Psalm 119:18 Open my eyes that I may observe wondrous things out of thy law.
Our hearts are the soil from which everything, good or evil, springs forth in our lives. Ask the children in Sunday School what God looks at, and they will quickly answer: “The heart.” God is keenly interested in your heart. He is not remotely impressed by your bank account, address, title, or wardrobe. You may fool man, but God sees every crevice of your heart.
And, He didn’t intend to keep what He sees a secret from us. The Word was given to help us see what He sees. And He assures us it’s our hearts that interest Him. When you are ready to get serious about your heart before God, He will meet you in the pages of His word (Hebrews 4:12) and deftly reveal your heart as He sees it.
A pattern for wisdom began to emerge early on in my study of Proverbs. And in those early days, the pattern seemed to be a simple three-step process: First: Knowledge. Then: Understanding. Finally: Wisdom (also sometimes referred to as a pure heart). However, it soon became apparent these three things represented the heart of man and there were actually seven states of man’s heart. So let’s identify them.
Psalm 14:1 revealed the fourth state: “The fool says in his heart, ‘There is no God.’” An unbeliever is an uninformed person; someone who has not sought knowledge. A fool has been duped (tricked) by false knowledge: man’s knowledge.
Proverbs 26:10 (KJV) provided the clue to the fifth heart state: “The great God that formed all things both rewardeth the fool, and rewardeth trangressors” (intentional sinner). Here was an acknowledgment of the fool, and yet there seemed to be different rewards for the fool and the transgressor. How are the fool and the transgressor different? It is important we recognize it is God who looks at the heart and thus can judge the motive for one’s actions. Certainly this is one of the reasons He exhorts us in Matthew 7:7 not to judge; we cannot see the intent of the heart. From our perspective a fool and a transgressor may do some of the same things; it would only be by looking at the motives of the heart one could distinguish the difference. Thus, we can further understand His admonition not to judge lest we also be judged.
It was apparent that transgressors or intentional sinners were the wicked. In the first chapter of Proverbs: “My son, my son, if sinful men (transgressors) entice thee. . .” In further studying these transgressors or intentional sinners, it was obvious they had a heart of wickedness, and their sins or transgressions were an outward sign of the inward state of their depraved and wicked heart.
So, now the pattern was WICKEDNESS, FOOLISHNESS, KNOWLEDGE, UNDERSTANDING AND WISDOM. Let me quickly point out that wickedness and foolishness are not steps toward wisdom. They are states of man’s heart. Man was born in depravity and sin, and it is the changing of our hearts that interests God. This change is not going to happen by enrolling in a seven-step wisdom course or even by reading this book. It is the choice man faces to agree or disagree with God, and to follow vs. reject Him, which changes our hearts for good or for evil. So let’s learn everything we can about the heart of man.
Proverbs 13:1 provided the clue to our sixth state of man’s heart—the scoffer or scorner. The scoffer does not respond to rebukes. Psalm tells us a fool hath said in his heart there is no god. Unlike a fool, the scorner is not duped. A scorner acknowledges the possible existence of a God but willingly chooses not to acknowledge Him as God; he chooses his own ways. A scoffer or scorner thinks he knows more than God; he is taken with his own intelligence, wise in his own conceits. For example: Satan knows there is a God, but he chooses his own way; he exalts himself above God. Proverbs 3:34 says, “He mocks” (or scorns) proud mockers but shows favor to the humble and oppressed.” From this verse, it seems a scorner is in direct opposition to a man of humility; he is caught up in his own thoughts and is an unrighteous man. Proverbs 26:12 “Do you see a person wise in their own eyes?” (a scorner)? “There is more hope for a fool than for them.” Proverbs also says an unrighteous man must forsake his thoughts and ways, and return to the Lord that He may have mercy on and pardon him.
When quoting Psalm 1, my mind’s eye caught the reference to the way of the righteous. Were the righteous the wise? Certainly both Psalm and Proverbs indicate righteous men speak wisdom. Frankly, righteousness should have been the first heart state I found. My Scofield Reference Bible even subtitles all of the chapters in Proverbs from Chapter 11 to Chapter 24 like a flashing billboard: “Contrast: Righteousness vs. Wickedness.” Righteousness was the final piece to the puzzle and it dropped into place, providing a complete template for understanding how God sees man’s heart. Righteousness (choosing right steps-skillful doing/living) was obviously even part of our basic definition of wisdom.
I wanted to confirm whether righteousness was before or after wisdom. Proverbs 2:7 where Solomon explains God lays up sound wisdom for the righteous provided the answer. This verse explains the wisdom He has promised to you and me is held in store for the righteous man. This indicated wisdom came after righteousness. Certainly this helps us further understand James 1. If we ask, God will allow testing in our lives to try our hearts. These circumstances try our faith, yielding patience. And when patience has her perfect work in our lives, we will be found lacking nothing; we will be mature/righteous. He stands ready to shovel His wisdom to us, the sound wisdom laid up for the righteous. Remember not to waiver in your request for and pursuit of wisdom. Keep your eye on the prize and not your circumstances.
If you have ever worked a puzzle, you know when a puzzle piece actually fits; you just know it is right because it completes the whole picture. While I had looked at several types of men (e.g., the slothful and the sluggard), they described outward manifestations or attributes of one of our heart states (e.g., a fool might exhibit slothfulness and be a sluggard). These seven heart states provide a framework, a new lens for seeing ourselves and our hearts before God. Again, please note foolishness, wickedness and scornfulness are not on the path to wisdom. These are the two paths referenced earlier:
- Broad road filled with pride and self-glorification leading to a fall and eternal damnations—a prideful, foolish person travels to wickedness and ultimately scornfulness leading to rejection by God and eternal damnation.
