AUSTRALIAN BIBLE CHURCH -July 17, 2005
Presbyterian Call to Christ - Jeremiah 14-15
DEADLY DYNAMICS and the PERSONAL PROVISION
You like tests, such as climbing to 19,000 feet as our physiotherapist appears to have done, in Africa recently ? Very well, consider those of Jeremiah, and ponder your own, for it is instructive, and best to profit by the examples of other, when these can prevent falling, incline to resolution or assist your sitting in peace in heavenly places (Ephesians 2:6), your heart at rest with the Lord, your hand at His tasks.
We shall consider the plea of Jeremiah, the reply of God, the promiscuity of the people, the division of the forces and the personal part in the life of the prophet, in this spiritual saga, and impactive history.
1. The PLEA (Jeremiah 14:19-22)
What have we done ? asks the stricken prophet, his heart for the people (14:9). It is not that there is any pretence of righteousness, but this, this utter abhorrence from the Lord (16:19)! The people are later seen even more directly asking, "What have we done wrong" (16:10). The response is not ambiguous! but clear, incisive and historic. They have served other gods, forsaken the Lord, not kept His law and each one has so obeyed the dictates of his own heart, "that no one listens to Me."
The case is not small, but all too familiar in our own day, this trend to sporadic spirituality, synthetic unities and specious disobedience, clad in contemptible sophistries.
Jeremiah here proceeds: We know we are sinners, even against You, so please do not break your covenant with us. Idols have nothing to show, it is only you: so we will wait for your response to our plea. Thus spoke one with a heart not duplicated at all readily among the people (cf. Jeremiah 5:1ff.!), for in 11:6-10, a spiritual conspiracy is exposed. “They have turned back to the iniquities of their forefathers.”
How hard it is at times to find those who wholeheartedly will follow the Lord, whose desire is to do the will of God from the heart, not to follow some dream of their own, some will, some aspiration (as in Jeremiah 23:23-29), but in all things and in all ways, having capitulated gladly to such a Lord as this, to abide in Him, as He also abides. Consider however John 15:7.
How many cry, shriek, assert, using the name of the Lord, but following other gods as well, precisely as did the stricken Samaria, even after it was little more than a name, its actual Jewish inhabitants removed by crusading, invading Sennacherib of Assyria, that the abominations of their hearts should no more populate the land, according to the will of the Lord (II Kings 17:16-18, 24-33).
The last verse cited above tells us that they feared the Lord and served other gods, a cocktail to make the famed Molotov cocktail seem like a blessing by comparison; for that destroys the body, but this the soul! What is the good of being religious, if your religion is not the Lord! What is the good of seeking fruit and gifts, if you do not ABIDE IN CHRIST, and therefore do not follow His word which tells you that HE appoints the gifts, according as HE will! (I Cor. 12:11)...
What is the good of seeking this and that in prayer, if you yourself are not first of all a seeker, capitulated to Christ, a servant for HIS direction, walking in the Spirit, abiding in His word (Luke 6:46)!
We are all sinners, but if this is not your objective, then your objective is spiritually objectionable and scripturally unsound. It is necessary to be watered by the spring of salvation (Jeremiah 2:13, 18:14), not the drain of desire!
“Will a man leave the snow water of Lebanon,
Which comes from the rock of the field “
“Will the cold flowing waters be forsaken for strange waters ?”
What had they done! Even at the time of the brutal removal of Israel to the North, the southern sector, a separate nation now, Judah, was under no small condemnation. In II Kings 17, in the very midst of the judgments shown for Israel to the North, there is this statement (17:19):
"Also Judah did not
keep the commandments of the LORD their God,
but walked in the statutes of Israel which they made.
And the LORD rejected all the descendants of Israel..."
Often enough was Judah warned, but it did not heed what had befallen its northern neighbour, or the reasons for it, and this is exposed in depth in II Chronicles 36.
What have we done! Indeed, what
had they NOT done, might appear the better question. It is therefore not
surprising to hear that the LORD will NOT remove the impending affliction to
Judah, given over a century to change its ways, to seek the Lord and follow Him.
