Experiencing, and Overcoming, Emotions in Ministry

May 14, 2019 at 2:05 pm | Posted in Jeremiah | 1 Comment
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In the Book of Jeremiah we see that the Lord often expressed His anger through Jeremiah. No doubt there were times when Jeremiah worked up quite a bit of righteous anger himself.

Thus saith the Lord of hosts, the God of Israel; Behold, I will bring upon this city and upon all her towns all the evil that I have pronounced against it, because they have hardened their necks, that they might not hear my words.

Jeremiah 19:15

The people hardening their necks was reminiscent of Moses’s encounters with Pharaoh, who had hardened his HEART against God and His Word. We use the term “hard-headed” to describe someone as stubborn, but in ancient times the neck was used in this context in order to illustrate the idea of a refusal to turn the head, and therefore the vision, from a direction and a destination that an obstinate person had determined to go. The reference to hardened necks may have also carried the connotation of carrying heavy objects – especially large jars or containers of water – on the tops of people’s heads. As Christians, we don’t want to be “stiff-necked” to the point that we can’t repent or be called away from sinful paths, but neither do we want to be swiveling our heads around to look at every worldly distraction.

Now Pashur the son of Immer the priest, who was also chief governor in the house of the Lord, heard that Jeremiah prophesied these things.

Jeremiah 20:1

Pashur was assistant to the High Priest, and security officer for the Temple.

Then Pashur smote Jeremiah the prophet, and put him in the stocks that were in the high gate of Benjamin, which was by the house of the Lord.

Jeremiah 20:2

He had Jeremiah arrested and beaten, probably administering the beating himself, and then put Jeremiah into a body-twisting and body-cramping device overnight, as a form of punishment/torture and humiliation, since this was done in public, near the Temple.

And it came to pass on the morrow, that Pashur brought forth Jeremiah out of the stocks. Then said Jeremiah unto him, The Lord hath not called thy name Pashur, but Magormissabib.

Jeremiah 20:3

The nickname that God told Jeremiah to give to Pashur meant “Terror on Every Side” or “Terror All Around,” because Pashur and his friends would experience total terror during the coming invasion. Having turned their backs on God, they would not face judgment merely in front of them, but from every angle. Their true God deserting them in response to their desertion of Him, they would be attacked from every side. I wonder if Pashur just ignored this warning, or if he started jumping at his own shadow.

For thus saith the Lord, Behold, I will make thee a terror to thyself, and to all thy friends: and they shall fall by the sword of their enemies, and thine eyes shall behold it: and I will give all Judah into the hand of the king of Babylon, and he shall carry them captive into Babylon, and shall slay them with the sword. Moreover I will deliver all the strength of this city, and all the labours thereof, and all the precious things thereof, and all the treasures of the kings of Judah will I give into the hand of their enemies, which shall spoil them, and take them, and carry them to Babylon.

Jeremiah 20:4-5

In these verses Babylon is specifically identified for the first time as the invader from the north.

And thou, Pashur, and all that dwell in thine house shall go into captivity: and thou shalt come to Babylon, and there thou shalt die, and shalt be buried there, thou, and all thy friends, to whom thou hast prophesied lies.

Jeremiah 20:6

Jeremiah was bold and vengeful in making this insult to Pashur, but now we find him alone with God againagain, swept up in his emotions, hurting and humiliated, and dangerously challenging God. Most commentaries at this point refer to the “sensitive nature” of Jeremiah, but, although he WAS very emotional, and even prone to violent mood swings, he lived ABOVE his moods, riding them out rather than sinking down and letting them carry him away. He still obeyed. He still did his duty – despite his FEELINGS. People like this are some of the people I admire most in ministry. They are not necessarily gifted preachers or charismatic leaders or even generous givers or people with special gifts for reaching out to help those who are hurting. But they are the ones that persevere – regardless of how they FEEL.

That Ringing in Your Ears

May 9, 2019 at 5:01 pm | Posted in Jeremiah | Leave a comment
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Thus saith the LORD, Go and get a potter’s earthen bottle, and take of the ancients of the people, and of the ancients of the priests;

Jeremiah 19:1

Why would the elders of the people (the leaders) and the elders of the priests bother to follow Jeremiah outside the city to hear what he had to say? Possibly out of idle (“idol?“) curiosity. Maybe they just wanted to see what he was going to do with that bottle, but it seems more likely that they were trying to get some evidence they could use against him – to listen for some words they could twist to convict him of treason or heresy.

