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Jun 27 / Chuck Smith, Jr.

June 27, 2021



For a voice declares from Dan
and proclaims trouble from Mount Zion.
Warn the nations that he is coming;
announce to Jerusalem,
“Besiegers come from a distant land;
they shout against the cities of Judah.
Like keepers of a field are they against her all around,
because she has rebelled against me, declares the LORD.
Your ways and your deeds
have brought this upon you.
This is your doom, and it is bitter;
it has reached your very heart.”
My anguish, my anguish! I write in pain?
Oh the walls of my heart!
My heart is beating wildly;
I cannot keep silent,
for I hear the sound of the trumpet
the alarm of war.
Crash follows hard on crash;
the whole land is laid waste.
Suddenly my tents are laid waste,
my curtains in a moment.
How long must I see the standard
and hear the sound of the trumpet?
Jeremiah 4:15-21

Intro: Years ago, a woman who was a stranger to me, told me,

“I feel like I know you, because your personality comes out in your talks”
– that caught me off guard – I didn’t know I had a personality
• anyway, reading the prophecies of Jeremiah, I’ve always felt like I know him
• he is truly present in his writings; not only in delivering the word of the LORD,
◦ but in his personal reactions to that word,
◦ his complaints, the difficulties it gets him into with others, and his grief
– he was living in the last days of Judah
• which were bringing to an end David’s dynasty and the temple
◦ he was watching his nation rush to its ruin
◦ he spent his life warning them, “The bridge is out! Stop!”
• but he was ignored, ridiculed, threatened, and assaulted
◦ and all the while, he grieved for his people and his nation

Jeremiah did not actually cry, My anguish, my anguish! but as in the King James Version, My bowels
– the Hebrew word is used in reference to the entire abdomen or torso
• the body cavity and all the organs in it
◦ we can imagine Jeremiah, with his arms crossed over his stomach, crying,
I writhe in pain!
• he felt this traumatic agony in his heart also–that is, its walls
◦ as if his heart were constricted and at the same time beating out of his chest
• extreme stress can cause these sensations of constriction and palpitation

For twelve weeks we’ve explored body parts in the Scriptures

Today we venture inside the body, and specifically to the internal organs
– like other body parts, our organs speak to us, if we’ll listen
• they tell us something about what we’re feeling and how deep it goes
• if we have experienced something similar (rapid heart rate, shortness of breath, anxious stomach) we understand
◦ the Bible doesn’t always label feelings or provide a list of emotions
◦ people at that time did not experience emotion as a mere mental event
◦ they identified its location in a specific organ of their bodies
Thomas Staubli and Silvia Schroer, Israel’s sages and priests “were not content with . . . general statements about the abdomen as a whole. They attempted to make connections between particular feelings and the individual organs, much like the familiar practice of examining the entrails of animals.”
Antonio Damasio, “All emotions use the body as their theater . . ., but emotions also affect the mode of operation of numerous brain circuits: the variety of the emotional responses is responsible for profound changes in both the body landscape and the brain landscape.”
– following the biblical path, we can become more in tune with our feelings,
• and perhaps do a better job of regulating and cultivating them
Jon Kabat-Zinn, “Each region of the physical body has its counterpart in an emotional body or map which carries a deeper meaning for us, often completely below our level of awareness. In order to continue growing, we need to continuously activate, listen to, and learn from our emotional body.”

Jeremiah’s anguish was located in his “belly”

As I said, all the inner parts are located here – the viscera
Staubli and Schroer, The belly, together “with the heart . . . fill the entire space within the torso, the central part of the body. Heart and entrails, thinking and feeling compose a common space of human inwardness out of which we react and make decisions.”
– this space includes the internal reproductive organs
• so compassion, empathy, and mercy are felt here
◦ I think when the King James Version first appeared, people were more in touch with their bodies
(which explains why they weren’t afraid of using words like bowels or womb to locate emotion)
◦ Paul used bowels when looking for compassion among the Philippians (Php 2:1)
(but ESV translates it metaphorically, affection)
John also referred to the bowels when he asks, Where is the compassion for a person in need if we have the resources to meet their need but don’t open up and support them? (1 Jn. 3:17)
– wisdom can also rest in this area of body (Pr. 14:33)
• the brain was not recognized as the organ of thought or feeling
◦ perhaps because it does not feel pain, like the other organs
Hans Wolff, “. . . it was primarily in sickness that Israel learnt to recognize the heart as the central and crucially vital organ (cf. also Isa. 1.5; 57.15; Ps. 37.15).”
◦ so wisdom was carried close to the heart – wisdom works on heart
• but more often, the belly stood for various appetites and desires
Paul warned Philippians of enemies of the cross whose god is their belly (Php. 3:19)
(see also 1 Cor. 6:13 and Job 20:20, 23

