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Daniel of Doulogos Name:Daniel
Home: Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada
About Me: I used to believe that evolution was reasonable, that homosexuality was genetic, and that people became Christians because they couldn't deal with the 'reality' that this life was all there was. I used to believe, that if there was a heaven - I could get there by being good - and I used to think I was more or less a good person. I was wrong on all counts. One day I finally had my eyes opened and I saw that I was not going to go to heaven, but that I was certainly going to suffer the wrath of God for all my sin. I saw myself as a treasonous rebel at heart - I hated God for creating me just to send me to Hell - and I was wretched beyond my own comprehension. Into this spiritual vacuum Jesus Christ came and he opened my understanding - delivering me from God's wrath into God's grace. I was "saved" as an adult, and now my life is hid in Christ. I am by no means sinless, but by God's grace I am a repenting believer - a born again Christian.
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Thursday, July 06, 2006
Jeremiah 17:9
not the blood pump...Usually one would expect an expository devotional when one sees a verse reference given as the title to a blog post. Well, not today.

Jeremiah 17:9 says:
"The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately sick; who can understand it?" - [ESV]

If this were an expositional post, I would begin with some history, describing the time and place and culture into which this remark was presented. I would show the context of the remark with regard to the [then] current situation. I would answer questions like, who is saying this, why is he saying this, and to whom is he saying this. Then I would get to the matter of what exactly is being said - starting with the grammar and what it would have meant to the hearers at the time - then preceding into the overall meaning in the context, and finally, and perhaps especially, what does this teach us today - that is, what does our Lord desire us to understand from this text.

Instead, I will just pluck from it something that is true, whether we knead the text for months, or glance at it in a moment: The heart is deceitful and desperately sick.

Now, some go about and say, well, this is may have been true before you were saved, but once you were saved you were given a new heart that replaced your deceitful one, and now your heart is not this way. They come to this conclusion I think by looking at Ezekiel and finding the text that speaks about God taking away Israel's heart of stone and replacing it with a heart of flesh (see Ezekiel 36); and again in 2 Corinthians 3 where we read that we [Christians] are epistles of Christ, written not on tablets of stone but on tablets of flesh, that is, of the heart. Likewise, we read in 2 Corinthians 5 that anyone who is in Christ is a new creation - that old things have passed away, and all things have become new.

So it seems reasonable, if we put these passages in a blender to conclude that perhaps, just maybe at least, our hearts are no longer deceitful, and no longer desperately sick.

But when we speak of the heart, we are not talking about that internal organ that pumps blood throughout our body - we are talking about who we are at our core.

Recall that Aaron, in the wilderness, during Moses' time on Sinai, listened to the voice of the people (instead of restraining them) and instructed them to gather some gold he received it from their hand and made a molded calf out of it. The people then called it the God who delivered them from Egypt - and when Aaron heard this, he built an altar to set before it. When Moses confronted Aaron, he didn't seem particularly repentant - he justified himself and even denied forming the calf himself, but rather that the calf came out of the fire when they put the gold in. What did God do to Aaron for this mind-numbing disobedience??? He forgave him.

"Yes," you say, that is our God, forgiving, tender, merciful.

In Numbers 15 however, we see a man collecting sticks on the Sabbath. This happened after the whole golden calf fiasco. The man was caught, and the congregation asked Moses what they should do with this man. Moses consults God Himself on the matter, and God tells Moses that they are to take this man out of the camp and stone him to death.

Here is a good opportunity to examine the deceitfulness of our who we are at our core - to examine whether there isn't something in us that is desperately sick.

How do we "feel" about the man having been stoned to death for picking up sticks on a Sabbath?

The deceitful heart, if I may be so bold, may "write it off" in order to avoid dealing with the moral implications:
[1 - the example] Yeah, it was harsh, but God wanted to make an example of this guy in order to protect the rest of them from making the same error - it was an understandable sacrifice for the greater good. God didn't really want to do it, but it made sense to do it.