And go forth unto the valley of the son of Hinnom, which is by the entry of the east gate, and proclaim there the words that I shall tell thee, And say, Hear ye the word of the LORD, O kings of Judah, and inhabitants of Jerusalem; Thus saith the LORD of hosts, the God of Israel; Behold, I will bring evil upon this place, the which whosoever heareth, his ears shall tingle.

Jeremiah 19:2-3

Not coincidentally this was the place (just outside the city walls) called Hinnom/Gehenna where the garbage was taken out, and where the fires of Molech burned with sacrificed children.

The Apostle Paul warned Timothy (II Timothy 4:3) about a time when people would not want to hear the truth about God, but would want their ears scratched. Here, Jeremiah foreshadowed that by saying that these people had ITCHING (tingling) ears but they were about to have RINGING ears from the loud blast of destruction that God was going to send!

Because they have forsaken me, and have estranged this place, and have burned incense in it unto other gods, whom neither they nor their fathers have known, nor the kings of Judah, and have filled this place with the blood of innocents; They have built also the high places of Baal, to burn their sons with fire for burnt offerings unto Baal, which I commanded not, nor spake it, neither came it into my mind:

Jeremiah 19:4-5

These words ring very prophetic for America – the land of abortion – today. We seem very upset when a group school kids gets gunned down – and we should be – but we seem very complacent that, earlier and later that same day, 2500 little babies were brutally murdered and dismembered in their mothers’ wombs.

Very Naughty Figs

April 24, 2019 at 12:56 pm | Posted in Jeremiah | Leave a comment
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Jeremiah 23 deals with the false prophets that Jeremiah battled against in his ministry. Apparently, having been left behind during Nebuchadnezzar’s deportation of the “best and the brightest,” they were emboldened to view themselves as especially favored by God. They prophesied that the captives would be coming home very soon – a prophecy in direct contradiction to Jeremiah’s true prophecies that conditions in Jerusalem were going to get even worse – much, much worse.

God told Jeremiah to tell them that their false prophecies and fevered dreams (unlike Jeremiah, who received his visions, oracles, and burdens while fully awake and lucid) were just the imaginings of their own evil hearts.

Jeremiah 24 contains Jeremiah’s vision of the figs. I’m intentionally calling it a vision, but we don’t know if God showed Jeremiah something prophetic in an everyday occurrence (like He had done in the case of the potter’s house), or if God supernaturally made Jeremiah “see” things which weren’t really there. Either case would qualify as a “vision,” but it wasn’t a “dream.” God was communicating clearly with a wide-awake (although not “woke”) Jeremiah.

The Lord shewed me, and, behold, two baskets of figs were set before the temple of the Lord, after that Nebuchadrezzar king of Babylon had carried away captive Jeconiah the son of Jehoiakim king of Judah, and the princes of Judah, with the carpenters and smiths, from Jerusalem, and had brought them to Babylon.

Jeremiah 24:1

The “best classes” of people were taken away by Nebuchadnezzar. Those left behind, other than the false prophets, were mostly those who wouldn’t have been able, in the Babylonian leaders’ estimate, to contribute to Chaldean society.

I have three fig trees in my back yard, but I don’t personally care for the taste of figs. Seeing baskets of figs at the entrance of the Temple would not have been an uncommon sight during Jeremiah’s time. People were commanded under Old Testament law to bring an offering of “firstfruits.” That might explain one basket, but the other basket…

One basket had very good figs, even like the figs that are first ripe: and the other basket had very naughty figs, which could not be eaten, they were so bad.

Jeremiah 24:2

“Very naughty figs” is a funny expression to us, but, to the people who heard Jeremiah say it, it would have sounded like a repetition-for-emphasis of the unfitness of these figs, probably mirroring the unfitness of the people and the leaders who went to – and ministered at – the Temple.

Then said the Lord unto me, What seest thou, Jeremiah? And I said, Figs; the good figs, very good; and the evil, very evil, that cannot be eaten, they are so evil.

Jeremiah 24:3

Jeremiah mentions the good figs first, and we can almost see God urging him to be more specific as he emphasizes the evil of the evil figs to the fifth degree.

Thus saith the Lord, the God of Israel; Like these good figs, so will I acknowledge them that are carried away captive of Judah, whom I have sent out of this place into the land of the Chaldeans for their good.

Jeremiah 24:5 (emphasis added)

Do you hear the echoes of Romans 8:28 in the phrase “for their good?”

