Honest Confession

Posted: May 8, 2014 in Jeremiah

Jeremiah 14-15, “Honest Confession”

Have you ever had to force your kids to apologize?  It never comes out sincere, does it?  They might say the words, but words are all we can get out of them.  Rarely is that kind of apology sincere; it’s only muttered to get out of trouble.

Sometimes people try to give God the same sort of apology, or confession.  They might say that they’ve sinned, but they don’t really do anything about it.  They aren’t going to God in humility; they’re just trying to get out of trouble.

That’s the way the kingdom of Judah was with the Lord.  God had promised them immense trouble, and they had stubbornly persisted in their rebellion and idolatry.  Yet in Ch 14, it would seem that there is a change of heart.  The people actually do seem to confess sin.  Will that change anything?  No.  Their confession wasn’t honest because their actions never changed.

God desires honesty from us – even in the hard things.  As dishonest as the nation was regarding their sin, the prophet Jeremiah was honest regarding his depression.  He was going through some really tough trials as he proclaimed the oracles of God.  Was that something he needed to mask from the Lord?  Absolutely not.  He could be just as honest in his depression as he was in his praise.

Honest confession is always best: be it regarding our sin or our emotions.

Jeremiah 14

  • Grief over the drought (vss. 1-6)

1 The word of the LORD that came to Jeremiah concerning the droughts. 2 “Judah mourns, And her gates languish; They mourn for the land, And the cry of Jerusalem has gone up.

  • We’re not told the exact timeframe, but vs. 1 does set the context for us.  This is a specific word from the Lord to Jeremiah “concerning the droughts.”  Prior to modern-day irrigation technology, Israel was extremely dependent upon seasonal rainfall.
  • How bad were the droughts?  The whole land was mourning over it.  The “gates” (the seat of power & place of discussion, like a town hall) were languishing, and everyone from the capital city of Jerusalem to the entire land of Judah was crying out in anguish.  Vs 3 goes on to describe the conditions…

3 Their nobles have sent their lads for water; They went to the cisterns and found no water. They returned with their vessels empty; They were ashamed and confounded And covered their heads. 4 Because the ground is parched, For there was no rain in the land, The plowmen were ashamed; They covered their heads.

  • Everyone suffered, from the noblemen to the plowmen.  The “cisterns” were empty of drinking water, and the farmers had nothing with which to water their crops.  As a result, all the people everywhere experienced shame and confusion.  They were deep in their suffering, and there seemed to be no relief.
  • It didn’t have to be this way!  One of God’s promises concerning the land was that the people would never lack water.  As long as the people walked in covenant with God, God would bless them with all the water they ever needed.  (Deut 28:12)  Of course, this isn’t what happened.  The people abandoned God, and thus they walked away from the blessing that God had graciously extended to them.
  • This is the same sort of desolation that comes with God’s people abandon Him.  We could have so much!  We could walk in the abundant life that God promises.  We could experience the daily filling of the Holy Spirit.  We could walk in the forgiveness of God, and experience the intimacy with Christ that the Lord desires for us.  Yet when we turn away, choosing our sin, then it is OURSELVES who suffer.  WE miss out.  God’s promises of grace and blessing are there; but we are the ones that turn away.
  • And it’s shameful!  It should be shameful!  It’s a foolish thing to turn from the provision of our God to the emptiness of sin, and yet that is exactly what we do so often.  Why?  Our flesh.  We think we can gain so much more for ourselves when we do things our way, instead of God’s way.  Man’s way will always leave us disappointed and confused.  God’s way is always better.

5 Yes, the deer also gave birth in the field, But left because there was no grass. 6 And the wild donkeys stood in the desolate heights; They sniffed at the wind like jackals; Their eyes failed because there was no grass.”

  • It wasn’t just the people who suffered; it was even the animals.  Everything in the land suffered because God’s people had turned away from Him.
  • There is always collateral damage when God’s people turn into sin.  Sin always affects someone/something more than just us.  It’s never limited to the individual. …  When weighing a temptation, consider the cost!  Is that 20 seconds of pleasure worth 20 years of pain? (Or more!)  Who or what else will be caught up in the consequences?  Our choices right now could literally affect generations yet to come.
  • Prayer for mercy #1 (vss. 7-9)

7 O LORD, though our iniquities testify against us, Do it for Your name’s sake; For our backslidings are many, We have sinned against You.

