- Reference: Jeremiah 6-9
- Date: 31 October 2012
Ch. 6 is the last part of the young prophet Jer’s 1st msg – delivered when he was only about 16.
1“O you children of Benjamin, gather yourselves to flee from the midst of Jerusalem!
Because judgment was coming.
Benjamin was 1 of the 2 tribes that made up the southern kingdom of Judah; the other of course was Judah.
Blow the trumpet in Tekoa, and set up a signal-fire in Beth Haccerem; For disaster appears out of the north, and great destruction.
Tekoa & Beth Haccerem were fortresses where signal fires were set to alert Jerusalem of an approaching army.
Jer tells them to go ahead & send their signals now because judgment was certain.
HE (Jer) was a spiritual signal fire – but the people ignored him.
Maybe they’d pay more attention if they saw an actual beacon lit.
We had a signal fire lit for us this week in the storm that hit the east coast.
God sent such things on both Israel & Judah to awaken them to their danger.
He sent drought, famine; storms that ravaged their crops & caused walls to fall.
He sent economic distress & social turmoil.
All of it was aimed at moving them to turn from their rebellion back to Him.
But they stubbornly refused to admit the their error.
So things got worse till a foreign power came & destroyed them.
I watch the news coverage & wonder – will the American people recognize this latest storm for what it is; a warning?
Will they turn to the Lord in repentance?
2 I have likened the daughter of Zion to a lovely and delicate woman. 3 The shepherds with their flocks shall come to her. They shall pitch their tents against her all around. Each one shall pasture in his own place.”
The daughter of Zion = the people of Jerusalem.
God likens them to a woman unaccustomed to adversity & so will not do well in the rough days ahead.
In fact, Jerusalem will be so leveled, shepherds will 1 day pitch their tents & graze their flocks there.
The book of Nehemiah tells us this was the case.
In vs. 4-9, we get more description of the devastation the Babylonians will mete out.
10 To whom shall I speak and give warning, that they may hear? Indeed their ear is uncircumcised, and they cannot give heed. Behold, the word of the LORD is a reproach to them; they have no delight in it. 11 Therefore I am full of the fury of the LORD. I am weary of holding it in. “I will pour it out on the children outside, And on the assembly of young men together; For even the husband shall be taken with the wife, the aged with him who is full of days. 12 And their houses shall be turned over to others, fields and wives together; for I will stretch out My hand against the inhabitants of the land,” says the LORD. 13 “Because from the least of them even to the greatest of them, everyone is given to covetousness; and from the prophet even to the priest, everyone deals falsely.
How frustrating all this was for Jeremiah.
He spoke the unfiltered word of God, & they ignored him!
The false prophets w/their lies were far more popular.
But popularity didn’t make their message true!
Truth isn’t determined by “calling the number on your screen” – or “texting in 777.”
Jer’s scathing indictment of the religious leaders of his day was this . . .
14 They have also healed the hurt of My people slightly, saying, ‘Peace, peace!’ When there is no peace.
I don’t want to be a nay-sayer. My faith in God makes me an optimist.
But when I look at the prophecy of Jer, I find a remarkable parallel to our day.
What church leaders & pastors ought to be saying isn’t,
“Everything’s going to be okay.”
“Vote for this or that guy & we’ll be fine.”
What they SHOULD BE saying boldly & loudly is –
“REPENT & RETURN to the Lord!”
15Were they ashamed when they had committed abomination? No! They were not at all ashamed; Nor did they know how to blush. Therefore they shall fall among those who fall; at the time I punish them, they shall be cast down,” says the LORD.
What does it say about a people who’ve lost their capacity to blush; when nothing is shameful anymore?
The people of Jer’s day engaged in gross sin à Openly.
Look at the shameful behavior that’s public today à Celebrated!
Adultery = Ashley Madison / Open Marriage
Homosexuality = Gay Pride parades
Flagrant immodesty = Lingerie ads; public beaches – TV
Profanity part of everyday speech.
Pornography has become mainstream.
People line up to air their debauchery on reality TV. è Instead of blushing, they cash in on it.
16 Thus says the LORD: “Stand in the ways and see, and ask for the old paths, where the good way is, and walk in it; Then you will find rest for your souls. But they said, ‘We will not walk in it.’
