Don’t Do Deja-Vu

Posted: September 17, 2014 in Jeremiah

Jeremiah 43-44, “Don’t Do Deja-Vu”

They say that deja-vu is that feeling that you’ve been somewhere or done something before. It’s been often quoted: “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.”  When we fail to remember the things that we have done in the past – the mistakes that we as individuals (or as nations) have made – then we will often find ourselves doing exactly the same thing in the future.  That’s a truism not merely for people of the 20th & 21st centuries, but also for those of ancient times. 

The Jews of Jeremiah’s day were about to learn the same lesson for themselves.  God had judged the Jews for their idolatry and disobedience by sending in the Babylonians as His instrument of judgment.  Jerusalem had been destroyed, and the vast majority of people were killed or taken captive.  In His mercy, God allowed a Jewish remnant to remain…but they were about make exactly the same mistakes and experience exactly the same judgment.  It was deja-vu, all over again.

Remember where things left off…  After the Babylonian conquest of Jerusalem, the poor people who were left as a remnant were given lands and properties – a way for Babylon to try to “buy” their loyalty to the new empire.  A new governor had been installed (Gedaliah), who implored the people & remaining Jewish armies to finally submit themselves to the new authority.  This was their new normal, as God had repeatedly told the people that it would be.  At first, things go well.  The people ceased their fighting, and they went back to growing crops in the land, having a taste of peace for the first time in decades. 

Behind the scenes however, things were not so peaceful.  There were rumors of assassination plots against the new governor, which Gedaliah ignored to his peril.  Sure enough, one of the captains of the Jewish armies (a man by the name of Ishmael, who had been of the original royal family of David) led a conspiracy to murder Gedaliah, and massacre the Jews who were with him in the new capital city of Mizpah.  Ishmael was truly evil, and continued to murder Samaritan pilgrims even passing through the land on their way to worship at the Jerusalem ruins.  The murderer took his own Jewish countrymen captive, and started taking them prisoner to the king of Ammon.

It was at this point that deliverance came by the hand of another Jewish captain named Johanan (ultimately an act of grace by the hand of God).  Johanan rescued the people, Ishmael fled, and Johanan began to lead the people south towards Egypt.  They had lost confidence in their opportunity to live safely in their own land, and they feared potential retribution from Babylon regarding Gedaliah’s murder.

Before they got too far, to their credit, they stopped to ask advice of Jeremiah (who was among the captives).  They wanted him to ask God if going to Egypt was the right thing or not.  The only problem was, they didn’t really want to know God’s will.  They wanted God to simply confirm THEIR will, without caring what God wanted for them.  God knew the insincerity of their hearts, but still gave a word through Jeremiah giving them the choice to either stay in the land and experience blessing, or go to Egypt and experience judgment.  God knew which choice they would make, and He knew what He would do in response to their choice…but the choice was still theirs.

That’s where Ch. 43 picks up.  God had spoken to His people…would they listen?

Jeremiah 43

  • The rebellious response of the Remnant (vss. 1-7)

1 Now it happened, when Jeremiah had stopped speaking to all the people all the words of the LORD their God, for which the LORD their God had sent him to them, all these words,

  • Before we get to the actual response of the people, notice two things.  First, Jeremiah spoke “all the words of the LORD their God.”  Even knowing in advance what their sinful choice would be, it didn’t stop Jeremiah from saying it.  He didn’t water it down, or try to find some way to make God’s word sound more palatable or appealing.  He simply spoke to the people what God had given him to speak.
    • That’s exactly the way we are to be with the gospel.  Just speak the words.  Don’t water it down – don’t change it.  Obviously we don’t want to be unnecessarily offensive, or incomprehensible – but the basic content of the message is never to change.  There are certain aspects of the gospel that simply WILL offend, because as the Bible says, Jesus is a stone of stumbling and rock of offense.  There are certain things we cannot get around (like the reality of sin), which people often don’t want to hear.  Even when we know they don’t want to hear it, we still have a responsibility to say it.  We need to be faithful with the word of God with which we have been entrusted.
  • Secondly, notice that it was God who spoke to them. “the words of the LORD their God, for which the LORD their God had sent him…”  This might seem basic, but it’s important.  Who was it that spoke to the people through Jeremiah?  GOD.  THEIR God – their Covenant God.  The Almighty Creator God took time out of history to personally address His people, even though He knew in advance of their disobedience.  Knowing that the people would ignore Him, who could have blamed God for not saying a word?  Yet He did.  He still reached out to His people with His word and through His grace.  His word was a gift – even though it would be a rejected gift.
    • Don’t reject the gift of God’s word!