When the Old Testament speaks of inner parts, it frequently refers to the belly
– the organs there can be in turmoil (Job 30:27)
• moan (Isa 16:11), melt like wax (Ps. 22:14) or churn (Lam 1:20)
• they can yearn for someone and have mercy (Jer. 31:20)
◦ but God’s law can also be inscribed there (Ps. 40:8)
– another, more general term for inner parts, tucha
• God can place his wisdom there (Job 38:36)
• where God wants truth of who we are to be located (Ps 51:6)
qereb (“within”)is also a general term for the interior of the body (Ps 64:6)
• people sometimes harbor deceit here (Ps. 5:9; Pr. 26:24)
– there are also references to inner chambers
• these are very private places, like a bedroom (2 Ki 6:12)
• although cut off from others, God searches these hidden recesses (Pr 20:27)

Two of the featured organs in the belly refer to the womb

Beten can refer to both male and female reproductive organs
Rechem refers more specifically to female reproductive organs
Staubli and Schroer, “Hebrew rahem means ‘to have compassion’ or ‘to have mercy,’ and rahamim is ‘compassion’ or ‘sympathy.’ All these words contain a still simpler and earlier word, namely rehem, the female lap, uterus, or womb.”
Kathleen McAlpin,Rahamim implies a physical response; the compassion for another is felt in the center of one’s body; it is an upsurge of mercy that also results in action. It is a word frequently predicated of YHWH who has deep mother-love (Isa 49:15; Jer 31:20) or strong father-love (Ps 103:13; Isa 63:15-16) for Israel.” “Mercy, or compassion, is the capacity to be moved, through a depth of feeling, by the vulnerability of another. . . . Mercy is tenderness moved into action for the other.”

It may surprise us to learn the kidneys play large in the interior life

They too are a place where emotion is deeply felt (Ps 73:21)
– rejoicing can come from this inner source (Pr 23:16)
• the kidneys can instruct a person (Ps 16:7)
• sometimes, if God is someone’s mouth, he can be far from this intimate inner space (Jer 12:2)
– in Psalm 139, God formed the poet’s kidneys in his mother’s womb (v. 13)
• even then and there, God was intimately involved in the poet’s inner life

The liver and gall bladder are also relevant to human emotion

The liver can be poured out, emptied out by tragedy (Lam 2:11)
Gall bladder is merrara (Job 16:13) derived from mer, which means “bitter”
Staubli and Schroer, “Different still from the sensitive liver and the vulnerable kidneys is the irritable gall or bile; it is important to prevent this from rising or spilling out. Its name in Hebrew is ‘the bitter’ . . . .”
– this word is used when a person’s experience of life has grown bitter
• or it can refer to someone’s actions that are prompted by impure motives (Acts 8:23)

By far, the word used most frequently for inner life is heart

Henri Nouwen, “In our milieu the word heart has become a soft word. It refers to the seat of the sentimental life. Expressions such as ‘heartbroken’ and ‘heartfelt’ show that we often think of the heart as the warm place where the emotions are located in contrast to the cool intellect where our thoughts find their home. But the word heart in the Jewish-Christian tradition refers to the source of all physical, emotional, intellectual, volitional, and moral energies.” “From the heart arise unknowable impulses as well as conscious feelings, moods, and wishes. The heart, too, has its reasons and is the center of perception and understanding. Finally, the heart is the seat of the will: it makes plans and comes to good decisions. Thus the heart is the central and unifying organ of our personal life. . . . It is this heart that is the place of prayer.”
Staubli and Schroer, “In the Bible the heart is primarily the locus of reason and intelligence, of secret planning, deliberation, and decision. According to Deut 29:4 the human being has eyes to see, ears to hear, and a heart (NRSV ‘mind’) to understand.”