Indeed, Hezekiah and Josiah, great kings of Judah had led great reformations,
but like bright stars they shed light for a season, while the people sank and
descended, till there was no remedy.
II Chronicles 36:14-16 shows it with detailed and dramatic intensity. Hear but one excerpt!
"Moreover all the leaders of the priests
and the people transgressed more and more,
according to all the abominations of the nations,
and defiled the house of the Lord
which He had consecrated in Jerusalem.
"And the Lord God of their fathers sent warnings to
them by His messengers,
rising up early and sending them,
because He had compassion on His people and on His dwelling place.
"But they mocked the messengers of God,
despised His words, and scoffed at His prophets,
until the wrath of the Lord arose against His people,
till there was no remedy."
The curse causeless does not come! declares Proverbs 26:2:
"As the bird by wandering, as the swallow by flying,
so the curse causeless shall not come."
2. The REPLY (Jeremiah 15:1)
Accordingly, when we come to listen to the reply from God to Jeremiah's plea, we find a finality. The mercy is this, that there would certainly be an exile, yet that it would (as we find in Jeremiah 25), not be for ever but for 70 years. In the meantime, death, devastation and destruction awaited the remorselessly sinning people, often warned, now heedless and reckless.
Thus God, knowing that the covenant was for blessing, to faith with its accompanying practices, which it engenders, and for cursing, when the covenant becomes a mere stepping stone for sanctified sin, had not failed to warn of the blunt rebuttal to the covenant, which they had breached in empty words of religion, and heartless deeds of rebellion.
The reply is SHORT: Though MOSES and SAMUEL were pleading, He told Jeremiah, there could be no other result for this people. Cast them out of My sight!
3. The PROMISCUITY (Jeremiah 15:2-9)
Where should we go ? they might ask. Then tell them, was the divine message, those to die, to death, those for sword, to that point, those to famine to that lack, and those to be captives, to that end. THAT is where they belong. Trouble is to be their mentor and recipient, because of their long sustained iniquity, idolatry, hypocrisy, injustice and fraud, things summed up in Manasseh, the king whose ways were as good at keeping the law of the Lord as a sieve for keeping water. He cast children into idol fires, brought idols into the temple and practicing witchcraft and sorcery, worshipped the whole host of heaven, like the naturalists of today, whose gods are without minds, and whose minds are without truth for they announce ‘truth’ while excluding it, and proclaim their charms, as if by magic.
There comes a time when such confused delusion takes its toll, as indeed it has in two World Wars in the last century, where strife and superiority were taken as if mother’s milk would give place to rotten vegetables! Thus for Israel, the divine decision, after some centuries, was irrevocable; but lest you should think it hard, even in Jer. 17, you see a simple, practical offer for entire deliverance, a matter of rest on the day of rest; but they would not. So does man abandon hope, and blame God, while God abandons not even the abandoned, when and IF they return whole-heartedly to him.
Even Manasseh, that king from age 12, and centre of the grotesque, he himself at last sought and obtained mercy from the Lord, before he died. It is never too late, if you in faith CALL, and do so with your HEART.
4. The DIVISION (Jeremiah 15:10-14)
At this point, Jeremiah feels downcast, as if he were some sort of spiritual pugilist, always complaining to the people, challenging and chiding them,
“Woe to me, my
mother, that you have borne me,
a man of contention to the whole earth!”
Oh how he would have loved just to be at peace with all. However, he had been given a mandate to speak from the Lord to many nations (Jeremiah 1:9-10), to labour.
At this, the Lord gives him a mercy: there will be a REMNANT, a remnant of faith (as in a remnant sale!), among the people whom he so loves and for whom he feels such intense compassion; for not all of them will die, not all will be obliterated from the earth, and indeed, for this remnant there will be blessing. It was to come in the days of Ezra and Nehemiah, and there you see the zeal when, after the ordained 70 years of exile (foretold in Jeremiah 25), they duly came back on time, and rebuilt, released by Cyrus, just as Isaiah had forecast over a century beforehand, so naming that King from the outset. When that time came, then there was purging of spirit, work of hand and zeal of spirit.
