Pushed to the Limit

Posted: March 24, 2014 in Jeremiah

Jeremiah 4, “Pushed to the Limit”

As a boy, I had a tendency to push my parents to the limit.  I remember getting caught in a lie, and then trying to lie my way out of it, though my father knew the truth the whole time.  He gave me chance after chance to change my story, and I blew it.

Sometimes we do the same thing with God.  We’ll go off in our sin, and start pushing God to His limit.  Especially before we came to Christ, we may have known what the right thing to do was, but we went off our own way thinking that we’d never have to “pay the piper.”  Eventually the day of reckoning came, and we were unprepared.  Yet we can do something similar even after we’re born-again.  God may bring conviction to our heart about an act or an attitude, and we’ll harden our hearts.  We’ll close our ears to the invitation of the Holy Spirit to repent, and eventually our Heavenly Father needs to bring His holy discipline to wake us up.  Because we are the children of God, God has even more reason to ensure our discipline – especially when our disobedience is so willful.

That’s the way it was with the nation of Judah – perhaps to a far higher degree.  This was a kingdom that was supposed to be the people of God, and yet they willfully sinned against Him in terrible ways, blaspheming His name among the people of the world.  God gave them the opportunity to repent, but when they didn’t take it, they pushed God to His limits, and He had to bring His holy judgment down upon them via the Babylonians.

What will it take to bring true brokenness?  True, heartfelt repentance?  God would rather us turn willingly, but He will use His discipline if He must.

Jeremiah 4

  • Invitation to repent (vss. 1-4)

1 “If you will return, O Israel,” says the LORD, “Return to Me; And if you will put away your abominations out of My sight, Then you shall not be moved. 2 And you shall swear, ‘The LORD lives,’ In truth, in judgment, and in righteousness; The nations shall bless themselves in Him, And in Him they shall glory.”

  • The nation is once again invited to repent.  This was the theme of the ending of Chapter 3…
  • Note this is more than an invitation, but an exhortation.  This wasn’t an idea for them to kick around; it was something for them to do.  “If you will return…return.”  IOW, don’t just talk about it; do it.
  • What does real repentance include?  Two things: a change of mind & a change of behavior.  The change of behavior is addressed first here. “If you will put away your abominations…”  The people already knew that idolatry was wrong – now they needed to do something about it.  They needed to actually forsake their sin.  Obviously they would need to change their thinking in order to be able to change their actions – but if their actions never changed, then they could not be said ever to have truly repented.  To say “I’m sorry” about an action & to keep on doing it isn’t really being sorry. …
  • Of course, repentance also includes a change of mind – shown here in their confession of God as God.  “You shall swear, ‘The LORD lives,’…”  The idea here is a change in who Israel worshipped.  Instead of their idolatrous abominations, they would turn to the One True God – the LORD Yahweh of Israel, and worship Him alone.
  • What would be the result of their repentance (if they ever did it)?  God promised two things: (1) Safety, (2) Witness.
    • Safety: “You shall not be moved.”  The whole context of God’s call to repentance comes with the description of the soon invasion of Judah by the Babylonians.  God promised certain judgment if the people remained in sin, but He also held out a free gift of forgiveness if they but repented in truth…
    • Witness: “The nations shall bless themselves in Him.”  The turning of the Jews back to God, and God’s deliverance of the nation from her enemies would be a tremendous witness to all the world about the power of the True God.  Centuries prior, the hearts of the people of Jericho had fainted when they heard of the Israelites coming to their city.  Why?  They hadn’t feared the people as much as they feared the God they worshipped.  The Amorites had heard of how the God of the Hebrews parted the Red Sea & defeated the kings on the far side of the Jordan River, and they understood that they were next on the list. (Josh 2:10-11).  God’s work on behalf of the Hebrews was seen among the world, and they feared.  Through Jeremiah, God says a similar thing would happen here.  If the people did truly repent, and God acted on their behalf, the rest of the nations would see the hand of God at work, and they themselves would turn and glory in God.
  • A similar thing happens with us as we allow ourselves to be used by the Lord Jesus.  There are times we mess up & fall into sin…there’s no Christian that has ever lived a perfect life.  Yet how we deal with those sins is watched by the world around us.  When we truly repent in humility & experience the comfort and restoration of God, then that cannot be helped but be witnessed by our neighbors.  No doubt our failures damage our witness to others, but our repentance and restoration can be a mighty testimony to the greatness and the mercies of God.  The unbelieving world needs to see how dead marriages can come to life again – how prodigal children can be received back into their families – how the proud can be made humble and later exalted.  When they see the results of repentance, they will not be able but to see what brought about those results: the great grace of the Lord Jesus Christ.

