Acts 7:23 – “And when he was full forty years old, it came into his heart to visit his brethren the children of Israel.”
Stephen was being given the opportunity to defend himself before his religious critics. At the conclusion of his defense, he would be brutally martyred by being stoned. His powerful last words included a summary of God’s dealings with Israel. In Stephen’s testimony, he referred to the way Moses was directed from the home of his Egyptian upbringing, to his interest in Israelite relations.
The language Stephen used says much to us about the way God works, “And when he was full forty years old, it came into his heart to visit his brethren the children of Israel.” This began one of the most remarkable series of events history will ever record. Moses would eventually go before Pharaoh; the mighty plagues would be seen; Israel would be led through the Red Sea, drink water out of a rock, be fed with manna from Heaven, cross the Jordan River on dry ground, and eventually would occupy the land of Canaan. And it all began, when “it came into his heart to visit his brethren.”
The Spirit of God works in our hearts. This is not referring to some selfish and carnal desire on the part of Moses. Rather, it is a desire that God placed in his heart. God often works in a similar way in our lives, quietly stirring in our hearts. As with Moses, it sometimes begins with a desire in the heart. This does not imply that every idea we have is evidence of God’s leading. It does mean, however, that to the life that is surrendered and seeking God’s best, one way He communicates His will is through our desires. God can prompt our hearts in a particular direction. This is just one reason why we need to keep our hearts clean and subjected to Him. When our hearts are cluttered with sin, blinded through self-will, filled with busyness, or hardened through stubbornness, it will be difficult for us to discern God’s will and hear His still small voice.
Sometimes we wonder why we have such a difficult time knowing God’s will and discerning His leading. One factor is the condition of our hearts. Let’s make sure our hearts are clean, our sins are forgiven, and our wills are surrendered to Him. God wants us to know and follow His leading, and we want the Holy Spirit to lead us.