence it will be the source of our motives and the thing that will always move us to act properly.
Jesus is the living Law or word of God or word God. We cannot love him without loving his law. Jesus says in John 14:15, “If you love me, you will obey what I command.” This is speaking about the commands of the New Testament however the implications go deeper, and even include the Old Testament. If we count there are at least 1200 commands in the Bible (613 in Old Testament, and more than 1100 in New Testament). God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us. (Romans 5:5) God abundantly pours his love into our hearts by giving us the Holy Spirit.
4.3 Keeping the Law
However, after 3500 years of dismal failure, we must conclude that we cannot keep the law. The law of the Lord is perfect (Psalm 19:7) and we are imperfect. Thus, we cannot gain righteousness by keeping the law, because the simple fact is that we cannot keep it. Even the great Psalmist of Psalm 119, after extolling the law and boasting of how he loved it for 176 verses, ends with the sad words, “I have strayed like a lost sheep. Seek your servant, for I have not forgotten your commands” (Psalm 119:176).
When Jesus came to this earth he brought an end to law for righteousness as seen in Romans. 10:4. He did not, however, bring an “end of the law” as some would interpret this verse. He came as the absolute and complete fulfilment of the law (Matthew 5:17). As the promised “servant of God,” he totally pleased God with his life (Matthew 3:17;12:18). By his life, his death, and his glorious resurrection, he gave believers the dynamic power to keep his law. Paul says in Galatians 2:20: “I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.” In Philippians 2:13 he says, “for it is God who works in you to will and to act according to his good purpose.” So Jesus now lives in the believer and he will keep the law in us if we will only let him. Also, it should be pointed out that we are no longer trying to keep the law to gain God’s approval. Those who believe in Jesus have his approval and are already “justified” so far as the law is concerned (Romans 8:30).
4.4 Triumph of the Law
If there is one thing clear in Scripture, it is that the law of God will triumph in the end. We finally see Jerusalem as a place from which the law emanates. In the last days, it seems that humanity will cry out for God’s law: “Many peoples will come and say, ‘Come, let us go up to the mountain of the LORD, to the house of the God of Jacob. He will teach us his ways, so that we may walk in his paths.’ The law will go out from Zion, the word of the LORD from Jerusalem” (Isaiah 2:3). As earth’s struggle comes to a consummation, the Book of Revelation indicates that there will be two kinds of people left, the overcomers and the overcome. It is interesting that the thing distinguishing the overcomers is their devotion to the law, as well as their devotion to Jesus.
In Revelation 12:17, the overcomers are pictured: “Then the dragon was enraged at the woman and went off to make war against the rest of her offspring—those who obey God’s commandments and hold to the testimony of Jesus.” Also in Revelation 14:12 we read, “This calls for patient endurance on the part of the saints who obey God’s commandments and remain faithful to Jesus.” Obviously, these have learned what “the obedience of faith” in Romans 16:26 is all about. The Jewish tradition is a very practical one. That tradition seems to affirm: “if it does not work, what good is it?” What good is it to have Jesus writing the law on our hearts if it never expresses itself through our mouths, our hands and our feet? God’s universal standard of right and wrong is rooted in our human nature and knowable through reason and a well-formed conscience. We are like the man in James who looked into the mirror of the law and then walked away without doing anything about what he saw (James 1:23-25). He never let God clean off the smudges that he clearly saw on his face. God has now written his law in our hearts through his New Covenant, but have we really heeded the precious, life saving words he has written there?