a heart divided against itself cannot stand – the elusiveness of purity
In the last post, we talked about the divided heart. I’ve been intrigued by this idea for some time. Some years ago, I studied the Beatitudes in depth, and discovered that the “pure in heart” were those whose hearts were undivided. Back then I was intrigued, but not fully aware of the implications of heart division. If sin shatters the image of God in a human being, as theologians tell us, then I suspect that you and I find ourselves reaching for that elusive goal of being a whole being, a man or a woman whose longings are single-minded and pure-hearted, a person whose heart is undivided. However, judging by the examples we have, it sometimes seems as if our split personalities and competing desires might be hard to shake before Jesus returns.
Consider Hezekiah, who might be hailed in your church today as a kind of hero, a man who trusts God with all his heart, a fierce warrior against idolatry within and outside of himself. 2 Kings 18 says as much:
5 Hezekiah trusted in the LORD, the God of Israel. There was no one like him among all the kings of Judah, either before him or after him. 6 He held fast to the LORD and did not cease to follow him.
That’s fine, until you read one of the most indicting passages on human idolatry and mistrust in all of Scripture – Isaiah 30. Here, Hezekiah seems to blow it royally. With Assyria’s impending attack, Hezekiah does what any Bible-believing God-follower would know is completely antithetical to trust. He sends ambassadors to Egypt, of all places – the same Egypt where Israel experienced de-humanizing abuse and dignity-sucking enslavement years before. Isaiah is a tour-de-force in a biblical theology of addiction and idolatry. It’s great fodder for what-not-to-do.
Hezekiah, one the one hand, is memorialized as an examplar of heart purity and God-trust. One the other, he’s shown to be fearful in the face of potential attack, and prone to trust a former abuser rather than the God to whom he committed his kingship.
The divided heart is a mysterious thing. It’s not merely a contemporary psychological construct. Rather, it’s an existential reality recorded in the pages of Scripture. We see in everything from Solomon’s schizophrenic psychic interplay in Ecclesiastes to Paul’s raw admission in Romans 7 (“15I do not understand what I do. For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do.”) I don’t know about you, but I can relate to that. I may not fully grasp the theological nuances of the divided heart, but I know it’s reality. Paul knew it. Solomon knew it. And Hezekiah knew it.
The next question is: what do we do about it? Stay tuned for the next post.