Unnecessary Shame

Posted: May 1, 2014 in Jeremiah

Jeremiah 12-13, “Unnecessary Shame”

When was the last time you had to do something that you knew was completely unnecessary?  I hate missing a payment deadline, if for no other reason because the late fee is totally unnecessary and easily avoidable (as long as you’ve got the money to pay the bill in the first place).  Dave Ramsey tends to call stuff like that “Stupid Tax,” and I’ve paid my share of it over the years.

What’s worse than stupid tax in money is the consequences that we experience due to our sin – most of which is completely unnecessary.  If we just repented when we had the chance – if we just responded to the prompting of the Holy Spirit when we first heard His voice, so much of the consequences we experience would be completely avoidable.

That’s the same lesson that the kingdom of Judah had a difficult time learning.  They had repeatedly refused to hear the voice of God, and they would experience extremely difficult consequences and shame.  And it was all unnecessary.  They didn’t have to go through any of it – all they needed to do was humble themselves before the Lord.  But that was one thing they were unwilling to do.

Ch 12 picks up where Ch 11 left off regarding some enemies of Jeremiah, who had come from Jeremiah’s hometown of Anathoth.

Jeremiah 12

  • Jeremiah’s question (vss. 1-4)

1 Righteous are You, O LORD, when I plead with You; Yet let me talk with You about Your judgments. Why does the way of the wicked prosper? Why are those happy who deal so treacherously? 2 You have planted them, yes, they have taken root; They grow, yes, they bear fruit. You are near in their mouth But far from their mind.

  • Jeremiah has some questions for the Lord, but before he asks them, notice what he affirms first: God is “righteous.
  • Knowing the truth about God’s character doesn’t mean we won’t have questions.  Solid, orthodox believers still have honest questions, such as Jeremiah did about the “judgments” of God. Jeremiah’s question was a common one: “Why does the way of the wicked prosper?”  It’s a good question.  It’s a real question that reflects real life.
  • What was the problem?  It seemed that those who opposed the prophetic ministry of Jeremiah were still blessed by God Himself.  “You have planted them…they bear fruit.” The reality was that Jeremiah’s enemies cared nothing about God.  They may have uttered some religious sounding words from their lips, but the true things of God were “far from their mind.”  How is it that these people could experience such prosperity?  Even if God didn’t directly prosper them, He sovereignly allowed them to be prospered. 
    • Why does God allow false teachers to even exist, much less have massive teaching ministries?  Why does God allow other outright enemies of the gospel experience so much prosperity and material wealth in this life, while other who faithfully preach Jesus are penniless, beaten, and jailed in some parts of the world?  God could change all of this in the blink of an eye – why doesn’t He?

3 But You, O LORD, know me; You have seen me, And You have tested my heart toward You. Pull them out like sheep for the slaughter, And prepare them for the day of slaughter.

  • Jeremiah knew he had the freedom to ask honest questions.  Not only did he affirm that God is righteous, he also affirms that God knew what was in Jeremiah’s heart.  If Jeremiah had hidden any resentment from the Lord, it wouldn’t have been hidden.  Jeremiah was a prophet greatly used by God, but he wasn’t spotlessly pious – none of us are.  At the same time, Jeremiah had the faith to understand that God wasn’t going to strike him down for merely asking the question.  He knew that God knew his heart, and that Jeremiah’s motives were clean in asking what he asked.
  • Jeremiah also knew he could be as honest in his petitions as he was in his questions.  The prophet was certainly compassionate towards the nation (as seen through his many tears), but he freely prayed an imprecatory prayer about his enemies.  Jeremiah asked that they would be exposed by God and brought into judgment.

4 How long will the land mourn, And the herbs of every field wither? The beasts and birds are consumed, For the wickedness of those who dwell there, Because they said, “He will not see our final end.”

