Ignorance is NOT Bliss

Posted: April 10, 2014 in Jeremiah

Jeremiah 7:1-8:3, “Ignorance is NOT Bliss”

There is a difference between ignoring and ignorance, but not much. The cliche is often said that "Ignorance is bliss!" (which usually is NOT true), but what happens when someone is only ignorant because they have chosen to be ignorant? What about the times when a person has ignored the facts, in a conscious choice to remain ignorant? It’s hard to claim any bliss in that. That is something for which a person has responsibility, whether or not they choose to admit it.

Something similar was the case with the ancient Jews of rebellious Jerusalem. God had warned them repeatedly of the violent consequences of their sin (and would continue to warn them), but they chose to remain ignorant. They chose to shut their ears to the word of God, and as a result, they would face the wrath of God. They might have claimed that they never knew, but it would be a worthless excuse because God repeatedly told them. They simply chose to listen to lies instead of the truth.

Ignorance is not bliss when it comes to the Lord!  When the Lord’s warnings are ignored, it is to our own peril.

Jeremiah 7

  • The temple sermon: God’s warning to Jerusalem (vss. 1-15)

1 The word that came to Jeremiah from the LORD, saying, 2 “Stand in the gate of the LORD’s house, and proclaim there this word, and say, ‘Hear the word of the LORD, all you of Judah who enter in at these gates to worship the LORD!’ ”

  • Commonly thought to be the same sermon God told Jeremiah to deliver in Ch. 26.  King Josiah had been killed, Jehoahaz deposed, and Jehoiakim installed as king by order of Egypt’s Pharoah Necho.  If this was the same message, then it was at the beginning of Jehoiakim’s reign that God gave this word to Jeremiah (26:1).  That said, it was not uncommon for the prophets of God to be given the same message to proclaim many times.  It’s possible that Ch. 26 is a repeat of the message spoken earlier through the prophet in Ch. 7.  Josiah had been a good king “who turned to the Lord with all his heart,” (2 Kings 23:25), but by the time he came along, pagan idolatry had long since taken root among the people.  Josiah brought much reform, but the fact he needed to reform only underscores the idea that the people were engaged in ongoing idolatry – much of which is described along the same lines of the accusations in Jeremiah 7.  Even Josiah’s reforms were short-lived.  As soon as he died, Jehoahaz did evil in the sight of the Lord even over his short 3-month reign, and Jehoiakim picked up where he had left off.
  • The bottom line?  The people of God were sinning, and God would not leave them without a warning of judgment.  This was to be so clear to the people, that God sent Jeremiah to the gate of the temple to proclaim it.  John the Baptist was a voice crying in the wilderness; Jeremiah was a voice crying from the temple.  Remember that Jeremiah came from a priestly line (1:1) – the cry of a priest from the temple gates would have been sure to get some attention!
    • Sometimes people need to know “thus sayeth the Lord!”
  • To whom did Jeremiah speak? “All you of Judah who enter in at these gates to worship the LORD.”  It wasn’t just the leaders (the kings, advisors, and priests); it was all of Judah.  The whole nation was supposed to walk through those gates at various times of the year to worship God at the appointed feast times, and many did indeed go to Jerusalem as they were commanded.  Yet although they came in with the appearance of worshipping the Lord, that’s not what they did.  That will become plain later in the word from God.  They came in with a veneer of religion.  They came in with the appearance of worship, but what they really did was rebel and give their worship to false gods and idols.
    • God desires that our worship be sincere.

3 Thus says the LORD of hosts, the God of Israel: “Amend your ways and your doings, and I will cause you to dwell in this place. 4 Do not trust in these lying words, saying, ‘The temple of the LORD, the temple of the LORD, the temple of the LORD are these.’

