Father, we do want to pray for all of these lives that we have heard about and have been touched-- some who have responded and come to know you, others who, tomorrow, are going to hear the message and going to hear your gospel. To young couples who are struggling-- Father, we thank you that you're in charge of all of these lives. And we thank you to see and hear of so many that have come, recently, to know you.
And we pray for your body-- that we would always love to hear of these new births-- never grow weary of it. In fact, it would be the thing that would motivate us-- that we would not lose or leave our first love. But just be excited about knowing and loving you and others coming into your kingdom. In Jesus' name, amen.
Well, there was a little boy, whose favorite thing to do at grandma's house was to play with toys down by the grandfather clock and listen to the chimes strike every hour. Well, it was getting to be 12 o'clock. Lunch was being prepared in the kitchen and he was watching-- waiting for that clock to strike.
And it struck-- 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6-- all the way up to 11, 12, 13, 14, 15-- 16 times it struck. He had never heard a malfunctioning grandfather clock striking 16 times. He ran into the kitchen with wide eyes and said, Mommy, it's later than it's ever been before.
Well, for the nation of Israel, for the two southern tribes of Judah, in the ministry of Jeremiah, it was later than it ever was before. Jeremiah has been called the 11th hour prophet because the clock is about to strike midnight for the nation. The two southern tribes-- the Babylonians are flexing their muscles and the time is near for them to come in and destroy those two southern tribes of Benjamin and Judah, especially the city of Jerusalem.
And Jeremiah the prophet has been warning the people. We've been studying the last couple of weeks, Jeremiah. Tonight we're in chapter 5 where more denunciations are given against Jerusalem and those who live in that city. Three different invasions happened. You don't have to remember the dates, but just understand that Nebuchadnezzar ordered the invasion of Judah in 605 BC. They came again in 597 BC.
But eventually, in 586 BC-- that was the big one. That was the big kahuna. That's when Nebuchadnezzar ordered the city to be plundered, destroyed, burned, and those who remained to be taken captive 500 miles away to the city of Babylon. That's called the Babylonian Captivity, where they remained there for 70 years as predicted by Jeremiah the prophet.
Imagine what it was like for Jeremiah to witness it. He saw the people, his own countrymen, being taken in shackles, chains, and marched all the way from Jerusalem-- 500 miles to the northeast-- to Babylon. And he's called the weeping prophet because it so emotionally affected him, he entered into his message with great sorrow.
I heard about a wedding reception that took place in the basement of a church. Now it was a typical fellowship hall in a basement of an old Baptist church in the Midwest. There were scripture verses hung around the room-- most of them having to do with the love of God, the grace of God, the mercy of God. But there was one scripture verse-- and they didn't know it when they set up the wedding cake-- but the wedding cake, and hence the wedding couple, stood underneath one verse that said, Matthew 3:07, "Flee from the wrath that is to come."
Jeremiah spoke with the intimate language of marriage. As the Lord said through him, Israel, Judah is my wife. I am married to you, says the Lord. We read that last week. At the same time, he is telling them flee from the wrath that is to come.
One of the problems-- and I'm referring to a past verse to tie all this together-- is in Chapter 3, verse 10, here was the problem-- "Yet for all of this, her treacherous sister, Judah-- that's the southern kingdom-- has not turned to me with her whole heart, but in pretense," says the Lord. There was, you remember, a reform that took place under King Josiah. You remember that we said, King Josiah-- he's the king that is in control when Jeremiah started his ministry. Jeremiah started his ministry when he was about 20 years of age-- 21.
King Josiah was about 20 or 21 when Jeremiah came on the scene. But King Josiah started when he was eight years old to be king. An 8-year-old king-- but he happened to have godly advisors around him, so it was OK. Because under King Josiah, there was a spiritual reform that took place. The law was found. The prophets and the king tore their robes in repentance, bringing the nation back to a godly focus. But it was superficial.
The king, in his heart, repented. But not everybody else in the nation did. It was a veneer. It was sort of like the Jesus movement, where lots of people came on the bandwagon. But for so many, it was superficial. There's an old saying, "any pig can fly in a hurricane." There's a lot of pigs flying around.
