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Archive for the ‘Jeremiah’ Category

About a year and half ago, I was reading in Jeremiah and wrote this piece. In light of his speach on Saturday, I thought it was worth posting again.

Jeremiah 5

Reading Jeremiah reminds me a little of listening to Glenn Beck.

Jer. 5:12, 13 They have lied about the Lord; they said, ‘He will do nothing! No harm will come to us; we will never see sword or famine. The prophets are but wind and the word is not in them.’

Jer. 5:24, 25 They do not say to themselves, ‘Let us fear the Lord our God who gives us spring rains in season, who assures us of the regular weeks of harvest.’ Your wrongdoings have kept these away; your sins have deprived you of good.

Jer. 5:31 The prophets prophecy lies and my people love it this way. But what will you do in the end?

I’m convinced the saddest part for God, in His reaching the point that judgment becomes necessary, is His understanding of the good of which our sins have deprived us. Even when we just fall a little short, we sometimes think God is just waiting to hammer us; nothing could be further from the truth.

Blatant disregard was the case here, not shortcomings. Shortcomings will not bring God’s judgment, but they can keep us from His good. As it takes blatant disregard to bring judgment, I believe it takes blatant (brazenly obvious) regard to experience the good He has planned for our lives.

There is a middle of the road limbo where we do neither. We may not go wholly after our sinful cravings, but neither do we go wholly after God. We neither enjoy the pleasures of sin nor God’s goodness. It is a most unfortunate place to be.

God is not waiting to hammer us for our wrongs, He is longing for us to experience the good He has for us. Help me oh Lord to not be distracted that I might go wholly after You, for only then will I experience the good You have planned for me.

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Jeremiah 1-23

 

The topic of God’s judgment came up during a Bible study a few days ago.  As I listened to the various comments, I tried to recall portions of what I had read recently in Jeremiah.  It seemed so relevant.  I thought a review would be helpful.  I think the parallels are striking.

 

Nutshell

If I had to pick one verse that sums up the condition of the people in Jeremiah’s day it would be 2:13.  ‘My people have committed two sins: They have forsaken me, the spring of living water, and have dug their own cisterns, broken cisterns that cannot hold water’.

 

Stop & think

2:19, 20 ‘Consider then and realize how evil and bitter it is for you when you forsake the Lord your God and have no awe of me.’  “Long ago you broke off your yoke and tore off your bonds; you said, ‘I will not serve you’.”

 

Naïve confidence

5:12 “They have lied about the Lord; they said, ‘He will do nothing!  No harm will come to us; we will never see sword or famine.  The prophets (referring to God’s prophets) are but wind and the word is not in them’.”  To which God says, ‘The prophets (referring to false prophets) prophecy lies, the priests rule by their own authority, and my people love it this way.  But what will you do in the end’?

 

Ungodly habitation of a godly house

7:9,10 ‘Will you steal and murder, commit adultery and perjury, burn incense to Baal and follow other gods you have not known, and then come and stand before me in this house, which bears my Name, and say, ‘We are safe’ – safe to do all these detestable things?”

 

Satan’s craftsman surge while God’s tread water

Hollywood hammers out a lifestyle and adorns it with silver and gold.  As in the days of Jeremiah, as seen in 10:3,4 ‘For the customs of the people are worthless; they cut a tree out of the forest, and the craftsman shapes it with his chisel.  They adorn is with silver and gold’.  And then worse yet, 10:21, ‘The shepherds are senseless and do not enquire of the Lord’.

 

Neglected warnings

11:7,8 “I warned them again and again, saying, ‘Obey me’.  But they did not listen or pay attention; instead they followed the stubbornness of their evil hearts.”  And the sad result in 10:11, “Therefore this is what the Lord says, ‘I will bring on them a disaster they cannot escape.  Although they cry out to me, I will not listen to them’.”

 

Promise for the faithful

Like an oasis is this promise in the midst of all the proclaimed disaster, 17:7,8 ‘But blessed is the man who trusts in the Lord, whose confidence is in him.  He will be like a tree planted by the water that sends out its roots by the stream.  It does not fear when heat comes; its leaves are always green.  It has no worries in a year of drought and never fails to bear fruit.’

 

It is on us

18:7-10 ‘If at any time I announce that a nation or kingdom is to be uprooted, torn down and destroyed, and if that nation I warned repents of its evil, then I will relent and not inflict on it the disaster I had planned.  And if at another time I announce that a  nation or kingdom is to be built up and planted, and if it does evil in my sight and does not obey me, then I will reconsider the good I had intended to do for it.’

