Proverbs 27:17

Proverbs 27:17

Saturday, April 1, 2023

Jeremiah 17:9-10 (Daily Verse and Comment)

  Jeremiah 17:9-10

(9) The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked: who can know it? (10) I 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. 
King James Version   Change your email Bible version

Many know Jeremiah 17:9 by heart since it is a basic reality of the human condition. Nevertheless, do we really believe what God says here?

In this passage, God is giving an evaluation of mankind. In verses 5-6, He relates that curses come on those who trust in men, and in verses 7-8, He reveals that blessings accrue to those who trust in Him. Verse 9, though, is not focused on the blessed or the cursed but on everyone, humanity as a whole: "The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked; who can know it?"

God means this! Do we believe it? From a human perspective, it cuts to the quick anyone with a hint of pride. No one thinks of himself as thoroughly evil; in fact, most believe they are pretty good. But we grew up among other Christians and think we did a fair job of keeping the commandments. We try to get along with almost everyone. Yet, God's words bring us up short. Are we fooling ourselves? Are we really making a sincere effort to live God's way? Are the things that we do merely a show? Do we act as we do to make people like us? Are we actually only conforming to peer pressure? Do we do what we do for the right reasons? What is the true condition of our hearts? God answers, "You can't know it. It is most desperately wicked and deceptive."

Further, whom does it deceive the most? Us! Upon acknowledging this revelation from God about ourselves, we have to ask, "Have my motives ever been good for doing anything?" Perhaps, since human nature is both good and evil. However, God's answer in verse 10 is that only He really knows our real character—and thank God for that! We would despair to see ourselves as we really are, although part of the Christian life is endeavoring to realize just how corrupt our hearts actually are.

Recall the Parable of the Pharisee and the Publican (Luke 18:9-14). The Pharisee is a perfect example of "the heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked." He fools himself into thinking that, between himself and the publican, he is the good, upright one. He stands before the Temple, lifting his eyes toward heaven, taking a pious position as close as he can to the altar, thanking God that he was so much better than the wretched publican. Yet, Jesus informs us that the publican, not the Pharisee, "went down to his house justified rather than the other" (verse 14). The Pharisee may have been righteous in his own eyes, but not in God's.

The publican—a lying, cheating tax collector—was humble enough to realize that his heart was, indeed, desperately wicked. He probably did not know the depths of the evil he could do, but he knew that he was a sinner and not worthy of approaching God. He understood that, next to God, he was dirt and less than dirt. He merely beseeches God to show him mercy. The one who earned Jesus' respect is the person who recognized the evil within himself!

In Jeremiah 17:9, God pulls no punches. The human heart—the seat of man's intellect, his emotions, his attitudes, his inclinations—is dishonest and evil. Most of us take evil far too lightly, especially the evil within us. We do not like to think of ourselves as evil. We always like to think that we are the guys in the white hats, the good guys. Everybody else has the problem. We tend to be quite quick to point the finger at others, all the while maintaining our own, lily-white innocence.

Such an attitude leads to sins like self-righteousness, pride, and sloth in overcoming and growing. This self-justification can eventually manifest itself in poneros, active rebellion against God. If we reach the point where we think we have nothing more to change or repent of, our growth will slow and soon stop altogether. Before long, our trajectory will be headed away from God because such an attitude is the exact opposite of what He is looking for in His children.

— Richard T. Ritenbaugh

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