Jeremiah: A Prophetic Heart Attack

June 29, 2020 at 4:03 pm | Posted in Jeremiah | Leave a comment
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Bible scholars and preachers often point to Jeremiah as an example of someone who didn’t see a great deal of earthly “results” in his ministry. By some calculations, despite preaching for over 40 years, we are hard-pressed to find even a single person converted in direct response to his ministry. Yet he remained faithful, laboring out of love, fear, and obedience to his mighty God to call God’s people to repentance, all the while going deeper than mere surface renovation, seeking rather to attack their sinful hearts.

Jeremiah

Although there are many things we can and should emulate from Jeremiah’s life and calling, one thing that I would like to especially emphasize was his refusal to gin up some gimmicky solutions. Jeremiah was no shallow pragmatist. He wanted real transformation and revival, but he knew that the raw unadulterated power of God was the only real hope for that transformation. Perhaps this study of the Book of Jeremiah will help you make and keep a commitment to stay faithful and see what mighty things God will do in your life, your family’s life, the life of your fellow church members, and the even the lives of the people you know whose hearts seem so far from God.

The theme of the “heart” is prevalent in Jeremiah. Here are some examples:

I. Evil hearts (3:17): Very early in the Book of Jeremiah, the prophet, who felt as if he was HAVING a heart attack when God called him from the priesthood to the office of prophet, was used by God to attack the hearts of God’s people, and he did not pull any punches, but he ministered the cure as well as the diagnosis. God (and only God) can change an evil heart.

II. Unclean hearts and heart pains (4:14-19): When the hearts of God’s people get dirty, it should cause pain in their hearts – the pain of grief and of fear.

III. Rebellious hearts (5:23-24): The attack was not an unprovoked attack. Those with rebellious hearts are rebelling against their rightful king.

IV. Faint-hearted (8:18): We will not find the cure for our sorrowing hearts within our hearts themselves.

V. Imaginative hearts (9:14): Our hearts are very creative and imaginative. However, what they create and imagine are idols.

VI. Reined hearts (11:20): What is in our hearts controls the direction of our lives. We should want God to hold those reins. Like a spooked stallion, we will gallop into destruction if we are given control over our own reins.

VII. Deceived hearts (14:14): False teachers are deceivers, and are often themselves deceived. Our hearts have a weak spot for deceptive messages that appeal to our comfort or prosperity.

VIII. Joyful hearts (15:16): Lies might make us temporarily happy, but only God’s Word brings real (and contagious) rejoicing into our hearts.

IX. Departing hearts (17:5): There is a curse imbedded in departing from the Lord. First, we trust someone other than God. Then, we feel strong in and of ourselves. Finally, before we realize, our heart is far away from its true King.

X. Wicked, deceitful, and unknown hearts (17:9): This is one of the keys to understanding the ministry of Jeremiah, and the Book of Jeremiah as a whole. It is a stinging rebuke to the “follow your heart,” “trust your heart,” and “listen to your heart” movements. It leaves no wiggle room (“ALL THINGS”) for self-justification.

XI. Burning hearts (20:9): No pep talk, promise of rewards, shaming tactic, or 12-step program will motivate you to speak passionately about the Lord, but getting His Word down into your heart will overcome all embarrassment, shame, shyness, and fear, and make it impossible for you to keep silent about our wonderful Savior.

XII. Covetous hearts (22:17): If we do not heed the warning of “be careful little eyes what you see,” we will have a problem with “be careful little heart what you love.”

XIII. Broken hearts (23:9): A broken heart is not pleasant, but it is necessary. When we see the real Words of God held up against the lies we have believed, it should break our hearts.

XIV. Whole hearts (24:7): True repentance and true restoration and true revival come about when we turn away from idols and sin, and turn TO God with our WHOLE hearts.

XV. Searching hearts (29:13): Looking for God half-heartedly is only pretending to look for God. Unrepentant sinners can’t find God for the same reason bank robbers can’t find the cops.

XVI. Unified hearts (32:39-41): Divided hearts will be made into one heart. Man-fearing and circumstances-fearing hearts will be made into made God-fearing hearts. Unified God-fearing hearts get the blessing of seeing God rejoice in His own heart.

