“The heart is deceitful above all things and it is incurable. Who can know it?” Jeremiah 17:9
Deceitful – We don’t think of the heart as an inside scheming deceiver. After all, we know ourselves pretty well, don’t we? We know when we lie and when we tell the truth, so why does God (He is the One speaking here) contradict our own conscience. We view the problem more akin to a bout with the flu. Sure, we know that there are times when our inner ethical perspective is sick but we also manage to struggle along with the illness, operating under the assumption that taking a couple of spiritual aspirin will make everything better by morning. It just doesn’t seem right to say that our hearts are the worst of all faculties of consciousness. But that’s what God says, and God usually knows what He is talking about. Maybe we better take a closer look.
What does this Hebrew word really tell us? What if it paints a picture that we really don’t want to see? What if the deceitfulness of my heart is really a problem about trusting my inner self? What if saying that my heart is desperately sick is really a way of saying that living according to my own inner sense of conscience inevitably leads to death and disaster? What if that inner voice that so subtly suggests actions is really something inhuman, speaking to me from the corrupted earth? It’s time to find out.
The Hebrew word (‘aqov) is very odd. It is really the combination of two adjectives, both implying something about footprints and heels. You will see how it comes to mean deceptive when you realize that the Hebrew idiom for traitor is someone who lifts up his heel against the king (cf. Psalm 41:9). The same idea resides in the famous passage about the head of the snake (Genesis 3:15). Finally, this word is connected to the name Ya’acob (Jacob) as the one who grasps the heel (the supplanter). It is a word that implies grasping, traitorous acts in an effort to take control. Now that sounds like a heart without God’s grace.
David Fohrman suggests that the real distinction between men and animals is that men are capable of ignoring the voice of instinct and choosing to live by the external command of the Creator while animals hear only the inner voice of God in instinctual direction. When we “follow our hearts,” we move in the direction of animal consciousness, away from guidance by the external Word of the Lord. That’s why the heart is so deceptive. You see, human being are aware of instinct too. In the case of animal behavior, instinct is the way God guides. But that is not true of human beings. We are to be directed by hearing and obeying, not by listening to the inner voice. We are to depend on the Word of the Lord as it is manifest to us externally. The way of the heart is exceedingly and subtly dangerous because it pushes us in the direction of animal existence.
Now let’s make the final connection. God’s Word is externally manifest in the life of His Son. Yeshua is the embodiment of the external direction for living. That’s why He is the Way, the Truth and the Life. If you ignore what He says, you automatically assert the priority of your own inner voice – and you move in the direction of becoming an animal. When Man is the measure of all things, he connects himself to the animal world. But when God gives Man directions, Man is elevated toward the sublime. Which voice do you hear and obey?
Topical Index: Human Being