“And I will give them one heart, and one way, that they may fear me forever, for the good of them, and of their children after them.”
This text is the expression of the wonder, the miraculous wonder, of the lovingkindness of our covenant God.
In order to see this, we will have to tell you a bit about the historical background.
Jeremiah, the true prophet of the Lord, was shut up in the court of the prison, which was in the king of Judah’s house. In these few words are a world of iniquity and trespass. The prophet should have occupied a place of honor and tranquility: a place in the court of the king of Judah’s house would not have been too high for him, for he spoke the Word of the Lord. And we do find him in the house of the king of Judah, but, alas, his place is in prison. It augurs evil for Judah when the prophet of the Lord is thus treated.
And the reason is given why he was shut up in prison. It was because Jeremiah had said, Thus saith the Lord, Behold, I will give this city into the hand of the king of Babylon, and he shall take it; and Zedekiah king of Judah shall not escape out of the hand of the Chaldeans, but shall surely be delivered into the hand of the king of Babylon. . . .
Then the king of Judah had given word to shut him up in the prison that was situated in his own house. His evil abided very near unto him.
And it came to pass that while Jeremiah was shut up in this prison that his cousin, Hanameel, visited him with the plea to buy his field that was at Anathoth!
This action on the part of Hanameel set the prophet to thinking.
And his reaction is immediate. He bought the field, subscribed the evidence of the purchase, sealed it, and weighed him the money in the balances. And the evidence of the purchase Jeremiah gave into the safekeeping of a certain Baruch, charging him to put the papers into an earthen vessel, that it might continue many days.
We would be inclined to ask: what was so wonderful about this incident? A man is shut in prison, and his cousin offers him the purchase of a field!
But wait! Jeremiah walked with God, and with the God of heaven and the earth he was in daily communication. Note that Jeremiah said, immediately after his cousin had finished his story: “Then I knew that this was the word of the Lord.” Marvelous penetration of the Lord’s doing!
Jeremiah had seen all the abominations which Judah had done in the sight of Jehovah their God. And he knew that God was righteous and just and that punishment was in the offing. In fact, he himself had announced the just punishment in the name of the Lord.
But now came this message, clothed in the act of his cousin: the offering in purchase of a field!
Here is Jeremiah’s interpretation of the purchase of the field of Anathoth: “For thus saith the Lord of hosts, the God of Israel, Houses and fields and vineyards shall be possessed again in this land!” And therefore the evidences of the purchase must reside in an earthen vessel. God will return from His fierce anger. There is marvelous lovingkindness in the offing.
And the Lord confirmed the reasoning of his servant Jeremiah.
He came to him and said among other things: “The children of Israel and the children of Judah have only done evil before Me from their youth: for the children of Israel have only provoked Me to anger with the work of their hands, saith the Lord.” And that was true of all of them, for the prophet accuses in the name of the Lord “they, their kings, their princes, their priests, and their prophets, and the men of Judah, and the inhabitants of Jerusalem.”
Also their sins are outlined precisely by the voice of the Lord. Here it is: “They set their abominations in the house (that is, the temple), which is called by My Name, to defile it. And they built the high places of Baal, which are in the valley of the son of Hinnom, to cause their sons and their daughters to pass through the fire unto Moloch; which I commanded them not, neither came it into My mind, that they should do this abomination, to cause Judah to sin.”
Well, dear reader, what would you expect at this juncture?
Yes, I know your answer. It is mine also. We would expect this: not only should they be sent into captivity into the hand of the cruel king of Babylon, but they should be sent into everlasting captivity in the chains of eternal darkness of hell and damnation! That is exactly what we would expect. For the Lord is righteous and holy, a God of truth and equity is He!
Judah and Israel, and the inhabitants of Jerusalem had revealed themselves to be a bad lot. That is all there is to it! And the end of a bad lot is evil, evil for time and for eternity.
Their hearts, from which are the issues of life, had been evil from their youth, so that they had only done abomination, according to the Word of the Lord. And a just recompense of an evil reward is all we can expect for such hearts, and such ways.
The evil heart and the evil way find their end in hell itself!
We have to deal with Jehovah, the covenant God of His people.
Hard upon God’s own revelation of all their evil doings, indeed, the very next verse in the story reads thus: “And now therefore thus saith the Lord, the God of Israel, concerning this city, whereof we say, It shall be delivered into the hand of the king of Babylon by the sword and by the famine, and by the pestilence; Behold, I will gather them out of all countries, whither I have driven them in Mine anger, and in My fury, and in great wrath; and I will bring them again unto this place, and I will cause them to dwell safely.”
I ask you in all sincerity: can you understand it? Here is a people that are evil from their youth, doing only evil continually, provoking God to anger, justly being given into the hand of a wicked and cruel tyrant, and then comes that cousin to Jeremiah the prophet, trying to sell a piece of land, which is God’s way of telling Jeremiah that the land shall be theirs again after many days. In other words: God shall forgive their iniquity and shall return from His fierce anger, and bless them abundantly!
And here is the reason, and I would beg of you to try and understand it: “And they shall be My people, and I will be their God.” (The next verse)
That is the reason: God is the God of His people.
The reason is heavily theological. God took reasons out of His own being. From all eternity, and in the very depths of God, there is love, indescribable love and lovingkindness.
And that is also the Gospel of God which is eternal: His love and lovingkindness seek and find their way to the heart and life of Judah, Israel and the inhabitants of Jerusalem through sin, iniquity and great abominations. For such is the case here with Jeremiah, Hanameel, Baruch, Israel, Judah, and Jerusalem with their sins on the one hand; and Nebuchadnezzar, Babylon, the Chaldeans, and their cruel tyranny and oppression on the other hand. The one should find the other: Nebuchadnezzar should crush Israel because of their blatant sinning against God, whereupon also Nebuchadnezzar should be thrown into the fire as a used razor. And there should stand the period.
