Turning from the Truth

Posted: April 24, 2014 in Jeremiah

Jeremiah 10-11, “Turning from the Truth”

Jesus has much to say about the truth.  “You shall know the truth, and the truth shall set you free.” (Jn 8:32)  “Sanctify them by Your truth; Your word is truth.” (Jn 17:17)  “I am the way, the truth, and the life.  No one comes to the Father except through Me.” (Jn 14:6)  It should be exceptionally clear that if we want to know the truth, we need to go to the One True God.  He alone knows the beginning from the end, and He is more than willing to give us the spiritual truth we need in Jesus.  That is true for all of God’s people, both OT & NT.

Yet what happens when God’s people turn away from the truth? What happens when the people called by God’s name abandon the truth that God has so graciously given?  That’s a tragedy on any doctrinal matter – but so much more the case when people abandon true worship of the True God.

That was the case with the Jews of Jerusalem & the whole kingdom of Judah.  They (like the northern kingdom of Israel before them) turned away from God in their worship.  They turned away from the truth that God had revealed about Himself & away from worshipping Him as the True (and only) God.  Instead, they took false idols for themselves and persecuted those who spoke the truth of God – and as a result, God rose to deliver them over to the consequences of their actions.

It’s always a dangerous thing to turn from the truth.  It’s suicidal for anyone – especially for those who claim to be known as the people of God, receiving the blessings of God.  To turn from truth to a lie is to turn from life to death, to turn from the offer of grace to the promise of judgment.  That’s exactly what the nation of Judah is told as God deals with their foolish falsehoods in Ch 10-11.

Jeremiah 10

  • Dead idols vs. the Living God (vss. 1-16)

1 Hear the word which the LORD speaks to you, O house of Israel. 2 Thus says the LORD: “Do not learn the way of the Gentiles; Do not be dismayed at the signs of heaven, For the Gentiles are dismayed at them.

  • First things first…notice that the “LORD” is speaking to the whole “house of Israel.”  LORD = the covenant name of God “Yahweh,” referring to His ever-existent nature, and also as the God that was revealed specifically to the nation of Israel when God freed them from Egypt by the ministry of Moses.  This is the I AM speaking to His people…ALL of them.  The northern kingdom had been overrun by the Assyrian empire some 50+ years earlier, and it was the southern kingdom of Judah that faced the imminent danger from Babylon.  Yet the God of Israel is speaking to all of them.  All the nation had engaged in the same sin (a point which will be raised again), thus God addresses all of them when He speaks of their foolish idolatry.
  • What does Yahweh, I AM say?  Don’t be like the Gentiles.  Beware of pagan signs and pagan ways.  The people had adopted many things from the Gentiles, including their reliance upon false astrology.  Signs in the stars and heavens may have been the preoccupation of the pagans, but it had no place among God’s own people.  He had given Israel His written revelation in the Scripture, and that ought to have been sufficient.
    • Beware your influences!  It’s easy to start taking in unscriptural perspectives without even realizing that is what is happening.  We want to be careful to take everything (be it purportedly Christian, or not) back to the word of God for evaluation with the truth.  That’s part of what it means to be a Berean.

3 For the customs of the peoples are futile; For one cuts a tree from the forest, The work of the hands of the workman, with the ax. 4 They decorate it with silver and gold; They fasten it with nails and hammers So that it will not topple.

  • This was the way of the Gentiles: idolatry.  They had their own gods they worshipped, and they made their gods themselves. Was it anything special?  No. Just a dead tree decorated to look like a god.  It may have been dressed up with precious metals, but it was still just a dead tree underneath it all.  It’s so faulty, it even needs assistance to stand upright!
  • BTW – please note the context.  This is NOT a verse forbidding Christmas trees.  Unless you use your Christmas tree as a focus of pagan false worship, taking you away from the worship of the one true God, this verse says nothing about the modern custom.  We need to be careful to keep Scripture within its proper context.

