Uncircumcised heart

Jeremiah’s assessment of the situation in Judah revealed that the people were not following God’s commandments because they didn’t really know the LORD, they didn’t have a relationship with him (Jeremiah 9:3). Beginning with Abraham, God had made it clear that faith was the only way to enter into a relationship with him. Abraham believed in the LORD and God counted it to him for righteousness (Genesis 15:6).

God’s people thought the most important things in life were for them to be wise, powerful, and rich (Jeremiah 9:23). They wanted material success rather than a godly life. They didn’t realize that having a relationship with God was the only way for them to be truly happy. God had to explain to them that his way of life was the opposite of what they were trying to achieve. He said:

Let not the wise man glory in his wisdom, neither let the mighty man glory in his might, let not the rich man glory in his riches: But let him that glorieth glory in this, that he understandeth and knoweth me, that I am the LORD which exercise lovingkindness, judgment, and righteousness, in the earth: for in these things I delight, saith the LORD. (Jeremiah 9:23-24)

One of the ways Jeremiah described being committed to the LORD was to have a circumcised heart. He told the people of Judah to “circumcise yourselves to the LORD, and take away the foreskins of your heart” (Jeremiah 4:4). Taking away the foreskin was symbolic of being stripped or to go naked (6188). In reference to the heart, it meant you would bare your soul or confess all your sins to God.

The LORD warned his people of a day when the entire world would be punished for sin. Previously, the Israelites expected God to pardon all their sins and establish an eternal kingdom for them in Jerusalem (2 Samuel 7:13). Because of their unfaithfulness, God would only pardon those of his chosen people who repented of their sins and received salvation through Jesus Christ. He said, “Behold the day cometh, saith the LORD, that I will punish all them which are circumcised with the uncircumcised. For all these nations are uncircumcised, and all the house of Israel are uncircumcised in the heart” (Jeremiah 9:25-26).

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Born again

John 1:1 states, “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.” This verse established the fact that Jesus was both distinct from God the father, and was God in the fullest sense of who God is. Therefore, when Jesus spoke during his ministry on earth, he was not speaking for God, but as God.

In Isaiah 55:11, it was made clear that God would speak for himself at some point in the future, instead of through a prophet. He said, “So shall my word be that goeth forth out of my mouth; it shall not return unto me void, but it shall accomplish that which I please, and it shall prosper in the thing whereto I sent it.” In the same way that God spoke the physical world into existence, so he intended to speak a spiritual world into existence through the teaching of Jesus Christ.

The difference between God’s original work of creation and his work of salvation through Jesus was the eternal durability of the human heart. Whereas the heart of man was originally able to be broken and filled with sin, Jesus made it possible for man’s heart to be regenerated, to be born again (Titus 3:5). Isaiah declared of God, “I dwell in the high and holy place, with him also that is of a contrite and humble spirit, to revive the spirit of the humble, and to revive the heart of the contrite ones” (Isaiah 57:15).

The Hebrew word translated revive in Isaiah 57:15 is chayah (khaw – yaw´). This word means “to bring to life” or “to cause to live” (2421). In this instance, God was referring to causing someone to live again in both a physical and spiritual sense. When Jesus told the man Nicodemus he must be born again, Nicodemus asked, “How can a man be born when he is old? can he enter the second time into his mother’s womb, and be born? Jesus answered, Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born of water and of the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God” (John 3:4-5).

The key to understanding Jesus’ response to Nicodemus’ question is the word and. Jesus said that a man must be born of water and of the Spirit. Water spoke of the natural birth, coming out of a mother’s womb, and the Spirit referred to the spiritual birth that took place when a person believed that Jesus was the Messiah. Only God could see the result, but Jesus assured Nicodemus that if he believed, Nicodemus would receive eternal life (John 3:16).

A temporary reprieve

Jeroboam II, king of Israel, began his 41 year reign at a time when God’s judgment against Israel was drawing to a close. Jeroboam I was the first king of Israel after the kingdom was divided at the time of Solomon’s death. Jeroboam I caused the people of Israel to sin because he made two calves of gold and said to the people, “It is too much for you to go up to Jerusalem: behold thy gods, O Israel, which brought thee up out of the land of Egypt” (1 Kings 12:28).