  • Scholars debate whether this is the prayer of the nation, or the prayer of Jeremiah on behalf of the nation.  Those who claim that these are Jeremiah’s words point to the willingness to confess sin as he compassionately identifies himself with the people.  Those who believe these are the words of the nation point to the insincerity that God identifies later on.  There’s little doubt that Jeremiah did speak these words (after all, they are written in the book that bears his name) – but it seems more likely that these words more accurately reflect the heart of the nation.  Even in their pride and sin, the Jews could tell that they were in trouble.  Specifically in terms of the drought, it was something that affected them all.  That the drought would turn their attention to God ought not to surprise us.  One of the specific purposes of God’s discipline is to grab our attention, and put our eyes back on Him.  God never disciplines us because it brings Him pleasure (just like it never pleases any parent!); He disciplines us to bring us to confession, repentance and restoration.  Sadly for the nation, it seemed that they went part of the way, but not as far as they needed.
  • What did they do right?  First, they rightly identified the cause of the drought.  They recognized that their trial was not the result of random chance, or bad luck with the weather – but rather it came directly as a result of the promise of God.  God had promised the provision of rain if the people walked with Him, but He also specifically promised droughts if they did not.  Deuteronomy 28:23–24, "(23) And your heavens which are over your head shall be bronze, and the earth which is under you shall be iron. (24) The LORD will change the rain of your land to powder and dust; from the heaven it shall come down on you until you are destroyed." []  Again, they could have avoided all of this if they had (1) been obedient to the Lord, and (2) properly humbled themselves in true repentance when they failed. 
    • Question: Can we as the Church expect the same sort of thing?  Not really.  To be sure, God never changes.  He is the same yesterday, today, and forever.  But at the same time, we are included in a different covenant relationship with God than the nation of Israel.  The covenant of Moses was a conditional covenant.  If the people obeyed, they would be blessed; if they disobeyed, they would be cursed.  The new covenant under Christ Jesus is unconditional.  We couldn’t keep the covenant perfectly if we tried; Jesus keeps it on our behalf.  Our salvation is completely wrapped up in His work in our place.
    • That said, we CAN and DO experience variations in our relationship with God based upon our obedience or disobedience.  When we walk away in sin, we can expect God’s hand of discipline upon us.  When we humbly submit ourselves to Him in repentance, we experience the abundance of His grace.  Like Israel, we ought to be willing to examine ourselves to see whether or not we ourselves might be the cause for our lack of intimacy with the Lord God.  If our prayers seem to bounce off the ceiling, we might look at our lives to see if there is unrepentant sin – unloving attitudes – unwillingness to be in the Bible and in prayer listening for God’s voice, etc.  If there is, confess it, turn from it, and be done with it!
  • Secondly, they honestly confessed their sins.  “For our backslidings are many, we have sinned against You.”  No doubt, that was the truth!  There’s no way they could have denied the fact they had sinned – after all, they were talking with the all-knowing God.  It’s useless for us to try to hide our sin from the Lord; we might as well confess what He already knows.  Our confession brings us into agreement with God; we will not bring the Almighty God into agreement with us.
  • Thirdly, they appealed to God based upon His character. “Do it for Your name’s sake.”  Israel understood that they did not deserve the mercies of God.  If God gave them what they deserved, they truly would be lost!  But if God acted according to His promises and His person, then they could know that God would be merciful.  God would always leave a remnant, because God promised that He would.  No matter what the people did in disobedience, the glory of God’s name meant that God would always be faithful – and He was (and is!).
  • If Israel did all of this right, what did they do wrong?  This was as far as it went.  Confession is good, but confession that leads to true repentance is better.  This is what God will point out in vs. 10.  For now, the nation still attempts to make their case for God’s mercy.

8 O the Hope of Israel, his Savior in time of trouble, Why should You be like a stranger in the land, And like a traveler who turns aside to tarry for a night?

  • Question: Was God still the “Hope of Israel, his Savior” even in the times that God was bringing drought into the land along with the promise of the Babylonian captivity?  Yes!  That never changed!  God was still their Hope & Savior, even in times of discipline.
  • Although that truth could be affirmed, the way it felt was profoundly different.  God was indeed their Savior, but He felt more like a “stranger” at the time.  Because God had removed His hand of blessing from the land, it seemed as if God did not treat His people AS His people.

