DayBreaks for 10/05/17: Rend Your Heart
Joel 2:12-14 (NIV) – “Even now,’ declares the LORD, ‘return to me with all your heart, with fasting and weeping and mourning.’ Rend your heart and not your garments. Return to the LORD your God, for he is gracious and compassionate, slow to anger and abounding in love, and he relents from sending calamity. Who knows? He may turn and have pity and leave behind a blessing — grain offerings and drink offerings for the LORD your God.”
One of the things that I find hardest to understand about God is how patient He is with us. Seemingly countless times in the Old Testament, Israel, the people that He Himself chose to be His own special people, walked off and left Him behind. And for every one of those times, He pleaded with them to return to Him. For every time that I’ve chosen against God, He has pleaded with me to return. Remember, this is the God who is so great that He that creates with words alone, pleading with His creation. It defies comprehension.
The passage above from Joel shows us what it is that the Lord wants from us at times like that. Israel got to be very good at crying out to God for help – but less good at crying out to Him for forgiveness. They would go through religious reformation many times – putting on a good outward show, but they seldom participated in true spiritual renewal, from the inside out.
The ancient Jews had a habit of tearing their clothing when they were bereft or distraught. It was a sign of the depth of their anguish or sorrow. In the passage from Joel, God puts it about as clearly as it could be said: “Don’t tear your robes. I want your heart to be torn.” Why? Because His own heart had been torn. It’s not that God wanted them to suffer as much, or even in like fashion, as He was suffering, but because He wanted their actions to proceed from their hearts. It’s easy to appear broken on the outside. It’s also much more painful to have your heart torn – as God’s heart was when His people turn their backs on Him. But outward change doesn’t penetrate to the heart and result in heart-change. Heart-change, on the other hand, will become apparent in outward actions.
God is wise enough to know when our outward actions are merely for show or when they’re for real. We can fairly easily fool one another by how we act when we’re surrounded by Christians or when we’re in church. We can never, ever, fool God. Not even when I pray to him and tell Him I’m sorry for something when deep down inside, I know my heart is not in agreement with my lips.
We need to learn to pray that our hearts are rent and torn by our sin – and return to Him, “for He is gracious and compassionate, slow to anger and abounding in love. Who knows? He may turn and have pity and leave behind a blessing…”
PRAYER: Jesus, we are masters at deceiving ourselves and others. Give us hearts that break over our sin and then the lips to confess it. Remove pretense far from us and turn our hearts back to You. In Jesus’ name, Amen.
Copyright by 2017 by Galen C. Dalrymple.