Our God Is A Drawsome God (Jeremiah 31)

A group of kids aged four through eight were asked the question, “What does love mean to you?”  Here are three of their answers.

“Love is when a girl puts on perfume and a boy puts on shaving cologne and they go out and smell each other.”
“Love is when you go out to eat and give somebody most of your french fries without making them give you any of theirs.”
“I let my big sister pick on me because my mom says she only picks on me because she loves me.  So I pick on my baby sister because I love her.”

In the classic (but awful movie), Love Story, love meant “never having to say you’re sorry.”  Paul McCartney sang, “in the end the love you take is equal to the love you make.”

It’s clear “love” is hard to define and means different things to different people.

God says in our text, “I have loved you with an everlasting love” (v3).  If human love is hard to define and means different things to different people, it stands to reason it would be even harder to grasp God’s love and harder still to grasp “everlasting” love.

God wants us to grasp His everlasting love and He gives us enough of an illustration in His dealings with Israel so that we can.

I’ll organize my thoughts around two points: #1 Since God’s Love For You Is Everlasting He’s Determined To Draw & Keep On Drawing You To Himself, and #2 Since God’s Love For You Is Everlasting He Desires To Fill & Keep On Filling You With Himself.

#1    Since God’s Love For You Is Everlasting
    He’s Determined To Draw & Keep Drawing You To Himself

We can look back at all God’s dealings with His people, the Jews, and see His drawing them.  No matter what they did, no matter how far they strayed, He kept on drawing them to Himself.  This “drawing” to Himself is the very heart of “everlasting love.”

Jeremiah 31:1    “At the same time,” says the LORD, “I will be the God of all the families of Israel, and they shall be My people.”
Jeremiah 31:2    Thus says the LORD: “The people who survived the sword Found grace in the wilderness Israel, when I went to give him rest.”

The Lord could be talking about the original Exodus of Israel from Egypt but most likely theses verses are about the northern kingdom of Israel which had already been taken captive by the Assyrians a hundred years prior.  Some “survived the sword [and] found grace in the wilderness” as The Lord gave them “rest.”

Jeremiah 31:3    The LORD has appeared of old to me, saying: “Yes, I have loved you with an everlasting love; Therefore with lovingkindness I have drawn you.

“Of old” is a way of saying that God’s nature doesn’t change from age to age.  Love – everlasting love – is how He relates to the human race.

What kind of love lets Israel be overrun by the Assyrians?  God saw that they needed to be disciplined or all of them would be lost.  They had abandoned Him.  He would “draw” them back to Himself with “lovingkindness.”  Here “lovingkindness” means both patience and mercy.   God was patient as He waited for Israel to repent.  He was merciful to step in and discipline all of them before it was too late to save any of them.

Listen as God describes the effect of His discipline to ultimately draw Israel back to the land and to blessing.

Jeremiah 31:4    Again I will build you, and you shall be rebuilt, O virgin of Israel! You shall again be adorned with your tambourines, And shall go forth in the dances of those who rejoice.

Israel was guilty of serial spiritual adultery.  Yet God still saw her, in the future, as a virgin.  Everlasting love extends grace with cleansing and healing.

Jeremiah 31:5    You shall yet plant vines on the mountains of Samaria; The planters shall plant and eat them as ordinary food.
Jeremiah 31:6    For there shall be a day When the watchmen will cry on Mount Ephraim, ‘Arise, and let us go up to Zion, To the LORD our God.’ ”
Jeremiah 31:7    For thus says the LORD: “Sing with gladness for Jacob, And shout among the chief of the nations; Proclaim, give praise, and say, ‘O LORD, save Your people, The remnant of Israel!’
Jeremiah 31:8    Behold, I will bring them from the north country, And gather them from the ends of the earth, Among them the blind and the lame, The woman with child And the one who labors with child, together; A great throng shall return there.
Jeremiah 31:9    They shall come with weeping, And with supplications I will lead them. I will cause them to walk by the rivers of waters, In a straight way in which they shall not stumble; For I am a Father to Israel, And Ephraim is My firstborn.
Jeremiah 31:10    “Hear the word of the LORD, O nations, And declare it in the isles afar off, and say, ‘He who scattered Israel will gather him, And keep him as a shepherd does his flock.’
Jeremiah 31:11    For the LORD has redeemed Jacob, And ransomed him from the hand of one stronger than he.
Jeremiah 31:12    Therefore they shall come and sing in the height of Zion, Streaming to the goodness of the LORD For wheat and new wine and oil, For the young of the flock and the herd; Their souls shall be like a well-watered garden, And they shall sorrow no more at all.
Jeremiah 31:13    “Then shall the virgin rejoice in the dance, And the young men and the old, together; For I will turn their mourning to joy, Will comfort them, And make them rejoice rather than sorrow.
Jeremiah 31:14    I will satiate the soul of the priests with abundance, And My people shall be satisfied with My goodness, says the LORD.”

“Ephraim” is shorthand for the ten northern tribes that comprised Israel when the nation split.  This restoration of Israel looks beyond our own time to the time of the kingdom of God on the earth.  It’s after our church age and after the seven year Great Tribulation at the return of Jesus in His Second Coming.

It is certain to happen and God’s everlasting love will continue to draw Israel through human history into the promised kingdom.

Jeremiah 31:15    Thus says the LORD: “A voice was heard in Ramah, Lamentation and bitter weeping, Rachel weeping for her children, Refusing to be comforted for her children, Because they are no more.”

“Ramah” was a town five miles north of Jerusalem.  It was often the staging point for foreign invasions.  Jeremiah was picturing the weeping of the women of the Northern Kingdom as they watched their children being carried into exile in 722BC.

You recognize these verses because they are quoted by Matthew in his Gospel at the time Herod slaughtered all the infants seeking to kill Jesus.  The pain of those mothers in Ramah who watched their sons being carried into exile was expressed in the cries of the mothers of Bethlehem who cradled their sons’ lifeless bodies in their arms.

Jeremiah 31:16    Thus says the LORD: “Refrain your voice from weeping, And your eyes from tears; For your work shall be rewarded, says the LORD, And they shall come back from the land of the enemy.
Jeremiah 31:17    There is hope in your future, says the LORD, That your children shall come back to their own border.

As the women of Israel wept for their exiled children, God offered a word of comfort.  There was hope for their future because their descendants would return to their own land.

“There is hope in your future” is a great word of encouragement for every believer.  It is always true no matter the circumstances in the present.

Jeremiah 31:18    “I have surely heard Ephraim bemoaning himself: ‘You have chastised me, and I was chastised, Like an untrained bull; Restore me, and I will return, For You are the LORD my God.
Jeremiah 31:19    Surely, after my turning, I repented; And after I was instructed, I struck myself on the thigh; I was ashamed, yes, even humiliated, Because I bore the reproach of my youth.’
Jeremiah 31:20    Is Ephraim My dear son? Is he a pleasant child? For though I spoke against him, I earnestly remember him still; Therefore My heart yearns for him; I will surely have mercy on him, says the LORD.
Jeremiah 31:21    “Set up signposts, Make landmarks; Set your heart toward the highway, The way in which you went. Turn back, O virgin of Israel, Turn back to these your cities.
Jeremiah 31:22    How long will you gad about, O you backsliding daughter? For the LORD has created a new thing in the earth – A woman shall encompass a man.”

God’s discipline was necessary and, in the case of Israel, it would prove effective at bringing about repentance.

No matter how far they strayed, no matter how great their sin, in His everlasting love God always drew them back, and He will in the future draw them back, to Himself.

The next four verses say the same about southern kingdom of Judah.

Jeremiah 31:23    Thus says the LORD of hosts, the God of Israel: “They shall again use this speech in the land of Judah and in its cities, when I bring back their captivity: ‘The LORD bless you, O home of justice, and mountain of holiness!’
Jeremiah 31:24    And there shall dwell in Judah itself, and in all its cities together, farmers and those going out with flocks.
Jeremiah 31:25    For I have satiated the weary soul, and I have replenished every sorrowful soul.”

Despite their idolatry, their harlotry, their oppression of the poor, their injustices, their child sacrifices – God will draw them back in His everlasting love.

Jeremiah 31:26    After this I awoke and looked around, and my sleep was sweet to me.

We’re to understand that God spoke this to Jeremiah in a dream.  It was a word of prophecy conveyed in a dream.
Everlasting love is love that never gives up, that is always drawing us to God and, when necessary, back to God through the lovingkindness of discipline.

As a play on words I’m calling God ‘drawsome.’  Truth is, Jesus said that on the Cross He would draw all men to Himself (John 12:32).  It doesn’t mean all will be saved; it means that His death and resurrection are sufficient to save whosoever will believe in Him.

Should we sin so God can draw us back?  No; never!  For one thing His drawing back isn’t pleasant; it wasn’t for Israel in the past and it won’t be in the future.  The testimony of many backsliders who have been drawn back is that God allowed something quite severe to bring them back – often something that has lifelong consequences.

It’s better to not need drawing back.  But it’s awesome to realize God loves you with an everlasting love that cannot leave you alone.  You can resist it – even for your entire life if you’re stubborn.  But He will nonetheless be after you, to restore you.

God doesn’t just want you.  He wants the best for you.

#2    Since God’s Love For You Is Everlasting
    He Desires To Fill & Keep Filling You With Himself

In the remaining verses we’re going to read about what is called the New Covenant.  It’s… pretty cool!

Jeremiah 31:27    “Behold, the days are coming, says the LORD, that I will sow the house of Israel and the house of Judah with the seed of man and the seed of beast.
Jeremiah 31:28    And it shall come to pass, that as I have watched over them to pluck up, to break down, to throw down, to destroy, and to afflict, so I will watch over them to build and to plant, says the LORD.

Their sin and refusal to repent made it necessary to “pluck up, to break down, to throw down, to destroy and afflict.”

You say it seems too harsh?  How would it be if God had let Israel and Judah go their way without discipline.  They’d have long ago passed off the pages of history and all the promises of God would have failed.  No Jews mean no Jesus.

In His everlasting love, although they have been scattered and oppressed, He has preserved them and will “build and… plant” them again.

God has already gone a long way toward fulfilling His promises.  Israel has been in her land as a nation again since 1948.  God is setting the stage to fulfill the rest of His New Covenant to them.

Jeremiah 31:29    In those days they shall say no more: ‘The fathers have eaten sour grapes, And the children’s teeth are set on edge.’
Jeremiah 31:30    But every one shall die for his own iniquity; every man who eats the sour grapes, his teeth shall be set on edge.

The Jews had resigned themselves to a philosophy that God punished the children for the sins of their fathers – so they might as well go on sinning!

One modern version of this is to blame sin on a syndrome, or on someone else – anything or anyone by whom we can say, “it’s not my fault.”  Each of us answers to God and are without excuse.

Jeremiah 31:31    “Behold, the days are coming, says the LORD, when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah –
Jeremiah 31:32    not according to the covenant that I made with their fathers in the day that I took them by the hand to lead them out of the land of Egypt, My covenant which they broke, though I was a husband to them, says the LORD.

The term “New Covenant” indicates the current one was going to be superseded.  The then current, or “old,” covenant was the one made at Mount Sinai when God gave Israel the Law.  Israel “broke” that covenant over-and-over.  In His everlasting love God continued to be faithful to them, like a husband staying true to an ever-adulterous wife.

Jeremiah 31:33    But this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, says the LORD: I will put My law in their minds, and write it on their hearts; and I will be their God, and they shall be My people.
God’s New Covenant will internalize the Law in a way that will give every believer the empowering to obey His righteous standards.

The Jews were constantly under a burden to try to interpret and follow the Law.  There were hundreds of rules and several schools of thought on how to follow them.  To think that somehow you would immediately know God’s will and perform it apart from an external standard was something very new and radical.

Jeremiah 31:34    No more shall every man teach his neighbor, and every man his brother, saying, ‘Know the LORD,’ for they all shall know Me, from the least of them to the greatest of them, says the LORD. For I will forgive their iniquity, and their sin I will remember no more.”

Under the Law you could only approach God through the mediation of a priest.  When priests were not serving in the Temple they were scattered about so they could “teach” the people about God.  After centuries of Temple life God was telling the Jews that there would be no priests as mediators and teachers under the New Covenant.

If we were Jews living under the Law we’d be stunned by the thought there were no priests.  How would we offer sacrifices for our sins without a priest?  No worries – “for I will forgive their iniquity, and their sin I will remember no more.”

Wow.  This is just enough information to understand that God was going to do away with the entire system which only temporarily covered sins and required the continual sacrificing of animals as your substitute.  What would replace it?

Not what, but Who.  Jesus Christ would offer Himself as the lamb of God Who takes away the sin of the world.  He would be the one final offering for sin that perfectly satisfied God’s holiness.

Faith in Him would bring the other two benefits of the New Covenant – immediate access to God with no human mediator and the internal power to walk with God.

Although the ultimate fulfillment of the New Covenant is for Israel at the Second Coming of Jesus the church today is already experiencing it.  The Jews rejected it when they rejected Jesus, but His death and resurrection inaugurated the New Covenant.

When Jesus died the veil in the Temple at Jerusalem was torn from top to bottom.  It signified that you had immediate access to God and that the system of sacrifices for sin was ended.  After He rose from the dead Jesus breathed on His disciples and they received the permanent indwelling of the Holy Spirit.

We have immediate access to God without a mediator; we have the assurance of the forgiveness of our sins; and we enjoy the indwelling of the Holy Spirit to empower us to obey God.

Jeremiah 31:35    Thus says the LORD, Who gives the sun for a light by day, The ordinances of the moon and the stars for a light by night, Who disturbs the sea, And its waves roar (The LORD of hosts is His name):
Jeremiah 31:36    “If those ordinances depart From before Me, says the LORD, Then the seed of Israel shall also cease From being a nation before Me forever.”
Jeremiah 31:37    Thus says the LORD: “If heaven above can be measured, And the foundations of the earth searched out beneath, I will also cast off all the seed of Israel For all that they have done, says the LORD.

When the sun no longer rises and the moon no longer affects tides, then God will fail Israel… Which means He never will.  Throughout history people have tried in vain to destroy Israel, but none have succeeded – and none ever will.

Jeremiah 31:38    “Behold, the days are coming, says the LORD, that the city shall be built for the LORD – from the Tower of Hananel to the Corner Gate.
Jeremiah 31:39    The surveyor’s line shall again extend straight forward over the hill Gareb; then it shall turn toward Goath.
Jeremiah 31:40    And the whole valley of the dead bodies and of the ashes, and all the fields as far as the Brook Kidron, to the corner of the Horse Gate toward the east, shall be holy to the LORD. It shall not be plucked up or thrown down anymore forever.”

Jerusalem will be the capital not just of Israel but of the world at the return of Jesus.

A major benefit of the New Covenant is the indwelling of the Holy Spirit.  Right now, today, any and every believer has the Holy Spirit.

In His everlasting love God desires to fill you with Himself and go on filling you.  You can live the Christian life; and when you consider you have immediate access to the throne of God and the assurance that every sin is forgiven at the Cross, you want to live the Christian life.  It’s the only reasonable response to God’s drawing, filling, everlasting love for you.

Doom And Bloom (Jeremiah 30v1-24)

Doom might be on the horizon.

You can find voices in the disciplines of politics, economics, and the environment who are predicting doom for various reasons.

