Luke 5:16

Tear Your Hearts

This scripture leaped out at me today as I was looking at my Lent meditation for the day:

That is why the Lord says,
“Turn to me now, while there is time.
Give me your hearts.
Come with fasting, weeping, and mourning.
Don’t tear your clothing in your grief,
but tear your hearts instead.”
Return to the Lord your God,
for he is merciful and compassionate,
slow to get angry and filled with unfailing love.
He is eager to relent and not punish.
Who knows? Perhaps he will give you a reprieve,
sending you a blessing instead of this curse.
Perhaps you will be able to offer grain and wine
to the Lord your God as before.

~Joel 2:12-14 NLT~

Of course this is just the same call for repentance that we hear from everyone…the whole “turn-or-burn” kind of feel.  But it felt different to me.

Here’s what I think…

Come with fasting, weeping, and mourning.
Don’t tear your clothing in your grief,
but tear your hearts instead.

Don’t take pity on yourself.  We’re all sinners, we all do stupid stuff, there’s no way we’re ever going to live a perfect life, but don’t beat yourself up over it!  Why fast?  To limit your distractions from God.  Why weep?  Because we are saddened by our imperfect state.  Why mourn?  Because there are others who don’t know God’s redeeming values.  But listen to what it says.  “Don’t tear your clothing in grief, but tear your hearts instead.”  Don’t live like a sinner.  Don’t portray yourself as unworthy.  Don’t wear your sin.  Rather, be transformed from the inside out.  “Tear your heart” so that it is ready for God’s healing.  Open yourself up to his transformative power.

Return to the Lord your God,
for he is merciful and compassionate,
slow to get angry and filled with unfailing love.
He is eager to relent and not punish.

God is love (1 John 4:7-8).  God is not wrath.  He wants to shower mercy and compassion upon us, not strike us down with a bolt of lightning for disobeying.  His first response is not to get angry, but forgive.  He doesn’t want to punish us for our sins.

Who knows? Perhaps he will give you a reprieve,
sending you a blessing instead of this curse.
Perhaps you will be able to offer grain and wine
to the Lord your God as before.

Times are tough.  Your sin has gotten out of control.  You feel cursed.  But turning back to God allows you a reprieve.  We so quickly want to blame God when things aren’t going right.  Or, we want to assume that we are being beaten down by God as punishment for going the wrong direction.  Unfortunately, it’s sometimes we that are beating up on ourselves, or that we just don’t realize that God is not in our experience because we won’t allow him to be.

If we just wake up and repent, open our hearts, accept God’s mercy and compassion, realize that it is not he who is punishing us, then we can once again come before him with our offerings.  Not just “grain and wine” offerings, but offerings of our whole harvest!

Open your hearts, return to God, and accept his blessing.

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3 responses

  1. Joe Wilson

    Consider this: God cannot be simultaneously all merciful and all just. If we define justice as a fitting punishment for a crime (or sin) and mercy as a reprieve from said crime (or sin) that is undeserved, then they cannot coexist as absolute characteristics of God. Billions of Buddhists and Hindus are damned to hell for nothing more than not accepting Christianity yet a serial killer who has a religious experience on death row lives forever in paradise. Justice and mercy are out of whack for an all-merciful, all-just God.

    Ponder this as well: God cannot be omniscient (knowledge of all things past, present and future) if there is such a thing as free will or the power of prayer to change things and heal diseases. Why pray if events are already to be? Is God like Scott Bakula on Quantum Leap, righting wrongs along space/time when people pray? Also, why pray for salvation and try to live a Christ-like life in hopes of attaining and maintaining grace, God knows who is going to paradise and who is to suffer in the inferno? It’s not as though anything you do or think will change that, is there? Why witness at all, God already has them penciled in. If you sat at home and did nothing for the rest of your life, God’s future knowledge would not change, would it?

    I’d like to get your take on that Kevin.

    03/01/2010 at 10:41 pm

    • Joe,
      I really do appreciate your comments! It’s the consideration for these confusing aspects of God and of scripture that keep us all aware and seeking the Truth. My initial thought was twofold: 1) the conflict between God’s mercy and his justice is an “Old Testament” way of thinking and 2) it is that way because nowhere in your comment did you include a consideration for Jesus Christ. I would try to put my thoughts into words more clearly, but this article (http://www.apologeticspress.org/articles/1860) does a tremendous job of doing that for me. Please take a look, and I would love to hear more of your thoughts.