5 They are upright, like a palm tree, And they cannot speak; They must be carried, Because they cannot go by themselves. Do not be afraid of them, For they cannot do evil, Nor can they do any good.”

  • They may stand upright, but so does a “palm tree” (or “scarecrow).  And it’s just as useless.  It can’t speak, can’t walk, can’t act for either evil or good.  One would think that to be obvious, but we need to remember the culture in which this was written.  False idols and the gods were the norm.  Pagan priests terrified townspeople into worshipping their gods, under the threat of being cursed (not unlike many villages in India today).  God tells His people that fear wasn’t necessary. Why fear that which is not alive?
    • This is no different today.  There is no doubt that we are in a spiritual war, and that the false gods that many people bow down to today are in reality demons pretending to be more than what they are.  But we need not fear them.  The God who saved us & to Whom we belong is infinitely stronger than any demon.  And especially where there is no demon, but just a figment of one’s imagination – why fear that which is not real?  Be careful not to give too much credibility to ideas that don’t deserve it.
  • In contrast to the dead idols, there IS one God they ought to fear.  The REAL God!  See vs. 6…

6 Inasmuch as there is none like You, O LORD (You are great, and Your name is great in might), 7 Who would not fear You, O King of the nations? For this is Your rightful due. For among all the wise men of the nations, And in all their kingdoms, There is none like You.

  • God is unique – there is none like Him.  Even among the greatest of spiritual beings, there is none like the Lord God.  Satan originally may have been a glorious archangel, more powerful than any other angel in heaven – but even he is nothing compared to the Almighty Lord.  God has no competition; He is GOD.
  • God is great – He is worthy to be worshipped.  His character is so good, so just, so perfect – He is more magnificent than our minds can comprehend.  Just think about the Biblical description of God in comparison with the false descriptions among cults & other religions.  The god of Islam is a petty, angry tyrant.  The god of Mormonism is so low that anyone can become like he is.  The many gods of the Hindus are so weak that they compete with one another.  Not so with the True God!  He is great beyond compare!
  • God is powerful – His “name is great in might.”  To speak of God’s name is to speak of His character and nature, and He is the all-powerful God.  There is no act too difficult for Him – there is no enemy too strong for Him.  God overwhelms them all.
  • Knowing all of this, who wouldn’t fear God?  God is owed the worship of the nations.  Even if God never once revealed Himself to us beyond the existence of creation around us (general revelation), God would still be worthy of worship.  He does not need to invite us to relationship with Him in order for us to owe Him our worship.  Yet He DOES invite us, out of His marvelous grace. J
  • All of this is true, but man is foolish…just like he always has been since the Garden of Eden.  See vs. 8…

8 But they are altogether dull-hearted and foolish; A wooden idol is a worthless doctrine. 9 Silver is beaten into plates; It is brought from Tarshish, And gold from Uphaz, The work of the craftsman And of the hands of the metalsmith; Blue and purple are their clothing; They are all the work of skillful men.

  • Instead of worshipping the unique, all-powerful God, man choose to worship a so-called god of his own making.  He buys the best of materials, sparing no expense…but an expensive idol is still an idol, no matter how attractive it is.
  • This true regarding any false idea about God.  It doesn’t matter how attractive a false idea of God may be, if it is a lie, it is a lie…period.  There are all kinds of attractive falsehoods about God: “God would never allow someone to go to hell…” “God surely will acknowledge my good deeds…” “Jesus never judged anyone…” “It doesn’t matter what you believe, as long as you are sincere…”  No doubt, some of that may be attractive.  After all, who among us likes the thought of someone suffering for eternity in hell?  No one!  But although we might want to wish it away, it doesn’t change the truth as revealed in the Scripture.
  • God is again contrasted with these false idols.  Vs. 10…

10 But the LORD is the true God; He is the living God and the everlasting King. At His wrath the earth will tremble, And the nations will not be able to endure His indignation.