  • The wicked prospered, and the land mourned.  Things were not going well in the kingdom of Judah.  How long would it last?  How long would Jeremiah’s enemies be able to accuse the prophet of being wrong?  When they said “He will not see our final end,” they were basically saying, “Jeremiah doesn’t know what he’s talking about.  He’s been prophesying about the destruction of Jerusalem, but God won’t let it be destroyed.  He hasn’t destroyed us yet – He won’t destroy us in the future.”
  • People still make that accusation about the preaching of God’s word.  They say, “Jesus isn’t ever coming back.  He hasn’t so far; He won’t in the future…” “There won’t be a judgment.  All of that stuff is just made-up by Christians…”
  • God’s answer #1: you haven’t seen anything yet (vss. 5-6)

5 “If you have run with the footmen, and they have wearied you, Then how can you contend with horses? And if in the land of peace, In which you trusted, they wearied you, Then how will you do in the floodplain of the Jordan?

  • If Jeremiah had a tough time dealing with the men of Anathoth, then what would he do when more trouble came from more powerful people?  The initial persecution Jeremiah experienced was nothing compared to what was yet to come.  He needed to be prepared for more persecution than this.
  • God did not give Jeremiah an easy message, nor did He give Jeremiah an easy ministry.  But it was a necessary ministry, and a message that needed to be proclaimed.  God would give Jeremiah the strength that he needed, but Jeremiah needed to be faithful to the call that God had placed upon him.
    • Our message is not much easier, though we certainly have an easier time of things than Jeremiah (or many other Christians around the world).  There is glorious good news in the gospel invitation of Jesus Christ for the world to be saved, but one of the reasons it is so good is because it is couched in much bad news.  We have sinned as individuals, and as a people.  We have turned our backs against God, and we will assuredly face His righteous judgment unless we repent and put our faith in Christ.  That’s a message that not many people want to hear – but it’s one that they desperately need to hear.  We are the ones that need to be willing to tell it to them, despite any opposition it is we might face.

6 For even your brothers, the house of your father, Even they have dealt treacherously with you; Yes, they have called a multitude after you. Do not believe them, Even though they speak smooth words to you.

  • It must have hurt Jeremiah deeply to be betrayed by those in his hometown…how much more his own family!  His own “brothers…dealt treacherously” with him.  The word of God divides families.
  • Because Jeremiah’s brothers and former friends had rejected God, they were not to be trusted.  It would have been easy to fall into peer pressure, and adopt the message that they preached: that God was OK with all of their sin, and wasn’t going to do anything about it…that God was going to bless the Jews no matter what, simply because they were the Jews.  That would have been a tempting message for Jeremiah to preach, and it would have brought him a lot of friends.  The problem was that it wasn’t true.  No matter how “smooth” it was, it was still a lie.
    • Don’t ever back down from the truth!  The truth of God may not always be popular or widely accepted, but it is indeed the truth.
  • God’s answer #2: the promised desolation of Judah (vss. 7-13)

7 “I have forsaken My house, I have left My heritage; I have given the dearly beloved of My soul into the hand of her enemies.

  • There’s so much sadness in this statement.  Jeremiah had been abandoned by his house; God had to turn away from His.  The people whom God loved needed to be abandoned by God and turned over to her enemies.  To be sure, God turned away only because Israel had turned away first.  God had repeatedly reached out to His people (and would do so again in these chapters), but they had repeatedly rejected Him.  Eventually it got to a point that God had to give them over.

8 My heritage is to Me like a lion in the forest; It cries out against Me; Therefore I have hated it. 9 My heritage is to Me like a speckled vulture; The vultures all around are against her. Come, assemble all the beasts of the field, Bring them to devour!

  • Such strong words!  God describes His people like unclean carrion birds, and as a lion (not in a good sense), wandering the byways roaring in rebellion.  Of the people whom God loved, He declares: “I have hated it.”  The hatred is more of a description of God’s actions towards them than anything else.  If giving the Hebrews the blessings of the promised land was an act of grace, then removing them violently from the promised land would seem like an act of hatred in comparison.
  • At this point, His people don’t even act as His people.  They were “like a speckled vulture” – an unclean bird amidst other unclean birds.  They were vultures & so were the Gentiles all around them.  Thus He calls for judgment, and for them to “devour” one another.

