Jeremiah 17.9



1.   Turn in your Bible to Jeremiah 17.9.  When you find that verse, stand and read along silently while I read aloud:  “The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked: who can know it?”

2.   I want you to look at this verse very carefully.  Let me read it to you again:  “The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked: who can know it?”

3.   Two traits of your heart are held up for consideration in this verse, my unsaved friend.  Let me briefly rehearse the two things with you so you will see your trouble.



“The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked: who can know it?

1B.    The question which is asked is answered in the very next verse.  Look to verse 10:  “I the LORD search the heart, I try the reins, even to give every man according to his ways. . . .”  We are about to look into the human heart, your heart, your depraved heart.  Do not think you will learn much about your heart by looking inwardly to your heart.  Oh, no.  As you shall soon see, the very nature of your wicked heart precludes looking into it to find any truth.

2B.    For us to discover the character and course of the human heart, the character and course of your heart, we must look into the Word of God.  Our inferences must be drawn from Scripture.  The principles that we discover are only reliable if they are principles mined from the holy Bible.

3B.    Why is this so?  Why can we find nothing of real use about the human heart from psychology?  Why can we find nothing of real use about the human heart from sociology?  Because only the LORD searches the heart.  Because only the LORD tries the reins.  Therefore, abandon once and for all any foolish notion that you will receive help from anywhere else than the Bible.  Quit your own reasonings and rationalizations that serve only to inflate your opinion of yourself and preserve your fragile ego.

4B.    This is the first thing we find in Jeremiah 17.9.  And why does God search the heart and try the reins?  “. . . to give every man according to his ways . . . .”  Sounds ominous, doesn’t it?  “. . . to give every man according to his ways . . . .”  It is ominous.  God looks deep into your heart so He will know what you deserve, so He will know what’s coming to you, so He can accurately ascertain which part of the lake of fire’s torment and damnation and horror will be suitable punishment for a sinner such as you, with a heart like the one you’ve got.

5B.    Do you dispute the facts?  Do you discount the information?  Do you discredit the comment?  Remember, this is what God says.  These are the testimonies of Scripture.  Ignore them, dispute them, discount them, refuse them at your own peril.



“The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked: who can know it?”

1B.    What is meant by this statement, “desperately wicked?”  It translates a single Hebrew word that means “incurable.”[1]  Think about what this suggests.  The problem is irreversible.  It is past remedy.  In a word, your heart’s condition is terminal.

2B.    But what kind of a condition does your heart have that is terminal, fatal, incurable?  In Matthew 5.8, Jesus said, “Blessed are the pure in heart: for they shall see God.”  But you are not pure in heart.  You are lost.  Your heart is desperately wicked.  That is its character.  That is its condition.

3B.    In Matthew 13.15, Jesus said, “For this people’s heart is waxed gross, and their ears are dull of hearing, and their eyes they have closed; lest at any time they should see with their eyes, and hear with their ears, and should understand with their heart, and should be converted, and I should heal them.”  And what Jesus said applies very much to you, does it not?

4B.    “But we go to church, pastor.”  Yes, I know.  “We are quite religious.”  I know that, too.  But there is Matthew 15.8:  “This people draweth nigh unto me with their mouth, and honoureth me with their lips; but their heart is far from me.”  You see, it is a matter of the heart.  Your heart is far from Him.

5B.    “But I am a good boy, pastor.  I do what my mom says, and I am pleasing to my dad.  People say nice things about me to my mom and dad all the time.  I think you are wrong, pastor.  I think I am a good boy.  See how happy I am and how much I smile?”  I see how much you smile, but turn with me to notice the apostle Paul’s inspired conclusions about you, in Romans 3.10-18:

10     As it is written, There is none righteous, no, not one:

11     There is none that understandeth, there is none that seeketh after God.

12     They are all gone out of the way, they are together become unprofitable; there is none that doeth good, no, not one.

13     Their throat is an open sepulchre; with their tongues they have used deceit; the poison of asps is under their lips:

14     Whose mouth is full of cursing and bitterness:

15     Their feet are swift to shed blood:

16     Destruction and misery are in their ways:

17     And the way of peace have they not known:

18     There is no fear of God before their eyes.


6B.    As well, in Matthew 15.19-20, Jesus said:  “. . . out of the heart proceed evil thoughts, murders, adulteries, fornications, thefts, false witness, blasphemies: These are the things which defile a man.”  So you see, the heart is the problem.  Your heart is the problem.  Your heart is evil, mean, wicked, and nasty.  It is defiled.  It is corrupt.  It is contaminated.