But they weren't really flying. There were-- they weren't doing it except in the furor of the storm. So it was in pretense, as God says. And the verses we're about to read speak to the hypocrisy that was present in the nation at this time. And so in Chapter 5, verse one, God instructs, "Run to and fro through the streets of Jerusalem. See now and know. And seek in her open places. If you can find a man, if there is anyone who executes judgment, who seeks the truth, and I will pardon her."
God says, find him and I will pardon her. Find a single guy who is just and righteous and I will pardon her-- being the nation-- being the city of Jerusalem. "Her" is a metonym for the entire city. The Lord is just. And he will judge because he is just.
But understand that God doesn't want to judge. God wants to pardon. That's his heart. Jeremiah, if you can find one single person in this city who, in truth and righteousness, in the population among the common folks, has turned to me, I'll spare the city. You think, oh, come on. We can do that.
What God is sharing with Jeremiah, and through the prophet, is his heart. He will judge. He's capable of doing so. It's definite that he will. But his heart is that he is willing that none should perish but that all should come to repentance.
It is very similar to the conversation that God had with Abraham when he was looking down at the city of Sodom in Genesis, Chapter 18-- remember the story? God says to Abraham, I'm going down now to Sodom to see if all of the rumors I've heard about her wickedness is true. And I'm going to judge the city if it's true. I'm going to find out.
So Abraham says, let me ask you a question, God? He starts bargaining with God. It's sort of a-- it's sort of a common Jewish scene in Jerusalem. Now God, would you destroy the whole city if you could find 50 righteous? You certainly wouldn't destroy the righteous with the wicked.
God says, deal. Find the 50 righteous, I'll spare the whole town. Then Abraham says, well, Lord, I don't want to presume to speak. I'm just in sackcloth and ashes, but what if we could find 50 minus 5-- 45 righteous-- would just spare the city? Deal, He said. You find me 45 righteous, I'll spare the city.
Well, you're familiar with the story. He gets God all the way down to 10. If I can find 10 people in this city, will you spare it? God says, if you can find 10 people, I will spare the entire population for the sake of those 10.
But then it says, then God arose and went down to Sodom. And the rest of the story is that God judged the town. Couldn't find 10. God says, Jeremiah, find one.
Now think about that. I wonder how much the wicked realize how much they owe the righteous? For the preservation. You know, if you turn on television and you listen to the liberal press, it's the right wing Christians that are the problem in this country. I submit we're the only thing holding the country together.
And when God raptures the church, there won't be any reason for God to withhold his judgment. He does it for the sake of the righteous. The wicked are blessed because of the righteous. Why was Laban's flock so blessed that it multiplied? Because Jacob was the guy doing it.
Why was Potiphar's house so blessed? Because Joseph was managing it. Why is the unbeliever in a household sanctified? 1 Corinthians 7, "because there's a believer in it for whom God sanctifies."
So God says, listen, I'm willing to spare the city, just find me one. That's God's heart to pardon for the sake of one righteous. "Though they say"-- verse two-- "as the Lord lives, surely they swear falsely." All words, no actions. All show, but no go. All gleam, but nothing underneath the hood. They're just words. Praise the Lord, hallelujah, thank you, Jesus, bless God. But it was false. They weren't doing it in righteousness.
Oh Lord, are not your eyes on the truth? Have you stricken them? You have stricken them, but they have not grieved. You have consumed them, but they have refused to receive correction. They have made their faces harder than rock. They've refused to return. Therefore, I said, surely these are poor. They are foolish. For they do not know the way of the Lord, the judgment of their God.
I will go to the great man and speak to them, for they have known the way of the Lord-- the judgment of their God. But these have altogether broken the yoke and burst the bonds. Now this is what is going on here-- Jeremiah looks at the general population-- the poor, you might say, the common people-- doesn't find any one to fit the criteria of God-- righteous. So he goes, I'll go to the great folks, the religious sector, surely I will find one. But the point is-- profit, priest, politician, and population-- all of them are united in one thing-- sin.
They've all reached that low ebb where Jeremiah, the spokesperson, in searching high and low, can't find somebody to fit the criterion at this point. And so he's going to come to the realization, God must judge because of this united front that he sees. They've altogether broken the yoke and burst the bonds. Therefore, a lion from the forest shall slay them, a wolf of the desert shall destroy them, a leopard will watch over their cities.
