Sunday night we had such a great, exciting time here at that Harvest Festival. If you came, wasn't that fabulous? Great time. Great time of fellowship, community building. Then of course, last night was very, very exciting to see the results of the election, and we thank God for that. All of you may not feel that way, and that's OK. And of course, as a church, I'm not supposed to tell you that I voted for George Bush, so I won't tell you that, but I'm excited.
There are shoe boxes available for the Operation Christmas Child Project, and we're encouraging every person to bring a few shoe boxes, and we're going to collect them at the end of this month. It's a way to bless a child in another country who would ordinarily not have any gifts at all. Many of the people that we give them to have never seen a Christmas gift. They don't know the meaning of Christmas. And that's why these gifts are suitable year-round, and they're distributed in many countries year-round, not just at Christmas. Because in a lot of the cultures, it's irrelevant if they get something on Christmas day, or in the middle of March, or even in summertime.
So they are distributed around the world, and millions of them come in, and we want thousands of them to come from this fellowship. So it's a great opportunity to buy yourself a new pair of shoes, or your wife or your husband a new pair of shoes, or the family, and then take the box and fill it with toys that are age-appropriate, gender-appropriate. A gospel tract will be put in and the gospel will be preached. Then we're also looking for opportunities to distribute them. I don't know if any of you have ever gone on one of these trips and being able to pass them out to a child and watch the children as they open them and see the looks on their faces. That's awfully exciting, so we'll try to get more information on that and apprise you of that.
Let's now open up to Jeremiah chapter 9 tonight, as we go through this very contemporary book. Jeremiah chapters 9 and 10 tonight. Let's open up in a word of prayer. Heavenly Father, as we open up Your Word, we open up also our hearts and pray that You would open up our eyes, our understanding, not only to the stark interpretive meaning of the text, but to what it means for us personally. You have a message for us tonight. You have a Word from heaven directed toward our lives, some nugget, some truth that you're desiring to get across to each one of us.
And so Lord, we surrender our lives to You. Or we surrender our time in this place. And so thankful, Lord, for the community you're building. So thankful for the time of worship, where we could lay our burdens down. We could think of those things that beset us, that bother us, that we're wondering about. We already feel lifted. And now we come in faith, expecting that Your Spirit would take the words of this prophet, because you said that all these things were written beforehand for our edification, for our comfort. And so speak, Lord, we ask, in Jesus' name. Amen.
Back on September 16th, a man by the name of Dan Squires from Toronto, Canada got on the phone and phoned his daughter. She was extremely surprised to hear her father's voice. And why is that? Because she had just attended his funeral. See, she was convinced that-- on the 10th of September, he was killed by a train. That's what everyone had said. Dan Squire's sister even came in and identified the body as his. It was a mangled wreck, but she was convinced it was his body.
He didn't know anything about his death until he was reading the newspaper, read the obituary column, and there his name appeared. So he got on the phone, phoned his daughter. Her uncle, who was at the funeral and saw this event happening afterwards, said she totally lost it, totally lost it, not expecting a call from her father, whom she presumed to be dead. She thought it was a ghost.
Jeremiah, in chapter 9, totally loses it, because he knows the truth. He knows the nation is going to die, going to be judged, but the nation itself doesn't know it. And Jeremiah predicts the time when they will totally lose it. They will weep and wail over their own demise and their own coming judgment. At this point, they're not doing that. At this point, they're believing the false prophets who are saying, peace, peace. And in chapter 8, God says of these false prophets, they heal the hurt of the daughter of my people slightly, saying, peace, peace.
Jeremiah knows better, and he wails in verse 1, "oh, that my head were waters and my eyes a fountain of tears for the slain of the daughter of my people." Here is the heartbreak of a man of God. By the way it's a great trait to have, somebody who can give this kind of a message and be this tender-hearted at the same time. That's why he's called the weeping prophet. He's heartbroken over what he knows is going to come, and he just basically says, there's not enough tears in my head. I wish I was just a fountain that could pour out the waters because of the grief that I feel.
It's been said that a Jew never forgets Jerusalem. And there is a psalm, where the psalmist writes, "if I forget thee, oh Jerusalem, may my right hand forget its cunning. May my tongue cleave to the roof of my mouth if I do not prefer Jerusalem above my chief joy." However, for Jeremiah, this is much more than a patriotic act, knowing that his nation, his people, his city is going to be judged. This is a deep spiritual ache, because he was holding out hope to the end that somehow, in God's mercy, and somehow, that they would be sensible and turn back to God, but to no avail. And so the weeping prophet weeps.
Now, who does it remind you of? It reminds you of Jesus, who centuries later would stand, looking over the same city, weeping over it in a very similar way. Jesus crested the Mount of Olives, coming in from Bethany on the east, and there the city was laid before him. And for some of you, you'll get that very same view in just a couple of months. You'll stand on the Mount of Olives. You'll look over the city of Jerusalem. You'll have an opportunity to walk down and see that city spread before you.