God counsels them to return to the days of dignity & propriety.
But they loved their carnivals, their festivals of the flesh, & refused to give them up.
17 Also, I set watchmen over you, saying, ‘Listen to the sound of the trumpet!’ But they said, ‘We will not listen.’
God gave plenty of warning of judgment thru the years but they wouldn’t listen. They wanted to rebel.
18 Therefore hear, you nations, and know, O congregation, what is among them. 19 Hear, O earth! Behold, I will certainly bring calamity on this people—The fruit of their thoughts, because they have not heeded My words nor My law, but rejected it.
Note that telling phrase –“The fruit of their thoughts.”
Thoughts lead to decisions. è Decision bear consequences.
Never underestimate the power of your thought life!
They banished God’s Word from their thoughts – so, sealed their fate.
We must go the other direction & renew our minds by filling them w/God’s Word.
In vs. 20-26, God tells them He knows their worship is insincere, just a desperate attempt to stall judgment.
It’s not going to work. Babylon is coming.
God now speaks to Jer about his role as prophet.
27 “I have set you as an assayer and a fortress among My people, that you may know and test their way. 28 They are all stubborn rebels, walking as slanderers. They are bronze and iron, they are all corrupters; 29 The bellows blow fiercely, the lead is consumed by the fire; the smelter refines in vain, for the wicked are not drawn off. 30 People will call them rejected silver, because the LORD has rejected them.”
Jeremiah’s message was the final test for the people of Judah.
How they responded to him would determine their fate.
His message was like the fire the silversmith uses to drive away the dross.
Problem is, their dross remained. They refused to heed the prophet’s message.
God knew the future; they would NOT repent.
So He speaks of the certainty of the Babylonian conquest.
And though it’s certain – STILL He appeals to them to repent & return.
It’s too late for the nation, but not for individuals & families.
Also – who knows?
If the whole nation DID repent & turn back to God, maybe the judgment would be delayed, pushed out to a distant future.
That’s what happened to Nineveh at the preaching of Jonah.
He walked thru the streets of the city announcing God’s judgment.
When the people, from king to the poorest of the poor repented, judgment was stalled.
It eventually came – but not for a few generations.
Judgment would come to Judah – but if they did the right thing, judgment would be delayed.
We covered vs. 1-16 Sunday.
Ch. 7 starts a new theme in Jer.
The book isn’t laid out chronologically.
While chs. 2-6 are the prophet’s 1st message, delivered during the reign of the good king Josiah & Jer was just a teen, ch. 7 comes about 40 years later, at the end of Jer’s life & ministry.
In vs. 1-15, God tells Jer to park himself at one of the gates of the temple and announce to the people God’s not fooled by the religious show they’re putting on.
Though they went through the motions, their hearts were far from the Lord.
They brought a sacrifice, then went home to worship idols, commit adultery, abuse the innocent & even conspire to murder.
Then in v. 16, God makes a shocking statement Jer.
16 “Therefore do not pray for this people, nor lift up a cry or prayer for them, nor make intercession to Me; for I will not hear you.
It’s too late now. The day of mercy past.
The grace God gave that allowed them time to repent is over.
They hadn’t repented so all that’s left is the judgment He had long warned of.
Their fate is sealed: The Babylonians will come, destroy their cities & carry them away as slaves.
This reminds us that while God’s judgment of individuals takes place in eternity, in either heaven or hell, God also judges nations, empires & kingdoms.
But unlike the human soul which is eternal, those political structures we call nations only exist in the temporal realm.
So their judgment will be meted out in history.
When a nation lives faithfully by the light of morality God puts in every human heart, they prosper.
But when they abuse that light & do what’s evil – they will be judged.
What’s been true for empires & kingdoms like Persia, Greece, Rome, China, Japan, & the nations of Europe, is equally true for the USA.
17 Do you not see what they do in the cities of Judah and in the streets of Jerusalem? 18 The children gather wood, the fathers kindle the fire, and the women knead dough, to make cakes for the queen of heaven; and they pour out drink offerings to other gods, that they may provoke Me to anger. 19 Do they provoke Me to anger?” says the Lord. “Do they not provoke themselves, to the shame of their own faces?”
The Queen of Heaven had lots of names in the ancient world.
