Friday, July 31, 2015

God Will Regather Judah

Jeremiah 23:1-8

“Woe be unto the pastors that destroy and scatter the sheep of my pasture! saith the LORD.  Therefore thus saith the LORD God of Israel against the pastors that feed my people; Ye have scattered my flock, and driven them away, and have not visited them: behold, I will visit upon you the evil of your doings, saith the LORD.” (Jeremiah 23:1-2)

The word pastor means shepherd.  The shepherd’s job is to keep the sheep together so for their protection, since sheep are ill prepared for self-protection and tend to forget how to get home.  .  It also makes it easier to be sure they are getting healthy food and the care they need.     Shepherds who deliberately scatter the sheep obviously have no concern for the sheep, putting them at risk for being lost or killed, and not making sure they have food or water.  

God had placed the prophets, priests, and Levites to serve as shepherds to Israel just as he has placed the pastors, teachers, and other church leaders in the modern church.  Because they had deliberately led his people away from God, sometimes forcing them out, and have not been concerned to check up on them, He had cursed them and was going to make them suffer the consequences of treating His people so.

“And I will gather the remnant of my flock out of all countries whither I have driven them, and will bring them again to their folds; and they shall be fruitful and increase.  And I will set up shepherds over them which shall feed them: and they shall fear no more, nor be dismayed, neither shall they be lacking, saith the LORD.” (Jeremiah 23:3-4)

God will round up his people from all the countries they have been driven to, and bring them back to their homes and causing them to flourish.  He will set up leaders that will teach them as they should.  They will no longer fear losing their salvation or being excommunicated because they will be taught the things they need to know. 

“Behold, the days come, saith the LORD, that I will raise unto David a righteous Branch, and a King shall reign and prosper, and shall execute judgment and justice in the earth.  In his days Judah shall be saved, and Israel shall dwell safely: and this is his name whereby he shall be called, THE LORD OUR RIGHTEOUSNESS.” (Jeremiah 23:5-6)

Revelation 20:4-9 describes a one thousand year period during which Christ will reign in Jerusalem beginning with the destruction of the Antichrist’s power.  “And I saw thrones, and they sat upon them, and judgment was given unto them: and I saw the souls of them that were beheaded for the witness of Jesus, and for the word of God, and which had not worshipped the beast, neither his image, neither had received his mark upon their foreheads, or in their hands; and they lived and reigned with Christ a thousand years.   But the rest of the dead lived not again until the thousand years were finished. This is the first resurrection.  Blessed and holy is he that hath part in the first resurrection: on such the second death hath no power, but they shall be priests of God and of Christ, and shall reign with him a thousand years.

And when the thousand years are expired, Satan shall be loosed out of his prison, And shall go out to deceive the nations which are in the four quarters of the earth, Gog and Magog, to gather them together to battle: the number of whom is as the sand of the sea.  And they went up on the breadth of the earth, and compassed the camp of the saints about, and the beloved city: and fire came down from God out of heaven, and devoured them.”

Isaiah 4, 11, 27, and 65 all give descriptions of what things will be like during that thousand year period of Christ’s reign here on earth.  During that time Israel will prosper under His rule like no country in history.  They will turn to God like never before. 

“Therefore, behold, the days come, saith the LORD, that they shall no more say, The LORD liveth, which brought up the children of Israel out of the land of Egypt; But, The LORD liveth, which brought up and which led the seed of the house of Israel out of the north country, and from all countries whither I had driven them; and they shall dwell in their own land.” (Jeremiah 23:7-8)

In the past Israel has always looked back and praised the Lord for bringing them out of Egypt.  In that day the focus will change and they will be praising God for having rebuilt Israel, recovering them from among their enemies around the world and giving them back their own land.  Their understanding and worship will be based on their own experience, rather than tradition.  

Thursday, July 30, 2015

A Warning To Zedekiah

Jeremiah 22:1-30

“Thus saith the LORD; Go down to the house of the king of Judah, and speak there this word, And say, Hear the word of the LORD, O king of Judah, that sittest upon the throne of David, thou, and thy servants, and thy people that enter in by these gates: Thus saith the LORD; Execute ye judgment and righteousness, and deliver the spoiled out of the hand of the oppressor: and do no wrong, do no violence to the stranger, the fatherless, nor the widow, neither shed innocent blood in this place.  For if ye do this thing indeed, then shall there enter in by the gates of this house kings sitting upon the throne of David, riding in chariots and on horses, he, and his servants, and his people.” (Jeremiah 22:1-4

Josiah was the last of Judah’s good kings.  Egypt and Assyria were at war, and the Egyptian army crossed territory near Meggido that had been Israel’s,  but was controlled by the Assyrians.   Josiah attacked them there and was defeated and killed.  The Jews made Jehoahaz his son king in his place. Three months later the Egyptian forces took Jerusalem, Taking Jehoahaz captive and placing his brother Eliakim on the throne, changing his name to Jehoiakim.  He was a wicked king who reigned eleven years before being defeated and taken to Babylon by Nebuchadnezzar.  His son Jehoiachin took the throne but was deposed by Nebuchadnessar, who made his brother Zedekiah king instead.  This prophecy came shortly after Zedekiah ascended the throne. 

If Zedekiah and Judah will obey God’s commands, executing justice to the poor, needy and the foreigner as fairly as to the rich and powerful, doing what is right, then He promises to bless them.  There would be future kings of Judah from the family of David, and both the king and Judah would have the luxuries of life represented by having a nice mode of transportation. 

“But if ye will not hear these words, I swear by myself, saith the LORD, that this house shall become a desolation.  For thus saith the LORD unto the king's house of Judah; Thou art Gilead unto me, and the head of Lebanon: yet surely I will make thee a wilderness, and cities which are not inhabited.  And I will prepare destroyers against thee, every one with his weapons: and they shall cut down thy choice cedars, and cast them into the fire.  And many nations shall pass by this city, and they shall say every man to his neighbour, Wherefore hath the LORD done thus unto this great city?  Then they shall answer, Because they have forsaken the covenant of the LORD their God, and worshipped other gods, and served them.” (Jeremiah 22:5-9)

If they do not keep His commands, then God will destroy the throne and the kingdom.  To God, Judah and the family of David are like a beautiful mountain valley or a well watered plain, but He will turn them into an uninhabited  desert.  They will be destroyed by military actions that will cut down their strongest and most renowned heroes, killing or enslaving them.   Their failure to serve God and its consequences would be the talk of the surrounding countries.
“Weep ye not for the dead, neither bemoan him: but weep sore for him that goeth away: for he shall return no more, nor see his native country.   For thus saith the LORD touching Shallum the son of Josiah king of Judah, which reigned instead of Josiah his father, which went forth out of this place; He shall not return thither any more: But he shall die in the place whither they have led him captive, and shall see this land no more.” (Jeremiah 22:10-12)

The dead would no longer suffer, but most those who had been carried away captive would never return to the land.  Jehoiakim had been made king because Josiah got involved in a fight that wasn’t his.   He would never return to Jerusalem but would die in Babylon.   
“Woe unto him that buildeth his house by unrighteousness, and his chambers by wrong; that useth his neighbour's service without wages, and giveth him not for his work;  That saith, I will build me a wide house and large chambers, and cutteth him out windows; and it is ceiled with cedar, and painted with vermilion. Shalt thou reign, because thou closest thyself in cedar? did not thy father eat and drink, and do judgment and justice, and then it was well with him?  He judged the cause of the poor and needy; then it was well with him: was not this to know me? saith the LORD.  But thine eyes and thine heart are not but for thy covetousness, and for to shed innocent blood, and for oppression, and for violence, to do it.” (Jeremiah 22:13-17)

God’s curse is upon those who try to gain power and wealth by dishonest means, ripping off the people who work for them, building themselves luxurious mansions with huge windows and fine paneling.  They need to understand that those mansions will not guarantee ongoing success.   Josiah had been richly blessed because he was one of the best kings Judah ever had, seeking to please god more than any king before him.  His son Jehoiakim and his grandson Zedekiah had a different attitude.  They were only concerned about getting what they wanted and would do anything to get their way. 

“Therefore thus saith the LORD concerning Jehoiakim the son of Josiah king of Judah; They shall not lament for him, saying, Ah my brother! or, Ah sister! they shall not lament for him, saying, Ah lord! or, Ah his glory!  He shall be buried with the burial of an ass, drawn and cast forth beyond the gates of Jerusalem. “ (Jeremiah 22:18-19)

Because of his attitude and wickedness, Jehoiakim would die in Babylon and the Jews would not even mourn his death,  He would be buried with no more fanfare than if they were burying a donkey, just drug out of the way and left to rot.  He won’t even be missed .

