Disconnected Petrified Hearts
“Yet even now,” the Lord says, “return to me with all your heart—with fasting, weeping, and mourning. Tear your hearts, not just your garments.” Return to the Lord your God, for he is merciful and compassionate, slow to anger and boundless in loyal love—often relenting from calamitous punishment. Who knows? Perhaps he will be compassionate and grant a reprieve, and leave blessing in his wake—a meal offering and a drink offering for you to offer to the Lord your God! — Joel 2:12-14
Joel never delineates the sins forcing the judgement of God. Yet the wickedness Joel sees resides in human hearts. This Joel makes clear.
The prophet warns of unexpected and painful consequences of sinful behavior—invading hoards, lost crops, starving livestock, dry rivers, suffering wildlife, human deaths, chaos everywhere, widespread grief. God sometimes uses such loss and pain to gain our attention.
Does the locust invasion Joel sees symbolize a foreign army bringing destruction? Perhaps the army he envisions represents the marauding locust! No one today knows. Yet, not totally understanding the symbolism of Joel makes little difference. The message remains the same. Everyone without God lives in the path of judgement. No one escapes.
No one escapes unless people return to God—return with their hearts. Escape from consequences then becomes possible—not promised—but possible.
Joel addresses his message to the leaders of the people—the elders and the priests—during a time of national distress for the people of God. With encouragement from Joel the leaders turn the people back to God. The invaders perish in the sea. God calls off judgement and restores blessings to the people and the land.
What does this mean for us living in Texas today?
God clearly wants our hearts united with his heart. This can present difficulties for the independently minded. Our American-Texan culture strives for freedom from outside control or influence. Unfortunately, freedom from God can lead to spiritually-detached hearts, especially during times of distress.
Our hearts tend to petrify when we disconnect from our creator. Other things replace the God-likeness in our hearts. Our hearts become stony and cold. Stone-cold hearts may start to feel natural to us. We may not even notice the chill. We can temporarily warm our hearts by multiple means, including things we view as good. Yet, we cannot replace the life we find in God.
Jesus talks about the state of the heart without God, saying: “For out of the heart come evil ideas, murder, adultery, sexual immorality, theft, false testimony, slander” (Mat 15:18).
Paul warns about the risks of a heart uncoupled from God, writing, “Therefore God gave them over in the desires of their hearts…” (Rom 1:24). “Gave them over” means God let them go their own ways.
Yet, God never leaves us to ourselves. Through the vicarious death of Jesus—death we deserve—God sees us as spiritually clean. By the resurrection of Jesus, God gives us life.
We live in a time of partial-fulfillment of the heart-promise God made to the Jews through the prophet Ezekiel, saying, "I will give them one heart and I will put a new spirit within them. I will remove the hearts of stone from their bodies and I will give them tender hearts…" (Eze 36:26).
May all of us attend to the interests of God with all of our hearts.