Franklin Graham is predicting spiritual doom.  He was quoted after the election as saying that the United States in “on a path of destruction” for shaking our fist at God.

If these voices are correct and doom is in our immediate future we should pay close attention to chapter thirty of Jeremiah.
Doom was the imminent future of the nation of Judah.  In just a short time the armies of King Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon would burn Jerusalem and destroy the Temple.
Doom was the far future of the nation of Judah.  Much of what we will read in this chapter looks beyond our own time to the Great Tribulation.

It was all doom – but no gloom.  Chapters thirty through thirty-three are the most hopeful four chapters in all of the prophecies of Jeremiah.

They focus our attention on the bigger picture of the mission of the Jews and the certainty of the completion of their mission thanks to the intervention of God.

How are they hopeful for us?  If or when the days of doom set in we, too, will need to look beyond them to the time we will look upon The Lord, Jesus Christ.

I’ll organize my thoughts around two points: #1 “Days Are Coming” In Which Your Hope Is To Look Beyond Them, and #2 “Days Are Coming” In Which Your Joy Will Be To Look Upon Him.

#1    “Days Are Coming” In Which
    Your Hope Is To Look Beyond Them

I don’t want to freak anyone out but regardless whether or not the United States is doomed, we are all doomed.  Even in the best of times we each face a personal future in which we will grow old, get sick, and die.

Unless we are raptured or die suddenly we will find ourselves looking beyond our fleeting days upon this earth and forward into eternity.

Joni Earekson Tada, no stranger to suffering, said, “The best that we can hope for in this life is a knothole peek at the shining realities ahead.  Yet [that] glimpse is enough.”

God gave Judah their knothole glimpse in chapters thirty through thirty three.

Jeremiah 30:1    The word that came to Jeremiah from the LORD, saying,
Jeremiah 30:2    “Thus speaks the LORD God of Israel, saying: ‘Write in a book for yourself all the words that I have spoken to you.
Jeremiah 30:3    For behold, the days are coming,’ says the LORD, ‘that I will bring back from captivity My people Israel and Judah,’ says the LORD. ‘And I will cause them to return to the land that I gave to their fathers, and they shall possess it.’ ”

That’s it.  There’s your hope.  “The days are coming” when God would restore them.  Mean time things were going to be tough.

Let’s summarize the kind of ‘looking beyond’ that God was encouraging.  The prophet Habakkuk said of those same days,

Habakkuk 3:17    Though the fig tree may not blossom, Nor fruit be on the vines; Though the labor of the olive may fail, And the fields yield no food; Though the flock may be cut off from the fold, And there be no herd in the stalls –
Habakkuk 3:18    Yet I will rejoice in the LORD, I will joy in the God of my salvation.
Habakkuk 3:19    The LORD God is my strength; He will make my feet like deer’s feet, And He will make me walk on my high hills.

If you are expecting something more than a look through the knothole then you’re going to be in trouble when trouble comes.

In our cases, as Christians, we’re excited for the place Jesus has gone to prepare for us, the mansion He’s building for us, and we’re looking forward to His coming to bring us there.

Jeremiah 30:4    Now these are the words that the Lord spoke concerning Israel and Judah.
Jeremiah 30:5    “For thus says the LORD: ‘We have heard a voice of trembling, Of fear, and not of peace.
Jeremiah 30:6    Ask now, and see, Whether a man is ever in labor with child? So why do I see every man with his hands on his loins Like a woman in labor, And all faces turned pale?
Jeremiah 30:7    Alas! For that day is great, So that none is like it; And it is the time of Jacob’s trouble…

Since you are a careful reader you noticed that verse four mentioned both “Israel and Judah.”  The northern kingdom of Israel had been overrun by the Assyrians more than a hundred years before.  Yet God was talking to both Israel and Judah.

It let’s us know that the trouble God was discussing wasn’t just the Babylonians.  No, He’s looking further into the future and talking about a united Israel going through the Great Tribulation.
We know that God was talking about the Great Tribulation because Jesus also described it like suffering with labor pains.  Additionally He said it would be a time unlike any other time of trouble ever on the earth.

It is here called “the time of Jacob’s trouble,” meaning that although it will come upon the whole world of men it is especially designed for the Jews to get them to return to their God.

Jeremiah 30:7    … But he shall be saved out of it.
Jeremiah 30:8    ‘For it shall come to pass in that day,’ Says the LORD of hosts, ‘That I will break his yoke from your neck, And will burst your bonds; Foreigners shall no more enslave them.
Jeremiah 30:9    But they shall serve the LORD their God, And David their king, Whom I will raise up for them.

The nation of Israel will survive the Great Tribulation and be elevated as the chief nation on the earth.  Never again will they be persecuted and enslaved by other nations.

David – the real, resurrected David from the Old Testament – will be their king.

Jeremiah 30:10    ‘Therefore do not fear, O My servant Jacob,’ says the LORD, ‘Nor be dismayed, O Israel; For behold, I will save you from afar, And your seed from the land of their captivity. Jacob shall return, have rest and be quiet, And no one shall make him afraid.
Jeremiah 30:11    For I am with you,’ says the LORD, ‘to save you; Though I make a full end of all nations where I have scattered you, Yet I will not make a complete end of you. But I will correct you in justice, And will not let you go altogether unpunished.’

It’s clear these verses are about ultimate outcomes – about the future beyond our own times.  God references the Jews being scattered not just to Babylon but to many nations; and He indicates a final judgment upon those nations by saying “I make a full end of nations.”

In the Gospel of Matthew this judgment is described for us in chapter twenty-five at the Second Coming of Jesus.

The Great Tribulation will be necessary to “correct [the Jews] in justice].”  Like the Babylonian invasion and captivity it will be a necessary discipline to turn God’s people back to Him, to get them to acknowledge the Messiah they crucified in His first coming.

Jeremiah 30:12    “For thus says the LORD: ‘Your affliction is incurable, Your wound is severe.
Jeremiah 30:13    There is no one to plead your cause, That you may be bound up; You have no healing medicines.
Jeremiah 30:14    All your lovers have forgotten you; They do not seek you; For I have wounded you with the wound of an enemy, With the chastisement of a cruel one, For the multitude of your iniquities, Because your sins have increased.
Jeremiah 30:15    Why do you cry about your affliction? Your sorrow is incurable. Because of the multitude of your iniquities, Because your sins have increased, I have done these things to you.
Jeremiah 30:16    ‘Therefore all those who devour you shall be devoured; And all your adversaries, every one of them, shall go into captivity; Those who plunder you shall become plunder, And all who prey upon you I will make a prey.

These verses make one point.  Apart from God’s intervention to discipline Israel she would have perished long ago; and she would perish in the future.

Jeremiah 30:17    For I will restore health to you And heal you of your wounds,’ says the LORD, ‘Because they called you an outcast saying: “This is Zion; No one seeks her.” ‘

Wait a minute.  Didn’t we just read that they were “incurable?”  God was simply but powerfully saying that His people had gotten, and will get, to a point in which they can only be saved by His extreme measures.  Nothing else, no one else, could save them as a people.

Let’s say gangrene sets into your wound.  Unless the doctors cut-off your arm or your leg above the infection, that gangrene is going to spread until you are dead.

Yes, amputation is extreme, but it stops the spread of disease and it saves you.  Likewise spiritual amputation is sometimes a viable option.

Was the Babylonian captivity extreme?  Will the Great Tribulation be extreme?  Yes, but both were necessary.  “Because of the multitudes of [their] iniquities” God had to amputate to save them in the sixth century.  And He’ll have to do it again in the near future.
Jesus promised He would come for us, to take us to Heaven.  It could happen any moment.  As we wait moment-by-moment, some of us suffer and some of us die.  But God has given us enough of a glimpse through the knothole to the other side to look beyond all earthly sorrow and suffering to the hope of His appearing.

#2    “Days Are Coming” In Which
    Your Joy Will Be To Look Upon Him

The remaining verses look a bit further.  They look past the Second Coming of Jesus and into what we call the Millennial Kingdom – the rule and reign of Jesus upon planet earth for one thousand years prior to eternity.

Jeremiah 30:18    “Thus says the LORD: ‘Behold, I will bring back the captivity of Jacob’s tents, And have mercy on his dwelling places; The city shall be built upon its own mound, And the palace shall remain according to its own plan.
Jeremiah 30:19    Then out of them shall proceed thanksgiving And the voice of those who make merry; I will multiply them, and they shall not diminish; I will also glorify them, and they shall not be small.
Jeremiah 30:20    Their children also shall be as before, And their congregation shall be established before Me; And I will punish all who oppress them.

Central Israel is now under rocket fire for the first time since Saddam Hussein launched Scud missiles into Tel Aviv during the first Gulf War.  Israel has been told to prepare for seven weeks of war by her leaders.

Iran, other Islamic nations, and many terror groups, are all sworn to the utter annihilation of Israel.

Israel will never be displaced again; and she cannot be eliminated.  To her enemies God says, “I will punish all those who oppress them.”

Jeremiah 30:21    Their nobles shall be from among them, And their governor shall come from their midst; Then I will cause him to draw near, And he shall approach Me; For who is this who pledged his heart to approach Me?’ says the LORD.

Someone is described as drawing near to God, as approaching God.  He is said to have pledged His heart in His approach God.

I think it’s Jesus.  When did Jesus “pledge His heart” to approach God?  I can’t say exactly what is intended but I think first He pledged His heart in eternity past, before the universe was spoken into existence by God.  Seeing a race of lost, perishing sinners, Jesus pledged His heart to come as a man, to be the God-man, Who would save us.

He pledged His heart again, did He not, in the Garden of Gethsemane when He said to His Father, “Nevertheless, not my will, but Yours be done,” then endured the Cross so that being lifted-up He might draw all men to Himself, that He might be the Savior of all men – especially those that believe.

In the Revelation we see Him in Heaven step forward to approach God to take from His Father the scroll with the seven seals.  As those seals are opened, one-by-one, they take us through the Tribulation to the return of Jesus to rule and reign over the earth.

Jeremiah 30:22    ‘You shall be My people, And I will be your God.’
Jeremiah 30:23    Behold, the whirlwind of the LORD – Goes forth with fury, A continuing whirlwind; It will fall violently on the head of the wicked.

God’s mission for Israel in human history was for them to be His people in order to show the other nations, peoples, tribes, and tongues He is God.  They failed again and again but God refused, and He refuses, to abandon them or the mission.  Thus the “whirlwind,” the Great Tribulation, “will fall violently upon the head of the wicked” as God preserves the Jews through those years to bring them to repentance and complete their mission.

Jeremiah 30:24    The fierce anger of the LORD will not return until He has done it, And until He has performed the intents of His heart. In the latter days you will consider it.

Another translation reads, “The wrath of the Lord will not be turned back till he has done, till he has put into effect, the purposes of his heart: in days to come you will have full knowledge of this.”

It’s a strong statement that God overrules human history and will, through the day of His wrath, accomplish the purposes of His heart to save Israel and, through her, multitudes of Gentiles and then establish the kingdom on earth.

It all culminates, does it not, in the full restoration of face-to-face fellowship with the living God.  The days are coming when you and I will have the joy of looking upon Him – of looking full in His wonderful face.

I don’t know what our nation, or our church, or my family, or myself, will face in the coming hours or days or months or years we await the imminent return of Jesus.

I know I will face Him – and that is all I need to know until that day comes.

A Mindset Is A Terrible Thing To Waste (Jeremiah 29v1-32)

Christians are the original ‘occupy movement.’

They don’t just occupy Wall Street.  They occupy all streets, wherever they live or work or happen to be at the time.

Jesus told His disciples “occupy till I come” (Luke 19:13).  He explained what He meant with a parable in which He pictured Himself as a certain nobleman who was going away to a far country for a time to receive a kingdom and then return.  He pictured His disciples – including you and I – as servants to whom He distributed money, called “talents,” they were to invest for Him until His return at which time He would reward those who were faithful to “occupy.”

Two servants occupied well and were rewarded while one hid the talent the Master had given him thereby forfeiting any reward.

Our text in Jeremiah twenty-nine has an “occupy till I come” feel to it.  Jeremiah tells the Jews they will be captive in Babylon for the next seventy years so they should settle there and make the most of it.

As we work through the verses in their original context we can talk about how we occupy our lives in light of the Lord’s promise that He’s gone to receive His kingdom but will definitely return to establish it and, when He does, His reward will be with Him for His faithful servants.

I’ll organize my thoughts around two points: #1 Your Life’s Purpose Is To Be Occupied With The Things Of The Lord, and #2 Your Life Is Too Precious To Be Occupied With The Things Of The World.

#1    Your Life’s Purpose
    Is To Be Occupied With The Lord

Jeremiah doesn’t use the word but you really could summarize his counsel to them by simply saying “occupy.”

Jeremiah 29:1    Now these are the words of the letter that Jeremiah the prophet sent from Jerusalem to the remainder of the elders who were carried away captive – to the priests, the prophets, and all the people whom Nebuchadnezzar had carried away captive from Jerusalem to Babylon.
Jeremiah 29:2    (This happened after Jeconiah the king, the queen mother, the eunuchs, the princes of Judah and Jerusalem, the craftsmen, and the smiths had departed from Jerusalem.)
Jeremiah 29:3    The letter was sent by the hand of Elasah the son of Shaphan, and Gemariah the son of Hilkiah, whom Zedekiah king of Judah sent to Babylon, to Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon, saying,
Jeremiah 29:4    Thus says the LORD of hosts, the God of Israel, to all who were carried away captive, whom I have caused to be carried away from Jerusalem to Babylon:
Jeremiah 29:5    Build houses and dwell in them; plant gardens and eat their fruit.
Jeremiah 29:6    Take wives and beget sons and daughters; and take wives for your sons and give your daughters to husbands, so that they may bear sons and daughters – that you may be increased there, and not diminished.
Jeremiah 29:7    And seek the peace of the city where I have caused you to be carried away captive, and pray to the LORD for it; for in its peace you will have peace.

On the surface it may sound as if God was telling them to become assimilated into Babylon – get married, build houses, plant gardens.

Keep something in mind as we comment on these verses.  God had promised, and will reiterate in verse ten, that the captivity would end after seventy years with the Jews able to return to Jerusalem.  Everything they were being told must be interpreted by that insight.

That means that when they took wives to beget children it was so they “may be increased” as a distinct people and not be “diminished.”  It was a command not to intermarry with the Babylonians but to remain separated unto The Lord.

They were to “build” their own houses, in the manner of Jews, rather than buy Babylonian houses.  They were to “plant gardens and eat their fruit” because so much of the diet of the Babylonians was forbidden to Jews.

They were to live in Babylon not as Babylonians but as a separated people of God who knew that they would one day be returning to their kingdom.

As Christians we know Jesus is coming at any moment to resurrect and rapture the church.  After an interval of seven years, while the earth is experiencing the Great Tribulation, Jesus will return to earth with us in His glorious Second Coming to establish His kingdom.

With that insight – with that foresight, really – we are to remain separated to The Lord.

Like the Jews we are to marry own own kind – other believers.
Our homes should be built on solid Christian principles.
Our lives should bear much spiritual fruit.

