Jeremiah’s passage presents Scripture as a spiritual cardiograph checking the movements of the human heart, recording its direction, testing its fundamental affection - toward God or away from God.
The health of the heart is Jeremiah’s searching theme, and its soundness is determined by the nature of its trust. Trust is the essence of life - on what or whom do we rely. It determines the beat of the heart, that on which our interior life - the life of the soul - depends. Everything in creation is dependent on some force or condition. Man is rationally conscious of where his confidence is placed. He possesses sensibility and volition.
Humanity is divided into two distinct categories. There are those who depend on the flesh for their strength and those whose confidence is in God.
Jeremiah has been in consultation with the ultimate heart specialist. - the Lord himself who framed the heart and knows its inclinations exhaustively. His examinations are infallible. He looks at our disease - the sin that destroys the heart, and he prescribes the way of health and fruitful life.
There are two alternatives before us as we consider the welfare of the soul; the way of man and the will of God and the spiritual prosperity that it affords. The heart may move in two directions. The first option is the innate tendency of our fallen and diseased nature. This inclination prevails from the womb: “Cursed is the one who trusts in man, who depends on the flesh for his strength and whose heart turns away from the Lord” (v5). The defective heart departs from the Lord. It is born with that tragic bias inherited from our original forbears and it is the curse of the human family.
We inherently and inevitably trust in man. Our hope is in the flesh - the resources of our nature, and we fail to see that our nature is damaged and debased and all our faculties impaired. Our instinctive faith is placed in something that is seriously flawed. In our breach with God we pridefully boast in ourselves. We celebrate our capacities while intensifying the curse within and without. Of the cursed man Jeremiah declares, “He will be like a bush in the wastelands, he will not see prosperity when it comes. He will dwell in the parched places of the desert, in a salt land where no one lives” (v6). This is a horrifying description of isolation from God.
We are incapable of diagnosing our condition, which we deem as normal, and we deceive ourselves that we can rise above our difficulties and myriad handicaps. We constantly bring harm to ourselves through our ill advised exertions and we augment our distresses and increase our imperilment.
The confidence in the flesh is futile and eventually fatal.
The second alternative described to us by the prophet is the way of attachment to God and trust in him. We become linked to the healer of souls and source of restored wholeness. “Blessed is the man who trusts in the Lord, whose confidence is in him” (v7). The physician of the fallen nature makes us fit again.
The language of verse seven is intriguing and needs to be observed with care. It contains our effective medicine. It advises us to trust God as the way of deliverance and wellbeing, but then becomes more personal and intimate, taking us beyond a mere prescription that we may read to a person we may know. “Blessed is the man who trusts in the Lord [proposition], and whose trust is the Lord [person to person encounter].
The way of human rescue and restoration is not some-thing (a magic spiritual formula we might ingest) but some-one, whom we know, love, and confide in, whose touch and embrace achieves our healing through direct contact.
God himself is our health, our greatest benefit and blessing, and all our advantages accrue from fellowship and union with him. Disunited we fell from him. Through reconnection we are uplifted. He is our life support.
Detached from him we wither and die. Attached to him we flourish. “He will be like a tree planted by the water that sends out its roots by the stream. It does not fear when heat comes; its leaves are always green. It has no worries in a year of drought and never fails to bear fruit” (v8).
With the hints we have as to our malady, and the symptoms we see and feel, we are helpless to effectively treat ourselves. Our condition is beyond our expertise whether we think of it as moral, spiritual, psychological, or circumstantial; and we can blame nothing else but our own wretched hearts which we cannot comprehend or control. We are unable to apprehend the dangers and dimensions of our plight.
We are ignorant of our true selves and living an illusion - frightening at times but false in its optimism and devices for improvement. The way of self-betterment is a cul-de-sac that confronts us with dejection or despair. The only knowledge and diagnosis that count are the conclusions that God draws concerning our predicament and peril.
Only he is competent to get to the root and core of our grave disorder. We will only fool ourselves.
The Scriptural verdict is thorough, radical, and alarming. “The heart is deceitful above all things and beyond cure. Who can understand it” (v9). Our hearts are supremely adept at lying to us and misleading us. They make us colour blind when we come to reading red and green lights. To follow our hearts is perilous folly. Such is satanic advice. Our inner device for discernment and decision is utterly deceitful “above all things”. And beyond this divine estimation it is “beyond cure’.
I must mistrust me/myself. I must address myself as “liar” in the spiritual/moral zone of my life, for I will choose what is convenient and often corrupt and I am consistently self-excusing. I cannot put ultimate trust in anyone else for their moral mechanism is often as dysfunctional as mine. But the Lord is always at hand to caution and guide, and to correct and protect, when missteps are made (he permits these to humble and help me).
We must bring ourselves before the divine investigation and yield to his course of treatment, so that through Jesus Christ, the true healer of hearts, the rewards of his free grace will fit us for life enduring and everlasting. Jeremiah’s conviction is that God can make well the incurable. That is the prerogative of his sovereign omnipotence. That is the incentive for our prayer.