  • Yahweh (note the use of His covenant name) is true.  Other gods are false.  Other religions our lies.  The LORD – the ever-existent I AM – this is the one TRUE God.  God calls us to an exclusive relationship with Him, apart from every other false idea.
    • Objection: “But that’s so intolerant!  How can the Bible claim that it’s true & everything else is false?”  Because that’s just the fact.  Just because someone doesn’t like a fact doesn’t make it any less true.  It’s a fact that men cannot fly; our stepping out of an airplane wishing it to be different doesn’t change the truth.  God is the one true God, exactly as the Bible proclaims – and that fact doesn’t change.  (How can we know for sure?  The resurrection of Jesus!)
  • Yahweh is alive.  Here’s the contrast with all of the false gods.  They were made of dead trees & dead gold.  The true God is alive, and interacts with His creation.
    • He still interacts with His people!  God is alive today as He has ever been.  (How important this is to remember as we pray.)
  • Yahweh is everlasting.  God is forever.  He always has been, and He always will be.  God will be the King long after these other false gods & false ideas about god have faded from the face of the earth.  There is always a new generational attack against the Lord, and God has outlasted them all.  Frederick Nietzsche declared that God was dead in 1882, yet the existence of the Church to this day (and its continued worldwide growth) proves him wrong.  Every militant atheist who raises a defiant fist against God will themselves one day die, but God Himself will endure.
  • One day, ALL nations will fear Him!  Every knee will bow & every tongue confess that Jesus is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.

11 Thus you shall say to them: “The gods that have not made the heavens and the earth shall perish from the earth and from under these heavens.”

  • Vs. 11 is a natural thought included here, but it stands out in the original language in a way that it does not in translation.  We might not notice anything different about it, but the original readers would.  It is the only verse in the book of Jeremiah that is written in Aramaic.  The rest of the book is Hebrew, including the immediate surrounding context.  It’s as if God wants this particular truth to be so highlighted among His people (and the world) that He includes it in a different language just to ensure it is understood.  Aramaic was the lingua franca of the day, and even the Babylonians would have been able to read this particular verse.  One can easily imagine the Jews in their eventual captivity looking back to this verse, and quoting it to their Babylonian neighbors, without need for translation.
  • Beyond the language itself, what is it that God affirms?  All false gods will perish.  Vs. 10 showed the living God; vs. 11 shows the death of the false gods.

12 He has made the earth by His power, He has established the world by His wisdom, And has stretched out the heavens at His discretion. 13 When He utters His voice, There is a multitude of waters in the heavens: “And He causes the vapors to ascend from the ends of the earth. He makes lightning for the rain, He brings the wind out of His treasuries.”

  • Only the living God can act the way that He does.  Only the living God was active in the creation of the universe, and still active in the sustaining of the universe. 

14 Everyone is dull-hearted, without knowledge; Every metalsmith is put to shame by an image; For his molded image is falsehood, And there is no breath in them. 15 They are futile, a work of errors; In the time of their punishment they shall perish.

  • Idolatry is stupid and shameful.  Think of it: to create an image or idea of God in your own mind & then worship that is totally illogical.  Why worship something that YOU created?  What good does THAT serve?  We need to worship God as He has revealed Himself to us.  To do otherwise is “dull-hearted”/dumb.  What makes it worse is when people reject the revelation God HAS given them.  That’s when it becomes shameful.  That is when error is compounded on top of error.
  • Do you get the idea this is something God wants His people to avoid?  To turn to idolatry was to turn away from the truth, and it was absolutely foolish.

16 The Portion of Jacob is not like them, For He is the Maker of all things, And Israel is the tribe of His inheritance; The LORD of hosts is His name.

  • The summary: God is different than all of these idols!  He is the covenant God of Israel & the Creator of the universe.
  • THIS is the God we worship!  Why get distracted by all the false ideas of God when the true God is so much greater than the rest?
  • God’s promise of captivity (vss. 17-22)

17 Gather up your wares from the land, O inhabitant of the fortress! 18 For thus says the LORD: “Behold, I will throw out at this time The inhabitants of the land, And will distress them, That they may find it so.”