10 “Many rulers have destroyed My vineyard, They have trodden My portion underfoot; They have made My pleasant portion a desolate wilderness. 11 They have made it desolate; Desolate, it mourns to Me; The whole land is made desolate, Because no one takes it to heart. 12 The plunderers have come On all the desolate heights in the wilderness, For the sword of the LORD shall devour From one end of the land to the other end of the land; No flesh shall have peace.

  • The word “desolate” stands out like a sore thumb here.  This is what was to come of the Jewish Kingdom.  It once was incredibly prosperous.  Just think of the days of Solomon. Those days would be long gone as the kingdom was made a desolation as Gentile rulers brought their destruction upon the beloved vineyard of the Lord God.  The land would be overwhelmingly empty – the people would be brought to despair – nothing and no one would be left beyond the barest remnant.
  • This is not what God desired for them!  God desired so much more!
    • God desires so much more for us, as well.  He takes no pleasure in the death of the wicked.  He does not delight in seeing mankind fall into sin and death.  Without the hope of Jesus Christ, all that is available to us is desolation.

13 They have sown wheat but reaped thorns; They have put themselves to pain but do not profit. But be ashamed of your harvest Because of the fierce anger of the LORD.”

  • Ultimately, this is what they had brought upon themselves.  The desolation they would experience was their own fault, because they had turned away from the Lord. (A point that will be emphasized in Ch. 13).  When they worshipped the false idols, they thought they would receive blessings.  But instead, they found that only “thorns” came.  They worshipped a lie, and they received the result of a lie.
  • Now what would it be that they experience?  Shame.  Sin always results in shame, even if we don’t see it immediately.
  • God’s promise for the Gentiles (vss. 14-17)

14 Thus says the LORD: “Against all My evil neighbors who touch the inheritance which I have caused My people Israel to inherit—behold, I will pluck them out of their land and pluck out the house of Judah from among them. 15 Then it shall be, after I have plucked them out, that I will return and have compassion on them and bring them back, everyone to his heritage and everyone to his land.

  • Note who it is God is speaking of: “all My evil neighbors.”  Speaking of the Gentile nations that surrounded the Jews – the bordering countries.  Obviously when the empire of Babylon came through to conquer, they wouldn’t only take the Jews captive – they would go though ALL of the Middle East, and every nation in the area would experience their conquest.  The Gentiles would be plucked out of their lands, right alongside of Judah.
  • Just as God’s promise of conquest would be experienced by the Gentiles as well as the Jews, so would His promise of return. “After I have plucked them out, that I will return and have compassion on them and bring them back.”  It would be easy to read this at a glance and assume that it’s a promise to the Jews, knowing that God would eventually restore His people to their homeland, but that’s not the context.  God says that He would restore “everyone to his heritage and everyone to his land.”  That’s a direct reference to more than one land of Israel.  God would show His grace to the Gentiles as well as to the Jews.  The Gentiles would catch the overflow of God’s grace to His people, and they would all experience similar blessings.
    • The same idea applies with the gospel of Jesus Christ.  After all, we worship the Jewish Messiah.  We’ve been saved by the Son of David – the promise of Abraham.  The salvation we experience in Jesus is the overflow of the promises that God had given to Israel.  Romans 1:16, "For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ, for it is the power of God to salvation for everyone who believes, for the Jew first and also for the Greek." []  As Jesus said to the Samaritan woman at the well, salvation is of the Jews (Jn 4:22), though the worship of God is not restricted ONLY to the Jews.  Because of Jesus, now everyone can worship God in spirit and in truth!

16 And it shall be, if they will learn carefully the ways of My people, to swear by My name, ‘As the LORD lives,’ as they taught My people to swear by Baal, then they shall be established in the midst of My people. 17 But if they do not obey, I will utterly pluck up and destroy that nation,” says the LORD.

