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What the Bible says about Divided Heart
(From Forerunner Commentary)

Exodus 20:3

The KJV and the NKJV both translate Exodus 20:3 as, "You shall have no other gods before Me." This translation is misleading, though, because it gives us room to think that other gods are permitted as long as the true God is first in importance. God permits no other gods at all!

Other translations more correctly catch the intent. Moffatt says, "You shall have no gods but me." The Knox translation has, "Thou shalt not defy me by making other gods thy own." The Spurrell translation reads, "You shall have no other gods beside Me." Finally, the New English Bible renders it, "You shall have no gods to set against me." These make it very clear God will not share His position, glory, and praise with any competitors (see Isaiah 42:8). It would not be good for His purpose to allow us to divide our loyalties.

John W. Ritenbaugh
The First Commandment (1997)

1 Kings 18:21

The term "halt you" in the King James' Version ("falter," NKJV) provides a literal picture of what Elijah means. It suggests a person staggering, unable to catch his balance, and failing to accomplish anything of any consequence because his mind is divided. The person in such a circumstance cannot get a grip on life. These people were wavering back and forth, which was typical of the Israelites. The Bible shows in many places that the people continued to worship God, yet also served their idols. In Exodus 32, the incident of the Golden Calf, the people had Aaron mold a calf of gold and proclaim a feast to the Lord!

Essentially, they tried to syncretize the true God and pagan idols, which suggests a divided mind. "No man can serve two masters; for . . . he will hate the one and love the other" (Matthew 6:24). But the one that he hates is still a part of his mind, and it will cause problems.

In Elijah's word-picture, he is indicating that though nothing is wrong with the rest of the body, because the mind has no focus, the body's efforts have no direction. This sets up a situation where, at best, there will be little movement—that is, little accomplished—and at worst, there will be no forward movement at all, but just staggering, first this way then that. That sort of situation produces nothing.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Knowing God

Hosea 10:1-2

One would think that, if altars are increased during a period of prosperity, as verse 1 states, then religion must be flourishing. Indeed, religion was flourishing! Amos, Hosea's contemporary, clearly reports this in his book. However, what was flourishing was not the religion God gave through Moses but idolatry. Notice in verse 2 that God accuses Israel of having a heart that is divided.

Ironically, commentaries have divided opinions over what the Hebrew word translated "divided" means. Most modern translators render this word as either "false," "deceitful," or "faithless." None of these are wrong, including "divided," because the Hebrew word indicates "smoothness." It all depends on the context in which it is used. It can also suggest "flattering," which ought to give us a clue that it describes people who "talk the talk but do not walk the walk." Notice Isaiah 29:13:

Therefore the LORD said, "Inasmuch as these people draw near with their mouths and honor Me with their lips, but have removed their hearts far from Me, and their fear toward Me is taught by the commandment of men. . . .

Isaiah lived just before Amos and Hosea. However, he was a prophet to Judah primarily, whereas the other two men were prophets to Israel—the ten northern tribes. What Isaiah says agrees with what Hosea says. These people were flattering God with their tongues, but their hearts were not really in what they were doing. Reverence for God, then, was merely an intellectual accommodation intended to appease Him. They acted as if God could not see right through them! It shows how far off-base and carnal they were in their thinking.

They used the name of God frequently, undoubtedly claiming that they trusted Him, just as we do today. All of our coins and paper money read, "In God We Trust." Yet, these people filled the nation with lying, stealing, murder, adultery, fornication, coveting, Sabbath-breaking, and idolatry, all the while giving Him lip service with their mouths—talking the talk but not walking the walk. This is why God says, "Your heart is divided. It is deceitful. You talk so smoothly, but your heart is false."

John W. Ritenbaugh
Laodiceanism and Being There Next Year

Hosea 10:1-2

Hosea exposes the problem between God and Israel. He describes Israel as a luxuriant grape vine sending runners in every direction, indicating a bountiful crop. It indeed produces great material prosperity, but it is consumed through self-indulgent gorging. This is God's way of showing that Israel abused its prosperity: It used its prosperity for the purposes of idolatry. Its prosperity played a part in corrupting the Israelites' hearts, which is why Hosea mentions the divided or disloyal heart in context with its bountiful fruit.

A large part of this world's appeal is its offer of financial security. However, God shows there is a possible harmful, secondary effect: As people become financially secure, their attention is diverted from His purpose to vain and unimportant things. In other words, prosperity turns people's heads. There is no doubt that prosperity is good, but unless one is properly focused and disciplined, it can also be a demanding master because of its power to distract one into idolatry. Recall God's prophecy in Deuteronomy 32:15, predicting that when Israel prospered, then it would rebel.

