by Lloyd Streeter
The Old Testament prophet, Jeremiah, preached and predicted the future during a time when his people, Judah, had forsaken the Lord and had lived wickedly. He correctly predicted that Judah would be defeated as a nation and carried away into captivity because of her idolatry and sin.
Six hundred years before the birth of Christ, Jeremiah thundered out these words to his people: “The sin of Judah is written with a pen of iron, and with the point of a diamond: it is graven upon the table of their heart” (Jeremiah 17:1).
One thing we noticed in going to any of the excavations in the old Mediterranean world is that the ancients did a lot of writing on stone. In Turkey, Cyprus, Patmos, or Crete–it is the same everywhere–there are messages on the rocks. What those ancient peoples wrote is written forever in granite.
The sinner’s heart is hard toward God. And the prophet was telling Judah that her sins were written there, to be remembered forever, written “with a pen of iron, and with a point of a diamond.” God reads hearts.
These same words remind the unsaved person that God writes our sins in a book of works. God writes those sins indelibly, undeniably, and unforgettably that they might be reviewed on Judgment Day. In that day the unbelieving Christless person will be “judged out of those things which are written in the books, according to their works” (Revelation 20:12).
In this article we will discuss the problem, the proof, the permanence, and the pardon suggested by Jeremiah’s words.
The problem is sin. God remembers the sins of man and brings them into judgment.
What is sin? To the Pharisee in the Bible, sin would have been eating with unwashed hands, or going into a Gentile’s house, or touching a dead animal. The Pharisee hardly ever thought of injustice, cruelty, covetousness, or hatred as sin.
Human nature never changes. People still strain out a gnat and swallow the camel! To the great mass of people today sin is being unappreciative of the UN, opposing homo-sexual marriage, wearing fur, eating meat, or driving an SUV.
But what is sin according to God? It is a lack of conformity to God’s will. It is disobedience to God’s commands. Sin is missing God’s standard of holiness, deviating from God’s requirements, or transgressing God’s law.
We need only look at the Ten Commandments to see how sinful we are. God said, “No other gods!” but we do sometimes put other things, or people, or ourselves, before God.
God said, “Make no graven image and bow down to it.” But many do bow down to images of Christ, angels, and saints.
God said, “Do not take God’s name in vain.” But God’s name so easily comes to the lips as a curse.
God said, “Remember the Sabbath.” But Christ is our Sabbath and He and His day are easily forgotten.
God said, “Honor thy father and thy mother.” And many of us disobey this command.
God said, “Do not murder.” But some have wished another dead, and have been angry with a brother without cause.
God said, “Do not commit adultery.” But many have broken this commandment in deed or in thought.
God said, “Do not steal.” But how often do we steal someone else’s peace of mind?
God said, “Do not lie.” But all people are liars.
God said, “Do not covet.” And all of us are guilty of breaking this commandment.
The Bible says, “All have sinned and come short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23). “There is none righteous, no, not one. . . . They are all gone out of the way” (Romans 3:10-12)
So, the problem is that we have sinned against a holy God.
The proof of this is that “It is graven upon the table of their heart.”
It is imprinted within our nature. It is what we love and prefer. Until a person is born again he does not want spiritual things, and does not want to hear about God or eternity. It comes out. You can not keep it hidden. It manifests itself in a thousand ways. “Men loved darkness rather than light, because their deed were evil” (John 3:19).
What is most precious to you? What do you worship? What takes most of your time and money? What gets most of your attention? What occupies most of your thoughts? This is proof of your sin. It is graven upon the table of your heart.
And it is permanent. The nature of man never changes. It is written with a pen of iron, and with the point of a diamond. Can an Ethiopian change his skin? Can a leopard change his spots? So is man’s nature permanent. That which is born of the flesh is always just flesh.
The Bible uses many similes to show the permanence of man’s sinful nature. The Bible says our old sinful nature is like the adder that has venom, like the ass that is stubborn, like the bear that is cruel, and like the canker worm that is destructive. Our nature is like the uncleanness of the dog, the desolateness of the dragon, and the fierceness of the leopard. Our sin nature is ravening like a lion, stupid like a sheep, filthy like the swine, and ferocious like the wolf. And it is permanent.
“Well then,” you ask, “how can we have pardon? How can we get sin out of our hearts and lives?” You can not do it by yourself. But if you repent of sin and trust in the Lord Jesus as your only Savior, He will forgive your sin. He will then take away your sin and give you a new heart.
Yes, the Bible says if you will repent and trust Christ He will “Cast away from you all your transgressions, whereby ye have transgressed; and make you a new heart, and a new spirit” (Ezekiel 18:31).
Nehemiah 9:17 says, “Thou art a God ready to pardon, gracious and merciful, slow to anger, and of great kindness.”
So, “Let the wicked forsake his way and the unrighteous man his thoughts, and let him return unto the Lord, and he will have mercy upon him; and to our God, for he will abundantly pardon.”