The first half of Jeremiah 7 is all about cleaning up their act. In fact those are the very words God uses: “clean up your act – the way you live – the things you do”. This is a pretty direct command God gives, but the reason is more important – catch what God says here: “so I can make my home with you in this place”. Did you get that? God cannot dwell among evil or sin. He cannot live where life is being lived in a way inconsistent with His requirements. So what were the issues? The list here is pretty long……
- Sex with neighborhood wives
- Worship local gods
- Buy every novel religious commodity
- Exploit street people and orphans and widows
- Take advantage of innocent people
- Mistreat neighbors
- Use the temple as a front for other gods
This list is really long and shows the level that the people had fallen in their walk with God. Obedience had left the area. They were focused totally on self, did what they wanted, and ignored God completely. Jeremiah tells them this: “Take a trip down to the place that was once in Shiloh, where I met my people in the early days. Take a look at those ruins, what I did to it because of the evil ways of my people Israel”. God cares how we live. God notices when we sin. God will respond if we do not get it cleaned up.
Is it time for some spring cleaning in your life? Are there areas you have hidden away in a closet or dark corner that nobody else sees that certainly God does. Pornography? An illicit relationship? Mistreating people? Another god? We need to look carefully at how we are living and what needs to be cleaned up. God is not going to turn and look the other way. He can’t. Don’t be part of the ruins. Take action now to make it right.
Jeremiah 6 talks about the utter futility God faces with the people. Scripture says they have “tuned out God” and have created the false sense that everything will be ok when actually “things are not just fine”. There is much deceit going on here in the hearts of the people. They have bought into the lie that they can do whatever they want and it will be alright. God doesn’t look the other way on sin. He can’t – it is against His very nature. So Jeremiah’s counsel is so important: “Ask for directions to the old road, The tried and true road”. Are you seeking direction from God and the spiritual mentors in your life to find the tried and true road? Or are you wandering aimlessly on your own. Scripture gives us a lot of direction in life – how we ought live. It lays out the path we should follow for a huge percentage of the things we deal with in life. God wants us to be walking in obedience to those things before He spends a lot of time telling us the details for the ones not covered in His Word. Why does it make sense for Him to give me specifics if I am ignoring the general directions He has already provided? Why should I assume He will invest in me with details if I completely blow of the big picture directions.
Some things are very clear in scripture. Love the Lord your God, love your neighbor as yourself, husbands love your wife as Christ loved the church, wives submit to your husbands, children obey your parents. The list of very specific instructions that apply to me is long and detailed. I need to start living in obedience to those things NOW. Then I can get to the finer points of life and focus on asking for directions on specifics. Does your life line up with scripture? Are you focused on obedience? Until you are, it is really sort of ridiculous to expect God to be all that worried about the other stuff we may want to know. But once we do line up, He is more than ready to give us all the information we seek.
The second half of Jeremiah 5 is pretty straight and in their face (ours too). God is clear that the people get what they deserve – the Message version calls it “tit for tat” – you get what you have coming. “…as you left me….so now you must serve”. The people are going into slavery to a foreign land because they have walked away from God. There is a price to pay for sin. There is a consequence when we chose to do things that are outside of God’s ways. Sometimes we focus so much on the grace of Jesus and His forgiveness that we forget the reality of the cost of sin. Yes Jesus blood does cover us from all sin in terms of the eternal separation from God, but it does not remove the consequences of sin that occur. There is still peripheral damage from those choices and salvation does not mean it won’t hurt. The key is to focus on obedience. That is how we avoid the pain and damage done by sin.
The problem is clearly pointed out in this section: Jeremiah makes it clear that they have “eyes that see but don’t really look, and ears that hear but don’t really listen”. Sound like something I might hear from my wife or kids. We don’t always pay attention to those close to us, and that is certainly true of our relationship with God. We allow the distraction of life, or just a plain lack of focus on Him, to prevent us from seeing or hearing what He has for us. How can we be happy about that? How can we let it continue? I know certainly I am guilty here. If I don’t take intentional steps to connect with Him in a meaningful way, things of this world push in and keep it from happening. But He goes further and asks: “Why don’t you honor me? Why aren’t you in awe before me”? Now that is a very good question. We serve the God of the universe and yet we don’t treat him that way – at least I certainly don’t always relate to Him as the great I AM. God not only deserves our honor and respect, our awe and focus, He demands it. We need to pay attention to that.
The price for our lack of relationship: “Your sins keep my blessings at a distance”. This is the really sad truth of the somewhat hidden cost of sin. It really isn’t hidden, but unless we stop to realize it, we may miss it. God is unable to bless us indeed when we allow sin to keep us apart from His blessing. We limit His ability to pour out all his richness on us. What a sad result – to miss some of what He wants to freely give us. Get it right – listen to Him, walk in obedience, resist the devil and keep sin at bay. That is how we get God’s best!
