Embracing Grace: A Discerning Heart

A 365 Day Devotional Journal

Day 75

Scripture:  Hebrews 12; Psalm 139:23-24; 1 Samuel 16:7; Matthew 12:43-45; Mark 11:23-26.

Photo courtesy of Amy Palko / CC BY-NC-SA 2.0

Truly I say to you, whoever says to this mountain, “Be taken up and cast into the sea,” and does not doubt in his heart, but believes that what he says is going to happen, it will be granted him. Therefore I say to you, all things for which you pray and ask, believe that you have received them, and they will be granted you. Whenever you stand praying, forgive, if you have anything against anyone, so that your Father who is in heaven will also forgive you your transgressions. [But if you do not forgive, neither will your Father who is in heaven forgive your transgressions.] 1

This was the passage of Scripture that this morning a Godly pastor from Africa quoted to me in a Facebook message. How could he possibly have known I needed to hear those words on this day?

Because he possesses a discerning heart to hear the voice of God and obey when the Holy Spirit prompts him.

He emphasized verse 24 to me but that is okay, because God used his obedience to also remind me to walk in forgiveness toward others lest I become disqualified.

See to it that no one comes short of the grace of God; that no root of bitterness springing up causes trouble, and by it many be defiled; that there be no immoral or godless person like Esau, who sold his own birthright for a single meal. For you know that even afterwards, when he desired to inherit the blessing, he was rejected, for he found no place for repentance, though he sought for it with tears. 2

I looked up root of bitterness in Strong’s Concordance on the Blue Letter Bible website. “Root” comes from the Greek, rhiza (ῥίζα)  [Strong’s G4491]. Vine’s lists two ways the word is used, the natural sense or the metaphoric sense. Rhiza means

of “cause, origin, source,” said of persons, ancestors, of things, evils, of the love of money as a “root” or all “kinds of evil; bitterness; of that which springs from a “root,” a shoot, said of offspring.3

Image courtesy of Noah Elhardt. Public Domain.

Our English word, rhizome, is a derivative of this root. A rhizome is

 

A plant stem that grows horizontally under or along the ground and often sends out roots and shoots. New plants develop from the shoots. 4

Early on in my gardening experience, I was warned against planting bamboo and other such organisms that possess aggressive propagation behavior. Some are more so than others, but the characteristic common to all is the way in which they reproduce.

Case in point, my husband dearly loves horseradish, so much so that he probably would even try chocolate with horseradish in it.

Ewww.

We had been married a couple of years when one day he brought home a mason jar filled with something that looked like shaved cabbage.

“What’s that?” I asked, instantly suspicious of his grin.

He smiled real big, too big, then unscrewed the jar and held it out to me, saying “Smell this.”

I shot him a dubious look and stared at the jar. “No. What is it?”

“Smell it,” he again prompted, grinning.

I regret to say that I did finally stick my nose down in it and inhaled, and I about died from fumes akin to ammonia striking my face. It was so strong it brought tears to my eyes. This wasn’t that mamby pamby semi-bland stuff the grocery stores carry in their refrigerator aisle. This was a quart-sized jar full of shaved mature, butt-kicking horseradish root in white vinegar.

Stupid, stupid, stupid.

I know you’re thinking the moral of that story is “Don’t go sticking your nose where it doesn’t belong,” or, “Don’t trust your spouse when he is holds out to you a mystery jar full of suspicious-looking glop wearing a cheesy grin and invites you to sniff it.” [Sorry, Honey, you get to be my object lesson today.]

Thus was my introduction to his lifelong love affair with horseradish.

Now I actually do like the taste of horseradish but at the time had never tried it. Some years later, he talked me into planting the stuff, and that was when I learned it only takes a snip of one tiny rootlet to reproduce a whole new plant. Even if you pull out the entire plant, it will come back unless every microscopic bit of rootlet is removed. The only way to ensure its complete removal is to also remove the dirt surrounding the entire root base.