  • God not only states how He will bring them back into the land, but He also invites the Gentiles into a saving relationship with Him!  Just as the Gentiles had taught the Jews to worship the false god Baal, the Jews could teach the Gentiles to worship the true God Yahweh.  If they did, God promised to establish them and prosper them.
  • Did it happen?  Sadly, not at the time that the Jews were initially restored to the land.  There were individual Gentiles who were known as God-fearers, such as the Ethiopian eunuch who was baptized by Philip, or the Roman centurion Cornelius who had the gospel preached to him by Peter – but by and large, the Gentile nations surrounding Judah never did come to faith in the God of the Bible.  At least, not until the resurrection of Jesus.  Once the gospel of Christ began to be preached, it was the Gentiles who came to faith in overwhelming numbers, even to this day.
  • That said, there’s a prophetic element here that might refer to the Millennial Kingdom.  The Kingdom of Israel will indeed be re-established after Jesus’ 2nd Coming, and He Himself will reign as King over all the earth.  At that time, all the Gentile nations will also learn the ways of God, and they will be established by Him.  (And those who rebel at the end of the thousand years will indeed be destroyed in a moment!)

Jeremiah 13

  • Symbol of shame #1: the sash (vss. 1-11)

1 Thus the LORD said to me: “Go and get yourself a linen sash, and put it around your waist, but do not put it in water.” 2 So I got a sash according to the word of the LORD, and put it around my waist. 3 And the word of the LORD came to me the second time, saying, 4 “Take the sash that you acquired, which is around your waist, and arise, go to the Euphrates, and hide it there in a hole in the rock.” 5 So I went and hid it by the Euphrates, as the LORD commanded me. 6 Now it came to pass after many days that the LORD said to me, “Arise, go to the Euphrates, and take from there the sash which I commanded you to hide there.” 7 Then I went to the Euphrates and dug, and I took the sash from the place where I had hidden it; and there was the sash, ruined. It was profitable for nothing.

  • One of the things we’ll see from time to time among the OT prophets is that God will give them certain things to do.  There will be some very strange actions that God tells Ezekiel to take, and God did something similar with many other prophets.  This is the first occasion in the book of Jeremiah where God commanded the prophet to do something very specific, apart from preaching the oracles of God.  (Whatever God commands us to do, we need to be obedient!)
  • Basically, God told Jeremiah to go buy a linen sash (something along the lines of what the priests would wear), and not to wash it.  He wasn’t to clean it in any way.  Instead, he was to wear this sash as he went on a far journey to the banks of the Euphrates River (some 300+ miles away, in the heart of Babylon).  Once there, Jeremiah was to bury the cloth, leave it for a long time, and come back to retrieve it.  It obviously became filthy and was ruined for any use whatsoever – it was good for nothing.
  • That’s a long way to go for a teaching illustration!  600-700 miles by foot to bury a sash?  Of course God has a point to make, and the extremes to which He told Jeremiah to go was necessary.  Obviously Jeremiah could have buried the sash in his backyard for a month and it would have been as ruined as if he had taken it to the Euphrates River – but it was to the Euphrates that the Jews would be taken, and so that is where the sash went.  In addition, what illustration would bring home the point more vividly?  A sash buried anywhere out back, or a sash that had made a 600+ mile journey?  The extreme condition highlights the end result greatly.  God needed His people to pay attention, and He was willing to go to extremes to get it.
    • BTW – what could be more extreme that God’s own Son dying on the cross for all the world, and then rising from the grave?  That is the ultimate in extremes!  And Jesus did it for you & for me.

8 Then the word of the LORD came to me, saying, 9 “Thus says the LORD: ‘In this manner I will ruin the pride of Judah and the great pride of Jerusalem. 10 This evil people, who refuse to hear My words, who follow the dictates of their hearts, and walk after other gods to serve them and worship them, shall be just like this sash which is profitable for nothing.