Jeremiah 29:8    For thus says the LORD of hosts, the God of Israel: Do not let your prophets and your diviners who are in your midst deceive you, nor listen to your dreams which you cause to be dreamed.
Jeremiah 29:9    For they prophesy falsely to you in My name; I have not sent them, says the LORD.
Jeremiah 29:10    For thus says the LORD: After seventy years are completed at Babylon, I will visit you and perform My good word toward you, and cause you to return to this place.

There was a strong ‘anti-occupy’ movement.  The false prophets were saying that God would defeat the Babylonians and the Jews would soon be returning to Jerusalem.  They would be returning – but not for seven decades.

In our case it isn’t so much that false prophets tell us The Lord isn’t returning as it is that we lose the sense His coming is at any moment.  Lose that and you let down your guard and tend to start living more for yourself than for The Lord and for others.  Selfishness creeps in where selflessness ought to prevail.  Comfort takes priority over commitment.  Happiness replaces holiness.

Jeremiah 29:11    For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, says the LORD, thoughts of peace and not of evil, to give you a future and a hope.

The whole Bible is the inspired Word of God and, thus, wonderful, but this verse is special.  Though originally spoken to the Jews it reveals the mind of God towards all those He calls His own in every dispensation.

Why the captivity?  Not to be “evil” towards the Jews but to reestablish “peace” in His relationship with them that they had broken through sin.

If God had not intervened, if He had not used Babylon to discipline His people, if they had been allowed to continue in their sin, they would forfeit their “future” and have no “hope.”

The things God permits in and around your life always flow from thoughts of maintaining or restoring peace to give you your best future and to firmly establish, not destroy, your hope at His appearing.

Jeremiah 29:12    Then you will call upon Me and go and pray to Me, and I will listen to you.
Jeremiah 29:13    And you will seek Me and find Me, when you search for Me with all your heart.
Jeremiah 29:14    I will be found by you, says the LORD, and I will bring you back from your captivity; I will gather you from all the nations and from all the places where I have driven you, says the LORD, and I will bring you to the place from which I cause you to be carried away captive.

These verses were written to backsliders.  They are really more about what God would do to restore them.  He would discipline them.  Restoration was the goal.  Babylon was the means God must use.
They would see the world for what it was while simultaneously realizing all they had lost.  They would turn to The Lord.

If you find God using extreme measures upon you, realize He is trying to restore you, not destroy you.  He designs seasons of captivity and the like so you must seek Him and Him alone.

#2    Your Life Is Too Precious
    To Become Occupied With The World

God could certainly defeat Babylon but to what end?  The Jews would be even more bold to sin against Him.

No, they had become so occupied with the world, they had adopted so much of the world’s thinking, manners, and customs, that God must give them an overdose of the world in order to show them that their lives as His people were too precious to waste on things like idolatry.

Jeremiah 29:15    Because you have said, “The LORD has raised up prophets for us in Babylon”-
Jeremiah 29:16    therefore thus says the LORD concerning the king who sits on the throne of David, concerning all the people who dwell in this city, and concerning your brethren who have not gone out with you into captivity –
Jeremiah 29:17    thus says the LORD of hosts: Behold, I will send on them the sword, the famine, and the pestilence, and will make them like rotten figs that cannot be eaten, they are so bad.
Jeremiah 29:18    And I will pursue them with the sword, with famine, and with pestilence; and I will deliver them to trouble among all the kingdoms of the earth – to be a curse, an astonishment, a hissing, and a reproach among all the nations where I have driven them,
Jeremiah 29:19    because they have not heeded My words, says the LORD, which I sent to them by My servants the prophets, rising up early and sending them; neither would you heed, says the LORD.

It may sound silly to say this, but sin isn’t good for you.  It may be pleasurable initially but it is painful in the end.  It’s painful in ways you can’t even imagine and don’t want to; but when it strikes, it’s awful.

It takes a very arrogant heart to think you can manage sin and not be affected by it.  And it’s just sad to think that you would prefer sin over your Savior when you consider Jesus endured the Cross to set you free from slavery to sin to voluntarily serve Him.

Jeremiah 29:20    Therefore hear the word of the LORD, all you of the captivity, whom I have sent from Jerusalem to Babylon.
Jeremiah 29:21    Thus says the LORD of hosts, the God of Israel, concerning Ahab the son of Kolaiah, and Zedekiah the son of Maaseiah, who prophesy a lie to you in My name: Behold, I will deliver them into the hand of Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon, and he shall slay them before your eyes.
Jeremiah 29:22    And because of them a curse shall be taken up by all the captivity of Judah who are in Babylon, saying, “The LORD make you like Zedekiah and Ahab, whom the king of Babylon roasted in the fire”;

Jeremiah 29:23    because they have done disgraceful things in Israel, have committed adultery with their neighbors’ wives, and have spoken lying words in My name, which I have not commanded them. Indeed I know, and am a witness, says the LORD.

I wouldn’t have wanted to be Ahab or Zedekiah.  But then I never think I am going to be one of those guys – a guy singled-out for sinning.  While I can be thankful that God doesn’t expose me every time I sin, maybe I’d be better off thinking He will, for my own good.

As God in His longsuffering waited to finalize the Babylonian captivity, their false prophecies seemed true and they went about as if their interpretation of things was accurate.

God’s longsuffering with sinners is why Jesus has not yet resurrected and raptured His church.  During the delay the scoffers and false prophets and false teachers seem to be enjoying success.  It’s going to be that way right up until the end.

The Word of God must be our foundation.  We must look to it to make our judgments.  Our lives are too precious to waste them listening to lies when people are perishing.

Jeremiah 29:24    You shall also speak to Shemaiah the Nehelamite, saying,
Jeremiah 29:25    Thus speaks the LORD of hosts, the God of Israel, saying: You have sent letters in your name to all the people who are at Jerusalem, to Zephaniah the son of Maaseiah the priest, and to all the priests, saying,

Jeremiah 29:26    “The LORD has made you priest instead of Jehoiada the priest, so that there should be officers in the house of the LORD over every man who is demented and considers himself a prophet, that you should put him in prison and in the stocks.
Jeremiah 29:27    Now therefore, why have you not rebuked Jeremiah of Anathoth who makes himself a prophet to you?
Jeremiah 29:28    For he has sent to us in Babylon, saying, ‘This captivity is long; build houses and dwell in them, and plant gardens and eat their fruit.’ ”
Jeremiah 29:29    Now Zephaniah the priest read this letter in the hearing of Jeremiah the prophet.
Jeremiah 29:30    Then the word of the LORD came to Jeremiah, saying:
Jeremiah 29:31    Send to all those in captivity, saying, Thus says the LORD concerning Shemaiah the Nehelamite: Because Shemaiah has prophesied to you, and I have not sent him, and he has caused you to trust in a lie –
Jeremiah 29:32    therefore thus says the LORD: Behold, I will punish Shemaiah the Nehelamite and his family: he shall not have anyone to dwell among this people, nor shall he see the good that I will do for My people, says the LORD, because he has taught rebellion against the LORD.

Zephaniah read Shemaiah’s letter to Jeremiah – the one that called him “demented” and demanded he be arrested and put in stocks.  Jeremiah answered it with a Word from The Lord.

One application, for us, is to realize that nonbelievers are going to scoff at your life, at your insistence The Lord could return at any moment.

Nonbelievers are going to criticize everything you think and do – your whole worldview – because it is grounded in your love for Jesus.  They might think you demented and, where they hold political power, they will incarcerate or otherwise persecute you.

Another application is to encourage us as believers to not become Shemaiah’s by being drawn away from the beauty of The Lord by the beckoning of the world.

In one of the Pirate’s of the Caribbean feature films mermaids were depicted as beckoning the men with their outward beauty only to be revealed as monsters who would drown them and drag them to horrible drowning deaths.

Mermaids do exist, in this sense – the world puts on a beautiful exterior to lure you to your doom.

Anything worldly, at odds with obedience to Christ, looks beautiful but is deadly in the end.  Don’t be fooled.

Instead remember that The Lord makes all things beautiful – but He does it in His time.  His beauty, revealed in you, is always something worth waiting for.

Jesus exerts a controlling power over the world.  He is King of kings and Lord of lords.  “By Him all things consist,” and nothing can happen without His permission.

At the same time His real, literal, visible, complete kingdom the Lord Jesus has not yet received.  To use the words of Hebrews 2:8, “We see not yet all things put under Him.”  In the psalms you read, “He sits on the right hand of the Father till His enemies are made His footstool.”
It is during this delay, some two thousand years now, that we are to be the Lord’s occupation forces.  Whatever talents, whatever gifts, whatever finances, whatever relationships; anything and everything that constitutes our lives, ought to be occupied with Him.  Only then will our lives have purpose and count for something in the end.

On the subject of “occupy” J.C. Ryle wrote,

The Lord Jesus bids you “occupy.”  He wants His servants not only to receive His wages, and eat His bread, and dwell in His house, and belong to His family, but also to do His work.  You are to “let your light so shine before men that they may see your good works.”  Have you faith?  It must not be a dead faith: it must “work by love.”  Are you elect?  You are elect unto “obedience.”  Are you redeemed?  You are redeemed that you may be “a peculiar people, zealous of good works.”  Do you love Christ?  Prove the reality of your love by keeping Christ’s commandments.  Oh, reader, do not forget this charge to “occupy!”

There’s no value, not eternally, in building our own kingdom.  There is value, for eternity, in furthering God’s kingdom by occupying till He comes.

There’s a famous ad campaign whose slogan is, “A mind is a terrible thing to waste.”  We might say, “A mindset is a terrible thing to waste.”

Don’t set your mind on the things of the world; you’re too precious for that.  Set your mind on the things of The Lord.

The Man In The Iron Yoke (Jeremiah 28v1-17)

Cigarette warning labels can be hazardous to your health.

A recent study concluded that “cigarette warnings… stimulate an area of the smokers’ brains called the nucleus accumbens, otherwise known as the ‘craving spot.’ ”  The warning makes a smoker want to light-up.

It might not be a deterrent to nonsmokers either.  There is a growing body of research that suggests warning labels in general – on cigarettes, on alcohol, on food, on drugs – either have no effect or they have the opposite of the effect intended.

Jeremiah had been warning the people of Judah for nearly three decades that God’s judgment was coming.  He had lately been going around wearing bonds and a yoke around his neck to illustrate their coming captivity in Babylon.

He was sort of a living warning label, as if to say, “Warning: The Sovereign God has determined that continuing in sin is hazardous to your health.”

How did the people respond?  Not only did they ignore the warning, another prophet claimed it was a false warning.

As Christians we are called upon to warn nonbelievers of judgment coming upon this world, and upon them, for sin.  How do they respond?

A great many of them scoff at it and claim that if The Lord were coming to judge sin and sinners He would have gotten here by now.

Well, He is coming.  What has prevented Him thus far is His longsuffering, meaning that He is not willing that any should perish but that all would come to eternal life.  While His longsuffering waits there is opportunity to warn men and see some saved.  When His longsuffering ends it will be terrible.

I’ll organize my thoughts about chapter twenty-eight around two points: #1 You Warn Of Judgment Hoping God’s Longsuffering Endures, and #2 You Warn Of Judgment Knowing God’s Longsuffering Ends.

#1    You Warn Of Judgment
    Hoping God’s Longsuffering Endures

“Ready or Not… Jesus is Coming” was the first Christian bumper sticker I put on a car when I got saved in early 1979.  I’ve been saying it ever since, going on thirty-three years – just about the same amount of time Jeremiah had been warning Judah of God’s judgment.

I believe just as strongly as I did then that the Bible teaches Jesus is coming and that His coming is imminent – at any moment.

It’s only discouraging that Jesus hasn’t yet come to resurrect and rapture the church if we forget His longsuffering.  He waits for others like us to be saved.

Jeremiah’s responses in this chapter are a good spiritual role model for us to follow when we are trying to remain encouraged about the Lord’s longsuffering.

Jeremiah 28:1    And it happened in the same year, at the beginning of the reign of Zedekiah king of Judah, in the fourth year and in the fifth month, that Hananiah the son of Azur the prophet, who was from Gibeon, spoke to me in the house of the LORD in the presence of the priests and of all the people, saying,
Jeremiah 28:2    “Thus speaks the LORD of hosts, the God of Israel, saying: ‘I have broken the yoke of the king of Babylon.
Jeremiah 28:3    Within two full years I will bring back to this place all the vessels of the LORD’s house, that Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon took away from this place and carried to Babylon.
Jeremiah 28:4    And I will bring back to this place Jeconiah the son of Jehoiakim, king of Judah, with all the captives of Judah who went to Babylon,’ says the LORD, ‘for I will break the yoke of the king of Babylon.’ ”

Hananiah is called “the prophet” throughout these verses.    Jeremiah doesn’t call him a false prophet.  His prophecy will turn out to be false but, in the mean time, he was respected by Jeremiah and by the people.

Hananiah can represent to us someone who does not rightly divide God’s Word.  He or she is not a false teacher but they are mishandling the Word of God.

Recently it has become popular to question whether or not there is a literal Hell.  Respected, popular Bible teachers are suggesting that all nonbelievers are either saved in the end or they are annihilated as if they had never existed.

I could wish they were right but they are not.  Jesus spoke more about Hell than He did Heaven.  One recent author described Jesus’ comments this way:

Jesus chose strong and terrifying language when He spoke of Hell.  I believe He chose to speak this way because He loves us and wanted to warn us.  So let’s not miss the point: He spoke of Hell as a horrifying place, characterized by suffering, fire, darkness, and lamentation.  I believe His intention was to stir a fear in us that would cause us to take Hell seriously and avoid it at all costs.

The Bible is dramatically clear that there is a place of torment created for the devil and his demons but where nonbelievers also will be sent for eternity.

Hananiah’s problem wasn’t the existence of Hell but the exercise of God’s discipline.  Listening to Hananiah you’d have to say that he ultimately thought that there was no need to repent from sin in order to have a right relationship with God.  God’s people were setting up idols, oppressing the poor, even sacrificing their children.  Hananiah knew this but his message contained no rebuke, no warning, no correction.  If you heard him you thought everything was going to be OK, that God would do nothing to correct His people, and you could go on your merry way with no change of heart or direction.

I don’t have stats to prove it, but I think more-and-more believers are living in outright, obvious sin with no thoughts of needing to repent in order to avoid God’s discipline.  Sin is nothing new; but this casual attitude towards it is more prevalent.  The Hananiah doctrine – that a holy God ignores your sin – is alive and well.

Jeremiah 28:5    Then the prophet Jeremiah spoke to the prophet Hananiah in the presence of the priests and in the presence of all the people who stood in the house of the LORD,
Jeremiah 28:6    and the prophet Jeremiah said, “Amen! The LORD do so; the LORD perform your words which you have prophesied, to bring back the vessels of the LORD’s house and all who were carried away captive, from Babylon to this place.

I’m humbled by Jeremiah’s response.  I’d want to fight, argue, debate, defend myself.  Why didn’t Jeremiah do those things?

Although he prophesied certain judgment to come upon Judah he didn’t relish it.  Would to God that Judah might repent and God relent of the judgment that Jeremiah had been proclaiming.  It wouldn’t make Jeremiah’s prophecies false any more than Nineveh’s repentance made Jonah’s warning false.

