March 16, 2022
Author: Pastor Bernard Ibrahim
March 16, 2022
“If there is famine in the land, if there is pestilence or blight or mildew or locust or caterpillar, if their enemy besieges them in the land at their gates, whatever plague, whatever sickness there is, whatever prayer, whatever plea is made by any man or by all your people Israel, each knowing the affliction of his own heart and stretching out his hands toward this house, then hear in heaven your dwelling place and forgive and act and render to each whose heart you know, according to all his ways (for you, you only, know the hearts of all the children of mankind), that they may fear you all the days that they live in the land that you gave to our fathers."
I Kings 8:37-40
This passage and the phrase I’d like us to focus on is really a lot about the heart. More specifically, God knows the hearts of all the children of mankind. You see it there, it is almost a refrain—it may be in your translation in parenthesis. “…According to all his ways,” v. 39, “for you, you only”—Solomon talking about God—“know the hearts of all the children of mankind.” Notice that he is using this knowledge about God, which is He knows our hearts. He knows the hearts of every one of us. This is a truth that has been taught since the beginning, from Genesis into the New Testament.
There is no doubt that the Lord knows the hearts. You remember—I’ll just give a few examples—right before the flood, before we are introduced to Noah. Genesis 6, “The Lord saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth.” (v.5) That statement you could attribute to physical, outward words and actions that the Lord observed, that any human could have observed. But there was more to it than that. “And that every intention of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually.” (Genesis 6:5) That is something only God can do. We cannot discern intentions. We barely can understand our own intentions, let alone the intentions of others that are in their hearts.
In I Samuel 16 we have Samuel going down the lineup of all the sons, David’s brothers the sons of Jesse. “But the Lord said to Samuel, ‘Do not look on his appearance or on the height of his stature, because I have rejected him. For the Lord sees not as man sees: man looks on the outward appearance, but the Lord looks on the heart.’” (v. 7) In Proverbs 15: “Sheol and Abadoon lie open before the Lord.” Hell and destruction are obvious to the Lord. “How much more than the hearts of the children of man!” (v. 11)
There is another example of prayer is in Acts 1:24. This is really where it is inspirational for us. You may remember the context. The Lord has ascended into heaven. The disciples are in the upper room. Right before the Holy Spirit comes down, they have to decide who is going to take the place of Judas. Peter looks to the Psalms and they say, “Someone needs to take over his place, his office.” They have two men they have to pick from. This is what they are praying, “And they prayed and said, ‘You, Lord, who know the hearts of all, show which one of these two you have chosen.”
My encouragement to you, when we pray to the Lord, we need to take two things into our consciousness. We pray to a great God full of power and knowledge and wisdom. But when we are praying about individuals, number one, He knows the hearts. He can change the hearts. He can act on the hearts. We are praying for salvation. He knows the hearts of these individuals. He sees their hearts as clearly as we can see the individual in daylight. Second of all, he sees our hearts. That is what Solomon is using as a petition before the Lord.
God knows, when we pray, if our hearts are sincere, if they are true, if they are full of faith, if we are praying with belief, if we are praying more than just the words, if we really feel and know and trust God’s words of who He is and why we pray. Solomon’s petition is, “Answer us, help us, because you know our hearts.” We come to a God who knows the hearts of men, and He knows our hearts. It is an encouragement to come to the Father who not only hears our words but sees our hearts as we pray.
4. And they prayed and said, “You, Lord, who know the hearts of all, show which one of these two you have chosen. But the LORD said to Samuel, “Do not look on his appearance or on the height of his stature, because I have rejected him. For the LORD sees not as man sees: man looks on the outward appearance, but the LORD looks on the heart.
It seems that this desperate condition of the psalmist is based on a recognition of the depths of his sin. Look down at verse 3 & we read this, “If you, O Lord, should mark iniquities, O Lord, who should stand?” It seems as though the reality of the exceeding sinfulness of his sin is overwhelming him. He is being engulfed, as it were, by the waters of his sin. In this desperate condition, he is unable to do anything—anything other than to cry out for help. He looks to the Lord here. He cries to the Lord, he pleads to the Lord for mercy. Because he knows that, “with you there is forgiveness” (v. 4).
Therefore, despite this desperate condition the psalmist is in, he has hope. His hope is in the Lord. And because he has hope, he is able to wait. To wait upon the Lord. To wait with a confident hope, like the confidence of a watchman waiting for the morning (v. 5). The watchman knows the morning will come and the sun will rise.
So too, we can have confidence in our Savior, our Hope, Jesus Christ. For with the Lord there is steadfast love and plentiful righteousness. We have the hope of being redeemed from all our iniquities (v. 6 & 7). This is a redemption that is based on the work of Christ on the cross. For his steadfast love is demonstrated, in a way, to sinners by his death, redeeming us from our sins. The penalty of our sin has been paid. Because of that, we have confidence in Christ. A greater confidence than any watchman who is waiting for the sun to rise in the morning. For we know that Christ is faithful, because He has promised us that, “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleans us from all unrighteousness” (I John 1:9).
So, no matter how deep in sin we may feel, no matter how sorrowful we are because of our sin, we can cry out to the Lord for his help. We can plead to him for his mercy. Because we know that there is forgiveness with the Lord. Christ will forgive. He will forgive by his steadfast love.
I hope this Psalm provides us a wonderful reminder of God’s mercy to sinners. With that, I hope it gives us an encouragement to cry out to God for forgiveness of sin, spurred on by our hope in Christ. We see that God’s ear is attentive to our cries for mercy. We see that God is ready to hear our cry and meet our greatest need, the one for forgiveness for sin.
As we pray, I suggest this Psalm should also give us confidence to pray to God for help for all of our needs. Paul argued from the greater to the lesser in Romans 8:32 by saying, “He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things?” In the same way, we know that God is a gracious God, He is a merciful God, and He is a God Who is ready to hear all of our prayers. He hears our desperate pleas for mercy and help, our prayers for forgiveness for sin, but also all of our prayers for help in times when we may feel like we may be in the depths of despair caused by severe trials, by intense suffering, or by other burdens we may be bearing that seem to threaten to overwhelm us. I hope that this Psalm will help us to remember to cry out to the Lord and that He is a merciful God.