40 Let us test and examine our ways; let us return to Yahweh.
41 Let us lift up our hearts with our hands to God in the heavens.
42 We ourselves have transgressed and rebelled, You have not forgiven.
I selected the Lexham English Bible (LEB) version today because of how verse forty-one says Let us lift up our hearts with our hands to God in the heavens. The concept of lifting up our hearts with our hands to God simply struck me as unique and important. Of course we cannot literally lift up our heart with our hands, so what is the meaning of this mean here?
First though, for context, let us turn to verse forty above. It is clear they, the people of Jerusalem have been far away from Yahweh and now seek to return. To do so they will have to test and examine their ways. instead of protesting and secretly complaining about God’s judgment. In doing so discover what is in agreement with and what is contrary to God’s will in their past behavior. This is not an easy task for anyone, but while experiencing the wrath of God, it is absolutely important. It is just as important to avoid the wrath of God for them and for us to examine the conduct of our lives, spiritually and physically. Haggai the prophet said it this way in 1:5: And so then, thus says Yahweh of hosts: ‘Consider your ways! [literally “Set your heart on your ways”]
Now we return to verse forty-one and the lifting up our hearts with our hands to God in heaven. I think the commentary of Matthew Poole captures this very well.
Let us apply ourselves unto God by prayer, often expressed under this notion in Scripture from that gesture ordinarily used in prayer; and let us not do it in hypocrisy, but joining our hearts with our hands, praying seriously and fervently.
The key here is fervent prayer in pouring out our souls with our words and emotions from deep within our hearts. All too often prayer and the raising of hands in prayer is done without it being heartfelt. This is effectively a warning from the prophet, the prayer must be genuine or it will be useless or worse than useless. Worse as God has a particular animus when it comes to hypocrisy in prayer.
The results of searching and prayer are revealed in verse forty-two. They acknowledge they have been sinning and were in rebellion against God. They also acknowledge He has yet to forgive. The judgment is so great the prophet cries and weeps
48 Channels of water run down my eyes because of the destruction of the daughter of my people.
49 My eyes have poured down unceasingly without respite,
50 until Yahweh looks down and sees from heaven.
They imprisoned Jeremiah, sought to silence him as they hated what he had to say, his statements on the need to follow God, so eventually he said.
64 Return to them what is deserved, O Yahweh, according to the work of their hands.
We would do well to avoid what happened to them by following Paul’s advice
12 Therefore, my dear friends, as you have always obeyed—not only in my presence, but now much more in my absence—continue to work out your salvation with fear and trembling, 13 for it is God who works in you to will and to act in order to fulfill his good purpose. Philippians 2