“I will give them a heart to know me, that I am Jehovah; and they must become my people.”
1, 2. Why might some want to learn about figs?
DO YOU like eating figs? In Bible times, the Israelites enjoyed eating them. (Nahum 3:12; Luke 13:6-9) Today, figs are grown in many places around the world. Figs are nutritious, and some people even say that they are good for our heart.
2 Jehovah once compared people to figs. He was not telling people how figs could help their health. He was talking about what was in their heart. What he said can also help us and our loved ones. As we discuss what he said, think about what we as Christians should learn.
3. What did the figs that were described in Jeremiah chapter 24 mean?
3 In the year 617 before Christ, the people of Judah were doing things that Jehovah hated. He gave Jeremiah a vision of what would happen to Judah. He described two baskets of figs, which meant two groups of people. The figs in one basket were “very good,” and the figs in the other basket were “very bad.” (Read Jeremiah 24:1-3.) The bad figs meant King Zedekiah and those like him who would soon be attacked by King Nebuchadnezzar and his troops. But there were people who were like the good figs. Some of them were Ezekiel, Daniel and his three friends, and others who were eventually taken as prisoners to Babylon. Some of those Jews would later go back to Jerusalem and rebuild its temple.
4. Why is what God said about the good people in Judah encouraging to us?
4 Jehovah said about those good people: “I will give them a heart to know me, that I am Jehovah; and they must become my people.” (Jeremiah 24:7) This is encouraging to us because it means that God wants us to have “a heart to know” him, that is, to be the kind of person who wants to know him and who wants to be part of his people. How do we become that kind of person? We study the Bible and apply what we learn. Then we repent and stop our sinful way of life. In time, we dedicate our life to God and get baptized in the name of the Father, Son, and holy spirit. (Matthew 28:19, 20; Acts 3:19) Have you already taken those steps? Or are you now regularly attending meetings with Jehovah’s Witnesses and in the process of taking those steps?
5. Jeremiah was written mainly about whom?
5 Even if we have already taken all those steps, we must continue to have the right attitude and to be careful how we act. Why? We will learn the answer as we discuss what Jeremiah wrote about the heart. Some of the book of Jeremiah was about the nations around Judah. But mostly it was about the nation of Judah during the rule of five of its kings. (Jeremiah 1:15, 16) Jeremiah wrote about people who were already dedicated to Jehovah. In Moses’ day, the people agreed to belong to Jehovah. (Exodus 19:3-8) In Jeremiah’s day too, the people said: “We have come to you, for you, O Jehovah, are our God.” (Jeremiah 3:22) But did they have a good heart?
THEY NEEDED “HEART SURGERY”
6. Why should we be interested in what God said about the heart?
6 Doctors can use machines to look inside our body to see if our heart is healthy. But Jehovah can also see our figurative heart, or the person we are inside. He says: “The heart is more treacherous than anything else and is desperate. Who can know it? I, Jehovah, am searching the heart, . . . to give to each one according to his ways, according to the fruitage of his dealings.” (Jeremiah 17:9, 10) God can see what we want, how we think, how we feel, what our attitude is, and what we hope to do with our life. God will examine your heart. But you too can make an effort to examine what is in your own heart.
God will search your heart, but you can too
7. How did Jeremiah describe the heart of most Jews in his day?
7 We should examine our figurative heart. What did Jehovah think of the figurative heart of the Jews in Jeremiah’s day? Notice Jeremiah’s answer: “All the house of Israel are uncircumcised in heart.” He was not talking about the kind of circumcision that the Law required for Jewish males. How do we know that? Even though the Jewish men were circumcised, Jehovah said that they were “still in uncircumcision,” that is, “uncircumcised in heart.” (Jeremiah 9:25, 26) So, what did this mean?
The Jews in Jeremiah’s day had to get rid of any thoughts, desires, or motives that made them ignore Jehovah
8, 9. What did most Jews in Jeremiah’s day need to do?
8 God told the Jews what they needed to do, and this helps us to understand the expression “uncircumcised in heart.” He told them to take the badness out of their heart. Why? He explained: “That my rage may not go forth . . . on account of the badness of your dealings.” They were disobeying Jehovah because their heart was bad. (Read Mark 7:20-23.) They were rebellious, and they refused to change. Their heart, which included their motives and their thinking, was bad in Jehovah’s eyes. (Read Jeremiah 5:23, 24; 7:24-26.) God told them how to change this by saying: “Get yourselves circumcised to Jehovah, and take away the foreskins of your hearts.”
9 It was as if the Jews in Jeremiah’s day needed surgery on their heart. The Israelites in Moses’ day had the same problem. (Deuteronomy 10:16; 30:6) How could the Jews “take away the foreskins” of their hearts? They had to get rid of any thoughts, desires, or motives that made them ignore Jehovah’s commandments.
HOW CAN WE HAVE “A HEART TO KNOW” HIM?
10. How can we imitate David’s example?
10 We should be thankful that God helps us to understand the figurative heart. But since we are already servants of Jehovah, do we really need to be worried about our heart? Most in the congregations are serving Jehovah faithfully and have clean conduct. They are not becoming “bad figs.” But remember that even righteous David said to Jehovah: “Search through me, O God, and know my heart. Examine me, and know my disquieting thoughts, and see whether there is in me any painful way.”
