Pretense vs. A Whole Heart

“Yet for all this her treacherous sister Judah did not return to me with her whole heart, but in pretense,” declares the LORD.
— Jeremiah 3:10

This verse from Jeremiah shocks me every time I read it and it serves as a warning and prayer request for everyone who is seeking the Lord. Would you pray that every American Christian would have a whole heart for God, especially for those who will be fasting and praying during CU Day and Night’s “Return to Me” fast, August 16-29, 2021?

The reason this verse startles me is because of the context. These words of God came to Jeremiah “in the days of King Josiah” (Jeremiah 3:6). King Josiah was the most faithful king in all of Judah’s history after King David. The book of 2 Kings says this about Josiah, “Before him there was no king like him, who turned to the LORD with all his heart and with all his soul and with all his might, according to all the Law of Moses, nor did any like him arise after him” (2 Kings 23:25). 

Josiah’s faithfulness extended throughout the nation. He cleansed the land of every single evil practice. Other good Jewish kings removed foreign idols from the land, but they would allow lesser evils to remain, like high places of worship. Both 2 Chronicles 34-35 and 2 Kings 22-23 detail the thoroughness with which King Josiah purged the land of everything that displeased God. 

Josiah went a step further – he ensured that all God’s people worshiped Him properly. Josiah held a national Passover and Unleavened Bread celebration and provided for lay people who were unprepared for the festival. 

Josiah gathered all the people of the land together to read them the Book of the Covenant, which had been lost and forgotten. Then the king reestablished the covenant with God, and the Bible says, “And all the people joined in the covenant” (2 Kings 23:3). 

The days of Josiah represented one of the spiritual highlights of Judah’s history, as it appeared. However, Jeremiah 3:10 tells us that all the efforts of the people (not of the king himself) were empty; they were just for show; they were done in pretense. Outwardly, God’s people did the right thing but their hearts were not fully in it, and God was not pleased. 

We need to examine our own hearts by the light of God’s word and Spirit. Are we doing the right thing publicly, but inwardly loving sin? What areas of our hearts have we let grow cold? What wicked thoughts do we entertain and make room for in our minds?

Let’s pray that we and all of God’s people today would ruthlessly exterminate every variant thought and desire from our hearts. Let us not presume on God’s grace and forgiveness, giving ourselves a reason to allow sin to dwell in our inner beings. 

Father, make us and all Your people warriors against disobedience in our own hearts and minds, as well as our words and actions. Give us the discipline to “take every thought captive to obey Christ, being ready to punish every disobedience, when your obedience is complete” (2 Corinthians 10:5-6). Let our hearts genuinely, eagerly, happily love You and all Your ways. In Jesus’ name we pray, amen.

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