Now if you follow the Jewish commentaries, and the Midrash principally-- these are designations, they believe, of countries. They believe that these verses speak of the coming invasions of Babylon-- that's the lion. The second one in verse 6, the wolf of the desert, is Medo-Persia. And then, finally, the leopard shall watch over their cities-- that's a picture of the Greece invasion that would come years later.
Now we don't know if that's true. Others see this as Nebuchadnezzar, with army after army, or three successive invasions-- whatever it is, the point is, they're going to be invaded more than once as part of God's judgment upon them. Everyone who goes out from there shall be torn in pieces because their transgressions are many, their backslidings have increased.
How shall I pardon you for this? Your children have forsaken me and sworn by those that are not gods. When I fed them to the full, yet they committed-- or then they committed adultery and assembled themselves by troops in the harlots' houses. They were like well-fed, lusty stallions. Everyone made after his neighbor's wife. Shall I not punish them for these things, says the Lord? And shall I not avenge myself on such a nation as this?
Now God is speaking through the prophet in an analogous way. It's metaphor. There is something the Bible speaks of as spiritual adultery. And idolatry is spiritual adultery. Here's the picture-- God's heart is that he wants a relationship with people-- a loving relationship, an intimate relationship. Not ritualistic, not merely outward, not merely religious-- but something that is deep and intimate.
That's why we have already seen Jeremiah referring to this relationship as a marriage relationship. I am married to you, says the Lord. I remember, he says, the early days of our courtship-- back in chapters 1 and 2. They've gotten away from it. And they have reduced the relationship down to just mere religion and mere rituals.
So when it talks about-- they're like well-fed, lusty stallions. Each one made after his neighbor's wife. Shall I not avenge myself? He's primarily speaking of this spiritual adultery. In other words, God is saying, you've gone out on me. I am married to you. You're having an affair with other gods. You're worshipping at other altars. That relationship of intimacy is now broken.
Baal worship-- by the way, did you realize that the children of Israel were worshiping two different ways at the same time? They would worship in the temple. You'll see that in Chapter 7. They were faithful and regular to worship at the temple. At the same time, they saw nothing wrong with worshipping at other temples on the hills, underneath groves of trees, where there were false idols. They burn incense to them, they engage in a form of worship that was Babylonian, Chaldean, Assyrian-- and then go to the temple.
This is a form of worship known as syncretism, where you take true worship and you bring it together with false worship. It's very prevalent today. It's where you get a person saying, well, I picture God as-- and you fill in the blank. Therefore, my view of worship is this.
So we become the judge of what is right and wrong. It's humanism in the name of religion. It's we're deciding, rather than God dictating, how he will be worshipped instead of worshiping in spirit and in truth. We're the ultimate judge and we worship by how we feel at the moment.
Children of Israel were doing that. They saw nothing wrong with, in the name of God, going to the temple. And in the name of other gods, worshipping in the groves-- syncretism.
Now let me tell you how bad it was. Baal-- B-A-A-L-- you've seen his name throughout the Bible-- was the God of the storms. The storm god-- the chief deity of the Babylonians. In the pantheon of gods that the Babylonians worshipped, Baal was, like, numero uno-- the god of the storm, the god of the sun. All of the fertility that could take place on your farm was directly due to Baal.
If we'd lived a few thousand years ago in Babylon, we'd be outside tonight worshipping Baal because it rained the last few days. He's the guy who did it, we would say. The way Baal was worship was through legalized prostitution. There were temple prostitutes. And the farmers would go out to these temples, these groves, and come together with a prostitute. And during the sexual act, pray to Baal. Something like, even as fertility is taking place at this moment, I pray to Baal that my crops and my livestock and my family would all be fertile.
So it was a worship that was debased and sensual. They were doing that. And in so doing, they were going out on God. So, verse 10, "Go up on her walls and destroy. But do not make a complete end. Take away her branches, for they are not the Lord's. For the house of Israel, and the house of Judah, have dealt very treacherously with me," says the Lord.
They have lied about the Lord and said, 'it is not he-- neither will evil come upon us. Nor shall we see sword or famine. And the prophets become wind-- in other words, they are just a bunch of hot air. They're wind bags. For the word is not in them, thus it shall be done to them.
Hear the rain? Isn't it wonderful? And we think, not Baal, but God-- the one true God for it.