[2 - the misunderstanding] The scripture only records that he was picking up sticks, but he was probably doing so in an especially evil way - perhaps he was motivated to collect sticks to burn sacrifices to another God, or make an idol out of them? Clearly this was not some man simply gathering firewood - but an example of a very evil person caught in the act of supplying themselves for their nefarious, and wicked plans.

[3 - etc.] I could dream up a variety of ways in which we "justify" God's action - but that is the point - that the deceitful and desperately sick heart seeks to justify God's action here. It says that God needs to be justified in this, because clearly, it is morally reprehensible to kill a man for collecting firewood, so God must not have done that, and therefore the narration must either be missing something, or it must be explained in a way that agrees with my morality.

That last item (#3) really hits it home.

The reality is that God wasn't being a bully by instructing Israel to stone this man to death. God had every right to take away the life he had been sustaining the moment that life rejected His rule. We are all familiar with the cliched "robot gone awry" story plot. The Robot runs amok, and it must be destroyed to save everyone else. We cheer as the hero finally unplugs the thing for good, and we don't think about it again. When God "unplugs" his wayward creation, it isn't evil, it is his prerogative. Life is not something we have earned, therefore it is not something we have a "right" to. It is a privilege that can be revoked at any time, for any reason, by the one who granted it.

If God determined to revoke this man's privilege because he had disregarded God's instruction - we cannot find fault with God for doing that. There is no fault in it. It is that deceitful and desperately sick "core" within us that would impose our own sense of morality on God - demanding that God show to this stick gatherer the same mercy shown to Aaron; and when that doesn't play out - that same twisted morality within us says, "God has done something I would not have done" - and so it seeks to "justify" God's conduct so that it lines up with its own twisted and humanistic (man centered) morality.

If I have quadruplets, and I come home one day and for no other reason than I love my children and am generous - and I give to three of them some ice cream - I have done nothing wicked or evil, but have only been generous and kind. If you have a wicked heart within you however, you will demand that I give ice cream to all four of them - because you project that situation into your own life - and the thought of someone else getting something for nothing and you being left out - the greed within demands that you get some too - and so you see injustice, when what is really there is greed, and that your own.

There is some discussion about whether or not the "new nature" replaces the old nature, or simply co-exists with it. I think it replaces it personally, but I would qualify that by saying I believe that our "flesh" isn't suddenly changed when we receive the Spirit of God - it is still just as sinful as it ever was, all that has happened is that where once we had no desire to obey God, and were at best indifferent - now we have his Spirit within us that drives us to obey. Where before there was no conflict within, because we did whatever we wanted, now there is conflict within, because we suddenly find ourselves failing to obey God and feeling miserable about it!

I won't get into that today, but I bring this up by way of self examination - is my heart still deceitful? Am I still finding fault with God in my heart?

The question is valid, because it is one we ought to be asking as we examine ourselves daily. Are my hands clean - is my heart pure? A pure heart rejoices with the Lord, and doesn't find fault in Him at all - it doesn't have to intellectually justify God's behavior - it is on the same page.
posted by Daniel @ 10:18 AM  
  • At 12:16 PM, July 06, 2006, Blogger Jim said…

    Daniel, another challenging post.

    I am however a bit concerned as to the changing of wicked to sick in the ESV translation.

    Does not sick imply can be healed whereas wicked implies needing of judgment?

    I think our hearts are indeed (apart from the intervention of the Holy Spirit) very wicked and deceitful. The hope of salvation is that our hearts will be changed from loving sin and self to loving Christ.

    If I were to based my decision upon the feelings of my heart no doubt I would err. However when my heart meditates upon the word of God, it is convicted of sin and righteousness causing a turn and subsequent desire to repent and confess.

    The great prayers of David were for a pure and undefiled heart. He knew far too well how desperately wicked he was.

    Praise the Lord that He nows indwells us and we have the ability to live with pure hearts, as long as we keep the channels of fellowship open and clean with our Lord.

    Our mouths betray the thoughts of the heart and either condemn or vindicate its actions.

