God Is Moral Part Fifteen
God Has Thoughts
Our earlier study noted that God is a personal being, possessing intellect. As such, He thinks. In His Word, God refers to His thoughts and indicates they are different from and higher than those of unsaved people (Isa. 55:7–9). He signified that He has revealed some of His thoughts to mankind (Amos 4:13) and that the many nations that will gather to destroy Jerusalem do not know He has thoughts to judge them (Mic. 4:11–12).
King David referred to the great sum of God’s thoughts (Ps. 139:17) and declared God’s “thoughts are very deep” (“unfathomable,” “unsearchable”),1 or incomprehensible (Ps. 92:5; cf. Rom. 11:33–36).
The Relationship of Human Thoughts to the Heart
We also noted that God created man in His image as a personal being, possessing intellect (Gen. 1:26–27). Thus He gave people the ability to think.
The Bible explains that human thoughts originate in the heart. It refers to the “thoughts” and “imagination of man’s heart” (Gen. 6:5; 8:21), a “thought in your heart” (Dt. 15:9), “the thought of your heart” (Acts 8:22), and “the thoughts and intents of the heart” (Heb. 4:12). It also says the Lord searches all hearts and understands “all the intent of the thoughts” (1 Chr. 28:9); a man “thinks in his heart” (Prov. 23:7); people think evil in their hearts (Mt. 9:4); and evil thoughts proceed “from within, out of the heart of men” (Mk. 7: 21). It also speaks of people “reasoning” in their “hearts” (Lk. 5:22) and of “the inward thought and the heart of man” (Ps. 64:6).
Johannes Behm wrote that the Scriptures indicate the following:
The heart is the center of the inner life of man and the source or seat of all the forces and functions of soul and spirit….In the heart dwell feelings and emotions, desires and passions….The heart is the seat of understanding, the source of thought and reflection….The heart is the seat of the will, the source of resolves….Thus the heart is supremely the one centre in man to which God turns, in which the religious life is rooted, which determines moral conduct.2
God and Jesus See and Know Man’s Thoughts
The Bible reveals that God and Jesus see and know our thoughts.
Genesis 6:5 indicates that before the flood of Noah’s time, “the Lᴏʀᴅ saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every intent of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually.”
David said, “The Lᴏʀᴅ searches all hearts and understands all the intent of the thoughts” (1 Chr. 28:9) and that God understood his thought “afar off” (Ps. 139:2). Psalm 94:11 declares, “The Lᴏʀᴅ knows the thoughts of man” (cf. Isa. 66:18). First Corinthians 3:20 states that God “knows the thoughts of the wise.”
Jesus knew the thoughts of the scribes and Pharisees (Mt. 9:4; 12:25). The word translated “thoughts” in these passages refers to “the unexpressed and hidden thing in man which God’s omniscience sees and judges.”3
God, Jesus, and the Word Evaluate and Judge Man’s Thoughts
God’s Evaluation and Judgment. God said, “Every intent of the thoughts” of unsaved man’s “heart” prior to the flood “was only evil continually” (Gen. 6:5). Immediately after the flood He declared, “The imagination of man’s heart is evil from his youth” (8:21).
The word translated “intent” in Genesis 6:5 and “imagination” in 8:21 refers to something framed or devised in the mind.4 The word translated “youth” in 8:21 “lays stress on the early, immature but vigorous, trainable stage of life.”5 Thus Genesis 8:21 indicates “evil is innate in man” and becomes obvious “from the very time when” a child “begins to act with consciousness.”6
In Jeremiah 4:14 God classified the thoughts of people to whom Jeremiah ministered as “evil” (deceptive thoughts that produce trouble).7 God judged as “evil” Gog of Magog’s thought to invade Israel in the future (Ezek. 38:10–12).
The word translated “evil” in Genesis 6:5; 8:21; and Ezekiel 38:10 refers to thoughts that are contrary to God, which God evaluates to be morally deficient, such as plans to abuse and even kill other people and selfishly exploit what they own.8 First Samuel 18:25 gives a good example of an evil thought: “But Saul thought to make David fall by the hand of the Philistines.”
God evaluated and judged some thoughts to be “wicked” (Dt. 15:9) and others to be full of “iniquity” (Isa. 59:7). Concerning the wicked people of Judah and Jerusalem to whom Isaiah ministered, God declared that His thoughts were not their thoughts and that His thoughts were higher than theirs (55:8–9).
Proverbs 15:26 signifies that God considers the thoughts of the wicked “an abomination” (“the attitude and judgment of God in relation to things which He hates” or abhors).9 Psalm 10:4 states that God is “in none” of the thoughts of the wicked who are proud.
God considers the thoughts of unsaved people and the worldly wise to be “futile” (Ps. 94:11; 1 Cor. 3:19–20). The word translated “futile” in Psalm 94 means “vapor”; they are “short-lived.”10 Because the thoughts of the worldly wise are divorced from divine revelation, they are “empty, fruitless, useless, powerless, [and] lacking truth” when it comes to understanding ultimate reality.11
People who conduct their lives “according to their own thoughts” instead of God’s are “rebellious” and provoke Him “to anger” (Isa. 65:2–3).