  • It’s as if God is telling the people to pack their things.  There is no doubt in His mind that He will evict the people from the promised land, so they may as well prepare themselves for the journey.
  • God “will distress them” – it sounds harsh, but it is true.  And He gives the reason why: “that they may find it so.”  The people need to know that their distress was from the Lord.  They needed to understand that this wasn’t all chance happenstance – it wasn’t just the normal course of events and the change of world empires.  The reason the Jews would lose their homeland was because GOD had taken them out.  They had sinned against the Lord by turning away from the truth, and they needed to understand the consequences for their actions.
    • There are always consequences to turning from the truth.

19 Woe is me for my hurt! My wound is severe. But I say, “Truly this is an infirmity, And I must bear it.” 20 My tent is plundered, And all my cords are broken; My children have gone from me, And they are no more. There is no one to pitch my tent anymore, Or set up my curtains.

  • There’s a question here in who is speaking.  Is this God, or Jeremiah?  On one hand, it would seem strange for God to proclaim “woe” upon Himself.  At the same time, the immediate context is the Lord speaking from His own point-of-view, and the people of Israel could hardly be described as Jeremiah’s own “children.”  If this is indeed Jeremiah, he hurts on behalf of the nation, which is understandable.  He knew that the people deserved the consequences for their sin, but that didn’t stop it from being painful – which is a theme that will come up many times in his prophecies.
  • That said, this seems to better be spoken from the point of view of God.  The previoius verses are explicitly God’s point of view, and the following verses fit well with God’s other proclamations about Israel and Judah.  That God might speak woe upon Himself could be thought of as an anthropomorphism – a human description attributed to God to try to help convey something about Him.  Like any earthly parent, it pains God to discipline His people.  He won’t hesitate to do it, and His discipline is absolutely necessary – but He would much rather us humbly repent in willingness, rather than Him having to humble us because of our pride.
  • Beyond this, God literally hurt on our behalf. “My wound is severe.”  No doubt this is figurative when speaking of Judah being conquered by Babylon and removed from the land, but it most definitely was literal as Jesus hung upon the cross.  He was wounded for our transgressions…
  • What would be left?  Nothing.  Like a nomadic tribe that was overrun by raiders, so would God’s “tent be plundered.”  There would be “no one” remaining…this would be a trial of national proportions.
    • The language is extreme, but it doesn’t negate the fact that God would leave a remnant.  God was always faithful to leave a remnant of His people.  (True then, and true today!)

21 For the shepherds have become dull-hearted, And have not sought the LORD; Therefore they shall not prosper, And all their flocks shall be scattered. 22 Behold, the noise of the report has come, And a great commotion out of the north country, To make the cities of Judah desolate, a den of jackals.

  • Here was at least part of the problem.  Why was it that the people fell so deeply into idolatry?  Because their “shepherds” had allowed them to stray.  They themselves did not seek the Lord, and everyone in their care followed suit.
    • God takes notice of false teachers.  God takes notice of negligent teachers.
  • As a result, they would be removed.  Out of the “north country” would come the Chaldeans (Babylonians) to take out not only the sheep, but the shepherds.
  • Jeremiah’s prayer for justice (vss. 23-25)

23 O LORD, I know the way of man is not in himself; It is not in man who walks to direct his own steps.

  • Here, there is a distinct change in the point-of-view, and it would seem that Jeremiah personally begins to intercede for the people.  He’ll present his request in a moment, but first he acknowledges the power and sovereignty of God over our lives.
  • God directs our steps.  We’d like to do it ourselves, but not only do we deceive ourselves in the wickedness of our hearts, but we’re not sovereign.  We like to think we’re in control of our own destinies, but we’re not.  The poem “Invictus” has it all wrong.  We are NOT the captain of our own fate; our lives are guided by the sovereign hand of God.
    • That’s not to say we do not exercise our own free-will.  God’s sovereignty does not reduce us down to a bunch of puppets on a string.  We may not know exactly how it all works out, but the Bible makes it clear that God has a will, and we have a will.  God is powerful enough to give us freewill AND be utterly sovereign at the same time. J

24 O LORD, correct me, but with justice; Not in Your anger, lest You bring me to nothing. 25 Pour out Your fury on the Gentiles, who do not know You, And on the families who do not call on Your name; For they have eaten up Jacob, Devoured him and consumed him, And made his dwelling place desolate.

