Pushing God to the Limits

Posted: March 30, 2014 in Jeremiah

Jeremiah 5, “Pushing God to the Limits”

Everyone has button-pushers in their lives – the type of person that continually pushes your buttons until you can’t help but do or say something.  (Most of the time, it’s something that we end up regretting!)  We just get to a point that we’re pushed to the edge, and we’ve got to act.

Of course it’s likely in our cases that our reactions are often overblown & don’t really fit what has taken place.  In the arena of criminal justice, hopefully the laws are written so that precisely the right action is taken in response to the circumstance.  Human justice will always fall short in some areas, but this is at least the ideal.

Thankfully the justice of God is always ideal.  It is absolutely perfect.  What God does in response to sin is exactly what needs to be done.  It’s true that God is abundant in His mercies, and He gives us opportunity after opportunity to repent.  Every morning we awake is a new opportunity to experience the mercy of God, and to turn to Him in humble repentance.  Yet for many people, they never respond to the mercies of God.  They push & push, and eventually they get to the place where God must act.

In those cases, how can He NOT punish?  There comes a point when justice demands that action MUST be taken.  There comes a time when not taking action against sin is just as unjust as the sin itself.  If a murder remained unsolved simply because the investigator refused to take up the case, that would only be adding a crime on top of the crime that was committed.  Because God is supremely righteous, He MUST act in the face of sin.  And if that means God has to punish His own people for their continued sin, then so be it.

That was the case among Judah.  They had pushed God to extremes.  They chose to willfully defy the God who called them and preserved them as a nation, and despite God’s repeated appeals to them, they refused to repent.  They forced God to act, and that’s exactly what He promised to do.

Jeremiah 5

  • Judah’s persistent foolish rebellion against God (vss. 1-6)

1 “Run to and fro through the streets of Jerusalem; See now and know; And seek in her open places If you can find a man, If there is anyone who executes judgment, Who seeks the truth, And I will pardon her. 2 Though they say, ‘As the LORD lives,’ Surely they swear falsely.”

  • God puts forth a challenge to Jeremiah: go into the city of Jerusalem & see if there is just one righteous man that can be found.  If so, He would spare the city from judgment – He would “pardon” them.  It’s reminiscent of when Abraham appealed to God on behalf of Sodom, when his nephew Lot was living among them.  God had revealed to Abraham His plan to destroy the city, and Abraham trusted beyond a shadow of a doubt that the Judge of all the earth would surely do what was right (Gen 18:25).  Abraham first pleaded for mercy on behalf of the entire city, if only 50 righteous people could be found within it.  From there, Abraham kept asking for less and less people, to the point where he finally asked if God would show mercy to all for the sake of 10.  Sadly there were not even 10 righteous people to be found in Sodom, but God continued to demonstrate His mercy as He sent His angels to save the family of Lot alone (and not all of them went out with Lot).  All in all, God’s desire to show mercy is evident throughout.  He was fully prepared to destroy the city because of their sin – that was the just punishment that was due them.  Yet God’s clear desire was for them to live.  He was ready to respond to anyone righteous who would turn to Him in faith.
    • God’s desire is always for mercy.  When we do not experience the mercy of God, we can be sure that it wasn’t because God never offered it; it’s because we never responded to it!
  • With Jerusalem, the desire for mercy is even more evident.  Here, God tells Jeremiah that He would spare the entire city, not for the sake of 10, but for the sake of one.  If only one person could be found “who executes judgment, who seeks the truth,” then God would “pardon.”  Obviously God is not proclaiming a type of humanistic moralism, in which the grace of God is not required.  The man who executes judgment would be one who stands up for the righteous judgments of God, as revealed in the Scripture.  The person who would seek the truth, would be seeking the Living God Himself (as Jesus is the way, the TRUTH, and the life – Jn 14:6).  IOW, the person that God was looking for was a person that worshipped God in spirit and truth: someone who did more than just speak the right words with his/her lips, but whose life reflected the truth of the Living God.
  • The problem was that there wasn’t even one.  Even though many in Jerusalem could agree with the right words, they lied about their belief.  They could say “As the LORD lives,” speaking out the right doctrine of the Covenant God of Israel (the I AM) forever living as God alone, the oath they swore was false.  Their words meant nothing because they had no true faith behind them backing them up.  The city of God (Jerusalem) was bereft of anyone who truly worshipped God, and that fact sealed their fate unto judgment.
    • Question: what about Jeremiah & his scribe Baruch?  Obviously they did indeed seek the Lord, but that’s not who the Lord was talking about.  Of course they would have been considered two righteous people living in Jerusalem, but God wasn’t referring to His prophets; He was referring to the people.  There was no one in the general population that feared & served God.  Keep in mind that this is Jerusalem.  Of all the nations of the world, the people who ought to have worshipped God were the Jews.  Of all the cities in Judah, the one city that ought to have had the most worshippers was Jerusalem, being the city in which the temple of God was.  And yet there was no one.  God had given them every advantage, and yet they were just as godless as the rest of the nations of the earth.
    • So much of that could be said of our own nation, as well.  God has given us incredible advantages among the nations of the world.  We have had more freedom to proclaim the gospel than any other nation in history.  We have come from a Godly heritage.  We were founded upon Christian principles.  And what have we done?  As a whole, our nation has left it all behind.  We’ve become just as godless as the nations our forefathers left behind.
    • Beyond national sins, there’s much to be said to the individual here as well.  Can any be found who seek the Lord in Spirit & truth?  Not outside of Jesus Christ.  Before anyone knows the grace of Jesus, all we seek is our own sinful pleasures.  As the psalmist (and Paul to the Romans) writes, “there is none righteous, no not one.” (Rom 3:10)  Outside of the grace of Jesus, we ALL face the deserved judgment of God!