  • What was the word?  It was a word of authority!  “Thus says the LORD of hosts, the God of Israel.”  Thus says Yahweh, the ever-existent One, the Commander of the heavenly armies, the Covenant-keeping God of Israel, the One who birthed the nation of Israel from the dust, redeemed it from slavery, and gave it the land of promise, the One in whom all of the hopes of the nation rests.  Thus says THAT God!  THAT God speaks through His prophet from the gates of the temple in the hearing of all Judah.  No doubt, that was a word that carried much authority!
  • What did the God of Israel say?  Change your ways!  Repent!  “Amend your ways and your doings.”  They needed to stop the things they had been doing, and start doing the things that God desired for them.  They were headed in the wrong direction, and they needed to turn around…and turn around quick.  They didn’t have much time left, as God has already decreed their captivity by the Babylonians (and would affirm it yet again in this chapter). 
  • Although their captivity was assured, God still reached out in His grace to them, giving them one more opportunity to be saved.  If they didn’t change, neither would their judgment – but if they DID change, they could avoid the terrible consequences.  (God will expand on this in vss. 5-7.)
  • One of the first things the nation was to stop (amend) was to stop their “trust in…lying words.”  Stop listening to false teaching – stop listening to the lies that came out of their own lips.  Stop thinking upon the lies that they were invincible simply because they were God’s people who lived in the city that had God’s temple.  It’s true that God had turned away enemies in the past (such as the Assyrians, during Sennacherib’s siege of Jerusalem), but it was GOD who turned away those enemies; not any “good luck” charm of the temple.  The people had come to think that it was the temple of God that had the power to deliver them, rather than the Living God.  If it was the temple building that had power, then it didn’t matter what the people actually did in obedience to God…all they needed to do was run to the building & do their rituals there.  This is the same sort of illogical thinking that caused the Israelites to take the Ark of the Covenant into battle with them.  They believed that it was the Ark that had power, rather than God.  Yet if God didn’t give victory, it didn’t matter if they had the Ark or not – which was demonstrated when God allowed the Ark to be taken by the Philistines (1 Sam 4).
    • The things of God are not good luck charms – they aren’t talismans.  It’s not the stuff and the rituals that deliver us; it’s the Living God alone.  HE has the power; not the trappings of religion.  We need to make sure our trust is in the right place! (The right Person!)

5 “For if you thoroughly amend your ways and your doings, if you thoroughly execute judgment between a man and his neighbor, 6 if you do not oppress the stranger, the fatherless, and the widow, and do not shed innocent blood in this place, or walk after other gods to your hurt, 7 then I will cause you to dwell in this place, in the land that I gave to your fathers forever and ever.

  • The first thing to stop was their false faith.  The second thing to stop was their blatant sin.  They had engaged in terrible sins, allowing injustice to run rampant in the kingdom.  Criminal courts were negligent – the weak and powerless were oppressed – people were murdered – idolatry was the norm.  How much of that sounds like a description of the people of God?  None!  God had called the Jews to a far higher standard – one that reflected His own holy character and nature.  The people of God were to look like the character of God, and that would be a witness to the world around them.  Would they be perfect?  Of course not.  But if they repented in humility and faith, then God would be faithful to restore them and maintain His relationship with them.  That is what was supposed to happen, but didn’t.  Instead the people dove into all kinds of sin, acting just the same as all the nations that surrounded them.  The people of God acted like the people of the world, and their witness of God was destroyed.
    • That’s always the case when God’s people engage in unrepentant sin.  Why would anyone of the world want to follow Christ, if Christians appear to be unchanged by the gospel of grace?  What reason would they have to give up their “fun,” if the gospel supposedly lacked any power to change?  That’s exactly the impression we give when we dive into sin.  It’s no wonder God is displeased!  And just as God brought His wrath upon the Jews, so will God discipline us.
  • Yet that’s not what God wanted.  God wanted His people to repent & to live!  He wanted to bless His people, and allow them to continue to “dwell…in the land” that He had given to their forefathers.  That was the opportunity they had in the past, and still would have in the future, if they but amended their ways in humble repentance.  They were approaching the point of no return, but (at least at this point) it was not too late.  The time to act was NOW; not to try to find out when “late” would be “too late.”
  • Note that this blessing was conditional.  God promised to give them the opportunity to dwell in the land forever, but they had to “thoroughly amend” their ways.  The choice was theirs whether to obey the Lord and receive His blessings, or to ignore Him and receive His punishment.  But it would be one or the other, no doubt.
    • On one hand, we can say that we do not have a conditional covenant with the Lord God through Jesus Christ.  He saves us by His grace, based upon Jesus’ work alone – nothing from us.  At the same time, there IS still a condition here: we have to come.  We do not experience the grace of Jesus if we never go to Jesus asking for it.  God does not universally save humanity; He gives the condition of repentance and faith.  And even beyond that, we still have a conditional choice of whether or not we walk in close fellowship with God.  God is available to His children at all times, but He will not force Himself upon us.  If we choose to ignore Him, we can be sure we will not experience the fullness of life that He makes available to us.  Praise God for His unconditional love towards us – but we cannot ignore the conditions that are needed for us to experience that love on a daily basis.
  • God details more of their sins starting in vs. 8…