It can be stubborn or hard (Ps 81;12; Ex. 7:3; Mt. 19:8)
– it can also be soft or tender (2 Chr. 34:27)
– it is meant to be pure (Mt. 5:8); united (Ps 86:11); whole (Ps 86:12)
– it can be stricken by hardship (Ps 109:22)
– a person can have a heart of wisdom (Ps 90:12; Pr 14:33)
– the heart can be strengthened with food (Gen. 18:5)
– it can carry sadness (1 Sam 1:8; Pr 15:13) or joy (1 Sam 2:1; Ps 13:5)
– people can lose their hearts (Gen 42:28; 1 Sam 17:22)
– depression can fill the heart (Ps 13:2; 38:8-10)
– the heart holds our secrets and desires (Pr 6:25)
– it can be lifted up (with pride or conceit; De 8:14; Ps 131:1; 2 Chr 32:25)
– everything we think or do comes from heart
Keep your heart with all vigilance,
for from it flow the springs of life (Pr 4:23)
– the heart is the body-part that has understanding (De 29:4; Ps 49:3)
– and wisdom (Pr 14:33; Ps 90:12) and it seeks knowledge (Pr 15:4)
– talking to the heart is talking to one’s inner self (1 Sam 27:1)
– it is the repository of memory (Lk. 2:19)
– its mood affects all of life (Pr 15:13; 17:22)
– it can be agitated (Pr 23:17) or tranquil (Pr 14:30)
– courage, fear, grief, and despair are all felt in the heart (De 28:67; Isa 7:2; Ge 45:26)
– for someone to speak to the heart of another refers to romantic or comforting words (Hos 2:14)
– the heart is private (Pr 14:10), but God knows every heart – he searches every heart
(1 Ki 8:39; Ps 44:21; Pr 15:11 and 24:12; Ps 44:21; Acts 15:8)
– to be without heart means to be lacking wisdom or good sense (Hos. 7:11)
– while humans see a person’s outward appearance, God looks on the heart (1 Sam 16:7)
– the Lord is near the brokenhearted (Ps 34:18)
He heals and binds up their wounds (Ps 147:3)

Staubli and Schroer, “The integrity of a person was preserved by the heart and kidneys, that is, thought and feeling. Even God tests character by shoving both organs, like gold or silver bars, into an oven to test whether they have been mixed with worthless slag in order to deceive. This image from the language of metallurgists appears fairly often in the Psalms; frequently it is those praying who, confident of their innocence, challenge YHWH to test them:
Prove me, O LORD, and try me;
test my heart [kidneys] and mind [heart]! (Ps 26:2).”

In the New Testament specifically:
– adultery can be committed in the heart (Mt. 5:28)
– wherever a person’s treasure is, their heart will be there (Mt. 6:21)
– Jesus seeks to plant his word in human hearts (Mt. 13:19)
– the heart is the place of sincere action (Mt. 18:35; Rom. 6:17)
– a good person has a good heart from which goodness flows (Lk. 6:45)
– as in the Old Testament, the heart can experience anguish (Ro. 9:2; 2 Cor. 2:4)
And it also knows desire (Ro. 10:1)
– a Christian community can have one heart (Acts 4:32)
– a person can hold another in their heart (Php. 1:7)

A vital truth God revealed to his prophets: His people needed heart surgery
– either an new heart or some serious work done on their hearts (Ps 51:10; Eze 36:26; Jer 31:31-34)

Conclusion: I need to bring this to a close

It might as well be with the most shocking statement in the entire Old Testament:

How can I give you up, O Ephraim?
How can I hand you over, O Israel?
How can I make you like Admah?
How can I treat you like Zeboiim?
My heart recoils within me;
my compassion grows warm and tender.
I will not execute my burning anger;
I will not again destroy Ephraim;
for I am God and not a man,
the Holy One in your midst,
and I will not come in wrath (Hos 11:8-9)

God exercises his prerogative as God to show mercy versus justice
– he does it, because his own “inner parts” are roiling within him
– a decision must be made regarding his people
• and it’s as if he is feeling the turmoil that Jeremiah suffered
• God loves too much, cares too much, feels too much to give up his people

How do we respond to such love and mercy?
With our whole heart and all our inner parts
Our everyday lives bring events that affect us
Our internal organs respond to those events,
as our nervous system activates them
Our organs speak to us
butterflies in the stomach
a lump in the throat
a gut feeling
We can learn to respect the wisdom of our bodies
Try to be more aware of what they’re telling us
Allow God, who searches our hearts,
to speak to us through these experiences

Jon Kabat-Zinn, “A number of specialized meditative practices such as loving kindness meditation are specifically oriented toward cultivating in oneself particular feeling states that expand and open the metaphorical heart. Acceptance, forgiveness, loving kindness, generosity, and trust all are strengthened by intentionally centering and sustaining attention in the heart region, and invoking such feelings as part of formal meditation practice. But these feelings are also strengthened through simply recognizing them when they arise spontaneously . . . .”

How to respond to such love and compassion as God shows us?
Bless the LORD, O my soul,
and all that is within me,
bless his holy name! (Ps. 103:1)

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