Now I imagine that one of the hardest jobs in the world would be that of a prophet. And this is why I say that-- did you know that, to be a prophet, whenever you spoke, you had to be 100% accurate? If you weren't, you were stoned to death. And I don't mean they gave you a marijuana cigarette or something and said, hey dude, get stoned. I mean, they actually rocked out on your head. They threw rocks at you and you died.
You had to be 100% accurate. If you presume to speak in the name of the Lord, thus saith the Lord, you had to be accurate. If, in your prophetic utterances, they found you were not, you were dead. So it was a very narrow margin in a job description.
Second, I imagine it's the hardest job in the world because of what God reveals to you. Jeremiah had to see the future. Every now and then, somebody will say, boy, I wish I knew the future. And I think, no, you don't. That's one thing you never want to know. I would hate to know my future. I wouldn't go there in many cases.
God is gracious that he doesn't reveal to us the future. But the prophets had to see the future. Imagine how painful it was for John to get the Book of Revelation delivered to him.
Imagine seeing one fourth of the entire earth being killed with a sword or with famine. A fourth of the population-- he saw it. And then later on in a vision, he saw a third of those who remained and survived also being killed. He saw the horrible scorching of the sun upon mankind. He saw a plague hit the earth for five months that tormented the earth. All of those things in the Book of Revelation. It pained him.
It pained Jesus, right? He stood on the Mount of Olives. He looked over the city of Jerusalem. And at one point in his descent, he started weeping over the city. And the Bible puts it, in the original Greek, he wailed convulsively. Don't picture Jesus on the Mount of Olives-- a little tear that he wiped away with a Kleenex-- he wailed.
And he said, "O Jerusalem. Jerusalem, how often I would have gathered you like a hen gathers her chickens. But you were not willing. Therefore, your enemies shall cast an embankment around you, and you will be destroyed."
Jesus saw what was coming in 70 AD as the Romans destroyed the city of Jerusalem. And thousands were murdered and the temple was destroyed. And so, too, Jeremiah saw what was coming. No wonder he was the weeping prophet. It touched him. It bothered him. That was his job description.
The worst thing is nobody believed him. Nobody listened to him. It's like that wedding-- flee from the wrath that is to come, Jeremiah was saying. And people were saying, oh, you are so narrow minded. You're such a negative person.
It got so bad, as alluded to in the next couple of verses that we read, that they raised up and listened to false prophets, who gave a different message-- peace. Peace, when God says, there is no peace. Verse 12, "They've lied about the Lord and said, 'it is not He. Neither will evil come upon us. Nor shall we see sword or famine. And the prophets-- that is, the false prophets-- become wind for the word is not in them. Thus, it shall be done to them."
I would suppose that the ultimate delusion is to be in rebellion against God, but then to look at your present state-- and though you're living in opposite to the will of God, and in rebellion against God-- to actually believe that you're doing the will of God. That's the ultimate delusion.
They misread the mercy of God. Because God hadn't judged them yet-- because there was not an immediate cause and effect relationship-- they had sinned. God was patient, long-suffering, hadn't judged them. Oh, He will. But He hadn't yet. They mistook the mercy of God for an allowance of sin.
An approval-- God is approving of this. Evil isn't coming. It hasn't come yet. And it pained Jeremiah's heart and he predicted that it would.
I see this attitude, by the way. Let me just kind of put it in modern clothes for you. I've met people who live in rebellion against God, but will use God talk and spiritual language to excuse their sin. Example-- well, I prayed about it and the Lord told me it's OK for me to shack up with that guy. We're not married, but I-- I feel peace in my heart about it. Oh, you do? Well, let me tell you, and assure you, that is a false peace.
Well, I'm divorcing my husband. And I prayed about it and I just feel really good about it. What are you divorcing him for? Did he commit adultery? No, but we're just incompatible. And I know people have said bad things about that, but I feel peaceful from the Lord.
And so they excuse their rebellion by their own emotionalism. And it's the same position that these people, who listened to Jeremiah, cut it straight. Didn't want to listen to him cut it straight, but now raised up their own false prophets and said, yeah, we like those messages. There's peace. There's not evil coming. That's positive, not negative. Only problem is, they were all wrong. That is a problem.
