There are about 30 verses in Scripture commanding us to love, seek or obey God with all our heart.
That is rather difficult since our emotions are not particularly cooperative all the time. Now a command to obey God is theoretically achievable at least for a few minutes at a time, because we can choose with our will to override our emotions while we do a right action.
But our hearts are fickle even on a good day, and the command to love God with all our emotions, not our actions or attitudes, becomes quite a challenge.
Against that backdrop, here is an interesting passage where our hearts are the effect, not the cause.
Consider Jeremiah 24:4ff where God is talking about Judah being taken into captivity.
Ponder that picture. The Babylonians invade. There is a year of war (with defeat) followed by a year of siege perhaps, then the horrific breaching of the city wall. There is mayhem in the city as enemy troops run wild, killing randomly, gathering up anything that looks like loot. Eventually the rampaging of the soldiers dies off and military leadership begins the process of sorting the civilians.
Thousands are rounded up and prepared for the long march across the desert in brutal circumstances. When they arrived in Babylon, there is the humiliation of being marched down Main Street as trophies of war.
Eventually they would be dropped off in a ghetto with some vague provisions for sustaining life in the midst of a foreign, idolatrous culture. They had little or no capital to start with. They had no civil rights. They did not speak the language.
It is so beyond anything we can imagine, having lived with peace in our nation for so long.
At the time of this prophecy, repentance was not an option. The nation was past the point of no return. The Babylonians were coming. Period. No other alternative was possible.
So the point of the prophecy was not to encourage repentance so as to change the course of history. Rather, God simply told them to lean into the exile and all of the horrors that it entailed.
Lean into it?!
Yep. That was God’s advice.
Here is His view of the exile — a view less grim than what I shared above.
“My eyes will watch over them for their good, and I will bring them back to this land. I will build them up and not tear them down; I will plant them and not uproot them. I will give them a heart to know me, that I am the Lord. They will be my people, and I will be their God, for they will return to me with all their heart.” Jeremiah 24:6-7 NIV
Suddenly, the chicken and the egg problem has at least a tiny bit of definition. If we extend the sequence from Judah to us, then it goes like this.
-Lack of wholehearted love for God.
-Really stupid choices in life.
-Really painful divine intervention.
-Big decision to fight it, endure it, or lean into it.
-If we lean into it, God will do a heart transplant.
-After He fixes our heart, we can obey Him with all our heart.
Odd, isn’t it? God’s promised place of a heart transplant is in the place of judgment, not intimate worship.
There must be some verses about His changing our heart when we are in a good place, but the prominent ones are all about our having a right response to pain.
That is hard for me. My childhood response was to endure. Suppose I had to write 1,000 standards. I would settle in for a bad two or three days, but I would do it. Pay the price, and then be free. Grounded? Pay the price and eventually I would be free. My mindset was always to check out, endure, get through it, and then begin to live again when I got to the end of the judicial sentence.
Having a life in the midst of the discipline is a different perspective. And getting a new heart that CAN respond to God the right way while I am in the midst of discipline is really a new paradigm.
What does that look like on Monday morning? Clearly God is doing the heavy lifting with the heart transplant. I’m quite incapable of fixing my own heart. But what does it look like for me to lean into a horrible season of judgment in such a way that it does produce that new heart and new ability?
Still chewing on that one, but it sure is a different way to look at doing hard time.
Copyright May 2011 by Arthur Burk