Jeremiah 28:7    Nevertheless hear now this word that I speak in your hearing and in the hearing of all the people:
Jeremiah 28:8    The prophets who have been before me and before you of old prophesied against many countries and great kingdoms – of war and disaster and pestilence.
Jeremiah 28:9    As for the prophet who prophesies of peace, when the word of the prophet comes to pass, the prophet will be known as one whom the LORD has truly sent.”

In a very gentle apologetic Jeremiah did point out that his prophecies were consistent with those given by earlier prophets whereas Hananiah’s prophecy was at odds with them.

Comparing Scripture with Scripture is always a good idea.  God will not contradict Himself; He is consistent in presenting His truth.

The ultimate test of the truth of Hananiah’s words would be whether or not they came to pass.

Jeremiah 28:10    Then Hananiah the prophet took the yoke off the prophet Jeremiah’s neck and broke it.
Jeremiah 28:11    And Hananiah spoke in the presence of all the people, saying, “Thus says the LORD: ‘Even so I will break the yoke of Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon from the neck of all nations within the space of two full years.’ ” And the prophet Jeremiah went his way.

Again we are witness to Jeremiah’s humility.  He allowed Hananiah to remove the yoke and break it.  Then he simply “went his way.”

God’s Word needs no defending.  It’s true no matter what others say about it.  Our responsibility is to present it – all of it.  We are not responsible for the results.

What we are responsible for is how we behave as Christians entrusted with God’s Word.  In Jeremiah’s case it was far more powerful for him to humble himself, to let the Word speak for itself, than to mount a defense.

Jeremiah said “Amen!” to Hananiah’s prophecy.  He could wish God’s longsuffering would endure, giving Judah – or at least individuals in Judah – more time to repent.

As we end each day, and The Lord has not come for us, may we be able to say “Amen!” to His longsuffering.  Then, as we rise with new mercies every morning, may we be about our Father’s business, knowing His coming for us is imminent.

#2    You Warn Of Judgment
    Knowing God’s Longsuffering Ends

In the great passage in Second Peter that discusses God’s longsuffering you come to understand that God’s longsuffering must end.  It ended for Sodom and Gomorrah; it ended in the days of Noah.  In our own days it will end as God brings upon the earth the Great Tribulation.

Mean time we should think more of the destiny of individuals.  Apart from Christ they will be lost for eternity.

Jeremiah was sent to minister to an unlikely individual.

Jeremiah 28:12    Now the word of the LORD came to Jeremiah, after Hananiah the prophet had broken the yoke from the neck of the prophet Jeremiah, saying,
Jeremiah 28:13    “Go and tell Hananiah, saying, ‘Thus says the LORD: “You have broken the yokes of wood, but you have made in their place yokes of iron.”

Jeremiah 28:14    For thus says the LORD of hosts, the God of Israel: “I have put a yoke of iron on the neck of all these nations, that they may serve Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon; and they shall serve him. I have given him the beasts of the field also.” ‘ ”

You’d think this would have been more appropriate, and have had more impact, if Jeremiah had said it publicly at the time of Hananiah’s prophecy.  You’d think it would have been better for all the people to hear it, not just Hananiah.

God, being all-wise, thought otherwise.  God sees hearts in ways we just can’t.  He divides between the soul and the spirit in a person.  It’s complicated, high-level stuff.

I was talking to a veteran this week who had seen duty as an explosives ordinance disposal specialist.  We talked about how each device is different making diffusing or disposing of each device a little different.

The human heart is far more complex than a bomb.  God deals slowly, patiently with hearts.  He can’t cut the red wire too soon or the whole thing will implode.  So with Hananiah we must trust God knew a public rebuke would have been devastating.

We see, too, that Jeremiah was willing to take a hit if necessary.  I’m sure the large crowd in the Temple that Sabbath day thought Hananiah had put Jeremiah in his place.  If it was a prophetic smack-down, Hananiah looked to have won.  We know better.

God requires one thing: faithfulness.  Jeremiah was faithful to deliver the message God gave him.  He was equally faithful to represent the heart of God.  In this case that meant emphasizing that God was indeed longsuffering by saying “Amen!” and walking away.

In the end when I stand before Jesus one-on-one it won’t matter what other people thought about me.  I may think my life is littered with broken yokes as others seem to have gotten the upper hand, but I won’t be responsible for what others did with the truth of God’s Word – only for my own handling of His Word.

I cannot emphasize this enough.  In almost every other area of life we look at raw results to gauge success.

The results you want to look for in your walk with The Lord are the fruit – the spiritual fruit – promised you as a believer.

Spiritual fruit is produced as you yield to The Lord, as you abide in Him the way a vine abides in a branch.  The branch doesn’t work hard to produce fruit.  It receives from the vine as the farmer tills and cultivates and prunes it for a greater yield.

Something else that is important to realize.  You cannot produce fruit in someone else’s life; only Jesus can produce spiritual fruit in a person’s life.  You cannot make someone else fruitful; it’s a work of the Spirit within them accomplished by their own yielding to The Lord.

You can provide an environment in which they have opportunity to receive The Lord and grow in Him but their fruitfulness (or fruitlessness) is on them.

Jeremiah 28:15    Then the prophet Jeremiah said to Hananiah the prophet, “Hear now, Hananiah, the LORD has not sent you, but you make this people trust in a lie.
Jeremiah 28:16    Therefore thus says the LORD: ‘Behold, I will cast you from the face of the earth. This year you shall die, because you have taught rebellion against the LORD.’ ”
Jeremiah 28:17    So Hananiah the prophet died the same year in the seventh month.

By now we can read this and understand that Jeremiah would be weeping while delivering such news.  This wasn’t a moment to gloat at being the ‘real’ prophet whom God was going to vindicate.  No, this was sad – extremely sad.

Hananiah was dead within the next two months.  It may seem morbid (it’s not) but I think we must assume that the people we encounter – all of them no matter their ages and relative health – could die at any moment.  The Gospel is a warning that if they die apart from faith in Jesus Christ they have forfeited Heaven and will perish eternally in Hell, despite the so-called ‘prophets’ in every generation who want to erase Hell from our thinking.

Are you feeling a little like Jeremiah?  You’ve taken a stand for The Lord but it seems as if nothing is happening; or, worse, that the things that are happening seem contrary to His Word?

Does it seem as if the Hananiah’s of this age are prospering while you are being embarrassed?  Like your yokes – the things you built for The Lord, at His direction – are broken at your feet?

“It ain’t over til it’s over.”  When it is over it will just be you and The Lord.  Everything hidden will be revealed.  It will all make sense.  He will wipe away every tear.  You won’t care to be vindicated because you’ll realize the only Person that you needed to please was Jesus; no other opinion matters but His, and He wants to say to you, “Well done!”

Where There’s Yoke, There’s Holy Fire (Jeremiah 27v1-22)

Mantyhose are the latest fashion accessory for men.

Mantyhose are – you guessed it – pantyhose for men.  They have been popular in Europe for some time and are now making inroads in America.

Think only guys Arnold would call ‘girlie-men’ wear them?  Scuba divers regularly wear them for extra insulation in cold water and men on horseback wear them to prevent chafing.

Wearing them as a fashion accessory is what’s new.

I was thinking about unusual fashion accessories because in our text Jeremiah goes to a summit meeting of national ambassadors wearing something quite unusual.

Jeremiah 27:2    “Thus says the LORD to me: ‘Make for yourselves bonds and yokes, and put them on your neck,
Jeremiah 27:3    and send them to the king of Edom, the king of Moab, the king of the Ammonites, the king of Tyre, and the king of Sidon, by the hand of the messengers who come to Jerusalem to Zedekiah king of Judah.

“Bonds and yokes” were not normal attire for ambassadors.  They were symbolic accessories to enhance the message God had given Jeremiah.

Christians are described as bondservants who are to be yoked together with our Master, Jesus Christ.  While it may be impractical to wear bonds and yokes, we should accessorize our lives by acting like bond servants and yokefellows.  We might not wear these implements but people can still see us as if we were wearing them.

I’ll organize my thoughts around two points: #1 Your Spiritual Wardrobe Is Best Accessorized By Bonds & Yokes, and #2 Your Spiritual Warfare Is Best Achieved In Bonds & Yokes.

#1    Your Spiritual Wardrobe
    Is Best Accessorized By Bonds & Yokes

God had a message for Judah and the surrounding nations and He punctuated it with a stunning visual prop.

Jeremiah 27:1    In the beginning of the reign of Jehoiakim the son of Josiah, king of Judah, this word came to Jeremiah from the LORD, saying,
Jeremiah 27:2    “Thus says the LORD to me: ‘Make for yourselves bonds and yokes, and put them on your neck,
Jeremiah  27:3    and send them to the king of Edom, the king of Moab, the king of the Ammonites, the king of Tyre, and the king of Sidon, by the hand of the messengers who come to Jerusalem to Zedekiah king of Judah.

Jeremiah received this message “in the beginning of the reign of Jehoiakim.”  He didn’t deliver it until Zedekiah was king of Judah.  He didn’t deliver it for fifteen years.

God is always speaking to you.  Some of what He is telling you, revealing to you, is for today; some of it is for a later day.  It’s one of the reasons why it is so important to be in regular fellowship being taught the Word systematically.  Don’t wait til the crisis, or for the opportunity, in order to be ready.

Five ambassadors were in Jerusalem having a meeting with Zedekiah.  They were wanting to convince Zedekiah to ally with them against Babylon.

Jeremiah was not invited to the meeting.  Well, not officially.  He was sent with God’s authority to address these delegates.

You and I are ambassadors at large.  Wherever you are you have God’s authority to announce the forgiveness of sins available to men through faith in Jesus Christ.

Jeremiah walked in wearing bonds and a yoke and he brought with him bonds and yokes for the king and all these delegates.  He urged them to put them on – or, at least, to wear them when they returned home to show their own kings that God was King.

Jeremiah 27:4    And command them to say to their masters, “Thus says the LORD of hosts, the God of Israel – thus you shall say to your masters:
Jeremiah  27:5    ‘I have made the earth, the man and the beast that are on the ground, by My great power and by My outstretched arm, and have given it to whom it seemed proper to Me.
Jeremiah 27:6    And now I have given all these lands into the hand of Nebuchadnezzar the king of Babylon, My servant; and the beasts of the field I have also given him to serve him.
Jeremiah 27:7    So all nations shall serve him and his son and his son’s son, until the time of his land comes; and then many nations and great kings shall make him serve them.

God revealed to these ambassadors His foreign policy for the Middle East.  Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon was going to rule over them for a period of time as God’s servant.  God was raising-up Nebuchadnezzar – a pagan king – to do His bidding on the earth.

We say of things like this that God is sovereign; and He is.  Sovereignty, however, is an activity of God, not an attribute.  God is love – it’s an attribute.  He acts sovereignly as directed and even limited by His love.

God limits His sovereignty by His love in at least three ways:

He allows sin to exist in His universe.
He allows Himself to be moved by prayer.
He allows mankind free-will.

Within His love-imposed limits God rules and He overrules for His glory and to accomplish His eternal purposes in human history.

One unusual comment caught my attention.  Did Nebuchadnezzar really rule over wild beasts?  Did they serve him – and what does that mean?

Daniel says the same thing about Nebuchadnezzar (2:37-38).  I can only conclude that God really did give Nebuchadnezzar a power to control wild beasts.  Amazing!

Jeremiah literally wore bonds and a yoke.  We are to wear them spiritually.

We ‘wear’ them when we walk in every situation, and in every role, as if we were yoked with The Lord as His bondservant.

In the New Testament the roles of husbands, wives, children, citizens, employers, and employees are all described.  So are the roles of men and women, and leaders and laity, in the church.

The role of women provides a good example for us.  A wife is, for example, to be a keeper at home and helpmeet to her husband.  In the church she is not to teach or have authority over men.  Yet in homes and in houses of God those yokes are being thrown off; those bonds are being broken.

You can’t be a bondservant, a yokefellow, if you throw off your God-given, biblically revealed roles.

The Lord said His yoke was easy, not at all burdensome.  His description of my roles and responsibilities are to be understood as a blessing.  The boundaries He imposes are for my good and His glory.

When I submit to The Lord, I might look just as weird to onlookers as did Jeremiah did wearing the bonds and yoke.  They might refuse to take for themselves the Lord’s yoke.  But if I want to be able to speak with authority for The Lord, I’m going to have to accessorize my walk with submission to His well-intentioned, loving boundaries for my life.

#2    Your Spiritual Warfare
    Is Best Achieved In Bonds & Yokes

The remaining verses of chapter twenty-seven urge the people of these nations to go with God’s plan to surrender and submit to Babylon.  If they would, they could stay in their own land.  Sure, they’d have to pay tribute to Nebuchadnezzar, but they wouldn’t be overrun and exiled.

In a very real sense these nations would be surrendering and submitting not to Babylon but to God Who was allowing Nebuchadnezzar to have some power on the earth.

For us these verses can picture submitting to God’s plans for our lives.  Surrounded by the world, with the god of this world on the prowl, remaining yoked as bondservants gives us the victory day-by-day in our spiritual warfare.  We never surrender or submit to the world or the devil but as we surrender and submit to God in a world in which the devil has been granted some limited power, our victory depends upon our being yoked bondservants.

Jeremiah first addressed the foreign ambassadors.

Jeremiah 27:8    And it shall be, that the nation and kingdom which will not serve Nebuchadnezzar the king of Babylon, and which will not put its neck under the yoke of the king of Babylon, that nation I will punish,’ says the LORD, ‘with the sword, the famine, and the pestilence, until I have consumed them by his hand.
Jeremiah 27:9    Therefore do not listen to your prophets, your diviners, your dreamers, your soothsayers, or your sorcerers, who speak to you, saying, “You shall not serve the king of Babylon.”
Jeremiah 27:10    For they prophesy a lie to you, to remove you far from your land; and I will drive you out, and you will perish.
Jeremiah 27:11    But the nations that bring their necks under the yoke of the king of Babylon and serve him, I will let them remain in their own land,’ says the LORD, ‘and they shall till it and dwell in it.’ ” ‘ ”

Historians tell us Babylon was having internal strife at this time.  These weaker nations thought it the right moment to break-away. Their own advisers told them what they wanted to hear.  God was their best foreign policy advisor and He said to trash plans to rebel.

There are always going to be ways that seem right to us.  If we must step outside God’s boundaries to walk those ways, they are wrong for us.  Anytime we throw off God’s yoke we are making ourselves prey for the schemes of Satan.

Jeremiah next addressed King Zedekiah.

Jeremiah 27:12    I also spoke to Zedekiah king of Judah according to all these words, saying, “Bring your necks under the yoke of the king of Babylon, and serve him and his people, and live!
Jeremiah 27:13    Why will you die, you and your people, by the sword, by the famine, and by the pestilence, as the LORD has spoken against the nation that will not serve the king of Babylon?
Jeremiah 27:14    Therefore do not listen to the words of the prophets who speak to you, saying, ‘You shall not serve the king of Babylon,’ for they prophesy a lie to you;
Jeremiah 27:15    for I have not sent them,” says the LORD, “yet they prophesy a lie in My name, that I may drive you out, and that you may perish, you and the prophets who prophesy to you.”

Everyone knew that Jeremiah was the real thing, the genuine prophet The Lord had sent.  There were, however, other voices urging a different course of action.

