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Our culture spends billions of dollars on the consumption of manufactured dreams. With childlike ease, we suspend disbelief as the banquet of sight and sound washes over us from the big screen and carries us to a reality outside of our ordinary lives. Through the magic of film the impossible and improbable become believable, if only for a fleeting few moments in the dark. That we willingly relinquish our hard earned cash for such entertainments is a testament to the Creator’s design. Man is a dream machine; a visionary being that is driven by the mind’s eye.

Our imagination may be the most tangible remnant of what Watchman Nee termed “the latent power of the soul.” Say what you will about the intelligence of dolphins, but none of them ever shot themselves to the Moon. Long before man built a rocket, he dreamt of dancing among the silver craters of our planetary cousin. Dissatisfied with walking, he saw the birds and fancied flying. Icarus may be mythical, but Orville and Wilbur were real enough. That man flies is evidence that the mindset of our race is far from realist. We are driven to break beyond the apparent restrictions of physics and our dusty frame to do the impossible.

Imagination is the engine of our progress, the harbinger of our doom. With it, we have gained untold knowledge and believed monstrous lies. Through it, the wicked have birthed nightmares and righteous have devised good. It is the fabric of faith, the web of worry. It is to man’s soul what revelation is to his spirit. Harnessed to God, it elevates us to the image of our Creator. Let loose to its own vanity, it can drown a planet.

Genesis 11:6 KJV[1]
And the Lord said, Behold, the people is one, and they have all one language; and this they begin to do: and now nothing will be restrained from them, which they have imagined to do.

The people had imagined no less an audacious than building a tower to heaven. This vision was communicated to a unified culture that focused its efforts around that dream. And the Lord said, “Nothing they have imagined will be impossible for them.” That He fractured their language to confound their communication in order to stop the construction is proof enough of the power God has imparted to man’s imagination. If their schemes posed no threat or real possibility, there would have been no need to act. Let them build and get nowhere. But imagination isn’t impotent. It’s pregnant with possibilities.

Genesis 6:5-6
5 And God saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every imagination of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually.
6 And it repented the Lord that he had made man on the earth, and it grieved him at his heart.

Prediluvian man devolved to a state that could only dream of debauchery, defilement, and death. Such devilishness needed drowning if deliverance were ever to come. The imaginations of Genesis 6 sent mankind to the depths. Those of Genesis 11 caused him to strive towards the heavens. Base and lofty, both were vain. The imagination is a horrible thing to waste.

2 Corinthians 10:4-5
4 (For the weapons of our warfare are not carnal, but mighty through God to the pulling down of strong holds;)
5 Casting down imaginations, and every high thing that exalteth itself against the knowledge of God, and bringing into captivity every thought to the obedience of Christ;

Imagination is amoral only to the degree that it does not defy God. When our imaginations are devoted to God, He gives us the desires of our hearts (Psalm 37:4-5). When they deny God, they debase us (Romans 1:21-25).

Mark 12:28-30
28 And one of the scribes came, and having heard them reasoning together, and perceiving that he had answered them well, asked him, Which is the first commandment of all?
29 And Jesus answered him, The first of all the commandments is, Hear, O Israel; The Lord our God is one Lord:
30 And thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind, and with all thy strength: this is the first commandment.

I have often heard it taught that the soul encompasses the mind, will, and emotions. If this is the case, Jesus’s definition of the first commandment seems somewhat redundant. If the mind is part of my soul and I am loving the Lord with all of my soul, wouldn’t my mind be included? Why say mind at all? The other oddity in this exposition is that it gives four parts to an otherwise described tripartite man.

1 Thessalonians 5:23
And the very God of peace sanctify you wholly; and I pray God your whole spirit and soul and body be preserved blameless unto the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.

Spirit, soul, and body correspond to heart, soul, and strength. The mind is left as a free radical in the equation.

Luke 10:25-28
25 And, behold, a certain lawyer stood up, and tempted him, saying, Master, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?
26 He said unto him, What is written in the law? how readest thou?
27 And he answering said, Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy strength, and with all thy mind; and thy neighbour as thyself.
28 And he said unto him, Thou hast answered right: this do, and thou shalt live.