Jesus saw it and the Bible says, Jesus wept, and said, oh Jerusalem. Jerusalem, how often I would have gathered you as a mother hen gathers her young, but you are not willing. And then Jesus went on to predict, in similar fashion to Jeremiah, not the fall of Jerusalem in 586 BC-- that had already passed-- but the fall of Jerusalem at the hand of the Romans in 70 AD, predicting that not one stone would be left upon another. All would be torn down. And like Jesus predicted, every single stone of the temple proper itself was taken apart. The soldiers saw that the gold from the top of the temple had melted into the cracks, and to take as much gold, as much loot as they could, they turned over every single stone to get at it.
Well, in verse 2, he continues, "Oh, that I had in the wilderness a lodging place for a wayfaring man, that I might leave my people and go from them, for they are all adulterers and assembly of treacherous men." On the way from Jerusalem down to the city of Jericho, if you go that route, even to this day on the right-hand side, about midway, you see just at sea level one of these lodging places. They were called caravansaries, because the caravans would stop at them. A caravansary was a building with a courtyard in the middle and rooms on the peripheral edge of this enclosure. Animals were kept in the middle, and you would take a room, rent it for the night, and spend the night on the floor next to, and smelling and hearing, all of the animals in that caravansary.
So when you read about the inns in the New Testament, there was no room for them in the inn, and when they stopped and stayed at the inn, don't think-- it wasn't a holiday, put it that way. It was a caravansary, a lodging place for wayfaring men, for travelers, strangers. That's the kind of inn that is mentioned, and thought to be, in the New Testament, when Mary and Joseph couldn't find room in the inn, one of these places.
What's Jeremiah's saying? He's saying, it's too painful for me to get front row seats to the spectacle of the city of Jerusalem falling that's going to come. He would rather be in a lonely, destitute place than to be watching the filth and the destitution, spiritually speaking, of his people. Give me a filthy, destitute place in the wilderness rather than being in this morally filthy place and seeing the demise that will come because of it, that I might leave my people and go from them, for they are all adulterers, an assembly of treacherous men.
You may remember a psalm that-- well, at least this section reminded me of it. It's in Psalm 11. It's a short psalm. You don't have to turn there. You can mark it and read it later, if you'd like. But in Psalm 11, the psalmist said, "in the Lord I put my trust, how can you say to my soul, flee as a bird to the mountain?" Now, here was David, like Jeremiah, tossed between the same idea. David was looking at his own city and his own nation. He saw that it was corrupt, and that little voice inside say, get up and leave, man. This place is going down. At the same time, he loved the place. He loved his people. Lord, I trust you, but there is that little voice inside that says, this is a corrupt place, flee.
A few years ago, Randy Stonehill-- remember Randy Stonehill, any of you? If you do, you're as old as I am. Randy Stonehill used to play around these parts. He wrote a song called Stop the World, "I want to get off because this is too weird for me." That was the lyrics of the song. Stop the world, I want to get off. This is too weird for me. That's what David in Psalm 11 was praying. That's what Jeremiah is basically saying here. This is getting horrible, I've got to get out. Then David, in Psalm 11, says something interesting. He says, "if the foundations are destroyed, what can the righteous do?"
Now, think about that. When the foundations, and he meant, by the way, in the Hebrew, hashatot-- the foundations, or the pillars, of state, the moral fabric of my nation. When the foundations that hold us up morally and spiritually are taken away, are gone, are destroyed, what can the righteous do? Well, I'll tell you what the righteous want to do, they want to flee, many of them. I'm getting out of here. And for a lot of us, that's what we want. Oh, I wish I could just get out of this wicked world and live somewhere far away from all the cooties of the world.
Well, they tried that one time. They call them monasteries. Let me isolate myself. Let me get away from it all, where I can meditate upon the Lord, where I can be apart from the world. However, Jesus prayed, you remember, in John 17, Father, I pray for my own. I pray that you don't take them. I don't pray that you take them out of the world, but that you keep them from the evil one. We want to get out of the world, but God wants us to be in the world, but kept out of the evil of the world. After all, what good will we be if we're out of the world? If we're outside of the realm where people live and work and mock and hate and are morally objectionable? Jesus said, you are the salt of the earth. You are the light of the world. He wants us there among them. But Jeremiah, Jeremiah's feeling the impulse, just leave.
For years, I've heard people say, oh Skip, I'd love to work at a church or a Christian organization. Oh, it would be heaven. And I think, well, maybe I should just let them dream and not burst their bubble, and just let them wish for that. But, Lord, don't let it ever happen to them. Listen, I've worked around Christians and Christian organizations a long time. It's not all that you think. Jeremiah wanted to leave the holy city of Jerusalem and flee.
