Jeremiah gives a word picture to the kings and people in chapter 27. God has him make a harness and yoke and put it on as he tells them the coming truth – that they need to get under the authority of Nebuchadnezzar and live that way for a few generations. The message Jeremiah proclaims was strong and had to be somewhat less than acceptable to the other priests and leaders – he pretty much tells the kings and people to ignore anything they have to say because “they’re telling you lies, preaching lies”. I wonder how Jeremiah stays alive actually. He consistently has a difficult message to give to the people from God. “Don’t for a minute listen to all your prophets, and spiritualists, and fortunetellers, who claim to know the future”. These guys were just making it up – they didn’t have any word from God at all.
But the clincher for me today is God’s statement: “I’m the one who made the earth, man and woman, and all the animals in the world. I did it on my own without asking anyone’s help and I hand it out to whomever I will”. There is no other source of truth or knowledge that compares to God. He created us, He created this world and put it where it is today. He didn’t need anyone to help Him then, nor does He need any help today. He is the great I AM. He alone is in control. It is not about me, and my dinky little plans, it is about Him and His grand plan. My entire life needs to be focused on lining up with and getting into His harness and yoke so I am working with Him. See what God is up to and join Him in that. Such great advice from Henry Blackaby. God alone is in control. The minute I begin to think that for one second I have any real impact, I become a fool just like these prophets in Jeremiah’s time. God is the one who put the sun and stars in the sky, created the animals and even me. I need to keep Him in His rightful place, on the throne of my life!
Jeremiah preaches boldly in chapter 26 of the pending doom. It is in your face kind of preaching. He tells them clearly they have a choice – they need to change their ways and then God says: “maybe they’ll listen and turn back….Then I’ll reconsider”. God has destruction planned and Jeremiah is warning the people and giving them a second chance. But they don’t respond well. After he finishes they mob him and want him killed. How often we see this in scripture. Jeremiah points out a couple examples in Micah and Uriah, but bottom line is that as people we often don’t like to hear the truth, particularly if it means we need to change.
But here is what Jeremiah says – this is the crux of it for you and me – we need to take action. Check this out: “So do something about it! Change the way you’re living, change your behavior. Listen obediently to the Message”. It is not enough to know what God thinks. We are required to DO something about it. We have to CHANGE how we live. That means action. That means accountability. That means execution. We have to get with the program and walk the way God instructs us. We need to know His Word and then follow it. Now. Life matters!
The second half of Jeremiah 25 is a pretty ugly picture of God’s wrath. All the kingdoms are slated for destruction. He has had it with the disobedience of the people and is going to clean house. Jeremiah’s charge is to get everyone drunk with the cup God has prepared. It is not optional. God is clear that everyone will pay for their past – pay for the sin in their lives. Check out what He says “you’re not getting out of anything”. Sweet talking is not going to change God’s mind here. Trying to run won’t work. Ignoring His command won’t change the outcome. God is going to clean house because the people have disobeyed. His anger is going to be unleashed. Sad state of affairs to say the least.
But what about us today. That was many years ago – thousands of years ago. Does any of this matter to us? Yes, it absolutely applies to us. Our future will be just as bleak if we make the same mistakes these folks did and ignore God and His expectations. We cannot pretend that this is just a story from the past. It applies to us just as it did to the people Jeremiah preached to years ago. God expects us to live in obedience with Him. He demands a relationship and there must be a payment for sin. Fortunately we have Jesus to cover us with His blood and deal with sin, but that requires action on our part too. We must receive and accept that gift. So my advice is to read and understand the outcome of a life not lived God’s way. It is pretty bleak. The good news is we don’t have to experience all the bad stuff that scripture reveals, we can choose Jesus and get our life on track with God.
The first half of Jeremiah 25 reveals the problem that has been happening between the people and God. Check out what Jeremiah tells them: “from early each morning to late every night I’ve passed it on to you. And you haven’t listened to a word of it”. Jeremiah makes if pretty clear. He has faithfully spoke God’s truth to the people day after day, morning til night, over and over. They weren’t lacking an opportunity to hear from God. He has been letting it out all day and night. The issue is pretty clear – the people have made a choice to ignore it. Not only from Jeremiah, but form all the “steady stream of prophets” that God has sent with His truth. This is not a new situation – they have been ignoring the truth for a long time. Realize that is a choice. We all have to decide if we will listen to God and receive His truth, or just ignore it and choose not to be obedient. Pretty simple set of choices.
In this case, God has given his verdict. The people will be destroyed. They will be surrounded and made to pay a heavy price for 70 years – did you catch that – 70 years of pain and suffering. That is a long time folks. It is payment for the sin they have lived – the sin of ignoring God’s truth as shared by His prophets. But the thing that struck me was this. God says He will “banish every sound of joy” from the people. Can you imagine this? All joy is gone – no laughter, no singing, no marriage festivities, no candlelit suppers – joy is gone completely. The punishment for ignoring God’s truth is pretty strong. Here is the reality – ignorance is also not an excuse. Don’t know what God expects? That does not excuse you from being accountable to Him. He expects us to be paying attention to His truth as it is shared. In our world today it comes in a lot of ways, but our primary source is getting into the Bible and learning it. We are responsible to read and understand. There is no shortage of ways for that to happen. We need to understand God’s decree. We need to live it and love it. No excuses!
