I believe in Christianity as I believe that the sun has risen: not only because I see it, but because by it I see everything else. —C.S. Lewis
PRAYER: (from the Lectionary)
“Almighty and everlasting God, in Christ you have revealed your glory among the nations: Preserve the works of your mercy, that your Church throughout the world may persevere with steadfast faith in the confession of your Name; through Jesus Christ our Lord, Amen.”
SCRIPTURES: (from the Lectionary)
But this shall be the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel—After those days, saith the LORD, I will put my law in their inward parts, and write it in their hearts. I will be their God, and they shall be my people (Jeremiah 31:33 KJV).
PRAYER FOCUS: God’s Love Letters
The prophet Jeremiah lived through the last days of his civilization.
The Babylonians had first invaded Israel, then Judah. The army of Nebuchadnezzar laid siege to Jerusalem and reduced the much of the city to rubble, including the Temple. As was common in those days, the victorious Babylonians killed or carried off into slavery the royal family, the priests, prophets, and most of the Hebrew population. Survivors of the fighting were heartbroken—ravaged by grief and loss.
This was Judah in 586 BC.
Yet God had not abandoned his people. God spoke to and through Jeremiah. “I will be their God and they shall be my people.”
These words provided desperately-needed hope to the survivors of the invasion. The God of Creation would re-create them. The God of Exodus would deliver them once again. The merciful, tender loving God would forgive all their sins and absolve them of the sins of their ancestors. Father-God promised his children a new covenant and a new beginning.
Throughout the Old Testament, the heart represents not only the seat of emotions like hope and love and joy, but it is also the basis of character, including the mind and the will. That’s what got the children of Israel—the survivors—captured and carried off into Babylonian Exile. Despite repeated warnings from a long and distinguished line of prophets, their hearts remained set against God and against His ways. Jeremiah complained that “the heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked; who can know it? (Jer. 17:9, KJV).
This has gotten people in trouble since the beginning. Our hearts just aren’t right.
Bible Scholar Matthew Henry sums it up like this:
The heart, the conscience of man, in his corrupt and fallen state, is deceitful above all things. It is subtle and false. It calls evil good and good evil, puts false colors upon things, and cries peace to those to whom peace does not belong. It cheats men into their own ruin…they are self-deceivers, self-destroyers. Herein the heart is desperately wicked; it is deadly, it is desperate. The case is bad indeed, and in a manner deplorable and past relief, if the conscience which should rectify the errors of the other faculties is itself a mother of falsehood and a ring-leader in the delusion.
So, is there no hope? Are we left in despair, to suffer with our crooked hearts?
Not at all, dear Christian! Not at all.
Almighty God has great things in store for us. “For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the LORD, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future” (Jer. 29:11). God has put His Word in our minds and written it in our hearts. Unlike the exiled Hebrews, we are living under the New Covenant, in the grace of the Cross. As promised, Father-God has written us a letter of love and then placed it in our hearts and minds.
The Apostle Paul refers to this in his second letter to the Corinthians, “You show that you are a letter from Christ, the result of our ministry, written not with ink but with the Spirit of the living God, not on tablets of stone but on tablets of human hearts” (2 Cor. 3:3).
Nineteenth Century Evangelist Charles H. Spurgeon wrote, “Even the fields, whether they are white with winter’s snows or golden with autumn’s crown of glory, still bear the impression, either of Divine Power or of Divine Love. God has written the whole world over—there is not a slab in the great palace of creation which is left unsculptured.”
Everywhere you turn, Christian, you will see God’s own glory revealed. The beautiful valley, that majestic storm, this perfect flower, the bird in flight, this morning’s sunrise—all love letters from a loving, pursuing Creator-God who wants to get your attention. Like a love-smitten couple carving their initials onto a tree, God has inscribed His declaration of Love throughout the universe around you.
Yet He saved His most awesome letter of Love just for you. And He’s written it in your heart.
It’s your choice, of course. You can choose to have a heart focused on things the world says are worthy of your attention – or you can choose to have a heart that is focused on God’s things. You can live a life that’s focused on what you think you need – or you can live a life that’s focused on what God knows you need. You can have a heart that is hardened to the things of God and not pay attention to God’s will for your life – or you can have a heart that yearns for God’s will and God’s ways.
God isn’t going to force you to have a heart for Him. But He offers it – and He deeply desires for you to take Him up on that offer. God wants you to make Him and His things your important things. He longs for us to turn to Him and seek Him.
How do we know this? Why, just look at all these love letters!
It’s Monday Morning. How’s your heart today? Say, is that His handwriting I see on it…?
“Create in me a clean heart, O God; and renew a right spirit within me.” (Psalm 51:10)