And here's why. He paints the picture. "'And like their bow, they have bent their tongues for lies. They are not valiant for the truth on the earth, for they proceed from evil to evil, and they do not know Me,' says the Lord. 'Everyone take heed to his neighbor and do not trust any brother, for every brother will utterly supplant and every neighbor will walk with slanderers. Everyone will deceive his neighbor and will not speak the truth. They have taught their tongue to speak lies. They weary themselves to commit iniquity. Your habitation is in the midst of deceit. Through deceit they refuse to know Me,' says the Lord."
There is a principle that I'm picking up from those verses, especially in verse 3. Notice they proceed from evil to evil. Life is never static. It's always moving. You're moving from one place to another place, from one thing to another thing, from one allowance to another allowance. We live in a culture, as Jeremiah lived in his culture, that proceeds from evil to evil. They just didn't stay at the same place. As each generation marched on, kings and people became more wicked and more wicked, until finally God said, enough warning. Now the judgment must come. Proceeding from evil to evil.
I am relieved and grateful to God that all of the states that put on the ballot yesterday, the whole idea of traditional families. What is a family? It's a marriage. Or what is a marriage? It's between a man and a woman. And the states, even liberal states, upheld that idea, and I'm grateful to God for that. But the fact that it was even on the ballot to vote for would have been a shock 50 years ago, let alone to our founding fathers.
They would have thought, surely you'd never have to define that. Surely everybody with half a brain can figure that out. They didn't realize that there would come a time in our country where people would lose half their brain and not be able to have a firm moral foundation, and have to question, what is a family? What is a marriage? And to have to vote on it. So it shows me the direction that our country is going in, from evil to evil, where we allow just a little bit, then just a little bit more.
And you can think of television programs. It's a Wonderful Life. I've told you before, that 1940s classic with Jimmy Stewart. And they had to ban it from the airwaves because he said the word jerk. They had to take that word out. You couldn't let anybody in an audience hear the word jerk. Censor it. You've got to pull that out. Now you think what's allowed today. So a culture is never static. It it's always going from evil to evil.
The same in our lives. We live in a culture that has the potential to take us like a torrent and move us with it. That's why we did a series on the Sermon on the Mount called Living Life Against the Flow. It's awfully hard to go against the flow, but that's what we're called to do. How do we do that? How do we keep from going from evil to evil like our culture? Well, the Bible has a few phrases. In Psalm 84, the Bible says, going from strength to strength. "As they go to worship the Lord, they will go from strength to strength." In 2 Corinthians, going from "glory to glory, being transformed into the same into image."
So as we go from strength to strength, from glory to glory, it helps us to stem the tide in going from evil to evil. In other words, grow spiritually. "Grow," 2 Peter 3:18, "in the grace and in the knowledge of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ." We've told you before that living the Christian life is like riding a bicycle uphill. The moment you stop pedaling, you don't stay static, you go backwards. You will backslide. So the antidote to that kind of behavior, evil to evil, keep pedaling. Keep moving forward.
And it's good to take inventory of our spiritual lives, honestly. From time to time, stop, and not think about anyone else but myself. Am I different before the Lord today than I was a year ago? What's my faith like? What are my actions like? What are my attitudes like? Today versus a year ago, have I grown? Am I moving forward? Or am I becoming lax? Am I leaving my first love? So that's a principle. We're never static. We're always going somewhere.
Now, our culture, we know where it's going. And here's why, I'm going to read to you a snippet of why we need to stem the tide and go from glory to glory and strength to strength, rather than from evil to evil. Here's a snippet of what is called The Index of Leading Cultural Indicators. over the last 30 years in our nation, there has been a 560% increase in violent crimes in that time period, 560%. There has been a 400% increase in illegitimate births in our nation during that time. There has been a quadrupling in divorces, a tripling of percentage of children living in single parent homes, and over 200% increase in teenage suicides. That's a nation that is going from evil to evil.
That's why, in the midst of it, you need a fish, or two, or three, or thousands going against the flow. Any dead fish can go downstream. Floating upstream, swimming upstream, is the key, going from glory to glory, strength to strength, and Romans 1 says, "going from faith to faith," so we're increasing, growing. "Therefore, thus says the Lord of Hosts, 'behold, I will refine them and try them, for how shall I deal with the daughter of my people? Their tongue is an arrow shot out. It speaks deceit. Seat One speaks peaceably to his neighbor with his mouth, but in his heart, he lies in wait. Shall I not punish them for these things?' Says the Lord. 'Shall I not avenge myself on such a nation as this?"
Now, it's good to compare what God was saying with what they were saying as a nation with what Jeremiah was saying about what God was saying about what they were saying. Ha ha, you got it? Back in chapter 8, they were saying, peace, peace, when there was no peace. Peace wasn't coming. Judgment was coming, but they were saying, peace. God was saying, shall I not avenge myself on this nation? Look what they've done. Jeremiah was seeing the whole thing and saying, oh, that my head we're a fountain. That my tears could flow so freely, because I know what's coming. Three completely different sentiments. They didn't know the truth. They said one thing. God knew the truth. He spoke it. Jeremiah saw it.