“Go up to Lebanon, and cry; and lift up thy voice in Bashan, and cry from the passages: for all thy lovers are destroyed.  I spake unto thee in thy prosperity; but thou saidst, I will not hear. This hath been thy manner from thy youth, that thou obeyedst not my voice.  The wind shall eat up all thy pastors, and thy lovers shall go into captivity: surely then shalt thou be ashamed and confounded for all thy wickedness.  O inhabitant of Lebanon, that makest thy nest in the cedars, how gracious shalt thou be when pangs come upon thee, the pain as of a woman in travail!” (Jeremiah 22:20-23)

Zedekiah could go to Lebanon or travel to the area east of the Sea of Galilee and see the gods they had worshipped had not been able to save their lands.  God had spoken to them when they were still being blessed, and they had refused to listen.  It was the same attitude they had had from the beginning, refusing to obey God.  Their prophets and teachers would just blow away in the wind and their other god’s religions would be taken captive.  They will be ashamed of having wasted their time on those religions, and how hard will it be to be happy when they are suffering like a woman giving birth?

“As I live, saith the LORD, though Coniah the son of Jehoiakim king of Judah were the signet upon my right hand, yet would I pluck thee thence; And I will give thee into the hand of them that seek thy life, and into the hand of them whose face thou fearest, even into the hand of Nebuchadrezzar king of Babylon, and into the hand of the Chaldeans.  And I will cast thee out, and thy mother that bare thee, into another country, where ye were not born; and there shall ye die.  But to the land whereunto they desire to return, thither shall they not return.
Is this man Coniah a despised broken idol? is he a vessel wherein is no pleasure? wherefore are they cast out, he and his seed, and are cast into a land which they know not?  O earth, earth, earth, hear the word of the LORD. Jer 22:30 Thus saith the LORD, Write ye this man childless, a man that shall not prosper in his days: for no man of his seed shall prosper, sitting upon the throne of David, and ruling any more in Judah.” (Jeremiah 22:24-30)

Even if Zedekiah had been the seal on God’s ring of authority, He would turn him over to the Babylonians and Chaldeans.  They would be taken into captivity and never return to Jerusalem either, dying like his father, in Babylon.  All of his children would be executed by Nebuchadnezzar, his eyes would be put out, and he would never accomplish anything for the rest of his life.  It was not because God hated him, but because he would not do what God said.  

Wednesday, July 29, 2015

A Message To Zedekiah

Jeremiah 21:1-14

“The word which came unto Jeremiah from the LORD, when king Zedekiah sent unto him Pashur the son of Melchiah, and Zephaniah the son of Maaseiah the priest, saying,  Inquire, I pray thee, of the LORD for us; for Nebuchadrezzar king of Babylon maketh war against us; if so be that the LORD will deal with us according to all his wondrous works, that he may go up from us.” (Jeremiah 21:1-2)

Judah was already in captivity when Zedekiah became king, and under his administration they tried to rebel.  Nebuchadnezzar was forced to suppress rebellions repeatedly, and had again been forced to send troops to regain control.   Zedekiah sent Pashur, (not the priest from the previous chapter) and Zephaniah to find out if God is going to bless and fight for them this time like he had done in the past. 

“Then said Jeremiah unto them, Thus shall ye say to Zedekiah: Thus saith the LORD God of Israel; Behold, I will turn back the weapons of war that are in your hands, wherewith ye fight against the king of Babylon, and against the Chaldeans, which besiege you without the walls, and I will assemble them into the midst of this city.  And I myself will fight against you with an outstretched hand and with a strong arm, even in anger, and in fury, and in great wrath.  And I will smite the inhabitants of this city, both man and beast: they shall die of a great pestilence.” (Jeremiah 21:3-6)

God’s response was not what Zedekiah wanted to hear.   He said he would use their own weapons against them, trapping them outside the walls while the Babylonian forces occupy the city.  God himself would fight against the Jews because he was very angry at what they were doing.  He would send pestilence or disease among them to weaken their defenses, killing many of them.  They had offended their strongest ally and turned him against them.

“And afterward, saith the LORD, I will deliver Zedekiah king of Judah, and his servants, and the people, and such as are left in this city from the pestilence, from the sword, and from the famine, into the hand of Nebuchadrezzar king of Babylon, and into the hand of their enemies, and into the hand of those that seek their life: and he shall smite them with the edge of the sword; he shall not spare them, neither have pity, nor have mercy.” (Jeremiah 21:7)

Those who survive the war, starvation and the diseases, including Zedekiah would be captured by the Babylonians or others of their enemies.  Their enemies would show no mercy, killing them indiscriminately. 
“And unto this people thou shalt say, Thus saith the LORD; Behold, I set before you the way of life, and the way of death.  He that abideth in this city shall die by the sword, and by the famine, and by the pestilence: but he that goeth out, and falleth to the Chaldeans that besiege you, he shall live, and his life shall be unto him for a prey.  For I have set my face against this city for evil, and not for good, saith the LORD: it shall be given into the hand of the king of Babylon, and he shall burn it with fire.” (Jeremiah 21:8-10)

The messengers were to warn the people they had two choices.  If they stayed in the city and fought, they would die whether killed in battle or of starvation and disease.  If they left the city and surrendered to the Babylonians, their lives would be spared because God was determined to destroy the city.   Nebuchadnezzar would defeat the city and, as a result of the repeated rebellion, burn it with fire to prevent future problems. 

“And touching the house of the king of Judah, say, Hear ye the word of the LORD; O house of David, thus saith the LORD; Execute judgment in the morning, and deliver him that is spoiled out of the hand of the oppressor, lest my fury go out like fire, and burn that none can quench it, because of the evil of your doings.” (Jeremiah 21:11-12)

Even at this late date, just a couple of years before the complete destruction of Jerusalem, God offers a chance to escape.  If Zedekiah would step up and enforce God’s laws, executing justice fairly and protecting the innocent, god would deliver them.  If not, God’s anger would come on them like an unquenchable fire because of their wickedness. 

“Behold, I am against thee, O inhabitant of the valley, and rock of the plain, saith the LORD; which say, Who shall come down against us? or who shall enter into our habitations?  But I will punish you according to the fruit of your doings, saith the LORD: and I will kindle a fire in the forest thereof, and it shall devour all things round about it.” (Jeremiah 21:13-14)

Because God had protected them in the past, so that the Babylonians had initially just taken over the government, establishing Zedekiah as king, Judah had the idea that they would never be completely defeated or occupied.  God warns them that they are about to receive the full consequences of their behavior.  He said it would be like a forest fire, that doesn’t stop with the trees, but burns the neighborhoods around the forest as well.  

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

It’s Easy to Get Depressed

Jeremiah 20:1-18

“Now Pashur the son of Immer the priest, who was also chief governor in the house of the LORD, heard that Jeremiah prophesied these things.   Then Pashur smote Jeremiah the prophet, and put him in the stocks that were in the high gate of Benjamin, which was by the house of the LORD.” (Jeremiah 20:1-2)

Jeremiah had prophesied about the destruction of Jerusalem and captivity of Judah, telling them what god said was going to happen if they didn’t make changes.  Pashur, who was what would probably be called the senior pastor in churches today, didn’t like what Jeremiah was preaching.  Rather than considering the message and checking it out, he lost his temper, hitting Jeremiah and having him publicly arrested to humiliate and discredit him, similar to what we see with political leaders today.    

“And it came to pass on the morrow, that Pashur brought forth Jeremiah out of the stocks.  Then said Jeremiah unto him, The LORD hath not called thy name Pashur, but Magormissabib.  For thus saith the LORD, Behold, I will make thee a terror to thyself, and to all thy friends: and they shall fall by the sword of their enemies, and thine eyes shall behold it: and I will give all Judah into the hand of the king of Babylon, and he shall carry them captive into Babylon, and shall slay them with the sword.

Moreover I will deliver all the strength of this city, and all the labours thereof, and all the precious things thereof, and all the treasures of the kings of Judah will I give into the hand of their enemies, which shall spoil them, and take them, and carry them to Babylon.  And thou, Pashur, and all that dwell in thine house shall go into captivity: and thou shalt come to Babylon, and there thou shalt die, and shalt be buried there, thou, and all thy friends, to whom thou hast prophesied lies.” (Jeremiah 20:3-6

Since there were no legitimate charges, Pashur could not legitimately hold Jeremiah.  When he was released, Jeremiah said Pashur would no longer be known as Pashur, which means liberation.  Instead he would be known as Magormissabib, meaning affright from around.  He would be terrified and inspire terror in the hearts around him, demoralizing them and seeing them killed as a result.  The survivors would be carried away captive into Babylon or executed.  All the riches of Judah and all the things they had built would be take or destroyed.  Pashur’s own family would be taken to Babylon, where he and all his friends and the people that listened to him instead of God would die.