3 O LORD, are not Your eyes on the truth? You have stricken them, But they have not grieved; You have consumed them, But they have refused to receive correction. They have made their faces harder than rock; They have refused to return.

  • They had “refused” the correction of God.  They chose not to repent, though God had continually reached out to them.  Objection: “God ‘consuming’ and ‘striking’ the people sure doesn’t sound like an outreach!”  Of course it is.  When a parent spanks his/her child, it’s not because the parent gets joy out of it – if anything, spanking their child is usually the very last resort that a loving parent wants to go to.  Yet it’s done when it is the only way to get the child’s attention, and to underscore the severity of their rebellion.  God had punished His people in the past, not because God enjoyed punishing them but in order that they would turn in repentance.  God wanted them to understand the severity of their sin, and they never did.  They steadfastly chose to harden their hearts, and to refuse to return to God in repentance.
  • We need to remember that whenever God allows us to be disciplined, it is because He loves us and that He desires the very best for us.  God’s discipline towards us is an indication that we are His children.  Hebrews 12:5–7, "(5) And you have forgotten the exhortation which speaks to you as to sons: “My son, do not despise the chastening of the LORD, Nor be discouraged when you are rebuked by Him; (6) For whom the LORD loves He chastens, And scourges every son whom He receives.” (7) If you endure chastening, God deals with you as with sons; for what son is there whom a father does not chasten?" []  It is not the times of chastening from the Lord that we need to worry about; it is when we are engaged in ongoing sin and we DON’T experience the loving discipline of God!  Thank God that He loves us enough to reach out to us in discipline, when necessary.

4 Therefore I said, “Surely these are poor. They are foolish; For they do not know the way of the LORD, The judgment of their God. 5 I will go to the great men and speak to them, For they have known the way of the LORD, The judgment of their God.” But these have altogether broken the yoke And burst the bonds.

