Search me, O God, and know my heart! Try me and know my thoughts! And see if there be any wicked way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting.
Psalm 139:23-24
If God could describe your heart in one word, what word would He use? What if He could describe your heart in five words? What would they be? And would our description of our own heart differ from the description God makes of our heart?
If God counted the number of our thoughts, how many of those thoughts would be about goodness? About Him? About financial gain? About hobbies? About sports? How many of those thoughts would be of bad things? How many would be anxious thoughts?
Each of us, if asked to describe ourselves, our hearts and our thoughts, would probably first think of the best way to represent ourselves to others. In a group of people we trust, we might feel confident to share some of our inner-most thoughts, the struggles of our secret hearts. If God searched our hearts and our inner-most thoughts, He would know the most intimate things about us. Would these agree with the image we show to others, or to the image we have of ourselves?
The Scripture verse today presents us with a quandary. Each of us has some beautiful things in our hearts—we’ve all got abilities and talents, we’ve all done amazing acts of kindness and courage. Perhaps we have not done these things today, but in our life, at some point we’ve all done some very special things. The quandary comes from the fact that each of us has also done ungodly things in our lives. We’ve had bad thoughts, and those thoughts have manifested themselves into bad actions, that have harmed us and have harmed others. To ask God to search our hearts, depending on the day, is either a heart-warming proposition or a heart-shattering proposition. I don’t want God to search and know the bad things (newsflash—He knows everything). I want Him, however, to see the good things.
A good guide for every day of our lives is asking God to search out our hearts. If we wake up today with this thought, “search my heart today God,” it will motivate us to have clean hearts, to think good thoughts, and to do good and Godly things.
The Psalmist tells us that God is inescapable. In verses 7-8, he writes “Whither shall I go from Thy Spirit? Or whither shall I flee from Thy presence? If I ascend to heaven, Thou art there! If I make my bed in Sheol, Thou art there?” God goes with us whether we do good or do evil. God sees us at our best and at our worst. God resides in our hearts whether our hearts are filled with joy or with evil. We cannot escape God—We host Him at all times within us.
Let’s bring this to an example we can all understand. We have all invited people over to our homes for dinner or to socialize. When expecting guests, we clean, vacuum, dust, and make the house as presentable as possible. We notice things we wouldn’t ordinarily notice, as far as cleanliness, because we want to be the best host, we don’t want anyone to see any imperfections in our homes. The mere thought of that mortifies us and motivates us as well.
In the same way, God is our “guest” so to speak, as we host Him within us, within our hearts. Are we making every effort to honor Him? Do we make an effort to have a clean heart for God?
I remember as a child, when I would go to a friend’s house, when I would get home, my dad would ask me “did they have a clean home?” and “did they give you something to eat?” He didn’t ask us if we had a good time, or if they were nice people. I guess his thought was that if the house was clean and the food was good, they were nice people, because they were clean and generous. I suppose it is possible to have a messy house and still be a nice person, just as it is possible to have an impeccable house and be a terrible person, but these are probably more the exceptions than the norm.
One can be an outwardly virtuous person and have a filthy heart, in a spiritual way. And one can be outward unspectacular but have a pure heart. It is the disposition of the heart that God is most concerned with, its cleanliness, and its sense of generosity. This Psalm invites the Lord to search our hearts. This is indeed a statement we can only make with boldness and confidence, because even though we know that God resides in our hearts whether we want Him to or not, it is a bold thing to ask God to search our inner being. To boldly ask God to look within us presupposes that we are looking within ourselves, and we are presenting to God a heart that is clean and pure, not because of the good deeds that people see, but because of the thoughts, disposition, and motivation that people cannot see, which motivates us to the outward good and also inspires us to keep the inward unseen parts of us pure. When the Psalm concludes in verse 24, the Psalmist acknowledges that there is wicked in all people, but the people of God are confident and faithful enough to ask God to lead us in the way of everlasting light, if there is anything wicked in us. Only the faithful Christian who strives to have a pure heart will make such a humble request of God. And this is God’s hope for each of us, to, with soberness and humility, search our own hearts, and ask God for Him to search them as well, and as we find any wickedness in them, to turn to God in repentance and ask Him to lead us unto our salvation, “in the way everlasting.” (v. 24)
O Lord, Thou hast searched me and known me! Thou knowest when I sit down and when I rise up; Thou discernest my thoughts from afar. Thou searchest out my path and my lying down, and art acquainted with all my ways. Even before a word is on my tongue, lo, O Lord Thou knowest it altogether. Thou dost beset me behind and before, and layest Thy hand upon me. Such knowledge is too wonderful for me; it is high, I cannot attain it. Whither shall I go from Thy Spirit? Or whither shall I flee from Thy presence? If I ascend to heaven, Thou art there! If I make my bed in Sheol, Thou art there! If I take the wings of the morning and dwell in the uttermost part of the sea, even there Thy hand shall lead me, and Thy right hand shall hold me. If I say, “Let only darkness cover me, and the light about me be night,” even the darkness is not dark to Thee, the night is bright as the day; for darkness is as light with Thee. For Thou didst form my inward parts, Thou didst knit me together in my mother’s womb. .I praise Thee, for Thou are fearful and wonderful. Wonderful are Thy works! Thou knowest me well; my frame was not hidden from Thee, when I was being made in secret, intricately wrought in the depths of the earth. Thy eye beheld my unformed substance; in Thy book were written every one of them, the days that were formed for me, when as yet there was none of them. How precious to me are Thy thoughts, o God! How vast is the some of them! If I would count them, they are more than the sand. When I awake, I am still with Thee. O that Thou wouldst slay the wicked, O God, and that men of blood would depart from me, men who maliciously defy Thee, who lift themselves up against Thee for evil! Do I note hate them that hate Thee, O Lord? And do I not loathe them that rise up against Thee? I hate them with perfect hatred; I count them my enemies. Search me, O God, and know my heart! Try me and know my thoughts! And see if there be any wicked way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting. Psalm 139
Keep your heart as pure as possible today! Remember that God resides within each of us!