3 For thus says the LORD to the men of Judah and Jerusalem: “Break up your fallow ground, And do not sow among thorns. 4 Circumcise yourselves to the LORD, And take away the foreskins of your hearts, You men of Judah and inhabitants of Jerusalem, Lest My fury come forth like fire, And burn so that no one can quench it, Because of the evil of your doings.”

  • No repentance could take place without humility.  The hardness of their hearts needed to first be broken.
  • Along with humility comes dedication.  To a Jew, the act of circumcision was more than a physical ritual; it was a symbol of his dedication unto the Lord.  It showed a cutting away of flesh, and seeking after the God in spirit & truth.  It was one of the signs of their covenant relationship with God (the other being the Sabbath).  A Jew’s circumcision would obviously not be seen by others, but the individual Jew would be reminded every single day that his whole life was supposed to be dedicated unto the Lord.  The problem was that this sacred symbol eventually became little more than a ritual.  They may have been physically circumcised in the flesh, but their hearts remained uncircumcised before the Lord. (Rom 2:28-29) That’s not what God desired for His people!  God desired true worship & true dedication from them.
    • Mere ritual does not impress God; it never has & never will.  If we are to worship God at all, then we MUST worship Him in spirit & truth.
  • What would happen if the Jews remained uncircumcised their hearts?  Then God would treat them no different than an uncircumcised Gentile.  He would deal with them not in His mercy, but in His anger.  In fact, it was because the Jews were His people that God was so angry with them.  Of all the peoples of the world, the Jews ought to have known better!  They had seen the provision of God for them & they had known the reality of who God is & what He desired to do.  And yet they still chose to turn away into idolatry.  Thus, God would judge them fiercely.  His “fury [would] come forth like fire, and burn so that no one can quench it.
    • Judgment begins at the house of God.  When the people of God knowingly engage in willful sin & rebellion, God MUST act.  What parent would ignore the willful rebellion of his/her own child?  Every other kid in the classroom might act up & although it is wrong behavior, it doesn’t move us to action.  But when it’s OUR kid, that’s going to be dealt with!  It’s no different with God.  Unbelieving pagans act like unbelieving pagans – that’s to be expected.  God will surely deal with them in His time & in His justice.  But when it is His own children that act as badly as pagans act, that’s a problem that will be dealt with immediately!
  • Consequences of refusal (vss. 5-18)

5 Declare in Judah and proclaim in Jerusalem, and say: “Blow the trumpet in the land; Cry, ‘Gather together,’ And say, ‘Assemble yourselves, And let us go into the fortified cities.’ 6 Set up the standard toward Zion. Take refuge! Do not delay! For I will bring disaster from the north, And great destruction.”

  • God had repeatedly called Judah to repent, but He knew they would not do it.  As a result, they would face the consequences of their actions, described here as the coming invasion by Babylon “from the north.”  Looking forward prophetically, the day of invasion is envisioned, and the people are called to take refuge from the disastrous onslaught of the Babylonians.
  • Description continues in vs. 7…

7 The lion has come up from his thicket, And the destroyer of nations is on his way. He has gone forth from his place To make your land desolate. Your cities will be laid waste, Without inhabitant. 8 For this, clothe yourself with sackcloth, Lament and wail. For the fierce anger of the LORD— Has not turned back from us.