Jeremiah 24 is a very short chapter – only ten verses. Sort of sticks out in this book as it is less than half as long as most of the chapters thus far. But it contains a very important lesson we need to pay close attention to. The chapter is about “two baskets of figs”. God uses them as an illustration of two groups of people that Jeremiah was talking to.
The first group was made up of people whom God had protected as they wer off in exile. He had kept His eye on them and made sure they got good treatment even while being slaves in a foreign land. But they had a heart to know God. Listen to how God describes these folks: “They’ll be my people and I’ll be their God, for they’ll have returned to me with all their hearts”. Do you see it? Here is a group of people who had been punished for their rejection of God and had been exiled to Nebuchadnezzar, king of Babylon. They had been living in his land and not exactly experiencing the life they may have dreamed. But they got their heart right. They returned to God “with all their hearts” and put Him back where He belonged. It is all about the heart folks. It is about how we relate to the living God of the universe and how we respond with our heart. It is not just the external obedience God desires. He wants us to give Him our heart, all of it, completely and totally. That is when He is excited to have a real relationship with us. We will be His people and He will be our God. It is a matter of the heart.
The other group, those led by king Zedekiah of Judah, well their fortune is not so good. They are portrayed as “rotten figs” and are going to “die like flies” and things will not go well until they are all gone. Their heart is not right. They are rotten to the core and their future is going to match up to the condition of their heart. The lesson here is clear – God is concerned about our heart. Ten short verses, one short analogy about two baskets of figs. But the lesson is clear – God wants our heart. If it is, we have relationship and a bright future. If it isn’t, well life will be rotten. What a bummer way to live…..
The second part of Jeremiah 23 starts with a bang: “Am I not a God near at hand….and not a God far off? I love that statement. God is God put simply. He is here, He is there, He is everywhere. He is part of our daily lives, right there with us, moment by moment. Sometimes we don’t recognize Him. For me, that happens all too often. But it doesn’t change the reality that God is with us. He isn’t moving. I love the statement that points out “if you don’t feel close to God, guess who moved”. God isn’t going anywhere. Or maybe more correctly, God is going everywhere. He is right here with me, and right there with you. He is engaged with our lives. We need to recognize Him and relate to Him in that way.
But the chapter goes on to ask “can anyone hide”? Now we are getting down to the nitty gritty stuff. We sometimes think we can get away with stuff – that God doesn’t know. Wrong….He knows all. We sometimes think we can sin in the quiet corner of our life and God doesn’t see. Wrong….He sees all. We sometimes think we can say things softly that God doesn’t hear. Wrong….God hears all. We can’t hide. We are just fooling ourselves to think we can. God is alive! God is paying attention to everything we do and say and live. He cares about all that stuff. Why? Because it reveals our relationship to Him, particularly in the area of obedience. It shows how we are doing in our quest toward holiness, our growth to become like Jesus. Life matters. How we live makes a huge difference – not just the big things – but the little things. They may actually be even more telling. What happens when we think no one is watching reveals a lot about us. This chapter makes it clear Someone is always watching.
So the question really is: how are you living life moment by moment in relationship to God. Is He invited to be part of every moment? Or are you trying to keep some stuff locked away from Him? Are you pretending to keep Him at bay concerning certain areas of your life? You can’t, so let’s quit pretending and just invite Him to be right in the middle of it. God wants to make a difference. In you, and also through you. That happens when we let Him be in charge, be Lord of our lives. That is when His power can become manifest in and through us. Are you willing to quit hiding and let God have control? Today is the best day to start that focus!
The first half of Jeremiah 23 calls out the prophets and teachers of the day and reveals the reason things are bad. They are leading the people away from God. They are selfishly doing what they want and calling it a word from God. The result – hows this for a visual – God says their “unfaithfulness is turning the country into a cesspool”. That is pretty darn clear. These leaders are not tuned in to God and are totally on their own agenda and plan. They do not follow His guidance.
He goes on to call out the fact that they “preach their “Everything Will Turn Out Fine” sermons and lead the people away from needing God. Sometimes I think we fall into this thinking as well. Everything is gonna be fine if we are in the right relationship with God. If we are sinning or walking is disobedience, it won’t turn out just fine.
And the root of it all is made very clear by Jeremiah here. Pay attention to the issue: “Have any of these prophets bothered to meet with me…..bothered to take in what I have to say…..listened to and then lived out my Word”? See any issues here. These so called prophets did not have a relationship with God – they made it up as they went. They didn’t know the Word and certainly did not live by it. They just did what they wanted and made up the teaching as they went. God is not pleased by that. We have to walk with Him and know His Word. We have to be sure to follow leaders who do too!
