by Brother Wade Paschal
One of the first scriptures I memorized was Jeremiah 17:9—
The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately sick; who can understand it?
We read that, “the human heart is incorrigibly sinful and bad and there is no way we can change it.” To be honest, I didn’t think I was that desperate.
Later I learned Hebrew, and I realized the word translated, “deceitful” comes from the same root as “Jacob”—the name of Isaac’s son. You remember Jacob was so named because when the twin boys were born, Jacob was grasping Esau’s heel as if he were trying to pull him back and take his place. Jacob lived his life always struggling and scheming to get what he wanted.
In a sense “deceitful” is a fair translation. Yet seen against the background of Jacob and his life, I wondered if the word didn’t mean more.
Jacob more than anything was a man who kept thinking, “If only I had what my brother has as first born. If only I got this pretty woman to be my wife and not that one. If only I could get a fairer shake from my father-in-law and bigger flocks and more property.”
Jacob always wanted more. Nothing he received sufficed.
I think we could translate this Jeremiah verse: “The heart is desperately needy, filled with insatiable wanting. Who can understand it?”
Paul tells us there is another way:
Romans 6:17-18 (ESV)
17 But thanks be to God, that you who were once slaves of sin have become obedient from the heart to the standard of teaching to which you were committed,
18 and, having been set free from sin, have become slaves of righteousness….
Paul makes it simple and binary. We are enslaved either to the power of sin or to the power of God.
When our needy heart is in control, we are giving in to the enslavement of sin—to the self-fulfillment of our desires and wants under our own terms. And the end of it all is death.
But, there is another power: the power of Christ who took on flesh for us, and died for us and rose again. There is the power of the cross and the empty tomb. And if we give ourselves to that power, then sin is defeated, and righteousness takes over.
We start out as Jacobs—wanting to get what we want. But life and goodness only come when we begin to want what God wants. And that can only happen through Christ.
Prayer: Christ, we surrender to you—we give you all our wants and needs and desires so that you can return them to us and give us real life. Amen.