Is God Close to Your Kidneys?
Jeremiah 12:In the beginning of Jeremiah 12, the prophet raises one of the classic problems for faith: “Why are the wicked so prosperous? Why are evil people so happy?” (12:1). He goes on to say to the Lord, “You have planted them, and they have taken root and prospered” (12:2). It seems as if God has been blessing the wicked, even though their faith is superficial: “Your name is on their lips, but you are far from their hearts” (12:2).
Most English translations use the word “hearts” in this verse as a translation of the Hebrew word kilya. The King James Version, however, renders the second half of verse 2 in this way: “[T]hou art near in their mouth, and far from their reins.” “Reins” is an old English word that means “kidneys.” Indeed, kilya in Hebrew is the name for literal kidneys. This word appears in Exodus 29:13, for example, in instructions about the sacrifice of a bull. But Hebrew speakers could use kilya in reference to the deepest parts of a person, where, in contemporary English, we might use the word “heart” or “soul.”
Jeremiah’s complaint, therefore, is that God appears to be blessing those who say all of the right religious things but don’t really mean them. God is on their lips, but not in the deepest parts of their inner being. Jeremiah 12 does not provide an answer to the problem of why wicked people flourish. The chapter moves the focus to the failures of God’s own people, ending with an unexpected promise of redemption, both for Israel and for other nations.
Today, I’m struck by how easy it is to have God on my lips but not in my heart. Oh, to be sure, I “accepted Jesus into my heart” over forty-six years ago at a Billy Graham Crusade in Los Angeles. There’s no question that God has a place in my heart. But sometimes I do not welcome him or pay much attention to him. This is a common challenge for pastors and teachers of God’s Word. We are supposed to have God on our lips (or our fingers, if we’re writing). But are we really living what we’re saying? Even as I write these Reflections, I am continually challenged to engage with the living God, so that God is truly close to my kidneys!
QUESTIONS FOR REFLECTION: So, is God close to your kidneys? Is he present and welcome in the deepest parts of your soul? How can you keep from turning your faith into a matter of words and deeds, but not a matter of the heart?PRAYER: I “accepted you into my heart” so many years ago on the field of the Los Angeles Coliseum. How thankful I am that you have been with me ever since.
Still, you know how easy it is for me to slip into a “on my lips but not in my heart” kind of faith. In my service to you, I’m supposed to be a person who says things about you. But are the things I’m saying real in my life? Am I giving you the best and deepest place inside of me?
Help me, Lord, not to be like those whom Jeremiah resented. Even as you are on my lips, may you also be in my heart. Amen.