  • Jeremiah thought he needed a change in strategy.  At first, he had gone to the general population, but that wasn’t working.  Among the “poor,” he found only ignorance about God.  That in itself is a pretty sad statement.  The LORD God was “their God,” but they knew nothing about Him.  They were foolish.  Keep in mind, it wasn’t as if they did not have an opportunity to learn about the God they claimed to worship – they just didn’t do it.  They didn’t take advantages of the opportunities they had.
  • Instead of going to the poor, Jeremiah tried going to the elite – the “great men and speak to them.”  He went to those who would have received more theological education, and who ought to have known better.  Yet they were just as unfaithful.  They had “broken the yoke” of their covenant with God.  These were people who specifically knew the law & the Scripture, but they chose to ignore it.
    • Sadly even today there are men and women who are educated in theology.  They have studied the Bible, and they can quote doctrine – yet they choose to ignore the clear teaching of Scripture in order to support their personal preferences.
  • The point?  All had sinned and turned away from God.  As a result, they would all be destroyed.  See vs. 6…

6 Therefore a lion from the forest shall slay them, A wolf of the deserts shall destroy them; A leopard will watch over their cities. Everyone who goes out from there shall be torn in pieces, Because their transgressions are many; Their backslidings have increased.

  • Whatever animal is pictured, each is a danger to men.  No one would want to face a “lion…wolf…leopard” in the street, yet that is how Judah’s conqueror is described.  This is Babylon, and God would bring them out as a wild animal to wreak havoc upon Jerusalem.
  • Note that God gives the reason why.  “Because their transgressions are many; Their backslidings have increased.”  Much had already been said about their sins – but what is striking is that their sins were growing.  It wasn’t that they had sinned a few times & fallen into apathy; it’s that once their cycle of sin began, it became worse and worse as time went on. Once they started walking away from the Lord in their “backsliding,” they kept walking further & further.
    • Left unchecked without repentance, that’s exactly the way sin is in all of our lives.  No one ever just sins once and goes about his/her life.  We sin, and then we sin some more & more.  Eventually that first sin isn’t enough to satisfy, and we engage in a deeper version of that sin, and things increase to a worse and worse level. The same idea is true when we start to pick & choose what we want to uphold from the Bible.  Once we start walking away from the Scripture, we’re going to keep walking away.
    • What’s needed is radical repentance!  That’s why Jesus talked about it in terms that He did: physical amputation.  Whatever is causing us to sin, cut it off – get rid of it.  Do what it takes to carry your repentance through from your heart to your hands.
  • God’s justice demands judgment #1 (vss. 7-13)

7 “How shall I pardon you for this? Your children have forsaken Me And sworn by those that are not gods. When I had fed them to the full, Then they committed adultery And assembled themselves by troops in the harlots’ houses. 8 They were like well-fed lusty stallions; Every one neighed after his neighbor’s wife. 9 Shall I not punish them for these things?” says the LORD. “And shall I not avenge Myself on such a nation as this?

  • God’s question in vs. 7 is sobering, but logical.  How could He “pardon” Jerusalem for these things?  How could He simply look over their crimes?  His desire was for mercy, but He couldn’t give it flippantly.  They had sinned terribly against Him, and God cannot ignore sin.  God has to punish sin, if only because He is righteous.  A judge who ignores crimes is not a righteous judge, and God is eternally righteous.
    • Even in the case of our salvation, God does not ignore sin.  Never think that because we experience the grace of God through Jesus that God has ignored our sin.  That is precisely the point of the cross!  The cross is the proof that God has not ignored our sin.  There is indeed a terrible price paid for our punishment – it’s just that we did not pay it; Jesus did. …
  • What had the Jews done?  Primarily, they had worshipped other gods in lustful idolatry.  It’s possible that God speaks literally of sexual adultery here, but it’s more likely that He is using a symbolic reference to idolatry.  Vs. 7 speaks of how the people swore “by those that are not gods,” and then He goes on to describe this action as “adultery” & acting “like well-fed lusty stallions.”  Sexual fornication is a common picture of idolatry in the Scripture, appropriately so in that it describes the people of God “cheating” on the one God they ought to have worshipped.  It was their idolatry that opened the door to a whole range of other sins, and no doubt sexual perversion would have been part of it.  Historically speaking, the cults of Baal and Asherah often used sexual acts in their pagan worship, so it is no wonder that God ties idolatry with sexual practice here.
  • In light of all of this, God had to do something.  Vs. 9 reiterates the point & question from vs. 7.  God HAD to act.  Surely He would have (and did) punish other nations for abominable practices of idolatry.  The very nations that had been conquered by Israel as God gave Israel the land of Promise were nations that were judged for their idolatrous sins.  If God had punished them, how could God possibly neglect the idolatry that was among His own people?

