When God’s Patience Dries Up

January 2, 2019 at 3:12 pm | Posted in Jeremiah | 6 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

The Dirty Girdle

December 12, 2018 at 12:00 pm | Posted in Jeremiah, parables | 3 Comments
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Jeremiah 13 contains two illustrated sermons – or parables – which God had Jeremiah act out. This was unusual behavior compared to the simple preaching and prophesying done by prophets most of the time in the Old Testament, but it was not unusual in the sense of being novel for both minor and major prophets. Ezekiel was especially known for his “action” sermons, doing things like shaving his beard and dividing the whiskers into thirds, building a little fort and tearing it down, and once lying on the ground, and moaning and groaning in pretend agony. Other examples include Isaiah preaching without his clothes and Hosea marrying a prostitute. So, what Jeremiah does here is strange, but not at all without precedent for an Old Testament prophet

Thus saith the LORD unto me, Go and get thee a linen girdle, and put it upon thy loins, and put it not in water.

Jeremiah 13:1

This was a private revelation given to Jeremiah. He was not told by God to share this message with the people. The “girdle” was probably not what comes to mind when we think of a girdle today. It’s not as if Jeremiah put on a pair of “man-Spanx” or anything like that. This would have been more like what we think of as a waist apron. Jeremiah, once on a career path to being a priest before his prophetic call, knew the significance of the “girdle” being linen. Many Jewish men wore aprons for wiping their hands on, etc., and probably to aid in girding up their loins for work or fast travel, but the linen was an unmistakable reference to the Levitical priesthood.

So I got a girdle according to the word of the LORD, and put it on my loins.

Jeremiah 13:2

Notice what’s missing between Verses 1 and 2: any mention of Jeremiah asking the Lord why he needed to do this, or of the Lord giving any explanation. If only we could all learn to obey the Word of the Lord that way – even when we have no idea “why.”

The most unusual thing about the girdle was that it could not touch water; it could not be washed. The nation of Judah was God’s priestly apron, in a sense. He “wore” it for His own glory, the way a priest would wear a linen girdle to be recognized as a priest, consecrated to God. The priests were also supposed to “serve” Him – to be used by Him to do His “work” in the world. God’s people, although they had been delivered “through” the Red Sea, had not gotten wet. Tragically, though, they had not been “spiritually washed,” either. They came out of Egypt dirty, and when God offered them clean garments of righteousness, their defiled hearts quickly made these dirty, too.

And the word of the LORD came unto me the second time, saying, Take the girdle that thou hast got, which is upon thy loins, and arise, go to Euphrates, and hide it there in a hole of the rock.

Jeremiah 13:3-4

This was a 250-350 mile trip each way, so possibly 700 miles round trip, to the Euphrates, not coincidentally the river associated with Babylon – the place where the enemy of Judah would come from and claim a victory over them because they had forsaken their God, their Cleanser and Protector.

So I went, and hid it by Euphrates, as the LORD commanded me. And it came to pass after many days, that the LORD said unto me, Arise, go to Euphrates, and take the girdle from thence, which I commanded thee to hide there.

Jeremiah 13:5-6

Jeremiah was required to repeat the long trip to retrieve this girdle that had been lying buried in the muck and moldly earth near the river, now completely useless for its originally-intended purpose.

Then I went to Euphrates, and digged, and took the girdle from the place where I had hid it: and, behold, the girdle was marred, it was profitable for nothing.

Jeremiah 13:7

Rather than allowing God to carry their sins away and exchange them for His gift of cleansing righteousness, they had buried their identification with God far from Him, among filthy pagans who worshiped filthy false gods which had no power to cleanse, protect, or restore. Why had they done this?

Then the word of the LORD came unto me, saying, Thus saith the LORD, After this manner will I mar the pride of Judah, and the great pride of Jerusalem.

Jeremiah 13:8-9

They had done this because of pride. I know of nothing in the Bible which God opposes more than pride.

This evil people, which refuse to hear my words, which walk in the imagination of their heart, and walk after other gods, to serve them, and to worship them, shall even be as this girdle, which is good for nothing. For as the girdle cleaveth to the loins of a man, so have I caused to cleave unto me the whole house of Israel and the whole house of Judah, saith the LORD; that they might be unto me for a people, and for a name, and for a praise, and for a glory: but they would not hear.

Jeremiah 13:10-11

God calls you to cleave to Him – to STAY close – as close as underwear to the body, but, unlike underwear, to receive honor that will redound to HIS (not our) glory.

Lift up Your Eyes

July 6, 2017 at 1:14 pm | Posted in Biblical Eyesight, Jeremiah | 9 Comments
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It is easy for us to get into the habit of using our eyes – even our spiritual eyes – to focus only on the things in our immediate surroundings, or things lying directly in our paths, and to forget to look at the big picture. An even worse habit, though, is to become so inwardly focused that we see ourselves as the center of the universe, and begin to think that everything and everyone with whom we come into contact is there for our use, amusement, or service.

The sovereign Lord, however, the Designer of our eyes, our surroundings, and our circumstances, wants us to be on the lookout not only for what affects us personally, but for what is going on outside our immediate sphere of influence, and especially for what HE is doing for His Own Glory and the accomplishment of His Divine purposes.

In the days of the prophet Jeremiah, God’s people had become so self-centered, and so distracted by idols and worldly (and sinful!) pursuits, that, by the time God’s judgment had come into view, it was too late – and even then they had to be shaken by God’s specific instruction to look up and see it!

Lift up your eyes, and behold them that come from the north: where is the flock that was given thee, thy beautiful flock?

