Scripture demonstrates that God was concerned from early in mankind’s history with man’s heart, that God cared deeply about the spirit, or motivation, behind man’s actions.
This is demonstrated by such statements as “Do not hate your brother in your heart” (Leviticus 19:17, NIV) and “You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your strength” (Deuteronomy 6:5).
After recounting His Ten Commandments in Deuteronomy 5:6-21, God exclaimed, “Oh, that they had such a heart in them that they would fear Me and always keep all My commandments, that it might be well with them and with their children forever!” (verse 29).
King David knew well that God “searches every heart and understands every motive behind the thoughts” (1 Chronicles 28:9, NIV).
David also grew to understand that no one could escape from the invisible presence of God (Psalm 139). In his repentance after his adultery with Bathsheba, David expressed the understanding that God was ultimately more concerned with “a broken spirit, a broken and a contrite heart” than with any physical penance he could undertake (Psalm 51:17).
Man’s innermost attitude and disposition have always been of concern to God, in both Old and New Testament.
God has long concerned Himself with the morality of people. This was clearly demonstrated during Abraham’s time when judgment was exacted on five cities. Two of the cities, Sodom and Gomorrah, have become classic examples of the sinfulness of humans, typifying all that is perverse and decadent. God showed He would not forever overlook depraved attitudes and conduct. He concluded that the “sin [was] so grievous” in these cities that a prediction of even 10 righteous people living there was wildly optimistic and unrealistic (Genesis 18:20-32).
Once again God made a distinction concerning the morality and ethics of human conduct. In Sodom lived only one righteous man, Lot (2 Peter 2:6-7). God considered the evil of these cities sufficient to warrant their annihilation as a judgment on their sinful, corrupted residents.