Applying this to us as yoked bondservants I’d point out that we, too, have many other advisers and voices trying to influence us to remain sovereign over our own little kingdoms.  Everyday you face and feel pressure from the “ambassadors” of this world to rebel against God.

1. Advertising can be an ambassador of this world sent to pressure you to rebel against God.
2. Entertainment can be an ambassador of this world sent to pressure you to rebel against God.

There are many other such passive ambassadors which can and do promote a worldly message that is in stark and direct contrast to the Gospel of your Lord, Jesus Christ.

There are active ambassadors as well.  In Second Timothy 2:26 the Bible says that nonbelievers are the captives of the devil and often unwittingly do His will.  They advise you to break the yoke of obedience to Jesus.

The chapter ends with Jeremiah addressing the priest and people of Judah.

Jeremiah 27:16    Also I spoke to the priests and to all this people, saying, “Thus says the LORD: ‘Do not listen to the words of your prophets who prophesy to you, saying, “Behold, the vessels of the LORD’s house will now shortly be brought back from Babylon”; for they prophesy a lie to you.
Jeremiah 27:17    Do not listen to them; serve the king of Babylon, and live! Why should this city be laid waste?
Jeremiah 27:18    But if they are prophets, and if the word of the LORD is with them, let them now make intercession to the LORD of hosts, that the vessels which are left in the house of the LORD, in the house of the king of Judah, and at Jerusalem, do not go to Babylon.’
Jeremiah 27:19    “For thus says the LORD of hosts concerning the pillars, concerning the Sea, concerning the carts, and concerning the remainder of the vessels that remain in this city,
Jeremiah 27:20    which Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon did not take, when he carried away captive Jeconiah the son of Jehoiakim, king of Judah, from Jerusalem to Babylon, and all the nobles of Judah and Jerusalem –
Jeremiah 27:21    yes, thus says the LORD of hosts, the God of Israel, concerning the vessels that remain in the house of the LORD, and in the house of the king of Judah and of Jerusalem:
Jeremiah 27:22    ‘They shall be carried to Babylon, and there they shall be until the day that I visit them,’ says the LORD. ‘Then I will bring them up and restore them to this place.’ ”

In his first assault upon Jerusalem Nebuchadnezzar had carried away captives and certain articles from the Temple.  The false prophets were telling the priests and the people that those articles were soon to be returned.  Not true; and if they did not submit to Babylon, the rest of the articles in the Temple would be taken and the Temple itself destroyed.

While you and I are submitting to The Lord as yoked bondservants it can seem as if we are losing ground.  It can seem as if the devil and those who are in his camp are enjoying victory after victory, looting us, robbing us.  Why wear the yoke when it seems counterproductive?
It’s never counterproductive.  It produces, for example, spiritual fruit in your life.  That by itself is enough of a reason to walk with The Lord surrendered to Him and submitted to His will.

As long as we are on the earth in these bodies of flesh the devil is going to have a limited reign over the planet.  He is, after all, the god of this world, the prince of the power of the air.  It’s within the sovereignty of God to allow the devil to continue for a time.  If you’re discouraged about it, go to the last chapters in the Revelation of Jesus Christ and you can see how it all ends.

Meantime God has determined that our victory be decided by being His yoked bondservants.

Let’s suggest a contemporary situation where the devil seems to be gaining ground.  Of course you can expect there to be an assault against biblical marriage.  The devil wants to undermine it, to destroy it, and thereby undermine and destroy societies.  The prophets, diviners, dreamers, soothsayers and sorcerers of this world all combine to tell you that biblical marriage is out of date, old fashioned, if not downright wrong.  Get a divorce for any reason; marry a man if you’re a man, or a woman if you’re a woman.  Marry multiple partners.  Or don’t get married at all – just live together.

How do we fight it?  Respectfully I’d say that initiatives and ballot measures are not the ultimate weapon to gain the victory.  Notice I said ‘ultimate weapon.’  We should do those things, support those efforts, for sure.

But we must embrace the understanding that the real victory is to ourselves be yoked bondservants in our marriages.

Christians, for the most part, are not showing the world much when it comes to marriage.  They too easily throw off the yoke of marriage, refusing to submit to The Lord as bondservants.  Thus we have lost our authority – our spiritual authority – to set the standard.

The classic list of weapons in our warfare is in Ephesians chapter six.  There you read of the armor of God.  Right before your armor is described there is a discussion of the roles of husbands, wives, children, parents, employers and employees.  It establishes that the soldier who wants to wield the full armor of God must also, and first, be wearing bonds and yokes.

It is within our submission to our roles that the weapons of our warfare are activated to be mighty for God.

There are lots of books and Bible studies on spiritual warfare.  Usually they describe how we wield our spiritual weapons.  That’s all good so long as you understand that in order to wield those weapons you must be surrendered to God and to His plans for your life.  They don’t really ‘work’ in your hands if your heart is in rebellion.

The comic book hero, Thor, was portrayed in a recent movie.  If you are at all familiar with the mythology or the comic book lore you know he has as a weapon a mighty hammer.  There is a scene early in the film in which he goes to retrieve his hammer but it won’t budge.  He can’t lift it.  He has no power.

He has no power to wield his hammer because he is acting on his own, for himself, and not in submission to his role as king of Asgard.  Later he sacrifices himself to save others and his hammer returns to him, his power returns to him.

It’s a crude illustration but I think you understand.  We want to wield the hammer without making the sacrifices of submission to God.

God’s power is revealed in our wearing His yoke, in walking as His bondservants within His loving boundaries.

Temple Stand-In (Jeremiah 26)

Johnnie Cochran was able to summarize the entire nine month O.J. Simpson trial, all of its evidence and arguments, into one rhyming phrase that no one who heard it will ever forget: “If it doesn’t fit, you must acquit!”

Jeremiah was on trial for speaking against the Temple.  I’m no Johnnie Cochran but after reading the text I think it can be summarized into one rhyming phrase: “If you will repent, God will relent!”

Three times in our text we will encounter the word “relent” or “relented.”  Some versions translate it “repent” or “repented,” but I think “relent” better captures the thought being communicated.
The person who is described as relenting, or at least desiring to relent, is God.

Jeremiah 26:3    Perhaps everyone will listen and turn from his evil way, that I may relent concerning the calamity which I purpose to bring on them because of the evil of their doings.’

Jeremiah 26:13    Now therefore, amend your ways and your doings, and obey the voice of the LORD your God; then the LORD will relent concerning the doom that He has pronounced against you.

Jeremiah 26:19    Did Hezekiah king of Judah and all Judah ever put him to death? Did he not fear the LORD and seek the LORD’s favor? And the LORD – relented concerning the doom which He had pronounced against them…”

When a people who are sinning turn from their sin, when they repent of their sin, God relents from punishing them.

I’m going to coin a word: relentful.  God is relentful or, as it is put in the New Testament, He is “not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance” (Second Peter 3:9).

Knowing God’s heart to relent from punishing sinners we ought to be relentless in serving Him.

I’ll organize my thoughts around two exclamations, #1 What A Relentful God You Serve!, and #2 What A Relentless Servant You Are!

#1    What A Relentful God You Serve!

God does not change His mind, nor is there ever a reason for God to “repent.”  When the Bible says God repents it means He relents from punishing sinners because of their repentance.  He warns rebellious people to change their minds and their direction before He must punish them for their sin.  If they repent He acts according to His nature to forgive them and restore them.

Jeremiah was sent to the Temple at Jerusalem to warn the people to change their minds and their direction and to remind them God was relentful.

Jeremiah 26:1    In the beginning of the reign of Jehoiakim the son of Josiah, king of Judah, this word came from the LORD, saying,
Jeremiah 26:2    “Thus says the LORD: ‘Stand in the court of the LORD’s house, and speak to all the cities of Judah, which come to worship in the LORD’s house, all the words that I command you to speak to them. Do not diminish a word.

The fact Jeremiah could “speak to all the cities” indicates this was one of the three annual feasts in Judah when everyone was to visit the Temple.

Jeremiah was carefully charged to “speak… all the words” God gave him and to not “diminish a word.”  Two things come to mind:

First, it’s important to read, teach and study the entire Bible, verse-by-verse and chapter-by-chapter.
Second, it’s just as important in every verse to declare exactly what it says without diminishing it.

Why would you want to diminish the Word of God?  There are lots of reasons.  Sometimes a verse doesn’t agree with your particular theology so you force it to say something it isn’t really saying.

Then, too, when people are in sin they have a tendency to reinterpret verses that expose their behavior as sin.

Jeremiah 26:3    Perhaps everyone will listen and turn from his evil way, that I may relent concerning the calamity which I purpose to bring on them because of the evil of their doings.’

This is beautiful.  Underline it.  Highlight it.  Before giving Jeremiah the words he was to speak and not diminish God revealed His intention in those words.  They were deep in sin; but if they would repent, God would relent.

Are you in sin?  Living in ongoing sin?  Repent.

What is biblical repentance?  It is a complete change of mind with regard to sin resulting in a change in behavior – a change in the direction you are headed.  H.A. Ironside puts repentance into perspective for us.

It can never be out of place to proclaim salvation by free, unmerited favor to all who put their trust in the Lord Jesus Christ.  But it needs  ever to be insisted on that the faith that justifies is not a mere intellectual process – not  simply crediting certain historical facts or doctrinal statements; but it is a faith that  springs from a divinely wrought conviction of sin which produces a repentance that  is sincere and genuine.

No man can truly believe in Christ, who does not first repent.  Nor will his repentance end when he has saving faith, but the more he knows God as he goes on through the years, the deeper will that repentance become.  A servant of Christ said, “I repented before I knew the meaning of the word.  I have repented far more since than I did then.”

There is a tendency to think you repent less after you are saved.  You’ve heard it said that although a Christian is not sinless, he or she sins less-and-less.  While that ought to be true, one reason a Christian sins less-and-less is because he or she repents more-and-more.  As you grow in The Lord so does your sensitivity to sin.

Jeremiah 26:4    And you shall say to them, ‘Thus says the LORD: “If you will not listen to Me, to walk in My law which I have set before you,
Jeremiah 26:5    to heed the words of My servants the prophets whom I sent to you, both rising up early and sending them (but you have not heeded),
Jeremiah 26:6    then I will make this house like Shiloh, and will make this city a curse to all the nations of the earth.” ‘ ”

“Shiloh” was the original location of the tabernacle and the ark of the covenant in the early days of the nation of Israel.  God’s presence there at Shiloh did not stop Him from punishing their ancestors for their sin; Shiloh lay in ruins.

God was warning Judah that He would destroy their city and their Temple as He had destroyed Shiloh – unless they repented so He might relent.

God gave the “law” so that there would be no confusion as to what constitutes sin.  He sent prophets to make specific application of the law.  He even gave examples of the punishments He meted out in the past upon unrepentant sinners.

The New Testament is filled with exhortations to the believer to not sin.  There is no confusion as to what constitutes sin.  If you are a believer the Holy Spirit lives within you and one of His ministries is to convict you of your sin.  And if you look around you can see examples of believers who refused to repent and whose spiritual lives have been ruined.

Because the lightning bolt doesn’t immediately strike from Heaven we tend to think God is not mindful of our sin.  He is and He is warning us.  I can’t say when or how but eventually God must deal in discipline with His children who sin.

Rather than focus on the reality of God’s eventual discipline, look at it this way.  When you or I sin we are despising the Cross upon which Jesus died.  We are putting some person, some possession, some passion, ahead of our love for The Lord.

It’s not just to avoid discipline that we ought to repent.  It’s to accept discipleship so we might grow in intimacy with Jesus.  In the end no person or thing will prove to be more important than your relationship with The Lord.

The fact God portrays Himself as a relenter is a reminder you were created to have fellowship with Him and that you can never be satisfied by anything other than Him.

#2    What A Relentless Servant You Are!

Jeremiah’s life was at stake.  At least one other contemporary prophet who had preached this same message had been put to death by this same king of Judah.  Nevertheless Jeremiah was relentless in delivering the message.

Jeremiah 26:7    So the priests and the prophets and all the people heard Jeremiah speaking these words in the house of the LORD.
Jeremiah 26:8    Now it happened, when Jeremiah had made an end of speaking all that the LORD had commanded him to speak to all the people, that the priests and the prophets and all the people seized him, saying, “You will surely die!
Jeremiah 26:9    Why have you prophesied in the name of the LORD, saying, ‘This house shall be like Shiloh, and this city shall be desolate, without an inhabitant’?” And all the people were gathered against Jeremiah in the house of the LORD.
Jeremiah 26:10    When the princes of Judah heard these things, they came up from the king’s house to the house of the LORD and sat down in the entry of the New Gate of the LORD’s house.
Jeremiahh 26:11    And the priests and the prophets spoke to the princes and all the people, saying, “This man deserves to die! For he has prophesied against this city, as you have heard with your ears.”

Jeremiah had spoken “all that The Lord commanded him to speak” without diminishing a word.  His words led to his seizure by the Temple officials and he was taken immediately to trial.

Jeremiah 26:12    Then Jeremiah spoke to all the princes and all the people, saying: “The LORD sent me to prophesy against this house and against this city with all the words that you have heard.
Jeremiah 26:13    Now therefore, amend your ways and your doings, and obey the voice of the LORD your God; then the LORD will relent concerning the doom that He has pronounced against you.
Jeremiah 26:14    As for me, here I am, in your hand; do with me as seems good and proper to you.
Jeremiah 26:15    But know for certain that if you put me to death, you will surely bring innocent blood on yourselves, on this city, and on its inhabitants; for truly the LORD has sent me to you to speak all these words in your hearing.”

Jeremiah offered no defense other than to reiterate his message.  It might result in his being put to death but that was of no concern to him.

Think of all the heroes who risk their lives for the sake of saving others – even others who don’t appreciate it or, from one point of view, don’t really deserve it.  Sometimes the persons who need rescuing resist for one reason or another; but the police officer, the firefighter, the EMT, the lifeguard, is compelled to rescue them.

Christians are lifesavers – spiritual lifesavers.  We are compelled to attempt to rescue sinners doomed for Hell.  They most often resist, sometimes violently or at least angrily.  What kind of a lifesaver would we be if we let them perish because it seemed inconvenient or dangerous?  No, we must be relentless.
Jeremiah 26:16    So the princes and all the people said to the priests and the prophets, “This man does not deserve to die. For he has spoken to us in the name of the LORD our God.”

On that day, at that trial, cooler heads prevailed.  Jeremiah was acquitted.

Jeremiah 26:17    Then certain of the elders of the land rose up and spoke to all the assembly of the people, saying:
Jeremiah 26:18    “Micah of Moresheth prophesied in the days of Hezekiah king of Judah, and spoke to all the people of Judah, saying, ‘Thus says the LORD of hosts: “Zion shall be plowed like a field, Jerusalem shall become heaps of ruins, And the mountain of the temple Like the bare hills of the forest.” ‘
Jeremiah 26:19    Did Hezekiah king of Judah and all Judah ever put him to death? Did he not fear the LORD and seek the LORD’s favor? And the LORD – relented concerning the doom which He had pronounced against them. But we are doing great evil against ourselves.”

To validate their verdict the “princes and the people” referenced a prophet from their past, Micah, who had delivered a similar warning to repent.  It reminded them, if even for a moment, that God desires to relent.

These people would continue in their rebellion and sin.  This was a momentary, fleeting, change – not a true repentance.  They may even have thought it big of them to have saved Jeremiah’s life.