XVII. Haughty hearts (48:29): Haughtiness is trying to look big for others; it is a species of pride.

XVIII. Proud hearts (49:16): This is the kind of pride that not only attempts to impress others, but deceives the proud person himself.

Here are the links to the lessons on Jeremiah:

1. Open Up and Say “Ah” (1:1-6)
2. Throw Down (1:4-10)
3. God’s Sugar-Free Calling (1:5-10)
4. Blooming and Boiling (1:11-14)
5. Loud and Clear (1:17-2:5)
6. Don’t Baal on God (2:5)
7. The Last but Not the Least – Part 1 (2:5)
8. Idolaters in Heat (2:13-24)
9. Won’t Hold Water (2:13)
10. How Could We Forget? (2:31-32)
11. Forget-Me-Nots (2:32)
12. Turning, Not Burning (3:1-11)
13. The Only Cure for Evil Hearts (3:14-23)
14. Heart Conditions: Cut and Clean, or Corrupted and Conquered (4)
15. Beware the Freedom of the Foremost (5:3-5)
16. Revolting Hearts (5:5-25)
17. A Wonderful and Horrible Thing (5:15-29)
18. Designer Disaster and Divine Destruction (6:1-5)
19. Gleaned Grapes and Scrapped Silver (6:9-30)
20. A Pre-Church Sermon (7)
21. Abortion: The Torture and Murder of God’s Children (7:31-32)
22. Jeremiah and the Blackhearts (8)
23. Imaginations of the Heart (9)
24. Why I’m Not Proud to be an American (9:23-24)
25. Obedience Matters (10:6-10)
26. The Insidiousness of Idolatry (11:1-10)
27. Jeremiah (and God) Contra Mundum (11:11-20)
28. Pulling on the Reins (12)
29. The Dirty Girdle (13)
30. Light Measures Time (13:15-16)
31. Lift up Your Eyes (13:20)
32. A Leopard Can’t Change His Spots (13:23)*
33. When God’s Patience Dries Up (14)
34. When Things Get Real (15)
35. Going Mad vs. Getting Mad (15)
36. For What Are You Hungry? (15:16)
37. Walking the Wrong Way (15-16)
38. The Heart of the Problem Is the Problem of the Heart (16:2-17:11)
39. Not What We Deserve (16:17-18)
40. The Lord’s Day (17:27)
41. Depraved Clay (18:1-4)
42. Pottery and Prayer Time (18:6-21)
43. That Ringing in Your Ears (19:1-5)
44. Experiencing, and Overcoming, Emotions in Ministry (19-20)
45. Surrender or Die (21)
46. The Lord Our Righteousness (22:11-23:6)
47. The Danger of Presuming to Speak for God (23:30-34)
48. Very Naughty Figs (24:1-7)
49. RIsing Early (25:3-15)
50. The Prophet’s Reprieve (26)
51. The Yoke’s on You! (27)
52. The Woke Bloke Who Broke the Yoke (28)
53. Don’t be Duped or Deceived by the Diviners and Dreamers (29)
54. The Days Will Come (30)
55. The Addict (His Characteristics) (30:15-17)
56. Reunion, Restoration, Regeneration, Reconciliation, and Rejoicing (31)
57. Sovereign Realty (32)
58. Answering the Call (33)
59. Fake Loyalty vs. Real Loyalty (34-35)
60. Going Under the Knife (36)
61. The Fireproof Truth (36-37)
62. Stuck in the Mud (38)
63. A Final and Unforgettable Sight (39:4-8)
64. Dissembling Hearts (40-42)
65. Idolatrous Wife, Unhappy Life (43-44)
66. God Hurts Those Who Help Themselves (45-49)
67. The Last but Not the Least – Part 3 (46:20-21)
68. Camels as Booty (49:32)
69. A Reminder of Recompense (50-51)
70. The Consequences of Evil (52)

*most-viewed post in category

Revolting Hearts

June 18, 2020 at 9:49 am | Posted in Jeremiah | 1 Comment
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I will get me unto the great men, and will speak unto them; for they have known the way of the Lord, and the judgment of their God: but these have altogether broken the yoke, and burst the bonds.

Jeremiah 5:5

If oxen are so stubborn, so rebellious, as to break out of their yoke, what sort of “freedom” will they find?