“O LORD, thou hast deceived me, and I was deceived: thou art stronger than I, and hast prevailed: I am in derision daily, every one mocketh me.  For since I spake, I cried out, I cried violence and spoil; because the word of the LORD was made a reproach unto me, and a derision, daily.” (Jeremiah 20:7-8)

Jeremiah had been prophesying about the punishment of Judah for their sin.  Instead, he had been beaten and arrested.  He felt like God had broken his promise and betrayed him.   People made fun of him on a daily basis, and he was frequently attacked both verbally and physically for his stand.   He was considered a fool or treated as a criminal for standing for what God said.  Many times we develop that same feeling that we have been betrayed or deceived.  We forget the warning in II Timothy 3:12, “…all that will live godly in Christ Jesus shall suffer persecution.”  Every person who does right will experience these things to some degree.  It shouldn’t surprise us, but we frequently are. 

“Then I said, I will not make mention of him, nor speak any more in his name. But his word was in mine heart as a burning fire shut up in my bones, and I was weary with forbearing, and I could not stay.  For I heard the defaming of many, fear on every side. Report, say they, and we will report it. All my familiars watched for my halting, saying, Peradventure he will be enticed, and we shall prevail against him, and we shall take our revenge on him.” (Jeremiah 20:9-10)

Frustrated, Jeremiah decided he’d just quit preaching or telling them what God said and let them find out for themselves.  He sometimes had to bite his tongue to keep from telling peoplewhat they were doing was wrong, but when he heard them slandering god and blaming God for what was happening, he couldn’t hardly hold back.  His own acquaintances and friends were watching to see if he could walk by or if he’d speak up and force them to take sides against to make him go along. 

“But the LORD is with me as a mighty terrible one: therefore my persecutors shall stumble, and they shall not prevail: they shall be greatly ashamed; for they shall not prosper: their everlasting confusion shall never be forgotten.  But, O LORD of hosts, that triest the righteous, and seest the reins and the heart, let me see thy vengeance on them: for unto thee have I opened my cause.  Sing unto the LORD, praise ye the LORD: for he hath delivered the soul of the poor from the hand of evildoers.” (Jeremiah 20:11-13)

God is all powerful, and those who attack his servants will fail in their efforts to destroy us.  In John 16:33 Jesus said, “…In the world ye shall have tribulation: but be of good cheer; I have overcome the world.”  Jeremiah asks to see the day when their judgment comes because he just couldn’t keep from warning them.  He knows that ultimately he will see God’s victory.  Even though he knows it, he’d much rather not have to go through it. 

“Cursed be the day wherein I was born: let not the day wherein my mother bare me be blessed.  Cursed be the man who brought tidings to my father, saying, A man child is born unto thee; making him very glad.  And let that man be as the cities which the LORD overthrew, and repented not: and let him hear the cry in the morning, and the shouting at noontide; Because he slew me not from the womb; or that my mother might have been my grave, and her womb to be always great with me.  Wherefore came I forth out of the womb to see labour and sorrow, that my days should be consumed with shame?” (Jeremiah 20:14-18)

Sometimes it seems as if our problems are more that we can bear, and like Jeremiah, we begin to think it would have been better if we had never been born.   We need to be reminded, “There hath no temptation taken you but such as is common to man: but God is faithful, who will not suffer you to be tempted above that ye are able; but will with the temptation also make a way to escape, that ye may be able to bear it,” as I Corinthians 10 13 tells us.  All that live godly suffer persecution but God will make a way to overcome it. 

I Corinthians 2:9 says, “…Eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart of man, the things which God hath prepared for them that love him.”  We simply have no clue what the rewards will be like but we know who God is. Romans 8:18 says, “I reckon that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us.”    Knowing how much God loves us, we can be sure the reward will be worth all the suffering.  “For which cause we faint not; but though our outward man perish, yet the inward man is renewed day by day.  For our light affliction, which is but for a moment, worketh for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory; While we look not at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen: for the things which are seen are temporal; but the things which are not seen are eternal,” according to II Corinthians 4:16-18.

Monday, July 27, 2015

Jerusalem to be Like Tophet

Jeremiah 19:1-15

“Thus saith the LORD, Go and get a potter's earthen bottle, and take of the ancients of the people, and of the ancients of the priests; And go forth unto the valley of the son of Hinnom, which is by the entry of the east gate, and proclaim there the words that I shall tell thee, And say, Hear ye the word of the LORD, O kings of Judah, and inhabitants of Jerusalem; Thus saith the LORD of hosts, the God of Israel; Behold, I will bring evil upon this place, the which whosoever heareth, his ears shall tingle.” (Jeremiah 19:1-3)

God directs Jeremiah to go obtain a pottery bottle or jug.  He is then to take some of the oldest and most respected leaders and priests to the valley of the son of  Hinnom, located just east of Jerusalem.  It was the place where children had been burned to death as sacrifices to the god, Molech for centuries.  When they arrived, He was to tell them what God said, to prophesy.    He was to warn them that even hearing the prophecy would make their and their hearts hurt. 
“Because they have forsaken me, and have estranged this place, and have burned incense in it unto other gods, whom neither they nor their fathers have known, nor the kings of Judah, and have filled this place with the blood of innocents;  They have built also the high places of Baal, to burn their sons with fire for burnt offerings unto Baal, which I commanded not, nor spake it, neither came it into my mind: Therefore, behold, the days come, saith the LORD, that this place shall no more be called Tophet, nor The valley of the son of Hinnom, but The valley of slaughter.” (Jeremiah 19:4-6)

God was going to bring judgment on them because they had used the valley for the worship of other gods than the one who brought them out of Egypt.  They had sacrificed innocent children there to Molech and Baal.  They had set up altars to Baal and offered those sacrifices even when god had forbidden them to do so.  As a result, the instead of being called the valley of the son of Hinnom, it would be known as the Valley of Slaughter, the valley of killing.
“And I will make void the counsel of Judah and Jerusalem in this place; and I will cause them to fall by the sword before their enemies, and by the hands of them that seek their lives: and their carcases will I give to be meat for the fowls of the heaven, and for the beasts of the earth.  And I will make this city desolate, and an hissing; every one that passeth thereby shall be astonished and hiss because of all the plagues thereof.  And I will cause them to eat the flesh of their sons and the flesh of their daughters, and they shall eat every one the flesh of his friend in the siege and straitness, wherewith their enemies, and they that seek their lives, shall straiten them.” (Jeremiah 19:7-9)

In the process, God will make all the plans for defending Judah and Jerusalem worthless, so that their enemies defeat and kill them, leaving their bodies lie for the scavengers to eat.  The city will be destroyed and abandoned and everyone who goes by will mock what has happened and the results.  Instead of sacrificing their children to Baal or Molech, they will eat them themselves to survive.  It will get so bad they will even murder their friends for food.  It is a horrible picture.

“Then shalt thou break the bottle in the sight of the men that go with thee.  And shalt say unto them, Thus saith the LORD of hosts; Even so will I break this people and this city, as one breaketh a potter's vessel, that cannot be made whole again: and they shall bury them in Tophet, till there be no place to bury.  Thus will I do unto this place, saith the LORD, and to the inhabitants thereof, and even make this city as Tophet: And the houses of Jerusalem, and the houses of the kings of Judah, shall be defiled as the place of Tophet, because of all the houses upon whose roofs they have burned incense unto all the host of heaven, and have poured out drink offerings unto other gods. “ (Jeremiah 19:10-13)

About thirty years before, King Josiah had destroyed the town of Tophet in the valley of the son of Hinnom because it was the main center for the worship of Molech.    Jeremiah is to break the pottery bottle as an illustration of what God will do to Jerusalem.  The bodies will be buried  at Tophet until they run out of places to bury them.  Jerusalem will be a completely destroyed as Tophet had been.  Their houses will be destroyed and the roofs caved in because so many of them had been used to offer incense to the stars and angels of heaven and offer sacrifices to other gods.

“Then came Jeremiah from Tophet, whither the LORD had sent him to prophesy; and he stood in the court of the LORD'S house; and said to all the people, Thus saith the LORD of hosts, the God of Israel; Behold, I will bring upon this city and upon all her towns all the evil that I have pronounced against it, because they have hardened their necks, that they might not hear my words.” (Jeremiah 19:14-15)

After finishing his prophecy at Tophet, Jeremiah returned to the temple court, where he warned everyone there that god was going to fulfil all judgments he had prophesied against Jerusalem and Judah, because they had been stubborn and refused to listen to the warnings. 

