My first sermon in 1980 was on Joel 2:13: “Rend your heart and not your garments.” It was about how external ritual is not as important to God as the truth of what was in a man’s heart. This theme is taught frequently in the bible. Back in 1 Samuel 16:7, we read, “People judge by outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.” It’s an issue of the heart. In the passage today Hezekiah teaches us that the right heart with the wrong ritual is better than a wrong heart with the right ritual.

When he took the throne Israel he brought a spiritual revival to the nation. He calls everyone to forsake their false gods and to turn back to the God of their fathers. He reestablishes the sacred holy days including the Passover. But he faces an interesting problem. The nation was not prepared to celebrate the Passover according to the specific instructions Moses had left in the Law. There was no time to purify themselves, the land, and the temple before the appointed time. By the time Hezekiah can get everyone together it’s already a month past the deadline for celebrating the Passover. So he called for the Passover to be kept a month late and those who observed it, observed it without the specific cleansing rituals associated with it. So they worshipped God as unclean people at an inappropriate time. Hezekiah prayed for them. “May the good Lord pardon everyone who sets his heart to seek God, the Lord, the God of his fathers, even though not according to the sanctuary’s rules of cleanness.” The next verse is the most important. It says, “And the Lord heard Hezekiah and healed the people.”

This is not just an Old Testament doctrine. Paul teaches us the same truth in Romans 2:29 when he says, “…a Jew is one ?inwardly, and circumcision is a matter of the heart, by the Spirit, not by the letter. ?His praise is not from man but from God.”

God is always asking us “Where is your heart?” One of the #1 hits of 1953 had that title. It’s primarily an instrumental by Percy Faith and his orchestra and sometimes called the Song of Moulin Rouge. It’s lyrics are appropriate:

Whenever we kiss, I worry and wonder
Your lips may be near, But where is your heart?

It’s always like this, I worry and wonder
You’re close to me here, But where is your heart?

“Dear children, let’s not merely say that we love each other; let us show the truth by our actions.” 1 John 3:18(NLT)