The Babylonians called her Ishtar, the goddess of love & fertility whose cult involved grotesque obscenities.
The Canaanites called her Ashtoreth, Asherah & Astarte.
The wicked king Manasseh had elevated her worship & made here one of the main idols.
A multitude of her statuettes have been found in Israelite sites from this period.
They’re all hideously pornographic images.
People made little shrines around them in their homes, then the women made little cakes and set them before her, while the men would pour out a couple drops of wine to her.
WE might think that God would be super ticked at this – but He says He’s not so much angered as sad at their moral & spiritual stupidity.
They aren’t hurting God by their idolatry – they’re hurting themselves.
Think about the poor children growing up in these homes.
20 Therefore thus says the Lord God: “Behold, My anger and My fury will be poured out on this place—on man and on beast, on the trees of the field and on the fruit of the ground. And it will burn and not be quenched.” 21 Thus says the Lord of hosts, the God of Israel: “Add your burnt offerings to your sacrifices and eat meat. 22 For I did not speak to your fathers, or command them in the day that I brought them out of the land of Egypt, concerning burnt offerings or sacrifices. 23 But this is what I commanded them, saying, ‘Obey My voice, and I will be your God, and you shall be My people. And walk in all the ways that I have commanded you, that it may be well with you.’
The key to understanding this is to remember what God said in vs. 1-15: He’s not fooled by their religious pretense.
The people really thought if they went to the temple/church –
If they offered a sacrifice / drop a 5-spot in the offering –
They paid their religious dues – God was satisfied – and they could go on their merry way & live however they wanted.
God tells them He’s not interested in sacrifices: He wants obedience.
The sacrifices were a way to cover over their sin; SO THEY COULD MAINTAIN FELLOWSHIP W/GOD.
They had moved to thinking the sacrifices were a way to kind of pull the wool down over God’s eye so they could GO sin.
They had no interest whatever in maintaining fellowship w/God.
He was just something to get around so they could do what they wanted.
They did the get-around by performing the religious rituals at the temple.
This points up an important point about religion: Ultimately it’s all about Us or God.
These people saw God as a stepping stone to their own ends.
They’d been told by the professional clergy of the day, the priests & prophets, that if they jumped thru the ritual hoops of religious performance, God was pleased & would help them achieve their dreams & desires.
In reality, God was supposed to be that dream & desire.
He didn’t exist for them; they existed for Him.
It’s wasn’t about their glory; It was about His.
The same is true today.
The Gospel is not a message of how God sent Jesus to make all our dreams come true.
It’s not about having Your Best Life Now – if that means God is reduced to little more than a genie Who comes to grant our every wish.
God does not exist FOR us; we exist FOR Him.
The Gospel is the God news of how we can come back to the life we were created for – which ultimately is to give God glory.
THAT’S when we’ll find fulfillment, satisfaction, meaning, purpose & peace – when it’s all about God; when we live for His glory.
24 Yet they did not obey or incline their ear, but followed the counsels and the dictates of their evil hearts, and went backward and not forward. 25 Since the day that your fathers came out of the land of Egypt until this day, I have even sent to you all My servants the prophets, daily rising up early and sending them. 26 Yet they did not obey Me or incline their ear, but stiffened their neck. They did worse than their fathers. 27 “Therefore you shall speak all these words to them, but they will not obey you. You shall also call to them, but they will not answer you. 28 “So you shall say to them, ‘This is a nation that does not obey the voice of the Lord their God nor receive correction. Truth has perished and has been cut off from their mouth.
Once again we see that although no one would listen to Jer, he was to keep announcing what was true.
29 Cut off your hair and cast it away,
This was a sign of mourning.
and take up a lamentation on the desolate heights; for the Lord has rejected and forsaken the generation of His wrath.’ 30 For the children of Judah have done evil in My sight,” says the Lord. “They have set their abominations in the house which is called by My name, to pollute it.
They set up their idols in the temple grounds.
31 And they have built the high places of Tophet, which is in the Valley of the Son of Hinnom, to burn their sons and their daughters in the fire, which I did not command, nor did it come into My heart.
One of the ways they worshiped the idol Molech was by lighting a fire behind the idols, then placing their small children onto his outstretched arms; they then rolled into the flames.