I cannot but worry that the United States refuses to listen to the warnings.  

Friday, July 24, 2015

The Potter’s Power

Jeremiah 18:1-23

:The word which came to Jeremiah from the LORD, saying, Arise, and go down to the potter's house, and there I will cause thee to hear my words.

Then I went down to the potter's house, and, behold, he wrought a work on the wheels.  And the vessel that he made of clay was marred in the hand of the potter: so he made it again another vessel, as seemed good to the potter to make it.” (Jeremiah 18:1-4)

God sent Jeremiah to the potter’s house to see an illustration of what He was doing in Judah.  As the potter worked on the wheel, something went wrong with the pot he was making.  Rather than throwing it away or trying to patch it, the potter simply rolled the clay back into a ball and started a new pot shaped the way he chose it to be. 

“Then the word of the LORD came to me, saying, O house of Israel, cannot I do with you as this potter? saith the LORD. Behold, as the clay is in the potter's hand, so are ye in mine hand, O house of Israel.  At what instant I shall speak concerning a nation, and concerning a kingdom, to pluck up, and to pull down, and to destroy it; If that nation, against whom I have pronounced, turn from their evil, I will repent of the evil that I thought to do unto them.  And at what instant I shall speak concerning a nation, and concerning a kingdom, to build and to plant it; If it do evil in my sight, that it obey not my voice, then I will repent of the good, wherewith I said I would benefit them.” (Jeremiah 18:5-10)

Just as the potter could start over and make something different if the pot didn’t turn out the way he wanted it, God has the power and the right to destroy what he started and make something different if a people doesn’t do what he wants.  If God tried to effect change in a nation, warning them of their sin, and they complied, he will not judge them.  If they resist his efforts to make them like he wants, he will destroy them and start over, as he sees fit. 

“Now therefore go to, speak to the men of Judah, and to the inhabitants of Jerusalem, saying, Thus saith the LORD; Behold, I frame evil against you, and devise a device against you: return ye now every one from his evil way, and make your ways and your doings good.” (Jeremiah 18:11)

Jeremiah was to then go to the people of Jerusalem and warn them of the judgment they were facing.  He was to encourage them to turn back to God, doing what was right instead of evil.

“And they said, There is no hope: but we will walk after our own devices, and we will every one do the imagination of his evil heart.” (Jeremiah 18:12)

The people of Jerusalem said that doing what God commanded wouldn’t make any difference.    Instead, they were going to do the things they thought would work, and that other nations had done in similar situations. 

“Therefore thus saith the LORD; Ask ye now among the heathen, who hath heard such things: the virgin of Israel hath done a very horrible thing.” (Jeremiah 18:13)

If they would just ask other countries how those ideas worked, or study their histories, they would recognize they were making a horrible mistake.  Even the countries that survived went through extended periods of struggle and conflict. 

“Will a man leave the snow of Lebanon which cometh from the rock of the field? or shall the cold flowing waters that come from another place be forsaken?   Because my people hath forgotten me, they have burned incense to vanity, and they have caused them to stumble in their ways from the ancient paths, to walk in paths, in a way not cast up; To make their land desolate, and a perpetual hissing; every one that passeth thereby shall be astonished, and wag his head.  I will scatter them as with an east wind before the enemy; I will show them the back, and not the face, in the day of their calamity.” (Jeremiah 18:14-17)

A person who has vacationed in the mountains and enjoyed being able to play in the snow on a hot day or has enjoyed being by a cold stream on a hot day will probably not forget how nice it was to be there.  Israel has forgotten how wonderful it was to have God’s blessings.  They’d worshipped other Gods and followed the teachings of false religions, leading them to live in a way that was not pleasing to God.  In doing so, the cause their land to be desolate and made themselves despicable to the nations around them.  They will be destroyed, and when they call on God for help, he will just turn His back on them.
“Then said they, Come, and let us devise devices against Jeremiah; for the law shall not perish from the priest, nor counsel from the wise, nor the word from the prophet. Come, and let us smite him with the tongue, and let us not give heed to any of his words.” (Jeremiah 18:18)

When they heard God’s warnings, the people turned on Jeremiah.  They were sure that their priest couldn’t be misinterpreting the law, their advisors were too smart to make a mistake, and their prophets were all speaking for God, so Jeremiah must be crazy.  They decided to destroy his credibility and ignore what he told them. 

“Give heed to me, O LORD, and hearken to the voice of them that contend with me.  Shall evil be recompensed for good? for they have digged a pit for my soul. Remember that I stood before thee to speak good for them, and to turn away thy wrath from them.  Therefore deliver up their children to the famine, and pour out their blood by the force of the sword; and let their wives be bereaved of their children, and be widows; and let their men be put to death; let their young men be slain by the sword in battle.  Let a cry be heard from their houses, when thou shalt bring a troop suddenly upon them: for they have digged a pit to take me, and hid snares for my feet.   Yet, LORD, thou knowest all their counsel against me to slay me: forgive not their iniquity, neither blot out their sin from thy sight, but let them be overthrown before thee; deal thus with them in the time of thine anger.”  (Jeremiah 18:19-23)

Jeremiah prays that God will see how he has tried to show Judah what is right and how to fix their problems and they have punished him for trying to help them.  As a result, he asks they receive the full measure of judgment they deserve.  He prays that they not be excused for their attempts to kill him but that they be repaid in kind.  It is really frustrating when you try to help people and they turn on you.  

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

If They Would Just Keep One

Jeremiah 17:19-27

“Thus said the LORD unto me; Go and stand in the gate of the children of the people, whereby the kings of Judah come in, and by the which they go out, and in all the gates of Jerusalem; And say unto them, Hear ye the word of the LORD, ye kings of Judah, and all Judah, and all the inhabitants of Jerusalem, that enter in by these gates: Thus saith the LORD; Take heed to yourselves, and bear no burden on the sabbath day, nor bring it in by the gates of Jerusalem; Neither carry forth a burden out of your houses on the sabbath day, neither do ye any work, but hallow ye the sabbath day, as I commanded your fathers.  But they obeyed not, neither inclined their ear, but made their neck stiff, that they might not hear, nor receive instruction.” (Jeremiah 17:19-23)

God instructed Jeremiah to go to each of the gates into the city of Jerusalem and confront the people.  He was to remind them that God had forbidden them to do any work on the Sabbath.  They were to set it aside wholly for the Lord.  For many years they had treated that command as just a suggestion, perhaps making a slave carry the burden rather than doing it themselves or limiting the distance which things could be carried on the Sabbath. 

“And it shall come to pass, if ye diligently hearken unto me, saith the LORD, to bring in no burden through the gates of this city on the sabbath day, but hallow the sabbath day, to do no work therein; Then shall there enter into the gates of this city kings and princes sitting upon the throne of David, riding in chariots and on horses, they, and their princes, the men of Judah, and the inhabitants of Jerusalem: and this city shall remain for ever.  And they shall come from the cities of Judah, and from the places about Jerusalem, and from the land of Benjamin, and from the plain, and from the mountains, and from the south, bringing burnt offerings, and sacrifices, and meat offerings, and incense, and bringing sacrifices of praise, unto the house of the LORD.” (Jeremiah 17:24-26)

He promised that if they would stop working on the Sabbath, putting God first and obeying him, the kingdom would be established forever.  Judah would be ruled by their own government, and Jerusalem would be a trade and religious center with people flocking there from all of Israel and the neighboring countries to worship God.  This entire promise was contingent on them keeping just one of God’s commands.  Surely they could keep this one command.

“But if ye will not hearken unto me to hallow the sabbath day, and not to bear a burden, even entering in at the gates of Jerusalem on the sabbath day; then will I kindle a fire in the gates thereof, and it shall devour the palaces of Jerusalem, and it shall not be quenched.” (Jeremiah 17:27)

If they refused to keep that one commandment, continuing to ignore the Sabbath day, even in Jerusalem itself, then God would start a fire that would completely destroy the city.  It would destroy their king and his family and continue to burn until all was destroyed. 

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Cursed or Blessed?

Jeremiah 17:1-18

“The sin of Judah is written with a pen of iron, and with the point of a diamond: it is graven upon the table of their heart, and upon the horns of your altars; Whilst their children remember their altars and their groves by the green trees upon the high hills.” (Jeremiah 17:1-2)

Judah had sinned, worshipping the groves of trees and various idols. By continuing to do it for generations it was like they had carved it into stone that that was how the Jews lived. 

