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.

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