While there had been some isolated places around the kingdom that had practiced this in secret over the years, during the reign of Manasseh, it had been installed as an official religious practice in the Hinnom Valley that slices into Jerusalem from the south.
At the head of the valley, Manasseh set up the official site of Tophet – meaning Fireplace, where Molech’s idol was set and the sacrifices were made.
When Josiah came to the throne, he tore it down & turned the Hinnom Valley into the city garbage dump.
But later kings reinstalled Tophet.
And the fire they kindled there ended up setting the garbage dump on fire.
It never went out. It smoldered & burned for decades; it’s stinky smoke rising forever.
So, it became a fitting symbol for hell – a smoldering, smoking, stinky garbage dump.
That’s why the Hebrew word for hell is Ge-henna = Valley of Hinnom.
When we hear of this child sacrifice, many are sickened. / Others – there’s a sense of outrage
But before we grow indignant & label these people as grotesque, let’s not forget the over 50 million children who’ve been sacrificed to the idol of convenience thru abortion in this country.
Many multitudes of order greater than those offered to Molech in ancient Israel.
32 “Therefore behold, the days are coming,” says the Lord, “when it will no more be called Tophet, or the Valley of the Son of Hinnom, but the Valley of Slaughter; for they will bury in Tophet until there is no room. 33 The corpses of this people will be food for the birds of the heaven and for the beasts of the earth. And no one will frighten them away. 34 Then I will cause to cease from the cities of Judah and from the streets of Jerusalem the voice of mirth and the voice of gladness, the voice of the bridegroom and the voice of the bride. For the land shall be desolate.
The devastation the Babylonians bring will be utter & complete.
1 “At that time,” says the Lord, “they shall bring out the bones of the kings of Judah, and the bones of its princes, and the bones of the priests, and the bones of the prophets, and the bones of the inhabitants of Jerusalem, out of their graves. 2 They shall spread them before the sun and the moon and all the host of heaven, which they have loved and which they have served and after which they have walked, which they have sought and which they have worshiped. They shall not be gathered nor buried; they shall be like refuse on the face of the earth. 3 Then death shall be chosen rather than life by all the residue of those who remain of this evil family, who remain in all the places where I have driven them,” says the Lord of hosts.
This was the ultimate indignity – to have your bones disinterred & spread out for the beasts to gnaw.
These people had worshipped the stars, so they’d be laid out before the elements.
“Stars you want, stars you’ll get.”
In vs. 4-7, God expresses His dismay at the stubbornness of His people in refusing to do what’s right & determination to keep doing = what’s wrong, even though the rest of nature points the other direction.
Then what makes it even worse is that in vs. 8-13, they claim to be wise, even though they reject God’s Word.
Now Jer speaks prophetically of what the people will say once the Babylonians have finished their conquest.
14 “Why do we sit still? Assemble yourselves, And let us enter the fortified cities, And let us be silent there. For the Lord our God has put us to silence And given us water of gall to drink, Because we have sinned against the Lord. 15 “We looked for peace, but no good came; And for a time of health, and there was trouble! 16 The snorting of His horses was heard from Dan. The whole land trembled at the sound of the neighing of His strong ones; For they have come and devoured the land and all that is in it, The city and those who dwell in it.”
“This is God’s judgment, which we deserved.”
God says –
17 “For behold, I will send serpents among you, Vipers which cannot be charmed, And they shall bite you,” says the Lord.
Jer says –
18 I would comfort myself in sorrow; My heart is faint in me. 19 Listen! The voice, The cry of the daughter of My people— From a far country: “Is not the Lord in Zion? Is not her King in her?”
Again God says –
“Why have they provoked Me to anger With their carved images— With foreign idols?”
And the people say w/ thick lament –
20“The harvest is past, The summer is ended, And we are not saved!”
The time to repent, came – then went & now, it’s too late.
In great anguish Jer says –
21 For the hurt of the daughter of my people I am hurt. I am mourning; Astonishment has taken hold of me. 22 Is there no balm in Gilead, Is there no physician there? Why then is there no recovery For the health of the daughter of my people?
Though Jer couldn’t see how Judah’s judgment would turn to good, it would.
And it did as history proves.