Therefore, thus says the Lord God of hosts, "because you speak this word, behold, I will make my words in your mouth fire." And this people would. And it shall devour them. Jeremiah, hold on, buddy boy, I'm giving you true words. "Behold, I will bring a nation against you from afar, O House of Israel," says the Lord. "It is a mighty nation. It is an ancient nation. A nation whose language you do not know, nor can you understand what they say."
Who is he's speaking of? The Babylonians. And here's something interesting-- it's an ancient nation. They speak a language you don't understand. But in the New Testament, they will all understand this language.
Now listen carefully, the language is the language of the Caledonians-- it is Aramaic. How many of you saw The Passion? The Passion was filmed all in Aramaic. Question-- what is they doing-- why are they filming the language of the New Testament-- Jesus and His disciples-- in a language that was ancient? Chaldean-- Ancient Babylonian? Because of the captivity.
What happened is they got taken into captivity and this language, this Aramaic language-- by the way, developed by the Assyrians, adopted by the Babylonians, and later on the Persians-- became the lingua franca, the common language of the world. So that even by the New Testament times, the average Jew was still speaking Babylonian, and all of the scriptures quoted were quoted in the text of the Babylonians.
In fact, the greatest commentaries that the Jews refer to is called the Talmud-- the sayings of the fathers that are passed on through the centuries. And they're voluminous, there are several volumes. There's the Jerusalem Talmud and there is the Babylonian Talmud-- the Babylonian Talmud is three times longer than the Jerusalem Talmud. It's because they had a lot of time to think and act and write while they were in captivity. So it's a language they don't know, but pretty soon it's going to become the language that they all speak. Even Jesus spoke Aramaic to his disciples. It was the common language of the New Testament-- because of this captivity.
"Their quiver is like an open tomb. They're all mighty men and they shall eat up your harvest and your bread, which your sons and daughters should eat. They shall eat up your flocks and herds. They shall eat up your vines and your fig trees. They shall destroy your fortified cities, in which you trust, with a sword."
Have you noticed that God seems to want to get to the very root of what we trust in? And whatever it is we trust in, pull out that rug from underneath us? And that's why the Lord will allow trials and tribulations to come our way. Because the very thing we trust in, it's, like-- it's our safety-- just in case. Oh, I'm praying. I'm trusting God. Oh, Lord, you know I trust you. But-- but just in case, I've got this over here.
And God says, oh, really? Well-- well-- well, I'm going to touch that because I'm God. I can do whatever I want. And you shouldn't be trusting in that nest egg or that bank account or that person. But you ought to be trusting in me. They've been trusting in their fortified cities. Oh, they made them strong. And they formed even foreign alliances with Egypt and other countries.
But what does Proverbs 3 say? Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not to your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will direct your paths. And to the extent that we don't do that, the Lord will act in these areas of our lives to get us to that point.
There was a group of translators translating the scriptures, the New Testament, from their receptor language of this native Indian group-- excuse me-- translating it from the Greek manuscripts into the receptor language of this native Indian group. And the translator was working on John 3:16. He had every single word translated perfectly. He found the equivalent from this language into that language except one word-- believe. For God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten son that whoever would believe in him would not perish but have everlasting life. He was having a difficult time finding the right word in that receptor language-- that language of those Indians-- to translate, believe.
So he was conferring with the elders-- the Chiefs of the tribes. As he was describing what he wanted, one of got up, ran into his tent, and jumped on his cot-- lying on his back. And then he muttered something.
And the translator said, what just happened? And what is he muttering? He said, the man is muttering, I'm going to place my entire weight on this cot. That's how you need to translate it. So I'm told that in that language it reads, for God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten son that whosoever would put his whole weight on the Lord will not perish, but have everlasting life. Isn't that a great translation?
That's true faith, by the way. That's true trust Have you ever been accused of using Christianity as a crutch? Oh, I'm not weak. I don't need a crutch. If you do, that's good for you. But it's just-- I don't need it. Oh, bravo.
I correct them. And I say, Jesus is not my crutch. I'm not leaning on him. He's a stretcher. I'm lying on him with all my weight. That's trust. Not just barely leaning because I need a crutch. Oh, no. He has to carry me all the way through life. And to the extent that He's not-- that you're not trusting Him that way-- God will mess with what you're trusting in-- be it a fortified city or anything else.