10 “Go up on her walls and destroy, But do not make a complete end. Take away her branches, For they are not the LORD’s.

  • Even in the midst of destruction and judgment, there was mercy.  God told Babylon to “destroy” Jerusalem, but not to “make a complete end” of the people.  There would be a remnant.  It may have been virtually non-existent at this point (after all, there wasn’t one righteous person in Jerusalem outside of Jeremiah & Baruch), but God would ensure that when the time came for the Babylonian invasion that there would be at least some people who served as a faithful remnant of the Jews.  They would preserve the faith and the true worship of God.  There is always a remnant, and it is a testimony to the grace of God!
  • However, a remnant is ONLY a remnant.  Overall, there would be much destruction.  Just as Jesus said that every branch that does not abide in Him would be cut off and burned (Jn 15:6), so did God tell Babylon to prune the branches of Israel and Judah.  They may have been among Israel, but they certainly did not act like they belonged to the Lord. 
    • Keep in mind that not all Israel is Israel (Rom 9:6).  Just because someone is born a Jew doesn’t mean that they have a heart that seeks after God.  John the Baptist made that clear when preaching to the multitudes when he told them that they shouldn’t take too much pride in their birth; God could raise up children of Abraham from the stones (Mt 3:9).  What God was looking for was not a ritualistic Jew, but a person who truly sought to worship Him.  True Jews are circumcised in the heart, and not just the flesh (Rom 2:29).
    • Likewise with Christians.  Just because someone calls themselves a Christian doesn’t mean they are a Christian.  We do not have salvation because we signed a card, or prayed a prayer, or walked an aisle at church, etc. – those things are merely responses to the invitation to be saved.  Without true life-transforming faith in Jesus Christ, we do not have salvation!  When someone truly places his/her faith in Christ, that’s when his heart is changed, and they experience the new birth of the Holy Spirit.  Without that, their words are just words.

11 For the house of Israel and the house of Judah Have dealt very treacherously with Me,” says the LORD. 12 They have lied about the LORD, And said, “It is not He. Neither will evil come upon us, Nor shall we see sword or famine. 13 And the prophets become wind, For the word is not in them. Thus shall it be done to them.”

  • The proof that Israel’s words were just words?  They had been treacherous & “lied about the Lord.”  They had dealt deceitfully in their faith towards God, and also in their description of God. 
  • First, they lied about God Himself. “It is not He.”  They denied that all the troubles they experienced was indeed from the Lord.  They could not bring themselves to believe that God was actually punishing them as a people, despite all the warnings God had given them through the prophets.
  • Second, they lied about God’s word. God had promised “sword and famine,” and yet the false “prophets” lied and said specifically that God would not send them.  In response, God basically labels them as “windbags,” because whatever it was they said, it certainly was not the truth of God.
    • God takes His word seriously!  We dare not add to it, nor take away from it.
  • Description of the coming judgment (vss. 14-19)

14 Therefore thus says the LORD God of hosts: “Because you speak this word, Behold, I will make My words in your mouth fire, And this people wood, And it shall devour them.

