Archive for the Jeremiah Category

A Struggle

Posted in Jeremiah, Scripture, Sin on January 21, 2014 by nmpreach

israelWhile reading through Jeremiah again, I’m struck at the brusque message the prophet shares time and time again.  I thought I was a slow learner, but it appears the Israelites were as well.  We turn our attention to chapters 26-30.

There comes a time when judgment cannot be stopped.  In other words, God has been gracious for a lengthy time, hoping His people would repent and be obedient.  Because they refuse, a righteous God has no other option than judgment.

Jeremiah speaks of judgment coming from Nebuchadnezzar, king of Babylon.  Any attempt to thwart judgment on the Israelite’s behalf would only lead to greater turmoil.  It’s intriguing that God would declare a time of judgment and only God could decide when that time was passed.  In chapter 28, readers are told of Hananiah and his false prophecy regarding peace.  Because he spoke lies, he died.  Irony?  Here’s a prophet who speaks of rebellion and judgment, only to rebel himself and die.

This is a great reminder of discernment.  People will always give advice.  Some of the advice is obviously better than other advice.  But how do you know what to follow?  If one doesn’t know the Word of God, hasn’t spent time in prayer, and is not seeking God with all that he/she is, they’re prone to follow bad advice!

In chapter 29, we run across a verse that many of us quote from time to time, yet we aren’t aware of the context.  For I know the plans I have for you, declares the LORD, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope  (vs 11).  The context is the people have been removed from the Promised Land.  They’ve rebelled and are facing the consequences.  God says His punishment will last 70 years, at which time they will be able to return.  Perhaps we should remember that the next time we’re tempted to quote this verse.

Chapter 30 speaks of the judgment that seems unbearable.  The intentional rebellion (apostasy) is the reason the Israelites are being judged.  They cannot plead innocent or ignorant.  They know better!  Despite all of their choices, God continues to reach and rescue them.  His original choice of Israel being His people stands.  After all, Israel means “He who struggles with God.”  Seems right, doesn’t it?  Is that you – one who struggles with God?  Sadly, I see myself.


Who’s Your Daddy?

Posted in Discipleship, Jeremiah, Sin on January 14, 2014 by nmpreach

Jeremiah seems to “speed up” as he writes of judgment in chapters 21-25.  Maybe it’s just me.  But do you get a sense of his passion?  His attempt to convince the people of God to make the right choice is evident.  This is not a new message.  But the prophet prays they understand and their legacy will be one of faith and obedience.  In fact, the only way to have a legacy is to follow God’s will.  They were apathetic, complacent, and making some horrible decisions.

Read these verses again:

He judged the cause of the poor and needy; then it was well.  Is not this to know me? declares the LORD.

But you have eyes and heart only for your dishonest gain, for shedding innocent blood, and for practicing oppression and violence.

Jeremiah 22:16-17 ESV

The prophet is clear.  The people of God are so focused on themselves – so arrogant, prideful, and selfish – that they have followed their own ways.  The consequence is judgment.

In our time, we have a tendency to do somewhat of the same.  Jesus himself said, Why do you call me ‘Lord, Lord,’ and not do what I tell you? Luke 6:46

We have become convinced that all we must do is have a mental assent to certain dogmas.  In other words, believe the right things, and that’s what following Christ is all about.  That’s crazy….and unbiblical!

The idea of belief throughout Scripture had follow-through.  In other words, talk is cheap.  You might say you believe, but the words didn’t mean much.  The question was, what did you do about it?  Jesus didn’t just come and perform miracles for an “oooh” and “awwwww.”  He came to restore lives.  And then, He calls us to do the same.  How can we share Jesus with those around us if we just exist in our own little world and never act upon what’s in our head?  That would be foreign to them then and should be foreign to us now.  The question is, Who do you follow?  God?  The world?  Yourself?