8 “Behold, you trust in lying words that cannot profit. 9 Will you steal, murder, commit adultery, swear falsely, burn incense to Baal, and walk after other gods whom you do not know, 10 and then come and stand before Me in this house which is called by My name, and say, ‘We are delivered to do all these abominations’?

  • The “lying words” come up again.  Earlier, the false teaching was that the temple building would magically deliver the people from their enemies.  It’s a similar false teaching here.  They believed that they could do whatever they wanted as long as they walked into the temple afterwards to offer sacrifices.  Their false trust in the temple building gave them a cheap grace to go sin in abundance.  It’s not too different from Christians that believe that because Jesus died for their sins, that they can go off and sin in abandon.  After all, the price has been paid, right?  Why not sin in abundance?  As Paul would write to the Romans, “Certainly not!” (Rom 6:15)  We are servants of Jesus; not slaves of sin.  How then can we act as slaves of sin?  We are supposed to have died to those things of the past.  The grace of Jesus does not give us license to run to those things; He gives us forgiveness for the times in which we been stumbled by those things.  It may not sound like much, but there is a massive difference between the two!
  • What was it that the Jews of Jerusalem did?  They proceeded to break most (if not all) of the 10 Commandments.  The “lying words” in which they trusted gave them the supposed freedom to “steal, murder, commit adultery, swear falsely,” and worship false gods.  At the very minimum, they broke half of the 10 Commandments, and that’s by a conservative estimate.  Yet with all of this, they believed they had permission to do it!  They could come, stand in the house of God, and say “We are delivered to do [this].”  To borrow a Yiddish word, that takes a lot of chutzpah!  God never delivers us in order that we may sin; He delivers us that we may be free from sin.  The sin of a child of God is a grievous thing, no matter what it is.  It is something that cost the blood of Christ, and thus it is never something that can be taken lightly.

11 Has this house, which is called by My name, become a den of thieves in your eyes? Behold, I, even I, have seen it,” says the LORD.

  • How would God’s “house…become a den of thieves?”  Simple: it was the place the people ran to for cheap grace.  They were unrepentant from their sin, but they believed that as long as they came to offer a bit of sacrifice, and walked through their little rituals given to them by the priests, they were free to go out and do it all over again.  They never came in true sacrificial worship in order to repent and be changed; they came without any intent to change in the first place.  All they wanted was permission – if not from God, then at least from the farce of their temple worship.  They had lost the fear of God in their hearts, and it showed in their lack of respect towards Him.
    • How many times have we done the same thing?  Some people go to their pastors or priests for absolution from their sins.  They have a little ritual they go through, and then run out to do it all over again.  Others feel a bit of nagging guilt, lie their way through an accountability group, and go off into the sin all over again.  There is no reverence of God in that.  There is no true fear of God, that would keep us from sinning against Him.  Be careful of that kind of callousness…it kills.
  • If the phrase sounds familiar, it’s because Jesus quoted this when cleansing the temple prior to His arrest and crucifixion.  Matthew 21:12–13, "(12) Then Jesus went into the temple of God and drove out all those who bought and sold in the temple, and overturned the tables of the money changers and the seats of those who sold doves. (13) And He said to them, “It is written, ‘My house shall be called a house of prayer,’ but you have made it a ‘den of thieves.’ ”" []  The context may be different, but the underlying sin was similar.  The priests had lost their fear of the Lord, and they oppressed the people, charging high fees for the people to come and offer their worship to God.  They may have been able to write it off in their own minds as a ‘justified’ religious expense, but God wasn’t fooled.  He saw it, and it rightly angered Him.

12 “But go now to My place which was in Shiloh, where I set My name at the first, and see what I did to it because of the wickedness of My people Israel.