And we asked last week, and we ask again this week, what brings you to tears? What moves you? What creates an angst within you? Well, I lost my job. I could understand that. That would cause anybody a pause. A friend of mine is going through a hardship that's closer to the prophet's condition. I weep when I look at my nation turning away from God and going from evil to evil-- bingo. Bull's-eye That's Jeremiah the prophet. The weeping prophet, because he knew what that direction would bring and what it would incur.
So God, pointing out what they have done, saying that they speak deceit, they speak lies, neighbor against neighbor, brother against brother, shall I not punish them for these things? Shall I not avenge myself on such a nation as this? "I will take up a weeping and wailing for the mountains and for the habitations of the wilderness, a lamentation, because they are burned up so that no one can pass through them nor can men hear the voice of the cattle, both the birds of the heavens, the beasts of the field, or the birds and the beasts have fled and they are gone."
God is showing the evidence and showing why the evidence that He presents makes it crystal clear why He must judge. And the judgment will be a march of the Babylonians from the north, through the mountains, down to the southern mountains, the city of Jerusalem. It shows us that the condition of the people is to the point where they are not sensing the problem. God sees it. Jeremiah proclaims it, but they are not experiencing it. And so God, through the prophet-- imagine this guy standing out in the public square saying, here's the list. Here's the evidence. This sin, that sin, deceit, lies. You can't trust people. This is what you do to each other. That's Jeremiah's ministry.
A couple of months ago in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, a worker decided to go to a lumber yard and steal $5,000 worth of machinery. He stole an engine, a transmission, and the front of a big hoe. And he tied it to his car, and get this, he drug it home. Five blocks from where he stole it, with a chain, drug it home. Well, that's like leaving a trail of breadcrumbs, because all the police have to do is look at the dug marks and the grooves that you leave in the road all the way from the lumber yard to your garage. And so they followed these marks all the way from the lumber yard to this garage, and they found the culprit with the engine transmission and the part of the hoe, and they arrested him. That's dumb. But they had the evidence. They followed the trail.
God is following the trail, and Jeremiah is showing the trail. Here it is. This is what you've done. Here's the evidence, And it leads right to you, he says. So God will avenge Himself. "Shall I not punish them for these things? I will make Jerusalem a heap of ruins, a den of jackals. I will make the cities of Judah desolate without an inhabitant. Who is the wise man who may understand this? And who is he to whom the mouth of the Lord has spoken, that he may declare it? Why does the land perish and burn up like a wilderness so that no one can pass through it?'
The Lord said, 'because they have forsaken my law, which I have set before them, and have not obeyed my voice, nor walked according to it, but they have walked according to the imagination of their own heart, and after the Baals"-- remember, that's the chief god. Baal is the god of fertility and the sun god, and he was worshiped in the pantheon of Babylonian deities. "They have followed after the Baals, which their father taught them.' Therefore, thus says the Lord of Hosts, the God of Israel, 'behold, I will feed them, this people, with wormwood and give them water of gall to drink. I will scatter them also among the Gentiles, whom neither they, nor their fathers, have known, and I will send a sword after them until I have consumed them.'"
Wormwood was a bitter plant that had a strong, dark green pungent poisonous oil. It is a word that also appears in the New Testament, "absinthas," which comes from absinthe, which is a poison, when put in certain fluids, would kill somebody. It comes in the Book of Revelation, where this star called Wormwood falls from heaven and poisons the fresh water systems on the earth. So this is all metaphor of God bringing bitterness into their lives, a poisonous situation. "But I will scatter them also," verse 16, "among the Gentiles." That's the Babylonian captivity that happened in 586 BC.
Now what God is doing is calling them to observe what they have done and what God is about to do, what they have been focusing on and how they have replaced God with themselves and self-worship. "Thus says the Lord of Hosts, 'consider and call for the morning women, that they may come and send for skillful wailing women, that they may come. Let them make haste and take up a wailing for us, that our eyes may run with tears, our eyelids gush with water, for the voice of wailing is heard from Zion, how we are plundered. We are greatly ashamed because we have forsaken the land. We have been cast out of our dwellings." Jeremiah is saying, he's not the only one who's going to be weeping. The whole nation will be weeping, and what he is doing is calling upon professional mourners.
Back in those days, when somebody died and there was a huge funeral march through the streets of the ancient towns, there were people who were paid to come in and cry. I know it sounds goofy, but the more wailing that you heard, the more loved was the person who departed. That's how they saw it. So people would spend big bucks to bring professional mourners. And these women would come in and cry and rip their clothes and wail and scream. And sometimes, you may see, in Palestinian territories where a terrorist is attacked and the city is impacted, and you'll hear these women in the streets, these Arab women, wailing. And I can't do the [ROLLING TONGUE] thing they do at the top of their voice, but that's the idea. And in those days, they paid for them.