2 that Azariah the son of Hoshaiah, Johanan the son of Kareah, and all the proud men spoke, saying to Jeremiah, “You speak falsely! The LORD our God has not sent you to say, ‘Do not go to Egypt to dwell there.’ 3 But Baruch the son of Neriah has set you against us, to deliver us into the hand of the Chaldeans, that they may put us to death or carry us away captive to Babylon.”

  • God had spoken to the people, but the people flatly rejected it.  They knew it was the Lord (it was obvious it was the Lord – after all, they had specifically asked Jeremiah the prophet to inquire of the Lord for them, and Jeremiah had always proven himself to be faithful in this regard) – but they chose to deny that it was the Lord who spoke to them.  They accused Jeremiah of lying, and they accused Jeremiah’s assistant Baruch of manipulating Jeremiah to make him say this.  The lie was meant (supposedly) to bring the Jewish people to their death, or to further captivity in Babylon.
  • Had Jeremiah ever lied to them in the past?  No.  Over many year, he had pleaded with the people to obey God, and because they did not, THAT was the reason they experienced the conquest and captivity of Babylon.  Jeremiah had pleaded with the people to make the right choice in order that it would be well with them and live – yet they accuse him of doing exactly the opposite.  They had to ignore Jeremiah’s proven track record in order to accuse him of this kind of treachery.  They assumed the worst, in order to have their own way.
    • This often the response of people determined to sin.  (Perhaps we’ve been there.)  Someone may come alongside us and give us godly counsel, but because we’ve set our minds to sin, we accuse them of false motives and other things…anything to get out of actually listening to the counsel of God.  Even that itself is a choice.  We have to choose to set ourselves against the things that God clearly reveals to us.
    • Be careful!  Once you start down that road, there are surely painful lessons to come as a result.  To be contradicted by the word of God (or by godly counsel of Christians who love us and seek our best) might sting a little, but a little sting at first is far better than massive heartache later.  (Like putting antiseptic on a wound…it hurts, but it’s far better than what would come later if the wound got infected.)  Don’t run from that counsel; hear it!  When God speaks, listen.
  • What caused the Jewish leaders to reject God’s word?  Pride.  “And all the proud men spoke.”  Pride is the root of all kinds of sin and problems.  Pride will cause us to be deaf to the voice of God in our consciences, and blind to the written word of God in our Bibles.  The proverbs tell us that pride goes before destruction (Prov 16:18), and that is proven not to be true only for the Jewish remnant, but also for us today.

4 So Johanan the son of Kareah, all the captains of the forces, and all the people would not obey the voice of the LORD, to remain in the land of Judah.

  • They chose not to obey.  Not only did they choose not to believe the word of God, but because of that first choice, it led to the specific choice for them not to “obey the voice of the LORD, to remain in the land of Judah.”  God told them to stay; they chose to go.
  • Disobedience to God is always a choice.  There are times we think that we’re victims of our circumstances…that we really don’t have a choice in the matter.  We always have a choice.  We can always choose whether to trust God or trust ourselves.  We can always choose whether to tell the truth, or tell a lie.  We can choose if we will forgive, or hold a grudge.  We can choose if we will humble ourselves or build ourselves up in pride.  That’s not to say that the choice is always easy; there may be consequences for whatever it is we choose.  Within countries that persecute Christians, there are consequences for taking a public stand for Jesus…and those consequences are rarely easy.  But there is always a choice.  We can choose to follow Jesus now, and perhaps suffer temporary trials – or we can choose to disobey God and suffer the consequences of God’s discipline.
  • In the case of the Jewish remnant, they had no reason NOT to obey God!  If they obeyed the Lord and remained in the land, God promised them blessing, protection, and stability.  What possible reason could they have to disobey God?  It serves to show that they never had faith in God in the first place.
    • If we ARE going to obey, then we need to have faith.  It’s impossible to do it otherwise.  And without faith, it is impossible to please God anyway.

