Gary: Now, Contending for the Faith…. Here is this week’s question: “Dear Tom and Dave, While I tend to agree with you that there are no contradictions in the Bible, I have heard some Bible teachers say that there are paradoxes. Two often that’s a euphemism for ‘contradiction,’ or at least a word to avoid settling a seeming contradiction. Let me give you an example of verses that seem to contradict one another written by the same person: ‘Jeremiah:17:9 and Jeremiah:29:13.’ Is this a paradox?”
Tom: Dave, let me read those verses: Jeremiah:17:9: “The heart is deceitful above all things and desperately wicked. Who can know it?” and then Jeremiah:29:13: “And you shall seek Me and find Me when you search for Me with all your heart.”
So, I assume this writer has the problem of, on the one hand, the heart is deceitful and desperately wicked, but on the other hand, we’re to seek God with our heart. Now is this the same heart?
Dave: Yes, I don't see the problem there. You didn’t read verse 10, Jeremiah:17:10. It goes on, when it says, “The heart is deceitful above all things and desperately wicked,” the next verse says, “I the Lord search the heart…” So when I am seeking God with my whole heart, and that simply means sincerely, not just to use Him to my ends, and God says, “you will seek for Me and find Me when you search for Me with all your heart.”
A lot of people have their own idea of God. Mother Teresa, I remember, said, “Whatever God is in your mind, you must accept.” Well, there are many false gods, and the Bible is very clear about that. So God is saying, “If you really want to know the true God, if you really want to know Me, and you really want to know Me, so that I can reveal myself to you, and show you the relationship I want to have with you, then you will find Me, if you seek for Me with all your heart.
Tom: But, Dave, how can that be, when the heart is deceitful and desperately wicked? Can a heart even do that?
Dave: Yes! I think I know when I sincerely want to know God. The heart is deceitful above all things and desperately wicked. I think it involves something else. My motives. And when I’m coming to the Lord…well, for example, pride enters in. And someone tries to reason with me, and I’m stubborn and proud, and I don’t realize that I am. Or I think that I really want God’s glory when I want my own. ‘
I remember Andrew Murray, years ago, said that whenever you start to pray, there are two men in your heart. One is the Pharisee, who says, “Oh, God, I thank you that I’m not like the other men,” and so forth. The other man was the publican, who beats upon his breast and says, “God, be merciful to me, a sinner.”
But if I say, “Lord!” like David in Psalm 139, “Search me, O God, know my heart. Try me, know my thoughts! See if there be any wicked way in me. Lead me in the way everlasting,” I can rely upon God to really reveal my heart to me, reveal the desperate wickedness and the deceitfulness in my heart, and in fact, that’s why I want to come to God! I’m seeking God with all my heart so that He can show me where I fall short. And so that He can lead me in the paths of righteousness.
So, I don’t see a contradiction here. In fact, I see a very good reason for seeking God with all my heart, because I know my heart is deceitful. Lord, please, show me my heart, and please guide me, and reveal yourself to me.
Tom: Dave, one more point about this: could you say that, for example, in verse 9, “The heart is deceitful above all things and desperately wicked,” that’s not an absolute, is it? And when you gave the example of Andrew Murray saying, “Hey, there are two men here. There’s the Pharisee and the Publican.”
Dave: Yeah. You raise a good point, Tom, because I think the Calvinist would say that we are so totally depraved that this is all we can ever think, is desperately wicked thoughts. On the other hand, the Calvinist does acknowledge that there are people who do good things. For example, the soldier who…we have a number of examples…these are not Christians, who throw themselves on a hand grenade to save their buddies’ lives! So, you’re right. It’s not an absolute and maybe the person who asked this question was thinking this is an absolute. Well, if it’s an absolute, and we can’t think anything but deceitful and desperately wicked thoughts, then how could we even search for God with our whole heart? But the fact that God tells us to must indicate that we—even ungodly, unsaved unregenerate persons—must have the capacity, the capability, of seeking Him. Otherwise, He wouldn’t tell us to do so!
Tom: Right. This would make so sense.
Dave: So when I seek Him, I put myself in His hands. Interestingly, it says, “the heart.” It doesn’t say, “a wicked person’s heart.” It says every heart. And, you know what Proverbs says, “As in water [that’s like a mirror] face answers to face [a face reflects itself], so the heart of man reflects the heart of man.”
So this…we’re all included in this, and it is a call for all of us to seek the Lord with our whole heart.
Tom: Right. And it’s an encouragement as well. That’s why finding these two verses in Jeremiah, you know, the weeping prophet, on the one hand, it sounds like it's a downer in 17:9, but God gives us the solution, and it’s in Him. Seeking Him, knowing Him, and He enables us to do that.
Dave: Amen. That’s wonderful.