    Lord, keep our hearts pure and holy for You.

  • At 2:31 PM, July 06, 2006, Blogger Even So... said…

    Trying to justify God and His actions based upon our own misconceptions, sort of like capitualting to the world, and why so many think theodicy is so vital. Important, yes, but in the end, it is sola fide, is it not?

    Ah, yes the presumption of faith, what an oft missed and oft avoided truth!

  • At 3:08 PM, July 06, 2006, Blogger Daniel said…

    Jim - the word translated in the KJV as "desperately wicked" is the Hebrew word "anash."

    The most literal translation of the word, I believe, is "incurable."

    The King James English, follows the Geneva translation with "wicked" - which was in accordance with the first of fifteen general rules were advanced for the guidance of the KJV translators.

    As I am sure you are already aware, the KJV translation, while ostensibly a translation of the Textus Receptus, was translated according to a careful guideline wherein the translators were instructed to use the language of the existing English translations (Tyndale, Matthew, Coverdale, Whitchurch, and Geneva) over that of the Bishops's bible - an instruction that reminds us that the KJV wasn't a pristine translation from the TR, but wherever possible, followed previous translations that were not translated from the TR.

    Whatever the case, the Tyndale bible wasn't a complete translation - and so it didn't contain a book of Jeremiah. The Bishop's bible (1568) translates the word as "stubburne", Coverdale (1535) goes with "vnsercheable" (unsearchable) - as does Matthew's bible(1537). I couldn't find an online version of the Cromwell Bible (Whitechurch's).

    Seven (7) translators were employed to tranlsate the books of Isaiah through Malachi, and given the instructions you see above, they decided to follow the Geneva translation (1560) which translates the word as "wicked" following Wycliffes (1395)translation of it as "shrewd"

    During the time that Wycliffe made his translation - a shrew (yes, the small mammal) traditionally was said to have a venomous bite and was held in superstitious dread - to be "shrewd" was to become sick, cursed or have calmity or evil fall upon you. By the time of the Geneva translators, the superstitious origins of the shrew were no longer a bother - but the word "wicked" whose etymology includes "shrew" may well have carried something of the idea of calamity or "evil" in the form of sickness, plague, or something otherwise incurable.

    Today however, when we read "wicked" in our KJV we have (typically) no appreciation for what the word would have meant to these seven men who chose to translate "anash" as "wicked" - rather we simply take it to mean then what it means today - evil.

    While I enjoy a good word study as much as the next guy, I don't tend to hold up the KJV as anything more than a good translation of the Textus Receptus into "early-modern" English.

    The word "anash" doesn't mean "evil" nor does it mean "iniquity" or "sin" - or many of the other synonyms we might find for "wicked" - in fact, unless we qualify the word "wicked" as meaning (at the time it was first used in the Geneva translation) a sort of inescapable calamity that befalls a person - we couldn't even use "wicked" to translate "anash"

    It isn't that the old translations rest upon the TR and the new upon the NA27 - such that the KJVO people would howl (as they are oft inclined to do) about how the "evil new translations have changed the text" - nope. It is simply this: Either the word wicked doesn't mean to us what it did to them, or they mistranslated it on purpose.

    The correct meaning of the word is desperately sick, woeful, or incurable.

    I believe that our hearts are wicked - but I don't need this verse to spell that out. ;-) Here we are talking about incurable - and that makes the point.

    It doesn't change anything you have said, I don't think - just a "trivia" note really.

    JD - sola fide indeed, except not the FG variety ;-)

  • At 3:34 PM, July 06, 2006, Blogger Jim said…

    Daniel, I am not a KJV only guy. In fact, prior to coming to GBC I read primarily from a NASV.

    I think a working knowledge of the KJV is important however, as most of our historical literature is written with that text in mind.

  • At 3:47 PM, July 06, 2006, Blogger Daniel said…

    Jim - I didn't think you were

    I just wanted to head off anyone from suggesting that the problem with the translation "wicked" was a KJV vs. Modern version thing.

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