Summary: Describes and contrasts the hearts of the Pastor, the People and God, leading to reconciliation.
Heart of the matter
Have you ever tried to buy something in an electronics store recently? I don’t know which training program they are using, but it seem that they work on the principle that if the salesman talks long enough about stuff the customer doesn’t care about, then the customer buys anything just to stop the incessant barrage of useless information. All I want is to know is does it work, will it work for long enough, and is it easy to use. I just want to get to the heart of the matter. The sales talk is enough to make a grown man cry!
In Jeremiah, we meet a grown man crying. This is the passage that we like to use to characterize Jeremiah as the weeping prophet. He is weeping because he has a heart of a pastor for his people. He is not alone. The heart of God is broken too. And though they refuse to understand, the heart of the people is broken.
Jeremiah as a prophet and pastor to the people of Israel fully identifies with their weaknesses and sin. He has the heart of the pastor. The pastor is always between heaven and earth. His or her heart is always torn apart. God has placed a call on the pastor to bring the good news to the people. The perfect God places a vision of perfect relationship in to the pastor’s heart. And then he places the pastor in the reality of the world. It is enough to make a grown man cry. It was enough to prompt Moses to break the very words of God. Moses defended his people to God when God wanted to blast them in Exodus 32. As he came down the mountain with the tablets containing the very words that God had written he then saw the tragedy of his people. They were turning from the living God to the dead golden calf. They simply didn’t get God at all. And Moses broke the tablet of the law in anger and frustration and his human heart broke along with the tablets of stone. Jesus too had a similar moment as he looked over Jerusalem. We have a picture of this in our entrance here. He saw the city and wept over it. Luke says in chapter 19. O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the one who kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to her. I wanted to gather you up as a hen gathers her children under her wings, but you were not willing” he says in Matthew 23. The pastoral heart is not just for pastors. Those who feel the difference between heaven and earth, between God and man, between good and evil, as if their very hearts are being torn out have the heart of a pastor. And the heart of the pastor must always be for both. Pastors feel the hearts of the people intimately because they too are people. The pastor understands, but knows the difference. The heart of the pastor is like Jeremiahs head full of water, eyes like fountains always weeping for the lost. Always looking, like the prodigal son’s father, for the figure on the horizon, praying for their return. Crying for the heart of the people but wanting to run away to the quiet retreat in the desert.
Which is ironic because it was unfaithful hearts of the people of Israel after they had been delivered from Egypt that caused the people to wander the desert for 40 years? And we see here in Jeremiah that the heart of the people is not faithful to God. When a prophet talks about the adultery of the people it means unfaithfulness to God. But the description of the unfaithfulness makes clear where the heart of the people is. The outward appearance of this unfaithfulness is shown in lies. And not just casual lying either. Their tongues are described as a bow to shoot lies. Always ready. The lies are prepared to go as far as possible. And to be as deadly as possible. When a bow is drawn, it is intended not just to harm, but to kill. And the sin goes on and on. There is no regard for God and his ways. It causes distrust and broken relationships. They weary themselves with sinning. It means that they will go as far as their energies will take them to sin as much as possible in every way. And at the heart of the matter is the heart of the people. Because out of the overflow of the heart comes out of the mouth said Jesus in Matthew 12:34. The heart of this people is unfaithfulness. And out of unfaithfulness to God comes sin.
The heart of a rebellious people is graphically described in Matthew 21:33 where Jesus tells of the owner of a vineyard who goes away and leaves the tenants in charge. When he sends messengers to get a report on how the place is doing, they are beaten up and eventually killed. He sends his son in the hope that his authority will overcome. But they kill him too. Jesus told that parable against the leaders of his chosen people. People who ought to have known better. People who ought to have known God’s heart.