Jeremiah 16

Jeremiah 16 has the prophet getting a personal message from God.  “You shall not take a wife, nor shall you have sons or daughters in this place”.  This is a unique command that very much went against the general will of God in that day.  Culturally, it was a shame and dishonor to be single and childless.  In fact, in the biblical Hebrew language, there isn’t even a word for ‘bachelor’.  Marriage and kids were part of their way of life.  But God makes it clear that he was going to do some deep and painful cleansing, and there was no reason for Jeremiah to put himself in a place of suffering.

God tells Jeremiah “I have taken away my peace from this people, my steadfast love and mercy, declares the Lord”.  The people are going to be cut off and die, and they were not to be buried nor mourned over.  Jeremiah was commanded not to go in and feast with them or to interact in any way.  “I will silence in this place, before your eyes and in your days, the voice of mirth and the voice of gladness, the voice of the bridegroom and the voice of the bride”.  Joy and gladness will be gone – no more celebrations or weddings.

Of course, Jeremiah knows the first question he’ll get when he prophesies what is to come will be the all too familiar one we always ask: “why”?  God is very clear about the problem.  “Because your fathers have forsaken me, declares the Lord, and  have gone after other gods and have served and worshiped them, and have forsaken me and have not kept my law, and because  you have done worse than your fathers, for behold,  every one of you follows his stubborn, evil will, refusing to listen to me”.  The answer is direct, detailed, and personal.  This sin is generational and also personal.  And God is done putting up with it.

Jeremiah knows it will be a difficult message to deliver and he’ll be the object of attack and ridicule.  He knows where his strength comes from.  “O Lord, my strength and my stronghold, my refuge in the day of trouble”.   We can always depend on God to be there for us exactly the same way Jeremiah does.  And our mission is also the same as the one God gave to him – to make God known and glorified.  “I will make them know, this once I will make them know my power and my might, and they shall know that  my name is the Lord”.  Jeremiah has a job to do – to warn the people of God’s judgment and to make them know that He is Lord.  Our job is the same.  We need to proclaim the coming judgment for sin and let people know that Jesus Christ is the only answer to that reality.

Jeremiah 15

Jeremiah 15 has God speaking directly to Jeremiah about the serious state of affairs in Judah.  He is not pleased with the rebelliousness of His people.  In fact, God tells Jeremiah not to waste his breath trying to intercede for his people.  “Though  Moses and Samuel stood before me, yet my heart would not turn toward this people. Send them out of my sight, and let them go”! These two guys had successfully interceded for the wayward people in their generations, but God says it isn’t going to happen in this case.  Jeremiah would be wasting his breath.

God gets pretty specific about what is coming.  There are four forms of destruction that lie ahead:

  1. The sword
  2. Dogs
  3. Birds of the air
  4. Beasts of the earth

These “four kinds of destroyers…..the sword to kill, the dogs to tear, and the birds of the air and the beasts of the earth to devour and destroy” are alrady in motion and will bring judgment upon Judah.  God isn’t just going to kill them, but also further humiliate them as their bodies are dishonored.

God makes it clear what is underlying this destruction.  “I will make them a horror to all the kingdoms of the earth because of what  Manasseh the son of Hezekiah, king of Judah, did in Jerusalem”.  Manasseh was a particularly bad sinner and his rebellion has made judgment inevitable and irreversible.  God’s going to do a number on His people.  “You have rejected me, declares the Lord; you keep going backward, so I have stretched out my hand against you and destroyed you—I am weary of relenting.  I have winnowed them with a winnowing fork in the gates of the land; I have bereaved them; I have destroyed my people; they did not turn from their ways. I have made their widows more in number than the sand of the seas; I have brought against the mothers of young men a destroyer at noonday; I have made anguish and terror fall upon them suddenly”.  God is going to make it something that will not be forgotten.

Jeremiah is pretty bummed about what’s happening on his watch.  God has told him to get out of the way and let destruction come upon His people.  He’s been under personal attack from people that don’t want to hear the truth.  He asks God to take care of him.  “O Lord, you know; remember me and visit me, and take vengeance for me on my persecutors”.  He doesn’t want to be lumped in with the rest of the people who are going to be utterly punished.  He makes a case for himself with God based on how he has lived.