The sins of Jeroboam I brought a curse upon his household (1 Kings 14:10) that continued until the time of Jeroboam II, about 150 years later. It says of Jeroboam II in 2 Kings 14:24 that “he did that which was evil in the sight of the LORD.” In spite of his bad behavior, the LORD used Jeroboam II to free the northern kingdom from the oppression it suffered at the hands of the Syrian kings Hazael and Ben-hadad (2 Kings 14:25).

The kingdom of Israel had reached a point where their affliction was very severe. The people were rebelling against God and were on the verge of being wiped out by their enemies. “And the LORD said not that he would blot out the name of Israel from under heaven: but he saved them by the hand of Jeroboam the son of Joash” (2 Kings 14:27). Jeroboam II was able to create a buffer or safety zone between Israel and Syria that enabled the Israelites to avoid destruction and exile for approximately 3o more years.

During Jeroboam II’s reign, he received a message from the LORD “by the hand of his servant Jonah, the son of Amittai, the prophet, which was of Gath-hepher” (2 Kings 14:25). Jonah was sent to Nineveh to deliver a message of destruction to the Syrians, but instead of being destroyed, the people repented and were spared. It is not clear whether Jonah was sent to king Jeroboam II before or after he went to Nineveh, but more than likely Jonah went to Nineveh afterward.

Jonah’s message to the Ninevites may have been taken seriously because Israel had regained a significant amount of territory during Jeroboam II’s reign (2 Kings 14:125, 28). If the Israelites were not a serious threat to Nineveh, it seems unlikely the people would have turned to God for mercy. A key statement recorded in the book of Jonah indicates that the people were aware of God’s mercy toward his people (Jonah 3:9), and king Jeroboam II was a perfect example of that.

Moral decline

The marriage alliance between Jehoshaphat, king of Judah and Ahab, king of Israel was formed primarily to ensure that neither kingdom would be wiped out by Syria. Although the kingdom of Israel was considered to be the dominant partner in the agreement, Jehoshaphat’s devotion to God was a great asset because Ahab knew the LORD’s judgment upon him would eventually come to pass.

After Ahab made a covenant with Ben-hadad, king of Syria, he was told by a prophet of God, “Because thou hast let go out of thy hand a man whom I appointed to utter destruction, therefore thy life shall go for his life, and thy people for his people” (1 Kings 20:42). Then, Ahab stole Naboth’s vineyard and received a visit from Elijah, the prophet with a reputation for pronouncing judgment and executing those who defied God.

Elijah’s message to Ahab was clear, his entire household would be wiped out. Because Ahab humbled himself before the LORD, his punishment was postponed, but not retracted. According to the word of the LORD, “because he humbleth himself before me, I will not bring the evil in his days, but in his son’s days will I bring the evil upon his house” (1 Kings 21:29).

Not knowing what would happen after his death, Ahab may have planned for his son-in-law, Jehoram to take over as king of Israel when all Ahab’s sons were killed. Since Jehoram was from the tribe of Judah and his father, Jehoshaphat was right with God, it was likely his marriage to Ahab’s daughter, Athaliah would secure the kingdom’s future. Unfortunately, Ahab’s wicked influence on his son-in-law caused Jehoram to turn away from the LORD. It says in 2 Chronicles 21:10 that Jehoram “had forsaken the LORD God of his fathers.”

The word translated forsaken in 2 Chronicles 21:10 is azab. “This word carries a technical sense of ‘completely and permanently abandoned’ or ‘divorced'” (5800). Jehoram’s abandonment of his relationship with the LORD after marrying Ahab’s daughter, Athaliah, brought judgment on the kingdom of Judah. As a result, both dynasties were wiped out.

The only survivor of the royal family in Judah was a baby by the name of Joash, the grandson of Jehoram. “But Jehoshabeath, the daughter of the king, took Joash the son of Ahaziah, and stole him from among the king’s sons that were slain, and put him and his nurse in a bedchamber…And he was with them hid in the house of God six years: and Athaliah reigned over the land” (2 Chronicles 22:12).

