I think that the vice of pride is a major problem that we all have experience with. We might as well face it. We are all pretty good at something. We might be good at our jobs, good in school, good at a sport or good performing on stage. Some people say that they have no talent, but this is honestly not true. Everyone is good at something.
That being said, because we are all talented and somewhat in some way, it is pretty easy to become proud. We can start thinking that we are better than we are. It is so easy to allow pride to come in. On a very basic level, pride is affirming. Even if other people are not complimenting us on our talent, we have no problem complimenting ourselves, and we get that positive feedback that we are naturally desire.
Israel had the same problem in Jeremiah 13. Pride was a major part of the downfall that Jeremiah was predicting obvious through the inspiration of God.
Jer 13:9 Thus saith the LORD, After this manner will I mar the pride of Judah, and the great pride of Jerusalem.
Jer 13:10 This evil people, which refuse to hear my words, which walk in the imagination of their heart, and walk after other gods, to serve them, and to worship them, shall even be as this girdle, which is good for nothing.
Jer 13:11 For as the girdle cleaveth to the loins of a man, so have I caused to cleave unto me the whole house of Israel and the whole house of Judah, saith the LORD; that they might be unto me for a people, and for a name, and for a praise, and for a glory: but they would not hear.
God set aside Israel to be special people, and they were supposed to stay right with God. However, they would not hear what He had to say. They would not follow His commandments, and they followed their heart. I know that in Disney World following your heart is considered a good thing, but in this context we have to remember that the heart is evil. Our human desires and impulses including pride are the things that cause major problems.
We need to try to avoid the same downfall. As I mentioned above, it is so easy to become proud about anything. It is hard to do, but through the grace of God, we can begin to move in the right direction.
I think it is rather obvious that we all have different callings. God gives people different propensities and talents, so we are supposed to use them for His benefit. Some people are called to be pastors and to lead the people of God here on earth, but as we see in Jeremiah 12, they have substantial responsibility.
Jer 12:10 Many pastors have destroyed my vineyard, they have trodden my portion under foot, they have made my pleasant portion a desolate wilderness.
Jer 12:11 They have made it desolate, and being desolate it mourneth unto me; the whole land is made desolate, because no man layeth it to heart.
While metaphorical, the intent of this passage really goes without saying. The people of Israel were a vineyard. They were a particularly cultivated plot of land. Vineyards do not just spring up naturally. They are cared for, and in this case Israel was cared for by God.
He had invested time and effort into this project, but the leaders themselves had come through and done damage. The priests and pastors had taken Israel down the wrong road. Jeremiah says that they had taken a pleasant piece of land and made it a wasteland.
When you think about it, that is quite a bit of power. I am not a pastor, and if I go wrong, my sphere of spiritual influence is not that huge. I don’t mean that it is somehow acceptable for me to do wrong things just because I am not in a position of authority, but I am just saying that in terms of scale, when pastors teach wrongly, it steers a lot more people in the wrong direction because of their position and the authority that comes with it.
This is why leadership is such a big responsibility. Like I said, we all have some level of responsibility, but the people who are in charge of running churches and teaching the Word have even more on their shoulders.
In the case of Israel, the religious leaders did not do their job whatsoever, and the people became a wasteland. Fortunately, in America today, there are thousands of strong pastors who are doing the work that God has called them to do. However, we can never lose sight of this fact. When people have platforms, there is a responsibility that comes with that position.
I know that a lot of people will say that they don’t want to believe in Christianity because they don’t have first-hand evidence of the Providence of God. Maybe they have never seen a miracle, so they automatically assume that miracles cannot happen. Jeremiah 11 talks about how the people of Israel did not even have that excuse. As people who had been divinely delivered multiple times, there had been generations of testimony regarding God and His deliverance, but the people were still not willing to recognize Him.
Jer 11:6 Then the LORD said unto me, Proclaim all these words in the cities of Judah, and in the streets of Jerusalem, saying, Hear ye the words of this covenant, and do them.
Jer 11:7 For I earnestly protested unto your fathers in the day that I brought them up out of the land of Egypt, even unto this day, rising early and protesting, saying, Obey my voice.
Jer 11:8 Yet they obeyed not, nor inclined their ear, but walked every one in the imagination of their evil heart: therefore I will bring upon them all the words of this covenant, which I commanded them to do; but they did them not.
