Our hearts that aren’t steadfast toward God

 

[Psalms 78:23-41]

 

                I went to the hospital with my mother this Monday.  My mother did MRI and CT scans.  When she took MRI, I was able to see her on the monitor for a moment because the door, in which a doctor and a technician to took MRI were, was little bit open.  The doctor said we have to wait for the result.  When I think about my mother who took MRI and CT scans to diagnose whether her body is healthy or has some disease, I thought about how we can diagnose our hearts.  Then I thought that we could diagnose our hearts with the words of God.

 

When we look at James 1:7-8, this is what the apostle James says: “For that man ought not to expect that he will receive anything from the Lord, being a double-minded man, unstable in all his ways.”  He teaches that an unhealthy heart has “a double-minded” and is unstable.  The double-minded is divided hearts, and is unstable so it is bound to fluctuate.  This heart is full of things that are not true, creating constant whims and unpredictable situations.  Since this kind of heart isn’t whole or healthy, it gets hurt, frustrated, and broken easily.  This kind of heart is weak and can't cope with all the stresses of life.  And it makes us fall into meaningless and helpless life rather than a healthy and energetic life.  It is a sick heart.  That’s why the Bible Proverbs 4:23 says, “Watch over your heart with all diligence, For from it flow the springs of life.” 

 

If we look at Psalms 78:37, the psalmist says about an heart that isn’t steadfast: “For their heart was not steadfast toward Him, Nor were they faithful in His covenant.”  What does it mean to say that the hearts of the Israelites aren’t steadfast?  That means that their hearts were’'t loyal to God (v. 8).  In other words, the heart that isn’t steadfast refers to an unfaithful heart.  And this unfaithful heart is neither faithful nor can it be faithful to God's covenant (v. 37).  I want to meditate on this heart that isn’t steadfast toward God in three ways, and want to use it as an opportunity to diagnose our hearts.  Therefore, I hope and pray that we will be able to lay down our diagnosed hearts to Heavenly Father so that there is God’s work of our hearts being purified and transformed into pure hearts in repentance.

 

            First, our hearts that aren’t steadfast follows greed.

 

                Look at Psalms 78:30 – “Before they had satisfied their desire, While their food was in their mouths.”  The psalmist warns the Israelites not to commit sin by using their ancestors as a mirror.  In the midst of that, he speaks of greed among the sins of their ancestors like this: “And in their heart they put God to the test By asking food according to their desire” (v. 18).  How did the ancestors of the Israelites test God in greed at the time of the Exodus?  Look at Psalms 78:19-20: “Then they spoke against God; They said, “Can God prepare a table in the wilderness?  Behold, He struck the rock so that waters gushed out, And streams were overflowing; Can He give bread also? Will He provide meat for His people?”  The ancestors of Israel doubted the power of God.  At that time, God was fiercely angry with the ancestors of Israel.  Yet God commanded the clouds above and opened the doors of heaven and He rained down manna upon them to eat and gave them food from heaven (vv. 23-24).  If this is not God's grace, what is?  To the ancestors of Israel who were to be punished in the midst of wrath, God opened the door of heaven and rained down manna.  God sent the Israelites food in abundance (v. 25).  He rained meat upon them like the dust (v. 27) in His power (v. 26) so that the Israelites ate and were well filled (v. 29).  God gave manna according to their desires (v. 29).  Nevertheless, the Israelites didn’t turn away from their greed (v. 30).  They sinned when they had nothing to eat, and even when they had something to eat.  So God punished them this time because they had no alternative (Num. 11:33-35, Ps.78:31) (Park).

 

The Bible James 1:15 says, “Then when lust has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and when sin is accomplished, it brings forth death.”  Greed eventually leads to death.  Nevertheless, human greed seems to be endless.  It is a person's greed that cannot be satisfied.  Last week, I went to a Christian bookstore and saw a book titled ‘The Hope of Hee Dae’.  Since the book was about cancer, I bought it and read it.  The author himself was a cancer doctor and was suffering from his own cancer.  But he was healed and wrote that book.  So I bought and read the book with more interest.  Reading the author's book, who experienced the fifth stage of life prepared by God in the fourth stage of cancer, made me interested in his book on cancer cells.  According to the author, a cancer cell is a cell that never dies but grows constantly due to a mutation in the gene of the cell that has to repeat growth and death.  The scary thing about cancer cells is the fact that they take up the nutrients of other cells by themselves in order to grow constantly.  Cancer cells are said to grow by steadily moving from place to place, grabbing high-calorie nutrients, and eating alone.  In a word, according to the author, the essence of cancer cells is greed.  We must abandon greed.  As we live in this world that arouses our greed, we must lay down in front of the cross every day, moment by moment, that it is greed constantly wriggling within us.  Like Jesus, we must constantly empty our hearts.  We must put it down again and again.  And we must have the heart of Jesus in our hearts.  We must learn the secret of contentment with Jesus alone.  We must be grateful in all things for eternal life (Rom 6:23) and the inseparable love of God (Rom. 8:38-39), which was given as a gift in Christ Jesus.  Therefore, we must let greed that’s like cancer cells to make claim in our hearts.

 

            Second, our hearts that aren’t steadfast don’t believe in God.