When God brings His Word to bear on something in your life, deal with it immediately and fully.  Change your mind and your direction.  Receive God’s empowering to effect the change.

Jeremiah 26:20    Now there was also a man who prophesied in the name of the LORD, Urijah the son of Shemaiah of Kirjath Jearim, who prophesied against this city and against this land according to all the words of Jeremiah.
Jeremiah 26:21    And when Jehoiakim the king, with all his mighty men and all the princes, heard his words, the king sought to put him to death; but when Urijah heard it, he was afraid and fled, and went to Egypt.
Jeremiah 26:22    Then Jehoiakim the king sent men to Egypt: Elnathan the son of Achbor, and other men who went with him to Egypt.
Jeremiah 26:23    And they brought Urijah from Egypt and brought him to Jehoiakim the king, who killed him with the sword and cast his dead body into the graves of the common people.

Urijah, another prophet, delivered the same message but, in fear for his life, he fled.  It’s easy to criticize him especially in comparison to Jeremiah.

I don’t think we have enough information to say that his fleeing was an act of disobedience.  There are examples of believers in the Bible escaping when they hear of plots against them.

The story of Urijah emphasizes that a person speaking the Word of God without diminishing it is always risking their very life.  It may seem less so in a country like ours but the sharing of the Gospel puts you at risk.

Jeremiah 26:24    Nevertheless the hand of Ahikam the son of Shaphan was with Jeremiah, so that they should not give him into the hand of the people to put him to death.

Ahikam was one of the five whom King Josiah sent to consult the prophetess Huldah in connection with the discovery of the book of the law.  He was the son of Shaphan, the royal secretary, and the father of Gedaliah, governor of Judea after the destruction of Jerusalem by the Babylonians.  He was a spiritual guy.

Jeremiah had an ally and for that I’m sure he was grateful.  With or without an ally he was relentless to minister the Gospel.

Could you be described as relentless with regards to your serving The Lord?  Could I?

If we’ve lost some of our edge, some of our drive, we ought to consider the relentfulness of our God.  People are perishing but He remains unwilling that any should perish.  They are sinners for whom God has provided eternal life through Jesus Christ.  Jesus is the Savior of all men – especially those who believe.

How has God gifted you?  Stir-up the gift or gifts of God in you and serve Him with your whole mind, heart, soul and strength.

Set aside more time for serving The Lord.  Pray about taking advantage of more opportunities to share Jesus with others.  Give more financially to the work of The Lord.

Only one life, will soon be past.
Only what’s done for Christ will last.

The Bartender’s Bible (Jeremiah 25v1-38)

Neat.  Straight-up.  Dirty.  Two fingers.

If you’ve ever been in a bar, or tended bar, you recognize those as bartending terms.

You may think that tending bar is a profession a Christian should avoid, and ordinarily I’d say you’re right.  But in our text God called upon Jeremiah to tend bar.

He said to His prophet, “Take this wine cup of fury from My hand, and cause all the nations, to whom I send you, to drink it” (v15).

Not just drink it; “Drink, be drunk, and vomit!” (v27).
The cup of wine is a symbol of the wrath of God against sin that must eventually be poured out upon unrepentant sinners.

Jesus picked-up on the illustration of the cup when, in the Garden of Gethsemane just before He was to be crucified He said to His Father, “if it is possible, may this cup be taken from me” (Matthew  26:39).

The amazing thing is that Jesus took the cup of God’s wrath into His hands and drank it down – down to the last drop.

Jesus drank the cup and, when He did, He drank it in the place of every believing sinner.

What about those who are not saved?  They must drink the cup for themselves – meaning they will die in their sins and be lost forever.

What we are going to see in chapter twenty-five is a people of God who ought to have been announcing to the surrounding nations that God was going to pour out upon them His wrath against sin.  They didn’t announce God’s judgment – they couldn’t – because they were living in sin.  God found it necessary to discipline them using those surrounding nations.

We are a people of God – the church – who ought to be announcing to everyone that the wrath of God is coming upon all those who have rejected Jesus Christ.  As the people of God we must see to it we are not living in sin or God will first discipline us.

Keeping with God’s own illustration I’ll organize my thoughts around two points: #1  God Took His Cup From You; Are You Sober?, and #2 God Gave His Cup To You; Are You Pouring?

#1    God Took His Cup From You; Are You Sober?

You can hear God’s longing for His people in the opening words.

Jeremiah 25:1-7
1 The word that came to Jeremiah concerning all the people of Judah, in the fourth year of Jehoiakim the son of Josiah, king of Judah (which was the first year of Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon),
2 which Jeremiah the prophet spoke to all the people of Judah and to all the inhabitants of Jerusalem, saying:
3 “From the thirteenth year of Josiah the son of Amon, king of Judah, even to this day, this is the twenty-third year in which the word of the Lord has come to me; and I have spoken to you, rising early and speaking, but you have not listened.
4 And the Lord has sent to you all His servants the prophets, rising early and sending them, but you have not listened nor inclined your ear to hear.
5 They said, ‘Repent now everyone of his evil way and his evil doings, and dwell in the land that the Lord has given to you and your fathers forever and ever.
6 Do not go after other gods to serve them and worship them, and do not provoke Me to anger with the works of your hands; and I will not harm you.’
7 Yet you have not listened to Me,” says the Lord, “that you might provoke Me to anger with the works of your hands to your own hurt.

God had been wooing His wayward people, warning them, for going on three decades.  He had sent prophets, droughts, famines, and pestilences.  God’s people continued in their idolatry.  It was time to bring on the final discipline – the one that would turn their hearts back to The Lord.

Jeremiah 25:8-10
8 “Therefore thus says the Lord of hosts: ‘Because you have not heard My words,
9 behold, I will send and take all the families of the north,’ says the Lord, ‘and Nebuchadnezzar the king of Babylon, My servant, and will bring them against this land, against its inhabitants, and against these nations all around, and will utterly destroy them, and make them an astonishment, a hissing, and perpetual desolations.
10 Moreover I will take from them the voice of mirth and the voice of gladness, the voice of the bridegroom and the voice of the bride, the sound of the millstones and the light of the lamp.

The Jews ought to have evangelized the Babylonians.  Instead God would use them to discipline His people.  Instead of merely acting like Babylonians by adopting their wicked idolatry, the Jews would be exiled to Babylon and experience a massive overdose of the world.

God’s people are called upon in every generation to have an effect on the surrounding culture.  Too often we surrender to the surrounding culture.  When that happens it is certainly within God’s rights to use the surrounding culture against us.

Jeremiah 25:11
11 And this whole land shall be a desolation and an astonishment, and these nations shall serve the king of Babylon seventy years.

For the first time the exact length of the exile was given.  Why “seventy years?”  In Second Chronicles 36:21 we’re told it was “to fulfill the word of the Lord by the mouth of Jeremiah, until the land had enjoyed her Sabbaths.  As long as she lay desolate she kept the Sabbath, to fulfill seventy years.”

From the time of King Saul until the final Babylonian invasion was a period of close to five hundred years.  Every seventh year the Jews were supposed to observe a Sabbath Year during which their land was to lie fallow.  They did not observe the Sabbath Years – seventy of them to be exact.

Jeremiah 25:12
12 ‘Then it will come to pass, when seventy years are completed, that I will punish the king of Babylon and that nation, the land of the Chaldeans, for their iniquity,’ says the Lord; ‘and I will make it a perpetual desolation.

Did I hear someone say it was unfair for God to use “the king of Babylon” as a tool?  It wasn’t unfair to the Jews.  They were behaving as if they were Babylonians so God was simply letting them experience the consequences of their unbelief.

It wasn’t unfair to the Babylonians.  It provided a great opportunity for them.  If you are familiar with the story you know that King Nebuchadnezzar gets saved during the Jewish exile.  Later his successor will act foolishly and God will pour out His wrath against him and against Babylon as they fall to the Medes and Persians.

In light of the fact that there is a cup of the wrath of God coming that nonbelievers must drink for themselves and thereby become drunk you might ask yourself, Am I remaining sober?  Am I turning away from the things of the world or am I returning to them as if I’d never been delivered from them?

We are to be effective in the world, not be infected by worldliness.  It requires vigilance, discipline, and watchfulness over our spiritual lives.  We don’t want to merely be better than the world; we want to better the world by our presence.

#2    God Gave His Cup To You; Are You Pouring?

Jeremiah was portrayed as a server of this cup of wine that was the wrath of God against sin.  We’d say he was a bartender – a sober bartender.
Think of yourself as a sober bartender in that you are in the world, surrounded by it, pressured by it, but you need not surrender to it.

What does a bartender do?  He or she pours.  In keeping with the current illustration, we are to pour-out the warning that God’s longsuffering with sinners will one day end and His wrath against sin will come upon them.

Jeremiah 25:15-16
15 For thus says the Lord God of Israel to me: “Take this wine cup of fury from My hand, and cause all the nations, to whom I send you, to drink it.
16 And they will drink and stagger and go mad because of the sword that I will send among them.”

“To whom I send you.”  Wherever you are think of it as your having been “sent” there by God with this knowledge of the Gospel.  Without it men are lost and will perish.

Jeremiah 25:17-26
17 Then I took the cup from the Lord’s hand, and made all the nations drink, to whom the Lord had sent me:
18 Jerusalem and the cities of Judah, its kings and its princes, to make them a desolation, an astonishment, a hissing, and a curse, as it is this day;
19 Pharaoh king of Egypt, his servants, his princes, and all his people;
20 all the mixed multitude, all the kings of the land of Uz, all the kings of the land of the Philistines (namely, Ashkelon, Gaza, Ekron, and the remnant of Ashdod);
21 Edom, Moab, and the people of Ammon;
22 all the kings of Tyre, all the kings of Sidon, and the kings of the coastlands which are across the sea;
23 Dedan, Tema, Buz, and all who are in the farthest corners;
24 all the kings of Arabia and all the kings of the mixed multitude who dwell in the desert;
25 all the kings of Zimri, all the kings of Elam, and all the kings of the Medes;
26 all the kings of the north, far and near, one with another; and all the kingdoms of the world which are on the face of the earth. Also the king of Sheshach shall drink after them.

If you looked at a map you’d see this was a list that put the nations in geographic order starting from Judah and working toward “Sheshach,” which was how the Jews referred to Babylon.

Did Jeremiah literally make such a journey and, in each nation, act out the drama of pouring out wine into a cup to symbolize the wrath of God to come upon nonbelievers?

Most commentators say “No,” he didn’t literally make such a journey.  But I don’t think this was all simply a spoken word, either; I do think he acted it out somehow, somewhere.  These Old Testament prophets were dramatic and visual.

You want to talk PowerPoint, it’s a guy like Jeremiah speaking forth the Word of God in power then making his point with a compelling visual aid.

Jeremiah 25:27-29
27 “Therefore you shall say to them, ‘Thus says the Lord of hosts, the God of Israel: “Drink, be drunk, and vomit! Fall and rise no more, because of the sword which I will send among you.” ‘
28 And it shall be, if they refuse to take the cup from your hand to drink, then you shall say to them, ‘Thus says the Lord of hosts: “You shall certainly drink!
29 For behold, I begin to bring calamity on the city which is called by My name, and should you be utterly unpunished? You shall not be unpunished, for I will call for a sword on all the inhabitants of the earth,” says the Lord of hosts.’

Some smug smart alec might say, “I’ll just refuse to drink this cup.” Not an option.  The wrath of God against sin is a reality.  Just look at the succession of world ruling empires accurately predicted in the Bible in relation to Israel that have come and gone just asGod said they would.

There is also a future time of God’s wrath being poured-out upon all the world at once.  You can read all about it in the Revelation of Jesus Christ, in chapters six through eighteen.

The closing verses of our chapter read like a tragic poem which summarizes the future time of God’s wrath.

Jeremiah 25:30-38
30 “Therefore prophesy against them all these words, and say to them: ‘The Lord will roar from on high, And utter His voice from His holy habitation; He will roar mightily against His fold. He will give a shout, as those who tread the grapes, Against all the inhabitants of the earth.
31 A noise will come to the ends of the earth – For the Lord has a controversy with the nations; He will plead His case with all flesh. He will give those who are wicked to the sword,’ says the Lord.”
32 Thus says the Lord of hosts: “Behold, disaster shall go forth From nation to nation, And a great whirlwind shall be raised up From the farthest parts of the earth.
33 And at that day the slain of the Lord shall be from one end of the earth even to the other end of the earth. They shall not be lamented, or gathered, or buried; they shall become refuse on the ground.
34 “Wail, shepherds, and cry! Roll about in the ashes, You leaders of the flock! For the days of your slaughter and your dispersions are fulfilled; You shall fall like a precious vessel.
35 And the shepherds will have no way to flee, Nor the leaders of the flock to escape.
36 A voice of the cry of the shepherds, And a wailing of the leaders to the flock will be heard. For the Lord has plundered their pasture,
37 And the peaceful dwellings are cut down Because of the fierce anger of the Lord.
38 He has left His lair like the lion; For their land is desolate Because of the fierceness of the Oppressor, And because of His fierce anger.”

History is rushing towards this pouring-out of the cup of God’s wrath against sin upon unrepentant sinners.

Meantime God’s wrath is upon sinners all the time in the sense they are perishing day-by-day.  Jesus has taken the cup full of the wrath of God and drained it.  Whosoever believes in Him is free from the wrath of God.

That freed person, that saved sinner, ought to remain sober to tell others about the coming wrath and the conquering Savior.

Is that all?  Yes; but it’s a lot, especially as we see the day approaching.

I hate to quote Jim Morrison, and this is slightly out of the context he intended, but I’d say, “the time to hesitate is through; no time to wallow in the mire.”

I’ll refrain from saying, “come on, Jesus, light my fire,” but it is a proper sentiment, and we do sing (more appropriately),

Holy fire, burn away,
My desire for anything,
That is not of You but is of me

May that be more than our song.  May it be our settled conviction in these last days.

The Basket Case Scenario (Jeremiah 24v1-10)

MacGyver could fix anything with common, everyday materials.

In the series’ pilot, after MacGyver uses a paper clip to short-circuit a highly advanced timing device on a nuclear warhead and diffuse the bomb at the very last second, he comes back to save the day with chocolate.  He uses it to plug up a sulfuric acid leak explaining that, when mixed with acid, the sugars in chocolate form a thick, gummy residue.

People refer to MacGyver all the time when they have to improvise.

Just a few weeks ago surgeons at University of Kansas Hospital faced a dilemma.  They had a healthy liver from an organ donor but it was too large to fit into their transplant patient.  They decided to cut the liver in half and use it to save two patients.

At the press conference after the procedures one of the surgeons said, “transplant surgery is sometimes like MacGyver surgery.”

You know what else is like MacGyver surgery?  God working on your spiritual heart.  He uses common, everyday materials at His disposal and through them shows you He loves you and has a glorious future in mind for you.

In many cases the common, everyday materials available to God are in categories we do not appreciate or approve of.  He uses suffering, affliction, adversity, persecution and the like.

Why does He use those things?

Look around.  We live in a fallen world.
Look within.  We are sinful human beings.

Suffering, affliction, adversity, persecution and the like are the materials readily available to God to work on our sinful hearts.