5 But Johanan the son of Kareah and all the captains of the forces took all the remnant of Judah who had returned to dwell in the land of Judah, from all nations where they had been driven— 6 men, women, children, the king’s daughters, and every person whom Nebuzaradan the captain of the guard had left with Gedaliah the son of Ahikam, the son of Shaphan, and Jeremiah the prophet and Baruch the son of Neriah.

  • At this point, Johanan isn’t much better than Ishmael.  After Ishmael committed his massacres, he took the people captive and started carting them off to Ammon, in the east.  Now that Johanan is leading the people, he forces them to go south, to Egypt.  To be sure, most of the people were likely more than willing to go, but there were at least a few who were not…most notably Jeremiah & Baruch.  Jeremiah had repeatedly warned the people in earlier years about faulty trust in Egypt, and told them not to go – and now, he is compelled to go there by the stubbornly disobedient Johanan.
  • In addition, apparently Johanan didn’t leave very many people (if any) behind.  He led “ALL the remnant of Judah” out of the land.  It would be difficult to get too much more disobedient than this.  To personally and individually leave the land of God’s promise is one thing; to lead others out en-masse is another.  This was the land given to the Jews by God, and now the Jews willingly depart from the land, choosing to follow a man with no faith.
    • Be careful whom you follow! 
    • Be mindful of whom you lead.  Someone is always going to be learning from you, perhaps without you even realizing it.  Each of us is an example to someone else (especially to our children).  The choices we make may very well affect generations yet to come.

7 So they went to the land of Egypt, for they did not obey the voice of the LORD. And they went as far as Tahpanhes.

  • To put it in perspective, “Tahpanhes” (Tel Defenneh today) is around 200 miles southwest of Jerusalem, and it would have been one of the outer cities of the land of Egypt at the time. The Pharaoh had a palace there (though it was not his normal residence), and the Jews seemed to stop there first upon arrival in Egypt to obtain permission to settle there.
  • It’s not a little bit ironic.  Think about it: the Jews went to Egypt for safety.  What country was it from which the Jews fled nearly 800 years prior?  Egypt.  What country had enslaved the Hebrew people for 400 years?  Egypt.  What country had God specifically judged for their treatment of the Israelites, and their sin against Himself?  Egypt.  Yet THAT was the place the Jews chose to go do, supposedly seeking shelter from the Babylonians.  Not only was it an act of disobedience not to remain in the land of Judah itself, but it was a supreme act of disobedience to go back to the particular land of Egypt.  As if Egypt would offer them any more protection than God did.
    • Their actions were no different than their ancestors, when they grumbled against Moses in the wilderness.  They always imagined Egypt to be better, to be a place where they had meat and vegetables, rather than daily manna (as they despised the daily gift and provision of God).  Their grumbling was almost the cause of their self-destruction, apart from the mercy of God in allowing future generations to survive.
  • We’ve all got our own “Egypts,” places and habits in our past in which we feel comfortable.  We may have been engaging in all kinds of miserable sin, but at least it’s something that’s familiar, and so we feel somewhat at home there.  Whatever that “Egypt” is, it’s not God’s plan for us and we can never go back.  It’s always disobedience.  Going back to Egypt won’t gain us security; it’s sin that takes us outside of the will of God.
    • Again, we need to make the choice to listen to God’s voice and obey.  We have the power to choose, so we ought to choose wisely.
  • The promised judgment of God (vss. 8-13)

8 Then the word of the LORD came to Jeremiah in Tahpanhes, saying, 9 “Take large stones in your hand, and hide them in the sight of the men of Judah, in the clay in the brick courtyard which is at the entrance to Pharaoh’s house in Tahpanhes;

