Friday, October 12, 2012
Rend Your Heart
Joel 2:12-13 - “Now, therefore,” says the LORD, “Turn to Me with all your heart, with fasting, with weeping, and with mourning.” So rend your heart, and not your garments; return to the Lord your God, for He is gracious and merciful, slow to anger, and of great kindness; and He relents from doing harm.
There are so many commands like this in the Bible that are just as important for us today as then. So many commands to turn back to God. Why is it so difficult to do?
We are doing the Book of Esther in Women's Ministries. A little background information is necessary: Israel had once again turned from God and He allowed His people to be taken captive by Persia (Babylon). As these Jews lived in Persia they, although probably not all, fell into the "pagan" lifestyle, further distancing themselves from God. After 70 years the then king of Persia allowed the Jews to return to their land. Some did, but some stayed.
Why Esther and her cousin Mordecai's family stayed I don't know. Perhaps Mordecai had a good job (at the king's gate) and chose to stay. He did, however, remain a godly man.
Further explanation: Because Mordecai retained godly principles, he refused to bend his knee to the king's right hand man, Haman. He bowed only to God. Because of this action and Haman's anger, a decree was suggested by Haman, and approved by the king, that all Jews were to be killed. Most likely it was God's purpose he and Esther be there "for such a time as this." For such a time as for God to show His love for His people that they might turn their hearts once again to Him.
Things happen in the course of events even today that are surely meant to draw us back to God, to save us from impending illness or disaster, that His kindness and mercy can be shown to us. It happens individually or corporately. It can happen in A church or THE Church. It can happen in a country or the world. There's no limit to where He wants to work. But He's always at work attempting to open our eyes that we might receive Him, for the first time, or again. We might be seeing it happening around us right now.
To receive Him we are called to rend our hearts. In those days rending garments was what was done. They would tear their garments and put on sackcloth and ashes to show they were in mourning. They would openly grieve. They would fast. All part of the repentance. In Joel 2:14 it is asked "Who knows if He will turn and relent?" Who knows? Only God knows. Today the question might be who knows if God can turn this country around? We may be beyond saving. He may have decided it's too late and judgment will come upon us. But we can keep praying for an entire country's heart to change and turn back, like Israel. We can pray that our "king(s)" would return to God. Thankfully even if the country doesn't turn back, it's never too late for us as individuals. Circumstances around us may cause us to turn...
In Esther the same question was raised to her: Yet who knows whether you have come to the kingdom for such a time as this? Mordecai was posing the question whether she might be being used of God to save her people, that's why she was made queen...and it's something she could not let slip by. We each might be here for such a time as this. We might each be used by God to turn someone's heart to the Lord. It is our calling, after all, as followers of Christ.
Mordecai was rending his clothes and no doubt his heart. Would Esther stand up to what was clearly required of her? Another blog will explain this!
In Merriam's dictionary, as well as the Hebrew definition of the word, rend is pretty obvious: to remove from place by violence, to wrest; to tear (the hair or clothing) as a sign of anger, grief, or despair. To rend our hearts! To let ourselves know and feel the grief we have caused God for our lack of trust and obedience to Him in our own lifetimes. If we do this the healing will begin as He receives our heart-felt emotions. And the healing is so tender and peaceful. It happens when one receives Christ.
What God is requiring of all people is that humble and contrite heart and spirit to return to God, to seek Christ for salvation. He's looking for it within each of us as well as in this country. If we do this He will be beside us. When will we ever get it? When will people ever do it? Without Him we are nothing, can do nothing of true value. And yet...we are told the road is narrow...few will be on it.
Psalm 34:18 - The Lord is near to those who have a broken heart, and saves such as have a contrite spirit.