  • A “lion” can sometimes be a good description in Scripture, as when the prophecies speak of the Lion of the tribe of Judah (the Messiah).  However, this is not one of those times.  The “lion” here is not one to protect Jerusalem, but to bring destruction to it.  This is the enemy Babylon, come to lay “waste” to the land.  Although the people would hide in the fortified cities, it would ultimately do no good against this “destroyer of nations.”  Just as Nebuchadnezzar had swept the Babylonian army through other nations in the Middle East, so would he sweep them through Judah.  City after city would fall, and eventually all the Jews would fall in conquest.  It would be a horrendous time of war and bloodshed, all brought on by the sin of God’s own people.
    • This is what sin does in our lives: wreak unmeasurable havoc.
  • In that day, the people would recognize that this all came from the hand of God.  They recognize it as “the fierce anger of the LORD.”  The cry will go out for national humility, but in that moment, it will be too late.
    • It’s never too late for a child to repent, but it’s sometimes too late for a child to avoid a spanking.  At some point, the discipline needs to come.  We understand that as parents…and it’s no different in our relationship with our Heavenly Father.

9 “And it shall come to pass in that day,” says the LORD, “That the heart of the king shall perish, And the heart of the princes; The priests shall be astonished, And the prophets shall wonder.”

  • All the leadership will fail the people.  In the day that Babylon lays siege to Jerusalem, there will be no courageous speeches from the kings or princes.  There will be no words of comfort from the priests or prophets.  All will fear, and all will fall.  Keep in mind that these were the ones making alliances with foreign armies & leading the worship of foreign gods.  These were the ones speaking forth false prophecies, saying that Jerusalem would not fall into the hands of the enemy.  Where are they now?  Their words and actions are proven useless, and they are cowering in fear, just like everyone else.  False hope ends in no hope. 

10 Then I said, “Ah, Lord GOD! Surely You have greatly deceived this people and Jerusalem, Saying, ‘You shall have peace,’ Whereas the sword reaches to the heart.”

  • This might be one of those times we read the Scriptures & say, “Houston, we have a problem…” J  Anytime we come across a difficulty in the Bible, we need to stop, give the Bible the benefit of the doubt, and take the time to look at things a bit more closely.  There are three basic steps to Bible interpretation: observation – interpretation – application.  It would be easy here to jump straight to interpretation & think that the Bible is admitting that God had deceived the people, but if we did that, we’d be jumping ahead of ourselves.  The first step is observation.  What can we observe here?  First, observe the speaker: Jeremiah. “Then I said…”  IOW, what is about to be said are not the words of God, but the words of the prophet.  Second, observe the context: Jeremiah somewhat accuses God of saying “you shall have peace,” but nowhere in the prophecy thus far has God said that.  God has said that if the people repented, that they “shall not be moved.” (vs. 1)  Otherwise, God has all but guaranteed their judgment via invading Babylon.  The only other word of the Lord that the people may have heard would have come from the priests and prophets (vs. 9) who might have said these things – but it hadn’t come from the Lord.  With that in mind, let’s look at the interpretation.  We know from elsewhere in the Bible that God does not lie.  [Numbers 23:19, Titus 1:2]  If God cannot lie, then God cannot be the one to have deceived the people.  If they were deceived, they were deceived by prophets who came in the name of God, and lied about their prophecies.  Obviously God being sovereign, He allowed this deception to take place (just as He allowed a lying spirit to go before King Ahab of Israel – 1 Kings 22:22), but God did not personally lie or deceive the people.  On the contrary, God spoke the truth!  After all, God may have allowed the lying prophets, but He also raised up Jeremiah.  The existence of this book of prophecy at all is a testimony to the fact that He wanted His people to know the truth!
    • God does not lie to us in His word…every word He says is true!  Just be sure to take it in its proper context.  Someone could quote the Bible saying “there is no God,” when in reality they are missing the full quote: “The fool has said in his heart, ‘There is no God.’” (Ps 14:1, 53:1)  People will often quote half-true statements about the nature of God from the book of Job, when God condemned the words of Job’s friends, and even Job retracted virtually everything he said.  We need to feel free to quote God’s word abundantly, but we need to do it correctly.