A few words in our text that gripped me were “I will give them a heart to know Me…”

Is that not what Adam and Eve had in the Garden – a heart to know God?  Is that not what they forfeited and what God has been at work to restore – a heart to know Him?

I want to have a heart to know God and I know you do as well.

Our text will describe two groups of people in sixth century Judah,  You guessed it – one group has a heart to know God while the other says “No” to God.

I’ll organize my thoughts around two points: #1 Humbling Yourself Accompanies A Heart To Know God, and #2 Hardening Yourself Accompanies A Heart That Says “No” To God.

#1    Humbling Yourself Accompanies A Heart To Know God

Our chapter describes the Jews after the second Babylonian invasion and deportation in 597BC.  The nobles and the craftsmen and the finest young men have been taken to Babylon.  Daniel and his three friends are there, as is Ezekiel.  The stage was set for one final invasion in which Jerusalem and its Temple would be destroyed and most of the Jews who remained in Judah would be killed.

God likened these two groups – one in Babylon and one in Judah – to two baskets of figs.

Jeremiah 24:1-3
1 The Lord showed me, and there were two baskets of figs set before the temple of the Lord, after Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon had carried away captive Jeconiah the son of Jehoiakim, king of Judah, and the princes of Judah with the craftsmen and smiths, from Jerusalem, and had brought them to Babylon.
2 One basket had very good figs, like the figs that are first ripe; and the other basket had very bad figs which could not be eaten, they were so bad.
3 Then the Lord said to me, “What do you see, Jeremiah?” And I said, “Figs, the good figs, very good; and the bad, very bad, which cannot be eaten, they are so bad.”

Baskets of just-ripened figs would be a common sight outside the Temple because they could be offered as firstfruits to The Lord.

Obviously it was unusual to see a basket of bad, very bad, figs that could not be eaten and certainly would not be offered.

I like it that the illustration was simple.  We try so hard to complicate God and His Word.  Maybe we want to seem smart, or at least not dumb.  Let’s work hard to stay simple, clear, and plain.

For his part Jeremiah could repeat the details accurately.  He let the Word of God speak for itself.

Jeremiah 24:4-7
4 Again the word of the Lord came to me, saying,
5 “Thus says the Lord, the God of Israel: ‘Like these good figs, so will I acknowledge those who are carried away captive from Judah, whom I have sent out of this place for their own good, into the land of the Chaldeans.
6 For I will set My eyes on them for good, and I will bring them back to this land; I will build them and not pull them down, and I will plant them and not pluck them up.
7 Then I will give them a 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 to Me with their whole heart.

A foreign power who worshipped pagan gods had twice invaded Judah and carried-off Jews who were now permanently exiled in Babylon.  In exile they had their names changed and were expected to eat unclean foods and were subject to all manner of worldliness and wickedness.

Yet God said, twice, that it was for their own “good.”

It makes spiritual sense if we remember that God’s purpose was to give them a heart to know Him.  They were far from Him, going through the motions of worship but living in the world.  He had been calling to them, for many decades, through His prophets but to no avail.  Looking upon them as a group, seeing their collective idolatry, God determined to use Babylon to bring them to repentance.  It was time to intervene in order that they might “return to [God] with their whole heart.”

Maybe a few words from Job will help put this into perspective.  After his incredible suffering Job was able to declare, “I have heard of You by the hearing of the ear, But now my eye sees You” (42:5).  His heart had been affected by affliction for his good.

Should God have left them alone?  Of course not.  Did He have to be so harsh?  He used what was at His disposal, given their hardheartedness, to effect the necessary transformation.

They were sinners living in a fallen world but God would MacGyver their hearts to know Him by using what was at His disposal.

You and I remain sinners.  We are saved sinners having been justified by faith.  God uses what is at His disposal in this fallen world to effect transformation so we might have “hearts to know Him.”

For our part we ought to humble ourselves in our sufferings, in our adversities, in our afflictions, in our persecutions, so God might reveal attitudes and impulses and habits that we really do want Him to transform.

I’m suggesting what this text is suggesting, that if you are going through something God wants to use it so you will “know Him” more than ever before.  It’s what every Christian’s heart longs for.  It’s just that we would rather God do it by showering us with health and wealth and prosperity.

You know what I hear a lot from Christians?  A trial will come upon them, something severe like cancer, and they will say, “We never really had any trials to speak of until now.”  You know what else they say?  They say they didn’t understand the depth and breadth of God’s grace and mercy and love until the trial either.

God is good all the time and what you are going through is for your good if you will humble yourself and return to The Lord.

#2  Hardening Yourself Accompanies A Heart
      That Says “No” To God

By now you may have forgotten the basket of bad, very bad, figs.

Jeremiah 24:8-10
8 ‘And as the bad figs which cannot be eaten, they are so bad’ -surely thus says the Lord – ‘so will I give up Zedekiah the king of Judah, his princes, the residue of Jerusalem who remain in this land, and those who dwell in the land of Egypt.
9 I will deliver them to trouble into all the kingdoms of the earth, for their harm, to be a reproach and a byword, a taunt and a curse, in all places where I shall drive them.
10 And I will send the sword, the famine, and the pestilence among them, till they are consumed from the land that I gave to them and their fathers.’ ”

On the surface this may sound indiscriminate on God’s part.  After all, did these people have a choice as to whether or not they would be left behind?

Actually they did have a choice.  Jeremiah had been urging the nation’s leaders to surrender to Babylon but they had refused. Instead of obeying God they looked to Egypt for political and military aid.  Some had even fled to Egypt against God’s expressed will.

The people remaining in and around Jerusalem wanted to be there against God’s will.

It’s even been suggested that they thought themselves superior to the exiles since they remained in the Promised Land.
Given the situation they found themselves in they chose to say “No” to God, evidence of a hard heart.

There’s a long-running theological debate as to whether God hardens your heart or you harden it.  I came across this quote that puts it into what I think is the proper biblical perspective.
“A man hardens his own heart by not yielding to the will of God, while God hardens a man’s heart by not yielding to the whims of man.”
God won’t yield to your whims.  He knows that anything other than, or outside of, His will for your life is bad for you both in the short run but mostly in the long run.  If you insist on rebelling against His will He cannot change.  God hardens your heart by not changing His will, demanding instead that you comply.

Think of a parent disciplining their rebellious child.  If the child will humble himself, great; you’re back in fellowship.  But if he won’t humble himself, you cannot simply change your mind.  As you hold your ground against rebellion the child’s heart hardens all the more, confirming he is in sin, until such time as he humbles himself.  That is the sense in which God hardens the sinner’s heart.

God wants to give you a heart to know Him.  As long as we remain this side of Heaven, in these bodies of sin and death, we will be subject to God MacGyvering our hearts to know Him using the common materials He has at His disposal in our fallen world.
Of course, if you are a Christian, you already know Him in the sense of being saved.  What we are talking about here is an ongoing experience with God, a deepening intimacy with Him.

Humble yourself under the mighty hand of God.  It’s for your good.

Habitat For Profanity (Jeremiah 23v9-40)

If you want a faster pace than baseball… More brute strength than the NFL… A greater sense of team play than basketball… Without a doubt more fights than hockey… I’ve got the sport for you.

Coming up in just a few days is the annual North American Wife-Carrying Championship.

You heard me.  Wife-Carrying.  Male competitors race while each carrying a female teammate.  The objective is for the male to carry the female through a special obstacle track in the fastest time.

Several types of carry may be practiced: piggyback, fireman’s carry (over the shoulder), or Estonian-style (the wife hangs upside-down with her legs around the husband’s shoulders, holding onto his waist).

Major wife-carrying competitions are held in Sonkajärvi, Finland (where the prize depends on the wife’s weight in beer); Monona, Wisconsin; Minocqua, Wisconsin; and Marquette, Michigan.

The North American Wife Carrying Championships take place every year on Columbus Day Weekend in October at Sunday River Ski Resort in Newry, Maine.

Does this have anything to do with our text in Jeremiah?  It does indirectly.

There is a very interesting word in our text, found in verse eleven and in verse fifteen.  It’s the word translated by the NKJV “profane” (v11) and “profaneness” (v15).  Other English words used to translate the Hebrew word are ungodly, defiled, unholy, and polluted.  The Greek word is profanum, which means before, or outside of, the temple.

In literal terms it describes the threshold of a temple.  Figuratively it illustrates a person who is on the threshold of a temple but doesn’t go in.

(I got sidetracked on wife-carrying because the word ‘threshold’ got me thinking of the ancient custom of a groom carrying his bride over the threshold and into their new home).

Jeremiah calls out and rebukes the false prophets of Judah.  They were ungodly and defiled and unholy and they were spreading spiritual pollution.

To capture all of those ideas in an illustration Jeremiah described them as being on the threshold of the Temple.  Physically they still went in the Temple and went through the motions.  But spiritually speaking God saw them as on the threshold, outside.

Sometimes we say a person has one foot in the world and one foot in the church.  The false prophets in Judah didn’t even have one foot in the Temple.  They were profane, outside on the threshold, in the world.

The question for us today is, Am I content to be in the world and on the threshold? or Am I carried over the threshold by Jesus?

I’ll organize my thoughts around two points: #1 The Lord In His Love Wants To Carry You Over The Threshold, and #2 Your Love For The World Will Keep You On The Threshold.

#1    The Lord In His Love
    Wants To Carry You Over The Threshold

Before getting a look at the false prophets we get a glimpse at the true prophet, Jeremiah.

Jeremiah 23:9-10
9 My heart within me is broken Because of the prophets; All my bones shake. I am like a drunken man, And like a man whom wine has overcome, Because of the Lord, And because of His holy words.
10 For the land is full of adulterers; For because of a curse the land mourns. The pleasant places of the wilderness are dried up. Their course of life is evil, And their might is not right.

Jeremiah’s contemporaries were “adulterers” pursuing an “evil” “course of life.”  They were committing spiritual adultery by worshipping idols and they were committing all manner of sexual sin as well.

The glimpse we get of Jeremiah is that of a believer who remains sensitive to sin because he is under the influence of God.

See how sensitive he was.  The sin surrounding him broke his heart.  It caused him to tremble.  He sensed that there was a “curse” on the “land” because of the sins of these men.

As for his tenderness toward God he described himself as “a drunken man” whom “wine had overcome” “because of the Lord, and because of His holy words.”  We’ll miss what he was saying here unless we remember that later, in the New Testament, the apostle Paul compares the influence of God in our lives to being drunk.  It isn’t that we act drunk or out of control.  The idea is that we are influenced by God like a drunken man is under the influence of alcohol.  With the drunk, he consumes alcohol and it influences him.  With God, we’re consumed with Him and He influences us.

One author described it this way:

When we are drunk with wine, we take in a foreign substance which has an effect upon our brains, and as we begin to think differently, under the influence of the alcohol, we begin to talk differently and act differently.
So also when we allow the Holy Spirit to fill us, He begins by renewing our minds, our thinking comes under the influence and control of the Holy Spirit, and when our thinking changes, our speaking and acting changes.  We are under the Spirit’s control and influence.

In verse eleven God responded to Jeremiah.

Jeremiah 23:11
11 “For both prophet and priest are profane; Yes, in My house I have found their wickedness,” says the Lord.

God called prophets and priests “profane.”  They were “in [God’s house” but because of their wickedness He saw them as outside of the Temple, on the threshold, with their backs to Him.

We are God’s temple on the earth – both individually and corporately.  Still I think we can ask of ourselves: Am I ‘in’ the temple in the same way Jeremiah was – remaining and becoming more sensitive to sin because I am under the influence of God?

By mere observation I think you can see that by-and-large Christians are getting less sensitive to sin.  They are becoming more influenced by the world than by God.

Let’s take our stand in the Temple, not on the threshold.  If your love has waxed cold, let the Lord’s love carry you back over the threshold.  Do the first works reminiscent of your first love.

#2    Your Love For The World
    Will Keep You On The Threshold

We have a lot of ground to cover in the remaining verses.  Let’s do it by looking for characteristics that would indicate a person is on rather than over the threshold.

Jeremiah 23:12
12 “Therefore their way shall be to them Like slippery ways; In the darkness they shall be driven on And fall in them; For I will bring disaster on them, The year of their punishment,” says the Lord.

We can make application of this to someone who has pulled away from fellowship.  Their reasons seem a little vague.  They are evasive.  Over time they fall away and you see that they have secretly been on a slippery path walking in darkness.  Don’t be that person.  Walk in the open, in the light, on firm ground with Jesus.

Jeremiah 23:13
13 “And I have seen folly in the prophets of Samaria: They prophesied by Baal And caused My people Israel to err.

The Northern Kingdom of Israel, whose capital was Samaria, had listened to false prophets to their detriment.  Those false prophets had been influenced by the Canaanite god Baal.

In our context this describes a person who wants to borrow wisdom from the world in spiritual matters.  One example would be our modern habit of labeling sin as some sort of disorder that is out of my control so I cannot be held responsible for it.  Do that and you will remain on the threshold and cut yourself off from the power of God to deliver you from sin through repentance.

Jeremiah 23:14
14 Also I have seen a horrible thing in the prophets of Jerusalem: They commit adultery and walk in lies; They also strengthen the hands of evildoers, So that no one turns back from his wickedness. All of them are like Sodom to Me, And her inhabitants like Gomorrah.

The mention of Sodom and Gomorrah tells us that the “prophets of Jerusalem” were practicing all manner of sexual sin.

They were “walk[ing] in lies.”  What “lies?”  Since their “lies” “strengthen[ed] the hands of evildoers,” I’d say their lies involved a relaxation of God’s teaching on sexual purity.  As believers we must take our stand for marriage and sex only within biblical marriage.  It’s the only over-the-threshold option.  Anything else is worldly.

Jeremiah 23:15-17
15 “Therefore thus says the Lord of hosts concerning the prophets: ‘Behold, I will feed them with wormwood, And make them drink the water of gall; For from the prophets of Jerusalem Profaneness has gone out into all the land.’ ”
16 Thus says the Lord of hosts: “Do not listen to the words of the prophets who prophesy to you. They make you worthless; They speak a vision of their own heart, Not from the mouth of the Lord.
17 They continually say to those who despise Me, ‘The Lord has said, “You shall have peace” ‘; And to everyone who walks according to the dictates of his own heart, they say, ‘No evil shall come upon you.’ ”

Instead of calling people to holiness the false prophets encouraged them they could sin without any fear of the Lord. Don’t look for counsel that says it’s alright to sin because God will forgive you anyway.  And don’t give counsel like that.

Jeremiah 23:18
18 For who has stood in the counsel of the Lord, And has perceived and heard His word? Who has marked His word and heard it?

You have!  If you are a Christian, you have His Word as your “counsel.”  Not “counsel” as advice you might or might not take, but as truth you will obey.

Jeremiah 23:19-20
19 Behold, a whirlwind of the Lord has gone forth in fury – A violent whirlwind! It will fall violently on the head of the wicked.
20 The anger of the Lord will not turn back Until He has executed and performed the thoughts of His heart. In the latter days you will understand it perfectly.

“In the latter days” reminds us that the wicked may seem to prosper for a time while we suffer.  Remain patient waiting for the Lord.  Too many a believer has chosen the threshold because they grew weary in well-doing.

Jeremiah 23:21-22
21 “I have not sent these prophets, yet they ran. I have not spoken to them, yet they prophesied.
22 But if they had stood in My counsel, And had caused My people to hear My words, Then they would have turned them from their evil way And from the evil of their doings.