Nevertheless, in those days, says the Lord, verse 18, "I will not make a complete end of you. And it will be when you say. Why does the Lord, our God, do all these things to us? Then you shall answer them-- just as you have forsaken me and served foreign gods in your land, so you shall serve aliens in a land that is not yours. It's fair, right? Makes sense, doesn't it?
You've served other gods. These other gods originate from a foreign land. If you love them that much, I'll let you go to their home. You can live there for a while and see how they treat you. And that's exactly what happened.
There's something I want you to be aware of because you'll spot it as you read through the Old Testament. It's referred to by theologians as the sin cycle. The sin cycle is this cyclic behavior of the children of Israel. You see it throughout the entire Book of Judges, by the way.
And what happens is number one, rebellion. They get a little fat and sassy. They've been in this nice, prosperous land for a while. They start not needing God anymore. They don't call on Him like they used to. They get involved in this kind of stuff.
So God brings him to the second stage of the sin cycle, oppression. Foreign invaders come in, hassle them for a while, or take them captive.
Third phase is repentance. God, we're sorry. Please, we nationally repent.
And then, four, restoration. God brings them back to the land, or to that place, once again. But you see it as a cycle through the Book of Judges because they love God.
Then they start getting fat and sassy. They forget God. Oppressors come in. Then they repent and God sends a judge, a deliverer, who delivers them out of the hand of the Philistines. But then it happens all over again and all over again and all over again. And it's happening here until God says, I'm done. I'm going to send you into a foreign place, Babylon. And there they will cry out to God. And from there, God will bring them back into the land.
"Just as you have forsaken me and served foreign gods in your land, so you shall serve aliens in a land that is not yours." We do have to watch for what I'm going to call, spiritual entropy. If you know anything about science, you about entropy, the second law of thermodynamics-- that in a closed system, energy is lost over time.
So that over time, things tend to decay and disorder, not towards order. It's also true spiritually-- that in a system, a spiritual system, over time, left to ourselves-- unless we have from the outside energy injected in-- Bible study, prayer, fellowship-- we tend to go down and decay, not rise.
And so what happened with Israel is a tendency-- it's a spiritual principle throughout history. Declare this in the house of Jacob-- proclaim in Judah, hear this now, o, foolish people without understanding, who have eyes and see not-- who have ears and hear not-- do you not fear me, says the Lord? Will you not tremble at my presence, who have placed the sand as the bound of the sea by a perpetual decree that it cannot pass it?
Although its waves toss to and fro, they cannot prevail. Though they roar, they cannot pass over it. But this people-- this people has a defiant and rebellious heart. They have revolted and departed.
We get the picture. The shore line is kept by God. Now every now and then, he lets go a little bit. There are hurricanes, there are storms, and we go, ooh, and we go, help. But the shore line in people's spiritual lives have been moved, God is saying. You've defied me. You've rebelled against me.
Here's a solution. They do not say in their heart, verse 24, let us now fear the Lord, our God, who gives rain-- both the former and the latter in its season. He reserves for us the appointed weeks for the harvest. Your iniquities have turned these things away. And your sins have withheld good things from you.
There is a phrase in verse 22 and verse 24 that are key phrases-- it's the phrase, fearing the Lord. The fear of God. What is the fear of the Lord? What does that mean?
Is it a superstitious fear? It's a phrase that's used 50 times in the Old Testament. The beginning of wisdom, and the beginning of knowledge, is the fear of the Lord. It's not a superstitious fear.
It's not, God's really, really mad at you when you woke up today. And he's just looking for ways to clobber you over the head today. So watch out. Because when God looks down from heaven, he's frowning.
And I know lots of people that project that and portray that. I grew up in a system that did. It's like, what do you want, son? God's ticked off at you today.
And I find that God loves me. So what does it mean to have a fear of the Lord? Well, it's a phrase in Hebrew, "yirat Yahweh." "Yirat Yahweh" is to respect God-- respect Yahweh.
It is a reverential awe that produces humble submission to a loving God. Those three elements-- a reverential awe that produces humble submission to a loving God. It's the same Hebrew word used in Leviticus for a child reverencing and respecting his or her parents-- honor your parents. Respect your parents.
Fear the Lord. Respect and honor the Lord. The only-- the only fright in it is because we love Him so much-- we respect Him and honor Him so much we don't want to do anything to displease Him. We're afraid of that.
