The Heart: A Defective Gauge of Right and Wrong

The One Year® Chronological Bible, NKJV (Tyndale, 2013), August 10

mended heartContemporary wisdom asserts that the best option in decision-making is to “trust your heart” or “let your heart be your guide.” This viewpoint is as incorrect as it is pervasive. Why? Because the heart and its thoughts are defective. The heart is like sundown, unable to dispel darkness as the sun sinks below the horizon. Truth is like the rising sun at daybreak that dispels the darkness of night. The heart cannot be relied upon to discern good and evil.

Since before the flood, people have followed the dictates of their hearts—“The LORD saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every intent of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually” (Gen. 6:5). As a result, “the earth also was corrupt before God and the earth was filled with violence” (6:11). God therefore flooded the earth and destroyed every living thing that had breath outside of Noah’s ark.
The situation is no different in Jeremiah’s day,

  • “But this is what I commanded them, saying, ‘Obey My voice, and I will be your God, and you shall be My people. And walk in all the ways that I have commanded you, that it may be well with you. Yet they did not obey or incline their ear, but followed the counsels and the dictates of their evil hearts, and went backward and not forward” (Jer. 7:23-24).
  • “And the LORD said, ‘Because they have forsaken My law which I set before them, and have not obeyed My voice nor walked according to it, but they have walked according to the dictates of their own hearts” (9:13-14).
  • “For I earnestly exhorted your fathers in the day I brought them up out of the land of Egypt, until this day, rising early and exhorting, saying, ‘Obey My voice.’ Yet they did not obey or incline their ear, but everyone followed the dictates of his evil heart” (11:7-8).
  • “This evil people, who refuse to hear My words, who follow the dictates of their hearts, and awl after other gods to serve them and worship them . . .” (13:10).Jeremiah had even stated this truth unambiguously, “The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked; who can know it?” (17:9)

God has provided an external gauge that is reliable and without defect—His Word. And Jeremiah has internalized it, “Your words were found, and I ate them, and Your word was to me the joy and rejoicing of my heart; for I am called by Your name, O LORD of Hosts” (15:16). Judah’s rejection of God’s Word, however, has left them with the wisdom born of a darkened heart, “The wise men are ashamed, they are dismayed and taken. Behold, they have rejected the word of the LORD; so what wisdom do they have?” (8:9).

Truth is the sun that rises on the horizon of time and dispels the darkness of sin residing in the heart.

Jesus condemns those with darkened hearts, “And this is the condemnation, that the light has come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil. For everyone practicing evil hates the light and does not come to the light lest his deeds should be exposed. But he who does the truth comes to the light, that his deeds may be clearly seen, that they have been done in God” (Jn. 3:19-21).

Jeremiah consumed God’s word. Like the sun at daybreak it entered his heart and lit his way. The word corrected his defective heart and conquered his stubborn will so that he could follow God.

Questions from today’s chronological Bible reading (Jer. 16-18; 35):
What will Judah come to know about the Lord as a result of their captivity?
Moses presents Israel with two options: obey, and experience blessing, or disobey, and experience cursing. Jeremiah uses this blessing and cursing to display God’s wisdom in Jeremiah 17:5-10. Why does he begin with the cursing instead of the blessing? What does Jeremiah say about himself that places him in the blessing category?
In Moses’ message to Israel prior to their entry into Canaan, he reminds them to rest on the Sabbath (Ex. 35:1-2). Sadly, Jeremiah points out their failure to keep the Sabbath. How does the LORD view their disobedience? (Jer. 18:15-17)
What example does Jeremiah use to demonstrate obedience? What does this illustration reveal about Israel?