In Luke, we have the same framing of the first commandment but this time from the lips of the lawyer. In that he included “mind” along with heart, soul, and strength tells us that the idea of the mind being somewhere within or in between those three was a concept readily understood by the Jewish audience of that day. They are getting something we are not.

The word translated “mind” in Mark 12 and Luke 10 is dianoia. What we generally think of when we talk about the mind, especially when we talk about the mind being part of the soul, is reflected in the Greek word nous, which means “the seat of reflective consciousness or understanding.”[2] Dianoia, in contrast, refers to the working of the mind—actually thinking it through, meditating, imagining.

Luke 1:51
He hath shewed strength with his arm; he hath scattered the proud in the imagination [Gk. dianoia] of their hearts.

These imaginations were in their hearts. The heart of man corresponds to the spirit of man. In Deuteronomy 6:5, the Hebrew for heart is lebab and for soul is nephesh. Nephesh is translated “mind” 15 times in the King James Version. Lebab is translated “mind” 4 times and “understanding” 3 times. Its related word, leb, is translated “mind” 11 times and “understanding” 20 times. Though English translation preferences don’t have any extensive authority in and of themselves, they certainly do aid us in understanding the original meaning. By relegating the mind solely to the soulish realm, we have missed an important facet of life.

Imagination exists in all parts of our being: spirit, soul, and body. But it is most powerful when originating from the heart—the spirit of man. It is the working of this heart, the imaging of our inmost desires, which God wants harnessed in His love. “Mind” was spoken by Jesus and the lawyer in citing the Great Commandment because it was understood in the use of “heart” (as well as “soul”).

The following is a commentary on Deuteronomy 6:5 from the Misna:

“’with all thy heart’, with thy imaginations, with the good imagination and with the evil imagination; and ‘with all thy soul’, even if he should take away thy soul; and ‘with all thy strength’, with all thy ‘mammon’ or riches; or otherwise, ‘with all thy might’, with every measure he measures unto thee, do thou measure unto him.”[3]

In his letter to the Ephesians, Paul describes our state when the imaginations of our hearts aren’t harnessed to God.

Ephesians 4:17-19
17 This I say therefore, and testify in the Lord, that ye henceforth walk not as other Gentiles walk, in the vanity of their mind,
18 Having the understanding darkened, being alienated from the life of God through the ignorance that is in them, because of the blindness of their heart:
19 Who being past feeling have given themselves over unto lasciviousness, to work all uncleanness with greediness.

A blind heart has a darkened understanding. It bleeds the desires of the degenerate and leads to destruction. Were it not for the deliverance of salvation, we would be abandoned to our own lusts and lost forever. Thank God that He rescued us.

Hebrews 10:16-17
16 This is the covenant that I will make with them after those days, saith the Lord, I will put my laws into their hearts, and in their minds [dianoia] will I write them;
17 And their sins and iniquities will I remember no more.

It is in the mind of the heart that He has written His Law. The soul mind reasons things out, the heart knows. It knows things that the mind can’t comprehend. In the imagination, things often come full-formed. Then the soul mind has to figure it out. With the soul, we reason. With the heart, we understand. The soul is the seat of intelligence, the heart that of intuition. In the soul reside the plans of man. But his heart houses his dreams. And God wants all of our dreams.

2 Corinthians 3:3
Forasmuch as ye are manifestly declared to be the epistle of Christ ministered by us, written not with ink, but with the Spirit of the living God; not in tables of stone, but in fleshy tables of the heart.

He has written His word upon our hearts with His Spirit that we might give birth to dreams with eternal consequence. David was a man after God’s own heart (Acts 13:22). He wanted what God wanted. He is an example of one who loved God with all his heart, soul, strength and imagination.

1 Chronicles 17:1-2
1 Now it came to pass, as David sat in his house, that David said to Nathan the prophet, Lo, I dwell in an house of cedars, but the ark of the covenant of the Lord remaineth under curtains.
2 Then Nathan said unto David, Do all that is in thine heart; for God is with thee.