The Columbia Encyclopedia, Sixth Edition, says of rhizome that it is a

Fleshy, creeping underground stem by means of which certain plants propagate themselves. Buds that form at the joints produce new shoots. Thus if a rhizome is cut by a cultivating tool it does not die, as would a root, but becomes several plants instead of one, which explains why such weeds as Canada thistle and crabgrass are so hard to eradicate.5

The bamboo forest at Hōkohu-ji, Kamakura, a city in Kanagawa Prefecture, Japan. Photo courtesy of Urashimataro / CC-By-Sa 3.0

Anyone who has been around running bamboo understands how formidable eradication of the plant is once it has been established:

As the rhizomes spread underground, they will eventually travel upwards to create a new culm. This process takes place each year and is observed when new shoots becomes visible arising from the soil. Depending on the variety of bamboo and growing conditions, this is normally observed in the spring season. The behavior of rhizomes is put into two distinct categories, running and clumping. … Running bamboos are characterized as having self-propagating rhizomes which travel underground, and eventually breech the surface to create a Culm. The rhizomes travel horizontally, and have the ability to move through 20 feet of soil in a single season. The direction and distance of rhizome growth is unpredictable. They are most commonly found naturally in temperate regions, with the most notable genera being Phyllostachys and Pleioblastus. Most varieties are cold hardy and are able to survive in below freezing temperatures. Running bamboos are invasive by nature and will spread rapidly if not controlled.6

You can quickly see the application when applying this knowledge to the phrase “root of bitterness” from Hebrews 12. Bitterness grows in the heart, hidden under the surface. Unseen by others, it sends its rhizomes in long tentacles that, left uncheck, will eventually consume your entire being. The only way to remove it is to remove the soil of your heart which surrounds each rootlet. Otherwise, you risk it reproducing and spreading.

A person will sometimes become aware of the condition of bitterness as a result of God moving in their life. Light exposes the darkness. They repent and pull out what appears to be the complete root, but somewhere, in an unnoticed corner of the heart, they leave a small unforgiveness toward someone. By all accounts, they appear to be set free on the outside because so much of the condition of bitterness was removed. But in the dark reaches of the heart, tiny rootlets of that bit of unforgiveness which was not removed begins to reproduce, sending out runners which infect the person’s thoughts toward others. Unobservable at first and unaware by its host, the bitterness spreads out like a hostile army, invading all the undefended territory of the heart. In the fullness of time and when it has ripened in secret, bitterness bursts forth above ground with venomous passion. Usually, it is in response to an unrelated incident but when it does spring forth, it is stronger than it was before. This is how sin operates.

Bitterness is a spirit.

Left unchecked, bitterness becomes a demonic stronghold. The nature of bitterness to reproduce like a rhizome may be likened to this statement by Jesus:

When an evil spirit leaves a person, it goes into the desert, seeking rest but finding none. Then it says, ‘I will return to the person I came from.’ So it returns and finds its former home empty, swept, and in order. Then the spirit finds seven other spirits more evil than itself, and they all enter the person and live there. And so that person is worse off than before. That will be the experience of this evil generation.7

If I were to ask for a show of hands who among you today has been victim of someone misunderstanding your actions and judging you for them, I suspect everyone would raise their hands. If you didn’t, wait a while, for it will eventually happen to you. And not only have we all been subjected to being misunderstood, but we all have been guilty of misjudging others. When we make snap judgments or jump to conclusions, or wear our feelings on our cuff, this is what we are doing.

The universal condition of the human heart is its inclination toward pride.

Pride?

Isn’t that what we’re talking about here? When we misjudge another person, what we really are saying is that we know better than they do regarding the situation, or regarding their motives or the people involved. But God says,

…God sees not as man sees, for man looks at the outward appearance, but the LORD looks at the heart.8 

When we allow a root of bitterness to spring up, we disqualify ourselves before God, for He commands us to walk in forgiveness toward each other. Bitterness is always directed at a person. It always involves the passing of judgment over someone whose heart we will never know as well as God knows.

Going back to Hebrews 12:15-17:

See to it that no one comes short of the grace of God; that no root of bitterness springing up causes trouble, and by it many be defiled; that there be no immoral or godless person like Esau, who sold his own birthright for a single meal. For you know that even afterwards, when he desired to inherit the blessing, he was rejected, for he found no place for repentance, though he sought for it with tears. 9

At first, I wondered why Jesus made reference to Esau in the context of this teaching. But then it hit me – Esau did not recognize his own need to humble himself before God and be made right, to have his heart of stone replaced with a heart of flesh. His spirit was marked by defiance of and disrespect for the things of God. Oh, he went through the motions, but in his heart

In many respects, Esau was like Cain. Instead of possessing a discerning heart, he possessed a jealously defiant heart. And like Cain, he allowed bitterness to take root. And though Scripture records Jacob and Esau reconciling, no record is given saying that Esau made right his heart with God. Instead, Scripture records that no place was found for repentance, though Esau sought for it with tears.

