By: Emily Watkins
“Rend your heart and not your garments. Return to the LORD your God, for he is gracious and compassionate.” Joel 2:13a (NIV)
Many times it is easy to get caught up in religious ceremony and the outward expression of our faith and neglect the very thing God seeks – our HEARTS. In Proverbs we read that “all a man’s ways seem right to him,” but the Lord does not look at outward appearance, He “weighs the heart” (21:2, NIV). In other words, our hearts, and not our actions are what truly matter to God.
In Joel, the Lord judges His people by sending a swarm of locusts to destroy their crops. Threatened by famine, everyone panics and, according to Jewish tradition, tears their clothes in mourning. However, the Lord is not impressed by this outward display of repentance because He sees the cold and disobedient hearts of His people. Even though the Judeans’ tore their garments as a sign of grief, the Lord saw that their hearts still remained unbroken.
“Rend you hearts, and not your garments” (Joel 2:13a, NIV). Here rend is used in the same Hebrew context as in Psalm 51:17: “the sacrifices of God [are] a broken spirit” (NIV). In other words, what the Lord really longed to see in His people was a humble heart.
Reading this story has challenged me to examine my own heart, and ask myself: “What are my motives? Am I following the crowd or am I living my life only to please God? Am I being genuine?” One of my favorite quotes is: “Live for the audience of one.” That one person is Jesus Christ.
Learning to live our lives before God and not before man is difficult, especially when there is so much pressure to “look good” before our friends. Yet it is this pathway of humility and submission that will lead us to freedom.
Just imagine a life in which you felt no pressure to impress anyone. That’s what kind of life the Lord wants each one of us to have – a life in which we feel secure in who we are because we know what He thinks of us and who He is. Now that sounds like heaven.
Father, teach me to live my life before You and not before man. Work in me an attitude of humility and submission that is pleasing to Your sight. In Jesus’ name, Amen.
Ponder: Colossians 3:17, “And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through Him.” (NIV)
Apply: How could living your life before God and not before man change how you treat others? Journal your answers to this question.
Read: The Divine Dance: If the World is a Stage, Who Are You Performing For? by Shannon Kubiak Primicerio
Share: Have you ever felt pressured to do something just to fit in, even though your heart was not in it?
© 2010 by Emily Watkins. All rights reserved.
Emily Watkins is a freshman at the University of South Carolina and a former missionary kid in Poland. Her favorite food is strawberries and cheese, and she loves spending time with friends and family, riding her bike, writing, drawing with colored pencils, and learning about new cultures and places. Emily’s greatest passion and desire is to worship God, which she does by serving her community, praying for others, and modeling Christ’s excellence at work and in school. For several years, Emily has also had dreams about going to Africa, and so she plans on using her studies in international business to one day help improve living conditions in poor countries. But for now, she is enjoying her new college life in Columbia, her wonderful friends and family, and all the surprises the Lord brings to her each day.
A Division of Proverbs 31 Ministries