The good figs represented those that had been carried away to Babylon. Despite what those still in Jerusalem thought about themselves, they were not only “bad eggs,” but bad figs – unsuitable for God’s acceptance or anyone’s use.

Compare Jeremiah 24:6 with Jeremiah 1:10:

For I will set mine eyes upon them for good, and I will bring them again to this land: and I will build them, and not pull them down; and I will plant them, and not pluck them up.

Jeremiah 24:6

See, I have this day set thee over the nations and over the kingdoms, to root out, and to pull down, and to destroy, and to throw down, to build, and to plant.

Jeremiah 1:10

Jeremiah got a glimpse of the future fruits of his faithfulness, and what he saw wasn’t all bad. Sure, there would be lots of rooting out, throwing down, and destruction, but there would also be some building up and planting.

And I will give them an heart to know me, that I am the Lord: and they shall be my people, and I will be their God: for they shall return unto me with their whole heart.

Jeremiah 24:7

In this pivotal chapter we turn once again to the key theme of the heart. Bad figs can’t turn into good figs on their own, but God can transform a bad fig into a good fig. He can turn a wicked heart into a heart that wants to “know” Him. This means a heart that not only wants to get acquainted with Him and know more about Him, but a heart that wants an intimate relationship and true fellowship with Him. We call this regeneration. It appears in the Old Testament time and time again under this announcement: “They will be my people; I will be their God.” God’s people WILL turn to Him, and not like before, with all their half-turning, turning away, turning back, turning sideways shenanigans.

Going Mad vs. Getting Mad

March 25, 2019 at 3:44 pm | Posted in Jeremiah | 1 Comment
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For a long time, I had only three daughters. Partly for this reason, King Lear (the Shakespearean play about a king with three daughters) became my favorite play. There is a line near the end of Act 1 where Lear, an old man who is tired of ruling but is not truly prepared to let go of his power, fears that his mental faculties are starting to severely decline. “O, let me not be mad,” he cries out to Heaven.

One of the most difficult things to face in life is the possibility of losing touch with reality. It can make even the strongest, most faithful men tremble with fear or lash out in frustration. The prophet Jeremiah was not advanced in years like the fictional Lear, but, in Chapter 15, we find him similarly ranting and raving and wondering if he was losing touch with reality. In Verse 10 he wants to know why people are cursing him out as though he were a nagging debt collector or a borrower who had ripped off his lenders.

From the previous 14 chapters we can see that the people were angry with Jeremiah because he spoke God’s truth and exposed their sin. Have you ever found yourself confused about your surroundings or the responses of the people you encounter? Have you ever wondered why your family or acquaintances were so put out with you for daring to obey God in their presence? None of us can completely control our mental faculties when we are stressed, but with God’s help we can always rely on Him to stand for us and with us if we have committed to proclaim His Word.

The Days Will Come

March 19, 2019 at 1:20 pm | Posted in Jeremiah | 1 Comment
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Thus speaketh the Lord God of Israel, saying, Write thee all the words that I have spoken unto thee in a book.

Jeremiah 30:2

Jeremiah Chapters 27-29 appear to be grouped together under the theme of Jeremiah’s battle against the false prophets. Chapters 30-33 seem to be grouped together as promises of restoration. They are yet another turning point in the Book of Jeremiah, and are in stark contrast to the vast majority of what comes before. They are intended to give comfort, encouragement, and hope to the future generations after the purging and refining which would take place in the years of the exile and captivity. The purpose of having Jeremiah record these in a “book” (a scroll that held official records or a document containing important information) written by Jeremiah’s scribe, Baruch, was so that God’s Words could be preserved and read years later by people who would look back and see God’s prophecies and the fulfillment of His promises.

For, lo, the days come, saith the Lord, that I will bring again the captivity of my people Israel and Judah, saith the Lord: and I will cause them to return to the land that I gave to their fathers, and they shall possess it.

Jeremiah 30:3

“The days will come” indicates that this was a promise for both Israel and Judah, and, though it is not a circumstantially identical promise for Christians today, it is certainly a “principle-promise” that we can claim. “Days will come,” whatever you are going through today, if you are a Christian, that will “come to pass,” because they did not “come to stay.” If you ever find yourself “trapped,” “stalled,” “stuck,” remember that God is the Deliverer. Your “captivity” may consist of “days,” but new days WILL come – and those days are in God’s hand, and He will bring a blessed change when the time is right. We must “wait upon the Lord” in both senses of the word “wait:” look to Him patiently and expectantly AND serve Him while we wait.