Your words were found, and I ate them, and your words became to me a joy and the delight of my heart, for I am called by your name, O Lord, God of hosts. I did not sit in the company of revelers, nor did I rejoice;  I sat alone, because your hand was upon me, for you had filled me with indignation”.  Jeremiah didn’t fall into the ways of the rest of the people.  But he had questions about God and what He was going to do.  God tells him to repent of his own sin, and remain unmovable as a prophet of God.  God promises to take care of him.  “I am with you to save you and deliver you….and redeem you”. 

Jeremiah 14

Jeremiah 14 has our prophet getting God’s word concerning the droughts that were happening in Judah.  “The word of the Lord that came to Jeremiah concerning the drought”.  This is a big deal to the people.  They were dependent on rain for survival.  This was a true life or death issue.  In that day the often-worshipped Canaanite idol Baal was thought to be the god of weather and rain. Many ancient Israelites were drawn to Baal worship because they wanted rain.  That just made things worse as God often used drought to bring the nation to repentance.  So their attempt to correct the problem through idols just made it worse.

It was a true disaster.  “Her nobles send their servants for water; they come to the cisterns; they find no water; they return with their vessels empty…. since there is no rain on the land, the farmers are ashamed; they cover their heads”.  There simply was no water anywhere, and this has been going on for a while through a series of successive droughts.  It was bad enough scripture tells us that even the farmers were ashamed of what they could do with the land.  This is some serious despair.  Farmers take much pride in their ability to produce a harvest, and it was completely impossible given the drought that was upon the land.

Jeremiah imagines what true repentance would look like to get back into right relationship with God.  It begins with confession.  “Though our iniquities testify against us, act, O Lord, for your name’s sake;  for our backslidings are many; we have sinned against you”.  The people have sinned and need to confess their guilt and appeal to God for His mercy and grace.  Sin carries a price tag, and it is severe.  Jeremiah calls upon God to be God.  “O you hope of Israel, its savior in time of trouble, why should you be like a stranger in the land….why should you be like a man confused….you, O Lord, are in the midst of us, and  we are called by your name; do not leave us”.  Jeremiah knows the problem and what needs to be done to get things right.  Confession, repentance and trust in God.

Jeremiah lays out his case and God heard him.  The response was strong and direct. “Thus says the Lord concerning this people: They have loved to wander thus; they have not restrained their feet;  therefore the Lord does not accept them; now he will remember their iniquity and punish their sins….Do not pray for the welfare of this people. Though they fast, I will not hear their cry, and though they offer burnt offering and grain offering, I will not accept them. But I will consume them  by the sword, by famine, and by pestilence”.  The problem was that Jeremiah knew what needed to happen but the people were not involved and didn’t go through the steps Jeremiah identified.

We can’t confess and repent for someone else.  They have to take ownership for their own decisions and choices.  We can intercede on behalf of another, but ultimately we own our sin and must deal with it on our own.  Forgiveness is granted by God to the sinner, not some third party who may pray and seek it on their behalf.  Jeremiah plays out the steps that need to take place to get right with God and turn the rain back on.  But the people were not taking the steps themselves.  Thus God says ‘no deal’.  We alone can get right with God.  We must take action to confess our sin, repent and turn the other way, and receive God’s gift of forgiveness and salvation through Jesus Christ.  That’s how it happens today.  No one can do that for us.  We must seek God and get right, or suffer the eternal consequences of our sin.  Don’t wait.  Take those steps and get right with God today!

Jeremiah 13

Jeremiah 13 has God giving our prophet two signs and their prophetic meaning.  The first revolves around a linen sash that God asked Jeremiah to go get, and then hide it near the Euphrates river which was a long journey from where he was.  He hid it and then went back to retrieve it only to find it was worthless.  “Then I went to the Euphrates, and dug, and I took  the loincloth from the place where I had hidden it. And behold, the loincloth was  spoiled; it was  good for nothing”.  The lesson was how the sash had deteriorated in the dirt and the moisture. It still existed, but it was ruined and good for nothing.