In ch. 9, God deals w/the faulty premise the people of Jer’s day lived under –that because they were the covenant people of God, they were guaranteed acceptance by Him, regardless of what they did or how they lived.
They assumed circumcisions permanently ushered them into God’s favor & He’d never withdraw it.
They thought circumcision equaled repentance & faith in Him.
IN the NT, John the Baptist, Jesus, & Paul all faced a similar attitude form the Jews of their day.
Jer deals w/this conceit in ch. 9 by pointing out 3 things.
In vs. 1-6, he says just because they’re in covenant with God, that doesn’t mean they’re free to sin.
In fact, Jer is devastated by the casual way the people sin.
They seem to have no concern whatever what they’re doing offends God.
1 Oh, that my head were waters, And my eyes a fountain of tears, That I might weep day and night For the slain of the daughter of my people!
It’s for passages like this he’s called the weeping prophet. Prophet.”
It’s rare to find tears in either the pulpit or pews today. // More in demand are comedians.
One passage that is rarely quoted is James 4:9–10,
Lament and mourn and weep! Let your laughter be turned to mourning and your joy to gloom. Humble yourselves in the sight of the Lord, and He will lift you up”
Jer says he’d rather run off alone to the wilderness & weep but his calling was to proclaim God’s Word to the people.
In vs. 5-6 he shares a burden maybe we can relate to –
5 Everyone will deceive his neighbor, and will not speak the truth; They have taught their tongue to speak lies; They weary themselves to commit iniquity. 6 Your dwelling place is in the midst of deceit; Through deceit they refuse to know Me,” says the Lord.
I say maybe we can relate to this because we also live at a time when truth has been sacrificed on the altar of personal convenience.
When people reject God in favor of their own desires, their conscience tells them they’re wrong.
Guilt’s painful. So they rewrite the rules to make it so that conscience is silenced & guilt squashed.
Sin gets a face-lift; a new name.
Lust becomes attraction-challenged.
Envy is labeled as possessional or positional-objectification.
Hate is anti-social psychosis.
Sin is normalized, then legalized.
Truth is slain to the idol of self-fulfillment – and people realize too late they’ve slipped their own necks into the noose of deceit & hung themselves & their culture.
No people can live long when they let go their hold on truth.
Being the covenant people of God, the Jews ought to have embraced truth, not slit its throat as a sacrifice so they could do what they wanted.
In vs. 7-16, Jer tells them being God’s covenant people offers no automatic escape from judgment.
On the contrary – being His people meant even greater accountability.
Then in vs. 17-26 he tells them the covenant is no guarantee they’ll be smarter than everyone else.
This is something both ancient & modern Jews tend to do.
They take great pride in their knowledge.
But the sin of arrogance isn’t the sole prerogative of Abraham’s descendants.
Christians can fall into the same error; as can unbelievers w/high IQ’s.
So rare is both Humility & Genius that it’s remarkable when we find it.
Far more common is the arrogant smart-guy who’s the smartest person in the room and wants everyone to know it – even if he ISN’T!
There’s an important corrective here for this –
23 Thus says the Lord: “Let not the wise man glory in his wisdom, Let not the mighty man glory in his might, Nor let the rich man glory in his riches; 24 But let him who glories glory in this, That he understands and knows Me, That I am the Lord, exercising lovingkindness, judgment, and righteousness in the earth. For in these I delight,” says the Lord.
That’ll be my text for Sunday.
God called the people of Judah to lament because they’d soon be going to their own funeral.
Death was coming, & the politicians & prophets wouldn’t be able to stop it.
25 “Behold, the days are coming,” says the Lord, “that I will punish all who are circumcised with the uncircumcised— 26 Egypt, Judah, Edom, the people of Ammon, Moab, and all who are in the farthest corners, who dwell in the wilderness. For all these nations are uncircumcised, and all the house of Israel are uncircumcised in the heart.”
Imagine what a shock that was to these Jews who thought circumcision was a badge that secured their favor w/God – & uncircumcision was evidence of God’s disfavor & eventual consignment to hell.
To hear they were no better than the uncircumcised would move them to either à
1) Deep soul-searching & repentance >> or
2) Extreme anger at Jer for the insult they took it as.
Imagine accusing a Giants fan of owning a Dodger cap.
Or accusing a Raiders fan of having season tickets to the 49’ers.