by Steven Chan
12 September 2010
In Deut 29:14-21, God through His prophet Moses spoke to the people of Israel concerning His covenant with them:
“I make this covenant and this oath, not with you alone, but also with him who stands here with us today before the LORD our God, as well as with him who is not here with us today (for you know that we dwelt in the land of Egypt and that we came through the nations which you passed by, and you saw their abominations and their idols which were among them–wood and stone and silver and gold); so that there may not be among you man or woman or family or tribe, whose heart turns away today from the LORD our God, to go and serve the gods of these nations, and that there may not be among you a root bearing bitterness or wormwood; and so it may not happen, when he hears the words of this curse, that he blesses himself in his heart, saying, ‘I shall have peace, even though I walk in the imagination of my heart’–as though the drunkard could be included with the sober. The LORD would not spare him; for then the anger of the LORD and His jealousy would burn against that man, and every curse that is written in this book would settle on him, and the LORD would blot out his name from under heaven.”
The Lord having delivered Israel warned them against the danger of turning their hearts from the Lord – specifically He warned against the one who “when he hears the words of this curse, that he blesses himself in his heart, saying, ‘I shall have peace, even though I walk in the imagination of my heart’”. The attitude of heart that unequivocally rejects what God has said and in open rebellion defies what God has said, and instead blesses himself in his heart, saying: “I shall have peace, even though I walk in the imagination of my heart”. Do we come across some people who demonstrate this same attitude today? Are there not many today who “walk in the imagination of their heart” and not in accordance with what God has revealed to them? They blatantly affirm that “all will be well with their soul” while they defy God’s Word.
The Lord warns thus: “The LORD would not spare him; for then the anger of the LORD and His jealousy would burn against that man, and every curse that is written in this book would settle on him, and the LORD would blot out his name from under heaven.”
In spite of God’s warning, we read in Jer 7:24-26, the sad and tragic observation by God concerning Israel: “Yet they did not obey or incline their ear, but followed the counsels and the dictates of their evil hearts, and went backward and not forward. Since the day that your fathers came out of the land of Egypt until this day, I have even sent to you all My servants the prophets, daily rising up early and sending them. Yet they did not obey Me or incline their ear, but stiffened their neck. They did worse than their fathers.”
The children of Israel who dwelt in the land promised by the Lord to Abraham chose not to incline their ears to the counsel of God; instead they chose to follow the counsels and dictates of their own evil hearts. How about us today? Do we read the Scriptures so that we can incline our ears to the counsel of God? Or, are some of us walking according to what our worldly friends tell us or what our own hearts dictate? Their forefathers brought them into the Promised Land but they have forgotten how they got there. Is it the same with some of us today? Some today would say that we need to progress by leaving behind the baggage that our forefathers brought with them. But little do they realize that by jettisoning this so-called baggage, they are actually going backward and not forward – that’s God’s indictment!
Listen to the counsel of God as recorded in Prov 28:-
Verse 9: “One who turns away his ear from hearing the law, even his prayer is an abomination;”
Have we ever wondered why sometimes God did not give us what we pray for? Could it be because some of us have turned our ears away from hearing the Word of God?
Verses 14, 25-26: “Happy is the man who is always reverent, but he who hardens his heart will fall into calamity… He who is of a proud heart stirs up strife, but he who trusts in the LORD will be prospered. He who trusts in his own heart is a fool, but whoever walks wisely will be delivered.”
Do we recognize the state of our hearts? Are we reverent or respectful of God, His Word and our brethren? Are our hearts hardened and insensitive to the instructions of God? Are we proud because of our achievements? Have we become a people who trust our own hearts rather than to trust in the Lord? God says that the one who trusts in his own heart is a fool!
In Heb 3:12-14, Christians are similarly warned: “Beware, brethren, lest there be in any of you an evil heart of unbelief in departing from the living God; but exhort one another daily, while it is called “Today,” lest any of you be hardened through the deceitfulness of sin. For we have become partakers of Christ if we hold the beginning of our confidence steadfast to the end…”
Brethren, we are always in danger of departing from the Lord though unbelief and the “hardening of our hearts because of the deceitfulness of sin”. We need to be aware that we have become partakers of Christ ONLY IF we hold the beginning of our confidence and faith steadfast to the end. It is not just the beginning or the fact that we have chosen to follow Jesus – it’s the question of whether “we hold steadfast until the end”. The tragedy is that along life’s road, some have been hit with bumps that sometimes cause them to fall by the wayside and they give up their faith.
In Heb 12:3-4, we are encouraged to consider the example of Jesus: “For consider Him who endured such hostility from sinners against Himself, lest you become weary and discouraged in your souls. You have not yet resisted to bloodshed, striving against sin.” Our struggle often does not result in any bloodshed – unlike the case of Jesus who had to shed His blood on the cross because of our sins.
“For you yourselves know perfectly that the day of the Lord so comes as a thief in the night. For when they say, “Peace and safety!” then sudden destruction comes upon them, as labor pains upon a pregnant woman. And they shall not escape. But you, brethren, are not in darkness, so that this Day should overtake you as a thief. You are all sons of light and sons of the day. We are not of the night nor of darkness. Therefore let us not sleep, as others do, but let us watch and be sober.”(1 Thess 5:2-6).
While there are those who claim that they “shall have peace, even though they walk in the imagination of their hearts”, the Bible warns that “when they say, “Peace and safety!” then sudden destruction comes upon them, as labor pains upon a pregnant woman. And they shall not escape.” God’s truth will eventually triumph. Let’s not wait until it’s too late.
Remember the case of the rich man who had finally attained financial independence in Luke 12:19-21 when he said: “I will say to my soul, “Soul, you have many goods laid up for many years; take your ease; eat, drink, and be merry.” ‘But God said to him, ‘Fool! This night your soul will be required of you; then whose will those things be which you have provided?’ So is he who lays up treasure for himself, and is not rich toward God.” But the premature ending of his life and the deprivation of continued enjoyment of his earthly success were not all that the rich man suffered – as illustrated in the case recorded in Luke 16:22-23, where “the rich man also died and was buried. And (found himself) being in torments in Hades.” Do we know where we will go after death? Do we want to avoid the fate of that rich man who was oblivious to what would befall him after his death? Ignorance is not bliss in his case.
Brethren, we need to “fear Him who is able to destroy both soul and body in hell.”(Matt 10:28). Let’s not behave as “fools” by seeking to attain to the status where we can say, “Soul, you have many goods laid up for many years; take your ease; eat, drink, and be merry!” We need to be rich towards God: “Command those who are rich in this present age not to be haughty, nor to trust in uncertain riches but in the living God, who gives us richly all things to enjoy. Let them do good, that they be rich in good works, ready to give, willing to share, storing up for themselves a good foundation for the time to come, that they may lay hold on eternal life.”(1 Tim 6:17-19). May we all resolve never to walk in the imagination of our own hearts!
May we heed the Word of the Lord to: “trust in the LORD with all your heart, and lean not on your own understanding; In all your ways acknowledge Him, and He shall direct your paths. Do not be wise in your own eyes; fear the LORD and depart from evil. It will be health to your flesh, and strength to your bones.” (Prov 3:5-8).