“O Jerusalem, wash thine heart from wickedness, that thou mayest be saved. How long shall thy vain thoughts lodge within thee?” Jeremiah 4:14
Jerusalem is a city of many names. One name given to this place is the “Holy City.” The first and second Temples were located here, thus the presence of God dwelt among His people. The prophets spoke here. Jesus also walked and ministered in this city and in the twinkling of an eye, He will return. Jerusalem will be the eternal place of Glory. The Lord God will set up His holy throne from this place.
Jerusalem, though, was not always “holy.” In Jeremiah’s day it was a den of wickedness, and an open sewer pit of sin. It was a stink in God’s nostrils. Idolatry ruled, evil reigned, and the people had become vain. The LORD declared through Jeremiah that His people had forsaken Him, the fountain of living waters. Instead they chose to hew out cisterns which are broken and without water. The people have chosen to deal treacherously with Him (Jer. 3:20).
Washing the Heart
The prophet’s plea was for the people to cleanse their heart from evil. A heart that sins is far from God and hardened. No amount of outward ceremonial purifications can remove its inward impurities. The LORD declares to Jerusalem and Judah “For though thou wash thee with niter and take thee much soap yet thine iniquity is marked before me” (Jer. 2:22). Only a change of heart would remove their guilt. And yet, there was no desire in them to repent, or change their ways.
A heart that is washed becomes soft. It is pure, holy and yielding to God. The lesson is that God desires a people who search for Him with all their heart. And He will be found of those who seek after Him.
The LORD’s word in Amos to all of Israel was to “Seek ye me, and ye shall live” (5 vs. 4).
Some years ago, Psychiatrist Karl Menninger wrote a book called “Whatever became of sin?” The problem he outlines as occurring in today’s modern society is the same one which Jerusalem suffered long ago; the denial of sin. We live in world that prefers relativism, value judgments, and license. Our culture desires to exile God, and banish the mention of sin. Yet without acknowledging one’s faults, guilt remains. It demands justice. Without repentance, the heart returns to its old nature and becomes deceitfully wicked. Jerusalem lay in ruins because men rejected God and preferred the lusts of this world. They chose to reap the whirlwind. Judgment soon followed.
A Balm in Gilead
There is old hymn called “A Balm in Gilead.” It is taken from the book of Jeremiah. The songwriter’s cry is “There is a balm in Gilead to heal the sin sick soul.” Gilead possessed the most precious of resins. The early physicians would use them for healing. Jesus Christ is our balm. He is able to heal all of Israel and the most sin sick soul, as well. One of his titles is the “Great Physician.”
Judah and Jerusalem spent 70 years in captivity before God allowed them to come back and rebuild. A new generation found restoration and renewal by forsaking sin and re-embracing the LORD. Under Nehemiah, Ezra and others, the Holy Temple was rebuilt and the sacrifices reinstated. God was again foremost in the people’s hearts.
Paul writes in Romans that “all have sinned and come short of the glory of God.” No one in God’s eyes is totally righteous. Yet Paul reminds us of this truth, that we are “justified freely by his grace through the redemption that is in Jesus Christ.” You don’t have to endure the fate of rebellious Jerusalem and its citizens. Just confess your sins, receive his forgiveness, and find restoration. Accept Jesus as your Savior and allow Him to “wash your heart” with his love.
There is hope also for modern Jerusalem today and all of Israel. Paul again reaffirms God’s master plan: “All Israel shall be saved: as it is written, There shall come out of Zion the Deliverer and shall turn away ungodliness from Jacob” (Rom. 11:26). That Deliverer is Jesus Christ, the Messiah.
A Word from the Lord
I am a God of the heart and not of the outward man. Come to me in repentance, come to me in humility. I am a God of forgiveness and love. My mercy is everlasting. My mercy for you will triumph over my judgment. I forgave Peter who betrayed me. I forgave the woman who was caught in adultery, I forgave those who crucified me. I will forgive you.
My love for you is greater than your sin. Allow me to wash you with my word. Allow me to wash you with my blood. I stretched myself out for you and died that you might have life and that more abundantly.
I will set you free from the sin that so easily besets you. I will forgive your sins as far as the East is from the West. I will restore you to a right standing with my Father. Allow me to wash your heart with my love. Come to me now. Receive my love, receive my forgiveness, receive my life, receive my presence.
Lord I come to you like David and ask that you “have mercy upon me, according to your loving kindness, according to the multitude of thy tender mercies, blot out my transgressions. Wash me thoroughly from my iniquity and cleanse me from my sins. For I acknowledge my transgressions; and my sin is ever before me” (Ps. 51:1-3).
I thank you, Lord, that the sacrifices you accept are ”a broken spirit and a broken and contrite heart” (v. 17). “Cast me not away from thy presence and take not thy Holy Spirit from me. Restore unto me the joy of thy salvation and uphold me with thy free spirit. Then will I teach transgressors thy ways and sinners shall be converted unto thee” (v. 11-13).
“Create in me a clean heart O God, and renew a right spirit with in me” (Ps. 51: 10).
“A new heart also will I give you, and a new spirit will I put within you; and I will take away the stony heart out of your flesh, and I will give you a heart of flesh. And I will put my spirit within you and cause you to walk in my statutes, and ye shall keep my judgments and do them” (Ezek. 36:26-27).
“Let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith having our hearts sprinkled from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water” (Heb. 10:22).
“But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship one with another, and the blood of Jesus Christ his Son cleanseth us from all sin” (I Jn. 1:7).
Jerusalem, Lest I Forget Thee by Gene Little
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