Jeremiah calls his people to change. He’s not calling the people to a religious system of rituals and regulations but to an inward change. The covenant symbol for Israel was circumcision. But that meant nothing in the end. It was simply another ceremonial ritual resulting only 02 love pouredin an external change. God calls people to change on the inside. Jeremiah 4:4 is one passage that uses the symbol of circumcision, which the Jews had trusted as the obvious evidence of their connection with God, to challenge the people to stop trusting in external appearances and start looking inward. It says, “Circumcise yourselves to the LORD;      remove the foreskin of your hearts…”

Unlike Jeremiah, too often I might resort to sermons on self-improvement or sermons designed to get the congregation serving in some capacity in the church. It’s so easy to default our messages on external issues and external change that we often neglect to more important aspect of preaching. In the Preacher’s Commentary on this verse, Guest calls for preachers to dig deeper into their messages and to call not so much for a change in behavior as a change of heart. He asks as preachers, “Do we preach for a radical change of heart? The landscape of the heart can lie dormant and become hard. Do our congregations feel the cut of the plow against that hard soil when we are preaching or teaching? Like Judah, we all allow our affections to be mingled with those of the world, ministers included. Do we call for the kind of self-inflicted surgery that this courageous preacher did?”[1]

Jeremiah’s father, Hilkiah, discovered the scrolls of the law in the basement of the Temple and brought them to Josiah who instituted a revival in the Land. Deuteronomy figured prominently in the words of Jeremiah. It’s the book that first calls for law of love to be central. The Shemah, Deuteronomy 6:5-6 says, “You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might. And these words that I command you today shall be on your heart.” In Deuteronomy 30:6, “The Lord your God will circumcise your hearts and the hearts of your descendants, so that you may love him with all your heart and with all your soul, and live.” As Jeremiah presents the New Covenant to us in Jeremiah 31:33, “For this is the covenant that I will make …I will put my law within them, and I will write it on their hearts. And I will be their God, and they shall be my people.” How do you write on someone’s heart? It is the radical display of love that moves people inwardly. Romans 5:8 explains it all, “But God demonstrates His own love for us in this; While we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.”

[1] John Guest and Lloyd J. Ogilvie, Jeremiah, Lamentations, vol. 19, The Preacher’s Commentary Series (Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson Inc, 1988), 50.