 

Worthless words vs. Worthy words

In 23:16,17 we find the majority of the prophets of the day were promising ‘peace’ and saying, ‘no harm will come to you’.  To which the Lord says in 23:18 ‘But which of them has stood in the council of the Lord to see or hear His word?  Who has listened and heard his word?’  23:21,22 says, ‘I did not send these prophets, yet they have run with their message; I did not speak to them, yet they have prophesied.  But if they had stood in my council, they would have proclaimed my words to my people and would have turned them from their evil ways and from their evil deeds.’

 

The only hope

Finally in 23:28 it says, ’Let the prophet who has a dream tell his dream, but let the one who has my word speak it faithfully’.  And what is His word, as stated in chapter 7, ‘Reform your ways’; ‘If you really change your ways’; ‘then I will let you live in this place’.  They were talking the talk without walking the walk.  Walking the walk is the only hope.

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Jeremiah 24-25

 

Your ways are different than our ways.  You do things different than we would.  You think differently than we think.  We would think that You would deliver us from our enemies and as a result of that deliverance, we would be drawn closer to You.  But in Jeremiah’s day, the enemies were Your instrument to draw Your people closer.  We would think of captivity as Your abandonment, but to You, it was a place of building up and purifying.  The end result was that Your people, though it was but a few, would ‘return to You with their whole heart’.

 

Is that not the goal of any adversity we are submitted to?  And if we’re not careful, we can see it as God being against us; when in fact He is pursuing us.  He wants our all and will stop at nothing to get it.

 

After the children of Israel had spent 40 years in the wilderness, having had everything stripped away but God, the time finally came for them to cross the Jordan to begin taking the Promised Land.  Just when you think there is nothing else He can take, He brings out the flint knives – there’s just a little more flesh He wants to get rid of. 

 

Why didn’t He do this when they were on the other side of the Jordan, so that when they crossed they could get on with business?  Why did He wait until they were in enemy territory and vulnerable?  He wanted them to make no mistake.  He was their source and protection.  There was to be no confidence in the flesh.    

 

If He is taking and taking and taking, to where it seems He can take no more, He is pursuing us.  In His pursuit of us, we are stirred to pursue Him.  Our thinking suggests there is a purpose; that there is something He is preparing us for.  There may be but it is really incidental to His main goal.  His main goal is that He would find someone to commune with.  To a chosen few He gave this privilege.

 

I have always thought of it as us trying to find Him.  But I wonder in light of the multitudes who halfheartedly seek Him for the good He might bring to their lives, if He is not thrilled to find one who just wants Him.  If so, it would make sense that when He found such a person, that He would pursue them to the fullest?  Only those who are so driven can take it – only for a chosen few.

 

 

 

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Jeremiah 21-23

 

I learned a valuable lesson not too long ago when reading the book of Ezekiel.  Due to a hardship that had come my way, I had struggled with whether or not that hardship was God’s punishment or more of a refining.  I had concluded that it was a refining. 

 

As I would soon find out, it was a fragile conclusion.  In Ezekiel 13 he warns of ‘the foolish prophets who follow their own spirit and have seen nothing’.  Later he warns against those ‘who prophesy out of their own imagination’.  Satan had fun with that.  Had my hope been a result of my own imagination?  Was I doomed and just didn’t want to admit it or would God see me through no matter what hell or life threw at me?  Was it false hope or real assurance?

 

What the Lord showed me as a result of that little skirmish has become a defining and pivotal point in my effort to determine whose voice I am hearing when thoughts come to mind.  The people in Ezekiel’s day were living like hell but still trying to claim the promises of God.  Prophets were proclaiming they were entitled to them.   Basically it is this; if you are living like hell, God’s word to you will not be about promise; rather it will be about repentance.  Conversely, if you are right with Him and hear promise, you can be assured of it. 

 

The same thing was going on here with Jeremiah.  First, trouble on a grand scale had set in.  As a result, a hellish group of people say, ‘Inquire now of the Lord’; ‘perhaps He will work wonders for us as in times past’.  The prophets were prophesying, filling them with false hope.  To those who were following the stubbornness of their evil hearts, they were saying, ‘no harm will come to you’.  By this false message, ‘they strengthen the hands of evildoers, so that no one turns from his wickedness’.

 

The question God puts before the people is this, ‘But which of them has stood in the council of the Lord to see or to hear His word?  Who has listened and heard His word’?  And again He says, ‘But if they had stood in my council, they would have proclaimed my words to my people and would have turned them from their evil ways.’

 

He concludes with this thought; ‘Let the prophet who has a dream tell his dream, but let the one who has my word speak it faithfully’.  And now I conclude; critical that we stand in His council that we may, first, hear His words and then that we speak them faithfully.    

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Useful vs. Noticeable

Jeremiah 18-20

 

Jeremiah visits the potter.  The pot the potter was working on was marred, ‘So he formed it into another pot, shaping it as it seemed best to him’.

