What the Bible Says about the Heart of God:
Listening to His Heartbeat
by Harold Shank
An indepth exploration of the deep concerns of God.
2013 Abilene Christian University Press
What makes God smile?
What makes God angry? What makes God’s heart beat? Have you ever wanted to know the answers to these questions about God? Do you want to find out if what you’ve always thought about God is really true? You can get answers to these questions by looking at what the Bible says about the heart of God.
In this stimulating and heartfelt book, Dr. Harold Shank leads us through an in-depth study of scripture that will help you find out what makes God’s heart beat. This book is not simply about the qualities of God or an attempt to prove His existence, but rather a deeper and more profound look into God’s inner core. Familiar passages such as the creation story, the Genesis flood and the name Immanuel reveal aspects about God that many have not thought about before.
Dr. Shank also explores how to reconcile some of the difficult-to-comprehend aspects of God’s heart.
For example: How can His goodness and love be reconciled with His command to utterly destroy a certain group of people?
Or: If God cares about brokenhearted people, why are there so many of them in our world?
Or: Is there a way to resolve our tension between the seemingly opposite qualities of the wrath and mercy of God?
Dr. Shank provides us with essential awareness of the relationship between God’s patience and His justice. Christians and nonbelievers alike will enjoy this discussion that will examine the heart of God.
Dr. Lynn McMillon in the Foreword calls this a challenging book. “This book is a call to listen. Listen to God’s word and through that word listen more carefully to the heartbeat of God. In listening, we find Him in new and fresh ways.”
This book will expand your understanding of God’s heart and enhance your ability to please God in your life.
“In Listening to His Heartbeat, Harold Shank reminds us of the character of our loving God who desires to have relationship with us, a God who particularly cares for the weak, the poor, and the orphan, who seeks justice, righteousness, and mercy. Along the way Harold takes up some of the more difficult, perennial questions about God’s character, and does so with much skill and nuance: What about God and violence? A God who floods the earth? A jealous God? The work will serve as a very helpful introduction to many of the most important theological and biblical considerations, especially for undergraduate survey courses and adult Sunday School classes.”Lee C. Camp Associate Prof. of Theology & Ethics Lipscomb University
“While there are many fine books concerned with the nature of God, there are few which approach this grand and audacious topic in quite the way Harold Shank does. If we consider the oft stated claim that theology is also autobiography, then we can understand something of the unique quality of this deeply informative book, for it grows out of both deep reflection and rich personal experience.
Harold Shank is not only a preacher and a professor, he is a serious disciple who has long walked in the steps of Jesus. This rare combination of scholarly knowledge and personal wisdom gives a unique cast to the subject. He has gleaned important truths about God from an intensive study of Scripture for many decades. His intimate knowledge of the Old Testament in its original language is evident on every page; yet Shank’s erudition is never bookish, for his message is transformed by rich personal experience.
This book not only articulates some of the greatest truths about the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. It also goes on to map in concrete ways what these great truths mean for those who live in the world and deal with ordinary, everyday trials. The book is a fine balance of abstract principle and practical wisdom. The book is rich in example, application, and personal narrative.
Listening to His Heartbeat is not only an introduction to the character of God, it is also a wonderfully concise introduction to the Old Testament. It delivers on its promise to reveal complex and challenging aspects to the character of our Creator.”
Author of Pilgrim Heart: The Way of Jesus in Everyday Life
Provost, Pepperdine University
” Harold Shank has written a book that reveals the great heart of our gloriously infinite God. He opens our hearts to the heart of God accurately because he goes to the source, God’s own word, where God himself reveals his heart. The Heart of God is saturated with scripture.
- Shank shows how God reveals his heart by “visiting our neighborhood,” culminating in Immanuel.
- God’s heart is a ‘jealous heart.’ ‘It is not that He objects to us having a choice-there simply are no equivalent choices.’
- God’s care for the unfortunate is emphasized. The poor, the orphan and the widow know his care and those who abuse them or neglect them know his wrath. They are seen to be, then, close to his heart.
- There are three great chapters on God’s self description in Exodus 34:5-6 and a delightful chapter on what makes God smile.
But the book is not one-sided. There is a chapter also on ‘God and the Sword’ dealing with the destruction of the Amalekites. ‘The violence of God arises out of his inner character and is the logical end of His patience, justice and steadfast love.’
The author uses ‘boxes’ throughout the book for side issues or explanations. The alert preacher will find in many of these excellent sermon starters or outlines. The book gives inspiring insight into the heart of God and is therefore well worth reading.
Cecil May Jr.
Professor of Bible and Dean, V. P. Black College of Biblical Studies
He holds an M.A. in New Testament and an M.Div. from Harding Graduate School of Religion
He preaches, writes and lectures widely.
“Harold Shank touched my heart long before I ever met him in person. Through his preaching and writing, he helped shape my understanding of scripture, church, and compassionate ministry. I have now had the genuine blessing of getting to know Dr. Shank just a little bit better. I’ve watched him inspire churches, mentor students, and befriend the hurting. These first-hand glimpses into his heart have also drawn me closer to our Father in heaven. In Listening to His Heartbeat, Harold has given me that same kind of first-hand glimpse into the heart of God, again drawing me closer to our Father. This journey through the Bible traces key threads, or trajectories, which resurface time and again in scripture. Each theme gives us a better understanding of what moves our Lord, of what is truly on His heart. As we explore these themes we learn to listen to His heartbeat and we cannot help but be transformed ourselves. I have found Listening to His Heartbeat to be a spiritual pacemaker, helping to ensure that my heart beats closer in rhythm with God’s.”