  • Here was the point of the illustration.  Just as the sash was ruined, so would the nation be ruined.  They had lifted themselves up in pride, just as someone might take pride in clean clothing.  God would take all of that away from them when He sent them into Babylon as punishment for their sin.  The prideful nation would be humbled in the most dramatic of ways, and the people who were once the pride of God’s own eyes would be “profitable for nothing.”  They had refused to hear the words of God, so God would refuse them.
  • This is the direct opposite of what should have happened.  God had originally desired so much more for them.  See vs. 11…

11 For as the sash clings to the waist of a man, so I have caused the whole house of Israel and the whole house of Judah to cling to Me,’ says the LORD, ‘that they may become My people, for renown, for praise, and for glory; but they would not hear.’

  • The people were supposed to cling to God – they were supposed to be a beautiful decoration upon Him and His glory.  God desired to show them off to the nations of the world as an example of what all nations could experience if they but worshipped God in faith.  This is what they were supposed to have; but it’s not what they experienced.  They refused to hear God and they refused to worship God.  As a result, they would no longer be able to cling to God; they would be cast off by Him as good for nothing.
  • What happens to a person who abandons God?  They miss out on what they could have experienced, and ultimately they are profitable for nothing.  That’s not to say that those who reject God have terrible lives and nothing but heartaches.  Some are extremely happy and fulfilled…for now.  But this life is pitifully short in comparison to eternity.  We need to look beyond the 50, 60, 70+ years we have on earth, and look at the eons upon eons that we will face in eternity.  Will we spend that time in the glory of God, praising Him, and experiencing His renown – or will we spend it ruined, profitable for nothing?
  • Symbol of shame #2: the wine bottles (vss. 12-14)

12 “Therefore you shall speak to them this word: ‘Thus says the LORD God of Israel: “Every bottle shall be filled with wine.” ’ “And they will say to you, ‘Do we not certainly know that every bottle will be filled with wine?’

  • Here, Jeremiah was still given an illustration, though it was a word picture rather than a physical item like the sash.  Obedience on Jeremiah’s part was still necessary; only instead of walking into Babylon, he needed to be obedient to preach the message God had given him (despite the ridicule of those who heard). 
  • Of course, God knew that the message would be rejected.  He knew exactly what the reaction of the people would be.  The people would misunderstand the illustration – they would reject the idea of judgment.  In their minds, the fact that the bottles would be filled with wine was a good thing.  They looked at an abundance of wine as a blessing, such as would be found at a feast (and the Bible often uses that analogy).  And this is what the people wanted to hear.  This is what all of the false prophets had been telling them – they had said that God would protect the Jews from the Babylonians, and that they would be blessed by Him despite all of the other nations that would fall.  The people didn’t need Jeremiah telling them that; they had enough of other prophets that were more than willing to tickle their ears with this false prophecy.
  • But their interpretation (and ridicule) would be false.  See vs. 13…

13 “Then you shall say to them, ‘Thus says the LORD: “Behold, I will fill all the inhabitants of this land—even the kings who sit on David’s throne, the priests, the prophets, and all the inhabitants of Jerusalem—with drunkenness! 14 And I will dash them one against another, even the fathers and the sons together,” says the LORD. “I will not pity nor spare nor have mercy, but will destroy them.” ’ ”

  • The wine in this case was not a blessing, but a curse.  This may be a reference to the cup of God’s judgment poured out on the land.  At the very least, the bottles that are filled up to the brim with wine is specifically said to be the people of the land filled up “with drunkenness.”  All of the people, great & small – the kings, priests, and everyone else would be defiled and lost in a stupor.  They would turn against themselves and fight one another.  Not only would destruction come from the outside (the Babylonians), but it would come from the inside as well, as the people turned upon one another.
  • The promise here?  God “will destroy them” – totally, completely, and without “pity nor…mercy.”  Objection: “How can God not show mercy to His people?!  The whole Bible shows the record of God giving mercy to His people.  Did God change?”  No – the Lord does not change, He does not waver.  Yet His words in this case are clear: God will not show mercy…this time.  Keep in mind that God has already showed them much mercy.  He had given them mercy every single day.  Every single prophecy uttered by the prophet Jeremiah was one more extension of God’s mercy to the people, because it was one more opportunity for them to turn in repentance.  No – they were the ones to turn away from the mercy of God, and when God finally got to the point of His judgment, His judgment would then be poured out without mercy.
  • Last chance: humble yourself or be humbled (vss. 16-27)