David had it in his heart to build a house of rest for the ark of the covenant of the Lord (1 Chr 28:1-3). One can’t blame Nathan for his advice to David. Anyone who had observed the man’s life would have surely come to the same conclusion. Bear got your sheep? Kill the bear. Giant taunt your troops? Kill the giant. King wants a son-in-law? Circumcise some Philistines. Syrians attack your border? Put Damascus under the thumb. Moabite get uppity? Decimate them. See a beautiful woman (or two or three or a hundred)? Place them in the harem. Need a new song? Write it. There wasn’t a goal he ever failed to hit.

1 Chronicles 17:3-6
3 And it came to pass the same night, that the word of God came to Nathan, saying,
4 Go and tell David my servant, Thus saith the Lord, Thou shalt not build me an house to dwell in:
5 For I have not dwelt in an house since the day that I brought up Israel unto this day; but have gone from tent to tent, and from one tabernacle to another.
6 Wheresoever I have walked with all Israel, spake I a word to any of the judges of Israel, whom I commanded to feed my people, saying, Why have ye not built me an house of cedars?

David wanted to build God a house that He had never asked for. He put on His biggest display of manifest glory to call Moses up to the mountain top and give him plans for a tent! He had never communicated a desire for a permanent structure of worship. The transient nature of the Tabernacle gave testimony of the time when the Word would be made flesh and was a continual reminder that the faithful were but sojourners and pilgrims on the earth looking for a city whose builder and maker is God.[4] But David’s heart was inclined toward God, so God made a way for his dreams.

1 Chronicles 28:2-3, 6-7
2 Then David the king stood up upon his feet, and said, Hear me, my brethren, and my people: As for me, I had in mine heart to build an house of rest for the ark of the covenant of the Lord, and for the footstool of our God, and had made ready for the building:
3 But God said unto me, Thou shalt not build an house for my name, because thou hast been a man of war, and hast shed blood.
6 And he said unto me, Solomon thy son, he shall build my house and my courts: for I have chosen him to be my son, and I will be his father.
7 Moreover I will establish his kingdom for ever, if he be constant to do my commandments and my judgments, as at this day.

“I had in mine heart to build an house…” This was David’s dream. And in granting him the desires of His heart, the Lord amplified His symbolic declaration of the plan of redemption. A man’s imagination harnessed to God changed the pattern of object lesson revelation. In the process, the entire liturgy and administration of the priesthood was revamped, a new corpus of worship music was written, choirs were organized, instruments invented, and the energies of an entire nation focused.

1 Chronicles 28:9-10
9 And thou, Solomon my son, know thou the God of thy father, and serve him with a perfect heart and with a willing mind: for the Lord searcheth all hearts, and understandeth all the imaginations of the thoughts: if thou seek him, he will be found of thee; but if thou forsake him, he will cast thee off for ever.
10 Take heed now; for the Lord hath chosen thee to build an house for the sanctuary: be strong, and do it.

Though his bloody hands restricted him from building a house of peace, his dream was given generational outlet. David’s greatest achievement required his son to fulfill it. Having given him the way to achieve his desire, the Lord also provided the guidance to bring it to pass.

1 Chronicles 28:12, 19-20
12 And the pattern of all that he had by the spirit, of the courts of the house of the Lord, and of all the chambers round about, of the treasuries of the house of God, and of the treasuries of the dedicated things:
19 All this, said David, the Lord made me understand in writing by his hand upon me, even all the works of this pattern.
20 And David said to Solomon his son, Be strong and of good courage, and do it: fear not, nor be dismayed: for the Lord God, even my God, will be with thee; he will not fail thee, nor forsake thee, until thou hast finished all the work for the service of the house of the Lord.

The Lord gave him the desire of his heart, but he didn’t leave him to his own devices. When we love God with all of our imagination, He will take the offering of our dreams and turn them into our destiny.

[1] All Scripture references are from the King James Version of the Bible unless otherwise noted.
[2] From Vine’s Expository Dictionary of New Testament Words
[3] Beracot, c. 9. sect. 5.
[4] John 1:14; Heb 11:9-10