Jeremiah – the weeping prophet, weeping for his beloved Israel. What a magnificent calling he had!
Now the word of the Lord came to me, saying, 5 “Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, and before you were born I consecrated you; I appointed you a prophet to the nations.” Jer 1:4-5 (ESV)
Stop for a minute and think about this. Before Jeremiah was even conceived, God knew what would be happening in Judah. Jeremiah was born to be a prophet. It was a part of God’s long range plan. If God can plan a man’s birth based on events that haven’t happened yet, can’t we trust Him to know what will happen in our lives and care for us enough to help us?
Did you notice something interesting about these verses?
I looked on the earth, and behold, it was without form and void; and to the heavens, and they had no light. 24 I looked on the mountains, and behold, they were quaking, and all the hills moved to and fro. 25 I looked, and behold, there was no man, and all the birds of the air had fled. 26 I looked, and behold, the fruitful land was a desert, and all its cities were laid in ruins before the Lord, before his fierce anger. Jer 4:23-26 (ESV)
Sounds like a reversal of the creation process!
Jeremiah is filled with “action sermons”. In the first one, God commands him to search Jerusalem for one righteous person. Sadly, not one person in the city practiced justice and truth.
Run to and fro through the streets of Jerusalem, look and take note! Search her squares to see if you can find a man, one who does justice and seeks truth, that I may pardon her. Jer 5:1 (ESV)
This sounds similar to God’s agreement to spare Sodom if ten righteous men were in the city (Genesis 18:22-33). God set the bar far lower in Jerusalem, and no one passed. Our holy God had only one choice: to allow Jerusalem to be invaded and punished for her sins.
At least three times in this book we will see God command Jeremiah not to pray for the nation because God will no longer listen. He has to give them what their sins deserve. I would never want to be in a position, either in my nation or personally, where God would no longer listen to petitions on my behalf!
What did the people do that was so bad that God would no longer listen to prayers on their behalf?
1. False worship (7:1-15). The people believed the lies of the false prophets. They wanted to hear their message – it’s okay to live in sin but still go to the temple and do your duty to God. They believed that because the temple was in Jerusalem, everything was okay. But it wasn’t. God expects right worship, repentance and a contrite spirit.
Jesus referred to this portion of scripture after He cleansed the temple.
Has this house, which is called by my name, become a den of robbers in your eyes? Behold, I myself have seen it, declares the Lord. Jer 7:11 (ESV)
And Jesus entered the temple and drove out all who sold and bought in the temple, and he overturned the tables of the money-changers and the seats of those who sold pigeons. 13 He said to them, “It is written, ‘My house shall be called a house of prayer,’ but you make it a den of robbers.” Matt 21:12-13 (ESV)
Can you imagine how depraved the people must have been for God to instruct His prophet to stop praying? Families were working together and worshiping idols (7:17-19)
Do you not see what they are doing in the cities of Judah and in the streets of Jerusalem? 18 The children gather wood, the fathers kindle fire, and the women knead dough, to make cakes for the queen of heaven. And they pour out drink offerings to other gods, to provoke me to anger. Jer 7:17-18 (ESV)
“The Queen of Heaven” was Ishtar, the Babylonian goddess of love and fertility. As a parent, what “gods” do you worship? Job security? Possessions? Television? Repent! Teach your children to worship the one true God!
2. False prophets (Jeremiah 8:4-22). Jerusalem was filled with false prophets. They were godless men whose ministry was popular because they told the people what they wanted to hear. Jeremiah called them deceitful, empty dispensers of chaff, ruthless and selfish. Please test your pastor’s words against the integrity of God’s Word. If he is truly a man of God, he will desire that you do so. He will speak of sin and the need for repentance instead of following a politically correct line of thinking. He will fill his sermons with God’s Word – not happy talk. Many are being deceived today because of “false prophets” who are perverting God’s word. Please don’t be fooled!
3. False confidence (Jeremiah 9:1-26). The people believed that because they were God’s people, they were “in”. They didn’t think it was necessary to live a holy life. That kind of thinking carried over through the life of Jesus (John 8:33-on). Paul dealt with the problem in Romans 2-4.
4. False gods (Jeremiah 10:1-25). The people chose to worship idols. God had told the people not to intermarry to prevent the temptation of worshiping other gods, but they hadn’t listened. When Moses met God on Mt. Sinai, the people were already worshiping another god (the golden calf). Because of our sin nature, it’s easy to get caught in idolatry. We do it today. Cars, clothes, comforts, convenience … these are our gods. It’s easier to follow the way of the world than worship God. He demands our best. The world doesn’t care.
At the end of the week, we see Jeremiah purchasing a loincloth and hiding it in a cleft at the River Euphrates. When God tells him to return for it, it has been destroyed by decay. This, God says, is a symbol of the decay in Jerusalem and Judah.
Will the people repent? Of course not. We will soon see exile, famine, drought, sword, pestilence.
I pray that this week’s reading has touched you and made you aware of your own need to walk a holy life. If there are areas where you struggle with the world and its idols and you’d like prayer, I’m here for you. Drop me an email any time. If you have additional insight to add (I could have gone on for days with these chapters and there are many, many more morsels of God’s greatness to see), please leave a comment. We’ll be with the weeping prophet for another two weeks. Plenty of time for God to speak through the words of a man who was called before birth, and whose words will live on for eternity.
See you next week.