Before we dive into the second part of this series, let’s take a look back at what the introduction taught us about the heart. The Hebrew word translated as heart is לבב (pronounced ley-vahv) or לב (pronounced leyv). This word holds a lot of meaning, connoting things such as the mind, determination, or inner part of man. In this series, we are defining the heart as the inner man, the center of one’s desires, thoughts, and will. Therefore, the second part of this series will address the desire of the heart.
There are a few different words used for “desire” in the original languages of the Bible. One word is חמד (pronounced hamad) found in Genesis 3:6 — “So when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was a delight to the eyes, and that the tree was to be desired to make one wise, she took of its fruit and ate, and she also gave some to her husband who was with her, and he ate” (emphasis added). In this context, the author is using the word ‘desired’ to express how the woman coveted the wisdom or likeness of God after the serpent deceived her.
In James 1:14, the Greek word ἐπιθυμίας (pronounced epithumia) is found when he says, “But each person is tempted when he is lured and enticed by his own desire” (emphasis added). Here, James uses the word ‘desire’ as synonymous with lust.
Another Hebrew word commonly used is רצונ (pronounced ratson) found in Psalm 145:19 — “He fulfills the desire of those who fear him; he also hears their cry and saves them” (emphasis added). In this context, ‘desire’ is describing the pleasure, favor, or delight of God’s people. The Lord fulfills these godly desires because the hearts of His people are molded to fit the desires of His own heart through salvation and sanctification (Ezekiel 26:26, Galatians 5:16-26). God’s people delight in Him.
While there are many different connotations throughout Scripture for the word desire, considering the differences together can provide helpful definitions of both the negative aspect and positive aspect of desire. A desire in the negative aspect is a strong lust. This aspect is typically in correlation with the sin of covetousness. A desire in the positive aspect is a strong delight. This aspect is typically referencing a love for something or someone.
Desires can be a great place to start when seeking to better understand the heart. This is because thoughts, words, and actions flow out of the desires of the heart. Desires guide the thoughts and actions of man. James 1:14-15 says, “But each person is tempted when he is lured and enticed by his own desire. Then desire when it has conceived gives birth to sin, and sin when it is fully grown brings forth death.” This is strong language used to draw attention to desires. It can also explain the consequential actions of Eve’s covetousness of God’s likeness in the Garden from Genesis 3. Eve was tempted by the idea of being like God. Therefore, she desired to partake in what is forbidden by God and received death because of it.
When man is separated from God, his desires can only lead him down the path of sin. Desires are master manipulators. Jeremiah 17:9 says, “The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately sick; who can understand it?” The heart is deceitful. We can too easily believe that we know the motives and intentions of our hearts only to find ourselves blindsided when our thoughts and actions prove something contrary to what we originally believed.
For example, there are times when I have criticized the actions or attitudes of others in my heart, only to later be convicted by the Lord that I was jealous because I desired the success or attention they received. Also, I have recently learned that an attitude I have carried my entire life where I shut out others during or at the end of a long day is not “being introverted” or “feeling tired,” but rather, it is selfishly desiring to have things my way above the needs or care of others.
We are hopeless to know our hearts without the light of God illuminating the truth for us. Thankfully, He is able and willing to do just that.
James 1:16-17 says, “Do not be deceived, my beloved brothers. Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change.” God is perfect and holy. Because of who He is, He is able to redeem and transform man’s entire being — including his desires. It is only when we enter into a covenant relationship with God through faith in Christ that we can have hope that we will see our desires transformed.
Notice what James says: “every good gift and every perfect gift.” Good and perfect gifts can only come from the One who is good and perfect. The ultimate gift he offers is that of salvation through Christ and sanctification by his Spirit. It is through sanctification that our desires can be redeemed because the Spirit purifies the desires by molding them after God’s own heart.
The heart is deceptive and man is unable to truly see into his heart without help. Yet, there is hope that man can be given sight by the Father of lights. Therefore, may we desperately seek after God in belief that he will unveil our eyes and strengthen us in his Spirit to see our desires redeemed for his glory alone.
 Brown-Driver-Briggs. Hebrew and English Lexicon of the Old Testament, abridged by Larry Pierce. Sourced from Tyndale House, Cambridge.
 Abbott-Smith. A Manual Greek Lexicon of the New Testament. Sourced from Tyndale House, Cambridge.
 Brown-Driver-Briggs. Hebrew and English Lexicon of the Old Testament, abridged by Larry Pierce.