Wherefore a lion out of the forest shall slay them, and a wolf of the evenings shall spoil them, a leopard shall watch over their cities: every one that goeth out thence shall be torn in pieces: because their transgressions are many, and their backslidings are increased.

Jeremiah 5:6

It’s not a safe place out there for those who have “broken free” of God. Like a domesticated parakeet set free from its cage, we won’t survive on our own. Lions and wolves (both images for Satan and his followers), and leopards (a reference to our spotted sinful flesh) are just lying in wait to rip us to shreds.

Fear ye not me? saith the LORD: will ye not tremble at my presence, which have placed the sand for the bound of the sea by a perpetual decree, that it cannot pass it: and though the waves thereof toss themselves, yet can they not prevail; though they roar, yet can they not pass over it?

Jeremiah 5:22

They were not afraid of the Lord, despite the fact that He is the One Who can order the chaos and destruction of nature and the elements.

But this people hath a revolting and a rebellious heart; they are revolted and gone.

Jeremiah 5:23

We say that someone is “revolting” when they do something that shocks or sickens us, and I don’t think the pun is intended here, but in fact these people had revolting hearts in both senses of the word. They were rebelliously trying to get loose from their rightful authority, and were treasonously plotting and scheming to take over the throne for themselves with violence.

Neither say they in their heart, Let us now fear the LORD our God, that giveth rain, both the former and the latter, in his season: he reserveth unto us the appointed weeks of the harvest.

Jeremiah 5:24

Note the blatant and callous ingratitude after all the Lord had done for them.

Your iniquities have turned away these things, and your sins have withholden good things from you.

Jeremiah 5:25

How many times have our own wickedness and our sins taken away the good things – the blessings – that God wants to give us?

Heart Conditions: Cut and Clean, or Corrupted and Conquered

June 8, 2020 at 1:01 pm | Posted in Jeremiah | 2 Comments
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Jeremiah 4 deals with the question of what we would expect to see in the lives of people who are truly repentant. Jeremiah attacked their hearts and he got extreme about it.

Circumcise yourselves to the LORD, and take away the foreskins of your heart, ye men of Judah and inhabitants of Jerusalem: lest my fury come forth like fire, and burn that none can quench it, because of the evil of your doings.

Jeremiah 4:4

These were men who were all circumcised outwardly, but God told them to go deeper. Don’t just do the external. Make the external symbolic of the internal reality. Cut your heart away from its own excess. Cut your heart off from outside sinful, worldly influences, and separate yourself unto the Lord. The way to escape real wrath is to acknowledge and separate from real evil – the evil of your “doings.” God is not fooled by our “sayings.” Unless we have a cut heart, we will wind up with a conquered heart.

For the people of Judah, they would be literally conquered by their enemies. For you and I, we will be conquered by whatever we love more than God. Our idols may be vanity when it comes to real deliverance, but they can really turn on us viciously once we have totally given ourselves over to them.

And it shall come to pass at that day, saith the LORD, that the heart of the king shall perish, and the heart of the princes; and the priests shall be astonished, and the prophets shall wonder.

Jeremiah 4:9

A heart conquered by God will be set free to flourish and will be given new life. A heart conquered by vanity shall perish: a cut heart or a conquered heart.

The other expectation of someone who is truly repentant is a desire to have a clean heart.

O Jerusalem, wash thine heart from wickedness, that thou mayest be saved. How long shall thy vain thoughts lodge within thee?

Jeremiah 4:14

Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ also loved the church, and gave himself for it; That he might sanctify and cleanse it with the washing of water by the word,

Ephesians 5:25-26

The word of God is a cleansing agent for the heart. Josiah had found the scroll of the Law of God in the Temple, and had instituted some reforms, but, as we’ve seen, outward reforms can sometimes mask inward hypocrisy. It’s good to read the Word of God. It’s better to memorize it. It’s even better to study it. But it has to get past the ears and the surface of the brain, and down into the heart where the real scrubbing needs to occur. Our hearts are not just a little dusty. They are inwardly filthyapart from Christ.

As keepers of a field, are they against her round about; because she hath been rebellious against me, saith the LORD.

Jeremiah 4:17

The people had rebelled against God – very intentionally, and very personally.