Obviously, the people who were alive at the time of Jeremiah were not alive at the time of Moses, but that was also not the only time God actively intervened on behalf of the nation of Israel. It happened in the time of Joshua, through the time of the Judges and even beyond that. The main point is that the people had abundant evidence that God was there, and all that God told them was to obey.
However, despite the evidence that God was exactly who He said He was, the people were still stubborn and did not do what God told them to. With all the evidence that they had, it was still an issue of the heart.
I point this out because, as you all know, I love apologetics. I think that it is an incredibly valuable field, and I will be pursuing my MA beginning next Monday. Having reasons for Christianity is vital. However, even with all of the evidence that we can present for the reasonability and rationality of the Christian worldview, there is still the heart. We don’t want to lose perspective that there are emotional reasons that people might not want to believe in God. In Jeremiah, he mentions stubbornness. Some people just don’t want to put their trust in anything. Some people are angry at God.
The list could go on forever, but I think that is valuable for us just to remember the balance. We absolutely need to be able to explain and give the reason for the hope that we have, but we also need to remember that pure reason will not always be the most useful tool. Like the people mentioned in Jeremiah, even with all of that evidence, there might be other reasons we need to help people come to terms with.
Jeremiah doesn’t seem to be like the kind of guy who would hold back. As we read Jeremiah 10, we read some very harsh words for anyone who would worship any other God besides Jehovah God.
Jer 10:11 Thus shall you say to them: “The gods who did not make the heavens and the earth shall perish from the earth and from under the heavens.”
Jer 10:12 It is he who made the earth by his power, who established the world by his wisdom, and by his understanding stretched out the heavens.
Jer 10:13 When he utters his voice, there is a tumult of waters in the heavens, and he makes the mist rise from the ends of the earth. He makes lightning for the rain, and he brings forth the wind from his storehouses.
Jer 10:14 Every man is stupid and without knowledge; every goldsmith is put to shame by his idols, for his images are false, and there is no breath in them.
Jer 10:15 They are worthless, a work of delusion; at the time of their punishment they shall perish.
I think that verse 11 is kind of funny. The people he was speaking to in that situation are the people who would worship those other gods. Basically, he gets right to the root of the conflict. Some people believe that there are other gods, but those gods are going to perish. They are not real. They are delusions.
While obviously not politically correct by modern standards, you have to admire his ability to cut through all the niceties and identify the main difference of worldviews.
For Jeremiah, God existed from the beginning of time and created everything. For these other religions, the idols were created by people and simultaneously worshiped. I think that probably the people who believed in these religions would say that the idols were simply physical representatives of the gods that they actually worship, but this is slightly different because many of these gods were part of the creation themselves. For example, I know that in Greek mythology (which would obviously not be Jeremiah’s intended audience) all of the deities were created out of chaos and love. They were part of creation rather than the creators themselves. That seems to be pretty typical as far as I know in ancient mythologies.
This is an important lesson for us. We have a similar situation today where we live in a society of many worldviews. We need to think like Jeremiah and cut to the basic difference. Once we have found that point, we are in a position where we can have a discussion. We can debate peripheral issues all day, but I think that if we can find that root difference, our conversations will be much more profitable and beneficial.
I was reading Jeremiah 9, and I couldn’t help but think about how a lot of what was happening to Israel and Judah in this time is happening in the United States today. As we know from previous chapters, people had been moving farther and farther away from God, and in this chapter, we see this beginning to impact their behavior.
Jer 9:2 Oh that I had in the desert a travelers’ lodging place, that I might leave my people and go away from them! For they are all adulterers, a company of treacherous men.
Jer 9:3 They bend their tongue like a bow; falsehood and not truth has grown strong in the land; for they proceed from evil to evil, and they do not know me, declares the LORD.
Jer 9:4 Let everyone beware of his neighbor, and put no trust in any brother, for every brother is a deceiver, and every neighbor goes about as a slanderer.
Jer 9:5 Everyone deceives his neighbor, and no one speaks the truth; they have taught their tongue to speak lies; they weary themselves committing iniquity.
Jer 9:6 Heaping oppression upon oppression, and deceit upon deceit, they refuse to know me, declares the LORD.