  • In contrast to the empty words of wind from the false prophets, God promised a word of “fire” that would “devour” the people.  They had ignored, disbelieved, and even lied about God’s word in the past – but they would learn otherwise!  God would show them how true and effective His word is.  What God says that He will do, He will do – despite how much some might try to deny it.
  • This is true regarding all of the promises of God.  Some have mocked at the idea of Jesus’ return.  After all, He’s been gone for 2000 years.  Yet God is faithful to His promise!  There ought to be no doubt that Jesus is coming back because God is not lazy regarding the things He says that He will do. (2 Peter 3:9)
  • BTW – how could the word of God “devour” anyone?  Because the word of God is alive.  It is living & powerful, sharper than any two-edged sword (Heb 4:12).  It will pierce us to the heart, when necessary, and it can slice out sin in our lives more accurately than any surgical scalpel.  We can submit ourselves to the authority of God’s word, and experience the healing that God brings through it, or we can rebel against its authority in our lives & experience the smiting of our conscience.
  • In the case of Judah, God’s word was a specific promise of Babylon coming in as a destroyer.  The false prophets lied and said that God would not bring a sword, but God goes on to specifically describe the sword that is coming to them.  See vs. 15…

15 Behold, I will bring a nation against you from afar, O house of Israel,” says the LORD. “It is a mighty nation, It is an ancient nation, A nation whose language you do not know, Nor can you understand what they say. 16 Their quiver is like an open tomb; They are all mighty men. 17 And they shall eat up your harvest and your bread, Which your sons and daughters should eat. They shall eat up your flocks and your herds; They shall eat up your vines and your fig trees; They shall destroy your fortified cities, In which you trust, with the sword.

  • Babylon is described as a foreign nation, but a powerful nation, and one that would greatly oppress the Jews.  They would take for themselves everything that the Jews produced.  Just as the ancient Hebrews had inherited houses they did not build & vineyards they did not plant, so would the Babylonians take these same things from the Jews.  All of the blessings that the Jews ought to have enjoyed for the Lord would be given into the hands of foreigners – complete pagans who knew nothing of God, but were being used by God nonetheless.
  • Keep in mind that none of this ought to have been a surprise.  Jeremiah was not delivering new news to the Jews; he was simply to reiterate what had been given to them centuries earlier through Moses.  Deuteronomy 28:49–51, "(49) The LORD will bring a nation against you from afar, from the end of the earth, as swift as the eagle flies, a nation whose language you will not understand, (50) a nation of fierce countenance, which does not respect the elderly nor show favor to the young. (51) And they shall eat the increase of your livestock and the produce of your land, until you are destroyed; they shall not leave you grain or new wine or oil, or the increase of your cattle or the offspring of your flocks, until they have destroyed you." []  This what God said that He would do…did the people honestly think that God wouldn’t do it?  When God promises to judge, He will judge.  (And we must ALL face the judgment of God!)
  • What the Jews would lose was monumental: harvests, flocks, land, cities, etc.  These were blessings they could have experienced, yet willingly gave it up because they chose to pursue sin instead.  What is it that we willingly (if unknowingly) give up in our own pursuit of sin?  Be sure to count the cost!  (Hint: it’s never worth it!)

18 “Nevertheless in those days,” says the LORD, “I will not make a complete end of you. 19 And it will be when you say, ‘Why does the LORD our God do all these things to us?’ then you shall answer them, ‘Just as you have forsaken Me and served foreign gods in your land, so you shall serve aliens in a land that is not yours.’

  • As in verse 10, God promises that there would be remnant.  There is no doubt that the nation would be fully conquered, but they would not be wiped from the face of the earth.  The people of God would endure.
    • The mere existence of the Jewish people is a testimony to the mercies and faithfulness of God.  What they endured ought to have swept them into the dustbin of history.  By all rights, the Jewish people ought to only be read about in history books, like every other people group that was conquered and dispersed from their ancestral homeland.  Yet they endure according to the promise of God.  That fact alone ought to make the most hardened skeptic reexamine the validity of the Bible!
  • Though they endure, they would still learn the terrible lesson that their suffering was their own fault.  Eventually they would come to the understanding that God had allowed in the Babylonians because they had “forsaken [God] and served foreign gods.
    • We have to come to grips with the reality of our sin if we are ever to turn from it.  As long as we believe that our sin isn’t really sinful, then we have no reason ever to seek salvation.
  • God’s justice demands judgment #2 (vss. 20-31)