Ask ye now, and see whether a man doth travail with child? wherefore do I see every man with his hands on his loins, as a woman in travail, and all faces are turned into paleness? Alas! for that day is great, so that none is like it: it is even the time of Jacob’s trouble, but he shall be saved out of it. For it shall come to pass in that day, saith the Lord of hosts, that I will break his yoke from off thy neck, and will burst thy bonds, and strangers shall no more serve themselves of him:

Jeremiah 30:6-8

There is some strange imagery here, but the reference to “the time of Jacob’s trouble” and to a future heir of David reigning as king in Verse 9 lets us know that this prophecy is going beyond even the return of the exiles after 70 years, all the way to the time of the appearance of the Messiah.

There will be men acting like pregnant women in labor, clutching their groins in pain, white-faced, but Verse 7 says “he SHALL be saved out of it” (emphasis added). God will break the yoke and break the chains, and the only one they will be serving is God Himself, which is what they (and we) were created to do.

Therefore all they that devour thee shall be devoured; and all thine adversaries, every one of them, shall go into captivity; and they that spoil thee shall be a spoil, and all that prey upon thee will I give for a prey. For I will restore health unto thee, and I will heal thee of thy wounds, saith the Lord; because they called thee an Outcast, saying, This is Zion, whom no man seeketh after.

Jeremiah 30:16-17

Israel and Judah, which had been punished severely by their enemies, would see God punish those who had punished them. Note the poetic justice: the devourers would be devoured; the spoilers would be spoiled; the predators would be preyed upon. This is often God’s way. It’s not “karma” – some impersonal cosmic balancing scale. No, it’s personal – an eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth, with what measure you mete, it shall be meted unto you. What you sow, that’s what you’ll reap. Be careful how you treat others.

God is zealous for His own name. The nations called Judah and Israel “Outcasts.” They had been “cast out” by their God, but God will not allow His name to be mocked forever. As Christians we ought to be accustomed to the role of outcasts in society, but we need to remember that we are accepted by God in Christ.

Thus saith the Lord; Behold, I will bring again the captivity of Jacob’s tents, and have mercy on his dwellingplaces; and the city shall be builded upon her own heap, and the palace shall remain after the manner thereof.

Jeremiah 30:18

There are so many great promises and images of restoration in Jeremiah Chapter 30. Not only would the people be restored to safe homes, but in many cases their restored homes would be rebuilt right the “heap” of the wreckage of the old ones. The new houses would be better houses, higher houses. If you’ve got some wreckage in your past, you probably never want to see it again, but don’t discount the possibility that God may give you a victory right on top of it, and that He might even use that wreckage as part of the foundation of your future blessings or future ministry.

Don’t be Duped or Deceived by the Diviners and Dreamers

March 5, 2019 at 2:51 pm | Posted in Jeremiah | 3 Comments
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By Jeremiah 29 the captives have become settled in Babylon. The time frame is roughly 597 B.C. There were still some people in Jerusalem, including Jeremiah himself, but there were false prophets in both places, so Jeremiah sent a letter to the people in Babylon.

Now these are the words of the letter that Jeremiah the prophet sent from Jerusalem unto the residue of the elders which were carried away captives, and to the priests, and to the prophets, and to all the people whom Nebuchadnezzar had carried away captive from Jerusalem to Babylon;

Jeremiah 29:1

There was no problem sending mail, even though this occurred during a time of unrest in Babylon’s rule. The Jewish people in Babylon were “captives,” but were still being allowed to live their own lives. They were supposed to be loyal to Nebuchadnezzar, but they could meet together and worship Yahweh if they wanted. They were allowed to keep some (probably most) of their earnings. “Exiles” would be almost as accurate a description of them as “captives” would.

Jeremiah’s instructions to them are sometimes characterized as “advice,” although “prophetic command” would be more correct.

Thus saith the Lord of hosts, the God of Israel, unto all that are carried away captives, whom I have caused to be carried away from Jerusalem unto Babylon; Build ye houses, and dwell in them; and plant gardens, and eat the fruit of them; Take ye wives, and beget sons and daughters; and take wives for your sons, and give your daughters to husbands, that they may bear sons and daughters; that ye may be increased there, and not diminished. And seek the peace of the city whither I have caused you to be carried away captives, and pray unto the Lord for it: for in the peace thereof shall ye have peace.

Jeremiah 29:4-7

He told them: Settle in, build houses. If you’re married, have another kid. If your kids are old enough, arrange a marriage – tell ’em to give you some grandkids.