This connects with the curse of Laodiceanism because God shows in the Laodiceans what can happen spiritually as people increase materially. Because such people are drunk through riches' deceptive promise, their judgment is in danger of being radically altered. The Laodicean evaluates himself, saying, "I am rich, have become wealthy, and have need of nothing" (Revelation 3:17).

He is deceived into thinking that his material prosperity proves that God approves of his conduct and attitudes. His overall conduct may not be too bad, but his poor self-analysis persuades him that he has no urgent need to seek God any further. He then merely floats, going through the motions, even feeling good about himself as he neglects so great salvation (Hebrews 2:3). His opinion of his holiness as compared with God's judgment is so far off base, it causes Jesus Christ to regurgitate him from His body.

Recall the mention in Hosea 10:1 of increasing and embellishing altars just before Israel fell to Assyria. One would think that, if altars increase during this period of prosperity, then religion is flourishing. Indeed, religion flourished, as Amos, Hosea's contemporary, clearly reports (see Amos 5:21-27). However, it was not the religion God gave through Moses, but idolatry that flourished! It was a corruption of that religion, for the Israelites syncretized that holy way with Baalism and other idolatries.

In Hosea 10:2, God charges Israel with having a divided heart. Commentaries are at odds over what the Hebrew word translated divided means. Most modern translations use "false," "deceitful," or "faithless," and none of these are wrong, including "divided." The Hebrew word suggests "smoothness" or "flattering," describing people who "talk the talk" but do not "walk the walk."

Isaiah 29:13 clarifies what God means: "Therefore the LORD said: 'Inasmuch as these people draw near with their mouths and honor Me with their lips, but have removed their hearts far from Me, and their fear toward Me is taught by the commandment of men.'" Their reverence for Him was mere intellectual accommodation intended to appease Him. They used the name of God frequently, saying they trusted Him, but they filled the nation with stealing, lying, and murder.

II Kings 17:33 illustrates their worship: "They feared the LORD, yet served their own gods - according to the rituals of the nations from among whom they were carried away." This describes to a T what Israel did then and their descendants are continuing to do today. Moffatt renders this, "They worshipped the Eternal, and they also served their own gods."

This chapter reports on the behavior of the people placed in Israel after Israel's conquest and deportation by Assyria between 722-720 BC. These people, who became known as the Samaritans, feared the Lord but worshipped their own gods. They were afraid of God, but they did not really change their way of life. Thus, they developed a syncretic religious system, a blending of the truth of God and outright paganism. The Jews of Christ's day clearly recognized this putrid blend and despised the Samaritans for it.

What is so interesting is that, by verse 36, God is no longer reporting on the Samaritans but is addressing Israel. In other words, God is saying that He was driven to defeat and scatter Israel because they were guilty of exactly the same sin as the Samaritans! They too had blended the worship of the true God with outright paganism, utterly corrupting the relationship He had established with them.

It is urgent that we understand what is involved here because it reveals the cause of God's anger that led to Israel's defeat and scattering. We must understand that our god is not what we say we worship but what we serve. Our god is what we give our lives over to.

Theoretically, the Israelites did not believe in idols, but in reality, they did. They believed in a Creator God, but they worshipped Him at the shrines they erected to the Baals. While they gave lip service to the Creator, they adopted most of the Canaanitish religion with its lewd immorality, and in actual practice, patterned their life after it. In daily life, they conformed to and reflected the Babylonish system just as Israel does today. This is exactly what God warns us to flee, and the only way to come out of it is by developing and maturing in our relationship with God.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Be There Next Year

Matthew 6:22-23

In verse 22, the word single means "whole," "undivided," implying seeing things in their reality since the eye is not diseased in any way. In verse 23, Jesus says, "if your eye be evil." Here the word evil means "divided" or "unhealthy." He is using this illustration to indicate that, if the eye is in good health and is able to see clearly, a person has a good chance of being able to see at least the physical reality clearly.

But if a person's eye is diseased—if there is macular degeneration or cataracts forming, or if the muscles of an old person's eye are not working properly so that he loses maybe his close-up or distant vision—we know that he will not have clear sight unless those conditions are corrected in some way.

The real subject of Jesus' saying is the importance of being able to focus in order to fulfill one's purpose in life.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Knowing God


 




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