15 Hear and give ear: Do not be proud, For the LORD has spoken. 16 Give glory to the LORD your God Before He causes darkness, And before your feet stumble On the dark mountains, And while you are looking for light, He turns it into the shadow of death And makes it dense darkness.

  • This was the time that they had to repent!  They had refused to hear God in the past, but they couldn’t wait any longer.  They needed to forsake their pride, and turn to God while they had the chance.  Right now, they had the opportunity to “give glory to the LORD,” but soon the darkness would come.  Like a hiker in the mountains needs to move while he was sunlight, so did the people need to act before the window of God’s mercy shut for them.  There was no doubt that the darkness was coming – they would not be able to escape it or ignore it.  But they could prepare for it by turning back to the Lord in repentance and faith.
  • This is what the Lord calls out to all the world!  While we hear His voice, we cannot afford to harden our hearts.  We need to respond to the grace and calling of God while we have the chance.  We never know if we will get another one…

17 But if you will not hear it, My soul will weep in secret for your pride; My eyes will weep bitterly And run down with tears, Because the LORD’s flock has been taken captive.

  • The weeping prophet will weep again for the people.  Jeremiah knows the stubborn pride of his people, and that they will refuse to repent.  And it breaks his heart…just as it should.
  • When our loved ones refuse to repent, it breaks our heart.  When our nation continues on its path of godlessness, it breaks our heart.  And it should.  Our hearts should be grieved when we witness the stubborn refusal of people to humble themselves before the Lord God.  After all, we know the judgment that awaits those who reject the salvation of Christ.  If our hearts didn’t break for them in light of that, we might need to check ourselves!  It’s OK for the tears to flow…just let those tears take you to your knees in prayer.  Don’t stop interceding.  Don’t stop praying for the prodigals.  Who knows what may happen in the future?  It may be that they finally come to repentance – but we will never know if we stop praying.

18 Say to the king and to the queen mother, “Humble yourselves; Sit down, For your rule shall collapse, the crown of your glory.” 19 The cities of the South shall be shut up, And no one shall open them; Judah shall be carried away captive, all of it; It shall be wholly carried away captive.

  • Jeremiah was specifically to address the royal family.  Most likely, this is a reference to Jehoiachin, and his mother Nehushta (2 Kings 24:8).  Jehoaichin was young when he ascended to the throne (only 18 years old), and no doubt his mother exerted much influence over him.  He was another in the line of last kings who continued in evil against the Lord, and he was taken captive by King Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon.  Instead of learning the lesson of his father who had continued to sin against the Lord, and was taken out, Jehoiachin also did evil – but interestingly, he was never killed by the Babylonians.  37 years after Jerusalem fell, another Babylonian king released Jehoiachin out of prison and allowed him to even become one of his own advisors (1 Kings 25:27-30).  Apparently, there came a point that Jehoiachin did humble himself, not seeking to reclaim his crown, but submitting himself to the plan of God.
  • The survival of the king is itself an extension of God’s mercy to the people.  They may be in captivity, destroyed from the land, but their existence as a people would not be destroyed.  The land may lay desolate, but the people themselves would endure – just as God had promised.  It took a massive punishment for the people to humble themselves in repentance, but eventually they did – exactly as God had desired for them all along.
    • God does give us that opportunity to repent…hopefully it won’t take these kinds of extremes to make us do it.  The time to humble ourselves is not later; it’s now.