11 At that time it will be said To this people and to Jerusalem, “A dry wind of the desolate heights blows in the wilderness— Toward the daughter of My people— Not to fan or to cleanse— 12 A wind too strong for these will come for Me; Now I will also speak judgment against them.” 13 “Behold, he shall come up like clouds, And his chariots like a whirlwind. His horses are swifter than eagles. Woe to us, for we are plundered!”

  • Scholars note the importance of “wind” in the physical land of Israel.  It can bring moisture in from the Mediterranean Sea, or it can blow in from the Sahara desert as the “sirocco” and dry up the crops & vegetation.  That’s the picture Jeremiah paints of the judgment of God coming in for the people.  They would not be able to expect a cool refreshing breeze, but a harsh gale-force wind in the form of the Babylonian armies & chariots.  The Babylonian soldiers would be fierce and “swift” and violent.
  • Keep in mind, though this is assured by God, this is the very thing that God desired to spare His people from!  He did not want this outcome for them, but it is what they brought upon themselves through their sin and idolatry.  See vs. 14…

14 O Jerusalem, wash your heart from wickedness, That you may be saved. How long shall your evil thoughts lodge within you?

  • If you underline your Bibles, underline this: “that you may be saved.”  Jeremiah had wrongly accused God of deceiving the people, promising their peace, when in reality God had promised their destruction.  God DID promise their destruction and ruin, but there is no deception in His promise of peace (which was different than that of the false lying prophets who were in the land).  God DID promise peace & salvation, but they had to understand that His promise was conditional.  God did NOT promise peace, no matter what – He did not promise peace and salvation apart from any response on behalf of the people.  If they did nothing, then God’s sure promise of judgment would stand.  If the people ignored the Lord, they could be certain that God would allow the Babylonians to come in terrible violence.  But God offered them something entirely different than that!  He offered mercy, and the offer was REAL…it was simply based upon their repentance.  “O Jerusalem, wash your heart from wickedness, That you may be saved.”  They needed to separate themselves from their sin & idolatry – they needed to wash their hearts and come back to the Lord in purity and truth.  If they did this, they could be sure of God’s salvation; if they didn’t, they could be sure of God’s judgment.
  • Everyone wants salvation, but not everyone is willing to take the steps of repentance necessary to experience it.  People want heaven, but many times they want to be their own god when they get there.  It doesn’t work that way.  God is so gracious in His invitation for people to be saved, but we must come on HIS terms & not our own.  We cannot come to Jesus while we continually rebel against Him & expect to receive the gift of life & the abundance of the Holy Spirit.  We’ve got to forsake those things.  We’ve got to be willing to give up the “evil thoughts [that] lodge within” us.
    • BTW – don’t make the mistake of thinking that this is a “work” that would save us.  The Bible makes it clear that we are saved by grace through faith, not of works, lest anyone should boast (Eph 2:8-9).  But repentance is not a work; it is a response to Jesus’ work.  Jesus did all the work necessary for our salvation when He died upon the cross and rose again.  Our response to that work is what we do in repentance.  We forsake our sinful ways, and turn to Him in faith.  That’s not us doing anything, except grabbing hold of the grace of God.
  • Of course, the Jews were not yet willing to repent.  They clung to their evil thoughts, and it assured their judgment.  See vs. 15…

15 For a voice declares from Dan And proclaims affliction from Mount Ephraim: 16 “Make mention to the nations, Yes, proclaim against Jerusalem, That watchers come from a far country And raise their voice against the cities of Judah.