  • Jeremiah understands that the people have sinned against God, and that the captivity that is promised is by the hand of God.  This is part of God’s will, in response to the sin of the people.  Yet knowing that the Babylonian captivity is God’s will does not stop Jeremiah from praying to God for the people.  Jeremiah cannot talk God out of His discipline (nor would he desire to do so), but he can ask God for mercy in the midst of His discipline.  Thus he asks for correction, but correction from their Heavenly Father; not vengeance from the Judge of the Universe.
    • How is it that you intercede for the lost?  For yourself?  So often we get the idea that prayer changes the mind of God, when that’s not true.  Prayer doesn’t change God’s mind, but it can often change our own!  However, we may not know what God would allow in His sovereign will until we go before Him in prayer to ask.  Yes, perhaps God’s will is for judgment, but perhaps He is willing to extend mercy if His people but asked Him for it.  May we be those who ASK!
  • Instead of showing vengeance to Israel, Jeremiah asks for vengeance (or at least justice) for the Gentiles.  It would be the Gentile Babylonians that cause the Jews to suffer, and they deserved to experience the justice of God for themselves.  (And historically, God DID give His justice to the Babylonians when He had their empire overthrown by the Medes & Persians.)

Jeremiah 11
Although the subject matter doesn’t change too terribly much (Jeremiah is still writing about the coming Babylonian captivity, much like he does throughout the entire book), there seems to be a bit of a break starting in Ch 11 from the previous several chapters.  Prior to this point, there were several oracles dealing with Judah’s disobedience and the judgment of God.  The beginning of Ch 11 takes the same subject, but tackles it from a legal point of view.  The OT relationship between God and the Hebrews was based upon several binding covenants – the most pressing being the covenant of Moses, as seen in Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy.  Just like any contract, the covenant had stipulations attached based on each party’s faithfulness to their respective obligations.  God had been faithful to His, while Israel had not.  This legal argument is what is unveiled at the beginning of Ch. 11.  Ch 10 showed the foolishness of turning from the truth, and the consequences of turning from the truth.  Now Ch 11 details the crime of turning from the truth.

  • How God’s people violated God’s covenant (vss. 1-17)

1 The word that came to Jeremiah from the LORD, saying, 2 “Hear the words of this covenant, and speak to the men of Judah and to the inhabitants of Jerusalem; 3 and say to them, ‘Thus says the LORD God of Israel: “Cursed is the man who does not obey the words of this covenant 4 which I commanded your fathers in the day I brought them out of the land of Egypt, from the iron furnace, saying, ‘Obey My voice, and do according to all that I command you; so shall you be My people, and I will be your God,’ 5 that I may establish the oath which I have sworn to your fathers, to give them ‘a land flowing with milk and honey,’ as it is this day.” ’ ” And I answered and said, “So be it, LORD.”

  • Although the quotes are taken from several different sections throughout the book of Deuteronomy, this is the gist of what God had originally said to the Hebrews in the covenant.  God had redeemed them from slavery (“the iron furnace”) in Egypt, and purchased them to be His own special people, to whom He promised to give a land and relationship.  If they obeyed God, they would have an unfettered relationship with God, blessed with all kinds of provision in the land.  If they disobeyed, they would receive all kinds of curses, with the promise to remove them from the land that God had so graciously given.  God had been faithful to His part, and the proof of it was their current home within the land itself.  As vs. 5 states, God had given them the land “as it is this day.”  At the time this word was given, the Jews were enjoying their home.  If nothing else, that was alone proof that God was good to His word.
  • Because THAT part of the covenant was true, they could be sure that ALL the parts of the covenant would be true as well.  Hence God’s promise to remove them.
    • We can trust ALL of the word of God!  His promises of judgment are just as sure as His promises of grace through Christ.  We may want to favor one over the other, but ALL of it is the word of God, and ALL of it is true.