Now, people would wail on their own because they miss the person, but you go down the street, and pay them a few shekels, and they'll come and they'll wail. And the idea is that God is going to give them reason for them to do that. They've been cast out of their country, out of their dwellings. "'Hear the Word of the Lord, oh women. Let your ear receive the Word of His mouth. Teach your daughters wailing, and every one her neighbor, a lamentation, for death has come to our windows, has entered our palaces to kill off the children, no longer to be outside, and the young men no longer on the streets. Speak,' thus says the Lord, 'even the carcasses of men shall fall as refuse, or as dung, as waste, on the open field, like cuttings after the harvester, and no one shall gather them.' Thus says the Lord."
Here's one of my favorite verses in the Bible. "Let not the wise man glory in his wisdom. Let not the mighty man glory in his might, nor let the rich man glory in his riches. But let him who glories glory in this, that he understands and knows me, that I am the Lord, exercising loving-kindness and judgment and righteousness in the earth, for in these I delight, says the Lord."
Their minds, their might, and their money were all things that they were trusting in. Think of a snapshot of Israel's history. They were taken from Egypt. They were brought into a new land. They were so grateful. This is the land God promised. Finally, we're here. And they multiplied, and they conquered, and they settled. Then, as they settled, and they worked hard, and they vanquished their enemies, after a while, they lost the gratitude for the country they were in. They lost the gratitude for the heritage they had spiritually from the Lord.
They started worshipping their minds, their own wisdom. Well, we're pretty smart here. We've established our own schools, our own universities, and we've produced a generation of smart people. They worship their might, their military might. They became strong under King Solomon, who developed a strong navy, merchant marine, expanding the borders of the land. Under King Uzziah, who reigned 52 years and brought peace and prosperity. Under King Josiah, whom we've read about already in Jeremiah, that young boy wonder, eight years old, comes to the throne, brings spiritual reform. After awhile, as the years went on, they started trusting in their minds, their might militarily, and their money. And that was their doom.
Now, I know I'm preaching to the choir, and I am grateful, and I prayed hard for the outcome of the elections, as you did, and I got up early and I voted. But again, I want to say, what I was praying at the beginning of this service, my hope isn't in a political party. My hope isn't in a single man. I'm grateful that the man in the White House loves the Lord and prays to God and trusts the Lord. But I've found far too many Christians that act like Isaiah.
"In the year the King Uzziah died, I saw the Lord sitting on the throne, high and lifted up, and His train filled the temple." When King Uzziah died, a godly king who had been on the throne for 52 years, Jeremiah and everybody else lost it. They thought, it's over. It's over. As long as he was on the throne, we were safe. And a lot of people say, as long as so-and-so is in the White House, we're safe. You think? You think we're safe because W. Is in the White House? I'm glad he's in the White House, but listen, morally, our nation is still on a decline, a downhill slope.
The children of Israel became mighty, became smart, and became prosperous. And one of the minor prophets, we'll get to it if we last that long before the Lord comes back, if we get that far in our study of the Word, says of Ephraim, one of those northern tribes, "let her alone, she has settled on her leees, on her dregs." Just like when you shake up wine and you leave it and the dregs settle to the bottom, my people have just sort of settled in that place of trusting their might and their money and their mind. And I think our nation can be at that point, is at that point, where we trust those things rather than the Lord.
Back in 1863, President Abraham Lincoln said, "we have grown in numbers, wealth, and power as no other nation has ever grown. But we have forgotten God, and we have vainly imagined, in the deceitfulness of our hearts, that all of these blessings were produced by some superior wisdom and virtue of our own." Those three things are still worshipped today-- our minds, our money, and our might. They're high on people's list. And you notice that a lot here in Orange County, minds, money, might.
We've already seen, it just takes one act of terrorism to throw everybody into fear. And then they assemble on the steps in Washington, and they'll sing together and forget partisanship, and oh, we trust in God. But then after a while, we get prosperous again and the stocks go up and go, thanks, God, we don't need you right now. We vainly imagine that through our own superior intellect or wisdom, these things have come.
So let not the wise man glory in his wisdom, let not the mighty man glory in his might, let not the rich man glory in his riches. Hey, if you're smart, great. We need you. If you're mighty, great, we need you. If you're wealthy, great, we need you. But don't glory in those things. Thank the Lord for them, and then use them, be a good steward. "'Let him who glories glory in this, that he understands and knows me, that I am the Lord, exercising loving-kindness and judgment and righteousness in the earth, for in these I delight,' says the Lord. 'Behold, the days are coming, says the Lord, that I will punish all those who are circumcised with the uncircumcised, Jew and Gentile alike, Egypt, Judah, Edom, the people of Ammon and Moab, and all who are in the farthest corners who dwell in the wilderness, for all these nations are uncircumcised, and the house of Israel are uncircumcised in heart.'"
You always notice that, don't you? God wants the heart, not the ritual. He wants the relationship. It's all about what goes on inside, not outside. Always the heart. "Hear the Word which the Lord speaks to you, oh house of Israel, thus says the Lord. Do not learn the way of the Gentiles nor be dismayed at the signs of the heavens." They worshipped the sun, the moon, the stars. "For the Gentiles are dismayed at them, for the customs of the people are futile. For one cuts a tree from the forest, the work of the hands of a workman with the axe. They decorate it with silver and gold. They fastened it with nails and hammers so that it will not topple. They are upright like a palm tree. They cannot speak. They must be carried because they cannot go by themselves. Do not be afraid of them, for they cannot do evil nor can they do any good."