20 Lift up your eyes and see Those who come from the north. Where is the flock that was given to you, Your beautiful sheep? 21 What will you say when He punishes you? For you have taught them To be chieftains, to be head over you. Will not pangs seize you, Like a woman in labor? 22 And if you say in your heart, “Why have these things come upon me?” For the greatness of your iniquity Your skirts have been uncovered, Your heels made bare.

  • The Babylonians were coming, and they would take away everything that the Jews could have had and enjoyed.  They could have had a blessed relationship with the Lord, but instead they acted in lewdness against Him.  They had no reason to wonder why they were being punished; it ought to have been crystal clear that it was their own fault.  They had done all this to themselves.  All of the shame that they experienced in the sight of the nations was the shame they had brought upon themselves.  They ought to have been ashamed at the sins into which they had fallen, but instead it fell to the Lord to shame them because of their pride and unwillingness to repent.

23 Can the Ethiopian change his skin or the leopard its spots? Then may you also do good who are accustomed to do evil.

  • How ingrained were the Jews in the ways of evil?  It was as if it was their skin color.  By this point, it had just become part of them, and thus repentance was all but impossible.
  • Sin so easily becomes habitual.  We engage in it little by little until the point that we don’t even recognize that it is sin any longer.  Soon it just becomes part of us, and apart from an interruption from the Lord, it clings to us like our very skin.  This is why it’s so important for us to respond to the Lord while we have the opportunity.  This is why we need to respond to the voice and prompting of the Holy Spirit while we hear Him.  If we say “no” to the Lord enough times, eventually we get to the point that we stop hearing Him altogether.
    • The good news is that as long as you DO feel the conviction of the Holy Spirit, then it’s not yet too late to repent!

24 “Therefore I will scatter them like stubble That passes away by the wind of the wilderness. 25 This is your lot, The portion of your measures from Me,” says the LORD, “Because you have forgotten Me And trusted in falsehood.

  • As a result of their habitual unrepentant sin, God promised the diaspora.  The Jews would be taken out of their homeland and spread all over the Babylonian empire.  They had “forgotten” the Lord, and it would later appear as if God had forgotten them. 
  • Thankfully, God never forgets His promises.  His harsh discipline was required, but He never truly forgot His people.  (And we can be sure that He never forgets us!)

26 Therefore I will uncover your skirts over your face, That your shame may appear. 27 I have seen your adulteries And your lustful neighings, The lewdness of your harlotry, Your abominations on the hills in the fields. Woe to you, O Jerusalem! Will you still not be made clean?”

  • God had desired for them to be clean, but they had refused Him.  Their uncleanness would be on display for all the world to see, and the people of God would experience incredible shame.  It didn’t have to be that way, but that’s what the people chose in their pride.  They had refused the word of the Lord, and turned away from all of His merciful entreaties.  And there was a terrible price to pay as a result.

Conclusion:
God desired so much more for His people!  He wanted them to know His blessing and favor.  He wanted them to be a decoration of His own beauty, showing forth the glory of God & the opportunity for the grace of God to be shared with all the world.  That’s what God desired; the people apparently wanted something else.  They chose their sin, and thus they chose all of the shame that accompanied it.  They had turned away from every message that God had given them through the prophets, even persecuting the prophets who spoke the word of God in truth.  They had thoroughly rejected God, and thus they would experience the desolation that God promised.

What God offered to the ancient Jews, He still offers to all the world.  Just as He promised the neighboring Gentiles that they would be brought back into their homelands because of the overflow of His grace, so do we experience the overflow of the grace of God when we place our faith and trust in Christ Jesus.  Instead of saying “no” to God, when we say “yes,” then we experience the abundance of His blessings.  That’s not to say life is easy (it certainly wasn’t for Jeremiah), but at the very least we know God has His eyes upon us, and causes us to beautify Him – exactly what He has always intended for His people.

So be encouraged!  Don’t grow weary in doing good.  Don’t give up praying for the prodigals.  Don’t stop pointing people to Jesus.  When you do so, you are doing exactly as your Lord & God desires for you, and you can be sure that He is with you every step of the way, empowering you by the Holy Spirit to endure. 

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