7B.    It might not be so bad that you have a desperately wicked heart, if that was all there was to the matter.  But we have seen that the character of your heart is not the end of the matter, but the beginning.  This is because your heart affects everything about you.  It is not your mind.  It is certainly not your brain.  It is your heart, the seat of your affections, that is the root of the problem that God has with you.



“The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked: who can know it?”

Consider this first phrase.  Your heart, the very center of your religious, moral, and spiritual faculties, is described by God, Himself, in its conduct as “deceitful above all things.”  Not that you are not capable of the apparent good deed from time to time, the socially acceptable cause participated in, or the willingness to courageously stand up for something that is of benefit to mankind.  But such things are easily explained.  They are self-serving and vain attempts to work your way to heaven.  What your heart is really all about is stated here in Jeremiah 17.9:  “The heart is deceitful above all things.”

1B.    This means that your heart is an openly lying heart.  No wonder, then, that you are a liar.  No wonder, then, that the truth is not in you.  No wonder, then, that you are opposed to the plan and purpose of God, Who is truth and in Him is no lie.  No wonder, then, that you are God’s enemy.[2]

2B.    Notice, before we move on, that there is no mention of the devil here.  Though Satan is a liar from the beginning and the father of lies, he is not mentioned in connection to your deceitful heart.  Why not?  You do not need any help from him to do your dirty work.  You are quite capable of the most subtle, as well as the most monstrous, deceits without any help from your spiritual father, because, like father like son, you take after him and are an accomplished deceiver in your own right.

3B.    As well as being the source of the blatant lies that you tell, your heart is the source of other kinds of despicable behavior that your parents should have spanked you for, but probably did not.  You allow wrong conclusions to be drawn, and incorrect inferences to be made, without saying or doing anything to correct the wrong conclusions that your parents, that your pastor, that your teachers, have drawn about you.  Oh, a father should spank a child for this kind of malignancy.

4B.    Here is another way in which your deceitful heart reveals itself:  God demands, in the ten commandments He demands, that you honor your father and your mother.  Yet you do not honor your father and your mother.  “Oh, but pastor,” you say, “I do everything my father tells me to do, and I am very careful to obey the explicit instructions of my mother.”  You Pharisee!  You hypocrite!  You are disgusting.  You are no better than a bottom feeder.  You have no Biblical responsibility to honor your father by doing what he tells you to do, only, but also by doing what he wants you to do, and by doing what you know you should do.  So, when you thereby limit your obedience to him to only those things he tells you to do, you deceive yourself, you delude yourself, you blind yourself, to the reality of your malevolent and reprobate nature.

5B.    And is not cheating on homework assignments an illustration of a deceitful heart at work?  How about cheating on a test?  How about cheating a waitress out of the incorrect change that she miscounted at a restaurant, or taking the extra change you get from a soda machine as if it’s yours to keep?  I heard that one of you here today was caught on one of our surveillance cameras, which showed that you had clearly lied to your mother by accusing another boy of misconduct the recording clearly showed you to be guilty of.  I hope you were taken home and spanked really hard for that lie. 

6B.    Yes, you are an expert at misrepresentation and exaggeration.  You are never willing to be straight with anyone.  You will not be completely truthful with anyone.  No.  You always have to shade the truth, and fudge on the time you arrived at work or for an appointment, and tell what you think are little white lies about why you are late, or why you didn’t get the assignment done, or why you simply did not do what you were told to do.

7B.    “I was late because there was a lot of traffic.”  Yes, there was a lot of traffic, but the reason you were late is not because of the traffic, but because you left your house too late.  “I forgot.”  No, you did not forget.  You did not do what you were told to do because you did not want to do it, but wanted to goof off and play instead.  So, you lie and say that you forgot when you, in fact, did not forget.  You had no real intentions of doing what you were told at all, but because your heart is deceitful you never actually told your mom, or your dad, or your teacher, that you simply refused to do it. 

8B.    So you see, your deceitfulness is used to conceal your heart’s rebellion and wickedness.  But First Samuel 15.23 tells us that, “. . . rebellion is as the sin of witchcraft, and stubbornness is as iniquity and idolatry.”  So, we see how your deceitful heart shields you from the full realization of your gross rebellion and guiltiness in the sight of God.