Prophetically, it was a picture of what was to come in Judah and Jerusalem being taken from their homes in captivity, thus ruining the prideful and hard hearts and plans of His people.  “This evil people, who refuse to hear my words,  who stubbornly follow their own heart and have gone after other gods to serve them and worship them, shall be like this loincloth, which is good for nothing”.   Their choices to follow other Gods and to refuse to listen to God’s words were going to cost them dearly, which it did as they were carried off to captivity.

But if that wasn’t a strong enough message, God gives Jeremiah another picture involving a wine bottle.  God says the “every jar shall be filled with wine” which represented the fact that everything fulfills its purpose.  God’s people had the opportunity to fulfill their purpose of worshipping and glorifying God, but they chose to be rebellious and were destined to destruction.  What God expects was clear.  “Give glory to the Lord your God before he brings darkness, before your feet stumble on the twilight mountains, and while you look for light he turns it into gloom and makes it deep darkness”.  And the warning of God’s pending judgment is clear too.  They have to change.

But God’s people were stubborn and stupid.  They refuse to follow God’s law and requirements.  They choose to do the wrong thing.  We might pretend like we don’t know or can’t hear God’s direction, but that excuse won’t cut it.  It is clear that we are to put God on the throne and give Him the glory, not focus on self.  We have to confess our sin and repent.  The people refused and God warns of the coming punishment.  “I have seen your abominations, your adulteries and neighings, your lewd whorings, on the hills in the field”.  God isn’t mocked, and He doesn’t miss anything. He sees clearly what we do.  There is a price for sin.  That was true in Jeremiah’s time, and it is true today.  Thankfully Jesus went to the Cross to offer us a way to pay for that penalty – the grace of His shed blood that is available to cover our sin.  But we have to receive that gift.  We have to make it our own.

Jeremiah 12

Jeremiah 12 has our prophet wanting to ask God a question.  There’s nothing wrong with that.  God is very willing to help us learn and understand.  But there is a right way to do it, and Jeremiah shows us how.  “Righteous are you, O Lord, when I complain to you; yet I would plead my case before you”.  He recognizes and submits to God’s authority and righteousness.  He doesn’t question or accuse God – but puts God where He belongs as Master and Creator.  We have to begin in our desire to question from a place of submission.  Too often we come at questioning in an accusatory way or with an unwillingness to listen and accept God’s answers.

The question is a good one.  “Why does the way of the wicked prosper? Why do all  who are treacherous thrive”?  I imagine that’s a question all of us want to know the answer for.  In Jeremiah’s case, he knew that his life was focused on walking in obedience and living righteously.  Those around him in Judah and Jerusalem were evil and wicked, yet they seemed to prosper.  These evil people were threatening his very life, wanting to get rid of the voice of truth that Jeremiah was bringing.  Jeremiah wants to understand why.  That’s a question we all seem to ask a lot – why?

God answers Jeremiah’s question with a few questions of His own.  “If you have raced with men on foot, and they have wearied you, how will you compete with horses? And if in a safe land you are so trusting, what will you do in  the thicket of the Jordan”?  He doesn’t directly answer him, but rather gives him something that was powerful and profound.  He encourages Jeremiah to see his present challenges and the apparent unfairness of the situation as preparation for greater things that are to come.  Jeremiah is being trained to truly trust God and draw on His strength because more difficult days are ahead.  God always has a plan.  We often can’t see it through of very limited set of eyes and perspective.

God often asks us to do things that seem difficult.  That was definitely going on in Jeremiah’s life with people who disliked his prophecy and wanted him dead.  He knew he was doing God’s work, but the bad guys seemed to have the upper hand.  The lesson here may be that we have to learn to trust God in all things when we are walking on His path for our life.  We can get caught up in the circumstances around us and get derailed from our mission.  The reality is we will never be able to run with horses on our own.  We have to learn to let God work in us and through us.  He will provide a way.  Our job is to trust and obey!