As the people begin to get farther away from God, their morals begin to fall apart. Why is that? They begin to go away from objective morality, and they start to embrace subjective morality based on apparently whatever they want to do. They slander if they want, or they lie if they want. It seems as if the standards have gone away.
We are in a similar boat in America right now. For most of our history, even if some people were not Christians, it was culturally accepted that Christian morality was a good way for people to live. It had objective standards that people understood and were willing to follow. Unfortunately, we are now moving into a similar type of subjective era.
People want to give up objective morality because they would rather do whatever they want based upon their own minds. This is dangerous territory to move into.
If you surrender objective morality, then what basis do you have to prosecute criminals? How can you say that anything was wrong if all of those decisions are made based on what an individual feels? What if I feel like murder is a perfectly acceptable activity? Without an external, objective standard that murder is always wrong, it is just your opinion against my opinion. You can’t prosecute on that basis.
Even if you argue that laws ought to be based on what the majority felt was right at the time, then would we be comfortable saying that murder was right if the majority of people believe that? I think that you’d be hard-pressed to find anyone who holds this position.
Subjective morality is a dangerous field. With nothing definite to plant your belief system on, you forfeit any right to define anything as morally wrong. As CS Lewis expounded in The Abolition of Man, we don’t seem to be able to do that very well as human beings. We have this innate Tao that informs us of basic morality and seems to exist beyond just what someone feels. They seem to cross cultures and effectively are more than just right as defined by one particular people group at one particular time.
I do believe that humans are a special part of creation. As beings created in the image of God, there is something different about humanity, but as we see in Jeremiah 8, there are times when we don’t even demonstrate the intelligence of the animals.
Jer 8:7 Yea, the stork in the heaven knoweth her appointed times; and the turtle and the crane and the swallow observe the time of their coming; but my people know not the judgment of the LORD.
Jer 8:8 How do ye say, We are wise, and the law of the LORD is with us? Lo, certainly in vain made he it; the pen of the scribes is in vain.
Animals certainly have some innate knowledge. To go with the example from the verse, they know when it is time to migrate. It is simply natural for them to do that. The animals don’t question what is so obviously ingrained in them. They know what they have to do, and they do it.
The people of Israel were a little bit different. They had the law of God. Throughout their history, God had been with them in so many ways, and He had demonstrated His power through a variety of signs and miracles. The entire liberation from Egypt was miraculous, and the people of Israel knew these stories. However, they still were going against what they knew.
Humans can be stubborn creatures. We know the truth, but we can suppress that truth pretty easily. We can know certain things, but we still decide not to follow them. That is where the comparison to animals comes from. In the face of undisputable facts, humans still often times deny them. Animals don’t deny that they need to fly south.
The people of Israel knew that the law of God was special, and in verse eight, they even claim that it is their source of wisdom. However, they went against this fact that they knew and that had been proven throughout their national history.
In that sense, we don’t have the intelligence of animals. They respond to the basic facts of their existence without problem. We can have all the basic facts we need, but we still rebel.
I think that this is a challenge for all of us. Yesterday, I wrote about hypocrisy, and I think this is an extension of that. Yesterday, we were just saying one thing and acting in the opposite way. Today, we are saying one thing, acting in the opposite way and authentically know that we are going in the wrong way. Yesterday, we could plead ignorance. Today, that doesn’t even hold. Knowing a truth and blatantly ignoring it is not helpful at all, and even animals are able to respond appropriately to what they know. Why can’t we do that?
In Jeremiah 7, we hear about the dangers of hypocrisy. It is almost reminiscent of James where we hear that faith without works is dead. This seems to be what was happening to the people of Jerusalem. They want to have it both ways. They want to have all the benefits of faith, but their actions don’t reflect it whatsoever.
Jer 7:9 Will ye steal, murder, and commit adultery, and swear falsely, and burn incense unto Baal, and walk after other gods whom ye know not;
Jer 7:10 And come and stand before me in this house, which is called by my name, and say, We are delivered to do all these abominations?
As you read through this entire chapter, it is obvious that the people are not following what God wants them to do, so that is a problem in and of itself. They are not living in a righteous way, and they need to be forgiven and to get right with God.