Our problem is one of laziness.  We want to do just enough to get by.  Walk the aisle, say a few words, get in some water, believe a few things, and get my ticket punched.  That’s not what Christ called us to do!  I hear numerous excuses all of the time.  “I’m just not religious.”  Good!  Jesus said you should only be religious about loving people.  “I could never be good enough.”  You’re right.  But amazingly, God loves us anyway.  “The Church just isn’t for me.”  Really?  What if Jesus died for the Church and will return to claim His bride?  Is it for you now?  “They’re just a bunch of hypocrites.”  Fair.  We’re all sinners and not one is perfect.  But convincing yourself of some independent “good-guy” living is not only silly, it’s  stupid!  “Once saved, always saved!”  Really?  Maybe we should discuss what it means to be saved. Ultimately it’s not about you.

Is that harsh?  Intolerant?

It’s what Jesus said.  Read Luke 6:46 and then be slow to decide your answer.

I Choose Responsibility

Posted in Jeremiah, Scripture, Sin on January 3, 2014 by nmpreach

While reading through Jeremiah, we’ve reached chapters 16-20.  Taking sin seriously, idolatry, etc. continue to be the theme of the weeping prophet.

The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately sick; who can understand it? 17:9

Then chapter 18.  Chapter 18 is a bit controversial – the interpretation, I mean.  I will spare you many of the details but let’s just say one interprets what the text says about God.  Is He a God looking to destroy or is it about consequences?  In this case, the latter would be God punishing for the nation’s wickedness?  In other words, the promises in the chapter are conditional.  Blessings for obedience.  Curses for disobedience.  It seems we’ve passed this way before.

The lesson rings true for individuals as it does for nations.    The same consequences await my decision to follow God’s will or my own.  At first glance, that may sound obvious.  However, understanding the concept has tremendous effects on how we live, how we interpret Scripture, etc.  I can’t blame Adam and Eve.  It’s not the Jews or Romans fault.  It has nothing to do with politicians on either side.  My choices are my choices.  My sin is my sin.  And because I have the ability to choose, no one else can do it for me.

Our society seems to cater to victims.  “It’s the way that I was raised.”  “Do you know where I grew up?”  “I can never get past ___________.” “You/They/Everyone owes me.”  Truth is, you can’t choose many of your circumstances.  But you can choose how you respond to those circumstances.

We can never have the full life (Jn 10:10) God intends if we remain victims of anything.  Regardless of the broken world in which we live and the circumstances we live in, through Jesus Christ all things (including you and I) can be restored.  So quit blaming everyone or everything around you.  Take responsibility for what you do or don’t do.  Choose not to be a victim!  It leads to less chaos.

Ears To Hear

Posted in Jeremiah, Scripture, Sin on December 26, 2013 by nmpreach

Continuing through Jeremiah, you ran across chapter thirteen. Weird, right? First of all, a loincloth? I can’t think of the last time a loincloth has come up in one of my conversations.

Firstly, a loincloth held the outer clothing in place. Typically, the “belt” would cling to one’s person. However, what makes this belt different was it was to be made of linen (13:1) rather than leather. Previously, only the priest wore linen. So why would the prophet be told the loincloth was to be linen?  Linen signified purity.  And each time linen was put on, it was to remind the wearer of the presence of God.

Secondly, Jeremiah is told to make the long journey to the Euphrates and hide the clothing near the river.  After some time, he’s told to retrieve his clothing.  But as he returns, Jeremiah finds it “spoiled” and good for nothing” (13:7).  The text goes on to say God would make the Israelites acknowledge their pride.  It’s important to quote here:

This evil people, who refuse to hear my words, who stubbornly follow their own heart and have gone after other gods to serve them and worship them, shall be like this loincloth, which is good for nothing.  For as the loincloth clings to the waist of a man, so I made the whole house of Israel and the whole house of Judah cling to me, declares the LORD, that they might be for me a people, a name, a praise, and a glory, but they would not listenvss 10-11 emphasis mine


God desires a relationship with His people.  In fact, at a risk of over-simplifying a statement, He reaches out to the Israelites more than once.  Yet they choose to do their own thing.  And eventually God has enough.  He commissions the prophet to make a point about Israel’s sin.  They’re pride and arrogance is passed the point of no return.  They’re not hearing God’s call to return.  They’re selfish and it’s time to be called on their sin.

