Rend Your Heart


Joel 2:12-13

Yet even now, says the Lord,
return to me with all your heart,
with fasting, with weeping, and with mourning;
rend your hearts and not your clothing.
Return to the Lord, your God,
for he is gracious and merciful,
slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love,
and relents from punishing.

Matthew 6:16-18

Concerning Fasting
“And whenever you fast, do not look dismal, like the hypocrites, for they disfigure their faces so as to show others that they are fasting. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward. But when you fast, put oil on your head and wash your face, so that your fasting may be seen not by others but by your Father who is in secret; and your Father who sees in secret will reward you.


The people of God knew that there were rules and rituals to be followed but they were only engaged outwardly. In their hearts, they were still worshiping the idols of the secular world. God never has been interested in outward appearances of religiosity, but desires a heart that is turned toward him. 

At that same time that doesn’t mean that we don’t participate in spiritual practices and disciplines like fasting. The call is to rend our hearts, and return to the Father. A part of that response may be fasting, but it is a fast that must come from the heart. So, when you fast, don’t do it for human approval. If that’s all we hope to gain, then we will get the full reward, but it will not be an eternal reward. 


Today is Ash Wednesday and around the world many Christians will be actively entering into the Lenten season. Sometimes, a part of this practice, is a commitment to a spiritual practice, or a fast. This is a great time of year to join in with other believers in participating with Christ’s sacrificial life as he made his journey to the cross. It’s a time when we can practice spiritual discipline, as well as abstain from foods or other items that may be a distraction to our spiritual life. I have heard from friends who will be on a “Daniel Fast” for this season — eating only fruits and vegetables. Others are going to fast from social media. I’ve known of some who have given up television, the internet, or chocolate. All of these are good things, if they are done with the right heart.

The question of the heart must lay at the center of all our activity. God doesn’t necessarily care about whether we are on the internet, or eating chocolate, if our heart isn’t right. In the Old Testament period of the prophet Joel, people would rend or tear their clothing when they were repentant and grieving. God was saying that this external sign was not important to him, but what mattered was whether they we would have a repentant heart that grieves the ways in which we have behaved in the past. 

The most important thing we can do on this Ash Wednesday, is not to choose our fast, but to examine our hearts. Have we come before the Father in humility, rending our hearts? If so, then we engage in these practices so that they help us to grow spiritually and in Christlikeness, but never for the praise of other people. This is a day when we should examine our motives and in humility ask God to remove any barrier to becoming more like Christ. Whatever “that” is — it would be something great to fast, for the result will be a heart turned toward God, free of human obstacles. This is the rended heart. 


Lord, as we enter this Lenten season, help me to be disciplined to remove the barriers to giving you my whole heart. Amen. 


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