“O my mountain in the field, I will give thy substance and all thy treasures to the spoil, and thy high places for sin, throughout all thy borders.  And thou, even thyself, shalt discontinue from thine heritage that I gave thee; and I will cause thee to serve thine enemies in the land which thou knowest not: for ye have kindled a fire in mine anger, which shall burn for ever.” (Jeremiah 17:3-4)

Because they have offended God to the point he will not forgive that generation, he is going to take everything he has given them away.  Other people will worship in the places they have worshipped, and their riches will be carried away.  Even the people will be carted off to other lands as captives and slaves. 

“Thus saith the LORD; Cursed be the man that trusteth in man, and maketh flesh his arm, and whose heart departeth from the LORD.  For he shall be like the heath in the desert, and shall not see when good cometh; but shall inhabit the parched places in the wilderness, in a salt land and not inhabited.” (Jeremiah 17:5-6)

The person who depends on political and military power to keep him safe and solve his problems is cursed by God.  Like a bit of sage or other plant in the middle of the dessert, even when others are being blessed, they will miss out, struggling to survive even when others flourish because the ground is so dry and parched that the water hardly penetrates and it has so much alkalai that the plants hardly grow. 

“Blessed is the man that trusteth in the LORD, and whose hope the LORD is.  For he shall be as a tree planted by the waters, and that spreadeth out her roots by the river, and shall not see when heat cometh, but her leaf shall be green; and shall not be careful in the year of drought, neither shall cease from yielding fruit.” (Jeremiah 17:7-8)

The person who puts his trust in God instead of earthly powers will flourish like a tree planted by a river or lake.  Even a severe prolonged drought hardly affects them because their roots have a ready source of nourishment.   During a drought, tree leaves shrivel to reduce evaporation, even allowing some branches to die.  Those which are planted by the waters don’t have to deal with that, and they consistently produce fruit as a result. 

“The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked: who can know it?  I the LORD search the heart, I try the reins, even to give every man according to his ways, and according to the fruit of his doings.  As the partridge sitteth on eggs, and hatcheth them not; so he that getteth riches, and not by right, shall leave them in the midst of his days, and at his end shall be a fool.” (Jeremiah 17:9-11)

In modern society we are often encouraged to follow our heart, but God warns it is not to be trusted.  One never knows when it will betray him.   God himself is constantly looking to see what is controlling the heart and he rewards each person in accordance with what he does.  Like a bird who steals other birds eggs and tries to hatch them, instead of laying and caring for their own,  those who try to take shortcuts and cheat will find it doesn’t pay and make themselves look stupid.    

“A glorious high throne from the beginning is the place of our sanctuary.  O LORD, the hope of Israel, all that forsake thee shall be ashamed, and they that depart from me shall be written in the earth, because they have forsaken the LORD, the fountain of living waters.” (Jeremiah 17:12-13)

The Temple had been a wonderful testimony of God and his power in Israel.  Everyone who turned their backs on God would be ashamed of the results, and those who refused to hear Jeremiah’s message were in fact rejecting the living God.  they would die and their bodies and lives would be absorbed into the earth. 

“Heal me, O LORD, and I shall be healed; save me, and I shall be saved: for thou art my praise.  Behold, they say unto me, Where is the word of the LORD? let it come now.  As for me, I have not hastened from being a pastor to follow thee: neither have I desired the woeful day; thou knowest: that which came out of my lips was right before thee.  Be not a terror unto me: thou art my hope in the day of evil.  Let them be confounded that persecute me, but let not me be confounded: let them be dismayed, but let not me be dismayed: bring upon them the day of evil, and destroy them with double destruction.” (Jeremiah 17:14-18)

Jeremiah is placing his trust in the Lord.  Other people make light of God’s word, not believing it will happen.   Jeremiah has stayed true to his calling, not running off after some other idea of what God wants, or hoping to see people destroyed like Jonah at Nineveh.  His prophecies are not something he made up. But what God commanded.  When the prophecies come to pass, he asks that he would not be confused or disheartened by what happens.  He prays that he would remain faithful even as the wicked lose hope and are destroyed.  

Friday, July 17, 2015

Don’t Get Too Involved

Jeremiah 16:1-21

“The word of the LORD came also unto me, saying, Thou shalt not take thee a wife, neither shalt thou have sons or daughters in this place.  For thus saith the LORD concerning the sons and concerning the daughters that are born in this place, and concerning their mothers that bare them, and concerning their fathers that begat them in this land; They shall die of grievous deaths; they shall not be lamented; neither shall they be buried; but they shall be as dung upon the face of the earth: and they shall be consumed by the sword, and by famine; and their carcases shall be meat for the fowls of heaven, and for the beasts of the earth.” (Jeremiah 16:1-4)

Jeremiah had reminded God of his desire to please God, even when the people didn’t.  God then told him he would be attacked and hated for his stance, but God would protect him.  Here God gives specific things Jeremiah should avoid.  He is not to raise a family there because it would be a source of constant concern and distraction.  As he saw the other people dying of starvation and killed in fighting between Jews as well as with the invaders, it would be increasingly difficult to focus on what God commanded.  It would be almost impossible to not become emotionally involved if his own family were involved. 

“For thus saith the LORD, Enter not into the house of mourning, neither go to lament nor bemoan them: for I have taken away my peace from this people, saith the LORD, even lovingkindness and mercies.  Both the great and the small shall die in this land: they shall not be buried, neither shall men lament for them, nor cut themselves, nor make themselves bald for them: Neither shall men tear themselves for them in mourning, to comfort them for the dead; neither shall men give them the cup of consolation to drink for their father or for their mother.” (Jeremiah 16:5-7)

God wants to make it clear that he will not give in to his emotions and overlook their sin.  He instructs Jeremiah not to go to the funerals or show sympathy to those who have died.  He wants the people to realize they are the ones who need to make changes if things are to get better.  Their problems are a result of their own decisions, and there must be no thought escaping punishment by playing on emotions.  As God’s representative, Jeremiah must not leave the impression that it is possible. 

“Thou shalt not also go into the house of feasting, to sit with them to eat and to drink.  For thus saith the LORD of hosts, the God of Israel; Behold, I will cause to cease out of this place in 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.” (Jeremiah 16:8-9)

At the same time, Jeremiah must not join in their parties and imply the suffering doesn’t matter to him.  God is not like Nero, fiddling and enjoying himself while Rome is being destroyed.  To effectively convey the message that Judah needs to straighten out their lives, Jeremiah must not give the impression that God is enjoying their suffering, but he must make it clear that nothing less than a complete change will be acceptable.   To do so, Jeremiah will have to maintain a dispassionate attitude that emotional attachments will destroy.  Maintaining the proper distance can be tricky.  If we are too distant our advice is seen as irrelevant, but if we get too close, people do not see a difference to justify listening. 

“And it shall come to pass, when thou shalt show this people all these words, and they shall say unto thee, Wherefore hath the LORD pronounced all this great evil against us? or what is our iniquity? or what is our sin that we have committed against the LORD our God?” (Jeremiah 16:10)

When Jeremiah explains what God has warned, the people are going to blame God , asking why he is causing them so many problems and what they have done wrong.  Most people do not like to take responsibility, so no matter how obvious their guilt may be they try to make it appear they are being treated unfairly.    The nation of Israel would be no different. 

“Then shalt thou say unto them, Because your fathers have forsaken me, saith the LORD, and have walked after other gods, and have served them, and have worshipped them, and have forsaken me, and have not kept my law; And ye have done worse than your fathers; for, behold, ye walk every one after the imagination of his evil heart, that they may not hearken unto me: Therefore will I cast you out of this land into a land that ye know not, neither ye nor your fathers; and there shall ye serve other gods day and night; where I will not show you favour.” (Jeremiah 16:11-13)

When they tried to imply God was treating them unfairly, Jeremiah was to be quite specific about their sin and the consequences.  While their ancestors had worshipped other gods and rejected God’s word, Judah had done even worse.  While they worshipped those other God’s they also rewrote and redefined God’s law to suit themselves, interpreting it to support their agenda, much like our appeals courts and the Supreme Court.  As a result God will drive them out of their land to other countries where thy will adopt the gods of those countries and suffer the consequences of worshipping them.  God will not show them special consideration while they are there. 

“Therefore, behold, the days come, saith the LORD, that it shall no more be said, The LORD liveth, that brought up the children of Israel out of the land of Egypt;  But, The LORD liveth, that brought up the children of Israel from the land of the north, and from all the lands whither he had driven them: and I will bring them again into their land that I gave unto their fathers.” (Jeremiah 16:14-15)

God had promised that one day he would restore Israel to their land, but when that time comes, they will not be looking back at their escape from Egypt and claiming special privileges.  Instead they will be thanking God for having returned them to the land from Europe and the other countries where they have been driven.  They will see God’s blessing as affecting them personally, rather than just a historical legend. 