  • From the northern end of the land to the southern end, everyone will see the coming Gentile invaders.  The affliction of Judah is clearly seen by the people, as is the reason why…

17 Like keepers of a field they are against her all around, Because she has been rebellious against Me,” says the LORD. 18 “Your ways and your doings Have procured these things for you. This is your wickedness, Because it is bitter, Because it reaches to your heart.”

  • Why did all of this judgment come?  Judah was “rebellious.”  The people may have blamed God for allowing the Babylonian invasion to come, but although God sovereignly allowed it & even decreed it in His righteousness, God could not be blamed for it.  The invasion of Judah was Judah’s fault!  “Your ways and your doings Have procured these things for you.”  They couldn’t blame it on God – they couldn’t even blame it on the Babylonians.  No doubt the Babylonians were guilty of their own sins.  They were incredibly cruel in their conquests of nations around them, including Judah.  God would hold them accountable for the things that they had done.  But that said, the fact that Babylon came into Judah was ultimately not the fault of Babylon, but that of the Jews.  If the Jews had remained faithful to God – if they had cast aside their idols in repentance – if they had worshipped God in spirit & truth, there would have been no way the Babylonians would have been able to come into the land in conquest.  God would not have allowed it!  If the Jews had been faithful to God, there is no doubt God would have been faithful to them.  Yet because they had forsaken the Lord, then they brought upon themselves the consequences due their sin.
  • Sin always has consequences – and oftentimes those consequences are truly “bitter.”  We have a tendency to think that we can get away with sins…and many times, it may seem like that for a while.  We engage in something that we know is to be wrong, and because we slide by with it, we think that no one knows.  Not true!  God knows, and He knows every sin we’ve committed every time.  He will not be mocked.  We can be sure our sins will find us out, and there will be consequences to come.
    • Of course, this is one reason we so desperately cling to Jesus!  ALL of us have sinned, even after we came to faith in Jesus.  Yet how do we deal with those sins?  If we attempt to hide them, they will bring bitter consequences.  But if we bring them out into the open, confessing them to God, we can experience the grace and forgiveness offered by Jesus.  Even when there might still be temporary consequences to be faced, we can be certain our Lord Jesus will lead us through those things, helping us along the way.
  • Sorrow for the people (vss. 19-26)

19 O my soul, my soul! I am pained in my very heart! My heart makes a noise in me; I cannot hold my peace, Because you have heard, O my soul, The sound of the trumpet, The alarm of war. 20 Destruction upon destruction is cried, For the whole land is plundered. Suddenly my tents are plundered, And my curtains in a moment. 21 How long will I see the standard, And hear the sound of the trumpet?

  • There is a reason Jeremiah is often called the “weeping prophet.”  His heartache at the “destruction” of Jerusalem is apparent.  Although it had not yet happened historically, Jeremiah could see it prophetically as though it had already taken place.  As much as he may have wondered at the reasons that God allowed it to happen, he still felt pain for his kinsmen and people & wept for them, knowing what would come to pass.  Jeremiah would live to watch his nation destroyed, and it was awful for him.
  • As American Christians, we might be able to relate to Jeremiah’s heartache.  By & large, our nation has wandered far from its Biblical foundations, far from its support of Israel, and far from any inclination to seek the Lord Jesus at all.  It ought to be no surprise that our nation has experienced the decline that it has, and unless there is a national awakening and revival, there is little doubt that we might witness the downfall of the United States, as Jeremiah witnessed the downfall of Judah.  We pray for our nation, and we trust the goodness of our God throughout it all – but we cannot help but have our hearts ache at what “might have been.”  Hopefully what the United States experiences will not have the violence that the ancient kingdom of Judah experienced – but certainly we can relate to the questioning cry, “How long?”  Jeremiah asked how long he would see the battle flags of the enemy, and hear their war trumpets.  We might ask how long we will hear the mockery of Jesus.  How long will God allow this to go on this way?
    • Keep in mind that even as our hearts ache, we still have hope.  We love our country, but our primary citizenship is in heaven.  We look forward to the wonderful day that our Lord Jesus will come back for His Church & take us home.  We look forward to the day that we see our Savior face-to-face.  No doubt that until that day comes, we pray for revival in our nation – but never lose sight of the big picture.  Don’t forget the fact that this world is not our home.  Jesus has prepared a place for us, and we will be with Him forever!

