Scripture reading – Jeremiah 17; Jeremiah 18

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This is the first of two Bible studies for today. The first is taken from Jeremiah 17 and the second will be based upon Jeremiah 18. Our survey of Jeremiah brings us to an oft-quoted verse that reminds us of the beguiling nature of man’s heart. In Jeremiah 17:9, we read, “The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked: who can know it?” Let’s consider the context of that profound truth.

Jeremiah 17


The Deceitful Nature of a Sinner’s Heart (Jeremiah 17:1)

Jeremiah 17 began with Jeremiah bemoaning Judah’s sins and chiding the nation for the sinful scars engraved on the people’s hearts. He rebuked his country and said, “The sin of Judah is written with a pen of iron [used for engraving on stone tablets], and with the point of a diamond: it is graven upon the table of their heart, and upon the horns [corners] of [their] altars” (Jeremiah 17:1).

Remember that the LORD, through His servant Moses, challenged Israel to teach the commandments diligently to their sons and daughters? (Deuteronomy 6:1-7). Yet, Jeremiah’s generation shunned the Law and did not regard the LORD’s commandments. It was the sins of the people, not the word of the LORD, that was “graven” and deeply furrowed in the hearts of the people (Jeremiah 17:1).


The Curse of Generational Sins (Jeremiah 17:2)

What a sad and tragic lesson! Rather than knowing the blessings the Lord’s Commandments bring, Judah had assimilated the sinful ways of the nations. Adding to the tragedy, we read, “their children remember” (Jeremiah 17:2). To “remember” was to follow the example of their parents and spiritually walk in their ways. What did the children remember? They remembered the sins of their forefathers and the altars where they sacrificed their sons and daughters. They remembered the notorious “groves” that were known for their idolatries and adulteries (Jeremiah 17:2).

The Tragic Consequences of National Sins (Jeremiah 17:3-4)

The Tragic Consequences of National Sins (Jeremiah 17:3-4)

Jeremiah declared God’s judgment and said, “My mountain in the field I will give” (probably a reference to Mount Zion, where the Temple was built) and “all thy treasures to the spoil” (Jeremiah 17:3). The army of Babylon would later raze the Temple, palaces, and dwellings of Jerusalem (Jeremiah 17:3). Having served the gods of other nations. The people of Judah would lose their freedom and be taken captive, where they served their enemies (Jeremiah 17:4).

Two Philosophies of Life (Jeremiah 17:5-11)

The world is governed by a man-centered philosophy that is the product of man’s musings apart from God. The LORD, however, would have His people be God-centered in their thoughts and follow a path clearly defined in His Word, which is antithetical to the natural bent of man’s heart.

What does God’s Word teach concerning those who look to man for life’s purpose and direction? Jeremiah 17:5-11 contrasts two philosophies of life: one that is cursed and the other blessed.

Cursed is A People Who Trust in Man (Jeremiah 17:5-6)

Jeremiah 17:5-6 declares that a man-centered outlook on life is cursed because it “trusteth in man” (Jeremiah 17:5a). Because man puts his faith in his flesh, he is, therefore, departed “from the LORD” (Jeremiah 17:5). Such a man is likened to a stunted bush of the desert that will not thrive (Jeremiah 17:6). 

Blessed is A People Who Trust in the LORD (Jeremiah 17:7-8)

Quoting Psalm 1:1-3, the LORD reminded Judah that a man is blessed when he rejects the world’s philosophy and delights in His Word. Such a man is blessed, and he “shall be as a tree planted by the water (Psalm 1:3), and that spreadeth out her roots by the river, and shall not see when heat cometh, but her leaf shall be green; and shall not be careful in the year of drought, neither shall cease from yielding fruit” (Jeremiah 17:7-8).

The Foolish Heart of Sinners (Jeremiah 17:9-11)

The Foolish Heart of Sinners (Jeremiah 17:9-11)

After contrasting the foolish heart of those who trust in man with the blessed heart that trusts in the LORD, Jeremiah warned: “The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked: who can know it?” (Jeremiah 17:9) The “heart” with its nerves and vessels running throughout the body is a fitting symbol of the seat of man’s emotions, thoughts, and feelings. What an insidious predicament we face when we live apart from God’s revelation of His Truth. The heart of a sinner is naturally deceived and utterly wicked, and none of us can truly appreciate the depravity of our hearts apart from God.

Nevertheless, the godly have hope and comfort when they yield to the LORD. However, woe to the sinner who continues in sin, for the LORD has declared: “10I the Lord search the heart, I try the reins, even to give every man according to his ways, and according to the fruit of his doings” (Jeremiah 17:10).


Closing thoughts

There is much more to consider in the balance of Jeremiah 17. Still, our study of this chapter will conclude with an invitation for you to ponder Jeremiah 17:11, which reads, “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.”

This brief parable sounds strange until we ponder the meaningless life of a bird (“partridge”) that spends her life brooding on eggs that remain lifeless and come to nothing (Jeremiah 17:11). A partridge sitting on lifeless eggs is a tragedy (Jeremiah 17:11a), but not as disastrous as a covetous person who accumulates wealth but is unprepared for the inevitability of death. His “barns” may be filled like the rich man who failed to plan for eternity (Luke 12:18-21), but “his end shall be a fool” (Jeremiah 17:11).

Warning: Man’s heart is naturally self-deceived (Jeremiah 17:9), and every man will be rewarded “according to the fruit of his doings” (Jeremiah 17:10).

Where is your heart planted?

Copyright © 2024 – Travis D. Smith 

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