This reminds me I am obligated to be a source of spiritual help to others.  I should serve the Lord as He has called and gifted me in order to further the kingdom so that “people… [can] hear [God’s] words…”

Jeremiah 23:23-24
23 “Am I a God near at hand,” says the Lord, “And not a God afar off?
24 Can anyone hide himself in secret places, So I shall not see him?” says the Lord; “Do I not fill heaven and earth?” says the Lord.

Do you have any “secret [hiding] places” where you are sinning?  The Lord is there.

Jeremiah 23:25-32
25 “I have heard what the prophets have said who prophesy lies in My name, saying, ‘I have dreamed, I have dreamed!’
26 How long will this be in the heart of the prophets who prophesy lies? Indeed they are prophets of the deceit of their own heart,
27 who try to make My people forget My name by their dreams which everyone tells his neighbor, as their fathers forgot My name for Baal.
28 “The prophet who has a dream, let him tell a dream; And he who has My word, let him speak My word faithfully. What is the chaff to the wheat?” says the Lord.
29 “Is not My word like a fire?” says the Lord, “And like a hammer that breaks the rock in pieces?
30 “Therefore behold, I am against the prophets,” says the Lord, “who steal My words every one from his neighbor.
31 Behold, I am against the prophets,” says the Lord, “who use their tongues and say, ‘He says.’
32 Behold, I am against those who prophesy false dreams,” says the Lord, “and tell them, and cause My people to err by their lies and by their recklessness. Yet I did not send them or command them; therefore they shall not profit this people at all,” says the Lord.

There will always be false teachers and false prophets.  There will be wolves among God’s sheep.  We must therefore be discerning, applying the Word of God to test the spirits to see if they are from God.  Too many believers are on the threshold when they think they are in the temple because they are open to all manner of phenomena that purports to be from the Lord.  It’s not more spiritual to accept anything rather than test everything.

Jeremiah had a reputation for prophesying doom and gloom.  That’s because he prophesied doom and gloom.  Not entirely, of course, because even in the doom and gloom there was hope.

Folks made fun of him.  God took notice and, in the remaining verses, gave Jeremiah permission to turn the rebuke of the people back on themselves.

Jeremiah 23:33-40
33 “So when these people or the prophet or the priest ask you, saying, ‘What is the oracle of the Lord?’ you shall then say to them, ‘What oracle?’ I will even forsake you,” says the Lord.
34 And as for the prophet and the priest and the people who say, ‘The oracle of the Lord!’ I will even punish that man and his house.
35 Thus every one of you shall say to his neighbor, and every one to his brother, ‘What has the Lord answered?’ and, ‘What has the Lord spoken?’
36 And the oracle of the Lord you shall mention no more. For every man’s word will be his oracle, for you have perverted the words of the living God, the Lord of hosts, our God.
37 Thus you shall say to the prophet, ‘What has the Lord answered you?’ and, ‘What has the Lord spoken?’
38 But since you say, ‘The oracle of the Lord!’ therefore thus says the Lord: ‘Because you say this word, “The oracle of the Lord!” and I have sent to you, saying, “Do not say, ‘The oracle of the Lord!’ ”
39 therefore behold, I, even I, will utterly forget you and forsake you, and the city that I gave you and your fathers, and will cast you out of My presence.
40 And I will bring an everlasting reproach upon you, and a perpetual shame, which shall not be forgotten.’ ”

The word “oracle” is prominent in these verses.  It is better translated “burden.”  The people, when they’d see Jeremiah, would ask, “What burden are you going to put on us today?”  God now gave Jeremiah permission to say, “You are the burden!  You are a burden to the Lord and He will forget you and forsake you and this city and cast you out of His presence.”

God did not utterly forsake the Jews nor Jerusalem.  Jeremiah’s response would shock the people who thought God could not exile them since they were His chosen ones, nor allow Jerusalem to be destroyed since His Temple was there.

What application can we make to ourselves?  Maybe this.  If a professed believer remains on the threshold, as it were, and continues to bring forth the characteristics we’ve noted, perhaps they were not a believer after all.  They will be lost forever to sin and death and Hell.

If you recognize yourself as being on the threshold, repent and let the Lord in His love carry you over the threshold.

Be drunk with the Lord; tremble at His presence; grow in sensitivity to sin – both yours and the sin all around you.

Pasture, Present & Future (Jeremiah 23v1-8)

If you don’t have clear directions it’s sure nice to have a GPS.  Even so I get into trouble with the lag time.  I’m always through the intersection where I was supposed to turn before the voice tells me to turn in 500 feet.  I then hear that dreaded electronic rebuke, “recalculating.”

I’ve been in situations where rather than giving directions the other driver wants you to follow him.  “Just follow me,” seems easy; but the driver of that lead car always ignores you.  The very first green light he comes to is guaranteed to turn yellow while he has plenty of time to stop.

Does he stop?  Of course not!  Primal instincts learned over centuries kick-in and he floors it through the yellow light, leaving you to either run the red light or stop.

Does he slow down or pull over so you can catch up?  Of course not!

Our text is about following.  God presents Himself to Judah as their Shepherd.  As His sheep they ought to have heard His voice and followed Him.  They did not and were being scattered.

Not to worry – He would regather them and bring them into His pasture.

As Christians we know Jesus as our Shepherd.  In the Gospel of John He calls Himself the Good Shepherd then says we, His sheep, hear His voice and follow Him.

Well, we should follow Him, but we sometimes don’t.  We hear Him but for a million different reasons we lag behind or go in some contrary direction of our own choosing.

It’s too bad because the pasture of the Lord is wonderful.  His pasture is the always greener grass.

Our theme will be the wonderful, rich, filling and sustaining  pasture that Jesus both desires and designs for His sheep.

I’ll organize my thoughts around two points: #1 Jesus Is The Shepherd Whose Desire Is To Provide Abundant Pasture, and #2 Jesus Is The Shepherd Whose Design Is To Produce Ultimate Pasture.

#1    Jesus Is The Shepherd Whose
    Desire Is To Provide Abundant Pasture

I don’t think anybody knows how many metaphors, similes, types and illustrations God gives us in the Bible by which to describe and discuss His relationship with us.  By far the most endearing in the Old Testament is that of the Shepherd.  A truly good shepherd was altogether good towards his sheep – leading them, caring for them, protecting them to the point of risking his own life for every one of them.  The picture painted is of the sheep grazing peacefully to their heart’s content in a lush green pasture near a refreshing stream while the shepherd, staff in hand, is ever watchful and vigilant.

You can find no fault in a good shepherd.

Nevertheless God gets blamed today for just about everything that happens.  I read one article that started with the line, “It’s a tough time to be God.”  It goes on to report that up to two-thirds of Americans blame God whenever something terrible happens.

Let’s put that into metaphorical perspective.  It would be like saying God is a Shepherd who leads his sheep to the wolves… or over a cliff… or into a rushing river to be swept away and drowned.  Not possible!

God wanted to shepherd Judah but His undershepherds – the kings, priests, prophets, and elders – led the people astray.  And the people, for their part, either lagged behind or went in directions of their own evil desires.

Jeremiah 23:1-2
1 “Woe to the shepherds who destroy and scatter the sheep of My pasture!” says the Lord.
2 Therefore thus says the Lord God of Israel against the shepherds who feed My people: “You have scattered My flock, driven them away, and not attended to them. Behold, I will attend to you for the evil of your doings,” says the Lord.

The “shepherds” were everyone in positions of leadership.  They were to represent God to the people by being good undershepherds but they were not.  They mistreated God’s flock for their own selfish gain.

God promised to “attend to [them] for the evil of [their] doings.”  He would see to it justice was ultimately done.

This is where we tend to get angry at God.  Why allow them to be undershepherds in the first place?  Why let them continue once their abusive character was revealed?  Why must we always suffer now and hope for justice to be meted out in the distant future?

The answer to all such questions is relatively simple.  Free-will is the real culprit.

When Adam and Eve sinned in the Garden of Eden they sinned freely.  No matter your particular theory of exactly how, their sin affects all their offspring.  All evil in the world results from their sin, from mankind being sinners, and from our sins.

God could have prevented sin only at the cost of nullifying human freedom.  Had He done so it would have been a creation devoid of love.   Since God is love, His creation reflects it.  There can be no expression of love without choice and free will.

One theologian put it this way: “A creation in which love is the goal must incorporate risk.”

Whenever someone blames God they’re not being fair.  Or honest.  They don’t really want God to violate their free-will.  They only want Him to violate the free-will of others, or to intervene miraculously according to what they assume is best in a given situation.  Blaming God is playing God.

Jeremiah 23:3-4
3 “But I will gather the remnant of My flock out of all countries where I have driven them, and bring them back to their folds; and they shall be fruitful and increase.
4 I will set up shepherds over them who will feed them; and they shall fear no more, nor be dismayed, nor shall they be lacking,” says the Lord.

The phrase “where I have driven them” reminds us that the people were not blameless.  They deserved what was coming.  We’ve seen the heinous idolatries they refused to repent of.  The nation was about to be overthrown and the people exiled as a discipline from the Lord.
These verses overlook a lot of history – seventy years to be exact.  God goes from talking about them being scattered to them being regathered, overlooking the intervening exile in Babylon.  The focus was on God’s shepherding and on their pasture in the Holy Land.

He was going to raise-up for them good shepherds.  We can see ahead to God bringing them back seventy years later and giving them men like Ezra, Nehemiah and Zerubbabel.

He wanted to emphasize that He would continue to shepherd them.  He was already preparing for their future return to their “pasture,” to Jerusalem and to Israel.

God emphasized His heart for His people – including us.  As a Shepherd His desire for us is to be “fruitful and increase,” to be fed, to “fear no more, nor be dismayed,” and to lack nothing.

Here’s our dilemma.  As sheep we are hunted by a supernatural roaring lion who is seeking to devour us.  Wolves creep in among us.  We can find ourselves stripped of this world’s goods, persecuted, imprisoned, martyred.

I thought Jesus was our Good Shepherd?  He is – even as those things are occurring.  In the very midst of them.

We love Psalm twenty-three – the Shepherd psalm.  Do you recall it mentions God preparing you a table in the presence of your enemies?  Or walking through the valley of the shadow of death?  Or anointing your head with oil – which indicates a head wound was being treated?

Christian, you experience the spiritual blessing of being His sheep even and sometimes especially in the midst of peril from your enemies.

We’re living in the danger zone.  But we are looked after by the Lord, our Good – no, our Great – Shepherd.  No evil can separate us from His love.  He will gather us home one day.

#2    Jesus Is The Shepherd Whose
    Design Is To Produce Ultimate Pasture

The Jews would indeed be regathered to their pasture, to the Promised Land, from Babylon.  But you may have noted in verse three the Lord spoke of regathering them from “countries,” plural.
It’s a clue that these verses are prophetic and that is exactly what we have before us in verses five through eight.

Jeremiah 23:5
5 “Behold, the days are coming,” says the Lord, “That I will raise to David a Branch of righteousness; A King shall reign and prosper, And execute judgment and righteousness in the earth.

The phrase, “the days are coming,” indicate the coming of the Messiah.  He would be from the line of David and will rule the entire earth.  We know because we have the completed Bible that the Messiah, this King, is Jesus Christ.

One reason we know it’s Jesus is because He is called “a Branch of righteousness.”  There are several places where Messiah is called a “Branch.”  Scholars note that the occurrences parallel what we learn about Jesus from the Gospels.

The reference here in verse five portrays the Branch as a King.  The Gospel of Matthew portrays Jesus Christ, the Branch, as a King.

Zechariah 3:8 refers to the Branch a a servant saying, “I will bring forth my servant the BRANCH.”  The Gospel of Mark portrays Jesus Christ, the Branch, as a servant.

Zechariah 6:12 says, “And speak unto him, saying, Thus speaketh the LORD of hosts, saying, Behold the man whose name is The BRANCH…”  The Gospel of Luke portrays Jesus Christ, the Branch, as a man.

Isaiah 4:2 says, “In that day shall the branch of the LORD be beautiful and glorious, and the fruit of the earth shall be excellent and comely for them that are escaped of Israel.”  Here scholars see a reference to the deity of the Branch because He is referred to as ” beautiful and glorious.”  The Gospel of John portrays Jesus Christ, the Branch, as God.

Jeremiah 23:6
6 In His days Judah will be saved, And Israel will dwell safely; Now this is His name by which He will be called: THE LORD OUR RIGHTEOUSNESS.

Notice both Judah and Israel “will dwell safely.”  The nation will be regathered to their pasture, to the Promised Land, and restored as a sovereign nation.  Sounds like modern Israel.

Except she is not yet dwelling safely, nor has the Lord returned to rule in “righteousness.”  This looks to a farther future beyond our own time.

Jeremiah 23:7-8
7 “Therefore, behold, the days are coming,” says the Lord, “that they shall no longer say, ‘As the Lord lives who brought up the children of Israel from the land of Egypt,’
8 but, ‘As the Lord lives who brought up and led the descendants of the house of Israel from the north country and from all the countries where I had driven them.’ And they shall dwell in their own land.”

The final last days regathering of Israel will be from all over the earth.  It will be similar to, but greater than, the Exodus from Egypt.

It will be similar in that God will deliver His chosen nation from their enemies and regather them in their land.

It will be greater in that it will be a final regathering before Jesus returns to rule the world.

We are looking, in these verses, at the ultimate pasture.  As Shepherd of Israel God’s design is to bring them into the ultimate pasture of Jerusalem being the capital of the millennial earth.

Again we must confront the reality of the situation the Jews were facing in context, in the time of Jeremiah’s prophecies.  They had been led astray by their leaders and by their own evil desires.  As a result, as a discipline from God, the Babylonians were going to burn Jerusalem and its Temple and exile the survivors for seventy years.

In the very midst of this God declared to them “I’m your Great Shepherd Who will care for you, regather you, and bring you back to your pasture – both soon and ultimately.”
He would indeed prepare them a table in the presence of their enemies, walk with them through the valley of the shadow of death, and anoint their wounds with oil.

The world is an evil place.  A terrible place, really, because of sin.  We want God to be a planetary policeman.  We want Him to control the weather so it only benefits us and to restrict natural occurrences like tornados and hurricanes and earthquakes so they never harm us.  We want Him to eradicate all diseases or at least make them more discriminating so that no ‘good’ people or young people are ever affected by them.

God instead says, “I’m your Shepherd.  It’s my desire to lead you through the present evil world and it’s my design to bring you to ultimate pasture.”

Why should we follow Him?  Because He is also the One Who died on the Cross as “the Lamb of God Who takes away the sins of the world.”  Your Shepherd laid down His life for you. Then He took it up again in resurrection power to offer you abundant spiritual blessings now and to promise you ultimate pasture later.

Author and pastor Gregory Boyd wrote, “The cross reveals that God’s omnipotence is displayed in self-sacrificial love, not sheer might.  God conquers sin and the devil not by a sovereign decree but by a wise and humble submission to crucifixion.”

Are you wounded?  He will anoint you.

Are you surrounded by enemies?  He will set a table for you there with His bountiful spiritual blessings.

Walking through the valley of the shadow of death, are you?  You need not fear because the Lord is your Shepherd.