  • God has Jeremiah take certain stones, and He has Jeremiah set up a sign in Egypt.  It’s something that the Egyptians would not necessarily see, but it’s definitely something that God wanted the Jews to know of.  Those stones were memorial stones – the witness for what God was telling His people and what He was doing in their midst.  He wanted them to pay attention to what He was about to say to them, and every time the Jews walked past where they knew those stones were hidden, they would remember the word of the Lord to them.
  • It calls to mind the memorial stones that God had Joshua and the children of Israel take up from the Jordan River when they initially crossed over into the Promised Land (after 40 years of discipline in the wilderness – Josh 4).  God had representatives from the 12 tribes of Israel pick up stones that had come from the bottom of the Jordan River, and set them on the shore as a perpetual reminder of what God had done for them in the miracle of drying up the River.  The difference between Joshua’s stones & Jeremiah’s: the first was a memorial of grace; the second was a memorial of judgment.  With Joshua, it commemorated the final step in their departure from Egypt and entrance into the things of God.  With Jeremiah, it commemorated the opposite.  It was a sad highlighting of their sin. 

10 and say to them, ‘Thus says the LORD of hosts, the God of Israel: “Behold, I will send and bring Nebuchadnezzar the king of Babylon, My servant, and will set his throne above these stones that I have hidden. And he will spread his royal pavilion over them.

  • The significance of the stones was that they were to be a future marker for the throne of Nebuchadnezzar.  The Babylonian armies would come invade Egypt, and that spot in the city would be where he would set up his command post.
  • Notice another bit of irony here.  Who is God’s “servant”?  It’s not Israel; it’s Nebuchadnezzar.  The pagan king of Babylon whom God used as His instrument of judgment against the Jews would once again by used by God in the same manner.  The pagan would be used by God, whereas the supposed people of God were in rebellion against Him.
    • Did Nebuchadnezzar realize he was being used by the Lord?  Not likely.  He did seem to come to at least some level of faith later in life, but at this point, he was just a pawn in God’s hand as God sovereignly moved over the nations.  God still sovereignly moves over the nations today, raising up kings and leaders, and putting them down.  The individual rulers may or may not realize that God is ultimately in control, but He is.  God is always in control.

11 When he comes, he shall strike the land of Egypt and deliver to death those appointed for death, and to captivity those appointed for captivity, and to the sword those appointed for the sword.

  • Everything the Jews thought they were fleeing is what Nebuchadnezzar would bring.  They specifically told Jeremiah that they feared death, and being carried away captive by the Chaldeans (43:3), but it would be the Chaldeans (the Babylonians) who brought death.  Ultimately, the Jews brought it upon themselves.  They believed they could outrun the judgment of God, and they will find it is impossible to do.
    • No one can flee the judgment of God…no one.  It doesn’t matter how far someone runs, or how vehemently someone denies the existence of Jesus, they will not be able to escape God’s judgment.  It is appointed to men once to die, and then face the judgment (Heb 9:27).  One day, every human being will stand before Jesus and give an account of the things done in his/her life (Rev 20:12).  That’s not anything anyone can escape.  Our only hope is to have an Advocate in that day…Someone who will stand in our defense, declaring our forgiveness.  That is exactly what Jesus does for those who believe!  He is our Defense because He already fulfilled the judgment on our behalf.

12 I will kindle a fire in the houses of the gods of Egypt, and he shall burn them and carry them away captive. And he shall array himself with the land of Egypt, as a shepherd puts on his garment, and he shall go out from there in peace. 13 He shall also break the sacred pillars of Beth Shemesh that are in the land of Egypt; and the houses of the gods of the Egyptians he shall burn with fire.” ’ ”

  • Not only would Nebuchadnezzar bring the judgment of God upon the Jews, he would bring God’s judgment upon the Egyptians.  The false gods of Egypt would prove to be no help against the Babylonians, as God declares that Nebuchadnezzar would experience victory in the land.
  • There is a bit of archaeological debate about this, in that no archaeological evidence has been found of a complete Babylonian conquest of the land of Egypt during this time.  The empire of the Medes and Persians DID come in and completely conquer Babylon, but there is no evidence that it happened during the reign of the Babylonian king Nebuchadnezzar.  This has led some skeptics to claim: “Look!  There’s an error in the Bible, you can’t trust it!”  Yet that’s not the full story.  There IS archaeological evidence of a Babylonian invasion of Egypt, though it did not seem to last for long.  Thus God’s word still stands.  Nebuchadnezzar could still come into Egypt, being victorious at several cities, and still later depart without there being any contradiction or error in the Bible.
    • God’s word will always prove itself true…always.  New evidence is being discovered all the time of the historical accuracy of the Bible.  There have been many instances in which skeptics claimed that there was no proof for something the Bible said, or some location the Bible mentioned, only to later have archaeologists and historians find the required evidence.  God’s word has never been proven wrong, nor ever will be.  There may not be evidence YET for everything, but there is never evidence that contradicts what the Bible has claimed.  We can trust the word of God.  We can stake our lives and eternities upon it!