But God is God. He never changes. He loved Israel-Judah-Jerusalem from everlasting and to everlasting. They shall go to heaven to be to His praises forever. And that is that.
And so Hanameel gets it into his head to sell a field to a man in prison, which man is of a keen and penetrating mind about things theological. He knows God. And he reasons correctly. God shall visit His people again.
God’s love and lovingkindness are a continual, an everlasting surprise and wonder! You may prepare yourselves to begin the singing of the hallels of praise and adoration.
God always remembers His covenant which is eternal.
And then comes the text that is written above this piece of writing. It took me a long time to come to it. But I cannot help that. I could not begin to tell you of the heavenly gift of a new heart and a new way without this introduction, an introduction which is longer than the treatment of the text. You meet with these things in Scripture. Besides, the gift is enhanced in the light of the historical background with all its lurid background of the unfaithfulness, abominations and the very grievous sins of Israel-Judah-Jerusalem. The brilliancy of God’s love needs a dark background.
If you give love to lovers, it will make the angels sing. But if you give love to those that hate you, time stands still, and there is an eternity of wonderment, which shall grow into the most beautiful singing of those so treated. Remember that there is one song which no one can sing but those beings that are treated with love when all justice would damn them forever.
Yes, then comes the text. Here it is: And I will give them one heart, and one way, that they may fear Me forever, for the good of them, and of their children after them!
A little later will give us the edition of the selfsame Gospel of Ezekiel. And it will be well to quote that edition too. It sheds light upon the present edition of Jeremiah. Here it is: “And I will give them one heart, and I will put a new spirit within you; and I will take the stony heart out of their flesh, and will give them a heart of flesh.”.
The New Testament is not always so flowery as the Old Testament and uses less imagery. Paul would say of this same glorious gospel-truth: “For it is God which worketh in you both to will and to do of His good pleasure.”.
Adding those touches of Biblical quotation makes it easier to understand Jeremiah’s version. The “one heart” is a new heart, which is going to take the place of the “stony” heart which is our natural inheritance.
The Gospel according to the holy prophet Jeremiah: God will give unto Judah-Israel-Jerusalem a new heart and a new way!
A heart of flesh for a heart of stone!
That is all you need in order to be happy for ever and ever! And it is given to Israel-Judah-Jerusalem gratis, free, without money and without price.
And if your heart is made new, one, and of flesh instead of flint, your way will be one, new and tender as flesh. You will become angelic, no, even better than angelic: the saints in Christ shall be “nicer”, more glorious than angels. For Christ is far above all angels in beauty and splendor.
By nature our hearts are hard, and they are divided. For that stands over against a heart that is one.
We know what that meant in the present case. They turned unto God the back, and not the face. (vs. 33) And they had done that in spite of God’s teaching and preaching. They simply refused to learn theology. And there they went. They took the abomination and placed it in God’s house. They took their children and offered them to Moloch.
The general description is terrible. Imagine: “They only did evil before Me from their youth!” Oh, if Judah and Israel of 1924 would have opened their Bible at this place, how different would have been their conclusions of natural man’s doing! Kalamazoo! Kalamazoo! You should have gone to Jeremiah for instruction. If the terrible God speaks of “only evil before His face from their youth”, how then can man, no, how dare man say: “The GOOD that sinners do!?” Do you not see that if you brighten the picture of man’s abomination, you tarnish the beauty of God’s love in the same measure? We marvel about God’s love and lovingkindness just because it is shown to men who are wholly corrupt and evil from their youth. We wonder with eternal wonderment when we may go to heaven, while all our lives testify to and seek for eternal damnation.
The heart of natural man is divided and cruelly hard. It is an old heart and an old way I have by nature.
Oh, for a new heart and a new way!
A new heart and a new way!
It is Jesus of Nazareth, dear reader.
He is the new and one heart for man.
The heart is the ethical center of a rational moral nature. From it are all the issues of life.
Well, when humanity corrupted its heart originally in Adam and Eve, and subsequently in all its members, God showed us a new heart in Jesus, the babe in the manger of Bethlehem.
A way of a man is his heart in motion. And the motion of a heart is thought, will, imagination reflection, desire, speech and deeds.
Look strongly on Jesus of Nazareth. Ho will prove to you that He is the new heart. And His life will show you that great heart in motion.
And here are the reasons why that great heart and that great way came to earth in the midst of wicked men and devils. First, in order to take away the sin and guilt of Judah-Israel-Jerusalem which was loved of God from all eternity. The Triune God gave His Son and caused Him to appear in the midst of the children of men. He took the nature of the children upon Him, and He took their place before the avenging justice and righteousness of God. And He stood there so long until ail the outraged justice of God was satisfied. Second, we read that Israel-Judah-Jerusalem “have done nothing of all that Thou commandest them to do”, vs. 23. Well, this great heart did this in all His way. He fulfilled the law of God for us. Third, the reason He came, which I would call the deepest reason, is that He would exhibit the greatness of God, the love of God, the wonderful virtues of God. God is on exhibition on the cross of Calvary. And the view is surpassing in beauty. And shall be forever and ever.
But who is Israel-Judah-Jerusalem? It is the people that fear the Lord. They are those who receive Jesus of Nazareth in their heart, for the good of them, for the good of their children forever. Christ Jesus is so good for them that they shall sing forever and ever of God’s praises.