THE DIVIDED
HEART

An old pop song conatined the words:

“Torn between two lovers, feeling like a fool.

Loving both of you is breaking all the rules”

Can’t say I’ve had the experience myself, but the divided
heart is something the Bible knows all about. The Psalmist says, “Give me
an undivided heart that I may fear your name”. I remember singing this
verse as part of a worship song back in the 1970’s, but then they used the King
james’ Version “unite my heart to fear thy name”. I wondered what on
earth it meant! The New International Version, quotd above, just about has it
right. One assumes the lady in the song (it was sung by a female singer) was
musing to herself, because I am sure neither of her lovers would have been
pleased to know they were sharing her affections! And neither does God want to
share our affections, either. On numerous occasions the Bible calls God a jealous God. To take
but one example, in the Book of Exodus it says: “Do not worship any other
god, for the LORD (the personal name of God stands here in the Hebrew text),
whose name is Jealous, is a jealous God” When I was younger I used to hear
people explain this away as a mistranslation, that it should really have said
God was “zealous”. They were wrong. The Bible meant what it said, and
if they had realised what the Bible meant by “zealous” (people the
Bible describes as “zealous” would today be termed fanatical radical
fundamentalists), they might have been even less keen on that term.

But what does it mean to say God is jealous? It doesn’t
mean God is jealous of somebody’s iPhone, or their car, or their house.
Technically, that is not jealousy: it’s envy. And envy is classed as one fo the
seven deadly sins for a very good reason: it is a very common cause of both
murder and war. But God is jealous in the way one or other of the lovers in the
song might have been jealousHe doesn’t want to share our affections. That
doesn’t mean he doesn’t want us to love our partners, our families, or our
neighbours. He tells us to love these people. But he doesn’t want to share us
with another God. The Israelites of old lived in a culture where there were
numerous gods. You might have a special god for yourself and your family, but
you might worship other gods occasionally – perhaps if you went on a journey
into their territory to keep them onside This often happens today in India. In
India, there are many gods, and many people who are regarded as Christians and
live and work in Christian compound and areas attend church and worship the
Christian God while they are there, but if they go back home they worship the
pagan gods their family worships. This kind of thing happens in other parts of
the world too. We sophisticated Westerners are above all that kind of thing,
though. Except that we do yoga (a Hindu spiritual exercise) once or twice a
week, or get our Tarot cards read, or wear charm bracelets. In all these ways
we too are worshipping other gods. And then there are the “gods” of
wealth, success, reputation, career, security etc, etc. We too suffer from the
divided heart

We need to cry with the Psalmist, “give me and
undivided heart that I may fear your name”. But what is all this about
fearing? What has fear got to do with love? Perhaps more than we would like to
think . Perhaps many more of us would get into the position of the lady in the
pop song if we didn’t fear our loved one(s?) finding out. Maybe it is not the
threat of violence (though men do well to remember Shakespeare’s words
“hell hath no fury like a woman scorned”!), but the end of a relationship,
the breaking up of a family and the “collateral damage” of hurt
caused to children, grandparents, friends, and many other people along the
line. The rules are there for a purpose: everybody’s life is happier if they
are kept. And everybody is happier if we are all in a right relationship with
God. We need to love God with an undivided heart, not only because it will hurt
God if we don’t, but because it will hurt us – and many others. God give us all
an undivided heart, that we may fear his name.