Thy way and thy doings have procured these things unto thee; this is thy wickedness, because it is bitter, because it reacheth unto thine heart.

Jeremiah 4:18

They had done this to themselves. It was wickedness. And it had corrupted their hearts.

My bowels, my bowels! I am pained at my very heart; my heart maketh a noise in me; I cannot hold my peace, because thou hast heard, O my soul, the sound of the trumpet, the alarm of war.

Jeremiah 4:19

Sin is not going to be painless. It can hurt us in the conviction, or it can hurt us in the consequences. Jeremiah himself, in a foreshadowing of Christ, felt empathetically the pain which the figuratively corrupt heart inflicts on the literal heart. His internal organs hurt. His heart actually hurt. What kind of noise does a heart make? Thumping! The end was not just near, it was here. Will we have cut hearts? It might hurt, but not as much as a conquered heart. Will we have cleansed hearts? Again, it might hurt, but not as much as the attack, pain, and failure of a corrupted heart.

The Only Cure for Evil Hearts

May 26, 2020 at 2:28 pm | Posted in Jeremiah | 1 Comment
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Turn, O backsliding children, saith the LORD; for I am married unto you: and I will take you one of a city, and two of a family, and I will bring you to Zion:

Jeremiah 3:14

As a grammatical matter, the remedy for backsliding sounds like it would be “front-sliding.” If you’ve slid back, the opposite would be to slide forward, but, no, the Lord had Jeremiah tell the people that the antithesis to backsliding is “turning.” This referred to a turning of the heart. The Lord wants our hearts to be in tune with His heart, and He even is willing to give us – because we are wayward, helpless, even dumb, sheepshepherds (pastors).

And I will give you pastors according to mine heart, which shall feed you with knowledge and understanding.

Jeremiah 3:15

If they would turn their hearts, He would feed their hearts with what dumb sheep’s hearts need: not strength, not enthusiasm, not prizes, not just a temporary deliverance, but knowledge (Bible truth) and understanding (how to apply that truth). We don’t just need Christian friends. We don’t need a cleaner environment. We don’t need a better culture. We don’t need someone who seems to have his act together to imitate. Human beings need new HEARTS. Why? Because our hearts are sick? Broken? Mixed up? Not functioning properly? No, it’s even worse than that. Jeremiah was initiating a heart ATTACK:

At that time they shall call Jerusalem the throne of the LORD; and all the nations shall be gathered unto it, to the name of the LORD, to Jerusalem: neither shall they walk any more after the imagination of their evil heart.

Jeremiah 3:17

The root cause of their problems was their EVIL hearts. Our evil hearts don’t just get lead astray by evil influences. No, they IMAGINE evil. They produce their own, fresh evil. Come to grips with this: Apart from Christ your heart is like an evil factory, producing evil 24/7.

Return, ye backsliding children, and I will heal your backslidings. Behold, we come unto thee; for thou art the LORD our God.

Jeremiah 3:22

This is a call and response. The call comes first, but how can an evil heart even respond the right way? Because the Caller – and the Caller ONLY – produces that response.

Truly in vain is salvation hoped for from the hills, and from the multitude of mountains: truly in the LORD our God is the salvation of Israel.

Jeremiah 3:23

Salvation is IN Him. It’s in Him from start to finish. We don’t find it on the hills of vanity (family, friends, job) or on the mountains of vanity (government, church, influence). We find it in God. He doesn’t just show us salvation, or tell us the way to salvation. He IS salvation.

Turning, Not Burning

May 13, 2020 at 10:18 am | Posted in Jeremiah | 3 Comments
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They say, If a man put away his wife, and she go from him, and become another man’s, shall he return unto her again? shall not that land be greatly polluted? but thou hast played the harlot with many lovers; yet return again to me, saith the LORD.

Jeremiah 3:1

God never condoned divorce, but in Deuteronomy 24:1-4 He allowed Moses to regulate its practice among the people, and one of rules was that if a divorce did happen, the husband was not allowed to take back the wife again. He was not allowed to remarry the same woman. In Jeremiah 3:1 God used the word “return,” which is one of the key words in Chapter 3, along with the words REturn and backsliding, to describe the how God viewed the people’s attitude.