We are in constant danger, living in a generation, a culture, that goes from evil to evil, as we've already seen. We're in a constant danger of becoming like what's around us. So once again, God says, don't learn the way of the Gentiles. Don't do what they do. Romans 12:1, "I beseech you, therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that you present your body as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your reasonable service." Verse 2, "and be not conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind." Or I love the Phillip's rendering of it. Phillip's translation says, "don't let the world squeeze you into its own mold." The world is always wanting to do that. Think like we think. Enjoy what we enjoy. Be like this. Oh, don't be dismayed at the heavens. Don't learn the way of the Gentiles.
Before I moved here, I had a home up in the mountains at about 8,000 feet. I've told you that before, up in the Rocky Mountains of New Mexico. About this time of the year, early in the morning, oh, it's usually in the high 20s. It doesn't go down to the 50s, it goes down to the high 20s, and then it gets colder from there on out. So early morning, it's cold.
Well, when we built this house, we put one of these cool thermostat thing-a-ma-jiggers in, that they're digital, they read different parts of the room. And it was great. I never had one quite like it. You program it in when you want it to do stuff. Over time, all it became good for was a thermometer. That is, it would shut off in the middle of the night and not come on, even for a couple of days. So you get up in the morning, when it's 29 outside and the house is in the 50s or 40s, it's like, oh, man, it's cold in here. You have to light the fire. So it had the potential to be a great thermostat, but it turned into just something that registered the temperature, not regulated the temperature.
Now, we have an opportunity to be one of two things, a thermometer or a thermostat. As a thermometer, we can be like the generation and people around us going, from evil to evil. We just mirror what they are into, their morals, their ideals, their values. Thermostats regulate their surroundings. They don't register them, they regulate them. Salt and light make a difference. Christians make a difference. They get into a situation where people around them maybe get a little bit uneasy because of them, maybe ask a few questions to them. Why do you live that way? Why do you think that way? What do you think about?
I remember working here in Southern California at St. Joe's Hospital in Orange CHOC, that's Orange County Medical Center, and then Westminster Community Hospital. And I was surrounded with a host of self-proclaimed atheists. When I told them I was a Christian, they said, what were you bringing that leather book here for? That's a Bible, thank you. What are you bringing it to work for? I said, so when I have some time, I can read it. Why do you read that? And we'd get into interesting discussions.
But you know what? Whenever there was hardship or trial, death or disease in their family, guess who they went to first? Skip, can I talk to you? Sure. Would you pray for me? Would I what? Would you pray for me? I said, I'd love to pray for you. What an exciting thing to become a thermostat rather than a thermometer. God says, don't be like them. Don't do what they do, and don't be dismayed because of what they're into.
Now, the verses that we just read, some believe that it refers to the Christmas tree, where the Babylonians would take a tree out of the forest-- and I mentioned Sunday, the practice of December 25th and the yule log. Infant log on mother night was burned and the next day they put a tree, marking the resurrection of Tammuz, and the sun conquering darkness, and all that nonsense. This doesn't refer to that. This refers to them taking a tree and making an idol out of it and decorating it, and the absurdity of making something that looks like you do, an image of a person, but you're making something less than you are, and you're worshipping it. It's absurd. That's the whole idea.
Verse 5, "they cannot speak. They must be carried because they cannot go themselves. Don't be afraid of them. They can't do evil nor can they do any good." How utterly ridiculous, to make a little statue, you made it, and then you start talking to it. You start praying to it. It can't answer you. But it has a mouth. Yeah, but it can't open it. It can't articulate it, unless it's a little ventriloquist puppet and you go, hi, how are you. Good, how are you doing? Great, thanks. But it's all you.
Then he points out that it becomes a burden to you. It can't carry you in your time of sorrows. You have to put that idol on your shoulder and walk down the street and set it somewhere else. It becomes a burden to you. "In as much as there is none like you, oh Lord, you are great, and your name is great in might. Who would not fear you, oh King of nations, for this is your rightful due. For among all the wise men of the nations and in all their kingdoms, there is none like you." What Jeremiah is doing, God through Jeremiah, is comparing the absurdity of worshipping false gods that are less than a man, that a man makes and carries him around, with the incomparable nature of God, who is unlimited. There is none like him. He's unique. He's singular.
"But they are altogether dull-hearted and foolish. A wooden idol is a worthless doctrine. Silver is beaten into plates. It's brought from Tarshish, the gold from Uphaz," in other words, the best of the best. "The work of the craftsman, of the hands of the metalsmiths, blue and purple are their clothing." They dress it up and make it look great. "They are all the work of skillful men. But the Lord is the true God. He is the living God, the everlasting King, and his wrath, at his wrath, the earth will tremble and the nations will not be able to abide his indignation." What's the problem? The problem is man is creating an image. Man is creating something in his own image. As compared to, when God created man, He created us in His own image.
