Sunday, August 18th, 2019

How to Listen to the Heart

Tenth Sunday after Pentecost [Proper  14, c]                     August 18, 2019


Jeremiah 23:16-29

16 Thus says the LORD of hosts: “Do not listen to the words of the prophets who prophesy to you, filling you with vain hopes. They speak visions of their own minds, not from the mouth of the LORD. 17 They say continually to those who despise the word of the LORD, ‘It shall be well with you’; and to everyone who stubbornly follows his own heart, they say, ‘No disaster shall come upon you.'” 18 For who among them has stood in the council of the LORD to see and to hear his word, or who has paid attention to his word and listened? 19 Behold, the storm of the LORD! Wrath has gone forth, a whirling tempest; it will burst upon the head of the wicked. 20 The anger of the LORD will not turn back until he has executed and accomplished the intents of his heart. In the latter days you will understand it clearly. 21 “I did not send the prophets, yet they ran; I did not speak to them, yet they prophesied. 22 But if they had stood in my council, then they would have proclaimed my words to my people, and they would have turned them from their evil way, and from the evil of their deeds. 23 “Am I a God at hand, declares the LORD, and not a God far away? 24 Can a man hide himself in secret places so that I cannot see him? declares the LORD. Do I not fill Heaven and Earth? declares the LORD. 25 I have heard what the prophets have said who prophesy lies in my name, saying, ‘I have dreamed, I have dreamed!’ 26 How long shall there be lies in the heart of the prophets who prophesy lies, and who prophesy the deceit of their own heart, 27 who think to make my people forget my name by their dreams that they tell one another, even as their fathers forgot my name for Baal? 28 Let the prophet who has a dream tell the dream, but let him who has my word speak my word faithfully. What has straw in common with wheat? declares the LORD. 29 Is not my word like fire, declares the LORD, and like a hammer that breaks the rock in pieces?


In the Name of Jesus.


Follow your heart. That’s where happiness is found, we are told. Your heart, that’s the authentic you. Your mind might be cold and calculating, but your heart, that’s where you will find the real you. Follow your heart.


Gladys Knight sang of every beat of her heart. She wanted to go back to things of her heart, to family, to country, to those she left behind, and now, with every beat of her heart she wants to go back home.


But the heart can be difficult. Tony Bennett’s heart fell in love and ended up left in San Francisco. Maybe Hank Williams had it right. He sings of the heart as being a liar. Your cheatin’ heart will make you weep, you’ll cry and cry, and try to sleep, but sleep won’t come, the whole night through, your cheatin’ heart will tell on you.


But Oprah Winfrey says, “Trust your heart and success will come to you.”



Are we to listen to the heart?


That can be a practical question. There are times when we know we should and times when we know we shouldn’t.


Should we spend our time to plant a beautiful garden of flowers, or spend that same time to, instead, go to a concert? Follow your heart. Enjoy the Lord’s gifts; do that which brings joy to you and your family. “Go, eat your bread with joy,” says Solomon, “drink your wine with a merry heart, for God has already approved what you do.” [Ecclesiastes 9:7]


Follow your heart. Yet Scripture says,

The LORD saw that the wickedness of man was great in the Earth, and that every intention of the thoughts of his heart was only evil.

[Genesis 6:4]


Listen to the heart? Jesus said,

“Out of the heart proceed evil thoughts, murders, adulteries, fornications, thefts, false witness, blasphemies. These are the things which defile a man.”

[Matthew 15:19]


Our hearts, they’re not trustworthy. Hearts—this refers not just to our emotions and feelings, our passions; this is also our thoughts and desires, it is our will.


When we are contemplating how we stand before God, our heart is an untrustworthy witness. Our heart deceives us into desire for things our Lord has not given us as gift; deceives into a passion to build-up and justify ourselves; deceives us into turning from our Lord’s Word and, instead, living in a despair as we fail to hear God’s Word of grace.


Do not listen to the prophets who prophesy to you filling you with vain hopes,

says Jeremiah.

They speak a vision of their own minds, not from the mouth of the Lord.

[Jeremiah 23:16]


These false prophets, Jeremiah tells us, tempt us to turn from the Lord’s Word, and to, instead, turn to good feelings within ourselves that everything is going well for us. [Jeremiah 23:17]


How long shall there be lies in the heart of the prophets who prophesy lies, and who prophesy the deceit of their own heart,

says the Lord,

who think to make my people forget my Name by their dreams that they tell one another.

[Jeremiah 23:26]



The Lord jerks us back from the trap of finding salvation in our own hearts, from the trap of looking into our hearts for any certainty or confidence before God, and from the trap of listening to anyone who would be so arrogant as to tell us we should listen to what has been laid upon their heart.


We will not know God’s Word by what we pull out of the same hearts that Jesus says are full of evil thoughts, murders, adulteries, fornications, thefts, false witness, blasphemies—these things which defile a man.



But the Lord has a heart. He has a will, an intention of his own. He speaks of things he loves, of his own passions and desires, his own thoughts and mind and will.


The Triune God—in this conversation between the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, the mind of God is spoken, the passions and love of God are made known, the intentions and will of God is determined. This conversation, this heart of God, pertains to the sinner on Earth. It pertains to you and me and our children.


And while you and I will never know the heart of God by following our hearts—for our hearts are, as Hank Williams might put it, cheating, as out of our hearts flow every evil passion and thought, we will know the heart of God as he reveals it to us.


He reveals it in his Word. In the Old Testament, our Lord was kindly revealing that Word to his people as he had the prophets speak the words of his council. Jeremiah 23:22:

But if they had stood in my council, then they would have proclaimed my words to my people.


That’s the difference between a false prophet and the true. A false prophet speaks the word which he says have been laid on his heart. The true prophet speaks the word spoken from the mouth of the Lord in his council. A false prophet looks inside himself for truth. The true prophet looks outside of himself to what the Lord is giving.


The word which you hear [from me],

says Jesus,

is not my word, but the Father’s who sent me.

[John 14:24]


The Father speaks words to his Son. This is the Trinitarian conversation. The eternal conversation between the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.


The Son becomes flesh and dwells among us. He, Jesus, is our prophet. Jesus hears words from his Father, and he receives them as gift. Jesus then speaks those words to us as gift. They are words which overcome and destroy the words of our hearts.


As we think in our hearts that we can improve ourselves and make ourselves worthy, Jesus destroys our false confidence in speaking the Law to say,

out of the heart proceed all evil thoughts which defile a man.


And then Jesus brings to us the conversation from the council chamber of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, and this conversation reveals the heart of God.


Jesus shows us the heart of God this morning. The Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit have given the Holy Name to little Theodore. Theodore is a name from the Greek meaning “Gift of God.” And God in Heaven gives no greater gift on Earth than to give Baptism to a sinner. For the power, work, benefit, fruit, and purpose of Baptism is this—to save. [1 Peter 3:21] As the Large Catechism puts it,

For no one is baptized in order to become a prince, but, as the words say, to “be saved.” To be saved is nothing other than to be delivered from sin death, and the devil. [Colossians 1:14] Baptism means to enter into Christ’s kingdom [John 3:5], and to live with him forever.


This is the heart of God which overcomes our hearts and gives gifts to the sinner. He saves the sinner. He makes us his own.


We will never know this from our hearts from which come sin of every kind. We will know it from the Word of God. From the voice God speaks to us in Baptism. From the conversation of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit brought to us by the Son, who redeemed with his own blood. We will know it as the Holy Spirit brings to us the words of Jesus in the Gospel, and by those words, he forgives our sins, calls us his own, and creates in us a clean heart.


In the Name of Jesus.