6 Then the LORD said to me, “Proclaim all these words in the cities of Judah and in the streets of Jerusalem, saying: ‘Hear the words of this covenant and do them. 7 For I earnestly exhorted your fathers in the day I brought them up out of the land of Egypt, until this day, rising early and exhorting, saying, “Obey My voice.” 8 Yet they did not obey or incline their ear, but everyone followed the dictates of his evil heart; therefore I will bring upon them all the words of this covenant, which I commanded them to do, but which they have not done.’ ”

  • This is the first part of how the Israelites broke the covenant agreement with God.  God had called them to “obey,” and they did everything BUT obey.  Instead, they “followed the dictates of [their] evil heart.”  As the book of Judges declared, every man did what was right in his own eyes. ()  Sadly, that was not only true of the time of the judges, but also of the time of the kings.  Though there would be a few kings that called God’s people back to true worship, for the most part it was a free-for-all.  However men wanted to worship, they worshipped.  However men wanted to obey (or disobey), they did. 
  • It’s not that they didn’t know better – they couldn’t claim ignorance.  God repeatedly “exhorted” them, calling them to repentance and faith.  They simply ignored God to do what they wanted.
    • How much does this sound like our own culture?  We have heard the exhortations of God through the Bible, but Biblical authority is being rejected more & more every day.  For a nation that was founded on the principles in the NT, the message of the NT is being increasingly ignored in order for people to follow the dictates of their own hearts.
    • Sadly, how much does this sound like much of the church?  We have the full revealed word of God in our hands – we have the inner witness of the Holy Spirit, and His empowerment in our lives – we have the encouragement and exhortation of godly men and women within the church – and yet STILL much of the church has gone away from the true teaching and exhortation of God to follow after their own hearts.  There are people that act “drunk” in the Spirit – there are people that lay heavy burdens of legalism upon others that they themselves are not able to bear – there are people who abuse their position of leadership to seduce women – and sadly the list could go on.  God exhorts and pleads with His Church to repent to purity…and He won’t hesitate to act towards those who refuse to do so.

9 And the LORD said to me, “A conspiracy has been found among the men of Judah and among the inhabitants of Jerusalem. 10 They have turned back to the iniquities of their forefathers who refused to hear My words, and they have gone after other gods to serve them; the house of Israel and the house of Judah have broken My covenant which I made with their fathers.”

  • Who had broken the covenant?  Everyone!  It wasn’t only “the house of Israel” that had sinned; it was “the house of Judah” as well.  All had “refused” the exhortations of the Lord.  All had gone away into idolatry, engaging in the very practices that God had judged in prior generations.  All were guilty, and all would experience the judgment of God.  The house of Israel had experienced it a generation earlier, but now the house of Judah would experience the same thing.
    • ALL have sinned!

11 Therefore thus says the LORD: “Behold, I will surely bring calamity on them which they will not be able to escape; and though they cry out to Me, I will not listen to them. 12 Then the cities of Judah and the inhabitants of Jerusalem will go and cry out to the gods to whom they offer incense, but they will not save them at all in the time of their trouble. 13 For according to the number of your cities were your gods, O Judah; and according to the number of the streets of Jerusalem you have set up altars to that shameful thing, altars to burn incense to Baal.

  • The people of Judah and Jerusalem had worshipped false gods – let their false gods save them.  They had turned away from the Lord, so the Lord gives them over to their idolatry.  It had run rampant among the people.  Instead of worshipping the One True God, it was as if they had a different false god for every city and a false altar on every street.  If those were the gods of their choosing, then the Lord would allow them the consequences of that choice.
  • How sad it is when God gives a people over to their sin!  Paul shows this repeatedly in the opening chapter of Romans.  God reveals Himself, people reject Him & choose sin, and God gives them over.  The cycle continues & continues until people are completely lost in their delusion, and God must act.  That cycle might be expected among the pagans – but here, it’s shown regarding God’s own people.  That is a tragedy of epic proportions.
  • Just as Ch 10 made clear, we need to beware false gods!  False gods offer a false hope.