It was, as it is, time to rebuild. Are YOU part of the remnant of faith ? Then trusting Him, return and work! For the rest, then, exile is the best to be found, just as now, unbelief invades what fades. Those who are the Lord’s, these do not fail, for HE, He does not fail (John 10:9,27-28).
5. The PERSONAL PART (Jeremiah 15:15-21)
Jeremiah then makes request to the Lord not to be taken away, pleading,
“O LORD, You know …
In Your enduring patience, do not take me away.
Know that for Your sake I have suffered rebuke.
Your words were found, and I ate them,
and Your word was to me the joy and rejoicing of my heart;
for I am called by Your name, O LORD God of hosts.”
He had not sat with mockers, but alone, like an outcast.
Despite such zeal and concentration on the things of the Lord, he asks:
“Why is my pain perpetual … ?”
Pained and grieved for his people, and longing to be with them, not seemingly against them, he is as one who would turn his head to a fountain (Jeremiah 9:1), as a reservoir for tears to be shed for the horrors to come for the unremitting sin and horrible hypocrisies of his exuberantly erratic people.
What then of the prophet himself ? for he also is human, even though dedicated without limit, consecrated without compromise, and seeking to fulfil all the word of God with integrity.
“IF YOU WILL RETURN, THEN I WILL BRING YOU BACK.”
That was the divine message to the troubled soul of the longsuffering prophet. THEN you will stand before ME! What then ? What is the instruction to him: then SEPARATE the profane from the pure, the secular from the sacred, the spiritual from the godless, the true from the false, the word of God from the words of men, and
“you will be as My mouth.”
The advice that follows is what many have ignored. Temporarily stirred by some vast departure from the faith, they often go with the wandering ‘church’, that no more honours the word of the Lord, but substitutes its own wherever it wants it. It is like an employee saying to the boss,
Oh yes, I will do ALL that you
say, only there may be one little oddity. For example, I have special indulgence
on cheques over 100,000, and it may be that on this, I will depart from your
wishes. But that! it is only one thing! In all else, rely on me!
Who can find a faithful man! If you do, keep to him!
Accordingly, the LORD told this to Jeremiah:
“Let them return to you,
But you must not return to them!”
That is a thing especially hard to do when you love them, seeking only their good, while they neither listen, reform, nor return. Then, whatever the prophet must suffer, yet he MUST not rejoin them; for it is no help to assemble with what moves in direct OPPOSITION to the Lord’s command. That does not help any church, nor was it permitted to the prophet; for to announce the way is not to follow another.
However, as he fights for the truth, valiant for the truth, obedient to God, the Lord undertakes to make him a “fortified bronze wall”.
Fight ? yes they will fight against you, but not prevail,
“for I am with you to save you!”
the Lord announced to the restored prophet. Wicked or fearsome alike, they will not prevail against Jeremiah, whose own path will be faithfulness, with power in the presence of the Lord. It is there for one and for all, each ascertaining his own call from the Lord. Be faithful then, and do not subordinate His wishes, commands and works, to yours.
But if you do ? What then do you resemble! What did Israel, did Judah resemble ? a wandering star!
Watch therefore your way, and keep your eyes open,
for the Lord is wise in His ways and knows His own (II Timothy 2:19).
Walk in the light of His word, in the power of His Spirit
and in the love of His life.
Love ? Infinite love, for love is infinitely important,
and the love of God in Jesus Christ has broken death,
irrupting in the body’s resurrection, a grant to each believer.
In, with, by and through Him, life is both abundant and eternal
To BE a fortified bronze wall for us who have returned,
to bring us back to His protection, where justice smiles because mercy has paid,
God has relentlessly at the time appointed,
ransomed us by His own blood, penetrating death, suffering judgment in Himself,
to provide impenetrable peace
(Hosea 13:14, Galatians 3:1-13,
Romans 5:1-11, 8:32, Isaiah 53:3-6,10-11,
Acts 20:28, Revelation 1:5, 5:13).
The tears of the prophet (Jeremiah 9:1), reflect the heart of the Lord,
who has triumphed where tears did not avail.
Let us now share in that triumph,
as recipients, by living the life which He empowers.