This is a sobering reminder to daily search my heart and to lay it bare before the Lord for His discipline.

Search me, O God, and know my heart; try me and know my anxious thoughts; and see if there be any hurtful way in me, and lead me in the everlasting way.10

You have not yet resisted to the point of shedding blood in your striving against sin; and you have forgotten the exhortation which is addressed to you as sons, “MY SON, DO NOT REGARD LIGHTLY THE DISCIPLINE OF THE LORD, NOR FAINT WHEN YOU ARE REPROVED BY HIM; FOR THOSE WHOM THE LORD LOVES HE DISCIPLINES, AND HE SCOURGES EVERY SON WHOM HE RECEIVES.” It is for discipline that you endure; God deals with you as with sons; for what son is there whom his father does not discipline? 11

Read: Hebrews 12; Psalm 139:23-24; 1 Samuel 16:7; Matthew 12:43-45; Mark 11:23-26.

Father God, Search me and know my heart; try me and know my anxious thoughts; and see if there be any hurtful way in me, and lead me in Your everlasting way. For Jesus’ sake, and the kingdom’s, amen.

____________________________________

1Mark 11:23-26. Emphasis mine. Scripture taken from the NEW AMERICAN STANDARD BIBLE®, Copyright © 1960,1962,1963,1968,1971,1972,1973,1975,1977,1995 by The Lockman Foundation. Used by permission. www.lockman.org
2Hebrews 12:15-17. Emphasis mine. Scripture taken from the NEW AMERICAN STANDARD BIBLE®, Copyright © 1960,1962,1963,1968,1971,1972,1973,1975,1977,1995 by The Lockman Foundation. Used by permission. www.lockman.org
3Blue Letter Bible. “Dictionary and Word Search for rhiza (Strong’s 4491)“. Blue Letter Bible. 1996-2011. 17 May 2011. http:// www.blueletterbible.org/lang/lexicon/lexicon.cfm?
Strongs=G4491&t=NASB
4rhizome. Dictionary.com. Dictionary.com Unabridged. Random House, Inc. http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/rhizome (accessed: May 17, 2011).
5“rhizome.” The Columbia Encyclopedia, Sixth Edition. 2008. Encyclopedia.com. (May 17, 2011). http://www.encyclopedia.com/doc/1E1-rhizome.html  
6“Bamboo Biology – Behavior.” Emphasis mine. Complete Bamboo: Bamboo Information Resource. (May 17, 2011) http://www.completebamboo.com/bamboo_behaviors.html
7Matthew 12:43-45. Scripture quotations are taken from the Holy Bible, New Living Translation, copyright ©1996, 2004, 2007 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers, Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved. www.tyndale.com
81 Samuel 16:7a. Scripture taken from the NEW AMERICAN STANDARD BIBLE®, Copyright © 1960,1962,1963,1968,1971,1972,1973,1975,1977,1995 by The Lockman Foundation. Used by permission. www.lockman.org
9Hebrews 12:15-17. Emphasis mine. Scripture taken from the NEW AMERICAN STANDARD BIBLE®, Copyright © 1960,1962,1963,1968,1971,1972,1973,1975,1977,1995 by The Lockman Foundation. Used by permission. www.lockman.org
10Psalm 139:23-24. Emphasis mine. Scripture taken from the NEW AMERICAN STANDARD BIBLE®, Copyright © 1960,1962,1963,1968,1971,1972,1973,1975,1977,1995 by The Lockman Foundation. Used by permission. www.lockman.org
11 Hebrews 12:4-7. Emphasis mine. Scripture taken from the NEW AMERICAN STANDARD BIBLE®, Copyright © 1960,1962,1963,1968,1971,1972,1973,1975,1977,1995 by The Lockman Foundation. Used by permission. www.lockman.org

Copyright © 2011, Érin Elise

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