9B.    But keep in mind that your heart is not just deceitful.  Oh, no.  Your heart is deceitful above all things.  Your heart is the most deceitful of all deceits.  Your heart is the most untruthful of all liars.  Your heart is the most distorting and perverse of all things that mishandle and twist the truth to ungodly ends.

10B.  An unsaved mother, you will deceive yourself into thinking that you love your children.  But what you are actually doing is deceiving yourself while you run headlong toward Hell and take your children with you.  Solomon warned, “Forsake not the law of thy mother.”[3]  Paul pointed out that the law is our schoolmaster to bring us to Christ.[4]  How profoundly important, therefore, is a mother’s influence on the course of life, as well as on the eternal destiny, of her children? 

11B.  It’s a foolish person who underestimates the prominent role that a mother plays in the spiritual formation of a child.  Do I need to say much more than Susanna Wesley, Susanna Wesley, Susanna Wesley?  But a wicked woman’s heart will convince her that she loves her little one while not being a Christian herself, that she is a good mother while not being a Christian herself, that her efforts and labors and affection will somehow be good for her son or daughter while not being a Christian herself.

12B.  But all that lost mother is really doing is cementing the bond between herself and her child so strongly that it will be all that much harder for the child to be genuinely converted.  Deceitful!  Deceitful!  Deceitful above all things!  She is dragging her baby to Hell with her by her stupid and selfish refusal to seek her own conversion.  What delusion.  What deceitfulness!

13B.  Here’s another way the heart is deceitful above all things:  Take some boy who looks at dirty pictures in a magazine or on the Internet.  But he won’t look at those pictures with others around.  Oh, no.  He looks at those pictures in private so he can pleasure himself while he drools over those vile pictures.  The deceit? 

1C.   You deceive yourself by thinking that once you start you will be able to stop. 

2C.   You deceive yourself by thinking that once you take that kind of approach with women you will ever be able to form a genuine bond of love and affection with any self-respecting woman, who would die rather than behave like the women you are used to stimulating yourself by watching.

3C.   You deceive yourself by thinking that you won’t slide farther down into the cesspool of depravity from where you already are, always looking for distorted and soul-damning pleasures that are more and more twisted and perverse.

14B.  Here is a final way the heart is deceitful above all things:  Someone commits a shameful act, an abominable deed with another person.  Then they are able to act around each other in public as if nothing has happened, as if no wickedness has been done, as if nothing shameful has transpired.  But what does God say, in Jeremiah 8.12:  “Were they ashamed when they had committed abomination? nay, they were not at all ashamed, neither could they blush: therefore shall they fall among them that fall: in the time of their visitation they shall be cast down, saith the LORD.”

15B.  You would think that a shameful deed would cause embarrassment, awkwardness, or a reluctance to hang around and be casual friends with someone you had done the evil deed with.  But no.  No blushing.  No embarrassment.  No awkwardness.  Why not?  No shame.  No shame.  Because your heart is deceitful.  There is some hope for a man who, though he cheats on his wife, is ashamed of his own behavior.  But what hope is there for a woman who does the same thing, but thinks nothing of hanging around the man she has done the evil deed with?  None whatsoever.  Deceitful heart. 


1.   “The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked: who can know it?”

2.   Your heart is deceitful above all things, lost man, lost woman, lost church kid.  And desperately wicked.  Who can know it?

3.   God knows it.  God knows your heart.  And because He knows your heart, He is going to judge you according to the wickedness of your heart, that vile and corrupted heart of yours, that is incurable in its condition.

4.   “So, what’s the big deal about my heart being incurable?” you might ask me.  Simple, “For with the heart man believeth unto righteousness,” Romans 10.10.  A sinner comes to Jesus heart first.

5.   Yet your heart is a cesspool of iniquity.  Your heart is deceitful above all things.  Think about it.  What stands between you and the forgiveness of your despicable sins is your deceitful heart.

6.   What, then, will be your fate, sinner?  What must be your fate?  Perdition.  Ruin.  Condemnation.  Wrath.

[1] Francis Brown, S. R. Driver & Charles A. Briggs, The New Brown-Driver-Briggs-Gesenius Hebrew And English Lexicon, (Peabody, MA: 1979), page 60.

[2] Romans 5.10

[3] Proverbs 1.8

[4] Galatians 3.24

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