 

Jeremiah 44

  • History ignored (vss. 1-14)

1 The word that came to Jeremiah concerning all the Jews who dwell in the land of Egypt, who dwell at Migdol, at Tahpanhes, at Noph, and in the country of Pathros, saying,

  • Before we look at what God said, note to whom God said it.  “All the Jews who dwell in the land of Egypt,” and it lists off various cities.  God’s people were still God’s people, no matter where it was they were dwelling.  God is not limited to a certain geographic location.
  • This might seem obvious to us, but it wasn’t necessarily obvious to people of the ancient world.  To them, deities were local.  Their gods showed themselves to be more/less powerful depending how the national armies did in battle.  If the army was abroad and was victorious, then that meant their god had more power away from their home city than the opposing god did.  With that in mind, think of the Jewish remnant.  Their homeland had been completely conquered, and the majority of their countrymen had been taken captive by foreigners.  Now the remnant left their home, and fled 200 miles away to Egypt.  In their minds, the God of Jerusalem may not have been able to reach them, or at the very least, did not care about them any longer.  Not so.  God knew His people, saw His people, and spoke to His people.  They may have fled Him, but He was still reaching out to them.  Their defeat was not a sign of God’s weakness, but of His power…He had sovereignly allowed all of this to come to pass.  God is the ONE God over all the universe, and it doesn’t matter where we might be, God still sees us and knows us.

2 “Thus says the LORD of hosts, the God of Israel: ‘You have seen all the calamity that I have brought on Jerusalem and on all the cities of Judah; and behold, this day they are a desolation, and no one dwells in them, 3 because of their wickedness which they have committed to provoke Me to anger, in that they went to burn incense and to serve other gods whom they did not know, they nor you nor your fathers.

  • Despite their disobedience, God still speaks to the people as their covenant God.  They may have fled to Egypt, but God is still “the LORD of hosts, the God of Israel.” Their disobedience did not change God’s character and nature.  (Neither does ours, thankfully!)
  • As God speaks to them, He begins on a recent history lesson saying that of all the people of the world, they ought to know better.  They had seen with their own eyes the result of persistent sin against God.  The very city that they had fled was destroyed because of disobedience.  The Jews had provoked God to anger, and had burned incense in the practice of pagan idolatry (keep that in mind for later).  For the current Jewish remnant to similarly disobey was beyond foolish, because they personally experienced the consequences.
  • And it wasn’t as if they didn’t know what would happen.  See vs. 4…

4 However I have sent to you all My servants the prophets, rising early and sending them, saying, “Oh, do not do this abominable thing that I hate!” 5 But they did not listen or incline their ear to turn from their wickedness, to burn no incense to other gods. 6 So My fury and My anger were poured out and kindled in the cities of Judah and in the streets of Jerusalem; and they are wasted and desolate, as it is this day.’

