The Scriptorium

Hardness of Heart

It comes in various guises. Jeremiah 43-45

Judgment in Egypt: Jeremiah 43-45 (7)

Pray Psalm 78.1-4.
Give ear, O my people, to my law;
Incline your ears to the words of my mouth.
I will open my mouth in a parable;
I will utter dark sayings of old,
Which we have heard and known,
And our fathers have told us.
We will not hide them from their children,
Telling to the generation to come the praises of the LORD,
And His strength and His wonderful works that He has done.

Sing Psalm 78.1-4.
(Foundation: How Firm a Foundation)
Give ear, O my people, attend to my word,
dark sayings and parables sent from the Lord,
things we have before by our fathers been told,
which we would not dare from our children withhold.

Review Jeremiah chapters 43-45; meditate on Jeremiah 43.1-7.

1. Why did the people go down to Egypt?

2. What reason did they give for doing this?

We recall that, very early on in Jeremiah’s ministry, God had identified the problem besetting His people: They did not have a heart for Him:

“Circumcise yourselves to the LORD,
And take away the foreskins of your hearts,
You men of Judah and inhabitants of Jerusalem,
Lest My fury come forth like fire,
And burn so that no one can quench it,
Because of the evil of your doings.”

“O Jerusalem, wash your heart from wickedness,
That you may be saved.
How long shall your evil thoughts lodge within you?” Jer. 4.4, 14

God promised that a day was coming when He Himself would fix their heart problem (Jer. 32.38, 39), but that day was not yet, and this people’s heart was hard as stone toward the Lord.

That became increasingly clear following the death of Josiah. Three kings – Jehoiakim, Jeconiah, and Zedekiah – stubbornly refused to lead the people out of idolatry back to the Lord. Each king felt a measure of the wrath of God, as three times the Babylonians laid siege to Jerusalem, and carried captives away. The final time, which Jeremiah reported in chapter 39, Nebuchadnezzar not only took a large portion of the population away, but he destroyed the temple and the city as well.

The people who responded to Jeremiah in chapters 43 and 44 were those who had been left behind and ultimately fell under the leadership of Johanan. They had promised to carry out the Word of God, whether it pleased them or not (42.6), but what Jeremiah told them – don’t go down to Egypt – not only did not please them, it made them downright angry. They exploded on the prophet in chapters 43 and 44, but he was unflinching, and threatened the judgment of God would reach them even in Egypt. The people declared that they would not hear the Word of the Lord ever again, and they would to keep worshiping the false deities they had served while they were in Judah. Jeremiah’s response to them was that God would chase them down and punish them, just as they had seen Him do in Jerusalem.

Chapter 45 is a curious flashback from the rebellion of God’s people in Egypt, but it serves to show us that heart problems aren’t always as outward, angry, and violent as they were with Johanan and the rest of the people. Baruch’s heart problem was seeking great thing for himself. This situation occurred before the fall of Jerusalem, but I think the prophet put it here to remind us that a heart which is not entirely devoted to God can be one that is merely self-serving. If we want God to grant us fullness of life, we need to give our hearts and lives fully to Him.

And Jesus makes this possible, as we look to Him, learn from Him, grow into Him, and live as His witnesses in the world.

1. What does it mean to love God with all your heart?

2. What kinds of things can keep us from having a heart completely devoted to the Lord?

3. How should we watch over our heart with all diligence (Prov. 4.23), so that our heart is always devoted to the Lord?

And then he shews how little those exiles consulted their own good, who had returned to dwell in the land of Judea; for they might have still rested in safety among the nations who had in kindness received them; but in Egypt God soon executed his judgments on the natives as well as on strangers. But they deserved such a reward, because they preferred to obey the command of the perverse and obstinate, rather than to obey the voice of God speaking by his Prophet. John Calvin (1509-1564), Commentary on Jeremiah 43.5

Search my heart, O Lord, and keep it always devoted to You, so that I…

Pray Psalm 78.5-16.

Review all the good and saving work God has done in your life. Give yourself afresh – heart, mind, and strength – to Him for this day and beyond.

Sing Psalm 78.5-16.
Psalm 78.5-16 (Foundation: How Firm a Foundation)
The glorious deeds of our God in His might,
and all of the works He has done in our sight,
together with all of the words of His Law,
would we on ourselves and our children bestow.

Lord, let all our children arise and declare
the truth of the Lord every day, everywhere,
and set all their hopes in God’s wonderful Word,
and never forget all the works of the Lord.

Our fathers were stubborn; they would not obey;
when faced with their foes they in fear turned away.
God’s work of redemption they wholly despised,
forgetting the pow’r He had shown to their eyes.

T. M. Moore

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Except as indicated, Scripture taken from the New King James Version. © Copyright 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved. All quotations from Church Fathers from
Ancient Christian Commentary Series, General Editor Thomas C. Oden (Downers Grove: InterVarsity Press, 2006). All psalms for singing are from The Ailbe Psalter (available by clicking here).

T.M. Moore

T. M. Moore is principal of The Fellowship of Ailbe, a spiritual fellowship in the Celtic Christian tradition. He and his wife, Susie, make their home in Essex Junction, VT.
Books by T. M. Moore