22 “For My people are foolish, They have not known Me. They are silly children, And they have no understanding. They are wise to do evil, But to do good they have no knowledge.”

  • The speaker changes here from Jeremiah to God.  Jeremiah saw destruction coming upon the land, God reiterates the reason why: “for My people are foolish, they have not known Me.”  The Jews were supposed to be the people of God – they were supposed to be a witness to the entire world as a nation set apart to worship the One True God of the Universe.  They were supposed to be a shining example to everyone else of Who God is, and how He is to be worshipped in spirit and truth.  Instead, the Jews acted no better than the Gentiles.  The people of God became just another people group worshipping idols.  Because of their history with God & because of the testimony of Scripture, they should have known better, but instead they acted as “silly children.”  They were “wise” in the ways of evil, but ignorant in the ways of righteousness.
  • Note that it’s not that the Jews had no opportunity to obtain the knowledge of how to do good; it’s that they refused to do it.  They had the law & the prophets – they had more than enough to know what God desired for them.  It was their choice to become “wise” in doing evil.  That’s what they chose to learn.
    • It’s been often said, “The dog that’s strongest is the one that gets fed.”  We are given a choice in how to walk as the people of God.  We can choose to seek the things of Jesus, or we can choose to seek after sin.  People often claim ignorance: “But I didn’t know that was wrong!”  That’s doubtful.  Deep down, we know right from wrong; we just choose to DO the wrong.  If we do it enough & seek after it enough, it’s no wonder we would become wise in those practices.  Soon, it is the evil that defines us instead of the good.  That’s the dog that gets fed most often.
    • The good news is that we can change the one we feed!  Seeking after Jesus and seeking after evil are diametrically opposed to one another.  If we’re doing one, we’re not doing the other & vice-versa.  Thus if we find ourselves falling into sinful habits, continually seeking after evil – what is it that we can do?  Repent.  Turn.  Turn away from the evil habits and START to seek after Jesus again.  When we feed our flesh, we can expect our flesh to be overpowering.  Yet when we feed our spirit the good things of God, we can expect to see our spirit get stronger day by day.  (Gal 5:16) “Walk in the Spirit, and you shall not fulfill the lusts of the flesh.”

23 I beheld the earth, and indeed it was without form, and void; And the heavens, they had no light. 24 I beheld the mountains, and indeed they trembled, And all the hills moved back and forth. 25 I beheld, and indeed there was no man, And all the birds of the heavens had fled. 26 I beheld, and indeed the fruitful land was a wilderness, And all its cities were broken down At the presence of the LORD, By His fierce anger.

  • The speaker is Jeremiah again, and he sees something that truly blows his mind.  He had already witnessed (prophetically) the destruction of Jerusalem.  How extensive did that destruction turn out to be?  It was so bad it was as if the earth had rolled back the days until Creation.  Jeremiah echoes the words of Genesis 1, not seeing the actual creation of the earth, but seeing what had already been established by God revert backwards.  All the fruitfulness and prosperity of the land was gone.  Not only were the cities broken down, but the very animal life and mountains seemed to roll back to their very foundations.  The things Jeremiah witnessed made him think the land was to be utterly destroyed by God – pulled back to a place where it was like Israel and Judah never existed in the first place.
  • God modifies Jeremiah’s conclusions somewhat in vs. 27…
  • Certainty of God’s judgment (vss. 27-31)

27 For thus says the LORD: “The whole land shall be desolate; Yet I will not make a full end. 28 For this shall the earth mourn, And the heavens above be black, Because I have spoken. I have purposed and will not relent, Nor will I turn back from it. 29 The whole city shall flee from the noise of the horsemen and bowmen. They shall go into thickets and climb up on the rocks. Every city shall be forsaken, And not a man shall dwell in it.

