King David, the author of Psalm 86, evidently knew what it is to have a “divided heart”, because the same man who wrote “Preserve my soul, for I am a godly man…” (Psalm 86:2) and “Vindicate me, O Lord, for I have walked in my integrity and have trusted in the Lord without wavering” (Psalm 26:1), also wrote, “There is no one who does good, not even one” (Psalm 14:3) and “Behold, I was brought forth in iniquity, and in sin my mother conceived me” (Psalm 51:5). Other examples of apparent contradiction could be cited, but the point is that David, a “man after God’s own heart”, knew the struggle so aptly described by Paul in Romans 7:14-25. Consider his plea in Psalm 51: “Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me. Do not cast me away from Your Presence, and do not take Your Holy Spirit from me”. Is this not the reason God asks us to walk humbly before Him (Micah 6:8)? For the fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom (Proverbs 9:10) and a fountain of life for those who take refuge in Him (Proverbs 14:26-27).
There have always been those who want to take the Name of the Lord as a shield against His judgment yet do not fear Him. The remarkable thing is that often these persons do not see their hearts as divided, either because they do have the Spirit indwelling or because they have been wrongly taught. Rather, they see God as the One with a divided heart! Believing the modern evangelical sales pitch, they imagine that for millennia, God longed for the fellowship of sinners but was prevented by His own terms of justice, thus creating a Divine dilemma. Of course, He neatly solved this problem at the Cross, so now the Cains, Ishmaels, and Esaus of our day may walk freely before Him without fear. God simply sees them as righteous through the lenses of “Jesus-colored glasses”. To quote A.W. Tozer, “This view of things is, of course, a kind of religious romanticism which, while it often uses flattering and sometimes embarrassing terms in praise of God, manages nonetheless to make man the star of the show.”
A most trying aspect to this condition is the fact that those who fear the Name of the Lord are always in the minority, while the religious crowds accumulate for themselves false teachers (2 Timothy 4:3) who encourage them to walk in the stubbornness of their own hearts, without fear of consequences (Jeremiah 23:16-18). There are precious few who flee from youthful desires to pursue righteousness, faith, love and peace, with those who call on the Lord from a pure heart (2 Timothy 2:22).
Living in the midst of a religious people who hold to a form of godliness but deny its power is wearisome, and periodically we must cry out, “Unite my heart to fear Your Name”!
This is my prayer as another new year begins, and it is encouraging to know that there is a book of remembrance for those who “fear the Lord and esteem His Name” (Malachi 3:16-18).