You might think these are uneducated people.  They didn’t have the knowledge we have.  But wait a sec.  What makes us any different from them?  Sure, they didn’t have the Word as we know it.  But they had the Law and the Prophets and still refused to heed the warnings.  They continued down the same path of destruction and believed they would get by with their rebellion.  We do the same.  We cry “foul” when we’re disciplined for our sin.  We worship money, material possessions, the things of the world.  Yet we don’t learn from previous choices.

Let’s not be too quick to judge these people.  Let’s look first at our own lives and decide what God is calling us to change.  I’m not interested in a resolution that will last a few days or a few weeks.  I’m talking about a life long change.  What has God been speaking, prodding, screaming for us to change but we’ve chosen not to listen?  Thankfully, it’s not too late!

Seriously, Sin?

Posted in Jeremiah, Scripture, Sin on December 20, 2013 by nmpreach

jeremiahEarlier this week, we began to look at the book of Jeremiah.  You can find the first post here.  Today, we turn our attention to chapters 6-10. Once Jeremiah is called by God to be a prophet, he quickly turns to the message.  “Jerusalem, you are sinners.  You’ve turned from a faithful God to your own desires.  Therefore, God is going to punish.”  That’s a paraphrase of the first few chapters, but it’s fair.  Read it, if you haven’t already done so.

As I was reading the next five chapters, I was thinking about sin.  Do I take my sin serious enough?  Do I realize the consequences?  Do I know that one day there will be a reckoning?  Those questions can’t be answered quickly.  It’s sin that got Jesus murdered – mine, yours, and everyone else’s.

If you’ve read these particular chapters, Jeremiah is clear about sin.  Here’s a few verses I’ve highlighted.

Behold, their ears are uncircumcised, they cannot listen; behold the word of the LORD is to them an object of scorn; they take no pleasure in it.  6:10b

But they did not obey or incline their ear, but walked in their own counsels and the stubbornness of their evil hearts, and went backward and not forward.  7:24

Death shall be preferred to life by all the remnant that remains of this evil family in all the places where I have driven them, declares the LORD of hosts.  8:3

Were they ashamed when they committed an abomination?  No, they were not at all ashamed; they did not know how to blush.  Therefore they shall fall among the fallen; when I punish them, they shall be overthrown, says the LORD.  8:12

Everyone deceives his neighbor, and no one speaks the truth; they have taught their tongue to speak lies; they weary themselves committing iniquity.  9:5

…with his mouth each speaks peace to his neighbor, but in his heart he plans an ambush for him.  9:8b

Do you hear a pattern?  It sounds as if Jeremiah recognized the seriousness of sin.  He is clear about the consequences and the judgment that will follow.  I realize I’m not telling you anything you don’t already know.  But do we allow the knowledge to become wisdom?  Do we act upon what we know?  Do we live changed lives based upon information?

The Israelites knew all of the above, yet they continued down the same path.  What makes you and I any different?  You see, we like grace.  We like the God who gives and allows us freedom, etc.  On the other hand, we’re not too fond of a God who punishes, provides judgment, or convicts us of something that needs to change.  We like a God who is holy – as long as He keeps it to Himself.