“Behold, I will send for many fishers, saith the LORD, and they shall fish them; and after will I send for many hunters, and they shall hunt them from every mountain, and from every hill, and out of the holes of the rocks.  For mine eyes are upon all their ways: they are not hid from my face, neither is their iniquity hid from mine eyes.  And first I will recompense their iniquity and their sin double; because they have defiled my land, they have filled mine inheritance with the carcases of their detestable and abominable things.” (Jeremiah 16:16-18)

It will be like a fishing contest in a small pond that is to be drained.  God will send hundreds of fishermen to catch every fish possible.  Then he will send in hunters to try to find any frogs or crawdads that may have escaped the fishermen, digging them out of the mud and rocks where they try to hide.  He will punish them double because they have so completely defiled and ruined his land, filling it with the carcases of sacrifices to other Gods. 
“O LORD, my strength, and my fortress, and my refuge in the day of affliction, the Gentiles shall come unto thee from the ends of the earth, and shall say, Surely our fathers have inherited lies, vanity, and things wherein there is no profit.

Shall a man make gods unto himself, and they are no gods?  Therefore, behold, I will this once cause them to know, I will cause them to know mine hand and my might; and they shall know that my name is The LORD.” (Jeremiah 16:19-21)

Jeremiah was concerned that the Gentiles would realize their gods were powerless and that their religions were just lies and wasted rituals and reject the very concept of god.  God responded that they would figure out the idols they made were not gods.  As they saw God’s power on Israel they would finally recognize Him as God.  In Isaiah 45:23, God said, “I have sworn by myself, the word is gone out of my mouth in righteousness, and shall not return, That unto me every knee shall bow, every tongue shall swear.”   God’s judgment on Israel will ultimately result in the fulfillment of that prophecy.

Thursday, July 16, 2015

Jeremiah Will Be Protected

Jeremiah 15:1-21

“Then said the LORD unto me, Though Moses and Samuel stood before me, yet my mind could not be toward this people: cast them out of my sight, and let them go forth.  And it shall come to pass, if they say unto thee, Whither shall we go forth? then thou shalt tell them, Thus saith the LORD; Such as are for death, to death; and such as are for the sword, to the sword; and such as are for the famine, to the famine; and such as are for the captivity, to the captivity.  And I will appoint over them four kinds, saith the LORD: the sword to slay, and the dogs to tear, and the fowls of the heaven, and the beasts of the earth, to devour and destroy.  And I will cause them to be removed into all kingdoms of the earth, because of Manasseh the son of Hezekiah king of Judah, for that which he did in Jerusalem.” (Jeremiah 15:1-4)

Moses and Samuel were very highly regarded prophets from Israel’s history for their dedication.  Judah has turned so far from God that even their presence would not cause God to overlook their sin.  They are to be kicked out to go wherever they can.    Like a person who has been expelled from their home they may well ask where they are supposed to go.  God was quite specific that  some will be killed, and some will be wounded in battle,  and some will be taken into slavery while others will starve. They will attacked by human enemies, by packs of dogs, by birds, and by wild animals.  As a result they will be forced to take refuge in many foreign lands.  Hezekiah was one of the best kings Judah had had, but his son Manasseh was one of the worst, doing his best to turn the people away from God.  Because of his success, Judah will be destroyed.

“For who shall have pity upon thee, O Jerusalem? or who shall bemoan thee? or who shall go aside to ask how thou doest?  Thou hast forsaken me, saith the LORD, thou art gone backward: therefore will I stretch out my hand against thee, and destroy thee; I am weary with repenting.  And I will fan them with a fan in the gates of the land; I will bereave them of children, I will destroy my people, since they return not from their ways.” (Jeremiah 15:5-7)

Like a rebellious wife, Judah has jerked away from God and gone their own way for so long he has determined to destroy them.  Time after time they have come and asked his forgiveness, promising to do better but making no effort to changes, and he is sick of it.   Just as they would use a fan to blow away the chaff when winnowing their grain, god will bring a fan to plow away what they have.  He will take away their children and destroy the people because they refuse to make any changes. 

“Their widows are increased to me above the sand of the seas: I have brought upon them against the mother of the young men a spoiler at noonday: I have caused him to fall upon it suddenly, and terrors upon the city.  She that hath borne seven languisheth: she hath given up the ghost; her sun is gone down while it was yet day: she hath been ashamed and confounded: and the residue of them will I deliver to the sword before their enemies, saith the LORD.   Woe is me, my mother, that thou hast borne me a man of strife and a man of contention to the whole earth! I have neither lent on usury, nor men have lent to me on usury; yet every one of them doth curse me.” (Jeremiah 15:8-10)

The men are being killed leaving their widows behind, and a mother who had given birth to seven sons ends up without a single survivor, taking away all their joy and hope.  It is not over because God will allow the rest to be killed or captured.  Even innocent people are suffering because of what their children and ancestors have done.  Everyone is against them. 

“The LORD said, Verily it shall be well with thy remnant; verily I will cause the enemy to entreat thee well in the time of evil and in the time of affliction.  Shall iron break the northern iron and the steel?  Thy substance and thy treasures will I give to the spoil without price, and that for all thy sins, even in all thy borders.  And I will make thee to pass with thine enemies into a land which thou knowest not: for a fire is kindled in mine anger, which shall burn upon you.” (Jeremiah 15:11-14)

Though the innocent were suffering, there is still hope.  There will be some who survive, and when trouble comes to the other nations, they will turn to Judah for help.  In the interval, an iron weapon is not strong enough to break one of iron reinforced with steel.  Judah’s belongings will be taken without repayment, because of their sins.  Because God is so angry at their behavior, they will be carried away into captivity. 

“O LORD, thou knowest: remember me, and visit me, and revenge me of my persecutors; take me not away in thy longsuffering: know that for thy sake I have suffered rebuke.  Thy words were found, and I did eat them; and thy word was unto me the joy and rejoicing of mine heart: for I am called by thy name, O LORD God of hosts.  I sat not in the assembly of the mockers, nor rejoiced; I sat alone because of thy hand: for thou hast filled me with indignation.  Why is my pain perpetual, and my wound incurable, which refuseth to be healed? wilt thou be altogether unto me as a liar, and as waters that fail?” (Jeremiah 15:15-18)

Jeremiah reminds the Lord how when no one even knew where to look to find out what God commanded, he had sought the Lord, making his word his delight.  He did not go along with those who made fun of God’s commands.  Instead he found himself alone because of what God wanted, upset with what the people were doing.  It seemed like his pain and sorrow would never end.  Sometimes it seemed like God’s promises were just lies. 

“Therefore thus saith the LORD, If thou return, then will I bring thee again, and thou shalt stand before me: and if thou take forth the precious from the vile, thou shalt be as my mouth: let them return unto thee; but return not thou unto them.  And I will make thee unto this people a fenced brazen wall: and they shall fight against thee, but they shall not prevail against thee: for I am with thee to save thee and to deliver thee, saith the LORD.  And I will deliver thee out of the hand of the wicked, and I will redeem thee out of the hand of the terrible.” (Jeremiah 15:19-21)

God’s answer was that if Jeremiah would come to him, taking the time to separate the good from the evil, God would use him to speak to the people.  He was not to run after them, or go along with them but to wait for them to come to him.  When they came it would be in opposition, but God would make him like a brass wall they couldn’t destroy because God would be with him to protect him.   

Tuesday, July 14, 2015

Listening To False Teachers

Jeremiah 14:1-20

“The word of the LORD that came to Jeremiah concerning the dearth.

Judah mourneth, and the gates thereof languish; they are black unto the ground; and the cry of Jerusalem is gone up.  And their nobles have sent their little ones to the waters: they came to the pits, and found no water; they returned with their vessels empty; they were ashamed and confounded, and covered their heads.  Because the ground is chapt, for there was no rain in the earth, the plowmen were ashamed, they covered their heads.  Yea, the hind also calved in the field, and forsook it, because there was no grass.  And the wild asses did stand in the high places, they snuffed up the wind like dragons; their eyes did fail, because there was no grass.” (Jeremiah 14:1-6)

All of Judah was suffering as a result of a severe drought.   Everything was dried out, and wilted, and the gates that normally would be bustling with activity were deserted and Jerusalem was crying about how bad things were.  Their wells and springs and the pits that so often held water had dried out so that the people they sent to find water returned home without any.  The ground was so dried out from lack of rain that the crops the farmers had planted didn’t even sprout or grow.  It was embarrassing to realize they had wasted their seed.  Deer were traveling so far looking for food they never returned to care for their young, and the wild donkeys were climbing to the tops of hills trying to smell any moisture, but were so dehydrated their eyes were failing. 

