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The Searcher Of Hearts

Romans 8: 27a

We must not lose sight of the tremendous parallels in this passage,
before they show us how the grace of God can meet our needs.

As we groan, He groans, and this gives a meaning to our trembling desires which they did not possess before.

As hope sustains, He sustains, and this provides a source of strength,
which is more than a match for our weakness.
This is seen in His work as the One who inspires the spirit of supplication after the will of God.

Paul writes from the wealth of his own experience.
It was 14 years since he had asked the Lord to remove the thorn in the flesh.
God did not grant that prayer in the manner that he desired, but gave him an even more mighty answer in the promise
that His grace would be more than sufficient for all his need.
(2 Corinthians 12: 9)

Paul has just been speaking of another groaning within ourselves,
which is the expression of the "earnest expectation" of
"the adoption, to wit, the redemption of our body".
Paul says that that longing will be more patient, the more it is full of hope.

This is Paul's conception of the normal attitude of a Christian soul.
That attitude is difficult to keep up in one's own strength, because of the distractions of time and sense,
which is always leading us to be satisfied with the gross and the dull present.

But our own daily experience makes us only too sure that such elevation above, and remoteness from earthly thoughts,
with all their pettiness and limitations, is impossible for us in our own strength.

As Paul says,
"We know not what to pray for"; nor can we fix and focus our desires, nor present them as we ought.

It is to this weakness and incompleteness of our desires and prayers that the help of the Spirit is directed.
He strengthens our longings by His direct operation.

The Holy Spirit inspires our prayers.

He inspires those prayers which arise from our inmost soul.
A person's heart is moved when that person groans.
Such prayers will rise within us when the mind is far too troubled to let us speak.
We know not what we should pray for as we ought, and then it is that we groan.

The Psalmist said, "I am so troubled that I cannot speak."

These prayers sometimes concerns such deep things that they cannot be spoken.
We may groan at times because we are conscious of the littleness of our desire and the narrowness of our faith.
The trials may be so severe that our prayers are not only the groans within,
but the shedding of tears without.

Where in the Christian experience shall we find anything like these unutterable longings
after the redemption of the body which Paul in this passage takes for granted in the experience of all Christians?

There is no more startling condemnation of the average Christian of today,
than the calm certainty with which Paul takes for granted that the Roman Christians will endorse his statement,
and would know what he is talking about.

Look at these!

Paul believed that in these rapturous and triumphant words he was relating the experience of every Roman Christian.
He believed that these words would evoke from their lips a confident, "Amen."

How many are those among us who know anything of these groanings?
Only as we appreciate the leading thought of verse 26 are we able to interpret this 27th verse.

The encouragement extended to the people of God is that the unuttered groans
are the index to the fact that God does "exceeding abundantly above all that we ask or think."
(Ephesians 3: 30)

It is not our infirmity of understanding and request that is the measure of God's grace,
but it is the knowledge, wisdom, and love of the Holy Spirit.

Verse 27 is packed with instruction as well as consolation for us as children of God.

This passage teaches us to look to God for an answer to the secret groanings of our heart.
It does not teach us to neglect communing with God with our lips when we express our thoughts.
This is abundantly taught in the Word of God, both by precept and example.

In this passage God is declared as the searcher of our hearts.
"And (now) he that searcheth the hearts" -- that is an Old Testament description of God.
Man looks on the outward and God looks on the heart.
(1 Samuel 16: 7; 1 Kings 8: 39; Psalms 7: 9; Proverbs 15: 11; Jeremiah 11: 20; 17: 9, 10)

It is especially appropriate here because it is in the heart that the "unuttered groanings" take place.
Compare Galatians 4: 6.

We cannot understand the purpose of those groanings deep within.
We cannot understand what they mean.
But God knows what they mean for "He searcheth the hearts" of men, of which he hath perfect knowledge.

He that searches the hearts is none other than God, our heavenly Father.
(Cf. 1 Chronicles 28: 9; Psalms 139: 1, 23; Jeremiah 17: 10; 1 Corinthians 4: 5;
Hebrews 4: 13)

So, the proper subject of verse 27 is God.
It is He who searches the hearts of men.
He knows what is within us.

