Diagnosis: A Heart Problem

In Jeremiah 6:16, God’s plea to Israel is clear. It’s straight, to the point, the way you talk to someone in deep trouble. And it begs the question, How did Israel get to this desperate spot?

One clue is found in Israel’s response to God’s instructions. (Jer 6:16) They refused to listen. Previous verses indicate they were much like rebellious teenagers. They hated hearing their Heavenly Father’s voice. Their hearts were hardened. They weren’t embarrassed of their sin and rebellion.

In verse 14, God summarizes the root of the problem. They were broken and wounded, and the wound had not been treated properly. A band-aid was put on and they tried to ignoring the problem hoping it would go away. They comforted each other with “Don’t worries. Everything will be okay.” They lied to each other.

[Jeremiah 6:14 CSB] 14 They have treated my people’s brokenness superficially, claiming, “Peace, peace,” when there is no peace.

But how did it get so bad? Hadn’t there been someone to warn them? Of course, God sent prophets to warn them that they were headed the wrong direction. And the enemy sent his own messengers. These words were easier to hear. The enemy told them that their disregard for God wasn’t a problem. He told them not to worry about impending doom, peace would be had by all. He promise that nothing needed to change. He lied to them.

And they listened to the wrong voice. This was not the first time they had listened to the wrong voice. Each time, when they chose to put a band-aid on it and listen to the wrong voice, their hearts grew sicker and sicker, hardening so much that hearing was affected.

Even today those voices continue to speak. Decisions and choices are made. Hearts are either healed or made sicker. Peace is either gained or missed.

[Hebrews 3:7-11 CSB] 7 Therefore, as the Holy Spirit says: Today, if you hear his voice, 8 do not harden your hearts as in the rebellion, on the day of testing in the wilderness, 9 where your fathers tested me, tried me, and saw my works 10 for forty years. Therefore I was provoked to anger with that generation and said, “They always go astray in their hearts, and they have not known my ways.” 11 So I swore in my anger, “They will not enter my rest.”

When you have a heart problem, a band-aid won't fix it. You need a heart surgeon. Consult the original designer.

Dear Heavenly Father, 

Thank You for not editing out the hard things to read in the Bible or the stern words You sometimes spoke. You always speak truth and You can always be trusted. You show us a better way. Teach me to listen to Your voice and obey Your voice. Your words may be hard to hear, but they are truth and life. The alternative is decay, disaster, destruction, and death.

Thank you for not treating my wounds superficially. You took great pains to heal them and You freely offer healing when I listen to Your voice. We all are broken and have heart problems. I am broken. My mind and heart fight daily to align with Your voice and Your words. Hope for peace only comes as I allow You to heal me. I need daily check-ups! Forgive me for listening to other voices. Help me not to flinch and flail as You do Your good work in me.


Jeremiah 6 describes what happens when people don’t seriously consider the results of their actions. The people of Israel paid no attention to God, but even as He held back His own righteous anger and continually spoke to them. Their hearts hardened and they found God’s words offensive. Jeremiah says throughout their society honesty and truthfulness couldn’t be found. They had no feelings of embarrassment or disgrace related to their rebellion.

Verse 16 is God’s final plea to stop and make better choices. Stand still. Look around. Ask how to live better lives. Then take the steps needed to be better people, people who demonstrate their love of God with their actions. Return to truth, because truth brings peace.

[Jeremiah 6:16-17 CSB] 16 This is what the LORD says: Stand by the roadways and look. Ask about the ancient paths, “Which is the way to what is good? ” Then take it and find rest for yourselves. But they protested, “We won’t! ” 17 I appointed watchmen over you and said, “Listen for the sound of the ram’s horn.” But they protested, “We won’t listen! “

The last portion of verse 16 states their reply. “We won’t!’” We won’t stand and look. We won’t ask. We won’t listen. We won’t change. We don’t need to change. Everything is fine. We’ll keep doing things that way we are.

God reminds them of the watchmen stationed on the city wall who faithfully stood guard with a single mission. They sounded the alarm when danger was approaching. These sentinels were still on the wall and the enemy was on the way. The shofar was about to sound. God pleads with Israel to heed the warning. Their response? “We won’t listen!”

And, disaster struck and devastation came.

Dear Heavenly Father, Amos wrote that You do nothing without revealing Your counsel to Your servants the prophets. (Amos 3:7). Never let me forget the power of Your words. They created stars and filled our world with wondrous things. They quiet storms and they create storms. Everything hinges on Your words and Your voice. Help me hear and recognize Your words, no matter how they come to me. When I hear your voice, help me to stop and listen.

Listening . . .

Over the course of three hours last night, I watched as two Facebook groups deteriorated into online shouting matches – one related to the pandemic and the other related to racism. It mirrors what we’ve been watching in the news the last several months. Everyone had an opinion, but no one was listening – unless there was blaming, shaming, and name-calling involved. What makes listening so difficult to do?

We talk all the time, but we forget communicating is a complicated, on-going, repetitive, two-way process. To do it well, the skills of listening well and speaking clearly with kindness must be practiced. Here’s what I’ve learned. 

  • To listen well, I
    • Suspend my focus on my experience and message to hear, recognize, and understand the experiences and messages of others
    • Build a common vocabulary with shared meanings for the same words, symbols, and actions. I do not have to agree with the meanings, but I must understand them.  
    • Build trust with respect and kindness
    • Find common shared experiences, even if the perception of them differs
    • Regularly ask for clarification when I don’t understand
    • Regularly check for understanding to ensure I’m on the right path
    • Wait politely while emotions are high or logic and respect are low 
    • (when all I have are words) Read as if the writer is open for discussion

What do you think? What needs to be added? What needs to be changed?

What makes this difficult to do?