One more text from these chapters:

Thus says the LORD:  Let not the wise man boast in his wisdom, let not the mighty man boast in his might, let not the rich man boast in his riches, but let him who boasts boast in this, that he understands and knows me, that I am the LORD who practices steadfast love, justice, and righteousness in the earth.  For in these things I delight, declares the LORD.  9:23-24

If the Israelites couldn’t have it both ways, what makes us think we can?  Why are we constantly dismissing our sin with every excuse under the sun?  “After all, don’t judge me.  I’m not perfect and neither are you.”  Do you hear the stupidity in that statement?  God has provided the standard.  Any attempt to change it goes much too far.  Sure, we should be grateful for grace.  But grace came with a price – a price that none except Christ was able to pay.  I’m thankful He did.  Let’s take our sin serious, huh?

A “Hearty” Conversation

Posted in Jeremiah, Scripture, Sin on December 17, 2013 by nmpreach

I started reading Jeremiah (again) yesterday. My goal is to read five chapters each day which will allow me to finish the entire book in just over one week. Sure, I could read more at a setting. But I’ve found five chapters to take about 35-45 minutes and when complete it allows me to “chew” and “digest” on what I’ve read. Care to take the journey with me?

Jeremiah has been deemed “The Weeping Prophet.” By the time we’re done, you will understand why. If you read certain portions of the book without knowing the context, Jeremiah could be perceived as discouraging if not depressing. However, if you understand the context, I believe you’ll appreciate Jeremiah and his candor. Let’s just say, “He’s real.”

The scene: Jeremiah (a prophet) speaks to Jerusalem in the 7th cen. – 6th cen. B.C.

Jeremiah receives his call from God right off the bat.  Most of us are familiar with Before I formed you in the womb I knew you…  How often is that taken out of context?  But the verse continues …and before you were born I consecrated you; I appointed you a prophet to the nations.  The text says God “knew” Jeremiah.  “To know” in Hebrew signifies an intimate relationship.  God knew Jeremiah’s make-up – what would make him happy, sad, frustrated, etc.  He gifted Jeremiah with what the prophet needed.  Yet he also knew Jeremiah’s limitations.

Do you realize that God knows us better than we know ourselves?  When I think about my own life – my struggles, failures, etc., I’m amazed that although God knows me inside and out, He chooses to call me for a specific purpose.  By the way, He does the same with you!  The text states that God consecrated Jeremiah.  He was set apart.  No one could play Jeremiah’s role.  God would take Jeremiah’s limitations and use them as opportunities for Jeremiah to grow.  God would use Jeremiah’s giftedness and teach him about humility.  Make no mistake about it.  God chose Jeremiah for this task, at this time, in this place.  Coincidence?  Nope.

God then gives Jeremiah opportunities to see certain visions and promptly describes what the prophet is seeing.  It’s clear that what God calls Jeremiah to do will not be considered popular.  In fact, being unpopular would be an understatement.  Not many people … okay, no one… likes to be told what they’re doing is wrong.  And the Israelites were no exception.  Exactly how many times can a preacher accuse a people of being a “spiritual whore” without getting run out-of-town?  Jeremiah was set on finding out.  But he also offers hope if they will repent.  Here’s the charge that I’ve highlighted:  Circumcise yourselves to the LORD; remove the foreskin of your hearts, O men of Judah and inhabitants of Jerusalem; lest my wrath go forth like fire, and burn with none to quench it, because of your evil deeds.  4:4 (ESV)

Okay.  That’s strange!  Circumcise yourselves to the LORD?  Foreskin of the heart?  If we look at the latter part of the verse, it seems vital that we figure out what Jeremiah is saying.  The obvious meaning is repentance.  Without repentance, there’s no reason to move ahead with the conversation, relationship, etc.  The people of Jerusalem (and you and I) are called to turn away from worldly things and turn back to God.  The word pictures of circumcision and foreskin speak to the excising of one’s flesh.  Later, Paul would say “crucify yourself.”  If we don’t do away with the flesh, the Spirit is not allowed to rule.  Too often, people attempt to get religion and live in the world at the same time.  It’s impossible!  But we’re slow learners.

This theme will come up over and over throughout the book.  And that gives us a good basis to think about what we need to change.  But are you willing?