It did not sound like this captivity/exile was going to be a short-term thing. Conspicuously absent from God’s instruction through Jeremiah were any exhortations to, “Resist the power! Start a rebellion! Go underground! Try to escape! Be lazy in your government job! Stay mobile!” No, this was a situation more like the ancient Israelites during the Egyptian years than during the Passover.

God did not even command them to pray for the fall of Nebuchadnezzar or their own release. He told them to pray for Babylon and for peace. He told them to support the nation where they lived. Today, we here in America live in an ungodly society. Pretty soon America may be considered a non-Christian nation (if it is not already, or if it ever was), but I hope that you are not hoping for anarchy. I hope you are praying for peace and stability in our government and in our land, so that it is safe for our children, and safe for us to preach the Gospel. I hope you are trusting God to make you a “good citizen,” even though we, as Christians, are aliens in this world with our real home in Heaven.

For thus saith the Lord of hosts, the God of Israel; Let not your prophets and your diviners, that be in the midst of you, deceive you, neither hearken to your dreams which ye cause to be dreamed.

Jeremiah 29:8

Jeremiah warned the people not to be duped by the “double Ds:” diviners and dreamers. They were trying to deceive the people by telling them not to put down roots, and by telling them they were not going to be there for long.

For they prophesy falsely unto you in my name: I have not sent them, saith the Lord.

Jeremiah 29:9

God knew the false prophets were lying. He did not give them their messages, nor speak to them at all.

For thus saith the Lord, That after seventy years be accomplished at Babylon I will visit you, and perform my good word toward you, in causing you to return to this place. For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, saith the Lord, thoughts of peace, and not of evil, to give you an expected end.

Jeremiah 29:10-11

When you read through the Book of Jeremiah, and you get to this point, it seems odd that he would, after all of his prophecies of doom, gloom, judgment, and rebuke, be proclaiming a word of hope and a promise of restoration, but he was only doing so because it was true. Look at how God’s promises are purely unmerited grace, and are not tied to anything inherently good in the recipients of that grace: “I will visit you… I will perform MY good word… I will CAUSE [not allow or permit] you to return… I know the thoughts that I think TOWARD you… to give you an EXPECTED end…”

Their outcome was expected by God because He already knows the end from the beginning. Now it should have been expected by them, too. Their future was God’s future, because He had promised it.

Jeremiah 29:11 is an important verse, and it is encouraging, and it should be cherished, but do not wrench it out of its context and slap it on a coffee mug without properly understanding it. It was originally intended as an encouragement for the captives in late 5th Century Babylon. It does have a PRINCIPLE we can apply to us today. God HAS promised, accomplished, and is working out, the ultimate salvation of those who are in Christ Jesus by HIS grace and power. It is true that the thoughts He thinks toward us are superlatively amazing – because of the blood of Christ – but this is not a promise about somebody’s heart surgery, or new job, or real estate investment, or that perfect memory-making trip to your favorite vacation destination. It is not even, strictly speaking, a promise that your family member or loved one will be saved. These are God’s thoughts. He knows them and they are GOOD, but we do not know all His thoughts. We only know the ones He has revealed.

The Heart of the Problem Is the Problem of the Heart

February 20, 2019 at 12:20 pm | Posted in Jeremiah | 1 Comment
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Jeremiah was commanded not to participate in one of the most important things in the life of a Jewish man: getting married and having a family.

Thou shalt not take thee a wife, neither shalt thou have sons or daughters in this place.

Jeremiah 16:2

He was also forbidden from participating in two of the key social events of his day: weddings and funerals.

For thus saith the LORD, Enter not into the house of mourning, neither go to lament nor bemoan them: for I have taken away my peace from this people, saith the LORD, even lovingkindness and mercies.

Jermeiah 16:5

Thou shalt not also go into the house of feasting, to sit with them to eat and to drink. For thus saith the LORD of hosts, the God of Israel; Behold, I will cause to cease out of this place in your eyes, and in your days, the voice of mirth, and the voice of gladness, the voice of the bridegroom, and the voice of the bride.

Jeremiah 16:8

In Jewish society in those days, these prohibitions would have caused people to say, “Something ain’t right about that fella.” Mourning with others was a great source of comfort, and weddings were generally considered the chief occasions of celebration and joy, but the land of Judah was about to become one giant graveyard. There would be no time for burials, mourning, or comfort, and a wedding would not be a reason to celebrate if families were about to be killed and torn apart.