14 “So do not pray for this people, or lift up a cry or prayer for them; for I will not hear them in the time that they cry out to Me because of their trouble.

  • How bad has sin gotten when God tells His prophet not to pray for people?  That’s BAD!
  • Question: Jeremiah had prayed for them at the end of Ch. 10.  Was he doing something displeasing to the Lord?  After all, this isn’t the first time God told Jeremiah not to pray for the people (Jer 7:16).  No.  Again, Jeremiah wasn’t trying to change God’s mind in any way – he was just seeking the Lord for mercy where it may be found.  We have no other hope than the hope we have in the Lord.  God may not turn away His judgment, but God might still save some in the midst of it.  Here, God simply declares that He would not change His mind and deliver them from the Babylonians, so it would do no good to ask for that end.  God had already made His will known.  If Jeremiah was to pray for anything, it would be for God’s mercy to be known within God’s will.
    • We will never know when it’s too late for a nation to experience revival, or when an individual has completely hardened his/her heart to God.  All we do know is that our God is a merciful God, and He can work miracles even among the hardest of the hard-hearted.  Until He tells us to stop, we continue praying!

15 “What has My beloved to do in My house, Having done lewd deeds with many? And the holy flesh has passed from you. When you do evil, then you rejoice.

  • This is one more level of the crime of Judah.  Not only had they been disobedient to the covenant – not only had they engaged in rampant idolatry – finally God tells them that what acts of worship they did do were absolutely defiled & upside down.  The times the people entered the temple, they entered in order to engage in “lewd deeds.”  We’re not told exactly what this was, but apparently had something to do with the sacrifices they brought (“the holy flesh”).  Prior to his repentance late in life, King Manasseh had gone so far as to set up in idol in the Jerusalem temple (1 Chr 33:7).  No doubt, the temple worship had been greatly defiled in many ways.  They had used the things that were supposed to be holy as tools and instruments of evil.

16 The LORD called your name, Green Olive Tree, Lovely and of Good Fruit. With the noise of a great tumult He has kindled fire on it, And its branches are broken. 17 “For the LORD of hosts, who planted you, has pronounced doom against you for the evil of the house of Israel and of the house of Judah, which they have done against themselves to provoke Me to anger in offering incense to Baal.”

  • The contrast is incredibly sad.  God had desired for His people to be a “Green Olive Tree,” beautiful and fruitful.  He had planted this tree for good things.  But now the tree needed to be uprooted and burned.  They could have had so much in the Lord, but they became something completely different.
  • God’s plans for us are so much better than what we could have for ourselves!  What is it that we miss out on due to our sin?
  • Persecution of the prophet (vss. 18-23)

18 Now the LORD gave me knowledge of it, and I know it; for You showed me their doings. 19 But I was like a docile lamb brought to the slaughter; and I did not know that they had devised schemes against me, saying, “Let us destroy the tree with its fruit, and let us cut him off from the land of the living, that his name may be remembered no more.”

  • There are a few times in the book that Jeremiah gets somewhat personal – this is one of them.  He had been faithful to proclaim the word of God, and he paid a price for it.  People colluded against him, desiring to kill him.  They hated the message that Jeremiah preached, so they wanted to take their anger out on the messenger.
  • This is still the case in persecution today.  Why is it that Christians are jailed, beaten, and killed?  It’s not because the Christian poses a physical threat to the community; the gospel is not spread by violence, as is the religion of Islam.  The Christian is hated because Christ is hated.  The Christian is hated because of the message he/she proclaims and stands for.  People are not threatened by the individual messenger, but they are definitely threatened by the news of the One True God who will judge the sin of all the earth.  They hate Jesus, so they hate the Church.  They hate those who proclaim and preach the truth.
  • So what does a persecuted Christian do?  The same thing Jeremiah did: turn to the Lord…

20 But, O LORD of hosts, You who judge righteously, Testing the mind and the heart, Let me see Your vengeance on them, For to You I have revealed my cause.

