The plague of his own heart

1 Kings 8:37-40
37 “When there is famine in the land, pestilence or blight or mildew, locusts or grasshoppers; when their enemy besieges them in the land of their cities; whatever plague or whatever sickness there is;
38 “whatever prayer, whatever supplication is made by anyone, or by all Your people Israel, when each one knows the plague of his own heart, and spreads out his hands toward this temple:
39 “then hear in heaven Your dwelling place, and forgive, and act, and give to everyone according to all his ways, whose heart You know (for You alone know the hearts of all the sons of men),
40 “that they may fear You all the days that they live in the land which You gave to our fathers.”

Compromise is an interesting word. On one hand to compromise can mean “To arrive at a settlement by making concessions.” That’s the process at work whenever an international treaty is signed or when two seemingly opposing statesmen come together to sponsor legislation. In such cases, to compromise is a good thing. But to compromise can also mean “To reduce in quality, value, or degree; weaken or lower.” That is not such a good thing. This second kind of compromise refers to something utterly alien being introduced into something that was once solid and whole. Hence, when someone breaks the security network of a bank or a government agency, they say that security has been “compromised”–weakened, reduced in value, and by extension, in need of strengthening.

America’s churches are suffering from a plague of compromise. Many churches have watered down the distinctiveness of the gospel and the integrity of the Bible itself, all in the name of compromise. Too many churches and denominations want to attract more people to Christ, and so they try to make Jesus seem more attractive by ignoring anything negative. They try to make the Bible more palatable by saying that some parts of it are merely products of their own “backward” times, that some of the Bible is just men’s own opinions and prejudices, and that God did not really mean everything that is written there. And little by little, the core doctrines of the church have been worn away, until all that is left is a namby-pamby “Jesus is love” philosophy operating alongside a mission of social justice. The call to repentance and faith has been lost in the compromises that people have made in order to supposedly bring people to Christ.

But to what Christ are these new followers being drawn? Is He the “Jesus is love” Teacher? Is He the “God forgives” Rabbi and Friend? Is He the “Love thy neighbor” Preacher who was mistakenly slain? Those are just a few of the versions of Jesus we see people following, and none of them is anywhere near complete: each one is just a compromise. The Jesus of the Gospels is the Son of God, sent to bring us salvation from our SIN, and later to return to JUDGE those who do not repent and believe. Sin and judgment: you won’t find those things in the “Jesus is love” versions.

In today’s verses from the first Book of Kings, Solomon is saying a prayer of dedication at the newly-built temple. He goes through a series of supplications to God, asking the Lord to hear when His people are afflicted and to act when they pray toward the temple. In these particular verses, Solomon outlines particularly trying times–famine, pestilence, crop failure, warfare, and plague–and he asks that God “hear…and forgive, and act” to relieve their troubles. But what is the condition placed on God’s action? Look at the end of verse 38: “when each one knows the plague of his own heart, and spreads out his hands toward this temple.”

You see, before we come before God, we have to know what is going on in our own lives. We must examine ourselves, understand our own weakness and inability to handle these things on our own. We must understand what has infected our hearts–evil, sin, compromise–and come before God broken and contrite, with hands open wide to show our emptiness and need for His strength, His holiness, His mercy. It’s not that we necessarily need to be pure before we seek God’s grace, but that we need to seek Him in the midst of our brokenness and allow Him to purify us.

We cannot assume that God doesn’t know about the “plague” of our hearts, because, as Solomon mentions, God alone knows “the hearts of all the sons of men.” (v.40) God knows us, knows every secret thing, knows every hidden doubt, knows every godly and ungodly desire. Yet, in His mercy, He forgives–so long as we repent and believe in His Son. And repentance requires that we ourselves know the plague of our own hearts.

So, where have we compromised? Where have we allowed our faith to be watered down and weakened? Is the Christ we profess to love the same as the Jesus we truly see in the Gospel accounts? Is our doctrine based on the WHOLE Word of God? Is our faith rooted in an honest understanding of our own sinfulness and need for salvation? Have we compromised God’s measure of righteousness and holiness in the interest of our own convenience? We often act as if we expect God to compromise with us, and yet we forget that His Word is solid, unchanging, irrevocable. We forget that the new covenant in Jesus’ blood does not obviate the need for us to live lives holy and pleasing to God. We are not called to live according to the mores and ways of the world and the unbelievers, but to live such good lives among them that we set a new example for those who do not yet believe. (1 Peter 2:11-12) We are not called to compromise for the sake of gaining new believers, but to make disciples of all nations by bringing them to repent and believe in Christ, to open to them the truth of God’s Word without leaving out one iota of the law and the prophets.

This plague of compromise must end, but it cannot end until the faithful acknowledge this plague in their hearts before the only God who can heal them. With God, there is no compromise, only mercy and forgiveness. His standards have not ever changed, and His Word has been utterly clear on His commandments since the time of Moses. Therefore, we must approach the mercy seat of God with open hands and a contrite heart, in full knowledge of our own sinfulness, our own complicity in this crime of compromise. We must pray before the Lord our God and ask Him to purify our hearts, to rid us of our misconceptions about His Son and our need for salvation. We must ask God to hear, to forgive, and to act to bring us His truth and the courage to speak it. Let us therefore come before the throne of grace and let the plague of our hearts be healed by the one true and living and righteous God.

Gracious heavenly Father, I love You and I praise Your name. I know that You alone are God, that You sent Your Son to buy my salvation. Let my life be worthy of that price, let my heart be holy and uncompromising, just like Yours. Rid me of the plague of my heart–the sin, the compromise, the unrighteousness, the impatience and anger, the despair and doubt–and create in me a pure heart. Let my life be lived only for You, who alone knows my heart and forgives me and loves me. Amen.


About Glenn Pettit

I am a deacon at The Well of Iowa, and a father and grandfather. Called to teach and to preach, I write fresh messages about the Bible every now and then.
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