9 Why should You be like a man astonished, Like a mighty one who cannot save? Yet You, O LORD, are in our midst, And we are called by Your name; Do not leave us!

  • It felt as if God was not only a stranger, but a powerless one at that.  Was God not even capable of helping Judah?  Of course He was.  God is never powerless!  And of course, that is the point.  They knew what God was capable of, so even though He did not seem to be acting at the moment, they are asking Him TO act as their God.
  • In actuality, that’s what God was doing.  He WAS acting as their God; only He was upholding all of the curses that He as their God told the people that He would bring when they acted in disobedience.  They may not have liked His actions as God, but they were still Godly.
  • God is never powerless.  God is never off of His throne.  God always acts according to His perfect character and perfect will.  Of that, we can be absolutely certain.  We may not always like what God allows to happen, but God never stops being God.
  • God’s answer #1: No. (vs. 10)

10 Thus says the LORD to this people: “Thus they have loved to wander; They have not restrained their feet. Therefore the LORD does not accept them; He will remember their iniquity now, And punish their sins.”

  • The people asked for mercy, and for God to act in their behalf, and God says “No.”  Can God say “no” in answers to prayer?  Absolutely, He can.  He’s God & we’re not.  Just because we pray a prayer does not mean that God is obligated to give us what we’ve asked.  Objection: “Didn’t Jesus tell us that we could ask for anything, believing in faith, and know that God would grant it to us?”  Yes & no.  Mark 11:22–24, "(22) So Jesus answered and said to them, “Have faith in God. (23) For assuredly, I say to you, whoever says to this mountain, ‘Be removed and be cast into the sea,’ and does not doubt in his heart, but believes that those things he says will be done, he will have whatever he says. (24) Therefore I say to you, whatever things you ask when you pray, believe that you receive them, and you will have them." []  Jesus does guarantee an answer in prayer, but where does He tell us to place our faith?  Not in self; in God.  If we have faith in God, then we ought to be humbling ourselves before Him and seeking to walk according to His will.  If we are, then we can be sure that the prayers that God the Spirit leads us to pray will be answered exactly as God intends for them to be answered.  But if we’re just asking for a blank check to get whatever we want, then we cannot honestly saying we exercising true faith in God.  God is not obligated to give us whatever wish list we might desire simply because we are born-again Christians.  Sometimes (and especially when we’re in sin), God says “no.”  That’s His right, and that’s exactly what He did with the Jewish nation.
  • Specifically, God points out that the Jews were still in sin.  “They have loved to wander; they have not restrained their feet.”  The people may have honestly confessed their sin in vs. 7, but they never truly repented from their sin.  They never once changed their ways.  They uttered the words of confession, but their hearts remained hardened.
    • Confession without repentance will never change our consequences.  Sometimes, there are consequences to our actions, no matter what we do.  But there’s no doubt that God is under no obligation to respond to an unrepentant heart.
  • False teachers are no excuse (vss. 11-16)

11 Then the LORD said to me, “Do not pray for this people, for their good. 12 When they fast, I will not hear their cry; and when they offer burnt offering and grain offering, I will not accept them. But I will consume them by the sword, by the famine, and by the pestilence.”

  • This is the third time that God tells Jeremiah not to pray for the people.  This time, He puts a specific qualification on it.  It’s not that Jeremiah can’t pray for the hearts of the people to repent, but rather that he cannot pray for “their good.”  The idea is that God did not want to hear the prayers of Jeremiah for the people to be blessed, or for God’s hand of punishment to be removed from them.  Those would be wasted words & wasted breath.  God had sovereignly determined their punishment, and nothing would change His mind from that.  God had given them over to their consequences of their sin, and that is where they would remain.
    • How tragic it is when God gives someone over!  Pray that hearts may remain soft before the Lord! 
  • Not only would God not hear Jeremiah’s prayer of intercession, He also would not honor the people’s acts of sacrifice.  Whether it be fasting or offering, God would not relent from His punishment.  Why?  Go back to vs. 10: the people hadn’t humbled their hearts nor changed their ways!  Why would God honor sacrifice and fasting that was merely ritual?  Ritualistic religious acts are meaningless.  Just because someone goes through the motions of religion does not mean that his/her heart is broken before the Lord.  David understood this.  Psalm 51:16–17, "(16) For You do not desire sacrifice, or else I would give it; You do not delight in burnt offering. (17) The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit, A broken and a contrite heart— These, O God, You will not despise." []  THIS is what God wants – God wants true, heartfelt repentance.

