Q.

What does the phrase “Try my reins and my heart” in Psalm 26.2 mean?

A.
Ancient languages had no vocabulary for certain concepts relating to man’s emotional and soulish makeup. Instead, certain terms for the human anatomy served this purpose. Thus we find the word “reins,” which actually meant the kidneys (Hebrew kilyah; Greek nephros). The Bible uses this word about 14 times.

Other words the Bible uses to refer to the emotions include the belly (stomach) and bowels (intestines). For example, Proverbs 18:8 reads, “The words of a talebearer are as wounds, and they go down into the innermost parts of the belly.” The passage is not referring to the physical stomach but rather to the innermost part of the emotions. Likewise the Bible does not refer to a human’s intestines when it states, “My bowels, my bowels! I am pained at my very heart; my heart maketh a noise in me; I cannot hold my peace, because thou hast heard, O my soul, the sound of the trumpet, the alarm of war” (Jer. 4:19).

Another anatomical term in the Bible even more common than the above is the familiar word “heart.” This word, of course, does not refer to the muscle that pumps blood in our bodies, but rather it designates the mentality of the soul. Often we are a bit afraid that children (and adults too!) will not know what we mean when we attempt to portray the Biblical concept of Christ residing in our hearts as believers. We don’t want them to wonder how He could be inside our physical hearts, so it is a challenge to describe effectively matters relating to the soul.

Have you ever seen the insides of a piece of electronic equipment or of a telephone? If so, you probably noticed all sorts of wires and other minute parts. The relationship between mind, emotions, and soul is intricate as well. Psalm 139:14–17 states,

I will praise thee; for I am fearfully and wonderfully made: marvelous are thy works; and that my soul knoweth right well. My substance was not hid from thee, when I was made in secret, and curiously wrought in the lowest parts of the earth. Thine eyes did see my substance, yet being unperfect; and in thy book all my members were written, which in continuance were fashioned, when as yet there was none of them. How precious also are thy thoughts unto me, O God! how great is the sum of them.

God did a perfect and fantastic job in creating us; but even more importantly, He created us that we might be reconciled to Him. Sin brought alienation from God to the human race, but God provided salvation through the work of His Son, Jesus Christ, on the cross. In this world two groups exist, and every person who has lived is in one of them: the saved or the lost.

If you are among the company of people who are saved (believers in Christ) you need to know, according to Psalm 26:2, that our great God explores your heart and innermost emotions continually. He is looking at your attitude toward Him and His Word and whether or not you are positive toward obedience. He is constantly observing your relationship toward Him, whether you have your “first love” or not. The degree to which you are in harmony with God and His Word is the degree to which you will experience the blessing and usefulness He intends for you!

For this reason King David could pray, “Examine me, look me over thoroughly, God. Know my every thought. Prove me; try my reins [my innermost emotions and being].” David loved God supremely, and he wanted God to search Him completely. Through confession of sin, the intake of God’s Word, and the life of obedience through a right attitude of life, we, too, can ask God to search us, to “try our reins.”

However, believers need to beware of negative responses from the heart. We still have the sin nature. The Bible tells us that we believers sin (1 John 1:8). Failure to confess our sin affects our capacity for blessing, as well as our emotions and entire being. How wonderful it is that we can get back into fellowship!

Do you have feedback or a Bible question to submit? Send to nolson@garbc.org or mail to Norman A. Olson in care of the Baptist Bulletin, 1300 N. Meacham Rd., Schaumburg, IL 60173-4806.

Reprinted from the Baptist Bulletin (July 1994).
© 1994 Regular Baptist Press. All rights reserved.
Used by permission.