It was as if God’s wife had run off – and not just for another man – but to pursue vain physical relations with MANY lovers. But He is God, after all; He delights in forgiveness. Why would He balk at welcoming back His repentant bride? All Jeremiah had to do to answer this question was to wave his arm up at the surrounding groves on the hills.

Lift up thine eyes unto the high places, and see where thou hast not been lien with. In the ways hast thou sat for them, as the Arabian in the wilderness; and thou hast polluted the land with thy whoredoms and with thy wickedness.

Jeremiah 3:2

Jeremiah was demonstrating the difference between outward repentance (which is really not repentance at all) and true repentance, which starts in the heart and results – invariably – in outward evidence of changed ways and hatred of the idolatry that led the sinner astray in the first place.

This is a good test of repentance and true faith toward God: Do we now hate what we – in our sin and idolatry – used to love? Or are we still trying make some sort of compromise or trying to negotiate with God (or our own hearts)? False repentance is more offensive to God than no repentance.

Therefore the showers have been withholden, and there hath been no latter rain; and thou hadst a whore’s forehead, thou refusedst to be ashamed.

Jeremiah 3:3

Because of the historical period in which it was translated and because of the poetic and dramatic brilliance of some of its language, various scholars have from time to time argued that Shakespeare was secretly in charge of the English translation of the Bible that we know as the King James Version. I believe that this theory, while certainly intriguing, has been pretty well debunked. However, for those familiar with Shakespeare’s ability to turn a phrase, I will admit that there are times when certain terms do jump out with a certain Shakespearean flavor. Jeremiah 3:3 is one such example. When Jeremiah accused the nation of Judah of brazenly calling upon God without showing any shame over their ongoing idolatry, he said that they had a “whore’s forehead.” Shakespeare, who had a penchant for having his characters use insults like “a toad’s liver” or “an eel’s skin,” would have most likely approved.

People in Jeremiah’s day called upon Yahweh when it wouldn’t rain – as a last resort – but they didn’t really “turn” back to Him. True repentance is always a 180 degree turn. The Deuteronomic Covenant warned against turning to the left or the right when it came to strictly obeying God’s commands.

The LORD said also unto me in the days of Josiah the king, Hast thou seen that which backsliding Israel hath done? she is gone up upon every high mountain and under every green tree, and there hath played the harlot. And I said after she had done all these things, Turn thou unto me. But she returned not. And her treacherous sister Judah saw it.

Jeremiah 3:6-7

Israel’s sin and idolatry was certainly wicked, there was no disputing that, but the difference was that Judah had the well-known and obvious example of what happened to Israel, and what happened when she refused to repent – to “turn.”

And I saw, when for all the causes whereby backsliding Israel committed adultery I had put her away, and given her a bill of divorce; yet her treacherous sister Judah feared not, but went and played the harlot also. And it came to pass through the lightness of her whoredom, that she defiled the land, and committed adultery with stones and with stocks.

Jeremiah 3:8-9

This reminds us of the reference to the people calling sticks and stones their father in Chapter 2. God made sticks and stones: they could be used to glorify him or they could be used to defile the land. I wonder how many of our luxurious possessions today were given to us to be used for God’s glory, but are instead being used by us to defile the land. Sticks and stones could be used for building, for warfare, for altars for family worship, for all manner of Godly endeavours, but the people were using them for places to sacrifice their livestock and their children to false gods, and to commit fornication and idolatry. The Book of Jeremiah shouldn’t be taught as one long spiritual beatdown, but we do need to make application, and remember to use things and to love people, not vice versa. We wouldn’t intentionally worship our sectional sofa or our family pet, but if we’re not using those possessions to love and serve God and others, we will love and worship the possessions themselves by default.

And yet for all this her treacherous sister Judah hath not turned unto me with her whole heart, but feignedly, saith the LORD.

Jeremiah 3:10 (emphasis added)

Feignedly means fake – things done with “dissimulation” like in Romans 12. Jeremiah 3:10 is the first time that the word “heart” appears in the Book of Jeremiah. I believe that the theme of the “heart” is a a key – possibly THE key – to really understanding the whole book, and when Jeremiah attacked the hearts of the people here, he specifically addressed two problems:
1. A divided heart
2. A fake heart

“Turning” without really turning is not turning, and spiritually turning with half a heart is not really turning either. I don’t think feelings should be our guide for progressing or regressing in the Christian life, but we do need to frequently – maybe constantly – be guarding our hearts, examining our hearts, asking God to unify our hearts, and preaching the Gospel to our hearts. This would be a much more Biblical approach than asking God to “set our hearts on fire.”