Jeremiah 13:20

When our eyes become satisfied with mundane and frivolous things – things that pale in comparison with the great and beautiful things that God originally designed them to behold and rejoice over – then we will find ourselves depressed and downcast. For the flock of God in Jeremiah’s day, judgment came via invaders from the north. By the time they became visible it was too late. In our day, we must keep our focus on Jesus, His Word, His people, and His work, so that the lifting up of our eyes will bring visions of victory rather than defeat, destruction, and captivity.

Light Measures Time

November 10, 2011 at 1:28 pm | Posted in Biblical Light, Jeremiah, John, Salvation | 2 Comments
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We live in a day and age of clocks. From our wristwatches to our cell phones to our bedside wake-up alarms to our on-screen television programming guides to our vehicle radios to the flashing signs in front of banks and churches, everywhere we go, we are reminded of the time. However, even without mechanical timepieces, we would still have a pretty good idea that the day is over when the light fades. We count weeks and months and years by how many times the sun has risen and set. Therefore, when it comes to spiritual reality, God has made light to behave in such a way as to remind us that our time and opportunities in this world are coming to an end.

Then Jesus said unto them, Yet a little while is the light with you. Walk while ye have the light, lest darkness come upon you: for he that walketh in darkness knoweth not whither he goeth. While ye have light, believe in the light, that ye may be the children of light. These things spake Jesus, and departed, and did hide himself from them.

John 12:35-36

In an attempt to defeat the darkness which ends each and every day of our lives we have come up with many ways to “light up the night.” However, batteries in a flashlight will run down eventually. The wax which feeds the wick of a candle will burn down in time. Even long-lasting light bulbs and tubes of fluorescent neon are not eternal. There is only one Light which shall shine forevermore.

That was the true Light, which lighteth every man that cometh into the world.

John 1:9

Jesus, the Light of this world, has already finished the work of redemption, and He has made it available to unbelievers for a limited time only. Will you receive the Light which shall give you comfort, peace, beauty, and joy in the world to come? Or will you cling to the temporary false light of the here-and-now, which will one day burn out, leaving you in an eternal darkness from which there shall be no escape?

Hear ye, and give ear; be not proud: for the LORD hath spoken. Give glory to the LORD your God, before he cause darkness, and before your feet stumble upon the dark mountains, and, while ye look for light, he turn it into the shadow of death, and make it gross darkness.

Jeremiah 13:15-16

A Leopard Can’t Change His Spots

October 4, 2010 at 11:39 am | Posted in Common Expressions, Jeremiah | 9 Comments
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Can the Ethiopian change his skin, or the leopard his spots? then may ye also do good, that are accustomed to do evil.

Jeremiah 13:23

The Bible uses the Ethiopian in this verse because Ethiopians were known to have dark skin. The point seems to be that those who are long accustomed to sin are going to find it impossible to break the practice. That is because, like the color of our skin, or like a leopard’s spots, it is part of our nature. We can’t, by force of will, change our skin color any more than a leopard can change his spots. We can’t do it, but Someone else can change our nature.

Ethiopians are mentioned a few times in the Old Testament, but there is one particularly well known Ethiopian in the New Testament. At the end of Acts Chapter 8 the Bible gives us the historical account of the ministry of Philip. He encountered an Ethiopian servant, riding in a fancy chariot, reading aloud. Philip asked him, “Do you understand what you’re reading?” He was reading what we refer to as Isaiah Chapter 53. The Ethiopian had already “opened” the Word of God. Philip could get right to the alleging and reasoning and sharing.

Then Philip opened his mouth, and began at the same scripture, and preached unto him Jesus.

Acts 8:35

Philip opened his mouth. The Lord Jesus, as referenced in Isaiah 53:7, kept His mouth closed. Part of the reason that He kept His mouth closed was to empower us to open ours. Philip, his tongue surrendered to the Holy Ghost, opened his mouth, but he did not start to entertain the Ethiopian with songs. He opened his mouth, but he did not simply begin to pray aloud for the Ethiopian. He opened his mouth, but He did not perform a drama or a skit. He opened his mouth, but he did not invite the Ethiopian out for a cup of coffee. He opened his mouth, but he did not politely inquire as to how the Ethiopian’s job was going these days. No, Philip opened his mouth and preached. And what did he preach? Ten easy steps for eunuchs to regain their self-esteem? How to speak forth the promises of God every day for three months in order to get out of debt? No, he preached Jesus!

When the Ethiopian saw some water, he said, “Hey there’s some water, what’s stopping me from just getting down right here and being baptized?” Just like the leopard who can’t change his spots or the person who can’t change his nature by washing in water, baptism can’t change our sin nature. But something else can. What can wash away our sins? Nothing but the blood of Jesus.

Would you be whiter, much whiter than snow?
There’s power in the blood, power in the blood;
Sin stains are lost in its life giving flow.
There’s wonderful power in the blood.

“There Is Power in the Blood,” Lewis E. Jones

“Well,” says the weary wife of a wayward husband or the discouraged parent of a prodigal child, “I sure would like to see my loved one quit running the roads and settle down, but you can’t teach an old dog new tricks, or a leopard can’t change its spots.” Don’t give up! The Bible says a leopard can’t change its own spots, but the blood of Jesus can wash them away.

If you feel discouraged over the long practice of a favorite pet sin, remember: The Word of God is a cleansing agent. Sin will keep you from the Bible, or the Bible will keep you from sin.

Holiness is not the way to salvation. Salvation is the way to holiness.


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