The first half of Jeremiah 5 is filled with some straight talk about how we have to live. God is looking for “A single soul who does what is right and tries to live a true life. I want to forgive that person”. How sad is that. One solitary soul – that is all God is looking for that is living a “true life”. How about us today? Are any of us living the way God desires? He continues and makes the comment “if all they do is say….”. Lot’s of talk, not much obedience. That describes a lot of Christians today. We can quote scripture and act righteous, but how do we live? Does our walk match our talk? Do we live the way we tell others to live? God is not amused by our lack of obedience.
So God moves on to those who were “taught about God…went to prayer meetings…from the best families”. And the results: “They were no better off”. They were a bunch of hipocrytes too. Just because you come from stock that went to church doesn’t mean you will live it any better than those who hardly know what God expects. We best be careful we don’t get too pious about being in church on Sunday mornings. That doesn’t cut it with God. The proof is in the pudding – are we walking in obedience to His commands? Do we do what we say and know to be true?
The problem is clear in scripture: “the people’s sins are piled sky-high”. We have a sin problem and it isn’t going away. We have the exact same disease they did in Jeremiah’s time – ME. We put ourself on the throne, we want to do things our way and we ignore God’s command. We talk a good game when it applies to those around us, but somehow we are exempt from God’s truth. That is hogwash folks. We need to get our act together and understand that God demands obedience today and every moment of our lives. When we fail – that is called SIN. And the wages of sin are death – no deviation or other outcome – we spend eternity separated from God. The only way to change that is to come into a saving relationship with Jesus who paid the price in full for my sin and yours. Short of that your future is pretty intact, and it doesn’t look good. Don’t fall prey to those who tell you it won’t happen to you. God’s book is very clear – it not only can, it will. Don’t make the mistake of guessing and being wrong. Eternity is a very long time…..
Jeremiah 4 talks about the pending doom for the city of God’s people. But it starts with a promise: “If you want to come back….you must really come back…and not wander”. God is willing to let His people come back, come home, if we only will. But we can’t just return half way and it needs to be complete. Sometimes we sort of come back, we sort of give up sin, at least until it calls us away. I love how verse fourteen says “scrub the evil from your lives so you will be fit for salvation”. We need to clean up our lives – wash out our mouths with soap (ever experienced that?) – and get back in relationship with God. Once we determine the path to come back, there is more direction: “Plow your unplowed fields, but then don’t plant weeds in the soil”. We need to turn over the soil and plant in it, but not just anything, we need to plant good seeds. We need to plant seeds of righteousness and care for them. Then we can avoid the problem they had: “They have no idea who I am”. That is a sad state of affairs – to not know or recognize the God of the universe. Do you?
Jeremiah chapter 3 has some tough words for the people who have really irritated God. The problem: “you keep sinning nonstop…fickle…used anything and anyone”. They have a problem and it is themselves. Sort of what I find when I look in the mirror and evaluate my relationship with God. The problem is me, not God. It is that I let sin into my life – yep – sin is a choice I make. God has the same response to us He had to the people here: “I’m not just hanging back to punish you. I’m committed in love to you”. He never gives up on us. He is always ready to welcome us back. In fact, He says “come back, wandering children”. He is there with open arms. He does require us to “admit” our sin and “repent” of our evil ways. But He is ready to receive us. One of the key issues of that day was “popular religion was a cheap lie”. We need to be careful to remain grounded in the Book, and not chase things that are popular. Only God’s Word has the compass for our lives.
The second half of Jeremiah 2 deals with God’s utter frustration with the people. They have been disloyal and have “shook off all restraints” and said “I will not serve”. That is a bad plan. To tell the God of the universe that He will not receive their service and action is rather suicidal. Why do we get like that? Why do we try and take over the role of being God and dictating how things will be? Self gets in the way. We decide we will climb up and sit on the throne of our life and be in charge. Oh how wrong that attitude is. God responds like this: “I can’t stand to even look at you”. Not exactly the kind of relationship we should seek with the God of creation. How do people respond: “I’m not stained by sin”. My how we deceive ourselves.
We are not only stained, we are going to pay for sin. Eternal separation from God is the penalty if we don’t deal with it. And the only answer for us is a relationship with Jesus who went to the cross to pay the price. So how do we fall into this trap of thinking we can do what we want and do it our way? Jeremiah records the problem: “my people forget me….they never give me a thought”. It comes down to keeping God front and center in our lives. We have to remember. We cannot forget that He created us, this universe we live in, and has absolute control. It is not about you or me. It is about lining up with Him. We can try to fool ourselves into the attitude the people had here: “I’ve done nothing wrong…God doesn’t mind…He hasn’t punished me”. Oh how wrong that is. “Judgment’s on the way” because there is a price to sin. There are no free passes.
Are you ready? Is the sin of your life paid for?