 

We are the only barrier to God doing good in our lives.  If as a result of our living adversely to His ways, He then intends to uproot us, if we simply repent of our wrong, He will relent and not inflict what He had intended.  Conversely, if He has intended to build us up and then we choose to ignore His ways, then He will reconsider the good He intended.

 

In both cases, He is the potter to do with us as it seems best to Him but we as the living pot in His hands influence what He chooses by the choices we make.  We cannot tell Him what kind of pot we want to be, but we do determine whether or not He shapes us into a pot that is useful to Him. 

 

We cannot say, ‘Lord make me a fancy tea pot’ which everyone will see and admire; He may have in mind a cast iron pot that is placed in a hole over a bed of coals and covered with dirt.  The tea pot may be pretty but its contents are not vital.  The iron pot is nothing to look at but oh my, how vital the contents. 

 

This is exactly what was going on with Jeremiah.  ‘Oh Lord, you deceived me, and I was deceived; You overpowered me and prevailed.  I am ridiculed all day long; everyone mocks me’. 

 

Though I am not ridiculed all day long, nor mocked, the Lord has taken me to a place in Him that not everyone can identify with.  Like Jeremiah, I am sometimes tempted to say, ‘I will not mention Him or speak any more in His name’, but ‘His word is in my heart like a fire, a fire shut up in my bones.  I am weary of holding it in; indeed I cannot.’    

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Do We Really Trust

Jeremiah 16, 17

 

In the midst of all the disaster which God is proclaiming through Jeremiah on all who forsook Him and did not obey or trust in Him is this little oasis of promise to those who did.

 

‘Blessed is the man who trusts in the Lord, whose confidence is in Him.  He will be like a tree planted by the water that sends out its roots by the stream.  It does not fear when heat comes; its leaves are always green.  It has no worries in a year of draught and never fails to bear fruit.’

 

‘The heart is deceitful above all things and beyond cure.  Who can understand it?’

 

‘But if you are careful to obey Me, declares the Lord, and bring no load through the gates of the city on the Sabbath, but keep the Sabbath day holy, by not doing any work on it, then kings who sit on David’s throne will come through the gates of this city.’ ‘If you do not obey me to keep the Sabbath day holy, I will send an unquenchable fire that will consume all your fortresses.’

 

Where is our trust?  Do we really trust in God or do we trust in ourselves?  Is He our confidence or are we and our efforts?  If He is, we will not worry in hard times.  We will send out our roots, deeper, until we find the ever flowing stream that is Him. 

 

The heart is deceitful to convince us that we must take things into our own hands.  We do not trust that if we honor Him on the Sabbath that He will bless the remaining six days.  So we add a seventh and trust our own thinking. 

 

If we would trust Him, life would flow in and out of our gates.  If not, though all may appear to be okay for a while, He will eventually consume our fortresses – the false things in which we trust.

 

I don’t know if there is anything that God longs for more that to have a people who will trust Him.  His ways are different.  Before we can live we must die.  Before we can have we must give up.  Our trust is tested when He tells us to do something that seems contrary to our forward progress.  Do we really trust?  

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Subtle Distraction

Jeremiah 11-15

 

Our minds can sometimes get like a back lashed reel – a tangled mess.  With a reel it happens instantly; in our minds it comes on a little more gradually but nevertheless, just as tangled.

 

Jeremiah found himself in one of these mental messes.  Since he had felt the Lord’s hand on him, he had separated himself.  God’s word was his joy and delight.  Yet, in light of all this, it didn’t seem to be paying off.  He had hoped to make a difference.  He had hoped to turn people’s hearts back to God.  He was hoping to repeat what Moses had done.

 

Wasn’t happening.  Instead, the faithless remained at ease.  Some even opposed him.  To say the least, he was discouraged.  Had he made a mistake?  Had God been to him ‘Like a deceptive brook? Like a spring that fails?’  Had God just strung him along intending all along to wipe him out with everyone else?  He was really struggling here. 

 

When I first read 15:19 ‘If you repent, I will restore you’, it did not make sense to me.  There were a couple of things that didn’t make sense.  Sometimes I just move on.  Here I couldn’t.  It was like God was saying to me, ‘there is something here—keep looking’.  I finally found it.

 

What could Jeremiah possibly have to repent of?  God was his delight.  Plain and simple, Jeremiah had ambition.  He wanted to be significant.  It is quite natural to think that a desire to be significant for God is an acceptable desire.  But here it had got in the way and God was pulling him back. 

 

As C. S. Lewis points out in his illustration of a man walking his dog, if the dog goes to the wrong side of the light pole, the owner pulls him back; not to prevent him from going forward but to enable him to go forward.