13 Then I said, “Ah, Lord GOD! Behold, the prophets say to them, ‘You shall not see the sword, nor shall you have famine, but I will give you assured peace in this place.’ ” 14 And the LORD said to me, “The prophets prophesy lies in My name. I have not sent them, commanded them, nor spoken to them; they prophesy to you a false vision, divination, a worthless thing, and the deceit of their heart.

  • Jeremiah raises an objection to the Lord.  He basically says, “But the people have been lied to.  It’s not their fault that they aren’t repentant, because prophets have come in saying that You aren’t upset with them.”
  • Of course, God hadn’t sent them.  Those were false prophets – false teachers speaking a word to the people that God hadn’t given them.  That wasn’t God’s fault; it was the fault of the people for listening to them.  No doubt, there is much danger in false teaching, but the only way false teaching is successful is if there are people willing to listen to it.  God had given the people specific instructions by which to judge the prophets (Dt 18), and those who were judged to be false were to be killed.  The problem was the people didn’t judge them.  They didn’t want to judge them.  They liked what the prophets said, because it was a word that tickled their ears, and let them continue in their sin.  Thus the people will still responsible for their own sin.
  • That’s not to say God wouldn’t hold the false prophets to account; He would!  See vs. 15…

15 Therefore thus says the LORD concerning the prophets who prophesy in My name, whom I did not send, and who say, ‘Sword and famine shall not be in this land’—‘By sword and famine those prophets shall be consumed! 16 And the people to whom they prophesy shall be cast out in the streets of Jerusalem because of the famine and the sword; they will have no one to bury them—them nor their wives, their sons nor their daughters—for I will pour their wickedness on them.’

  • The false prophets would be punished.  They would be killed by the very things that they had prophesied that God would never allow to come.  They said God wouldn’t bring the sword & famine, but God said it would be by sword & famine that the false prophets would be destroyed.
  • And again, it wouldn’t just be the false teachers.  All of the Jews in the land would suffer.  There would be massive destruction – so much so that there would be anyone available to bury the dead.  The ultimate desecration would come as the bodies of the dead Jews lay exposed to the sun and rotted in the open.
  • Sorrow over circumstances (vss. 17-18)

17 “Therefore you shall say this word to them: ‘Let my eyes flow with tears night and day, And let them not cease; For the virgin daughter of my people Has been broken with a mighty stroke, with a very severe blow. 18 If I go out to the field, Then behold, those slain with the sword! And if I enter the city, Then behold, those sick from famine! Yes, both prophet and priest go about in a land they do not know.’ ”

  • God gave Jeremiah a word of grief for the people.  He described how the prophet would weep for them.  If the people of the land were grieved due to the lack of rain, imagine the grief that would come after the Babylonian invasion!  Dead bodies would be everywhere – the nation would be broken, and none would be exempt.  Even those who survived the initial onslaught would be removed from the land, taken into captivity.  This was a fate that was beyond terrible.  Jeremiah would truly weep – and they ALL needed to weep.  They all needed to understand the severity of their sin.
    • Do we weep over our sin?  Do we realize how bad it truly is?
  • Prayer for mercy #2 (vss. 19-22)

19 Have You utterly rejected Judah? Has Your soul loathed Zion? Why have You stricken us so that there is no healing for us? We looked for peace, but there was no good; And for the time of healing, and there was trouble.

  • Did God hate Jerusalem?  Of course not – it was in His love that God HAD to act.  He could not allow them to go on in their pagan ways.  He loved them enough to do what was necessary to bring them to a point of true repentance.
  • That said, it certainly would have felt as if God hated them.  All the blessings that Israel once experienced were gone – all of the healing was no more – all of the peace was removed.  It would have felt as if the Jews had no hope in God, and that God had completely rejected them.
    • Those are honest feelings, even if it wasn’t the truth.  God would be faithful to leave a remnant, and the fact that the Jewish people exist even to this day is verifiable proof that God did not completely reject them.  There’s nothing wrong with expressing our honest feelings and emotions to the Lord.  But once we have, we need to always fall back on the absolute truth that the Scripture has revealed to us about Him.

