I've loved the Jimmy Needham song reflecting this passage, but I just now read it and fully received it. Rend. It's not a common word. At least not one I use everyday. So you know me - definition, please.
1. to separate into parts with force or violence.
2. to tear apart, split, or divide.
3. to pull or tear violently (often followed by away, off, up, etc.).
4. to tear (one's garments or hair) in grief, rage, etc.
The definitions could seem a little confusing, considering the verse is asking for hearts to be rent, or torn. He's asking them to pull or tear violently away from what causes them to stray. (The heart is deceitful above all things and desperately wicked, who can know it? Jer. 17:9) He's saying their "normal" way of life - the destruction and devastation seen in the previous chapter as a result of their sin - should be torn away.
In essence he's saying "Tear your hearts, not your clothes." In sorrow, in remorse, in repentance, return to the Lord. Why? Because He's gracious and will have mercy. He hasn't withheld every bad thing but His abounding love can be what He brings instead to the broken heart willing to repent and receive forgiveness.
We know this from Psalm 34:18, "The Lord is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit."
From David's Psalm of repentance we see that God doesn't deny a broken and contrite heart (Ps. 51:17).
Once again, I'm forced to find the definition. What does having a broken and contrite heart mean?
Contrite - caused by or showing sincere remorse, filled with a sense of guilt and the desire for atonement.
Did you catch that? Showing sincere remorse; a desire for atonement or reconciliation.
So let's put the pieces together.
Rend your heart. Tear away from what binds you, ails you, hinders you, prevents you, blocks you, causes you to stumble, defeats you. This isn't just a gradual tear. This is not when you're sitting in church trying to quietly and discreetly remove the info card from it's attached and perforated edges. With steady and slow movements, you detach one little bit at a time so as not to disturb the pristine service or anyone around you. No. That's not the call to action here. This causes a ripping so intense, so violent, so life-shattering that it will leave you raw, hurting, even bleeding. The force will be so brutal it will surely leave a scar, but immediately it will cause you to do nothing but fall prostrate from the sheer pain wrenching your now bleeding heart.
And just as you're left bleeding and nearly lifeless, you sense it. You know. The Lord is close to your broken heart. He's rescuing you. Saving you. Reviving you. Picking up the pieces and holding them in His nail-scarred hands.
It is in this broken and contrite state where you desire healing and restoration. And so in His abounding love, He shows grace and compassion. He provides the pressure to stop the bleeding. The painful removal was necessary for growth and healing, but He will not let you bleed to death.
As Needham sings words coming from my Savior, "I don't need a grand display. Show me that your heart has changed. I don't need a show. Only just to know your own heart breaks." Oh, it breaks. It bleeds. But I rend my heart and I come.