Oh, Lord, I don't want to displease you. I'm afraid that I might dishonor your name. Help me not to do that. That's the fear of the Lord. They lost that.
And when you lose that, you are apt to do anything. Somebody once said, if you fear God, you'll never have to fear anyone else. You'll never have to be afraid of anyone else. You get on your knees before God, and you'll be able to stand before anyone. The fear of the Lord-- Jeremiah had it. These people were missing it.
So let me take you down to verse 28. "They have grown fat. They are sleek. Yes, they surpass the deeds of the wicked. They do not plead the cause-- the cause of the fatherless. Yet they prosper and the right of the needy, they do not defend.
Shall I not punish them for these things, says the Lord? Second time He asked that question. Shall I not avenge myself on such a nation as this? Second time he asked that question.
People sometimes overlook that God doesn't exist for their pleasure. But that we exist for his pleasure. Think of how many American Christians think, maybe sublime subliminally. Maybe there's a tacit understanding that God sort of owes happiness to them.
No, no, no no. God didn't exist for your pleasure. You exist for God's pleasure. Revelation four, "and for thy pleasure, these things were and are created."
Yet, American Christianity has reduced God down to a sliding scale of personal happiness. If it makes me happy, that's good. That's God. If it doesn't make me happy, that can't be good. It can't be God.
Oh, yeah it can. God loves you. God loves you the way you are, but he loves you too much to leave you that way.
He'll take you just as you are. He's not going to let you stay that way. He loves you too much. He's going to work on you and refine you so that you'll be in his image.
And it's all because of love. Whom the Lord loves, he chastens. He does that to all of us. He doesn't want us to stay spoiled. He wasn't going to let them stay that way. Hence the chastisement. Shall I not avenge myself on such a nation as this?
We finish out the chapter-- an astonishing and horrible thing has been committed in the land. The prophets prophesy falsely. The priests rule by their own power. And my people love to have it so. But what will you do in the end?
In chapter 6-- and we're just going to look at a couple of verses, and then we're going to close. God declares war. You ever thought about God as a man of war? The Bible says he is. God is declaring war. And I would entitle Chapter 6-- here come to judge.
Oh, you children of Benjamin, gather yourselves to flee from the midst of Jerusalem-- Flee from the wrath that is to come. Think of the wedding cake.
Blow the trumpet in Tekoa. Set up a signal fire in Beth-haccerem. For disaster appears out of the north in a great destruction. Now let me just tell you something about these two cities that are mentioned-- Tekoa and Beth-haccerem. They're villages down south.
And the idea is that, on hills, they didn't have cell phones or telegraphs. They had signal fires from hill to hill. So that this hill could send up a fire and smoke, and the other hill in another village could receive it and get the message and send the signal through the land.
The Babylonians would come from the north. Those in the south would see it and send a fire to the next village. But these two towns, Tekoa and Beth-haccerem, are near to Anathoth. And who came from there? Jeremiah. That's home town.
Jeremiah is warning the towns closest to him about the impending danger. And there's a principal. Jesus sent the early church to Jerusalem, Judea, Samaria, then the uttermost parts of the earth.
I believe in evangelism. I believe in missions. I'm big on it. I'm huge on it. It's been my history. But I believe we start here. We start here.
Oh, but there's people who've never heard of Christ. There's Americans who have never heard the true gospel yet. And we start here. We warn our neighbors.
What did Jesus tell the guy who was demon possessed in the Gospel of Matthew and Mark? He had demons. They were expelled from him. And he said, I'm following you.
And Jesus said, no, go home, and tell your friends and your family the wonderful things God has done for you. That's where he was to start-- broadcast the news at home. And he does this. The prophet tells those closest to him.
Verse 6:4, Thus has the Lord of hosts said, hew down trees, build a mound against Jerusalem. This is the city to be punished. See that she is full of oppression in her midst. As a fountain wells up with water, so she wells up with wickedness.
When the city was destroyed-- because the city had walls around it, dirt was piled up upon dirt. And a huge hill was made, called, a seeds mound. And the top of the mound was level with the top of the wall of the city. And these big wooden siege works built by local trees were hoisted up on there. And over a period of several months, the city would be destroyed. That's how Babylon destroyed the city of Jerusalem, as predicted here.