20 We acknowledge, O LORD, our wickedness And the iniquity of our fathers, For we have sinned against You. 21 Do not abhor us, for Your name’s sake; Do not disgrace the throne of Your glory. Remember, do not break Your covenant with us.

  • Once more, the people seem to confess honestly concerning their sin.  They seemingly don’t run from the responsibility, but freely acknowledge their own fault.  It’s a good & necessary first step; it just cannot be the only step.  If we were to confess our sins to the Lord, and then run straight back into them again, has it truly been confession?  True confession is agreeing with God what He says concerning sin.  If we agree that it is sinful, then we also agree that it is something to avoid and to wage war against.  But what happens when we say something is sinful, but we gladly & gleefully go back to it again?  We haven’t truly agreed with God, because we haven’t seen the need to forsake it.
  • And, once more the people appeal to God for His mercies.  As before, they appeal to God’s glory and His promises.  God had promised to be with His people and provide for them, so they’re not asking for help because of anything they’ve done to deserve it, but because of everything God had personally already promised to do.  And as with their confession, this would be good IF they had followed all the way through to repentance.  God’s wrath upon Israel WAS His faithfulness.  This is exactly what God had declared that He would act in response to their sin, and He would do it.
  • Is it possible to have good theology and still be outside of the will of God?  Yes.  That’s exactly what Judah showed.  They knew the truth, and they knew all the right words – but their hearts were still hardened (as God had already proclaimed).  What they needed at this point was not more words, nor more sacrifices, but a true brokenness.  They needed to be like David after his sin with the census, and submit themselves into the hand of God, whatever God decided to do.

22 Are there any among the idols of the nations that can cause rain? Or can the heavens give showers? Are You not He, O LORD our God? Therefore we will wait for You, Since You have made all these.

  • After all this time, the people finally acknowledge the futility of idolatry.  The false gods they had worshipped could not bring the rain they so desperately needed.  Finally they realized that only the God of Creation could provide for them what they needed.
  • Unfortunately, it was too little too late.  God responds to all of this in Ch 15…

Jeremiah 15

  • God’s answer #2: No. (vss. 1-9)

1 Then the LORD said to me, “Even if Moses and Samuel stood before Me, My mind would not be favorable toward this people. Cast them out of My sight, and let them go forth. 2 And it shall be, if they say to you, ‘Where should we go?’ then you shall tell them, ‘Thus says the LORD: “Such as are for death, to death; And such as are for the sword, to the sword; And such as are for the famine, to the famine; And such as are for the captivity, to the captivity.” ’ 3 “And I will appoint over them four forms of destruction,” says the LORD: “the sword to slay, the dogs to drag, the birds of the heavens and the beasts of the earth to devour and destroy.

  • Just as God told Jeremiah not to pray for the people, He affirms again here that He will not listen to intercession.  Even if Moses or Samuel personally prayed for the people, it would not change God’s mind.  There is a time that God runs out of patience, and He WILL act.
  • The people would be judged, and they would experience a variety of means in their judgment, but it would all be for the same cause.  Some might die by the sword, while other died of famine, but they would all experience the judgment of God.  The bottom line is that they would face horrendous destruction, no matter how much they prayed or fasted or brought other offerings.  They had done so in insincerity and without any fruits of true repentance, and they would assuredly face the judgment of God.  God tells them precisely why in vs. 4…

4 I will hand them over to trouble, to all kingdoms of the earth, because of Manasseh the son of Hezekiah, king of Judah, for what he did in Jerusalem.

  • There were many kings of Judah who were evil.  There were many who walked in the ways of the idolatrous kings of Israel, but Manasseh set the gold standard for evil among the kings of Judah.  Over his 55 year reign, he rebuilt all of the high places of pagan worship which his godly father Hezekiah had torn down – he raised up altars for Baal worship – he placed pagan altars in the Jerusalem temple – he used witchcraft, participated in human sacrifice, set up a carved pagan image in the temple, and much more. He engaged in more wickedness than the evil Amorites whom the Lord judged by bringing the Hebrews into the land in the first place.  (2 Kings 21)  And it wasn’t him alone.  He led the charge, but the people willingly followed him.  As a result, God promised to judge the nation.  2 Kings 24:3–4, "(3) Surely at the commandment of the LORD this came upon Judah, to remove them from His sight because of the sins of Manasseh, according to all that he had done, (4) and also because of the innocent blood that he had shed; for he had filled Jerusalem with innocent blood, which the LORD would not pardon." []  Keep in mind that this final proclamation was given after the revival of Josiah (Manasseh’s grandson).  The judgment of God may have been delayed for a generation, but it was still determined to come.  What God said He would do, He absolutely would do.

