August 3rd, 2011 by Kristi Stephens
As I pondered how to summarize an overview of the Israelite’s history as they settled into the land during the time of Joshua and then encountered all kinds of drama through the period of the judges, this verse was echoing in my heart.
Teach me your way, O LORD, and I will walk in your truth;
give me an undivided heart, that I may fear your name.
An undivided heart. God longs for us to have undivided hearts that are focused only on Him. It is why He began the ten commandments like this:
I am the LORD your God, who brought you out of Egypt, out of the land of slavery.
You shall have no other gods before me.
It is why Moses pleaded with the people in his final address, “Acknowledge and take to heart this day that the LORD is God in heaven above and on the earth below. There is no other.“ (Deuteronomy 4:39) Why Joshua cried out these familiar words in his own final address:
“Now fear the LORD and serve him with all faithfulness. Throw away the gods your forefathers worshiped beyond the River and in Egypt, and serve the LORD. But if serving the LORD seems undesirable to you, then choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve, whether the gods your forefathers served beyond the River, or the gods of the Amorites, in whose land you are living. But as for me and my household, we will serve the LORD.”
Interestingly, the people responded vigorously to Joshua’s address, claiming that they would never turn their backs on the LORD in favor of the false gods of Canaan.
Sadly, that is exactly what they did.
The book of Judges is a horrifying tale of depravity, starting badly and cycling downward until it leaves us with some of the most disturbing stories in the pages of Scripture. [We took a more in-depth look at Judges here.] Judges 2:19 summarizes the state of the nation succinctly:
But when the judge died, the people returned to ways even more corrupt than those of their fathers, following other gods and serving and worshiping them. They refused to give up their evil practices and stubborn ways.
Divided hearts. They refused to give up their idolatry, the evil practices they loved, they refused to bow their knee to the God who demanded their whole hearts and souls and lives. Oh, they gave Him a portion of their hearts – after all, He was the one they would cry out to in distress – but not all. Their hearts were divided, and they did not fear God’s name.
So, as I ponder these portions of Scripture, I am left with this staggering reminder of how very quickly our hearts can become divided, how quickly my heart becomes divided. Oh, I want to love and serve God, but am I undivided in my focus? Or have other things – even worthwhile things – crept into my life and heart and divided my affections?
Undivided hearts cause us to fear and love and worship the Lord in all aspects of our lives, mundane or extraordinary. Divided hearts allow idolatry, pride, stubbornness, and rebellion to sneak into our hearts and lives and destroy us. Sometimes we have divided hearts even while loudly proclaiming our single-minded focus on the Lord who rescued and saved us, just as the Israelites did.
We must choose for ourselves this day whom we will serve – who is it going to be? And before we point to the “as for me and my household” plaque on the wall of our living rooms… let us seriously reflect: who are we really serving with our time, energy, emotion, talents, money? Do we have undivided hearts? Do we fear His name?
He is the only one worthy of our undivided focus – give it to Him freely, for it is painful when He must demand the adoration He is due.
We’re continuing our One Summer, One Story series – a fast-paced overview of the “big story” of the Bible! Missed anything? Find all the past posts here. Just a reminder, also, that we have two different “blog ministry projects” going on right now – please consider joining us for Got Milk? and the SOS Project – because although the problems are overwhelming, our God really IS BIGGER!