- Narrow path filled with obstacles or testing leading to knowledge, understanding, righteousness and wisdom—eternal life with God. It is the path chosen by the humble who choose to follow God’s way.
What is the dividing line between these two paths? What is the pivotal point where a man chooses the path he will follow? The dividing point is the turning of the heart from pride to humility. I Peter 5:6 and James 4:10 encourage us to humble ourselves, trusting God to lift us up; He is the lifter of our head (Psalm 3:3 and 27:6). Humility is a choice. It requires us to take our eyes off ourselves and to focus on Him as we allow Him to work in our lives.
What is the catalyst causing this shift in man’s heart from pride to humility? It is the fear of the Lord (Proverbs 1:7). Without the fear of God, man is left to his own devices as he seeks his own way. But when man fears the Lord, he humbles himself under the hand of God and seeks God through the pages of His Word, which puts him on the path to knowledge, understanding, righteousness, and wisdom. (Note: we will delve more deeply into the fear of God later in our journey.) The first sign of a humble heart is that one will be a seeker of knowledge. A humble person knows they need help, acknowledges they don’t have all the answers, and stands in need of God.
In rereading many of the stories of men and women of the Bible, we can see God carefully chose which of our heart words He used to describe a man. Why? That’s what He sees: our heart. This simple template will deepen your understanding of what God sees in your heart and expand your understanding of what God is teaching you through the stories of the lives of those found in the pages of the Word.
David’s opening to his Psalm lays out these same seven heart states Solomon described in Proverbs. After all, Solomon is David’s son, so it would make sense David would be able to explain all of this succinctly. No doubt he taught these principles to his son.
Psalm 1: “Blessed is the one who does not walk in step with the wicked. . .” (the KJV calls these the ungodly—the foolish man or woman who begins to listen to the call of the world).
“. . .or stand in the way that sinners take. . .” (the wicked or transgressor who intentionally sins because of their evil or selfish desires).
“. . .or sit in the company of mockers.” (the unbeliever who is filled with his own conceit—a scorner—placing Himself above God).
Here David, Solomon’s father, simply lays out the three states of man’s heart I’d finally uncovered in Proverbs. He then goes on to say, “BUT” (a very big BUT—a turning point.).
“But whose delight is in the law of the Lord. . .” (seeking knowledge).
“. . .and who meditates on his law day and night. . .” (gaining an understanding).
“. . .That person is like a tree planted by streams of water, . . .” (upright, staying close to the Word of Life—studying the path of righteousness).
“. . .which yields its fruit in season and whose leaf does not wither— whatsoever they do prospers.” (The fruit of the Spirit-filled, Spirit-led life of a righteous man or woman—oh, the sweet reward of wisdom).
Note David does not stop here but also describes the consequences of those who are “not so” (the foolish, wicked and scornful)
“Not so the wicked! They are like the chaff that the wind blows away. Therefore the wicked will not stand in the judgment, nor sinners in the assembly of the righteous. For the Lord watches over the way of the righteous, but the way of the wicked leads to destruction.” (The reward of foolishness and wickedness and scornfulness. This is another description of the two paths.) (Emphasis and comments mine)
The heart states are intertwined in some respect. Think of this as a process vs. a linear path. God’s wisdom is so vast that when you are given some piece of it, you will be motivated to seek more knowledge and understanding.
When at the wisdom level, one would have knowledge, understanding and righteousness at his or her disposal. When at the wisdom level, it is expected one is motivated to continuously choose the right path, to continuously choose righteousness. That’s not to say a person with understanding and righteousness would not be able to make an unwise choice. His or her heart may be inclining toward God so he or she would be able to make wise choices. However, the heart in these states is not necessarily so devotedly committed to Christ and His ways that choosing to do right or to follow God’s will is the understood and undeniable expectation. We won’t be perfected until we see Him.
We can understand this decision-making process as Paul declares in Romans 7:15, “I do not understand what to do. For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do.” Even though he was called to walk in the Light, his flesh was with him, causing him to falter. But, as we continue to follow Paul in his walk with the Lord, we later see him laying aside every weight that so easily held him back because his heart’s desire was winning the race and the prize of the high calling of Jesus Christ. And later in life we hear from Paul, “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, and I have remained faithful.” As you move your heart closer to Him, His will, and His ways will become your deepest desire and the allure of the world will lose its appeal. May Psalm 42:1 be our heart’s desire, “As the deer pants for streams of water, so my soul pants for you, my God.”
Let’s visually review these heart states. Again, please note scornfulness is not the first stage of wisdom. Unfortunately, we are born in a sinful state (Psalm 51:5 “Surely I was sinful at birth, sinful from the time my mother conceived me.”) Like it or not, we have dealt with our heart’s state since our earliest days.
Do you see the distinction between the two paths?
REMEMBER: When Solomon asked for wisdom, God looked at his heart before granting it to Him–his heart had to be pleasing to God. Also remember Solomon’s request for wisdom was to be able to judge His people. How could you truly judge anyone if you cannot see their heart? Trust me, the gift of wisdom to Solomon was an “understanding” heart so he could discern heart states (e.g., the story of the two mothers). If you want wisdom, you are going to have to get serious about your heart before the Lord and you need to know and understand heart states.
Stay tuned. There’s even more exciting things coming. Would you believe there are 7 verses in the Bible with 7 things in each one of them that perfectly describe these 7 heart states! Hold on to your socks; we have some exciting things to learn together.
II Chronicles 16:9 The eyes of the Lord search the whole earth in order to strengthen those whose hearts are fully committed to Him.