  • Why “Shiloh?”  This was the place where the tent of meeting (the tabernacle) stood for years prior to the construction of the temple.  The Ark of the Covenant was housed there until the time that the Israelites took it to battle against the Philistines, where it was captured.  The reason Shiloh could serve as a warning is because apparently it didn’t exist any longer!  When God told the people to go to Shiloh, He was telling them to go 18 miles north to a ghost town.  Although the Bible never directly tells us of the destruction of Shiloh, archaeological evidence shows a devastating battle had taken place there, during the era of the Philistines, just prior to the Hebrew Kingdom.
  • The psalms seem to reference this.  After the people tested & provoked God by their repeated idolatry (during the days of the judges), God moved in His wrath.  Psalm 78:59–64, "(59) When God heard this, He was furious, And greatly abhorred Israel, (60) So that He forsook the tabernacle of Shiloh, The tent He had placed among men, (61) And delivered His strength into captivity, And His glory into the enemy’s hand. (62) He also gave His people over to the sword, And was furious with His inheritance. (63) The fire consumed their young men, And their maidens were not given in marriage. (64) Their priests fell by the sword, And their widows made no lamentation." []  God withdrew His protection of Shiloh, despite that being the city in which the Ark had rested, and the psalm describes a terrible destruction that followed.
  • Here’s the point: if the previous resting place of the Ark had not been protected by the “good luck” charm of the Ark or Tabernacle, what would make the current resting place (Jerusalem) be any different?  God told them to look at what He did before, and consider what He would allow to happen to them.

13 And now, because you have done all these works,” says the LORD, “and I spoke to you, rising up early and speaking, but you did not hear, and I called you, but you did not answer, 14 therefore I will do to the house which is called by My name, in which you trust, and to this place which I gave to you and your fathers, as I have done to Shiloh. 15 And I will cast you out of My sight, as I have cast out all your brethren—the whole posterity of Ephraim.

  • The city of Shiloh was actually located in what later became the northern kingdom of Israel/Ephraim.  By this point in history, not only had Shiloh long been destroyed, but the entire northern kingdom had been conquered by the Assyrians.  God had warned the people in the north, and they ignored Him.  As a result, they experienced massive destruction.  The southern kingdom had the opportunity to learn the lesson from the north.  God would do the exact same thing to them, if they did not repent.
  • We can do things the easy way, or the hard way.  Sadly we too often choose the latter option.  God tells us clearly of the consequences that will come to us through our sin, and yet we ignore Him and wander off into it anyway. …
  • God provoked to wrath (vss. 16-19)

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.

  • This isn’t exactly something we’d expect to read in the Bible.  For all of the times that we are told TO pray, especially in making intercession for the lost, it is rare to find an instance that God tells someone NOT to pray.  Yet that is exactly what He told Jeremiah.  Although God had given the nation of Judah a legitimate opportunity to repent, He knew they would not do it.  And He did not want Jeremiah to waste words trying to change His mind.  God’s will was set, and nothing was going to change Him from it.  The best prayer from Jeremiah would be that “God’s will be done,” and it would be, as God gave His people over to judgment in the form of the Babylonian invasion.
  • So what do we take from this today?  Is it ever too late to pray for someone?  We know that it is never too late for them to repent – again, that is even what God appealed to Jerusalem to do back in vss. 5-7.  Yet it may be too late for God to withdraw His determined consequences.  Ultimately, we cannot know if it is too late for us to offer prayers to God as we intercede for someone, but it’s safe to say that we ought to pray as if it’s not too late.  There is a reason God’s instruction to Jeremiah stands out: it doesn’t happen very often!  Unless God tells you to stop praying, don’t!

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.

  • This is why God told Jeremiah to stop praying.  The people had totally given themselves over to idolatry, so God was giving them over to the consequences of their idolatry.  This wasn’t even something done in the secret places, with any sense of shame over their sin.  This was done in open, “in the streets of Jerusalem.
  • They prepared their sacrifices (presumably to be offered in the temple), but their sacrifices were not to be given to the Lord God of Israel, but to the false “queen of heaven” – a reference to the goddess known as Ishtar among the Assyrians & Babylonians, and known as Astarte among the Canaanites.  The cultic worship of Ishtar involved perverse acts, and cakes, sometimes made in her image or in the image of the stars in which she supposedly lived.  The whole idea is that the people of God were highly religious; but it was the wrong religion!  Instead of worshipping the Holy God at His Temple, they used the things of God to worship idols.  Instead of worshipping their Heavenly Father as King, they worshipped the pagan queen of heaven.
    • Interestingly (and sadly), this is the title sometimes given to Mary by the Roman Catholic church.  There is no doubt that Mary was greatly favored by God, and had the honor of being the physical human mother of Jesus, and of course Jesus is the King of kings.  Yet there is zero Biblical reason to elevate His mother as queen.  She has no more special place in heaven than any other born-again Christian.  She does not serve as a co-mediator with Jesus; Jesus is the only Mediator between God & Man.  To worship Mary is to commit idolatry – the same idolatry that is condemned here by God through Jeremiah.
  • The result of all this?  They provoked God to anger…and worse.  See vs. 19…