  • God had warned the previous generations, just as He was warning the current one.  He had sent multiple prophets to them, specifically telling them to repent from their abominations (just as He allowed Jeremiah to be with them, telling them to repent).  The Jews had chosen to ignore God’s many warnings, and they experienced His wrath and judgment as a result.
  • Again, when God speaks, we need to listen.  The Jews had a nasty habit of ignoring God’s word…and if we’re being honest, so do we.  God does not give us His word because He has nothing better to do; He gives it for a reason.  He loves us, and He desires for us to walk in His will and experience the life with Him that we were meant for.  We can’t do that if we’re walking in sin and disobedience.  So He warns us, and warns us – and if we don’t listen, we should not be surprised that we experience His hand of discipline.  Like a parent who slaps a child’s hand getting too close to a flame, so will God lovingly slap us down when we get too involved in our sin.
    • Thankfully, we will not experience God’s wrath (that was placed upon Jesus for our sake), but we will experience His discipline.  Beware that you don’t put God in a position of forcing His discipline, by ignoring His warnings.
    • BTW – a true child of God knows when he/she is ignoring the warning of God.  We have been born of the Holy Spirit, and God the Holy Spirit dwells within us as believers.  He witnesses to our conscience when we engage in sin.  He convicts us through the Scripture as we read it.  He brings things into our lives that we cannot blissfully ignore.  We’ve got to choose to ignore Him if we want to engage in sin, and that’s sadly what we often do.
    • The good news is that (1) no one has to continue to choose to ignore God, and (2) there is forgiveness for the times that we have done so.

7 “Now therefore, thus says the LORD, the God of hosts, the God of Israel: ‘Why do you commit this great evil against yourselves, to cut off from you man and woman, child and infant, out of Judah, leaving none to remain, 8 in that you provoke Me to wrath with the works of your hands, burning incense to other gods in the land of Egypt where you have gone to dwell, that you may cut yourselves off and be a curse and a reproach among all the nations of the earth?

  • It’s a great question from the Lord.  “Why would you do such a thing?”  When the Jews knew what God had just gotten done doing in Jerusalem with the Babylonians, why on earth would they force God into the same positions with themselves?  That was beyond foolish; it was downright suicidal.  The Jewish remnant had not merely fled to the land of Egypt, but they had turned to the false gods of Egypt.  They were committing the same idolatry, and engaging in the same sins…and they were about to bring upon themselves the same judgment.

9 Have you forgotten the wickedness of your fathers, the wickedness of the kings of Judah, the wickedness of their wives, your own wickedness, and the wickedness of your wives, which they committed in the land of Judah and in the streets of Jerusalem? 10 They have not been humbled, to this day, nor have they feared; they have not walked in My law or in My statutes that I set before you and your fathers.’

  • Had the people already forgotten?  It’s not as if whole generations had passed.  At least during the days of the judges, there were years and decades that passed as the Israelites engaged in their ongoing cycle of sin, captivity, and deliverance.  For the Jewish remnant, it was all far too fresh.  It’s not a matter of years; it’s a matter of months…and already, the people were engaging in the same sins.
  • This is base human nature.  As Solomon wrote, "As a dog returns to his own vomit, So a fool repeats his folly." (Prov 26:11)  It’s foolish to return to our sins of the past, but that’s so often what we do.  We think, “I’ll be stronger in temptation this time!” or “It’s not really THAT big of a deal” or we tell ourselves all sorts of foolish lies, and we find ourselves right back in the same mess in which we began.  Beloved, that’s not what God desires for you!  We all make mistakes in our past, but God’s desire is to free us from those mistakes, and help us not walk in them any longer.
    • And we don’t HAVE to walk in it!  In Christ, we’ve been made new creations.  We have the power of the Holy Spirit available to us to help us walk new lives, different from the follies of the past.  (So be filled with the Spirit, and walk as such!)

11 “Therefore thus says the LORD of hosts, the God of Israel: ‘Behold, I will set My face against you for catastrophe and for cutting off all Judah. 12 And I will take the remnant of Judah who have set their faces to go into the land of Egypt to dwell there, and they shall all be consumed and fall in the land of Egypt. They shall be consumed by the sword and by famine. They shall die, from the least to the greatest, by the sword and by famine; and they shall be an oath, an astonishment, a curse and a reproach!

  • Paul wrote that if God is for us, who can be against us? (Rom 8:31)  That’s a glorious promise, but what about the reverse?  What happens when God sets His “face against” us?  That is a terrifying place to be!  Thankfully, that is not the place we find ourselves as Christians, but that was the place that the Jewish remnant found itself.  They had worked against God, and now God was working against them.  They had sinned against God, and against “all Judah” (vs 11) as they had removed the remnant from the land that God had given them.  Now they would experience the fullness of God’s judgment as He gave them over to their enemies.

