God, Which Knoweth the Hearts

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In Acts 15, the church leaders were having an assembly to discuss and dispose of a matter which was causing stress in the brotherhood. First Peter, then Paul had taken the Gospel to the Gentiles. In general, there was much rejoicing and acceptance that God was receiving both Jew and Gentile in the new kingdom.
The large problem which had arisen was the matter of keeping the law. Many Jews had “convictions” that they should continue to maintain the teachings of Moses. Upon the strength of their past practice, they were promoting and teaching that Gentiles must do likewise. Herein was the problem. In the body, there was another group who were certain that this was unnecessary. This assembly had been called at Jerusalem to settle the issue.
In the midst of “much speaking,” the apostle Peter began to speak. No doubt, he was choosing words which he believed would provide closure to the issue and the meeting.
In his careful oratory, he recounted seeing the Holy Ghost fall upon the believers at Cornelius’ house. To him, something landmark had taken place. He saw God, “which "knoweth" the hearts” send the Holy Spirit to the Gentiles.
We could suppose that Peter was just using many words. However, this is not the first time a mortal had framed this testimony about the Sovereign One in the midst of significant spiritual matters. This is the same phrase which had been prayed at the ordination of Matthias (Acts 1).
What is the weight of the testimony- God which ‘‘knoweth’’ the hearts? What did Peter intend to accomplish by threading this truth into the midst of a weighty decision in the early church?
This statement is a truth which stands above the church and her people. For the Lord to move and send His Spirit into new believers because He "knoweth" the hearts is something that should speak to us today. This testimony of Peter teaches clearly that there are events (great and small) which happen directly because the Lord "knoweth" the hearts. To Peter, the church could say nothing about the Gentiles’ place in the body other than that they belonged because God had demonstrated so and He knows the hearts.
The Scriptures, both Old and New Testament, give numerous references to this truth: God knows the hearts. A study of these ought to make us feel small. In II Chronicles 16:9, the eyes of the Lord are running to and fro in the earth. For what do they search - deeds only? In Psalm 44:20-21, we learn that God "knoweth" the secrets of the heart. In Jeremiah 17:9-10, the human heart is judged to be devious and wicked. Who can know it? The answer is from heaven, “I, the Lord, try the hearts.” Another way to say it is, “He knows.”
In the Gospels, there are numerous statements where Jesus revealed that He knew what people were thinking. He knew Judas would betray Him even before Judas did. He prophesied that Peter would deny Him thrice before the cock would crow twice. What did Peter do? It’s obvious that Jesus knew Peter’s heart.
About the same time that Jesus was bringing the new Kingdom to earth, in another part of the world, there were some other earthly wise men making statements about life. Men like Socrates and Plato were dealing Greek philosophy. It is still around today.
One of their proverbs which remain in original and evolutionized forms was “Oh man, know thyself.” Of course, this proverb carries the additional assumption that we ought to know ourselves because we can.
This doctrine is supposed to be motivating, empowering, and enlightening. Most of life’s problems (at least the internal ones) are supposed to be the fault of not knowing ourselves enough. Therefore, through meditation and self-esteem we enlarge ourselves, we familiarize ourselves, and we empower ourselves by understanding or “knowing” ourselves. This is typically too much confidence in ourselves - too much pride.
Do a little comparison test. Start making a list of the memories of your life. Can you remember something significant from every year of your life? Can you remember one thing from every month? Every day? Now compare this list to the list of the Lord who "knoweth" the hearts. Whose is more comprehensive?
Think of all your choices. Why did you make them? Some were habitual; some were done after long agonizing deliberations. But why did you make them? Do you remember? Would you understand if you remembered? God who "knoweth" the hearts has the edge in these matters.
Now let’s think about our present. Each of us is in the middle of something: prosperity or adversity; health or sickness; anxiety or peace; happiness or sadness; energy or depression. Do we understand the pieces of our own today? So how does that match with God which "knoweth" the hearts? Again, He wins. He knows more than us.
But there’s a future ahead of each of us. Where are we headed? Where is America headed? Where is our church headed? How will the day of my death be? Will it be sickness, will it be a full old age? Now the Lord who "knoweth" the hearts has the advantage. He knows the end from the beginning. We know nothing.
So, what did the simple proverb in Peter’s speech at a minister’s meeting mean? Peter was establishing the way forward by acknowledging the facts of the present. The answer to the circumcision question was known by God who knows the hearts. By Him accepting the people without circumcision, (Peter saw the Holy Ghost fall upon them, and there is no greater witness of conversion than this), the church could know that Gentile circumcision was unnecessary. This is how they decided. They deferred to God, which "knoweth" the hearts.
So, what does it mean today? Reckoning that God knows the hearts at times of ordination brings great peace. When the lot is cast, there need not be fear. God who knows the heart is revealing His will. In like manner, we gain much security and peace in the big questions of the heart by trusting in this truth.
When we acknowledge that God "knoweth" the hearts, it brings great accountability. In our own church life, the term “accountability” has gained much more presence as our group uses accountability concepts to moderate our use of internet and the devices with it. There is good that has come with this accountability.
However, we have gone down the road long enough to realize again that human inter-accountability is not enough. Since there is no human who "knoweth" the heart, not even their own, holiness will only be our portion if we acknowledge and surrender to the great truth that God "knoweth" the hearts. In fear and quietness, we consider, we pray that God would reveal our own hearts to us. This is the accountability which kept Joseph in the hour of temptation from Potipher’s wife. It is the only accountability which absolutely holds us.
By first doubting the truth of “oh man, know thyself,” we open the door for the freedom of submission. A little doubt of our own self-knowledge harnesses our tongue. It opens us to be taught in home and church. It also sharpens our hunger for truth and fellowship in the Gospel.
True faith believes that the accurate view of self comes from God which "knoweth" the hearts. This is brought to us by the Holy Spirit, by the Word and by those who love us enough to ask us to change.
A self-assured person finds it hard to take time to read the Word. (What for?) A self-known person finds it difficult to be told what to do. (I don’t like and don’t need to be told). A man who knows himself will edge himself away from his church.
Let us rejoice in the freedom that we don’t have to figure out ourselves. Let us be glad that He who remembers more of our past, understands more about our present, and clearly knows our whole future has His eyes roving to and fro in the earth to shew himself strong on behalf of those whose heart is perfect toward Him.
Let us be thankful that He has given us all things richly to enjoy. Let us be committed to hearing His beloved Son.