“The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately sick; who can understand it?” Jeremiah 17:9
The human heart (not the muscle which pumps blood throughout our body, but the center of our being, our mind) — as it is after the fall of mankind in the Garden of Eden (Gen. 3) — is deceitful above all things, so deceitful, in fact, that we don’t really know and understand it. Even though it is our own heart, it deceives us and seeks to hide and cover up our sins because of sin’s corruption.
It is also “desperately sick” — and incurably so (from the Hebrew word “anash”). We can’t fix it and make it good and wholesome or righteous. Sin and sinful longings and desires flow from it.
Jesus describes it by saying, “Out of the heart come evil thoughts, murder, adultery, sexual immorality, theft, false witness, slander. These are what defile a person” (Matthew 15:19-20). And don’t these things come from your heart — if not in actions, in thoughts and sometimes words?
We may not like to hear of the deceitfulness and wickedness of our hearts, but God’s Word is true. Out of our hearts “come evil thoughts, murder, adultery, sexual immorality, theft, false witness, slander.” We are all guilty and defiled before God. We are infected by sin and evil. It permeates all we think and say and do.
“If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us” (1 John 1:8).
And it is an incurable evil. Try as we may, we cannot cleanse our hearts and minds of sin. If we think we can, our hearts have deceived us once again. God’s Word is true when it describes our hearts by saying: “The intention of man’s heart is evil from his youth” (Gen. 8:21).
The plain and simple truth is that we are a mess. Our hearts are sick. We are sinful and unclean, and we can’t cure ourselves!
In the confession and absolution in Sunday’s service (Divine Service, Setting Four, in the Lutheran Service Book, Page 203), we are admonished with these words: “Let us first consider our unworthiness and confess before God and one another that we have sinned in thought, word, and deed, and that we cannot free ourselves from our sinful condition” (emphasis mine).
What is the solution? How can our incurably sinful hearts be cleansed? As the (above mentioned) Divine Service liturgy states, “Together as His people let us take refuge in the infinite mercy of God, our heavenly Father, seeking His grace for the sake of Christ, and saying, ‘God, be merciful to me, a sinner.’”
The Apostle John writes: “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness … we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous. He is the propitiation for our sins, and not for ours only but also for the sins of the whole world” (1 John 1:9; 2:1,2).
We flee to the throne of God’s grace and fall upon our knees begging God to have mercy upon us for Jesus’ sake! And, because Christ Jesus lived a holy and sinless life in our stead and suffered and died upon the cross to bear our punishment and then rose again on the third day, we can be assured that God’s wrath against our sins has been satisfied. He offers and gives to us through faith in Christ forgiveness for all our sins and a place in His everlasting kingdom!
My heart is sick with sin, O God, and I cannot cure it. Have mercy upon me, forgive my sins and cleanse my heart in the blood of Christ Jesus, shed for me upon the cross. In His name, I pray. Amen.
[Scripture quotations are from The ESV® (The Holy Bible, English Standard Version®), Copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.]