Rend Your Heart
Should you not fear me?” declares the Lord.
“Should you not tremble in my presence?
I made the sand a boundary for the sea,
an everlasting barrier it cannot cross.
The waves may roll, but they cannot prevail;
they may roar, but they cannot cross it.
But these people have stubborn and rebellious hearts;
they have turned aside and gone away.
They do not say to themselves,
‘Let us fear the Lord our God,
who gives autumn and spring rains in season,
who assures us of the regular weeks of harvest.’
Your wrongdoings have kept these away;
your sins have deprived you of good.
– Jeremiah 5:22-25
In September, the piercing truth of those verses above were devastating to my soul. All of the first 20 or so chapters of Jeremiah were that way for me. The back and forth between the Lord and Israel, and the prayers and pleas of Jeremiah were intense and raw. The reality and how close these situations hit home in my heart was overwhelming. Yet there was so much truth in this book of Jeremiah that I continued reading chapter upon chapter non-stop for a few days while the Lord deeply rebuked, convicted and comforted me during that time.
My emotions have been all over the place since then. I would have periods of dropping into the depths of shame and despair, end up wailing on the floor and in my spirit with major outward expressions of grief and repentance, only to have the Lord lift me up and cradle me in His arms in greater comfort and peace. We would wrestle for a while many times before I would ultimately accept what He was pouring out over me. His incessant amazing love continues to prevail – far beyond my finite understanding… and I am so thankful!
In a way, back in September was probably one of the first real times that I began to actively “fear God” and those deep seeds were beginning to be sown into my spirit. The first part of a prayer from Jeremiah in chapter 10 was something I felt very strongly connected to and it became a prayer of my own:
I know, O Lord, that a man’s life is not his own;
it is not for man to direct his steps.
Correct me, Lord, but only with justice—
not in your anger,
lest you reduce me to nothing.
– Jeremiah 10:23-24
If there is one thing that I now can comprehend more deeply than I have previously… it is that the Lord is still and always faithful. He answered my prayer and has not corrected me in His anger, but with justice… He has not reduced me to nothing, though the correction and discipline is still very painful.
I’ve been in a season of rending since September. It’s also a time of correction and discipline from my Father, but rending has been my response to it (that is, after the initial stubborn resistance). I couldn’t fully describe what kind of season it’s been until last week when I read the book of Joel. I’m not sure if I’ve ever paid attention to the word “rend” before – but I immediately noticed and began to digest it.
“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.
– Joel 2:12-13
To me, this goes along with Jeremiah and all that the Lord has been bringing me through. It is only by His grace that He’s brought me to this place and it’s incredible! This is definitely not a place I would ever be able to conjure up for myself.
When I was in rebellion, not truly fearing Him but had elevated MAN and people above Him by literally fearing THEM and letting others’ dictate my life instead of His Kingship… I was bitter, resentful, and in constant chaos. Yet those were just the effects of my disobedience – the deeper sin and issue. I was blinded by so many things though, and in the Lord’s faithfulness, He opened my heart and eyes to more of His truth.
Rend means to “tear”.
I’ve used the term “fillet” in regards to the heart before, and it’s along those same lines… filleting the heart open before the Lord is necessary for the relationship. But I’m really liking the “rending” term too! Filleting is a cutting process that often uses a sharp utensil of some kind. So in a sense it’s a more sophisticated method… while tearing is using your hands and a much more crude method. It’s using what you already have access to – something raw and natural. The process is unrefined and desperate… more human. Maybe that doesn’t really make sense and I’m putting more thoughtfulness into that than is necessary. But I tend to observe things that way though and process more allegorically so it feels important to me.
From my limited understanding, the culture of the Jewish people and many other Eastern cultures of Biblical times was to tear their garments when upset or in mourning. Just remembering from off the top of my head (I’d have to do further investigating to be totally sure), I believe plenty of prophets and other people mentioned in the Bible tore their clothes when hearing devastating or upsetting news or in repentance of their sins, etc. This was a surface expression of how upset they were – an outward show of their deeper emotions.
Anyone can tear their garments and put on an outward show though, even without the deeper things going on… if you pay closer attention the verse in Joel, it is so clear in requesting a rending (tearing) of the heart and NOT the garments. In other words and how I take that, tear things deeper and not just superficially or on the surface.
Each of us has the capacity to deceive ourselves… we can go about our lives with an outward superficial show of repentance or appear as if we are fearing the Lord, when in reality and in the deeper parts of our souls – we are not. When we’re being disobedient or deceptive in the deeper parts of our hearts, we might can successfully fool everyone around us, but we can’t fool the One who created us and who has everything laid out wide open before Him. That’s why we have to trust God, and not our own selves.
We all need a time of heart rending before the Lord… if we’re opposed to it and satisfied to just carry on with our superficial lives, not trembling in His presence, being stubborn and rebellious, not returning to Him with our whole hearts… we will bring the Lord and ourselves more grief. The Lord knows what is best and good for us… that’s why He’s gracious and compassionate, abounding in love and slow to anger! But He is also JUST and that’s why correction and rebuke is necessary and good.
We each need to wake up and be sensitive to pay attention to His heart, because it’s typically after a good rebuking and responsive rending that our hearts can be changed since we’ve become open, broken, and soft enough to listen to Him… I feel like the Lord begins to reveal Himself more clearly in that time and it’s all in preparation for the Day of His return. A great, dreadful, amazing day that will be! We need to be ready for it and not grow cold, weary, or lose heart.
“Surely the day is coming; it will burn like a furnace. All the arrogant and every evildoer will be stubble, and the day that is coming will set them on fire,” says the Lord Almighty. “Not a root or a branch will be left to them. But for you who revere my name, the sun of righteousness will rise with healing in its wings. And you will go out and leap like calves released from the stall.”
– Malachi 4:1-2
I don’t know about you but I want to fear God, take His correction, be obedient and rend my heart… returning to the Lord, revering His name, so I can be with Him in eternity and see that amazing day of Jesus’ return. I don’t want anything of this world, my flesh and sin nature, Satan’s schemes or whatever to detour me from obtaining the prize of Jesus and being with Him forever. Holy Spirit, start revival!