Now, there is a principle. Whatever you worship, you become like. So if you worship something that is false, you become false. If you worship something that is powerless and empty, you become empty. Keep a marker here and just go back to Psalm 115 for a moment. Psalm 115 is a psalm you should be familiar with and you should mark, and maybe even write in the margin of your Bible in Jeremiah, or write in the margin of the Bible of Psalm 115, Jeremiah 10. Verse 2, Psalm 115, "why should the Gentiles say, where now is their god?" The heathen could point to their statues and say, look, here's our god. There's Baal. There's Ashtoreth. And look at the clothes we put on them? You like that? So where's your god? You have an invisible god. You can't even see your god.
Here's the point of the psalmist. "But our God is in heaven. He does whatever He pleases. Their idols are silver and gold, the work of man's hands. They have mouths, but they don't speak. Eyes they have, but they don't see. They have ears, but they don't hear. Noses they have, but they do not smell. They have hands, but they don't handle. Feet they have, but they don't walk nor do they mutter through their throat. Those who make them are like them, so is everyone who trusts them." Whatever you worship, you will become like what you worship. So follow the line of thinking in chapter 10 of Jeremiah verse 10, "but the Lord is the true God. He is the living God and the everlasting King." If you want to be true and living and live eternally, everlasting, worship God. You'll become like the God you serve and worship.
Verse 11, "you shall say to them, the gods that have not made the heavens and the earth shall perish from the earth and from under these heavens. He has made the earth by his power. He has established the world by his wisdom. He has stretched out the heavens at his discretion. When he utters his voice, there is a multitude of waters in the heavens. He causes the vapors to ascend from the ends of the earth. He makes lightning for rain. He brings the wind out of his treasuries." He's describing the hydrological cycle of evaporation and condensation, the clouds that go from the sea inland, the storms that develop, the winds that carry them, and all of this is at the hand of God. He made the earth by his power.
The point of Jeremiah, the point that God is making through the prophet to the people, is a very important point that is still a valid point to people today. When you look around at the earth and you look around at the universe, it should point to God. It should point people to God. To look around and say, what a marvelous accident we live in, what a great fortuitous occurrence of accidental circumstance, wow, is insane. David said in Psalm 19, "the heavens declare the glory of God." In other words, we should be able to look at the sun, the moon, the stars that they worshiped, and say, if the artwork is that amazing, what must the artist be like?
Because you see, when I look around at the world, when I look around at the universe, I see design. And whenever there is design, there must be a designer. That was Paley's whole argument. Paley's watchmaker argument. Design speaks of a designer. This building speaks of design. Somebody designed it, some architect designed it. Now, what if I were to sit in front of you and say, actually, how this building came about is over millions of years, rocks collided with other rocks. There were explosions in the ground. Certain metals came up and over, and it took millions and millions of years. But through all sorts of cataclysmic changes in the earth, this building eventually assembled itself and came out of the ground.
You'd say, Skip, you're an idiot. You've lost it. And that would probably be true, if I believed that. But if I said-- if you look around and you see the way this is put together with weight bearing walls and pillars and spans and air conditioning and heating and carpet, it reflects design. You'd say, now that's more plausible. Well, at the same time, for me to look at my body with its 30 trillion cells and say, it's an accident, it's a marvel of evolutionary processes over millions of years, is even more absurd, because this is more complex and speaks of intricate design. So when I look at the heavens that they worshipped, I must-- I must-- concur there is a designer.
The Bible says, in Colossians chapter 1, all things were made by Jesus, and by Him, all things consist, or literally are held together. Jesus Christ holds the universe that He created together. I love to look up-- and last night, a couple of us were down at the beach, and I even saw a shooting star, clear skies. It was beautiful. You look at the stars, you try to identify them.
The Milky Way galaxy that you and I live in, our neighborhood, is quite large. It's 10,000 light years wide by 100,000 light years long. Now, light travels at 186,000 miles per second. If you could travel at that speed, 186,000 miles per second, it would take you 100,000 years to get from one end of your galaxy to the other. If you traveling at 186,000 miles per second, you could go around the earth 7 and 1/2 times in one second. If you wanted to go to the moon, it would take you 1.5 seconds. Zip, you'd go right past the moon.
In 2 minutes and 18 seconds, you'd sail past Venus. In 4 and 1/2 minutes, you'd go past Mercury. In 7 and 1/2 minutes, you'd go past the sun, but it would take you 100,000 years to get to the end of your neighborhood, the Milky Way galaxy. Once you got to the end of your neighborhood after 100,000 years, if you still had energy, I would have to tell you, you really just left the front yard, because scientists tell us there are billions of other galaxies out there.