Jeremiah 11

Jeremiah 11 has the prophet reminding God’s people of the importance of keeping the covenant which God made with them.  He has to deliver the difficult news that making the choice to disobey would be costly.  “Hear the words of this covenant, and speak to the men of Judah and the inhabitants of Jerusalem. You shall say to them…. Cursed be the man who does not hear the words of this covenant….do all that I command you”.  Jeremiah has to deliver the truth that God simply promised that He would enforce the terms of the covenant.  It wasn’t optional for the people to decide whether they wanted to obey or not.  God expected and required obedience.

God kept His part of the covenant and delivered on providing “them a land flowing with milk and honey”.  He was faithful in blessing them with an abundant land as He had promised.  His people, however, failed to keep their end of the covenant.  They were off doing their own things and ignoring what they had committed to.  Now Jeremiah has to remind them of what was agreed to.  “Hear the words of this covenant and do them. For I solemnly warned your fathers when I brought them up out of the land of Egypt,  warning them persistently, even to this day, saying,  Obey my voice”.

This isn’t rocket science, and looking back across the centuries it seems like a pretty good deal.  God promised to protect and bless, and He delivered. In exchange He asked for their obedience and to follow Him.  It’s what God desires from us today too – to love Him and walk in obedience with Him.  Jeremiah had to deliver the message that “they did not obey or incline their ear,  but everyone walked in the stubbornness of his evil heart”.  Self gets in the way, then, and now.  We allow our own desires to push God aside.  “They have turned back to the iniquities of their forefathers, who refused to hear my words.  They have gone after other gods to serve them”.

As humans we slide from our relationship with God to putting self in charge.  Sin gets in the way, and we allow things other than God to take control.  For Jeremiah, people didn’t want to hear what God had him say and they were conspiring to get rid of the messenger.  The people of Anathoth wanted him dead and this was his home town.  They told him “Do not prophesy in the name of the Lord, or you will die by our hand”.  Of course, Jeremiah ignored their threat and trusted God as he continued to speak God’s truth.  And God was faithful to destroy and punish the people from Anathoth by killing those who were threatening His servant.

Jeremiah 10

Jeremiah 10 has the prophet delivering some sober news from God.  He is not pleased and wants it clear that “the customs of the peoples are vanity”.  They think they are really doing something special with their idolatry, but Jeremiah mocks them with it.  Idols can do nothing.  “Their idols are like scarecrows in a cucumber field, and they cannot speak; they have to be carried, for they cannot walk”.  We have the choice to make between a living God who is Master and Maker of the Universe, and idols that we elevate to take His rightful place.  The people of Judah made the wrong choice.  What about you?  Is God on the throne for you, or have you replace Him with an idol or two?

When it comes to comparing God with an idol, there really is nothing to compare.  “There is none like you, O Lord; you are great, and your name is great in might….the Lord is the true God; he is the living God and the everlasting King”.  Idols are the work of man’s hands.  God is glorious and magnificent.  He created the earth by His power.  He spoke the world into existence.  He is in control of all things past, present and future.  God is God.  No idol will ever be able to come close to His majesty.  He alone is worthy of our praise.  He alone is God.

It is he who made the earth by his power, who established the world by his wisdom, and  by his understanding stretched out the heavens”.  How can be possibly fall into the trap of idolatry?  Man wants to be in control.  We want to think we can make something of value.  So we try and craft things that we believe have power.  Money can become an idol if we aren’t careful.  Sports can become an idol.  Our businesses can become idols.  Even our church can become an idol.  Anything we allow to push God aside from His rightful place is an idol.  We have to be sure we keep Him on the throne and worship Him alone.

So how does this happen.  Well Jeremiah calls it like he sees it.  “Every man is stupid and without knowledge”.   We’re not nearly as bright as we want to think we are.  Man falls because we listen to ourselves, not God’s truth.  We don’t have a clue how to run the world around us.  We think we do, but we see things only from our limited perspective.  God alone can see the whole picture.  Idolatry is not ok with God.  He makes that clear.  “I am slinging out the inhabitants of the land at this time, and I will bring distress on them, that they may feel it”.  If we choose to put self or idols above God, we’ll pay for it.  There is a judgment coming that will be fast and hard and far.  We need to examine our hearts and make sure God is God in our life!

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