13 For I will punish those who dwell in the land of Egypt, as I have punished Jerusalem, by the sword, by famine, and by pestilence, 14 so that none of the remnant of Judah who have gone into the land of Egypt to dwell there shall escape or survive, lest they return to the land of Judah, to which they desire to return and dwell. For none shall return except those who escape.’ ”

  • Everything that the Jews had experienced in Jerusalem, the Jews would experience in Egypt.  God had mercifully allowed them to escape the sword of the Babylonians earlier, but now the sword of Babylon would come upon them once again, and there would be no escape.
  • Actually, there would be no escape with one exception: those who repented.  If they remained in Egypt, they would die – but if they returned to Judah, they would live.  Even in this proclamation of judgment, God still reaches out to His people in grace.
    • God may be reaching out to you tonight.  How long of an opportunity you have, no one can know.  You don’t want to wait until it’s too late.  Listen and respond to God while you still have the chance.
  • Willful determination to sin (vss. 15-19)

15 Then all the men who knew that their wives had burned incense to other gods, with all the women who stood by, a great multitude, and all the people who dwelt in the land of Egypt, in Pathros, answered Jeremiah, saying: 16 “As for the word that you have spoken to us in the name of the LORD, we will not listen to you!

  • Even after all of this, the people still despise the word of God.  They knew of the sin and idolatry in their midst (even among their own households), and they didn’t care.  As before, they chose their sin, and they chose their disobedience.

17 But we will certainly do whatever has gone out of our own mouth, to burn incense to the queen of heaven and pour out drink offerings to her, as we have done, we and our fathers, our kings and our princes, in the cities of Judah and in the streets of Jerusalem. For then we had plenty of food, were well-off, and saw no trouble. 18 But since we stopped burning incense to the queen of heaven and pouring out drink offerings to her, we have lacked everything and have been consumed by the sword and by famine.” 19 The women also said, “And when we burned incense to the queen of heaven and poured out drink offerings to her, did we make cakes for her, to worship her, and pour out drink offerings to her without our husbands’ permission?”

  • The Jews not only refuse to repent from their idolatry; they double down on it.  They declare that they will continue to do it, and they had absolutely no intention on stopping, no matter what God told them through Jeremiah.  So deep were they in their sin, that their understanding of history was completely skewed.  Yes, they remembered how their fathers were idolatrous while in Jerusalem…and it was a good thing, in their eyes.  They thought that it was during the idolatrous times that things were well with them.  They weren’t conquered by Babylon then; why not go back to it now?
    • As Jeremiah will point out to them, this was totally backwards.  Their idolatry had not protected them; their idolatry was THE reason God brought the Babylonians.  The people were so in love with their sin that they could not see the truth.
    • Sin makes us blind.
  • Who was “the queen of heaven”?  Most likely, it’s a reference to Astarte/Ishtar, for whom the people of the Middle East often built Ashtoreth pillars (which were often torn down in Judah by kings who were reformers).  It wasn’t the first time that Jeremiah confronted his own people about worshipping the queen of heaven; this was a practice specifically condemned by God long before the conquest (Jer 7:18).  For the Jewish remnant, it was easy to pick the practice up again in Egypt, because Isis was also known as the queen of heaven.  Same title – similar idolatry.
    • Sadly, the practice continues with some professing-Christians today when they venerate Mary as the “queen of heaven.”  Nowhere does the Bible give Mary that title.  She had an honor beyond all women, to be sure, but she is no more royalty in heaven than any other born-again believer in Christ.  She is Jesus’ earthly mother, but not His queen. (And certainly not His co-redemptrix!)  Jesus is the ONLY King, and He alone redeems us from sin!
  • Jeremiah’s plea for repentance (vss. 20-30)

20 Then Jeremiah spoke to all the people—the men, the women, and all the people who had given him that answer—saying: 21 “The incense that you burned in the cities of Judah and in the streets of Jerusalem, you and your fathers, your kings and your princes, and the people of the land, did not the LORD remember them, and did it not come into His mind? 22 So the LORD could no longer bear it, because of the evil of your doings and because of the abominations which you committed. Therefore your land is a desolation, an astonishment, a curse, and without an inhabitant, as it is this day. 23 Because you have burned incense and because you have sinned against the LORD, and have not obeyed the voice of the LORD or walked in His law, in His statutes or in His testimonies, therefore this calamity has happened to you, as at this day.”