The fool

In general, a fool is someone that believes in himself rather than God (191). It is possible for a person to have a relationship with God and still be a fool (3684). Solomon described the fool that knows God, but does not understand his ways, as being unreliable, a bad investment with regards to doing God’s work (Proverbs 26:6-9). And yet, Solomon said, “Seest thou a man wise in his own conceit? There is more hope for a fool than of him” (Proverbs 26:12). To be wise in one’s own conceit means that in one’s view or opinion it is possible to master the art of living. In other words, the man wise in his own conceit can figure things out on his own, he doesn’t need God’s input.

The word hope is often used figuratively in the Bible to convey the idea of expectations (8615). The word translated hope in Proverbs 26:12, tiqvah literally means a cord that is used to bind things together (6961) or as an attachment. In this sense, you could say that having hope is being attached to a certain outcome. You want something in particular to happen. The problem with being attached to a certain outcome is that we might be disappointed when things don’t turn out as we expect them to. That’s why it is foolish to get our hearts set on something that is not God’s will.

When I was a young Christian, I had my heart set on having a big family. After I was married, I had three children and then my husband had a vasectomy. For a long time, I thought he had made a mistake and might change his mind about having more children. When he didn’t, I became resentful and felt my husband had cheated me out of my right to have more children if I wanted to. Eventually, I became angry at God because I was stuck with a husband that didn’t want children. Now that I have reached the age where I am no longer able to have children, I realize that it was not God’s will for me to have more than three children. Because I have matured in my faith and understand God’s ways a little better, I am very thankful that I have three children. Compared to having no children, three seems like a big family.

Rest

Five years ago, when my dad died, I reached a point in my life where I felt it was time for me to settle down. The decade before that had been a restless one. I had moved eight times between three different states, changed jobs as many times, and battled all the demons of my past until I became free from the guilt and shame of a lifetime of mistakes. My dad had a strong influence on me when I was growing up and he was the person most responsible for my way of thinking about things. His death was fairly sudden and unexpected, so it took awhile for me to realize that my dad was really gone, but when I did, I was relieved. It was as if the dark cloud that had been hanging over my life finally disappeared and I was able to hope for the first time that my life could be different.

Prior to Solomon beginning construction on the Temple of God, a certain condition had to exist in the land of Israel. It says in 1 Kings 5:4, “But now the LORD my God hath given me rest on every side, so that there is neither adversary nor evil occurrent.” The word translated adversary, sâtân (saw – tawn´) means an opponent. In some cases it stands for Satan, “the arch-enemy of good” (7854), but in this case, satan is referring to the people surrounding Israel that fought against them to try and keep the Israelites from dwelling in the Promised Land. An evil occurrent could be a random act of violence or attack that drew the Israelites into battle. This happened continually during king David’s reign. What Solomon was probably saying was that the Israelites had no more need to fight. They were safe and secure in the land of Israel.

I believe a part of being in the will of God has to do with where we live. In order for certain things to happen, I think we have to be in the place where God has planned for them to happen. When I moved into my current residence, I felt it was the place where God wanted me to be. Knowing that I was where God wanted me to be made me feel safe and secure. I was able to settle down because I had found my place in the world and felt I belonged there.

Help

A pattern that developed very early in my life was never asking anyone for help. It seems like my attitude has always been, I can do this by myself. When I was married, my husband was in the Marine Corps. Five months after our youngest son was born, he left on a six month deployment overseas. Even though many times I was overwhelmed with the responsibility of three small children, I never once asked anyone for help. Over the course of our 20 year marriage, my husband was gone a total of 7 years, and I can’t remember one time I ever asked anyone for help.

It says in Proverbs 11:2, “When pride cometh, then cometh shame: but with the lowly is wisdom.” The word translated lowly, tsâna‘ (tsaw – nah´) means to humiliate (6800). It is referring to the characteristic of humility, not in the sense that one has it, but that it is being developed or formed in a person. Pride and humility are opposites and to a certain extent you could say that as one increases, the other decreases. Therefore, the process of being humbled or humiliated involves the removal of pride and God often uses our shame as a part of the process.

Asking for help may not seem like a humbling experience, but if you are or know of someone that is filled with pride you understand why it is so difficult. At the core of pride is a sense of independence. Being able to take care of myself made me feel secure. In some ways, taking care of myself was a coping mechanism that enable me to survive in what I perceived to be a very dangerous environment, but more than anything else, it kept me isolated and prevented me from being hurt or disappointed by people around me.