19 Do they provoke Me to anger?” says the LORD. “Do they not provoke themselves, to the shame of their own faces?”

  • It wasn’t just God; it was themselves.  They provoked God to anger, but “provoked themselves to…shame.”  They may have been influenced by the pagan cultures around them, but they could not blame their neighbors for their own pagan worship.  They did that for themselves.  Thus they brought the anger of God, and their own humiliation upon their own heads.
  • God’s ignored warnings (vss. 20-26)

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.”

  • Note the “therefore.”  In light of everything God revealed about their sin: their wanton idolatry, their false trust in religious buildings, their oppression of the weak, etc., God would pour out His anger and fury.  God had seen it all, and God would judge.  His judgment would be fierce, and it would be consuming.  Almost as a preview of the lake of fire in hell, God speaks of a fire that will “not be quenched” in reference to the fury that He would pour out upon the land.  This had been a land given by God, and it would be vindicated by God – even if that meant that His own people needed to be judged for their crimes.
  • Question: did God still love His people?  Undoubtedly!  But that would not stop His judgment.  His love for His people meant that He HAD to judge them.  He could not allow this depravity to continue.  If God did not rise up in His anger, they would have continued in their sin, and who knows how far they would have descended as they forgot about God?  There comes a point when it’s more merciful for God to act, rather than do nothing.  Like cutting out a cancerous tumor, the surgery is radical, but to do nothing is worse.  Sometimes God’s people need radical surgery, and He won’t hesitate to bring it in our lives.
    • The good news for the Christian is that it won’t come as a fire that will burn and never be quenched!  THAT kind of judgment has already been poured out upon Jesus for us.  We need not fear that.  Yet we dare not think that God won’t allow other discipline to come to us.  Don’t be deceived…God will not be mocked!

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.’

  • Objection: “God DID command His people about burnt offerings!”  True, but that wasn’t the first thing that God commanded His people.  The first word He have His people when He brought them to Mt. Sinai was about the 10 Commandments.  That had nothing to do with sacrifice, and everything to do with obedience.  The laws concerning sacrifice did not come until much later.  Yet it was sacrifice alone that the people were now focusing upon.  They brought all kinds of “burnt offerings” and sacrifices to the temple, as they looked to ritual to give them permission to engage in sin.  It may have been a sacrifice at the temple, but it wasn’t true worship.  In God’s eyes, it was just “meat.”  They could offer that all they wanted, but it wouldn’t accomplish anything.  Without humility & faith, which would be demonstrated through heartfelt obedience, all of their sacrifices would be worthless.
  • Ritual is never a substitute for obedience.  Be it prayer, or anything else…

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.

  • God had repeatedly called to His people, but they ignored Him.  Instead of moving “forward” in their relationship with God, they “went backward.”  They hadn’t listened to the Lord, but they had listened to their sinful hearts and temptations.  Guess which one they followed?  If we ignore the Lord, it ought to be no surprise when we start engaging in sin.  Neutrality isn’t really an option.
  • Forward or backward?  There’s usually movement in one direction or the other, and unrepentant sin guarantees moving backward. 

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.

  • God continued to call to them; they continued to rebel.  God had sent prophet after prophet, but every appeal from God was ignored.  He had given them the books of the OT, which were all but forgotten.  He had given them everything they needed to know, and they “stiffened their neck” against it.  The Hebrews had always been a stubborn people, but at this point, they had gone farther than anyone else had done in the past.  They had left God without a choice…He had to judge them.
  • God’s declaration of judgment (vss. 27-8:3)

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.

