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The Divided Heart

Bible ReflectionPosted by Rev John Edward Staton Mon, September 16, 2013 20:50:59


An old pop song conatined the words:

"Torn between two lovers, feeling like a fool.

Loving both of you is breaking all the rules"

Can't say I've had the experience myself, but the divided heart is something the Bible knows all about. The Psalmist says, "Give me an undivided heart that I may fear your name". I remember singing this verse as part of a worship song back in the 1970's, but then they used the King james' Version "unite my heart to fear thy name". I wondered what on earth it meant! The New International Version, quotd above, just about has it right. One assumes the lady in the song (it was sung by a female singer) was musing to herself, because I am sure neither of her lovers would have been pleased to know they were sharing her affections! And neither does God want to share our affections, either. On numerous occasions the Bible calls God a jealous God. To take but one example, in the Book of Exodus it says: "Do not worship any other god, for the LORD (the personal name of God stands here in the Hebrew text), whose name is Jealous, is a jealous God" When I was younger I used to hear people explain this away as a mistranslation, that it should really have said God was "zealous". They were wrong. The Bible meant what it said, and if they had realised what the Bible meant by "zealous" (people the Bible describes as "zealous" would today be termed fanatical radical fundamentalists), they might have been even less keen on that term.

But what does it mean to say God is jealous? It doesn't mean God is jealous of somebody's iPhone, or their car, or their house. Technically, that is not jealousy: it's envy. And envy is classed as one fo the seven deadly sins for a very good reason: it is a very common cause of both murder and war. But God is jealous in the way one or other of the lovers in the song might have been jealousHe doesn't want to share our affections. That doesn't mean he doesn't want us to love our partners, our families, or our neighbours. He tells us to love these people. But he doesn't want to share us with another God. The Israelites of old lived in a culture where there were numerous gods. You might have a special god for yourself and your family, but you might worship other gods occasionally - perhaps if you went on a journey into their territory to keep them onside This often happens today in India. In India, there are many gods, and many people who are regarded as Christians and live and work in Christian compound and areas attend church and worship the Christian God while they are there, but if they go back home they worship the pagan gods their family worships. This kind of thing happens in other parts of the world too. We sophisticated Westerners are above all that kind of thing, though. Except that we do yoga (a Hindu spiritual exercise) once or twice a week, or get our Tarot cards read, or wear charm bracelets. In all these ways we too are worshipping other gods. And then there are the "gods" of wealth, success, reputation, career, security etc, etc. We too suffer from the divided heart

We need to cry with the Psalmist, "give me and undivided heart that I may fear your name". But what is all this about fearing? What has fear got to do with love? Perhaps more than we would like to think . Perhaps many more of us would get into the position of the lady in the pop song if we didn't fear our loved one(s?) finding out. Maybe it is not the threat of violence (though men do well to remember Shakespeare's words "hell hath no fury like a woman scorned"!), but the end of a relationship, the breaking up of a family and the "collateral damage" of hurt caused to children, grandparents, friends, and many other people along the line. The rules are there for a purpose: everybody's life is happier if they are kept. And everybody is happier if we are all in a right relationship with God. We need to love God with an undivided heart, not only because it will hurt God if we don't, but because it will hurt us - and many others. God give us all an undivided heart, that we may fear his name.