Our heavenly Father searches the hearts of His children, and understands the intent of our unutterable prayers.
They are unutterable because we do not know the particular things we should pray for in certain circumstances,
but He knows for it is His Spirit interceding for us.

So, verse 27 reminds us that it is God who searches the heart.
The Lord knows the heart in all its intricacies.
(Jeremiah 17: 10; Acts 1: 24; 1 Chronicles 28: 9)

The reasons for the perfect knowledge that God has of our hearts are declared in the 139th Psalm.

He is all-knowing.
He is always present and present everywhere at all times.
He is the infinite God!

God made the heart and knows His own work.
God preserves and maintains the heart.
God conducts it and leads it, and therefore knows the heart and searches it.

Therefore, the prayer of the heart is attended to by God, as well as the prayer of our lips.
Yet, this does not prove that oral prayer is unnecessary -- not even in our private devotions.

God knows all things, therefore, He knows the heart of man.
(John 21: 17; Jeremiah 32: 19; Hebrews 4: 13)

It is the Lord who guides it.
He has the ultimate disposition of it.
The Lord knows the heart, and He shall judge everyone.
The heart is the property of the Almighty.
He is the exclusive searcher of the heart.
He alone searches and knows the heart by the power of His own nature.

This is the strong underlying reason why our groanings and sighs unheard by the world
are not in vain, but are deeply meaningful and beneficent.
For He that searches the heart knows the mind of the Spirit who intercedes for us according to God's plan for our lives.

God alone searches the heart.
God alone can forgive.
God alone can judge.

This prerogative is delegated by the Father to none except His Son:
"All the churches shall know that I am he waits searches the reins and hearts." (Revelation 2: 23)

The thought of the passage is therefore:
As God searches the heart of His children, He finds unuttered and unutterable groanings.
Though they are inarticulate, there is a meaning and content that does not escape the omniscient eye of God.
They are wholly intelligible to Him.
Furthermore, they are found to be in accordance with His will.

Let us conclude by stating why this point is so useful and so precious to us.
It is useful because it brings us divine counsel.

Our hearts are searched by God and His Spirit makes us conscious of our sins, our needs, and guides us.
Knowing that the heart is deceitful above all things,
go to Him who is the searcher and discerner of our hearts.

It is also helpful in a way of comfort.

That comfort comes to us in diverse ways and methods.
The Lord knows the good which we desire. (2 Chronicles 6: 8; 2 Corinthians 8: 12)
Others may misinterpret that desire.
Others may criticize and misunderstand our best intentions. (1 Corinthians 4: 3-5)
Job: "My witness is in heaven, and my record is on high." (Job 16: 19)

God knows!

This is a comfort of which the world knows nothing and cannot know.
So, this verse brings to us comfort to know that God is the Searcher of our hearts.
This phrase might well fill us with fear, but here it is designed to give comfort and hope.

In spite of all our failure and weakness and discouragement, God looks deep into our hearts
and sees the secret and unexpressed desires for holiness, happiness, and glory,
which His own Spirit has inspired.

He interprets these sighs, breathed into our hearts by His Spirit,
as our prayers are offered and are "in accordance with His own will."

What a comfort it is that God searches the hearts!

So, when we do not always clearly discern what our own position and condition in grace is;
yet, we can say, "Lord, Thou seest how it is with me."

We can say as Peter said to Christ, "Lord, Thou knowest I love Thee."

Sir Frances Bacon said:
"We cannot too often think, that there is a never sleeping eye
that reads the heart, and registers our thoughts

Oh the comfort we have!

"I know not, but God knows;
Oh, blessed rest from fear!
All my unfolding days
To Him are plain and clear.

Each anxious, puzzled "why?"
From doubt or dread that grows,
Finds answer in this thought:
I know not, but He knows."

Sermon by Dr. Harold L. White
Email Dr. White at

"He sendeth sun, he sendeth shower,
Alike they're needful to the flower;
And joy and tears alike are sent
To give the soul fit nourishment
As comes to me or cloud or sun,
Father! Thy will, not mine, be done."

-- Sarah Flower Adams