  • The desolation would come, but it wouldn’t be total. God told the prophet, “Yet I will not make a full end.”  It might certainly seem that way – the “heavens” would grow black from the smoke of the fires of the army.  The invasion would be so encompassing, that people would “flee” from their cities.  They would run from their homes and attempt to hide in the “rocks.”  That’s not quite reverting things back to the days of creation, but it is reverting the land back to the days prior to the Hebrews indwelling it.  Just as Joshua and the Hebrews drove out the Canaanites, Amorites, Hittites, etc., so would the Babylonians now drive out the Hebrews.  They would come in with a military fierceness against the Jews, supernaturally empowered by the God of the Jews, and nothing the Jews did would be able to stand against them.
  • As much as God did not want to do this, He definitely would do it. “Because I have spoken.  I have purposed and will not relent, nor will I turn back from it.”  He had repeatedly pleaded with the people to turn from their wickedness in order that they would be saved, but because they would not, God would not turn from His judgment.  What God said would happen, would indeed happen.  These things would come to pass, and they would be just as severe as what God promised. 
    • This is all part of the faithfulness of God.  We speak of God being unchanging (the theological word being “immutable.”), in that His character never wavers or changes.  God does not ebb & flow with the times – He doesn’t change His standards based on the current polls of the day.  That is true regarding His character, and it is true regarding His judgment and word.  What God has spoken, God will do.  God is absolutely faithful to every word He has given.  That’s often a promise in which we rejoice (rightfully so!) – but it’s also a promise that might be somewhat sobering.  After all, if God is faithful in His promises of deliverance, then we can be sure God is also faithful in His promises of judgment.  God spoke just as certainly of heaven as He has of hell.  When the Bible says that it is appointed every man once to die, and then face the judgment (Heb 9:27), there isn’t a “maybe” or “perhaps” with this; it is the certain truth.  God said it – He purposed it – and it is something from He will not relent.
    • Yet again, this is true regarding God’s promises of salvation as well.  It is because God’s promise of judgment is so certain, that we can rejoice in God’s promise of salvation.  If God was “iffy” regarding judgment, then Jesus wouldn’t be necessary.  Why send His Son as a Savior, if people may or may not face the judgment of God without Him?  Why would someone even want to surrender their lives to Jesus, if Jesus wasn’t necessary?  After all, if there was a possibility God might overlook your sin, or if you could simply make up the difference, or if God just wouldn’t care – what purpose would Jesus serve?  He wouldn’t be necessary at all.  Yet because God IS immutable in His promise to judge, the good news of Jesus becomes so incredibly good.  He then is our only hope, and likewise, He is our trusted hope.  Why?  Because God has purposed, and He does not relent.  Praise God that He will not relent from His promise to save!
  • So God made it plain to the Jews what He would do in judgment.  He told of how the invaders would come & bring desolation to the land, plundering the people because of their adulterous idolatry away from God.  What would be their reaction to this?  It ought to be heartfelt repentance, but it is not.  See vs. 30…

30 “And when you are plundered, What will you do? Though you clothe yourself with crimson, Though you adorn yourself with ornaments of gold, Though you enlarge your eyes with paint, In vain you will make yourself fair; Your lovers will despise you; They will seek your life.

