Rev. Kuiper is pastor of Southeast Protestant Reformed Church
The word imagination occurs thirty-six times in Holy Scripture. It is striking that every occurrence of this word, with one exception, is in the evil sense; and almost every use of the word is found in context with the words “evil heart.” God makes plain in His Word that He does not think much of the imaginations of men!
Just before the flood, “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” (Gen. 6:5). One of the things which the Lord hates is “an heart that deviseth wicked imaginations” (Prov. 6:18). When God called Judah to conversion of life, their response was, “There is no hope: but we will walk after our own devices, and we will every one do the imaginations of his evil heart” (Jer. 18:12). These imaginations are first and foremost against the Lord God Himself (Lam. 3:60, 61). After Peter and John had been released from prison, they prayed to God, quoting Psalm 2, “Why do the heathen rage and the people imagine vain things?” (Acts 4:25), observing that Herod, Pilate, the Gentiles, and Israel were gathered against the child Jesus. Natural man is without excuse because, knowing God, they refuse to glorify and thank Him, being vain in their imaginations and having foolish, darkened hearts (Rom. 1:21). The only hope for this universal depravity of mankind is the holy gospel which is able “to cast down imaginations, and every high thing which exalteth itself against the knowledge of God” (II Cor. 10:5).
What is the imagination? It is the ability and power to form a mental image of something not present to the senses. The imagination is the creation of the mind as that mind is given spiritual direction by the heart. An evil heart can only inspire the mind to imagine vain, corrupt things. In fact, without the imagination it is not even possible to sin. Sin is that a person imagines things better than the way that God has willed and ordained them for him. Thus the devil imagined it were better that he were God, rather than being one of God’s holy servants. Thus the devil dangled before the imagination of Eve and Adam the attractiveness that they could be God themselves, determining what is good and what is evil. Thus, through the fall of our first parents, every man comes into the world imagining vain, evil, corrupt things.
The only cure for the wicked imagination is regeneration of the heart, so that the thoughts of the heart are in harmony with the revelation of God in His Word. In that Word the truth and reality of all things is to be found: the truth of God, creation, the fall, Jesus Christ, salvation by faith in Him. Our imaginations are not to be given free rein; our meditations and musings are always to be subject to, and in harmony with, the truth of the Word of God.
Little children have strong, vivid imaginations. They pretend to be driving the car like dad. Or they imagine that they are housewives and mothers. Nothing wrong there. Occasionally it happens that the imagination of children becomes too strong and controlling so that they are out of touch with reality. They imagine they have a playmate who makes them do evil things. They imagine that they never do anything wrong. They refuse to take responsibility for their own sins. This requires discipline. This requires careful instruction by the parents and teachers, who know both the power of the sinful imagination and the power of the Word and Spirit of God to set forth the truth of all things.
As our delight is in the law of the Lord, as we meditate in that law day and night, we are set free from vain imaginations and the curse that comes upon them. Jehovah is God alone. We are His people for Christ’s sake. Let God be God! And let His Word be true!