And the LORD said unto me, The backsliding Israel hath justified herself more than treacherous Judah.

Jeremiah 3:11

Backsliding seems to imply “moving away from,” without “turning away from,” and this is another description of what angers and grieves God: paying homage to Him in appearance only – and even with our words and our posture – while slyly “walking away” from Him and walking after vanity.

How Could We Forget?

April 27, 2020 at 1:55 pm | Posted in Jeremiah | 2 Comments
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O generation, see ye the word of the LORD. Have I been a wilderness unto Israel? a land of darkness? wherefore say my people, We are lords; we will come no more unto thee?

Jeremiah 2:31

God had not hidden the fact from them, that in the past, when evil had befallen His people – from droughts, plagues, other nations – it was because He was chastening them. He was not obscuring His will from them in darkness.

Surely the Lord GOD will do nothing, but he revealeth his secret unto his servants the prophets.

Amos 3:7

This principle had been announced by Amos much earlier than Jeremiah, so how could the people believe they didn’t need the Lord, as if to say, “We got this on our own.”? It seems incredible at first blush, but do we not do the same thing? How often must God – in His mercy (although we tend to classify it as His anger or grief) – send problems and trials into our lives just to get us to remember that we need Him! I don’t want to be guilty of trying to manipulate a favorable providence from the Lord, but I wonder how much heartache I could save myself by depending upon Him just as much when things are going well as when they’re going terribly.

Can a maid forget her ornaments, or a bride her attire? yet my people have forgotten me days without number.

Jeremiah 2:32

A “maid” here is not a lady who cleans the house; it means a young bride. Would a young bride forget her ornaments or her jewelry? Not likely! What about her “attire” – her wedding dress! No way. What about forgetting the man she’s marrying! Even the most self-absorbed shallow bridezilla needs a groom! But the people who make up God’s Church? The people He saved from sin and from hell – we can forget Him? The One who gives us every breath we breathe? The One who gives us food and water every day? The One who puts shelter over our heads and clothes on our backs? We forget Him? And not just for a moment, but “days without number” – too many to count!

It is utter foolishness to try to have a divided loyalty when it comes to worshiping the True God and any sort of false god at all. The people had tried this going all the way back to the time of Aaron’s golden calf. It’s called syncretism, and in some sense it may be worse than just forsaking God altogether. He is never fooled by it, and it is not “class B” misdemeanor idolatry. It is class A felony idolatry punishable by humiliation and death.

Idolaters in Heat

April 15, 2020 at 2:01 pm | Posted in Jeremiah | 2 Comments
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Jeremiah went from a general reading of the complaint by God against His people to a more specific zeroing-in on the details of their crimes.

For my people have committed two evils; they have forsaken me the fountain of living waters, and hewed them out cisterns, broken cisterns, that can hold no water.

Jeremiah 2:13

In those days, in that area, it was a great blessing to have a spring of fresh water on your personal property, or even nearby. Not everyone did. But, because it was a mountainous region, rainwater could be captured on the sides of mountains or near the bottom by finding, or carving out, a bowl-shaped space, so that when water ran down the mountain after a heavy rain, it would collect in “cisterns.” People would coat these cisterns with lime to try to prevent them from cracking and leaking, but it was a pretty futile task because of the erosive nature of water and the weather extremes in that area. These cisterns were poor substitutes for fountains or springs of fresh water.

And now what hast thou to do in the way of Egypt, to drink the waters of Sihor? or what hast thou to do in the way of Assyria, to drink the waters of the river? Thine own wickedness shall correct thee, and thy backslidings shall reprove thee: know therefore and see that it is an evil thing and bitter, that thou hast forsaken the LORD thy God, and that my fear is not in thee, saith the Lord GOD of hosts. For of old time I have broken thy yoke, and burst thy bands; and thou saidst, I will not transgress; when upon every high hill and under every green tree thou wanderest, playing the harlot.