“O LORD, though our iniquities testify against us, do thou it for thy name's sake: for our backslidings are many; we have sinned against thee.  O the hope of Israel, the saviour thereof in time of trouble, why shouldest thou be as a stranger in the land, and as a wayfaring man that turneth aside to tarry for a night?  Why shouldest thou be as a man astonied, as a mighty man that cannot save? yet thou, O LORD, art in the midst of us, and we are called by thy name; leave us not.” (Jeremiah 14:7-9)

Jeremiah called on the Lord to give them relief as a testimony of his faithfulness.  He recognized that they had been disobedient and habitual sinners, but he was their only hope in times like this.  Why would God not intervene, acting like he was just a tourist passing through instead of getting involved?  Why did he just act as if he was unable to do anything for them when in fact He made His home among them and the very name, Israel, meant A Prince With God?    He asked that God not leave them at such a time

“Thus saith the LORD unto this people, Thus have they loved to wander, they have not refrained their feet, therefore the LORD doth not accept them; he will now remember their iniquity, and visit their sins.  Then said the LORD unto me, Pray not for this people for their good.  When they fast, I will not hear their cry; and when they offer burnt offering and an oblation, I will not accept them: but I will consume them by the sword, and by the famine, and by the pestilence.” (Jeremiah 14:10-12)

God said the people had deliberately run away from him and gotten themselves into trouble and as a result He was not willing to come to their rescue.  He would remember their attitude toward him and demand repayment of what they owed him.  In fact he commanded Jeremiah not to even pray for their benefit because God was not going to listen to their prayers or accept their sacrifices and offerings, but will collect what he is owed, even if it causes them to lose everything. 

“Then said I, Ah, Lord GOD! behold, the prophets say unto them, Ye shall not see the sword, neither shall ye have famine; but I will give you assured peace in this place.” (Jeremiah 14:13)

Jeremiah felt that God’s position seemed a little harsh.  After all, their prophets were telling them that God would bless them and prevent them from experiencing problems because he loved them, much like modern evangelists and pastors do.  Surely it wasn’t fair to punish them for doing what the prophets said. 
“Then the LORD said unto me, The prophets prophesy lies in my name: I sent them not, neither have I commanded them, neither spake unto them: they prophesy unto you a false vision and divination, and a thing of nought, and the deceit of their heart.  Therefore thus saith the LORD concerning the prophets that prophesy in my name, and I sent them not, yet they say, Sword and famine shall not be in this land; By sword and famine shall those prophets be consumed.  And the people to whom they prophesy shall be cast out in the streets of Jerusalem because of the famine and the sword; and they shall have none to bury them, them, their wives, nor their sons, nor their daughters: for I will pour their wickedness upon them.” (Jeremiah 14:14-16) 

Though the prophets claimed to be speaking by God’s authority, they had not been sent by him and their messages were lies.  They claimed God had spoken to them or commanded them to do what they were doing or that God had revealed some special vision, but it is a result of their own imagination and lusts.  As a result the very things they promised would not happen would happen to those prophets. 

The people that listen to those prophets and follow their teachings will be punished as well, because they have listened to the prophets instead of to God.  They had God’s written word to tell them what was right.  In addition, God had given them a way to determine whether a prophet came from god or not.  Deuteronomy 18:20-22 describes what they were to look for.  “But the prophet, which shall presume to speak a word in my name, which I have not commanded him to speak, or that shall speak in the name of other gods, even that prophet shall die.  And if thou say in thine heart, How shall we know the word which the LORD hath not spoken?   When a prophet speaketh in the name of the LORD, if the thing follow not, nor come to pass, that is the thing which the LORD hath not spoken, but the prophet hath spoken it presumptuously: thou shalt not be afraid of him.”   The prophet was to give a short term sign that wouldn’t normally happen as proof that the message was from God.  If the short term sign didn’t happen they knew the prophet was not from God and they were to execute him for lying about God. 

They knew how to tell if the message was from god or not and they knew what his word said.  They had no excuse for going along with the lies of those false prophets.  They would suffer the full punishment for their sin because they didn’t bother to find out what was right.  Their failure to check was itself disobedience to God.   as a result they would die as a result of war and terrorism, and also as a result of starvation, and there would be no one who cared enough to even bury them.  They were just receiving the consequences of their wickedness. 

“Therefore thou shalt say this word unto them; Let mine eyes run down with tears night and day, and let them not cease: for the virgin daughter of my people is broken with a great breach, with a very grievous blow.” (Jeremiah 14:17)

Jeremiah was to tell them there prayers were not going to stop their suffering because God was breaking them.  It is very similar to the letters to the seven churches in Revelation 2-3 and has serious implications for churches today.  Jeremiah then describes what he was experiencing. 
“If I go forth into the field, then behold the slain with the sword! and if I enter into the city, then behold them that are sick with famine! yea, both the prophet and the priest go about into a land that they know not.  Hast thou utterly rejected Judah? hath thy soul loathed Zion? why hast thou smitten us, and there is no healing for us? we looked for peace, and there is no good; and for the time of healing, and behold trouble!” (Jeremiah 14:18-19)

Everywhere he looked, Jeremiah saw signs of suffering.  Dead bodies lay in the fields outside Jerusalem and those who were still alive in the city were starving to death.  Even the prophets and priests who have lived there through it hardly recognize the land in its present state.  He asked if God had completely disowned Judah and hated them.  Why else would god allow such things to happen to them?  They were expecting something completely different. 

“We acknowledge, O LORD, our wickedness, and the iniquity of our fathers: for we have sinned against thee.  Do not abhor us, for thy name's sake, do not disgrace the throne of thy glory: remember, break not thy covenant with us.  Are there any among the vanities of the Gentiles that can cause rain? or can the heavens give showers? art not thou he, O LORD our God? therefore we will wait upon thee: for thou hast made all these things.” (Jeremiah 14:20)

Finally they are broken enough that some of them recognize their sin and ask that God not hate them or disgrace his word by breaking his covenant with them.  They realize none of the gods other peoples worship can help them.  Only God has the power to send rain and they are willing to wait for him.  

Monday, July 13, 2015

Sign Of The Rotten Sash

Jeremiah 13:1-27

“Thus saith the LORD unto me, Go and get thee a linen girdle, and put it upon thy loins, and put it not in water.  So I got a girdle according to the word of the LORD, and put it on my loins.  And the word of the LORD came unto me the second time, saying, Take the girdle that thou hast got, which is upon thy loins, and arise, go to Euphrates, and hide it there in a hole of the rock.  So I went, and hid it by Euphrates, as the LORD commanded me.
And it came to pass after many days, that the LORD said unto me, Arise, go to Euphrates, and take the girdle from thence, which I commanded thee to hide there.  Then I went to Euphrates, and digged, and took the girdle from the place where I had hid it: and, behold, the girdle was marred, it was profitable for nothing.” (Jeremiah 13:1-7)

God commanded Jeremiah to purchase a linen belt or sash and wear it but not to wash it at all.  After he had worn it for a time, he was to take it several hundreds of mile to the Euphrates River and hide it in a hole in the rocks by the river.  Sometime later God told him to go back and get the sash.  When he did, he discovered that the moisture had caused the cloth to rot and be discolored to such a degree that it was no longer useable. 

“Then the word of the LORD came unto me, saying, Thus saith the LORD, After this manner will I mar the pride of Judah, and the great pride of Jerusalem.  This evil people, which refuse to hear my words, which walk in the imagination of their heart, and walk after other gods, to serve them, and to worship them, shall even be as this girdle, which is good for nothing.
For as the girdle cleaveth to the loins of a man, so have I caused to cleave unto me the whole house of Israel and the whole house of Judah, saith the LORD; that they might be unto me for a people, and for a name, and for a praise, and for a glory: but they would not hear.” (Jeremiah 13:8-11)

The girdle or belt was to be a portrayal of Judah.  Just as Jeremiah had drawn the sash tight around his waist, God had drawn Judah close to himself.  Separated from Jeremiah, the belt had decayed in the moisture and was no longer fit for use.  In a similar fashion, Judah had separated themselves from God, involving themselves in sin until they were no longer fit to be close to him.    The belt originally was purchased as a useful addition to the clothing which would look good and compliment the wearer’s appearance, but the rotten one did not, and Judah was the same way.  There is no longer anything for them to be proud of. 