 

                Look at Psalms 73 :32 – “In spite of all this they still sinned And did not believe in His wonderful works.”  God opened the gates of heaven to the Israelites in the time of the Exodus and gave manna abundantly by grace.  But the greed of the Israelites was not satisfied.  Despite the endless greed and punishment in the wrath of God (v. 31), the Israelites rather sinned and didn’t believe God’s wonderful works (v. 32).  Eventually, they sinned against God in greed.  When greed is conceived, it gives birth to sin.  That sin is “unbelief.”  The psalmist identified the sins of the Israelites at the time of the Exodus like this: “Because they did not believe in God And did not trust in His salvation” (v. 22).  God was fiercely angry with the Israelites because they didn’t believe in God and didn’t rely on God's salvation even though God performed various miracles from the Red Sea to the wilderness (v. 21).  As a result, God bought their days to an end in futility and their years in sudden terror (v. 33).  Only then they sought God earnestly and remembered that God was their Rock and the Most High was their Redeemer (vv. 34-35).

 

 In John 21:30-31, the apostle John said that Jesus did a lot of sign beside the ones that are recorded in the Gospel of John and the purpose is “so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God; and that believing you may have life in His name.”  Jesus said that if the people don’t believe in Him, “believe the work” (10:38, 14:11).  The words of Luke 24:25 that the resurrected Jesus spoke to the two disciples going to Emmaus are correct.   It also applies to us: “O foolish men and slow of heart to believe in all that the prophets have spoken!”  Indeed, we are foolish and slow to believe in God's Word.  But Paul speaks clearly about our slow faith: “…  whatever is not from faith is sin” (Rom. 14:23).  Therefore, we must listen diligently to the words of Christ for the progress of our faith (10:17).  As a result, we should no longer come to need milk and not solid food (Heb. 5:12).  We should no longer be those who aren’t accustomed to the word of righteousness (v. 13).  Rather, we must become mature ones and become those who are trained and discern good and evil because we use our senses (v. 14).

 

            Third, our hearts that aren’t steadfast lie.

 

                Look at Psalms 78:36 – “But they deceived Him with their mouth And lied to Him with their tongue.”  Because the Israelites didn’t believe in God, when they sinned against God, God was angry with the Israelites.  At that time, the Bible says that the Israelites turned to God and sought God earnestly (v. 34), but it was repentance of flattery.  In other words, for the Israelites, fruitless repentance was flattering before God.  The reasons why their repentance became flattering to God was two:  Firstly, because the Israelites' repentance was not God-centered but for their own benefit.  Secondly, they were only trying to please God externally, and their repentance wasn’t from their hearts (Park).  Regarding this tendency of the Israelites, the prophet Isaiah said: “Then the Lord said, "Because this people draw near with their words And honor Me with their lip service, But they remove their hearts far from Me, And their reverence for Me consists of tradition learned by rote” (Isa. 29:13).  Eventually, the Israelites looked like the Lord in their lips, but their hearts were far from the Lord.  In the end, the hearts of the Israelites that weren’t steadfast were not faithful to the covenant of God (Ps. 78:37).  But the surprising fact is God's sincere grace toward the Israelites who weren’t faithful to the covenant of God.  Look at Psalms 78:38-39: “But He, being compassionate, forgave their iniquity and did not destroy them; And often He restrained His anger And did not arouse all His wrath.  Thus He remembered that they were but flesh, A wind that passes and does not return.”  Knowing that the Israelites who lied and sinned were only flesh, “Awind that passes and does not return”, God turned away His wrath, forgave their iniquity and didn’t destroy them in His mercy.  Nevertheless, the Israelites committed these sins against God: “How often they rebelled against Him in the wilderness And grieved Him in the desert!  Again and again they tempted God, And pained the Holy One of Israel” (vv. 40-41).  They have forgotten God's grace and mercy, and have tried and grieved God countless times.

 

I meditated on the words of Revelation 14:5 during the morning prayer meeting yesterday: “And no lie was found in their mouth; they are blameless.”  This means that the redeemed ones of God and the Lamb, the symbolic number of 144,000 children of God, have no lies in their mouths.  Here, the words that there are no lies in the mouths of those who are redeemed refer to honest words and actions (Park).  In Proverbs 6:16-17 of the Bible, one of the things God hates is “a lying tongue.”  Therefore, we must abandon the lying tongue.  Those of us who are redeemed must be free from lies.  In other words, we must have sincere heart and tongue.

 

Although God often restrained His anger (Ps. 78:38), the Israelites grieved Him in the desert often (v. 40) and were greedy and sinned against God.  In other words, while God restrained His wrath, the Israelites at the time of the Exodus didnt restrain their greed.  “Yet” (v. 23) God showed mercy and compassionate to the Israelites.  In spite of al this they “still” sinned and didn’t believe in His wonderful works (v. 32).  Although the Israelites were not faithful to God's covenant (v. 37), God was faithful to His covenant.  The Israelites had no steadfast heart toward God, but God loved His people, Israel, with His steadfast heart.  We can see God's faithful covenant love in following the Israelites who were following sins.  The heart that experiences that faithful God's love will serve with a more steadfast heart toward God.  Instead of greed, we will be content with only Jesus, believe in God's wonderful works, rely on His salvation, and live a life that glorifies God with a sincere heart and tongue.

 

 

 

 

The  one whose heart isn’t steadfast toward the Lord,

 

 

 

James Kim

(With gratitude for God's love for faithfully giving His grace to such sinner like me)