  • Jeremiah knew he had no power to act against his enemies, but God did.  He could trust God to act, knowing that God is the One to “judge righteously.”  We can trust God to act according to His righteousness!  He sees the sufferings of every persecuted believer, and He will not remain silent.
  • Objection: “But it seems that God IS silent in the face of persecution.  There are multitudes of Christians who suffer and die at the hands of non-believers.  Even Jeremiah suffered and was jailed, going almost to the point of starvation.  Did God act then?”  Yes.  God did not allow those who persecuted Jeremiah to get off scot-free.  He saw every action & judged appropriately, even while it may have seemed that the wicked prospered for a time.  There is not a single act of persecution that will not be addressed by the Lord either in this life, or at the judgment.  Of that, we can be sure!  God may not always deliver His people out of the midst of persecution, but He will always show Himself strong on behalf of His people – even if all we can experience at the moment is the grace and strength He gives us to endure.
  • Although we have not entered into the level of persecution that Jeremiah experienced, or that other believers around the world experience, we need to be aware that the culture in which we live is changing.  We as American Christians will be marginalized more & more.  We will be told that we preach a message of hate, rather than the gospel.  We will be disdained, and eventually outcast simply for believing upon the Lord Jesus and believing that the word of God never changes.  We need to know this not to be scared, but to be prepared.  We need not fear those who hate us, but we do need be ready for what is sure to come.

21 “Therefore thus says the LORD concerning the men of Anathoth who seek your life, saying, ‘Do not prophesy in the name of the LORD, lest you die by our hand’— 22 therefore thus says the LORD of hosts: ‘Behold, I will punish them. The young men shall die by the sword, their sons and their daughters shall die by famine; 23 and there shall be no remnant of them, for I will bring catastrophe on the men of Anathoth, even the year of their punishment.’ ”

  • In Jeremiah’s case, God assures him that He saw this particular incident.  God knew exactly who it was that persecuted Jeremiah, and He would rise up in judgment against them.  Sadly, Jeremiah’s enemies were from his own hometown of Anathoth (Jer 1:1).  They rejected one of their own brothers/neighbors because of the message he preached.  No doubt this rejection cut Jeremiah deeply – but it was to be expected.  Like Jesus, prophets are rarely received in their hometown.
  • God does promise to judge the men of Anathoth, but notice what is implied here to Jeremiah: God basically tells him to keep preaching the message.  The conspirators wanted Jeremiah to quiet down; God tells Jeremiah that He will deal with the conspirators – implying that Jeremiah was to keep doing what he was doing.
    • Never stop proclaiming the gospel!  Keep being faithful to the word of God that has been entrusted to us!  Keep being faithful to the truth.

Conclusion:
Despite having a covenant relationship with the magnificent Creator God – the One True God, sovereign over all the universe – God’s people chose a lie.  They were foolish in turning from the truth.  They would experience dire consequences for turning from the truth.  They had committed crimes in their turning from the truth and even persecuted people for proclaiming the truth.  It was a tragic state of affairs, and God would not be silent.

God did not want His prophet to be silent, either.  God certainly wasn’t!  He was pained for His people, and continued to exhort them to so much more.  Jeremiah prayed for his countrymen, even when God had declared His unwavering judgment.  Jeremiah continued to intercede, and even preach the word of God to his own peril.  That was his responsibility, and he wasn’t going to shirk from it.

Neither should we.

First, we need to be sure we KNOW the truth.
We need to WORSHIP in truth.
We need to PROCLAIM the truth.

It may be difficult, but we can be bold.  We serve the Almighty God, and this is what He has commissioned us to do.  He will sustain us and give us the grace we need.

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