20 “Declare this in the house of Jacob And proclaim it in Judah, saying, 21 ‘Hear this now, O foolish people, Without understanding, Who have eyes and see not, And who have ears and hear not:

  • To all the house of Israel (Jacob & Judah), God is about to address their sin & His obligation to punish them.  Yet notice how the people are described: “without understanding.”  They have eyes that are unused, and ears that are ineffective.  IOW, they had every means and opportunity to understand the word of God, but they were without understanding – they were truly “foolish.”  They had sinned against the Lord, and truly they were a people without excuse.  They could not claim ignorance, as God had given them every opportunity to understand His will and to seek Him in humble repentance.

22 Do you not fear Me?’ says the LORD. ‘Will you not tremble at My presence, Who have placed the sand as the bound of the sea, By a perpetual decree, that it cannot pass beyond it? And though its waves toss to and fro, Yet they cannot prevail; Though they roar, yet they cannot pass over it. 23 But this people has a defiant and rebellious heart; They have revolted and departed.

  • There is terrible irony in the fact that creation bows to the will of its Creator, but the special people of God rebel against the God who called them and loved them.  We can hear the plea in God’s question: “Do you not fear Me?”  How foolish it is to ignore the Living God!  To fear God is to reverence Him & worship Him – to not fear God is to cast Him aside as irrelevant.  Yet think about the God that is being ignored.  This is the God who set the boundaries of the ocean…this is the All-Powerful Creator God.  Who would NOT “tremble at [His] presence”?  How could anyone think of provoking this God to wrath? 
  • And yet that is what Israel/Judah did.  They chose their rebellion.  To be labeled as “defiant,” and to have “revolted,” is to say that this was a willful choice.  After all, someone can sin out of ignorance or apathy – but defiance is something different.  You can only defy someone in knowledge.  The whole idea here is that Israel knew what it was they were doing, and they did it anyway.

24 They do not say in their heart, “Let us now fear the LORD our God, Who gives rain, both the former and the latter, in its season. He reserves for us the appointed weeks of the harvest.” 25 Your iniquities have turned these things away, And your sins have withheld good from you.

  • In vs. 17, God spoke of the blessings that the Babylonians would take from the Jews.  In vs. 24, God reminds them of the blessings that He Himself would restrain from the Jews.  God could have blessed them with the right kinds of seasonal weather for them to grow their crops.  Apart from modern irrigation methods, the physical land of Israel is highly dependent upon favorable weather for farming to flourish.  Yet here the nation was, provoking to wrath the very God who controlled weather.  Keep in mind that the weather patterns were something that were included in God’s original covenant with the Hebrews.  He specifically promised to bless them with rain when they lived in obedience, and to withhold the rain when they rebelled (Deut 28:12).  God is simply being true to His word.
  • Also, this is another rebuttal to the false prophets of vs. 11.  Not only had they denied that God would bring the sword to Jerusalem, but they said that God would not bring famine.  In vss. 24-25, God directly denies their claims.  The people could have had good rains, but because of their “sins,” the physical blessings of the land would be “withheld” from them.
  • Again, it reiterates the point that they had chosen these things for themselves.  They had willingly given up the blessings of God, thinking that what they could gain on their own would be better.  Instead, they would find it was far worse!
    • What can the world offer us that could possibly be more valuable than the things of God?  What temporary pleasures make sin seem like it’s worth it?  Nothing is worth the cost of missing out on the blessings of the Lord!

26 ‘For among My people are found wicked men; They lie in wait as one who sets snares; They set a trap; They catch men. 27 As a cage is full of birds, So their houses are full of deceit. Therefore they have become great and grown rich. 28 They have grown fat, they are sleek; Yes, they surpass the deeds of the wicked; They do not plead the cause, The cause of the fatherless; Yet they prosper, And the right of the needy they do not defend.