“Therefore thou shalt speak unto them this word; Thus saith the LORD God of Israel, Every bottle shall be filled with wine: and they shall say unto thee, Do we not certainly know that every bottle shall be filled with wine?  Then shalt thou say unto them, Thus saith the LORD, Behold, I will fill all the inhabitants of this land, even the kings that sit upon David's throne, and the priests, and the prophets, and all the inhabitants of Jerusalem, with drunkenness.  And I will dash them one against another, even the fathers and the sons together, saith the LORD: I will not pity, nor spare, nor have mercy, but destroy them.” (Jeremiah 13:12-14)

Just as a normal woman would not keep all the cans and food containers unless they have food in them, God said every container was to be filled.  The people would naturally respond that they understood why that was true.  Jeremiah was then to explain that they were like empty containers.  He would fill them again and destroy those that leaked.  When testing and disposing of the useless containers, their position in the nation would not make any more difference than the design printed on the defective container. 

“Hear ye, and give ear; be not proud: for the LORD hath spoken.  Give glory to the LORD your God, before he cause darkness, and before your feet stumble upon the dark mountains, and, while ye look for light, he turn it into the shadow of death, and make it gross darkness.  But if ye will not hear it, my soul shall weep in secret places for your pride; and mine eye shall weep sore, and run down with tears, because the Lord's flock is carried away captive.” (Jeremiah 13:15-17)

If they would give up their pride and listen, correcting the problems before he began to judge and they started to stumble and or needed help, God would turn judgment away and they would be saved from destruction.  If they refused, like a woman cleaning out her cabinets and finding some treasured keepsake but realizing it was no longer worth keeping, God might weep at throwing it out, but he has no choice. 

“Say unto the king and to the queen, Humble yourselves, sit down: for your principalities shall come down, even the crown of your glory.  The cities of the south shall be shut up, and none shall open them: Judah shall be carried away captive all of it, it shall be wholly carried away captive.  Lift up your eyes, and behold them that come from the north: where is the flock that was given thee, thy beautiful flock?  What wilt thou say when he shall punish thee? for thou hast taught them to be captains, and as chief over thee: shall not sorrows take thee, as a woman in travail?” (Jeremiah 13:18-21)

Jeremiah is to warn the rulers, the king and queen, that their kingdom is going to be destroyed. And they will be left with no power or recognition.  Their southernmost cities will be deserted and closed up and all the people taken away as slaves,  After the defeat of the Assyrians, the Babylonians under Nebuchadnezzar will turn south and take away all their subjects that God had given them to lead and teach.  What can they say when he punishes them for having taught them to focus on gaining power and it destroys them?

“And if thou say in thine heart, Wherefore come these things upon me? For the greatness of thine iniquity are thy skirts discovered, and thy heels made bare.  Can the Ethiopian change his skin, or the leopard his spots? then may ye also do good, that are accustomed to do evil.  Therefore will I scatter them as the stubble that passeth away by the wind of the wilderness.  This is thy lot, the portion of thy measures from me, saith the LORD; because thou hast forgotten me, and trusted in falsehood.  Therefore will I discover thy skirts upon thy face, that thy shame may appear.  I have seen thine adulteries, and thy neighings, the lewdness of thy whoredom, and thine abominations on the hills in the fields. Woe unto thee, O Jerusalem! wilt thou not be made clean? when shall it once be?” (Jeremiah 13;22-27)

Like people today the Jews would complain, asking why they are having such problems and refusing recognize that the problems are the result of their own actions.  Their sin has become such a habit that breaking it will be almost as hard as it would be for a black man to change his skin color or for a leopard to change its spots.  The judgment and suffering they will experience is what they receive from God for their actions. 

They have turned their backs on God, chasing other gods and believing their lies.  Like a husband who catches his wife in bed with her lover, God knows just what is going on and they will be embarrassed by being caught in such a state.  At that point, what will it take to save their marriage?

Thursday, July 9, 2015

If You Think It’s Bad For You…

Jeremiah 12:1-17

“Righteous art thou, O LORD, when I plead with thee: yet let me talk with thee of thy judgments: Wherefore doth the way of the wicked prosper? wherefore are all they happy that deal very treacherously?  Thou hast planted them, yea, they have taken root: they grow, yea, they bring forth fruit: thou art near in their mouth, and far from their reins.” (Jeremiah 12:1-2)

Jeremiah knows God is righteous and will listen to his concerns.  Like many others, he is asking why God allows wicked people to prosper.  They seem successful and satisfied with the results of their deceitful and dishonest ways, and it seems like they have taken over permanently.  Their philosophy and standards seem to be taking over, so that while they may easily speak about God, he seems to have little impact on their lives. 

“But thou, O LORD, knowest me: thou hast seen me, and tried mine heart toward thee: pull them out like sheep for the slaughter, and prepare them for the day of slaughter.  How long shall the land mourn, and the herbs of every field wither, for the wickedness of them that dwell therein? the beasts are consumed, and the birds; because they said, He shall not see our last end. ” (Jeremiah 12:3-4)

God knows how sincerely Jeremiah has tried to please him.  He asks that those wicked ones be separated out like a shepherd would pull out a sheep he had decided to butcher to fatten them up for slaughter.  How long is God going to allow them to continue to drain and damage the land, destroying both the ecology and the economy as a result of their wicked actions, because they believe God is incapable of stopping them. 

“If thou hast run with the footmen, and they have wearied thee, then how canst thou contend with horses? and if in the land of peace, wherein thou trustedst, they wearied thee, then how wilt thou do in the swelling of Jordan?  For even thy brethren, and the house of thy father, even they have dealt treacherously with thee; yea, they have called a multitude after thee: believe them not, though they speak fair words unto thee. ” (Jeremiah 12:5-6)

If Jeremiah has become discouraged or upset with the success of the wicked in a land that still professes to believe in God, what will he do when satanic forces are in power?  When the laws that once restricted the wicked are removed, and evil is given free rein, how will he respond?  Their own leaders and associates have betrayed them, turning people against them, while purporting to be on their side, and cannot be trusted.  It will only get worse. 

“I have forsaken mine house, I have left mine heritage; I have given the dearly beloved of my soul into the hand of her enemies.  Mine heritage is unto me as a lion in the forest; it crieth out against me: therefore have I hated it.  Mine heritage is unto me as a speckled bird, the birds round about are against her; come ye, assemble all the beasts of the field, come to devour. ” (Jeremiah 12:7-9)

If Jeremiah thinks it is bad where he is he needs to look at it from God’s perspective.   God has been forced to walk away and allow the child he loves to suffer the consequences of her actions.   He has allowed her to be controlled by those who hate her.  She has become like a wild lion, attacking the father that loved her, with the result he has withdrawn from her.  Just as a flock of chickens will destroy one that is different, other nations were attacking Israel, but God would not intervene because they had rejected him like a runaway teenager.  Any parent who has dealt with this situation can understand God’s distress.

“Many pastors have destroyed my vineyard, they have trodden my portion under foot, they have made my pleasant portion a desolate wilderness.  They have made it desolate, and being desolate it mourneth unto me; the whole land is made desolate, because no man layeth it to heart. ” (Jeremiah 12:10-11)

Those charged with caring for God’s people had instead destroyed the church.  They had taken the authority and honor that belonged to God and thrown it to the ground like a piece of trash.  When they finished, his church and nation had as little to offer as a barren dessert.   God’s people cried out for relief as things keep getting worse, but nobody took his judgment for their disobedience to heart and made any changes.   

“The spoilers are come upon all high places through the wilderness: for the sword of the LORD shall devour from the one end of the land even to the other end of the land: no flesh shall have peace.  They have sown wheat, but shall reap thorns: they have put themselves to pain, but shall not profit: and they shall be ashamed of your revenues because of the fierce anger of the LORD. ” (Jeremiah 12:12-13)

Outsiders have come against Israel, capturing and killing so that no one is safe.  Their efforts to provide for themselves all fail, like they were planting wheat but only weeds grew.  All their effort and suffering produces little or no benefit, and even that will become a source of embarrassment when they face God’s wrath. 

“Thus saith the LORD against all mine evil neighbours, that touch the inheritance which I have caused my people Israel to inherit; Behold, I will pluck them out of their land, and pluck out the house of Judah from among them.  And it shall come to pass, after that I have plucked them out I will return, and have compassion on them, and will bring them again, every man to his heritage, and every man to his land.  And it shall come to pass, if they will diligently learn the ways of my people, to swear by my name, The LORD liveth; as they taught my people to swear by Baal; then shall they be built in the midst of my people.  But if they will not obey, I will utterly pluck up and destroy that nation, saith the LORD. ” (Jeremiah 12:14-17)