The remainder Jeremiah Chapter 16 deals with the people’s almost unbelievable questioning about what sin they could possibly have committed to cause the Lord to do this to them, and Jeremiah’s patiently explaining it to them once again, which continues in Chapter 17, broken down into large categories which emphasize the root of the problems that had led them into more specific sins and had brought God’s judgment on themselves.

The first was idolatry.

The sin of Judah is written with a pen of iron, and with the point of a diamond: it is graven upon the table of their heart, and upon the horns of your altars; Whilst their children remember their altars and their groves by the green trees upon the high hills.

Jeremiah 17:1-2

Jeremiah attacked their hearts, which had become pagan altars, just like the ones in the groves. They might deny it, but their children knew where Dad and Mom really gave their loyalty and worship.

The second was unbelief.

Thus saith the LORD; Cursed be the man that trusteth in man, and maketh flesh his arm, and whose heart departeth from the LORD.

Jeremiah 17:5

Political alliances with other countries on a national level, and faith in their own strength instead of God on a personal level, were symptoms of the fact that they simply did not believe in their hearts that God was who He said He was (and had proven to be) or that He could or would do what He said He would do.

Jeremiah 17:9 is a key verse to the whole chapter – and to the whole Bible.

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

Jeremiah 17:9

This is a more accurate statement about the human race than you will find in any anthropology textbook. It is unflattering and brutally honest. It is a valid proof text on the state of mankind apart from God. This is a verse that would be good for all of us to memorize or at least with which to be very familiar.

It speaks of “the” heart – a total (yet accurate) generalization meaning that this describes the heart of every single person. The “heart” is the essence of a person’s nature – including his desires, his intellect, and his will. It is “deceitful,” meaning that it has the ability and the strong tendency to fool others and to fool its possessor. It is deceitful above “ALL” things, including Satan himself. It is also “desperately wicked.” Wicked alone would be more than bad enough, but it is not only wicked. It is in a state of great urgency and desperation to devise and commit evil deeds, to concoct and carry out evil plans, to jump eagerly to evil reactions and responses. The description of “desperately wicked” also expresses the idea of terminal, incurable wickedness – that which is sick beyond cure, broken beyond repair. “Who can know it?” is a rhetorical question meaning that no one but God can truly fathom it. We often believe that we know our own hearts, but not even we ourselves are able to comprehend the depths of the wickedness of our own hearts. We can never contemplate some horrible atrocity and honestly say, “I would never…” We truly have no concept of how low we would sink to accomplish the desires of our hearts if God’s restraining grace were removed from this world and from each of us individually.

So, Jeremiah the prophetic heart attacker – as God’s spokesman – attacked the hearts of the people for their idolatry, their unbelief, and (third) their greed.

As the partridge sitteth on eggs, and hatcheth them not; so he that getteth riches, and not by right, shall leave them in the midst of his days, and at his end shall be a fool.

Jeremiah 7:11

A bird that hatches another bird’s eggs finds herself without any chicks. In the same way, God’s people – thinking they were the true owners of God’s wealth – would wake up to find it gone. Don’t think you can trust in your checking account, your 401(k) plan, your cash money, or even a treasure chest full of gold buried in the woods. These things are assigned value only by God, ultimately, and He could make them worthless in a heartbeat.

Walking the Wrong Way

February 11, 2019 at 3:13 pm | Posted in Jeremiah | 1 Comment
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And I will fan them with a fan in the gates of the land; I will bereave them of children, I will destroy my people since they return not from their ways.

Jeremiah 15:7

The Lord was angered that HIS PEOPLE were going their OWN WAY. If He truly owns us, then “our” ways should really be HIS ways. In other words, His ways must be our ways, and the consequences of usurping these ways and making them about us instead of about Him are: painful separation, loss of children, and destruction.

Then shalt thou say unto them, Because your fathers have forsaken me, saith the Lord, and have walked after other gods, and have served them, and have worshipped them, and have forsaken me, and have not kept my law;

Jeremiah 16:11

There is an elliptical objection which the Lord tells Jeremiah to anticipate between Verse 11 and:

And ye have done worse than your fathers; for, behold, ye walk every one after the imagination of his evil heart, that they may not hearken unto me:

Jeremiah 16:12

The people, after Verse 11, would have asked, “Why are we being punished for what our ancestors and parents did?” So Verse 12 counters that they are responsible for their own behavior – which is worse! Also, there is a repetition of the idea of “walking” after their own ways. Those who walk after vanity become vain, but the reason they did this was because their HEARTS were evil.

