The Heart of the Problem Is the Problem of the Heart

February 20, 2019 at 12:20 pm | Posted in Jeremiah | 9 Comments
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Jeremiah was commanded not to participate in one of the most important things in the life of a Jewish man: getting married and having a family.

Thou shalt not take thee a wife, neither shalt thou have sons or daughters in this place.

Jeremiah 16:2

He was also forbidden from participating in two of the key social events of his day: weddings and funerals.

For thus saith the LORD, Enter not into the house of mourning, neither go to lament nor bemoan them: for I have taken away my peace from this people, saith the LORD, even lovingkindness and mercies.

Jermeiah 16:5

Thou shalt not also go into the house of feasting, to sit with them to eat and to drink. For thus saith the LORD of hosts, the God of Israel; Behold, I will cause to cease out of this place in your eyes, and in your days, the voice of mirth, and the voice of gladness, the voice of the bridegroom, and the voice of the bride.

Jeremiah 16:8

In Jewish society in those days, these prohibitions would have caused people to say, “Something ain’t right about that fella.” Mourning with others was a great source of comfort, and weddings were generally considered the chief occasions of celebration and joy, but the land of Judah was about to become one giant graveyard. There would be no time for burials, mourning, or comfort, and a wedding would not be a reason to celebrate if families were about to be killed and torn apart.

The remainder Jeremiah Chapter 16 deals with the people’s almost unbelievable questioning about what sin they could possibly have committed to cause the Lord to do this to them, and Jeremiah’s patiently explaining it to them once again, which continues in Chapter 17, broken down into large categories which emphasize the root of the problems that had led them into more specific sins and had brought God’s judgment on themselves.

The first was idolatry.

The sin of Judah is written with a pen of iron, and with the point of a diamond: it is graven upon the table of their heart, and upon the horns of your altars; Whilst their children remember their altars and their groves by the green trees upon the high hills.

Jeremiah 17:1-2

Jeremiah attacked their hearts, which had become pagan altars, just like the ones in the groves. They might deny it, but their children knew where Dad and Mom really gave their loyalty and worship.

The second was unbelief.

Thus saith the LORD; Cursed be the man that trusteth in man, and maketh flesh his arm, and whose heart departeth from the LORD.

Jeremiah 17:5

Political alliances with other countries on a national level, and faith in their own strength instead of God on a personal level, were symptoms of the fact that they simply did not believe in their hearts that God was who He said He was (and had proven to be) or that He could or would do what He said He would do.

Jeremiah 17:9 is a key verse to the whole chapter – and to the whole Bible.

The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked: who can know it?

Jeremiah 17:9

This is a more accurate statement about the human race than you will find in any anthropology textbook. It is unflattering and brutally honest. It is a valid proof text on the state of mankind apart from God. This is a verse that would be good for all of us to memorize or at least with which to be very familiar.

It speaks of “the” heart – a total (yet accurate) generalization meaning that this describes the heart of every single person. The “heart” is the essence of a person’s nature – including his desires, his intellect, and his will. It is “deceitful,” meaning that it has the ability and the strong tendency to fool others and to fool its possessor. It is deceitful above “ALL” things, including Satan himself. It is also “desperately wicked.” Wicked alone would be more than bad enough, but it is not only wicked. It is in a state of great urgency and desperation to devise and commit evil deeds, to concoct and carry out evil plans, to jump eagerly to evil reactions and responses. The description of “desperately wicked” also expresses the idea of terminal, incurable wickedness – that which is sick beyond cure, broken beyond repair. “Who can know it?” is a rhetorical question meaning that no one but God can truly fathom it. We often believe that we know our own hearts, but not even we ourselves are able to comprehend the depths of the wickedness of our own hearts. We can never contemplate some horrible atrocity and honestly say, “I would never…” We truly have no concept of how low we would sink to accomplish the desires of our hearts if God’s restraining grace were removed from this world and from each of us individually.

So, Jeremiah the prophetic heart attacker – as God’s spokesman – attacked the hearts of the people for their idolatry, their unbelief, and (third) their greed.

As the partridge sitteth on eggs, and hatcheth them not; so he that getteth riches, and not by right, shall leave them in the midst of his days, and at his end shall be a fool.

Jeremiah 7:11

A bird that hatches another bird’s eggs finds herself without any chicks. In the same way, God’s people – thinking they were the true owners of God’s wealth – would wake up to find it gone. Don’t think you can trust in your checking account, your 401(k) plan, your cash money, or even a treasure chest full of gold buried in the woods. These things are assigned value only by God, ultimately, and He could make them worthless in a heartbeat.

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