      03/02/2010 at 10:18 am

    • slickdaddie

      God only asks one thing of us…that we accept the gift of Jesus’ death for our sin. If we hear this, know this, and don’t accept this, then we are, in essence, slapping God in the face and saying, "I don’t believe you!" This is essentially calling God a liar! God gives us a choice, call it "free-will" if you like, no matter what you call it, it is still a choice to either accept
      His gift of grace (as found on Merriam-Webster online: "1 a : unmerited divine assistance given humans for their regeneration or sanctification b : a virtue coming from God c : a state of sanctification (sanctify: from M-W.com"2 : to free from sin : purify") enjoyed through divine grace.") or go on living as if there is no God. You can choose to sit around and not do anything at all, or you can choose to get out in the world and find the answer to the questions you are looking for. I believe that God does not "predestine" anything. God knows the future, but He does not set our future decisions! Knowing the choices we are going to make is very similar to an NFL game where the defensive coordinator seems to know what play the offensive coordinator is going to call. Because of this, does it mean that the defensive coordinator has predestined his team to win? Of course not! While I know this analogy doesn’t really convey the whole idea, it is similar. God knows the choices that we are going to make; He does not make us choose. He lets us choose, right or wrong, good or evil…if God made us choose, then we would not even need Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross! In fact, there would be need for any type of religion, because we would live only for God and be His little robots!
      There are several examples in the Old Testament where because of the prayer of a man for the people, God showed mercy on the people…Here is one from Exodus 32: 9-14 (NLT) my emphasis added):
      “9 “I have seen these people,” the Lord said to Moses, “and they are a stiff-necked people.  10 Now leave me alone so that my anger may burn against them and that I may destroy them. Then I will make you into a great nation.” 11 But Moses sought the favor of the Lord his God. “O Lord,” he said, “why should your anger burn against your people, whom you brought out of Egypt with great power and a mighty hand?  12 Why should the Egyptians say, ‘It was with evil intent that he brought them out, to kill them in the mountains and to wipe them off the face of the earth’? Turn from your fierce anger; relent and do not bring disaster on your people.  13 Remember your servants Abraham, Isaac and Israel, to whom you swore by your own self: ‘I will make your descendants as numerous as the stars in the sky and I will give your descendants all this land I promised them, and it will be their inheritance forever.’ ” 14 Then the Lord relented and did not bring on his people the disaster he had threatened.”
      As for our trying “…to live a Christ-like life in hopes of attaining and maintaining grace,” you are partially correct. We cannot hope to attain or maintain grace because it is a gift, the only decision here is if choose to accept it or not! We can choose tell others of the life changing power of Christ because it is an internal change in our life. You can’t explain to someone that has never experienced the life changing power of Christ what it is like. 1 Corinthians 1:18-25 (NIV) tells us this:
      “18 For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.  19 For it is written:
      “I will destroy the wisdom of the wise;
      the intelligence of the intelligent I will frustrate.”
       20 Where is the wise man? Where is the scholar? Where is the philosopher of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world?  21 For since in the wisdom of God the world through its wisdom did not know him, God was pleased through the foolishness of what was preached to save those who believe.  22 Jews demand miraculous signs and Greeks look for wisdom,  23 but we preach Christ crucified: a stumbling block to Jews and foolishness to Gentiles,  24 but to those whom God has called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God.  25 For the foolishness of God is wiser than man’s wisdom, and the weakness of God is stronger than man’s strength.”
      Think of it in this way, as a parent, can you not be both just and merciful? Can you punish your children justly and at the same time have mercy on them? How can this be a contradiction? We love our children, so we punish them justly. Do they sometimes deserve a more severe punishment than we give them? Chances are the answer is yes, but because of the mercy that we show to them, we are more lenient…Hebrews 12:3-11 tells us:
      “3 Think of all the hostility he endured from sinful people; then you won’t become weary and give up.  4 After all, you have not yet given your lives in your struggle against sin.  5 And have you forgotten the encouraging words God spoke to you as his children? He said,
      “My child, don’t make light of the Lord’s discipline,
      and don’t give up when he corrects you.  6  For the Lord disciplines those he loves,
      and he punishes each one he accepts as his child.”
       7 As you endure this divine discipline, remember that God is treating you as his own children. Who ever heard of a child who is never disciplined by its father?  8 If God doesn’t discipline you as he does all of his children, it means that you are illegitimate and are not really his children at all.  9 Since we respected our earthly fathers who disciplined us, shouldn’t we submit even more to the discipline of the Father of our spirits, and live forever?
       10 For our earthly fathers disciplined us for a few years, doing the best they knew how. But God’s discipline is always good for us, so that we might share in his holiness.  11 No discipline is enjoyable while it is happening—it’s painful! But afterward there will be a peaceful harvest of right living for those who are trained in this way.”
      And you are right, in saying “…It’s not as though anything you do or think will change that, is there?” You are right in that if you do nothing, nothing is all that will get done. What if you did do something? What would you get done? Accept my dare, read the Gospel of John for a month and while you are reading it sincerely ask God to show you His power, grace, and glory. After a month, if you do not see Him at work in your life and through the scriptures…let me know…Isaiah 55:11 (NLT) says:
      “It is the same with my word.I send it out, and it always produces fruit.
      It will accomplish all I want it to,and it will prosper everywhere I send it.”

      03/02/2010 at 2:01 pm

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