Therefore will I cast you out of this land into a land that ye know not, neither ye nor your fathers; and there shall ye serve other gods day and night; where I will not shew you favour.

Jeremiah 16:13

When Things Get Real

January 23, 2019 at 5:07 pm | Posted in Jeremiah | 3 Comments
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Jeremiah had placed himself in a collective position with the people: not just speaking on their behalf, but speaking as one of them. Perhaps we should pray this way when praying for our children and our spouses, when praying for our church, when praying for our nation.

The Lord answered Jeremiah in Chapter 15. We say that He always answers prayers, but sometimes the answer is no.

Then said the LORD unto me, Though Moses and Samuel stood before me, yet my mind could not be toward this people: cast them out of my sight, and let them go forth.

Jeremiah 15:1

This was not an insult to Jeremiah. Actually, it was something of a compliment, but even the most influential of God’s servants and prayer intercessors would not be able to dissuade Him from what must be done. The Lord told him to “let them go,” as if He would allow them to choose their own form of judgment – although any of the four choices would be terrible: death by disease, death in battle, death by starvation, or humiliation and slavery.

And it shall come to pass, if they say unto thee, Whither shall we go forth? then thou shalt tell them, Thus saith the LORD; Such as are for death, to death; and such as are for the sword, to the sword; and such as are for the famine, to the famine; and such as are for the captivity, to the captivity.

Jeremiah 15:2

God made it clear to Jeremiah that He had no delight or joy in this. He does not rejoice in the death of the “wicked,” much less His own people.

For who shall have pity upon thee, O Jerusalem? or who shall bemoan thee? or who shall go aside to ask how thou doest?

Jeremiah 15:5

He recognized that, without Him, they would be utterly alone and defenseless in a hostile-to-God world.

Thou hast forsaken me, saith the LORD, thou art gone backward: therefore will I stretch out my hand against thee, and destroy thee; I am weary with repenting.

Jeremiah 15:6

They had done this to themselves. They had “forced” God to do it. How heartbreaking that God’s right hand, which longs to stretch out in deliverance and comfort and protection and provision, would now be stretched out – heart-wrenchingly – in destruction. We see the use of anthropopathism and anthropomorphism in the description of God being weary. Time and again He had “repented” – reconsidered venting His wrath, and relented in mercy to allow more opportunity for the people’s repentance – and now He was sick of it. He had only been taken advantage of time and time again. Oh, never let us say that our God is some cruel impersonal force! Let us never say that He is not merciful and longsuffering, nor that He dispositionally “wants” anything for us other than the absolute best – which is repentance, faith, and obedience to Himself.

The Lord’s lamentation provoked Jeremiah’s lamentation, but it was a confused lamentation, because it was a real, human lamentation. As “great” as Jeremiah was, Jeremiah was a man. When his emotions took control – when they eclipsed his faithfully rational mind – He expressed bad theology, but at least He sought God while doing so, rather than trying to consult some worldly philosophy, false idol, or his own imagination.

Woe is me, my mother, that thou hast borne me a man of strife and a man of contention to the whole earth! I have neither lent on usury, nor men have lent to me on usury; yet every one of them doth curse me.

Jeremiah 15:10

Jeremiah’s “woe is me” was a curse upon himself, as he was able to see himself only as cursed because He was hated like a bill collector, forgetting that, “Blessed are ye, when men shall revile you, and persecute you, and shall say all manner of evil against you falsely, for my sake.”

The Lord did not coddle Jeremiah in response. Instead, He let him know that, if he thought he had it tough now, he would soon have reason enough to reevaluate how tough it could really get.

Thy substance and thy treasures will I give to the spoil without price, and that for all thy sins, even in all thy borders. And I will make thee to pass with thine enemies into a land which thou knowest not: for a fire is kindled in mine anger, which shall burn upon you.

Jeremiah 15:13-14

Jeremiah pleaded for God to help him, based on what he had done for God.

O LORD, thou knowest: remember me, and visit me, and revenge me of my persecutors; take me not away in thy longsuffering: know that for thy sake I have suffered rebuke. Thy words were found, and I did eat them; and thy word was unto me the joy and rejoicing of mine heart: for I am called by thy name, O LORD God of hosts. I sat not in the assembly of the mockers, nor rejoiced; I sat alone because of thy hand: for thou hast filled me with indignation.

Jeremiah 15:15-17

But then he blamed God, and dared to question God’s method and honesty!

Why is my pain perpetual, and my wound incurable, which refuseth to be healed? wilt thou be altogether unto me as a liar, and as waters that fail?