 

Oh the far reaching hand of God when He is calling us unto Himself.  If you repent of what you have in mind, I will restore unto you what I have in mind so that you will be useful to Me.  I will give you worthy words to utter and not useless ones.

 

Sometimes, even godly ambition can cause us to miss God.  We can get so focused on what we have in mind, as good as it may be, that we miss what He has in mind.  Oh the subtle ways that the enemy distracts us.

 

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Imtations of Life

 

Jeremiah 10

 

There is a lifestyle today that has been shaped by ‘craftsmen’.  ‘They adorn it with silver and gold… so it will not totter’.  ‘What the craftsman and goldsmith have made is then dressed in blue and purple – all made by skilled workers.’

 

As I read this chapter, and specifically these verses, I couldn’t help but to think of the lifestyle that has been crafted for the rich and famous – a lifestyle of glitz and glamour that is adorned with all this world has to offer.  It is ‘all made by skilled workers’. 

 

As there are many craftsmen and skilled workers who apply themselves to this task, I believe there is one craftsman and skilled worker that is behind it all.  From the beginning, the angle that satan uses to distract us from the life that God has for us, is one that tempts us to believe that something other than God will add to our lives.

 

By both blatant and subtle means, these craftsmen subvert God’s truth and His ways.  We are tempted to think by all that these craftsmen create, that what they create will lead to life.  But their ‘images are a fraud; they have no breath in them’. 

 

I couldn’t help but to think as I read of how active and effective satan’s craftsmen and skilled workers are, how much God’s craftsmen and skilled workers needed to apply themselves equally to their task.  As satan’s do all to subvert His ways and truth, His should be doing all to proclaim them. 

 

Help us Lord to ‘inquire of You’, that we might first possess for ourselves the life You have for all who know You.  Let that life be so in us that we would be able to proclaim with certainty and others would be able to see that all else is but a cheap imitation. 

 

John 1:4 ‘In Him was life, and that life was the light of men’.

 

 

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Jeremiah 7-9

 

The message of the Lord through Jeremiah was simple, change your ways or else.  The Lord was fed up with their speech – their claims that they were okay.  ‘If you really change your ways, I will let you live in this place, but look, you are trusting in deceptive words that are worthless’.

 

‘Will you follow other gods and then come and stand before Me in this house that bears My name and say, we are safe –safe to do all these detestable things.’  They felt they were safe because they were keeping up with the sacrifices and offerings the Lord had required, but He reminds them, ‘I also gave this command – obey me’.

 

Instead, ‘they followed the stubborn inclinations of their evil hearts.  They went backward and not forward.’  All through time, God sent servants and prophets to warn ‘but they did not listen or pay attention’.  ‘No one repents of his wickedness, saying, ‘what have I done?’  Each pursues his own course.’

 

As a result, this is what the Lord says, ‘See, I will refine and test them, for what else can I do because of the sin of my people’.  ‘Why has the land been ruined and laid waste, it is because they have forsaken my law and followed the stubbornness of their hearts’.

 

‘Let not the wise man boast of his wisdom, or the strong man his strength, or the rich man his riches, but let him who boasts boast about this, that he understands and knows me, that I am the Lord who exercises kindness, justice and righteousness on earth, for in these I delight.’

 

We have brought it on ourselves.  The parallels are too great to ignore.  ‘The harvest is past, the summer has ended, and we are not saved.’ 

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Warning Across Our Bow

 

Jeremiah 6

 

Though I still cannot claim as Jeremiah does, that we are on the brink of judgment, I do believe I can claim that God has fired a warning shot across our bow.  At the very least there is opportunity to hear what God might be saying.  ‘To whom can I speak and give warning?  Who will listen to me?’

 

As Jeremiah’s message was to God’s people of whom it was said, ‘As a well pours out its water, so she pours out her wickedness’, and that they are not ‘ashamed of their loathsome conduct’, I can’t bring myself to say this is the state of His church today as much as it is the state of the ungodly in our nation.  

 

I believe there is room to connect the economic disaster that is crippling our nation with the words from Jeremiah that describe how things will be ‘when I stretch out my hand against those who live in the land’.  And again, ‘I am bringing disaster on this people, the fruit of their schemes, because they have not listened to my words and have rejected my law.’

 

So as much as this may be His call and warning to an ungodly nation and world, the church is not off the hook.  It is an opportunity for all and especially the church to ‘Stand at the crossroads and look; ask for the ancient paths, ask where the good way is and walk in it’.  There we ‘will find rest for our souls’.

 

It concerns me that so many are trying to carry on with life as normal; so few seem to be getting the message.  ‘The bellows blow fiercely to burn away the lead with fire, but the refining goes on in vain’.  I fear we are not heeding His warning. 

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