5 “For who will have pity on you, O Jerusalem? Or who will bemoan you? Or who will turn aside to ask how you are doing?

  • Who would be left to pity the Jews?  It had always been the Lord God to show compassion towards Jerusalem.  He alone had protected them and brought them this far.  Now that He would turn away, who would be left?
  • If we don’t have the Lord, we have nothing & no one & no hope!

6 You have forsaken Me,” says the LORD, “You have gone backward. Therefore I will stretch out My hand against you and destroy you; I am weary of relenting! 7 And I will winnow them with a winnowing fan in the gates of the land; I will bereave them of children; I will destroy My people, Since they do not return from their ways.

  • Despite the protests of the people, they had turned away from God.  It wasn’t just that they were negligent, not doing what God desired – but they had actively “forsaken” Him & gone the other direction (“backward”).  This is why their confessions and offerings were ignored by God.  They hadn’t repented.  God had shown them mercy time & time again, and He grew “weary” of it.  Can God get tired?  No – God never needs to sleep nor slumber.  But He did grow weary in His patience.  Eventually the patience of God expired, and He promised that He would “destroy” His own people.
  • Question: if God did this with Israel, would He do the same with us?  Again, it goes back to the idea of the Church being in a different covenant relationship with God than Israel.  What the Jews experienced in their rejection by God is a picture that shows us the hopelessness of relying upon ourselves.  Left to ourselves & our own ability (or inability) to keep the law of God, every single one of us would be in exactly the same boat as the rebellious Jews.  We would be attempting to justify our actions, and finding excuses for our sin, hoping that we could somehow convince God not to judge us righteously.  Thankfully, that’s NOT what our relationship with God is based upon.  Our covenant is based upon the work of the Lord Jesus, and that makes all of the difference in the world!
    • That said, God’s grace and mercies are never something to take for granted.  Simply because God has not yet let us experience the consequences of our sin yet does not mean that He will never allow us to experience them.  Should we continue in unrepentant sin, God will undoubtedly discipline us.  He loves us too much to do otherwise.

8 Their widows will be increased to Me more than the sand of the seas; I will bring against them, Against the mother of the young men, A plunderer at noonday; I will cause anguish and terror to fall on them suddenly. 9 “She languishes who has borne seven; She has breathed her last; Her sun has gone down While it was yet day; She has been ashamed and confounded. And the remnant of them I will deliver to the sword Before their enemies,” says the LORD.

  • For the Jews, they would experience the opposite of the Abrahamic blessing.  God had promised Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob that their descendants would number more than the sand of the sea/stars of the sky.  Yet now, God promises that this number will be the number of widows.  The judgment of God would be swift, and it would be severe.  It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the Living God!  (Heb 10:31)
  • This was an undoubtedly a heavy message for Jeremiah to preach.  It grieved him, and caused him much grief among his family and others in the land. …
  • Jeremiah’s complaint #1 (vs. 10)

10 Woe is me, my mother, That you have borne me, A man of strife and a man of contention to the whole earth! I have neither lent for interest, Nor have men lent to me for interest. Every one of them curses me.

  • Jeremiah hadn’t done anything wrong, but people treated him as if he had.  The prophet had the same reputation as a loan-shark.  The word of God that he proclaimed didn’t bring peace, but strife.  In his despair, he thought it would have been better if he had never been born.
  • What does Jeremiah do?  He cries out to God…exactly as he needed to do.  Sometimes we get the idea that those who are truly godly never go through times of despair.  The book of Job ought to put all of those objections to rest, and if not Job, then Jeremiah.  Jeremiah was downright depressed about what was going on around him, and he did not hesitate to call upon God.  That’s not to say that Jeremiah would always get a cheerful answer, but no doubt he had the sure presence of the Lord with him, always.
    • So do we!  Jesus never leaves us nor forsakes us.  We can take all our doubts and questions and despair to Him, and we need not fear that He’ll abandon us over them.  He won’t!
  • God’s answer for the people (vss. 11-14)

11 The LORD said: “Surely it will be well with your remnant; Surely I will cause the enemy to intercede with you In the time of adversity and in the time of affliction.