Mark Taylor, Preaching Minister
Memorial Road Church of Christ
Oklahoma City, Oklahoma
“God is indescribable by humans. Even the hints we get from Scripture at best are the edges. I am thankful for scholars and others that come along and help me see past the edges. Dr. Shank does this in Listening to His Heartbeat. I have always wanted to know what it was really like to be ‘a man after God’s own heart.’ Listening to His Heartbeat takes me steps closer to understanding more about God’s heart and the way that I should be like him toward my fellow humans. This book is an easy personal read, and will be a great Bible school resource and small group home Bible study resource.”
Dr. Dudley Chancey,
Professor of Youth Ministry
Oklahoma Christian University
Oklahoma City, Oklahoma
Listening to His Heartbeat is Shank’s third book about God. Realizing that nothing is more important than knowing the Father, he wrote It’s All About God in 2004. His Children Mean the World to God—The Profound Importance of Children in Your Life, Your Congregation and Your World appeared in 2001. Shank has also written a commentary (The College Press NIV Commentary on the Minor Prophets, 2001) and a volume on discipleship (Loosening Your Grip, 2000).
A complete bibliography of his nearly 100 published articles and chapters appears at www.haroldshank.com. These publications include articles in Restoration Quarterly, Journal of Interdisciplinary Studies, and The Encyclopedia of the Stone Campbell Movement. Other significant writings include the book Up Close and Personal—Embracing the Poor (with co-authors Ron Bergeron and Anthony Wood), a chapter in In Search of Wonder, a book on the worship of God that includes contributions by Max Lucado and Lynn Anderson, and three chapters in Unfinished Reconciliation—Justice, Racism and Churches of Christ.
Additionally, Shank serves as Book Review Editor of the Christian Chronicle, a national religious newspaper with a circulation of 125,000.
Shank received the Christian Service Award presented annually by 21st Century Christian Magazine and was named Christian Writer of the Year by Leaven Magazine.
Currently, Shank is Professor of Old Testament at Oklahoma Christian University Graduate School of Theology. Since 1996 he has served as National Spokesperson for Christian Childcare. For 20 years he was preaching minister with the Highland Street Church of Christ in Memphis, Tennessee. He and his wife, Sally Jane, have two children, Daniel and Nathan. They attend Memorial Road Church of Christ in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma.
I looked at the painting for hours trying to figure it out. I was standing in front of a huge replica of Rembrandt’s
“The Return of the Prodigal Son.” The original of the 1668 work hangs in the Hermitage in St. Petersburg, Russia, but there is a copy in an unusual museum in a small Ukrainian city called Bela Tserkva. That’s where I studied this depiction of the moment in Jesus’ parable in Luke 15 when the prodigal son, representing all of the confused and hopeless people in the world, kneels before the welcoming father, who is a symbol of the living God.
For a long time I puzzled over the way the Dutch painter interpreted the scene.
Rembrandt could have chosen several different scenes for his canvas. He could have imagined the emotional instant when the younger son left home with his pockets stuffed with money, leaving the despondent father behind. I have always wondered how an artist would depict the riotous living in the far country where the younger son, surrounded by his temporary friends, enjoyed the nightlife. Or perhaps we expect a focus on the reunited family celebrating while the older brother pouts in the field. But Rembrandt did not choose to paint any of those scenes. He features a moment found in Luke 15:20: “So he set off and went to his father. But while he was still far off, his father saw him and was filled with compassion; he ran and put his arms around him and kissed him.”
The father stands before his mansion in Rembrandt’s famous painting. A silhouette of the unseen elder brother watches from the shadows. The father’s clothing reflects his affluence. The prodigal’s dirty, torn clothing recalls his degenerate journey. The boy kneels before his upright father. With the father’s hands on the boy’s shoulders, the younger son turns his head to the right and places his left ear on the father’s chest. Only the right side of the boy’s face is visible to the viewer.
Rembrandt’s rendering puzzled me. Why did he paint the story this way? Did the artist take a scene from his own life and project it into the biblical story? If I had visually recreated the story on canvas,I would have painted the father and son in full embrace with the father kissing his son on the cheek. Rembrandt’s portrayal seemed stiff and formal to me. I could understand that the younger son onhis knees reflected his repentant spirit and his desire for reunification. But the father seemed distant and almost uncaring. Rembrandt ignored the “put his arms around him” and the “kissed him” and almost seems to miss the “filled with compassion.”
What was Rembrandt’s point?
Then I saw on Rembrandt’s canvas what the boy heard: the prodigal son heard the father’s heartbeat. His left ear was pinned against his father’s chest. The boy listened to the beating of his father’s heart. Rembrandt captured in a unique way how the son learned that his father was “filled with compassion.” While the embrace and kisses surely followed, Rembrandt’s painting depicted a crucial moment. What the younger son heard was the life of his father. He listened to the heartbeat.
You can join the discussion on this book by commenting on Harold’s post about this book.
Click here to see those posts.