  • This would almost seem to be the theme of Jeremiah!  Jeremiah was the latest prophet raised up by God to appeal to the Jews to repent, but once again, they would not listen.  They would “nor obey the voice of the LORD their God nor receive correction.”  God had rightly judged them as rebels, and they would face the consequences as a result.
  • How much of this could also be said about our own nation?  American culture continues to walk backward away from Biblical truth and standards, and it refuses to receive the correction of the Lord.  Truth has perished as wrong is declared right, murder is declared choice, and more.  Apart from a miraculous humility and national repentance, can there be any doubt that America will soon experience the judgment of God?  If God did not spare Judah, what chance would a Gentile country like the USA have?

29 Cut off your hair and cast it away, 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. 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.

  • God tells Jeremiah to lament and mourn for the people.  God had rejected them…
  • Rightly so!  Just as God had earlier detailed some sins of the people, He details more false worship here.  This time, it’s not baking cakes to the queen of heaven, but offering human sacrifices to pagan gods.  Amazingly, the Jews had degenerated to the point that they took their own children and burned them alive in their idolatrous “worship.”  Worse yet, they seemed to have been under the impression that God actually commanded it!  God was abundantly clear in His word about how the practice was an abomination, and also instructed them on what acceptable sacrifices were.  Yet all of this was ignored, as the people discarded the Scripture completely.
    • This is what happens when people abandon the Bible! 

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.

  • Just as children had been slaughtered in the “Valley of the Son of Hinnom,” so would adults be slaughtered there.  The Babylonians would come, and the corpses would be so abundant that the birds would feast in large numbers.
  • BTW – it’s this same Valley of the Son of Hinnom that is referred to as “Gehenna” in the NT, as a picture of the awfulness of hell.  Children were burned in the fire in pagan sacrifice there, and the whole valley was defiled as a result.  Many scholars believe that the area later became a dump remained burning non-stop.  It was an unclean place with a terrible history, and that was the same description Jesus gave of hell.  It is a place of suffering & torment & regret…and it is a place that no one HAS to go.

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.

  • For now, the people rejoiced in their false worship and their unabated sin.  None of their practices bothered their consciences, and they continued in life as usual.  Yet the day was coming that it would no longer be possible to do so.  God would cause all “mirth and gladness” to cease.  When the Babylonians came in conquest, the people would be destroyed, and “the land…desolate.
  • Thankfully, although this was a true word, it wasn’t the final word.  The land would be desolate, but only for a time.  God is true to His promises, and He needed His people to survive if He was to bring forth the Messiah.

Jeremiah 8:1–3
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.

  • It was a common practice among ancient conquerors to come into a land and desecrate the dead.  They would dig up graves and allow the physical remains to decay in the sun.  That’s what God promised that the Babylonians would do.  Not only would multitudes in the land be slaughtered in battle, but even those who had died generations earlier would be pulled out of the graves.  All their bodies would be piled up together under the open skies.  At that point, what good would all of Judah’s worship of the sun & moon, etc., be?  The false pagan gods did not protect the people, nor would they restore them to life.  They would just (symbolically) witness their decay.

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.

  • How awful would it be in Jerusalem?  The few survivors would rather choose death than life.  The blessings of God would be gone – everything they had would be stripped away.

Conclusion:
In a sense, it all came down to a choice.  By ignoring the Lord, the people chose death, rather than life.  They could have repented from their sin & lived.  They could have abandoned their paganism and their dead rituals.  They could have amended their ways.  They could have listened to the appeals of God through the spoken and written words.  Instead, they chose death.  They chose their sin, and thus they chose the judgment of God.

We cannot ignore the voice of God!  We cannot ignore His calls to repentance!  We certainly cannot ignore Jesus!

Our culture has ignored God to its own hurt…  But beyond that, we need to also look to ourselves.  Has there been something in which we’ve been ignoring the prompting of the Holy Spirit?  Perhaps He has convicted our heart in an area in which we need to repent.  Maybe there is some confession that needs to take place between you and your spouse (or someone else).  Maybe there is some radical change that needs to happen.  Whatever the case, don’t ignore the Lord!  Don’t wait until it’s too late, and God has to move in His judgment.

Or maybe you find yourself more in the role of Jeremiah, proclaiming the word of God to a people who won’t listen.  Don’t grow weary!  Stand strong.

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