  • Translations vary wildly on this verse.  “The LORD said, “Have I not set you free for their good? Have I not pleaded for you before the enemy in the time of trouble and in the time of distress?” (ESV)  “The LORD said, “Surely I will set you free for purposes of good; Surely I will cause the enemy to make supplication to you In a time of disaster and a time of distress.” (NASB95)  “The LORD said: I will certainly set you free and care for you. I will certainly intercede for you in a time of trouble, in your time of distress, with the enemy.” (HCSB)  So who is praying for whom?  Is it the enemy praying with Jeremiah – God praying for Jeremiah – the enemy pleading to Jeremiah, or what?  Each translation has scholarly support…  At the very least, it does seem that God addresses Jeremiah first before He addresses the people.  Jeremiah was deep in despair, but the one thing that is apparent is that God had not forgotten him.  God did not hear prayers for the people, but He certainly heard the prayers of Jeremiah.  And somehow, someway, God would make everything alright.  Jeremiah would indeed experience much affliction, but God would see him through.
  • Thankfully we have exactly the same assurance in Christ!

12 Can anyone break iron, The northern iron and the bronze? 13 Your wealth and your treasures I will give as plunder without price, Because of all your sins, Throughout your territories. 14 And I will make you cross over with your enemies Into a land which you do not know; For a fire is kindled in My anger, Which shall burn upon you.”

  • Turning His attention to the nation, God tells them that His judgment had not changed.  A strong nation would come from the north, and everything that had belonged to the Jews would be plundered and taken.  Just as the Hebrews had taken the spoil of the land when they first came in conquest, so would the possessions of the Hebrews be spoil for the Babylonians.  They would experience the fire of God’s judgment.  Far worse than the weapons of the enemy is the all-consuming fire of the Lord God!
  • Jeremiah’s complaint #2 (vss. 15-18)

15 O LORD, You know; Remember me and visit me, And take vengeance for me on my persecutors. In Your enduring patience, do not take me away. Know that for Your sake I have suffered rebuke.

  • Jeremiah continues to take his despair to the Lord, asking for several things: (1) That God would see him – “remember me and visit me,” (2) That God would rise up for him – “take vengeance for me,” (3) That God would protect him – “do not take me away”.
    • Notice how this is the opposite of how God seemed to treat the nation.  God had forsaken His people, that He refused to rise up for them, and had purposefully brought about their defeat and ruin.  Basically, Jeremiah is asking to be treated differently than the rest of the Jews.
  • Why?  Because unlike the rest of the nation, Jeremiahs HAD been faithful to God.  The suffering Jeremiah experienced was unjust.  The people suffered because of their sin; the prophet was persecuted because he spoke the word of God.

16 Your words were found, and I ate them, And Your word was to me the joy and rejoicing of my heart; For I am called by Your name, O LORD God of hosts. 17 I did not sit in the assembly of the mockers, Nor did I rejoice; I sat alone because of Your hand, For You have filled me with indignation.

  • Jeremiah willingly served in his calling – it was a joy to him to know the word of God.  He did not rejoice with the nation as the nation engaged in sin.  Jeremiah was on the side of the Lord, experiencing righteous indignation because of the flagrant sin of the people.  The prophet treasured the things the Lord treasured, and abhorred the things the Lord abhorred. 
  • Shouldn’t that have guaranteed his safety?  Shouldn’t that have ensured his prosperity?  To listen to many teachers today, we might get this idea.  Christians are often told that as long as we obey the Lord, then we will experience the physical prosperity of the Lord – and yet experience and theology tells us that is NOT the case.  Multitudes of Christians around the world are faithful in their walk with the Lord Jesus, and routinely experience persecution.  And the NT expressly tells us to expect such things, that all who desire to live godly in Christ Jesus will suffer persecution (2 Tim 3:12).  It’s understandable that this could leave us confused.  It certainly left Jeremiah confused.  See vs. 18…

18 Why is my pain perpetual And my wound incurable, Which refuses to be healed? Will You surely be to me like an unreliable stream, As waters that fail?