Jeremiah 15:18

God’s response to this was to give Jeremiah an opportunity that He would not give again to the nation as a whole who had squandered it: Repent.

Therefore thus saith the LORD, If thou return, then will I bring thee again, and thou shalt stand before me: and if thou take forth the precious from the vile, thou shalt be as my mouth: let them return unto thee; but return not thou unto them. And I will make thee unto this people a fenced brasen wall: and they shall fight against thee, but they shall not prevail against thee: for I am with thee to save thee and to deliver thee, saith the LORD. And I will deliver thee out of the hand of the wicked, and I will redeem thee out of the hand of the terrible.

Jeremiah 15:19-21

What do we stand to lose if we fail to follow God? Our freedom? Our health? Our prosperity? Our lives?! We can’t always control how God will treat our countrymen, or even our kinsmen, but we can make sure that we are surrendered to Him, that we are trusting Him, and that we consider it an honor, rather than a betrayal, to suffer for Him.

When God’s Patience Dries Up

January 2, 2019 at 3:12 pm | Posted in Jeremiah | 3 Comments
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In Jeremiah Chapter 13 the prophet preached a series of short parables on the punishment of Judah, describing its citizens as: people who wanted wine, but ended up being helpless drunks; people who wanted to be fruitful, but had such pain in childbirth that they would bring forth death instead of life; people who wanted the pleasure of promiscuity, but would end up like a disgraced harlot; people who wanted a plentiful harvest of wheat, but would end up blown away like chaff.

The word of the Lord that came to Jeremiah concerning the dearth.

Jeremiah 14:1

“Dearth” describes not only drought – lack of water in a land not irrigated by a river but by seasonal rains – but numerous droughts over the years. In keeping with God’s promises, if His people violated His Covenant they would experience drought in the city.

Judah mourneth, and the gates thereof languish; they are black unto the ground; and the cry of Jerusalem is gone up.

Jeremiah 14:2

They would experience drought on the farms.

And their nobles have sent their little ones to the waters: they came to the pits, and found no water; they returned with their vessels empty; they were ashamed and confounded, and covered their heads. Because the ground is chapt, for there was no rain in the earth, the plowmen were ashamed, they covered their heads.

Jeremiah 14:3-4

They would experience drought in the open fields.

Yea, the hind also calved in the field, and forsook it, because there was no grass.

Jeremiah 14:5

Jeremiah hated to see this particular kind of suffering, but the Lord would not be dissuaded.

Then said the Lord unto me, Pray not for this people for their good.

Jeremiah 14:11

Forbidden to pray for the people as a mediator, he identified himself with the people and then prayed for himself.

We acknowledge, O Lord, our wickedness, and the iniquity of our fathers: for we have sinned against thee. Do not abhor us, for thy name’s sake, do not disgrace the throne of thy glory: remember, break not thy covenant with us.

Jeremiah 14:20-21

We should pray this way to begin with, since we should see ourselves as the people rather than as Jeremiah, but it was actually begging the question and only proving God’s righteousness with a greater emphasis, for He was not the one breaking the Covenant.

Reminiscent of his response to his original prophetic call (“Ah, Lord God!”), Jeremiah’s heart was broken over the behavior of the false prophets who lied to the people and led them astray.

Then said I, Ah, Lord God! behold, the prophets say unto them, Ye shall not see the sword, neither shall ye have famine; but I will give you assured peace in this place.

Jeremiah 14:13

He asked God to hold them, rather than the people, accountable, and God WOULD hold them to a higher standard of judgment: death and eternal punishment, rather than captivity and temporal chastening.

Then the Lord said unto me, The prophets prophesy lies in my name: I sent them not, neither have I commanded them, neither spake unto them: they prophesy unto you a false vision and divination, and a thing of nought, and the deceit of their heart.

Jeremiah 14:14

God knew that they were prophesying falsely and deceiving the people not through error or simple disobedience, but because of their deceitful HEARTS. If someone you loved was physically harmed, you would very likely want to seek retribution against the perpetrators, but it is also very likely that you would want to go after the bystanders who did nothing – out of self-interest or apathy – to prevent the harm to your loved one during the attack.

HOWEVER, the actions of the false prophets did not excuse the people. God had given them the leaders they deserved.

And the people to whom they prophesy shall be cast out in the streets of Jerusalem because of the famine and the sword; and they shall have none to bury them, them, their wives, nor their sons, nor their daughters: for I will pour their wickedness upon them.

Jeremiah 14:16

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