  • God had detailed the idolatry of the people earlier, but their sins ranged far beyond idolatry.  Out of their idolatry came a host of wicked practices.
    • They were violent towards men
    • They were deceitful
    • They were lazy & apathetic
    • They ignored injustice
  • How much of this sounds like a description of the people of God?  Nothing!  They were not acting as God’s special people; they were acting as His enemies.  The people of God ought to reflect the character of God.
  • And where does it all begin?  Idolatry.  When a people abandons God, there is nowhere else to go, but down.

29 Shall I not punish them for these things?’ says the LORD. ‘Shall I not avenge Myself on such a nation as this?’

  • God repeats the questions of vs. 9.  The nation had left God with no choice – He HAD to punish them out of His righteousness.  If they acted like the Gentiles, then God had to treat them as the Gentiles.
  • How far will God allow a nation to go before His hand is forced?  We don’t know, but neither do we want to find out!

30 “An astonishing and horrible thing Has been committed in the land: 31 The prophets prophesy falsely, And the priests rule by their own power; And My people love to have it so. But what will you do in the end?

  • The chapter ends with the reiteration of the falsehoods of the supposed representatives of God.  As bad as the people were, their leaders were even more evil.  They lied in the name of God – they ruled abusively and by their own decree, rather than by the written word of God.  And the people let them do it.  More than that, they loved it.  Instead of speaking up against the abuses of the prophets & priests, they embraced it.  It was a total abandonment of the truth of God as the nation embraced a show of religion rather than the true fear of God.  They were happy to have their religious leaders give them a good show & to tickle their ears with pious-sounding declarations, not caring that it wasn’t the actual word of God.
  • And what did it gain them?  Nothing.  God rightly asks the question, “But what will you do in the end?”  What would the people do when they were confronted with the REAL truth of God’s word?  What would they do when all of the things that God promised really came to pass?  All of the falsehoods that they had trusted in would come to nothing.  All of the false gods that they had embraced would be no help.  The things that the Jews loved would lead to their destruction.
    • It didn’t have to be that way!  They could have turned from their wicked ways & sought the Lord in spirit & truth.  Yet they chose their evil, and their evil would doom them.

Beloved, God cannot and will not ignore evil.  That’s something in which we readily rejoice when it comes to our world, because there is much injustice.  We love to see those who are evil get their comeuppance!  Yet the same truth can be rather sobering when it comes to our own nation, and specifically when it comes to us as individuals.

Judah had pushed God to His very limits.  God continually searched for a righteous man among the nation, but found none.  Eventually there came a time that God’s hand was forced to act.  If God had punished other nations for their idolatry and wickedness, then surely He had to do the same thing with the Jews.  After all, these were HIS people.  If He didn’t act in the face of their injustice, how could God be considered righteous & just at all?  The Jews forced His hand, and they willingly gave up the blessings that He desired for them.

We dare not do something similar.  On the one hand, we can rejoice that we have something that the ancient Jews did not: we have a covenant promise through the crucified and resurrected Lord Jesus Christ.  The final price for our sin has already been paid on our behalf, and we need not fear our destruction every time we trip up into sin.  At the same time, that does not give us a license to go off and do whatever it is we desire in our lusts.  As the people of God, bought with the blood of Jesus Christ, we have even MORE reason to live lives that are pleasing unto God.  We dare not provoke God to wrath, or trample the blood of Jesus underfoot, because we can be sure that God will not be lax in bringing discipline into our own lives.  It may be different than that of the Hebrews, but it will definitely be appropriate.

Think about what has already been paid on your behalf.  All of the wrath that Judah underwent is the same sort of wrath that Jesus took upon Himself at the cross.

Think about the blessings that we willingly give up when we walk in rebellion.  God has so much more for us than that.

God help us be a people that refuses to push Him to the limits.  May God help us recognize the times that we sin against Him, and then willingly & humbly turn at the first sign of God’s discipline.


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