Fifth Sunday, March 18

Isaiah 52:13-53:6 (ESV)

 31 “Behold, the days are coming, declares the Lord, when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and the house of Judah, 32 not like the covenant that I made with their fathers on the day when I took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt, my covenant that they broke, though I was their husband, declares the Lord.  33 For this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, declares the Lord: I will put my law within them, and I will write it on their hearts.  And I will be their God, and they shall be my people.  34 And no longer shall each one teach his neighbor and each his brother, saying, ‘Know the Lord,’ for they shall all know me, from the least of them to the greatest, declares the Lord.  For I will forgive their iniquity, and I will remember their sin no more.”

Heart.  The word is used 862 times in scripture.  Clearly, the heart is a big topic in the Bible.  Sometimes the word refers to the organ that pumps blood.  Mostly, however, the word heart refers to the center or focus of our life.  Biblically speaking, the heart is the source of our desires, motives and moral choices.

What does scripture teach about our heart?

“The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately sick; who can understand it?” (Jeremiah 17:9).

This is the foundational lesson regarding the human heart.  It is deceitful, sick, and confusing.

The context of the book of Jeremiah helps us understand this difficult lesson.  Jeremiah prophesied to people who outwardly expressed devotion to God.  But they were halfhearted and selectively obedient.  They followed their inner desires (heart) rather than obeying God.  When that happens, “our heart condemns us” (1 John 3:20).

This is challenging for us today as well.  Repeatedly, we are told to be true to ourselves.  Likewise, we are told that there is no external truth that should govern our behavior.  Instead, we should follow our heart.

That sounds good but, if the heart is deceitful and sick, following our heart can lead us astray.  What, then, are we to do?

Fortunately, Jeremiah had more to say about the heart.  Jeremiah foresaw a day when God would deal with the human heart by writing his (God’s) law on it (Jeremiah 31:33).  In other words, God would incline our hearts toward him.  Obedience would become more natural.

As Christians, this is a work of the Holy Spirit.  Little by little, he changes us by changing our heart.  But we remain works in process.  Which means we do well to test our inner desires, motives and moral decisions.  Sometimes they will be godly, sometimes not.

Lord, incline our hearts toward you.

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