“Then her husband arose and went after her to speak kindly to her (to her heart) and to bring her back….”
Judges 19: 3
“Matters of the Heart”
“Nobody has ever measured, even the poets, how much a heart can hold.”
Has anyone ever “spoken to my heart?”
What would it mean to me to have someone “speak to my heart?”
“Tenderness is greater proof of love than the most passionate of vows.”
“Soft are the hands of love.”
H. D., “Memeter”
Collected Poems, 1925
The author, Ellen Glasgow, observed that, “It is only in the heart that anything really happens.” There’s a great deal of truth to this statement, for that beating muscle within our chests gives us not only physical life but emotional life as well. Even though we may like to think that, with a thoughtful mind, we can control the feelings in our hearts, I think that Louise Bogan got it right when she noted, “‘Intellectuals’ cause a great deal of trouble trying to do it all with the mind.” In the final analysis, her conclusion was, “It is the heart that counts.” This may be why the Psalmist David referred to “matters of the heart” over thirty times as he conveyed in song the feelings in his life exposed by the emotional output from his heart. One of my girlfriends recently commented to me that she could easily understand why women found David so appealing for as she observed, “He was the rough, tough out-door man but he understood how to express the feelings in his heart.” I had to agree that we, as women, love to have a man reveal the feelings in his heart.
Our text today explores just such a happening between the Levite and his wife. Judges 19: 2 says that the Levite’s “concubine” was “untrue” to her husband. Before we jump to the conclusion this girl had been unfaithful in the sense we usually consider – having a relationship with another man – we need to review this time in history. The inter-action between marital partners at the time of the Judges, does not reflect our contemporary view. Women were first, considered their father’s property, then their husbands. While we do find there were Biblical relationships where arranged marriages portrayed deep and abiding love between the man and woman, it is not common, until the book of Ruth to find love so openly expressed, especially between marriage partners.
The Bible records that something happened in the relationship between the Levite and his concubine and for a period of four months, she went home to her father. In trying to better understand this story, I studied everything I could find written about this tragic event and one thing that seemed to be consistent among most Biblical scholars is that it most likely, was not something the concubine did, that disrupted the marriage.
I’d like offer several thoughts to consider. Since the Bible makes it clear this girl’s station in life was considered “inferior,” who knows, even within the walls of her own home, her husband may well have put her down. He may have treated her with a superiority that demeaned her self-respect. How damaging this kind of behavior is to any relationship. And, since he was a Levite, a man without property or possessions living a transitory life, this type of nomadic existence may have been extremely difficult for a young woman to adapt to. Life on the road may have been too harsh and the call of family and home may easily have drawn this girl back home to Bethlehem.
Whatever the reason, the Bible does not totally pin the blame on this girl for going home and soon we find her husband has second thoughts about the situation and he decided to go to his father-in-law’s home and speak kindly to his wife, or as the Hebrew states: “talk to her heart.”
I want to stop right here and focus on these tender words, “talk to her heart.” However, I want to expand this phrase, to include everyone in our relationships.
I’ve recently been challenged by a family situation which seems so unsolvable. But as I was studying for our devotionals this week, it hit me, “I haven’t been using heart talk!” That loving, gentle, tender talk that woos rather than wounds. And I thought to myself, “How often in all my relationships would I get much further in healing strains by talking with the heart?”
How about in your life? When it comes to matters of the heart, do you try to wall yourself off from others? And when you want to reach out do you open your heart or is there a cold, intellectual response that says: “Just the facts?”
In our lives today, there are wounded and broken pieces of hearts, in tatters and shreds all around us. I wonder what would happen if all God’s daughters and sons purposed that with unlimited tenderness, we reached out in all our relationships and with a spirit of complete gentleness, talked to the hearts of those in our path. The great A. W. Tozer calls this type of love the kind that knows, “no because.” It is a love that doesn’t take the safe road. It is a love that doesn’t limit itself to what will be given in return. It is a heavenly love. A Christ-like love that seeks only the good of another. As Thomas Brooks calls this love, a love with a “very large mantle.”
I am ending our devotional today with a prayer written by the wonderful Kathy Keay who passed away several years ago after an aggressive battle with breast cancer. Through her expressive and brilliant books of prayer and poetry, she has left all God’s daughters with a legacy of love – love that talks to our hearts and opens us to giving and receiving the unquenchable love of a Father who promises that He knows how to take care of the matters of your heart and mine: “Yes, I have loved you with an everlasting love, therefore with loving-kindness have I drawn you unto Me,” (Jeremiah 31: 3). Our Father whispers today: “Let me talk to your heart, My daughter and My son.”
“Give us big hearts, dear God;
big enough to embrace all our sisters
especially those in trouble,
whether of their own making or
because of wrongs done to them.
Give us big hearts, dear God;
big enough to acknowledge our own weakness
before pointing the finger at others;
big enough to be humble
when blessed with your good gifts
Denied to so many.
Give us big hearts, dear God;
to reach out again and again
to those who cannot help themselves
until hope is restored to them
and we, thorn-beaten and bloodied
allow our loving to become more like yours.”
“Teach me to Love”
I would like to be a better lover.
Where I come from, the meaning
of that word is so distorted
that it’s more about taking than giving
and I’m almost embarrassed to use it.
But to become a better lover, is what I need
more than anything else.
I want to love with the spontaneity
of the small child, alive with delight
in love’s perennial newness.
I want to love without discrimination,
hugging everything you have created,
earth, stars, lion, lamb, sunlight, shadows,
brothers and sisters, and especially
the stranger in myself.
I want to love recklessly
with the kind of commitment
which doesn’t manufacture questions
or balance giving against getting,
but which takes a big step out
away from self-consciousness.
I want to love with trust.
There are fears in my life
which are born of ignorance
and which can only be erased
by love itself. I know, dear God,
that while my selfishness is always with me,
love has a way of overcoming
the obstacles to its fulfillment.
So, please God, make me a better lover.
I make this prayer
in the name of the greatest lover
humanity has ever known,
Jesus, who stretched out his arms
to embrace the world and die for it.
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