Monday, September 22, 2014

Heart of Stone

All the people of God were gathered in front of Joshua at Shechem.  He called all the elders and leaders of the people before God, and it was time to have a serious talk.  Joshua was ready to discuss the issue of covenant with them again.

However this time when Joshua calls, it isn't God's mighty power in view but Israel's tendency towards idolatry.  Joshua sternly questions the people:  Will they serve God Almighty or the idols from beyond the river, from Egypt or from the land of Canaan?  The people insist that they will serve God and with what must have been a sigh, Joshua insists that they won't (Joshua 24).

And they didn't (Judges 1).

What happened?

This is a question our Bible class has been mulling over for some time.  What is hidden in the gap between the people's assertion that they will follow God and the reality of people forsaking God?

Certainly there was a generational component.  The author points out that they fell away after the generation who knew Joshua had died (Judges 2:10). There was also a real issue of situational ethics.  Or as the author puts it: "everyone did what was right in his own eyes (Judges 21:25).

Joshua called for the people to "put away the foreign gods which are among you, and incline your heart to the Lord God of Israel."

But there's no record of a giant pile of Asherah dolls, household idols, or representations of Baal being burned the next day.  They said they would; they agreed they should.  They just didn't do it. I think they were suffering from a problem very similar to the problem suffered by the people of Isaiah's day. 
Inasmuch as these people draw near with their mouths
And honor Me with their lips,
But have removed their hearts far from Me,
And their fear toward Me is taught by the commandment of men
Their mouths said, "yes" and their hearts said, "no."

My mouth often says yes.  I hear a lesson, read an article, absorb a new book or talk with a friend and I hear something wonderful.  My head starts to nod.  Exercise more? Of course!  Eat less sugary foods?  Definitely!  Visit the sick?  Twice a week!  Read our Bibles?  Everyday.  Are you nodding your head, too?  But agreeing that we should is a long, long way from actually doing it. 

The people of Joshua's day knew that they should worship Yahweh, yet so many factors made them unsuccessful. Their parents didn't teach them well; their society was pluralistic and inclusive (and the worship of God has always been exclusive); they didn't have good leadership; they hadn't had a personal experience with God. They hadn't forgotten God, not really, because they knew who to yell to for help each time they got in trouble.  They just didn't remember him the rest of the time.

How do we jump from agreeing to burning our idols?  How do we actually make meaningful long term changes instead of nodding our heads and going back to our miserable lives?
I need heart surgery. My brain knows what I should do but I need my heart of stone removed and a beating heart implanted.  I need this promise.
Heart of stone Israel 
And I will give them one heart, and put a new spirit within them. And I will take the heart of stone out of their flesh and give them a heart of flesh.   (Ezekiel 11:19 see also Jeremiah 32: 37-41)
Joshua's Israel stood in front of God and promised to serve him.  Maybe they meant it.  That day.  But their hearts were not transformed.

I stood in front of God and confessed the name of his son and entered covenant with him through "the washing of regeneration and the renewing of the Spirit" (Titus 3). Did you?  If so God promises you life, a heart of flesh to replace your heart of stone.

So go to him.  Confess that your mouth makes promises that your heart won't keep.  Confess that you haven't made full use of the new heart he offered (Unless of course you haven't been risen to walk anew with Jesus. If so friend, we REALLY need to talk.  Email/PM/comment anything!)  Ask for the one heart.  The Savior's heart.  And watch what life-real and eternal-can do!


Scripture taken from the NEW AMERICAN STANDARD BIBLE(R), Copyright(c) 1960, 1962, 1963, 1968, 1971, 1972, 1973, 1975, 1977, 1995 by The Lockman Foundation. Used by permission.

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