Now, the Bible says your God measures them by the span of his hand. That's a span from thumb to finger. And we go, whoa, it's so big. God says, nah, it's only about that big. All things are held together by Jesus Christ. He holds your life together. That's why, when we look at design, the universe, the human body, and we say there must be a designer, here's the conclusion. This is where it should lead us. I can trust you, Lord, because if You can hold all of that together, certainly You can hold my week together. Certainly You can hold my concerns, these things that I'm worrying about, these things that are about to crush me.
That's why, as you study the natural environment, it should lead you to trust the designer. Wow, if he can do that. And that's the universe with hundreds of billions of other galaxies, then somewhere in between that span is a speck of dust called the earth. Only 8,000 miles in diameter, a piece of dust. Billions of lifeforms in that biosphere, and you're one of them and you've got problems. I don't want to minimize them, but put it in perspective. And it should lead you to have the same faith that Jeremiah had.
OK, let's finish up the chapter and we'll pray. "Everyone is dull-hearted, without knowledge." He goes on to say that these are false images, worthless images. Verse 16, "the portion of Jacob, I love that name, for God is not like them. He is the maker of all things, and Israel is the tribe of his inheritance. The Lord of hosts is His name. Gather up your wares from the land, oh inhabitant of the fortress. For thus says the Lord, 'behold, I will throw out at this time the inhabitants of the land and will distress them, that they may find it so.' Woe is me." Jeremiah speaks.
This is his emotion, his sentiment. "Woe is me, for I am hurt, or for my hurt, my wound is severe. But I say, truly, this is an infirmity, and I must bear it. My tent is plundered, and all my cords are broken. My children have gone from me, and they are no more. There is no one to pitch my tent anymore, or set up my curtains. For the shepherds have become dull-hearted. They have not sought the Lord. Therefore, they shall not prosper and all their flocks shall be scattered. Behold, the noise of the report has come, and a great commotion out of the north country, to make the cities of Judah desolate, a den of jackals."
Dull-hearted, the phrase is used twice by the prophet. Once it refers to the people in general, the other time refers to the leaders of the people. They've become dull-hearted, insensate. They don't feel anymore. I read an article about a young lady who lives in Malaysia, who over the last five years, has developed an immunity to the bite of scorpions. And why, you ask? Why does she allow herself to be bitten by scorpions?
Because she wants to set the world record in the Guinness Book of World Records. So she put herself in a glass box with 6,000 scorpions in a mall, so everybody could see it, and spent a protracted period of time in and among the scorpions. And they would bite her. She survived. Now, I can't imagine enjoying that, or why anybody would do that, but she did it. Over time, the bite of sin, if it's not dealt with, can deliver its poison so that we become inoculated to it. We see it. We hear it. We're around it, but it doesn't bother us as much anymore. That's dangerous. Dull-hearted, unable to feel. They don't care, apathetic.
Let's finish out the chapter. "Oh Lord, I know," says Jeremiah, "I know the way of man is not in himself. It is not in man who walks to direct his own steps. Oh Lord, correct me, but with justice. Not in your anger, lest you bring me to nothing. Pour out your fury on the Gentiles who do not know you, and on your families who do not call on your name. For they have eaten up Jacob, devoured him and consumed him, and made his habitation desolate." Lord, says Jeremiah, I know you are going to judge these people, but I am going to take it personally now. Would you just judge the people who are going to come against your people, the Babylonians? Judge them. This is your heritage. We're your people.
But he said something very important, and let's close on this note and let's think about this as we go home. Lord, I know that the way of man is not in himself. We are incapable, as human beings, apart from God to, direct our own steps, to get on the right path, the right direction in life. Apart from God, we're lost. It's not in man to direct his own steps. We're incapable of directing ourselves, apart from God, in the way of truth. So what is the answer? The answer to this is Proverbs 3, "trust in the Lord with all your heart. Lean not to your own understanding"-- mind, might, money-- "but in all your ways, acknowledge Him, and He will direct your paths." That's the promise, He'll direct your paths.
So here's Jeremiah. He's tempted to leave, he wants to flee. It's too painful to get front row seats to see the nation fall and die. He'd love to leave, but he doesn't. Because the plan-- when you live in a world like we live, the solution is not isolation. The solution is permeation. I'm going to stay here in this world, not seek a monastery, but seek to influence those around me. Let's pray for that as we leave this place tonight.
Heavenly Father, I pray for your people here, that we would become change agents. We'd become thermostats rather than just thermometers registering the values of this culture. Bring us to a place, Lord, where we are different and we seek to lead others on the right path. Lord, it's not in ourselves to direct our own paths. We're incapable. We need you.
The solution is to trust you, and the solution to a culture that goes from evil to evil is to go from glory to glory, from strength to strength, from faith to faith. Lord, I pray that rather than relaxing and settling because an election has been won, we would be motivated during this time to get the gospel out, to rescue men and women from darkness, to be like this prophet, who was hurt and moved to the point of not escaping, but of engaging in the culture that we see around us, in Jesus' name. Amen.