Jeremiah 2:18-20

Here, some of the language gets very graphic when God accuses the people of spiritual harlotry (prostitution) or adultery. This will be a very common motif in Jeremiah. So much of their idolatry was tied to sexual sin that the descriptions were very pointed. It was very easy to draw a parallel between the way a promiscuous person would act, and the way that idolators who had forsaken the true God acted.

How canst thou say, I am not polluted, I have not gone after Baalim? see thy way in the valley, know what thou hast done: thou art a swift dromedary traversing her ways; A wild ass used to the wilderness, that snuffeth up the wind at her pleasure; in her occasion who can turn her away? all they that seek her will not weary themselves; in her month they shall find her.

Jeremiah 2:23-24

Don’t Baal on God

April 3, 2020 at 9:04 am | Posted in Jeremiah | 4 Comments
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Thus saith the LORD, What iniquity have your fathers found in me, that they are gone far from me, and have walked after vanity, and are become vain?

Jeremiah 2:5

Do you know someone who used to attend church faithfully, but doesn’t anymore? What are some of the reasons that you’ve heard as to why they walked away from church? Perhaps their feelings were hurt by the real or perceived bad behavior of a church member or leader. Perhaps they identified hypocrisy in the church. Maybe they felt like they “just weren’t getting anything out of it.” Maybe they got involved in other activities and didn’t have time. It could be that their underlying motivation for coming to church was that they believed it was good for their children, but then, one day, their kids got too old for youth group.

We tend to give people a pass on these issues: “Well, they got of church, but that doesn’t mean they left God.” The Bible sure doesn’t look at it that way. Jeremiah 2:5 is a scalding rebuke, and it’s in the form of a rhetorical question because no one could actually give a satisfactory answer to the question, “What iniquity did your fathers ever find in God Himself?” And, by extension, “What iniquity can YOU claim to have found in Him?”

Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and cometh down from the Father of lights, with whom is no variableness, neither shadow of turning.

James 1:17

There are no imperfections in God’s character, in His will, or in His Word, and there is no “dark side” to God’s nature. He is immutable, so He does not turn from evil, because He never has and never could or can turn TO evil. It is logically impossible for God to sin. Therefore, while you might find a universe of faults with any and every church member, pastor, teacher, or leader you encounter, God has demolished this is a reason for walking away from HIM – and therefore from walking away from His covenant people.

The idea in the use of the term “walking” is not really physical footsteps; it is the idea of “following after” someone or something, the way Jesus recruited disciples by saying “Follow Me.” He didn’t mean just going to the same location He was going to in Judea (although in His earthly ministry that would have been part of it). He meant following His teaching and example – obeying Him and worshiping Him with attention and emulation.

God had Jeremiah tell the leaders in Jerusalem that they and their fathers (their ancestors) had a long history of “following” – of walking after – “vanity,” a play on the Hebrew word for “vain” (habal) and the similar sounding word for the false god Baal (bahal). In other words, they “Baaled (bailed) on God,” who HAD helped them, and was the the only one who COULD help them, because the other god is not even real – he’s vanity. He’s emptiness masquerading as fullness.

Jesus, during His earthly ministry, was always “full,” because His “meat” was to do the will of His Father – the will of God.

In the mean while his disciples prayed him, saying, Master, eat. But he said unto them, I have meat to eat that ye know not of. Therefore said the disciples one to another, Hath any man brought him ought to eat? Jesus saith unto them, My meat is to do the will of him that sent me, and to finish his work.

John 4:31-34

The surest way to become empty is to follow after emptiness. If we become silly, vain, ineffective, then we will only have ourselves to blame, because God Himself is an endless source of satisfaction, purpose, joy, meaning, and fulfillment in this life and the next.

Camels as Booty

April 1, 2020 at 9:39 am | Posted in Jeremiah | 2 Comments
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Question: We studied Jeremiah 49 yesterday in my Sunday School class, and I think I’m on to something in Jeremiah 49:32: “And their camels shall be a booty, and the multitude of their cattle a spoil: and I will scatter into all winds them that are in the utmost corners; and I will bring their calamity from all sides thereof, saith the LORD.” It says their camels shall be a booty. I know the word used in the Bible for a donkey is a** (Genesis 22:5), and sometimes people use that same word for “booty.” So I think Jeremiah was telling them that their camels would behave like donkeys – like they would be dumb or stubborn or whatever. Tell me if I’m right.