  • Jeremiah reminds the people of their actual history.  The people had not experienced prosperity because of their idolatry; they had experienced judgment.  God was well aware of the incense offered to false gods, and He brought desolation as a result.  It was because of those things that the people suffered; not in spite of those things.
  • How easily our minds get twisted when it comes to sin!  How important it is to stay grounded in God’s word to guide us through those times.  If we rely on our heart & our feelings about an issue, we can’t trust it…our hearts are deceitful (Jer 17:9).  But if we rely upon God’s word, we will never be steered wrong.

24 Moreover Jeremiah said to all the people and to all the women, “Hear the word of the LORD, all Judah who are in the land of Egypt! 25 Thus says the LORD of hosts, the God of Israel, saying: ‘You and your wives have spoken with your mouths and fulfilled with your hands, saying, “We will surely keep our vows that we have made, to burn incense to the queen of heaven and pour out drink offerings to her.” You will surely keep your vows and perform your vows!’

  • He basically throws their words back at them, and confirms them.  It’s not that God commands them to continue in idolatry, but just confirms the fact that they have chosen to do it, and thus He also confirms the fact that they will be judged because of it.  That was their bed, and they were going to lie in it.

26 Therefore hear the word of the LORD, all Judah who dwell in the land of Egypt: ‘Behold, I have sworn by My great name,’ says the LORD, ‘that My name shall no more be named in the mouth of any man of Judah in all the land of Egypt, saying, “The Lord GOD lives.” 27 Behold, I will watch over them for adversity and not for good. And all the men of Judah who are in the land of Egypt shall be consumed by the sword and by famine, until there is an end to them.

  • God declares that His people would abandon Him, and He declares that He would be against them.  There would be no more faith left among the people who were supposed to be called by God’s name, and God would treat them as any other pagan enemy.  It is a total breakdown of what God desired for them, and it didn’t have to be this way.  God desired so much more, but they were insistent on choosing their sin.

28 Yet a small number who escape the sword shall return from the land of Egypt to the land of Judah; and all the remnant of Judah, who have gone to the land of Egypt to dwell there, shall know whose words will stand, Mine or theirs. 29 And this shall be a sign to you,’ says the LORD, ‘that I will punish you in this place, that you may know that My words will surely stand against you for adversity.’

  • Again, there is a glimmer of grace.  There is a promise of a remnant.  Though most would perish in Egypt, there would be some who repented from Egypt & turned back to the place of God’s promise.  Those people would know assuredly whose words were more firm: God or the rebels.  God’s word would prove to be true then, just as it proves to be true now.

30 “Thus says the LORD: ‘Behold, I will give Pharaoh Hophra king of Egypt into the hand of his enemies and into the hand of those who seek his life, as I gave Zedekiah king of Judah into the hand of Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon, his enemy who sought his life.’ ”

  • Finishes with a summary statement against Egypt.  God would bring Babylon to Egypt, just like He brought Babylon to Judah.  God would bring His judgment wherever it was required.

Conclusion:
As with most sin, this was completely avoidable.  This wasn’t something that the Jews had to do, and they did not have to face the judgment of God in this way.  God had repeatedly reached out to His people, and they refused to listen.  They chose to remain in their sin, and they chose to blind themselves to the grace and outreach of God.

It doesn’t have to be that way with us.  When God speaks, listen!  We can learn from our mistakes of the past – we don’t have to go through those things over and over again.  We may have said “no” to God earlier, but that doesn’t mean we have to keep saying “no” to Him now.  God reaches out to His people, but He never forces His people to respond to Him.  That’s something we have to choose to do for ourselves.

How will you choose to respond to the Lord tonight?  Perhaps there’s something He’s been leading you to do…do it.  Perhaps there’s a conversation God wants you to have that you’ve been putting off…have it.  Perhaps there’s some area of disobedience in your life that has been nagging away at your conscience.  Don’t blind yourself to it, or double-down in it; humble yourself before the Lord and listen to His voice.  Choose to listen to Him, and choose to obey through the power of the Holy Spirit.

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