Jeremiah 4

A Change of Heart.

“Plow up the hard ground of your hearts! Do not waste your good seed among thorns. O people of Judah and Jerusalem, surrender your pride and power. Change your hearts before the Lord.” ­– Jeremiah 4:3-4 NLT

The people of Judah needed a change of heart. They needed to return to the Lord in submission and obedience, but their hearts were preventing them from doing so. They stubbornly clung to their own will and did thing their own way. God told them, “if you wanted to return to me, you could. You could throw away your detestable idols and stray away no more” (Jeremiah 4:1 NLT). They could return – if they wanted to. But their return to God would be predicated on their hearts having changed, because that was the source of their problems. Their hearts were hard – like hard-packed, sun-baked soil where only thorns could survive. They were characterized by pride and obsessed with their own power. Self-centeredness and self-sufficiency were destroying them. But until they admitted it and humbled their hearts before God, nothing was going to change – including God’s determination to bring destruction on  them.

The only thing preventing them from enjoying the blessings of God again was the stubbornness of their own hearts. In the Hebrew, God somewhat graphically tells them to “circumcise yourselves to the Lord, and take away the foreskin of your heart” (Vs 4). He uses a reference to the rite of circumcision, giving by God to the people of Israel as a sign of their distinctive relationship to Him. It was a physical reminder of their everlasting covenant with God as His chosen people (Genesis 17:9-14). Every Jewish male was to have been circumcised on the eighth day after his birth. But now God was telling them to circumcise their hearts. Removing the foreskins of the heart meant they were to remove the lusts and longings of the heart that were driving them to turn from God and seek after idols. God was looking for heart change and still is. Over in his letter to the Romans, Paul says, “For you are not a true Jew just because you were born of Jewish parents or because you have gone through the ceremony of circumcision. No, a true Jew is one whose heart is right with God. And true circumcision is not merely obeying the letter of the law; rather, it is a change of heart produced by God’s Spirit. And a person with a changed heart seeks praise from God, not from people” (Romans 2:28-29 NLT).

True circumcision is a change of heart produced by God’s Spirit. The Jews did not have the benefit of God’s indwelling Spirit. Their heart change was complicated by a lack of ability. Their efforts at attempting to keep the Law and love God were hampered by their own flesh. They were sinful human beings trying to live sinless lives. And they were failing. But we have the Holy Spirit. As believers we are filled with the very presence and power of God. We have the capacity to change our hearts and therefore, completely alter our behavior. And God is going to do the same thing for the Jews one day. He has promised it over in the book of Ezekiel. He will one day make it possible for the Jews to do what was once impossible – love and serve Him faithfully. “Then I will sprinkle clean water on you, and you will be clean. Your filth will be washed away, and you will no longer worship idols. And I will give you a new heart, and I will put a new spirit in you. I will take out your stony, stubborn heart and give you a tender, responsive heart” (Ezekiel 36:25-26 NLT). God is one day going to do for the Jews what He has done for every one of us as believers. He is going to replace their hearts of stone with hearts that are tender and responsive toward Him. Because He knows that our hearts, left unchanged, are incapable of loving Him. Only God can change the human heart. Only He can give us the capacity to love and be loved, to serve faithfully, to sacrifice our wills willingly, to obey Him completely, to love others selflessly. God is about permanent heart transformation, not temporary behavior modification. And only He can make it happen.

Father, You have given me a new heart. You have given me a new capacity to love You faithfully and obediently. But because of my sin nature, I still struggle. I still find it easy to give in to my old self and turn away from You. May Your Holy Spirit find my life like well-plowed soil, receptive to His efforts at cultivating holiness in my life. Amen

Ken Miller
Grow Pastor & Minister to Men

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