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What does the Bible say about a holy imagination and how it is used?
“The steadfast of mind You will keep in perfect peace, Because he trusts in You. Is. 26:3, NASB
Or as translated by Young’s Literal Translation:
An imagination supported Thou fortifiest peace -- peace! For in Thee it is confident. Is. 26:3
The word we see here as “mind” is the Hebrew word: Yatsar. This word is used 9 times in the Old Testament and this is the only time it is translated as “mind.” In two other verses it is translated as “framed,” as in the human frame or structure. The rest of the time it is translated as “imagination” just as Young translates it in this verse.
So what does it mean when it says that God will keep us in peace if we keep our mind or holy imagination focused on Him?
Imagination is part of how we, as humans, operate. We use it all the time whether we recognize it or not. For example, we are driving down the highway and we hear police sirens behind us. We imagine we are being pulled off and given a huge ticket. In fact, they just wanted us to pull over so they could pass. Or just as you are leaving work on a Friday, a supervisor tells you the boss wants to see you in his office first thing Monday morning. Now your imagination will be working overtime all weekend!
It is easy to have an evil imagination. An obvious example would be engaging in lustful thoughts. But, perhaps less obvious, have you ever imagined getting revenge on someone who hurt you? Or have you replayed an encounter or embarrassing moment over and over in your mind changing what happened to what you would have liked to have happen or said? It’s something we probably all do, but usually it is using imagination in a negative way [although if we are using to learn from and correct our mistakes instead of beating ourselves up or tearing someone else down, it could be positive].
In any case, we all have an imagination and we use it all the time. The question is, how do we use it?
Imagination is either an act of desire or an act of faith. Both can either be good or evil. As mentioned above, an evil desire in the imagination is fantasizing about revenge, lust or playing the hero in our own self-pity tragedy. It is an evil desire that we try to fulfill through our imagination knowing we will never do it in “real” life [although some people cross the line]. An evil faith expressed through imagination is as we envison and believe in the worst possible outcome of any situation which we are facing. [When your spouse or children are late do you automatically think of a car accident or other disaster? I know that is my tendency!] It reveals a lack of trust in God. Imagination at its worst brings fear, doubt, distrust.
I am sure we are all familiar with various degrees of this use of imagination.
One thing we can do as we read the Bible is to imagine ourselves there or in the story. How would you have felt stepping out of the boat with Peter into a storm tossed sea? What you have felt walking on water…then sinking? How about the woman taken in adultery, exposed before all? Can you see her shame and fear? Can you identify with some exposed or hidden part of your life? How about Moses parting the Red Sea? What would it have been like to be an Israelite there feeling the fear and seeing the deliverance? Holy imagination can help make the event alive to us.
Use your holy imagination to picture the beauty of God’s creation when you can’t see it with your natural eyes. Praise Him for it. Let your holy imagination raise you to the very throne room of God. Stand among the angels and fellow believers as they praise and worship Almighty God - your Father. Does He give you a wink?
Look at Jesus. Picture Him loving you, holding you, caring for you. Remember Psalm 23? Full of pictures. See yourself in them as the sheep the Great Shepherd is caring for.
Ask Jesus to show you where He was in a negative or painful situation. Jesus is always with us. When you were being hurt or in pain, ask Him to show you where He was and what He was doing. Look with eyes of faith.
The hurt is healed when you can see the gift that God has produced in your life through that hurt. Rev. Mark Virkler
When you think of the future, let your holy imagination work out the best possible outcomes, not the worst. Richard Wurmbrand, when he was in prison being tortured for Christ, would sometimes picture his terrible morsel of food as a strawberry - of course, the real thing tasted a lot better when he got out!
We need to train, through practice, our holy imagination to picture the good and positive. We need to see Jesus and experience life from His perspective. As we train our mind to focus on Jesus, we will be able to live in peace no matter what is happening around us. When we catch ourselves falling into an evil use of imagination, we need to stop, repent and begin correcting our pictures to what is right and good and lovely.