Jehovah wants each of us to know him, that is, to become acceptable to him and to stay that way
11, 12. (a) Why should we examine our own heart? (b) What should we not expect Jehovah to do?
11 Jehovah wants each of us to know him, that is, to become acceptable to him and to stay that way. Jeremiah said that Jehovah examines the righteous ones and that He sees “the kidneys and the heart.” (Jeremiah 20:12) Because Jehovah examines the heart of even righteous people, all of us need to check what is really in our heart. (Read Psalm 11:5.) When we do that, we might find that deep in our heart we have a wrong attitude, feeling, or goal that makes our heart less sensitive. Maybe we are slow to obey Jehovah. We may need spiritual heart surgery to take away that badness from our heart. What are some examples of wrong attitudes or feelings that might be in our heart? How can we make changes?
Jehovah will not force us to change, but he will give us “a heart to know” him
12 Jehovah will not force us to change. He said about “the good figs” that he would “give them a heart to know” him. But he would not force them to change their heart. They had to want to know God, and we need to do the same.
13, 14. How can what is in a person’s heart be dangerous to him?
13 Jesus said that what is in a person’s heart can make him have “wicked reasonings,” commit murder or adultery, or do other immoral things. (Matthew 15:19) For example, if a person has wrong desires in his heart, he might commit adultery or fornication. If he never repents, he will lose God’s favor permanently. But even if he does not commit a serious sin, he might still let wrong desires get stronger in his heart. (Read Matthew 5:27, 28.) It is important to make sure that we do not have such wrong desires in our heart. Do you secretly think about someone of the opposite sex in a way that Jehovah would not approve? Do you need to change what is in your heart?
14 Similarly, a Christian might let his anger grow toward another brother until he begins to hate him in his heart. (Leviticus 19:17) He needs to work hard to get rid of those feelings.
15, 16. (a) How might a Christian be “uncircumcised in heart”? (b) Why do you think that Jehovah does not want us to be “uncircumcised in heart”?
15 Most Christians do not allow themselves to have these kinds of desires and feelings in their heart. But Jesus also spoke of “wicked reasonings.” For example, we might think that our loyalty to our family is more important than anything else. Of course, Christians want to love their relatives, instead of being like those in the world today who have “no natural affection.” (2 Timothy 3:1, 3) But we could go to extremes in how we show loyalty to our family. Many feel that “blood is thicker than water.” If someone offends one of their family members, they feel offended too. Dinah’s brothers got very angry because she was treated badly. As a result, they murdered many men. (Genesis 34:13, 25-30) And the bad feelings in Absalom’s heart made him murder Amnon. (2 Samuel 13:1-30) Yes, “wicked reasonings” can be very dangerous.
16 True Christians do not murder. But some might get very angry when their family member has been treated badly. Or maybe they just think that a family member has been treated badly. So how do they treat the one who they think caused the offense? They might refuse to spend time with him or to invite him to their home. (Hebrews 13:1, 2) But a Christian who shows love for his brothers would not act that way. Jehovah knows what is in our heart. If he sees these bad feelings in our heart, he would say that we are “uncircumcised in heart.” (Jeremiah 9:25, 26) But Jehovah says: “Take away the foreskins of your hearts.”
HAVE “A HEART TO KNOW” GOD AND KEEP IT
17. If we fear Jehovah, why will it be easier to make changes in our heart?
17 When you examine your figurative heart, you may find that you are not as quick to obey Jehovah’s instructions as you should be. You might in some way be “uncircumcised in heart.” Maybe you fear what other people think of you. Or you might want to be famous or have a lot of money. You might sometimes be stubborn or insist on doing whatever you want to do. Others have felt that way. (Jeremiah 7:24; 11:8) Jeremiah wrote that unfaithful Jews in his day had “a stubborn and rebellious heart.” They did not “fear Jehovah,” even though he loved them and provided everything they needed. (Jeremiah 5:23, 24) If we fear Jehovah, that is, if we respect him, we will take the badness out of our heart. It will be easier for us to make changes in our heart and to do whatever Jehovah asks of us.
18. What did Jehovah promise about those who are in the new covenant?
18 As we keep making this effort, Jehovah will give us “a heart to know” him. He promised to do that for the anointed, who are in the new covenant. He said: “I will put my law within them, and in their heart I shall write it. And I will become their God, and they themselves will become my people.” He continued: “They will no more teach each one his companion and each one his brother, saying, ‘Know Jehovah!’ for they will all of them know me, from the least one of them even to the greatest one of them . . . For I shall forgive their error, and their sin I shall remember no more.”
If we fear Jehovah, it will be easier for us to make changes and to do whatever he asks of us
19. What can we look forward to?
19 We look forward to what God has promised. All of us should want to know Jehovah and to be part of his people. But we can know Jehovah forever only if our sins are forgiven on the basis of Christ’s ransom. Because we can be forgiven, we should want to forgive others, even if it might seem difficult to do so. We should work hard to get rid of any anger or hatred we have for others. This will help us to show that we want to serve Jehovah and are coming to know him better. We will be like the ones to whom Jehovah said: “You will actually seek me and find me, for you will search for me with all your heart. And I will let myself be found by you.”
^ par. 18 The new covenant is discussed in chapter 14 of the book God’s Word for Us Through Jeremiah.