Answer: I follow your logic, and I like you’re enthusiasm, but I think you’re seeing the word “booty” anachronistically. It’s true that we do sometimes use the word “booty” for someone’s backside in modern times, for instance, when we tell our kids not to “shake their booties” when they are doing their praise motions, but it wasn’t used that way when the King James translators were translating the Hebrew text into English. For them, “booty” meant material possessions that were seized and stolen after a conquering enemy vanquished an opposing nation or tribe. You might recall hearing cartoon pirates saying, “Aaargh, me booty!” when they realize their ship has been raided, and that is closer to the meaning of the word when it’s used in the Bible.

So, I can’t really go along with your interpretation, although I’ll give you points for effort and cleverness. And, while we’re on that verse, I’ll take the opportunity to point out that many of Jeremiah’s oracles were in the form of poetry, rather than strict prose, which we can note in this verse by looking at the parallelism.

“their camels shall be a booty”
“their cattle [shall be] a spoil”

You can see the way these two thoughts parallel each other and explain the same concept with poetic variation. Their “camels” (the animals used to carry things) would be “booty” (stolen and used by the enemy), and their “cattle” (the animals used for food and milk) would be “a spoil” (taken away and possibly killed just for spite). God often used Jeremiah to paint very vivid and evocative images in his prophecies.

Loud and Clear

March 25, 2020 at 11:10 am | Posted in Jeremiah | 2 Comments
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In Chapter One, Jeremiah was called and commissioned by God as a prophet to the kingdom of Judah. He was warned that this would not be a pleasant task, but he was also encouraged by the dual promise of God’s Word and His presence. We, too, have these same promises – in some ways to a greater extent: not just periodic revelations and instructions, but the full Book. And not just an intellectual and faith-based experience of God’s presence, but the constant in-dwelling of the Holy Spirit.

We DO have those promises and assurances, but we DO NOT have the promise that our attempts to speak “prophetically” will be well-received, nor that they might not put us in danger. Just like Jeremiah, we should expect skepticism, anger, rejection, struggle, and even battle.

Thou therefore gird up thy loins, and arise, and speak unto them all that I command thee: be not dismayed at their faces, lest I confound thee before them.

Jeremiah 1:17

Girding up the loins was what men in Bible times did when things were about to get real: for running or fighting or working.

For, behold, I have made thee this day a defenced city, and an iron pillar, and brasen walls against the whole land, against the kings of Judah, against the princes thereof, against the priests thereof, and against the people of the land.

Jeremiah 1:18

A defenced city is a place of protection, but the walls do get battered.

And they shall fight against thee; but they shall not prevail against thee; for I am with thee, saith the LORD, to deliver thee.

Jeremiah 1:19

After giving Jeremiah the visions or illustrations of the urgency of his mission (God’s judgment was right at hand), He told him him to go right to the “heart” of the problem.

Moreover the word of the LORD came to me, saying, Go and cry in the ears of Jerusalem, saying, Thus saith the LORD; I remember thee, the kindness of thy youth, the love of thine espousals, when thou wentest after me in the wilderness, in a land that was not sown.

Jeremiah 2:1-2

Jerusalem was the capital of Judah, and the geographical capital of God’s Kingdom on earth. There was no “time in the minors” for Jeremiah; he was sent straight to the big leagues. Nor was there any “spying out” period; no “getting the lay of the land.” The command to “cry in the ears” was a command to get right in their faces, to be loud and bold. We think of proximity to the ear as an occasion for whispering, but Jeremiah was told to YELL right in their ears, and he started by delivering the preamble to a legal declaration by God against the people and the nation. This was like an indictment or the service of a lawsuit. It began with the history of the unfaithfulness of God’s covenant people.

Israel was holiness unto the Lord, and the firstfruits of his increase: all that devour him shall offend; evil shall come upon them, saith the Lord. Hear ye the word of the Lord, O house of Jacob, and all the families of the house of Israel: Thus saith the Lord, What iniquity have your fathers found in me, that they are gone far from me, and have walked after vanity, and are become vain?

Jeremiah 2:3-5

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