God’s Law in my heart
Jeremiah 31: I will put my law within them — write it on their hearts!
I love this statement. Jeremiah sees the sin and rebellion of his people, not as a cultural or educational or behavioral problem, but as a heart problem. Their failure isn’t the result of misunderstanding and it isn’t a mistake. They sin because they’re sinners at heart. The great need of their lives isn’t that they straighten up and act right. They need heart surgery; a change at the very foundation of their being. In this passage the Lord describes this change. On the first level, it’s a change that will take place following the Babylonian exile but on a larger scale it’s a change Jesus, the Son of God, will bring. In fact, the writer of the New Testament book of Hebrews returns to this passage to describe the new spiritual reality Christ has brought into the world. God’s Law is no longer written on stone tablets. Rather, it’s written on the hearts of those who receive Jesus as their Lord and Savior. Jeremiah sees the need and he has the promise from God that the need will be met, but he can’t imagine how it will all be brought about.
Take Away: We need more than to change our behavior – we need for our hearts to be transformed by the grace of the Lord.
Jeremiah 24: I’ll give them a heart to know me, God.
In a vision Jeremiah sees two baskets of figs. One basket has good fruit and the other has bad fruit. The Lord tells Jeremiah that the good figs represent people who’ll obey God’s call to surrender to the Babylonians and be relocated to other lands by them. The bad figs represent the leaders and others who are ignoring God’s demand that they surrender and accept the Lord’s judgment on the nation. Even the “good fig” population, though, is in need of a divine heart transplant. God says he’s going to do just that. Those who trust and obey him, placing their lives in his hands, aren’t considered complete until the Lord makes some basic changes in their hearts. I think this illustrates the work of the Lord in our individual lives. On one hand, I surrender my life to the Lord, committing myself to live for him, no matter what might come. On the other hand, God does in me what I can’t do for myself. He changes my very heart, enabling me to love him with all my being. It is then, Jeremiah tells me, that I’m one of God’s people, and he is Lord of my life.
Take Away: The Lord does in me what I can’t do for myself.
Letting God be Lord
Jeremiah 10: Mere mortals can’t run their own lives.
Years ago there was a TV commercial in which a stressed homemaker rudely said to her well-meaning mother, “Mother please, I’d rather do it myself.” According to the ad, she needed to take a pill, and not just any pill: their pill. However, her desire to “do it herself” could never be fixed by her taking a pill. It’s a part of the human condition. Specifically, it’s what we say to our Creator. We’re made to live in fellowship with the Lord, to be partners with him in his purposes in our world. Instead, we turn our backs on God, insisting “I’d rather do it myself.” The result is, well, it’s what I see on the evening news every day. Pain and suffering, hating and killing: it’s all the result of our doing it ourselves. The fact is that as long as we make the most basic of mistakes: the exclusion of God from our lives, everything else is just putting band aids on life-threatening wounds. On the largest scale, the only hope of humanity is surrender to God. On the personal scale, it’s the same. Jeremiah says, “Men and women don’t have what it takes to take charge of life.” His solution is to do what God designed us to do in the first place: connect to God and let him be Lord of all that we are.
Take Away: We’re designed to live in fellowship with the Lord and nothing else will do.
Isaiah 29: These children will honor me by living holy lives.
They’re such failures at being a people of God! Nothing works for them. Their worship is skin-deep, their vision of God is lost to spiritual blindness, and their relationship with their Creator is upside down and wrong side out! The Lord, through Isaiah, has no compliments for them. However, the Lord does have words of hope. It will take some doing but God’s going to make them into a holy people. He’s going to have people who worship in holiness, who reverence him as the holy God of Israel. Getting there is going to cost them everything. They’ll lose the land God gave them and, frankly, many in this generation will lose their lives. Out of the destruction, God will begin remaking them into a people worthy of his Name. Today, God’s still in the business of creating holy people. The process is, in some ways, the same. He brings us to the place where we give up everything, dying out to self. Once all else is gone he fills us with himself. This sanctification process is often painful for us as we struggle with the Lord over ownership of our lives. When we do surrender to him, though, the result is holiness; God honoring, wonderfully satisfied lives.
Take Away: The Lord is still in the business of creating holy people.
Long before the American Holiness Movement
Psalm 86: Put me together, one heart and mind; then, undivided, I’ll worship in joyful fear.
I know that David has never heard of second blessing holiness. Jesus’ teachings about heart purity and Paul’s writing on being filled with the Spirit are way out in the future as David writes these words. Wesley, Bud Robinson, and a host of holiness preachers are yet to come. With that in mind, I don’t want to get carried away with David’s cry for an undivided heart and mind. Still, I see here an understanding of humanity. While David isn’t making a theological statement in this Psalm, he does make a human one. He sees division in his heart and he believes God can unify his life. I don’t have to overlay the centuries of theology that are yet to come to identify with that cry of faith. Today, the Christian who struggles with division in his or her life does well to start with this Old Testament prayer, asking God to “put me together.”
Take Away: The Lord can, and wants to, do a deep, transforming, uniting work in the lives of his people.