Jesus’ Evaluation and Judgment. Jesus classified as “evil” the unexpressed thoughts of scribes who believed that He was guilty of blasphemy (Mt. 9:4). In Mark 7:21 Jesus said evil thoughts come “from within, out of the heart of men.” In the Greek, the phrase evil thoughts appears before the verb; and the enumerated evils, such as adulteries, murders, and thefts, come after the verb. Thus evil thoughts are “viewed as the root of various evils which follow. Evil thoughts generated in a heart unite with one’s will to produce evil words and actions.”12
The Word of God’s Evaluation and Judgment. Hebrews 4:12 states, “For the word of God…is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart.” The word translated “discerner” refers to a person or thing “capable of judging, who has the right to judge, who is engaged in judging.”13 Because the Bible is the divinely inspired record of God’s standards of right and wrong, it continually functions as an unchanging, written, judging witness against all thoughts contrary to God’s standards.
People Evaluate and Judge Thoughts
David’s and Nehemiah’s Evaluations and Judgments. Concerning his enemies, David said, “All their thoughts are against me for evil” (Ps. 56:5). After claiming that enemies had devised iniquities and “perfected a shrewd scheme” against him, David said, “Both the inward thought and the heart of man are deep” (Ps. 64:6). The word deep indicates their scheme was the result of careful, thorough, in-depth thought.14
Nehemiah said, “Sanballat and Geshem sent to me, saying, ‘Come, let us meet together among the villages in the plain of Ono.’ But they thought to do me harm” (Neh. 6:2).
James’s Evaluation and Judgment. James accused believers who favor the wealthy as opposed to the poor of being judges with evil thoughts (Jas. 2:4).
Fruit of Thoughts. God clearly indicates that evil thoughts can bring serious consequences. For example, He warned those to whom Jeremiah ministered: “Hear, O earth! Behold, I will certainly bring calamity on this people––the fruit of their thoughts, because they have not heeded My words nor My law, but rejected it” (Jer. 6:19).
Thought Guidelines for Christians
Captive Thoughts. In 2 Corinthians 10:4–5 Paul wrote,
For the weapons of our warfare are not carnal but mighty in God for pulling down strongholds, casting down arguments and every high thing that exalts itself against the knowledge of God, bringing every thought into captivity to the obedience of Christ.
The word translated “thought” refers to an evil “device.”15 In 2 Corinthians 2:11 it refers to the devices that Satan uses to get an advantage over Christians.16 In 2 Corinthians 10:5 it refers to the arguments of world-life views that oppose God’s revealed truth and are used to attack the biblical faith of Christians. Paul indicated that, in their spiritual warfare against these attacks, Christians must take these arguments captive and force them “into obedient subjection to Christ.”17
Positive Thoughts. In Philippians 4:8 Paul exhorted Christians to have positive thoughts:
Finally, brethren, whatever things are true, whatever things are noble, whatever things are just, whatever things are pure, whatever things are lovely, whatever things are of good report, if there is any virtue and if there is anything praiseworthy––meditate on these things.
The word translated “meditate” means “think (about), consider, ponder, let one’s mind dwell on.”18 Focusing their attention on this biblical form of positive thinking will help believers avoid evil thoughts.
- Francis Brown, ed., with S. R. Driver and Charles A. Briggs, “amoq,“ A Hebrew and English Lexicon of the Old Testament, based on the lexicon of William Gesenius as translated by Edward Robinson (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1975), 771.
- Johannes Behm, “kardia,” Theological Dictionary of the New Testament (hereafter cited as TDNT), ed. Gerhard Kittel, trans./ed. Geoffrey W. Bromiley, translated from Theologisches Worterbuch zum Neuen Testament (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1965), 3:611–612.
- Friedrich Buchsel, “enthumesis,” TDNT, 3:172.
- Thomas E. McComiskey, “yeser,” Theological Wordbook of the Old Testament (hereafter cited as TWOT), ed. R. Laird Harris, Gleason L. Archer Jr., and Bruce K. Waltke (Chicago: Moody Press, 1980), 1:396.
- Milton C. Fisher, “neurim,” TWOT, 2:586.
- C. F. Keil and F. Delitzsch, Biblical Commentary on the Old Testament: The Pentateuch, trans. Rev. James Martin (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1959), 1:151.
- G. Herbert Livingston, “awen,” TWOT, 1:23.
- G. Herbert Livingston, “ra,’” TWOT, 2:854–855.
- Werner Foerster, “bdelugma,” TDNT (1964), 1:598.
- Victor P. Hamilton, “hebel,” TWOT, 1:205.
- William F. Arndt and F. Wilbur Gingrich, eds., “mataios,” A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament and Other Early Christian Literature (1952: translation and adaptation of Walter Bauer’s Griechisch-Deutsches Worterbuch zu den Schriften des Neuen Testaments und der ubrigen urchristlichen Literatur, 4th ed.; Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1957), 496.
- John D. Grassmick, “Mark,” The Bible Knowledge Commentary: New Testament, ed. John F. Walvoord and Roy B. Zuck (Wheaton: Victor Books, 1983), 134.
- Friedrich Buchsel, “kritikos,” TDNT, 3:943.
- Joseph Addison Alexander, The Psalms (1864; reprint, Grand Rapids: Zondervan, n.d.), 274.
- Johannes Behm, “noema,” TDNT (1967), 4:961.
- Arndt and Gingrich, “logidzomai,” 477.