Verse 9-- this says the Lord of hosts-- they shall thoroughly glean as a vine the remnant of Israel as a grape gatherer. Put your hand back into the branches. To whom shall I speak and give warning that they may hear? Indeed, their ear is uncircumcised and they cannot give heed. Behold, the word of the Lord is a reproach to them. And they have no delight in it.
I'm looking at the time, and we have just a couple of minutes to finish the chapter. Do you think we'll do it? Oh, we will, believe me.
I take you down out of verse 13, "because from the least of them, even to the greatest of them, everyone is given to covetousness. From the prophet, even to the priest, everyone deals falsely. They have also heeled the herd of my people slightly, saying, peace, peace, when there is no peace.
Were they ashamed when they committed an abomination? No, they were not at all ashamed. Neither did they know how to blush. Therefore, they shall fall among those who fall. At that time, I will punish them. They will be cast down.
In other words, there was a group of prophets-- leaders-- spiritual leaders, who were quack's. They were spiritual quack's because they treated the wound superficially. What they did, with their false prophecy, saying, oh, peace. Peace. God is a good God.
He'd never judge this country. This country's God's country. All they did was put a Band-Aid on an abdominal gash. Imagine somebody cutting someone's abdomen out, or they have an aortic aneurysm, and the guy says, "I have a Band-Aid for that." You don't need a Band-Aid.
You need an emergency room and you need surgery. And Jeremiah was the surgeon. These were false ones. They healed, slightly, the herd of my people, saying, peace. Peace.
Now I want you to look at verse 19 and compare it with the last couple of verses of the chapter. Here, o earth, behold. I will certainly bring calamity on this people, even the fruit of their thoughts, because they have not heeded my words, nor my law, but rejected it. You see that word? They rejected God's law. OK, now look at verse 27 and we'll close out the chapter.
I set you, Jeremiah, as an assayer-- that is a metal expert, a metallurgist-- someone who would take the dross out of silver and brass and iron. And as a fortress among my people, that you may know and test all their way, they are all stubborn rebels walking as slanderers. They are bronze and iron. They are all corrupters. The bellows blow fiercely. The lead is consumed by the fire. The smelter refines in vain.
For the wicked are not drawn off. People will call them rejected silver because the Lord has rejected them, Now tie that verse with verse 19. This is how it goes--
These people rejected God. God has now rejected those people. And other people will reject the people that God rejected.
Very interesting principle. If you look at what happened to the nation of Israel, historically, and with what I call demonic anti-Semitism-- but there's a promise. The people that reject God, God will reject. And even people will reject the people that God rejected. That's a heavy statement.
And we don't have time, but there is that principle that should work within the church-- it's called church discipline. It's called Matthew Chapter 18. It's called 1 Corinthians-- dealing with those, who perpetually, in the name of God, reject God. What do we do with him?
And there is a principle this follows. And we'll have to pick it up next week because we're out of time. So we'll pray and we'll close. Because the Lord has rejected them.
As we pray tonight, I want you to think of something that I think is wonderful about God. He doesn't let us get by with stuff. He loves us too much to leave us the way we are.
Just because we're God's children doesn't mean we can get by with anything. Oh, yeah, well, God's grace. Yeah. God's grace will work on your life and my life to refine us into his image.
There was a Christian that committed a crime and it was taken before a judge. And believe it or not, this Christian said, well, your Honor, I'm a new man in Christ. But I also have an old nature. And the old man and the new man are fighting against each other. And it's the old man that committed this crime, not the new nature.
You know what the judge told him? He said fine. If it's your old man that committed the crime, I sentence the old man to 30 days in jail. And because your new man was an accomplice to the old man, I give him 30 more days in jail-- total of 60 days.
Didn't get by with it. He paid the price. And, Father, when we think of the price of what sin does, and how God, you said here to the prophet, Jeremiah, "it's your own sin that kept you from my good."
How good you are, how much you want to pardon and bless and be merciful and gracious, and yet-- we by our own attitudes and actions can prevent your work. So Lord, we pray you'd graciously-- this week, this night-- show us those areas of our lives that you've been trying to get at. Those places where trusting in rather than trusting you. Oh, we don't want to trust in anything but you.
We want to make you as was said tonight in worship, our complete portion. Not in pretense, not in words, but in reality. In Jesus' name. Amen. Let's all stand and we'll worship together.