Sermon

The Dangers of a Divided Heart

Michael Beck Michael Beck

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God calls His people to love Him with all of their heart, soul, mind, and strength.

And thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind, and with all thy strength: this is the first commandment. (Mark 12:30)

The very purpose of God circumcising the heart is that we might love Him whole-heartedly.

And the LORD thy God will circumcise thine heart, and the heart of thy seed, to love the LORD thy God with all thine heart, and with all thy soul, that thou mayest live. (Deuteronomy 30:6)

God promised blessing upon His people if they loved and served Him with their whole heart.

And it shall come to pass, if ye shall hearken diligently unto my commandments which I command you this day, to love the LORD your God, and to serve him with all your heart and with all your soul,
That I will give you the rain of your land in his due season, the first rain and the latter rain, that thou mayest gather in thy corn, and thy wine, and thine oil. And I will send grass in thy fields for thy cattle, that thou mayest eat and be full. (Deuteronomy 11:13-15)

When the people were in danger of judgment, God told them that if they would return to Him with their whole heart, they could avert the evil He was about to bring upon them.

Therefore also now, saith the LORD, turn ye even to me with all your heart, and with fasting, and with weeping, and with mourning:
And rend your heart, and not your garments, and turn unto the LORD your God: for he is gracious and merciful, slow to anger, and of great kindness, and repenteth him of the evil. (Joel 2:12,13)

Even as judgment came upon the northern kingdom of Israel, Hezekiah’s whole-hearted devotion sparked a temporary revival in the southern kingdom of Judah. (Hezekiah removed the high places where the people practiced their idolatry.)

And thus did Hezekiah throughout all Judah, and wrought that which was good and right and truth before the LORD his God.
And in every work that he began in the service of the house of God, and in the law, and in the commandments, to seek his God, he did it with all his heart, and prospered. (2 Chronicles 31:20,21)

Hosea painfully and personally understood the nature of Israel’s adultery. He recognized the idolatry that caused their divided hearts. They were enamored by their “other lovers,” at whose altars they bowed and before whose images they obsessed.

Their heart is divided; now shall they be found faulty: he shall break down their altars, he shall spoil their images. (Hosea 10:2)

In their adulterous state the people were no longer hearing from God, and were led astray by their lusts.

…They set their heart on their iniquity. … they have left off to take heed to the LORD.
Whoredom and wine and new wine take away the heart.
My people ask counsel at their stocks, and their staff declareth unto them: for the spirit of whoredoms hath caused them to err, and they have gone a whoring from under their God. (Hosea 4:8,10-12)

God brought judgment upon the northern kingdom of Israel for their spiritual adultery. By doing so, He gave the southern kingdom of Judah an opportunity to be reproved and repent of their idolatry. But because their heart remained divided, they only returned half-heartedly, which led God to judge them as well.

And I saw, when for all the causes whereby backsliding Israel committed adultery I had put her away, and given her a bill of divorce; yet her treacherous sister Judah feared not, but went and played the harlot also.
And it came to pass through the lightness of her whoredom, that she defiled the land, and committed adultery with stones and with stocks.
And yet for all this her treacherous sister Judah hath not turned unto me with her whole heart, but feignedly, saith the LORD. (Jeremiah 3:8-10)

God had told Israel at Sinai that even after the curse of the law had come upon them, He would once again restore them to a blessed state, if they would turn back to Him with their whole heart and soul.

And thou shalt return and obey the voice of the LORD, and do all his commandments which I command thee this day.
And the LORD thy God will make thee plenteous in every work of thine hand, in the fruit of thy body, and in the fruit of thy cattle, and in the fruit of thy land, for good: for the LORD will again rejoice over thee for good, as he rejoiced over thy fathers:
If thou shalt hearken unto the voice of the LORD thy God, to keep his commandments and his statutes which are written in this book of the law, and if thou turn unto the LORD thy God with all thine heart, and with all thy soul. (Deuteronomy 30:8-10)

The chastening of exile was meant to work repentance in God’s people. God mercifully promised them that they would find Him once again if they would seek Him with their whole heart while in captivity.

For thus saith the LORD, That after seventy years be accomplished at Babylon I will visit you, and perform my good word toward you, in causing you to return to this place.
For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, saith the LORD, thoughts of peace, and not of evil, to give you an expected end.
Then shall ye call upon me, and ye shall go and pray unto me, and I will hearken unto you.
And ye shall seek me, and find me, when ye shall search for me with all your heart.
And I will be found of you, saith the LORD: and I will turn away your captivity, and I will gather you from all the nations, and from all the places whither I have driven you, saith the LORD; and I will bring you again into the place whence I caused you to be carried away captive. (Jeremiah 29:10-14)

Idolatry is stubborn. Even as they were being taken into captivity, the hearts of many remained divided. Though the physical altars had been “broken down” and the physical images had been “spoiled,” they continued to carry their idols in their hearts.

Son of man, these men have set up their idols in their heart, and put the stumblingblock of their iniquity before their face: should I be enquired of at all by them? (Ezekiel 14:3)

God alerted Ezekiel to the heart condition of the people who came to listen to him. Though they seemed eager to receive his message, they would not do it because of the covetousness which remained in their hearts.

Also, thou son of man, the children of thy people still are talking against thee by the walls and in the doors of the houses, and speak one to another, every one to his brother, saying, Come, I pray you, and hear what is the word that cometh forth from the LORD.
And they come unto thee as the people cometh, and they sit before thee as my people, and they hear thy words, but they will not do them: for with their mouth they shew much love, but their heart goeth after their covetousness.
And, lo, thou art unto them as a very lovely song of one that hath a pleasant voice, and can play well on an instrument: for they hear thy words, but they do them not. (Ezekiel 33:30-32)

God warned the secret idolaters that there would be advanced judgment in Babylon because He found them reprobate. He would turn them over to their lusts and raise up false prophets who would itch their ears.

Then came certain of the elders of Israel unto me, and sat before me. And the word of the LORD came unto me, saying,
Son of man, these men have set up their idols in their heart, and put the stumblingblock of their iniquity before their face: should I be enquired of at all by them?
Therefore speak unto them, and say unto them, Thus saith the Lord GOD; Every man of the house of Israel that setteth up his idols in his heart, and putteth the stumblingblock of his iniquity before his face, and cometh to the prophet; I the LORD will answer him that cometh according to the multitude of his idols;
That I may take the house of Israel in their own heart, because they are all estranged from me through their idols.
Therefore say unto the house of Israel, Thus saith the Lord GOD; Repent, and turn yourselves from your idols; and turn away your faces from all your abominations.
For every one of the house of Israel, or of the stranger that sojourneth in Israel, which separateth himself from me, and setteth up his idols in his heart, and putteth the stumblingblock of his iniquity before his face, and cometh to a prophet to enquire of him concerning me; I the LORD will answer him by myself:
And I will set my face against that man, and will make him a sign and a proverb, and I will cut him off from the midst of my people; and ye shall know that I am the LORD.
And if the prophet be deceived when he hath spoken a thing, I the LORD have deceived that prophet, and I will stretch out my hand upon him, and will destroy him from the midst of my people Israel. (Ezekiel 14:1-9)

A stubborn commitment to serving our own lusts causes God to turn us over to a reprobate mind.

And even as they did not like to retain God in their knowledge, God gave them over to a reprobate mind, to do those things which are not convenient (Romans 1:28)


Michael Beck is a pastor in New York City and the main author on Signpost. Receive a daily devotional he publishes every morning via email.