Jeremiah 22 really boils down to a couple things. Check out these key words: “If you obey…..but if you don’t obey”. The chapter deals with the contrast between those two things. If we obey life goes well. If we don’t, and that is an absolute choice on our part, then we should brace for the worst. God is not going to sit by and let us continue in disobedience. He can’t and won’t.
These words however, are what I would long to hear: “I number you among my favorite places…yet…”. God loved His people and He loves you and me. He desires to be in close relationship with us. We ARE among His favorite places but that relationship depends on us walking with Him in obedience for it to be maintained.
We can quickly go from being a favorite place to one that is dealing with “a mess of your lives” because we fail to be obedient and in relationship. Some may wonder “Why would GOD do such a thing” and the answer is simple: “Because”. Life has consequences. We have to live it for keeps and live it God’s way. There are results from the choices we make. We must obey!
Jeremiah 21 is a fairly short chapter but what a powerful one. Here we see God’s man being approached by the leaders of God’s people (at least on paper) about their plight. The king of Babylon is coming against them and it looks bad. They come to Jeremiah for help. He just got done warning them that their time had come to pay the piper for their behavior. So almost on cue, they come asking for help. Now Jeremiah isn’t one to sugar coat things. Pay close attention to what he says here: “Listen carefully. I’m giving you a choice: life or death”. That is about as straight up as you can get. Two choices and you choose. As I considered their situation it became clear to me that describes exactly our situation today. Two choices: life or death. For them the choice was whether they listened to Jeremiah and left the city to surrender to the enemy and have their life spared, or stayed inside the city only to die from the “battle or starvation or disease”. Our choice is a bit different but equally as important. We can chose to deal with our sin by surrendering our life to a saving faith in Jesus, or we can face eternity separated from God. Life, actually “life in abundance” according to God’s Word, through Jesus. Or death, a life spent in the depths of eternal separation in a very bad place called Hell. It is not as simple a choice as it seems on the surface because to choose life, we have to be willing to give up self and put Jesus on the throne. Just like the people in Jeremiah’s time had to be willing to give up freedom to be given life, we must let Jesus take control and put “me” off the throne.
The clincher though is Jeremiah’s answer to the people when they began to think “who can possibly get to us”? Ever feel that way? My life is not that bad. I am better than many others. I have never killed anyone or done anything bad enough to go to jail. I don’t need to be saved. Just like the fallacy of the people then, those thoughts are wrong. Scripture teaches that it only takes one sin to separate us from God. His standard is perfection from our lives. Anything short, anything, will keep us from Him without forgiveness. That forgiveness for us comes through a relationship with Jesus. God’s answer to the question of “who can get to us” was simple: “I can – and will”. Don’t let the enemy or anyone for that matter convince you that you are exempt from God’s laws. Don’t fall prey to the thought that you are good enough to make it on your own. You aren’t and neither am I. The real question is – will you choose life or death. And when we boil that down it really is this: what will you do with Jesus. To choose Him is to choose life. To reject or ignore Him – well you can figure that out all by yourself. God can and will – make the choice now while you still have a choice and choose life!
Jeremiah seems to be having a bad day in chapter 20. The senior priest, a guy named Pashur, doesn’t like what Jeremiah is teaching and throws him in stocks. The next day he lets him go but of course Jeremiah is mocked and made fun of. The introspection that happens in this chapter is so powerful to consider. Jeremiah asks himself why he doesn’t just keep quiet and avoid becoming a public joke and one that is poked fun at. I love what he says as he considers just stopping his work as a prophet. Pay attention to this closely. As he things about just throwing in the towel and keeping all God has revealed to himself, here is what he says: “The words are fire in my belly, a burning in my bones. I’m worn out trying to hold it in. I can’t do it any longer!”
I love that. Jeremiah can’t hold in God’s words – they have to come out and be shared. Do you have “fire in your belly” as you read God’s Word? Does God reveal things to you that just have to come out? We should. God’s truth should not be something we soak up like a sponge and keep to ourself. God’s truth was not written for just you or me. Yet sometime we go for a very long time just soaking it in and not ever sharing a word with another human being. We go to church, maybe Sunday School, maybe a small group and could catch something on the radio or TV. Maybe we read a book or more importantly read God’s book (the Bible). It is possible we stopped and prayed and heard from God. It doesn’t matter how God’s truth comes to us – we need to share it. To be honest that is why I write this blog every day. I needed to share what God was telling me. I needed to get the simple truth He gave me for my life every day out. I couldn’t hold it in any longer. That is when we know God’s Word is alive in us – when we can’t help but share it. When we can’t stuff it in a corner and just keep it to ourselves. God’s Word is alive – it is “active and living, sharper than any two-edged sword”. We have to share God’s truth. So Jeremiah does that. And the truth is pretty bleak for old Pashur and his family and cronies. They are in for a pretty bad time ahead.
Jeremiah is still pretty bummed about it all, but he does take comfort in this truth about God: “You see through everyone, everything”. He knows that God knows it all. He is not afraid of the situation for him, even though it stinks, because God is in control and is not controlled by the obvious. Are you spilling the beans of what God teaches you? Are you learning from Him every day? If so – share the truth. Don’t let it burn in your belly!