  • Why was his pain unending?  Why did the persecution continue?  Why did it seem as if God’s provision was unreliable, like a river that would ebb & flow?
  • Again, this is honest.  It wasn’t accurate, but it was honest.  Never fear to take your honesty to God.  He’s big enough to handle it, and lovingly bring us correction along the way when needed.
  • God’s answer for the prophet (vss. 19-21)

19 Therefore thus says the LORD: “If you return, Then I will bring you back; You shall stand before Me; If you take out the precious from the vile, You shall be as My mouth. Let them return to you, But you must not return to them.

  • God had not abandoned Jeremiah.  God had not turned away from him, nor given him over to the enemy.  Jeremiah may not have abandoned God by turning to sin, but the prophet did wander a bit into self-pity.  It was understandable of course, but at some point the pity needed to stop & Jeremiah needed to get his eyes back onto the Lord.  And when he did, he would find that God was right there.  God would indeed protect him, and give him the strength to stand.
  • What did God ask of Jeremiah?  Faithfulness.  Jeremiah faced every temptation there was to compromise.  Every other so-called prophet in the land spoke words of comfort to the people, and they seemed to live in relative comfort.  They weren’t abandoned by their family and friends, yet Jeremiah was.  Jeremiah was one of the only prophets at the time speaking the words of God, and he experienced terrible hardship.  It would have been very tempting to compromise & water down the word he had been given.  It would have been tempting for Jeremiah to walk in the direction of the people, and God told him not to do it.  It was the people who needed to repent & come to him; not Jeremiah going to them.
    • Never compromise the word of God!  The Bible says what it says, and we need not apologize for it, nor try to find ways to make it more “palatable” to the world around us.  Obviously we’re not to be offensive in the way that we share, but the gospel itself IS an offense to those who are perishing.  It’s foolishness to them.  That is a fact we must accept, though never back down from.  God wanted Jeremiah to be faithful to the word; God wants us to do the same.

20 And I will make you to this people a fortified bronze wall; And they will fight against you, But they shall not prevail against you; For I am with you to save you And deliver you,” says the LORD. 21 “I will deliver you from the hand of the wicked, And I will redeem you from the grip of the terrible.”

  • If Jeremiah was uncompromisingly faithful, he would find that God would do exactly as Jeremiah prayed.  God would be with him, fight for him, and strengthen him for what was to come.  God would deliver Jeremiah through his persecution, even if God didn’t deliver Jeremiah out of persecution.  God would give the prophet whatever was needed for whatever it was the prophet would face.
  • The same promise applies to us.  God is always with His children, empowering us through the Holy Spirit to face whatever it is He calls us to face.  So do not fear; be faithful!  He will equip us to stand firm; trust Him to do it.

Conclusion:
Is there anything you’re holding back from the Lord?  The Jews of Jerusalem offered up words of confession, and even went through the motions of fasting and sacrifice.  Yet they held back true honest repentance.  They didn’t humble themselves before God.  As a result, they felt as if God truly abandoned them.  To some extent, God did turn away, but only to turn them over to the consequences of their sin.

On the other hand, Jeremiah was freely honest in his grief.  He wept for the nation, and despaired over his own trials.  The fact that he was a prophet of the Lord did not mean he was somehow spiritually exempt from suffering or sorrow.  And he freely took it to the Lord, just as he needed to.  God helped him get refocused, and recommitted to preach the word without compromise.

As for us, we neither want to hold back our true humble confession, nor our honest emotions from our Lord Jesus.  He both knows when our repentance is insincere, and when we try to put on a super-spiritual act.  Neither is necessary.  Confession isn’t ritualistic; it’s the first step to true repentance.  If there is something God is pointing out in your life, then deal with it honestly.  Humble yourself before the Lord and ask for His help to change.  Don’t think that you can mutter a prayer and go back to “things as usual.”  God is never fooled by that sort of thing.

What about your prayer life?  Have you tried to appear more “spiritual” than you are?  What’s the point?  Be honest before the Lord!  Jesus knows where you’re hurting already – there is no sense in trying to hide it from Him. Be honest with Him, and allow Him to minister to you in the way that only He can.

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