  • The Jews don’t repent; they do the opposite!  Instead of turning away from their idolatry, they double down in it.  The picture God paints is of a harlot preparing herself to start attracting business for herself.  Instead of running from the practice of harlotry (idolatry), Judah would engage in it even more.  Historically, the nation would seek after more false gods, and incorporate even more pagan practices into its worship.  After the last great revival in Judah under King Josiah came a succession of 4 kings, of which every one is written, “he did evil in the sight of the Lord, according to all that his fathers had done.” (2 Kings 23:32, 37, 24:9, 19)  Despite the encroaches of Egypt and the repeated raids of the Babylonians, the Jews did not once turn in repentance back to God.  It didn’t matter what false gods they worshipped, or what foreign alliances they attempted to make, it was all “in vain.
  • How sad is it that even after God’s continual call for Judah to repent, they still willingly chose to remain in their sin, and thus chose to receive the judgment of God?  Yet isn’t that what we sometimes do as well?  God makes it clear to us what we ought to do, and the Holy Spirit brings conviction to our heart when we’re about to engage in temptation – and then we go ahead and do it anyway.  Jesus does call us, but do we listen?  Listen!  Obey!  The consequences that will come into our lives are the very things that God would spare us from, if we would but heed His voice.

31 “For I have heard a voice as of a woman in labor, The anguish as of her who brings forth her first child, The voice of the daughter of Zion bewailing herself; She spreads her hands, saying, ‘Woe is me now, for my soul is weary Because of murderers!’

  • There is sorrow here, but there is no repentance.  Jerusalem will wail and mourn, crying out of her weariness because of the “murderers” within her.  Yet to whom does she cry?  There’s no indication here that Zion has turned back to the Living God.  She is sorrowful, but it is a worldly sorrow that has brought her to despair; not a Godly sorrow that would bring her to repentance.
  • People can complain about their circumstances, but the question is what will they do about them?  God would allow all of this to come to Judah for the specific purpose of causing them to repent…and it still wouldn’t be enough.  As bad as the Babylonian invasion was, it would not be sufficient to bring the nation to their knees in repentance seeking the Lord’s forgiveness.
  • The same thing can be said of the coming period of the Great Tribulation.  During that time, it will be absolutely clear that the tragedies happening around the earth are a part of the wrath of God.  And yet many will continue to choose to harden their hearts.  They will wail & mourn, but they will not humble themselves and turn in faith.  It is astoundingly tragic, and a sad commentary of our human love of sin.
  • That’s the past & the future, but the same idea is also true today.  Even among those who claim to be Christian, there are people who will sorrow over the consequences of sin, but not sorrow enough to turn to God in humility and repentance.  What will it take?  We don’t want to push God to the limit in order to find out!

Conclusion:
It is a heavy word for the people of Judah, but it is a necessary one.  God was giving them a clear opportunity to repent.  He repeatedly invited them to forsake their idolatry & other sin, and to humbly turn back to Him in faith.  If they did, God promised salvation.  If they didn’t, God promised judgment.  It’s a clear choice, and the Jews clearly chose the wrong option.  They decided to grow in their knowledge of evil, and test the promises of God.  What they learned is that God’s word would be true, no matter what.

For some, God has been weighing on you about a sin in your life which you’ve been unwilling to release.  You may have skated by in the past, and you’re trusting that God would never allow the consequences of that sin to come to fruition in your life.  You need to know that this has not been due to the ignorance or apathy of God, but His mercies.  If you continue to provoke God, you can be sure God will bring His discipline.  Don’t test God!  God will always be faithful to His word – even the words of holy judgment.

For others, you might be in the place of Jeremiah.  You’ve been watching loved ones continue to engage in unabated sin, and you don’t know when the “hammer” is going to fall.  Or you (like others) have been heartbroken over the state of our nation, knowing that eventually God will judge our country for the disdain it has shown to the One who had so previously blessed us.  Beloved, our trust is in the Lord God.  What God does is righteous, because He is righteous.  In the meantime, don’t become weary in well-doing.  Continue to preach the gospel of repentance – continue to seek the Lord in humble prayer – continue to intercede on behalf of our nation.  Perhaps we might see one more great revival sweep over our land before the end.

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