However, verse 10 provide something different. While they are doing all of these things, they are also coming to the Temple in Jerusalem like nothing is wrong. It is hypocrisy at the maximum level. I live like I want to for the rest of the week, but if I just go to church on Sunday, everything will be made better.
I am not going to go on to a long discussion here, but with any basic Biblical knowledge, we know that God is not just God when we are in church. God is God all the time, and we need to put Him in that position in our lives. This type of partial Christianity does not cut it today any more than this partial Judaism was acceptable in the time of Jeremiah.
It is very easy to fall into this trap though. It is easy to rationalize our questionable behavior by saying that God will forgive us. It certainly is true that God will forgive us, and His grace is sufficient, but that grace is also not a license to sin whenever we want.
I know that I have set up a large challenge here. We need to first of all put God in charge of our lives. That requires surrender, and that is definitely not easy. Second, we need to make sure that we are not using grace as a crutch for our sinful habits. Yes, God will always be willing to forgive us, and I know that I am grateful for that every day. However, this is not the same thing as a license to do whatever we want.
Our lives are our testimonies, and what we absolutely don’t want is to become the hypocrites that we see in the book of Jeremiah and actually drive people away from God.
It is a very difficult thing to know that your judgment is coming but be entirely powerless when it comes to stop it. In Jeremiah 6, we hear about the remnant of Jerusalem and the people particularly of the tribe of Benjamin who will remain faithful. However, that doesn’t make up for all of the problems in Israel.
Jer 6:22 Thus saith the LORD, Behold, a people cometh from the north country, and a great nation shall be raised from the sides of the earth.
Jer 6:23 They shall lay hold on bow and spear; they are cruel, and have no mercy; their voice roareth like the sea; and they ride upon horses, set in array as men for war against thee, O daughter of Zion.
Jer 6:24 We have heard the fame thereof: our hands wax feeble: anguish hath taken hold of us, and pain, as of a woman in travail.
Jer 6:25 Go not forth into the field, nor walk by the way; for the sword of the enemy and fear is on every side.
Jer 6:26 O daughter of my people, gird thee with sackcloth, and wallow thyself in ashes: make thee mourning, as for an only son, most bitter lamentation: for the spoiler shall suddenly come upon us.
It pretty much seems as if sorrow was the only option left. As we had talked about previously, God already knew the future and knew that the people would not return to Him. Therefore, there was really nothing else that could possibly happen. The people had made their choice; they had decided that they were not going to follow God. That also meant that they had chosen conquering.
I think that we can stumble into this as well. We want to pick and choose what we want. We want to make certain choices, but we don’t want the consequences. I am sure that that would have been the response that Jeremiah would have gotten from the people of Israel. He would have proclaimed the aforementioned passage, and we know that the people would not have changed their actions. However, I am positive that some of those people would have tried to rationalize their behavior in their heads and affirmed that God would never allow His chosen people to face judgment. There is no Biblical backing for that position, but I think that is what we try to do far too often. We think that we can do whatever we want and avoid the consequences of our actions. The world doesn’t work that way.
The application I took away from this is that I don’t want to end up in a situation where I make decisions that lead me into bad circumstances like this. If the people had been doing what they should have been doing, this wouldn’t have been a problem. Following the will of God will put you where you need to be.
Jeremiah was living in a time not much different than our own time in America. Look at how chapter five begins, and I think you’ll notice some things.
Jer 5:1 Run ye to and fro through the streets of Jerusalem, and see now, and know, and seek in the broad places thereof, if ye can find a man, if there be any that executeth judgment, that seeketh the truth; and I will pardon it.
Jer 5:2 And though they say, The LORD liveth; surely they swear falsely.
Jer 5:3 O LORD, are not thine eyes upon the truth? thou hast stricken them, but they have not grieved; thou hast consumed them, but they have refused to receive correction: they have made their faces harder than a rock; they have refused to return.
Jer 5:4 Therefore I said, Surely these are poor; they are foolish: for they know not the way of the LORD, nor the judgment of their God.
There are a few things to notice here. First, the first two verses actually sound more like Sodom and Gomorrah. In that situation, Abraham was asking God to save the cities on behalf of a decreasing number of righteous people, but those people could not be found. It is obvious that Jerusalem had really fallen off, but verse two is why I am making a comparison to America.
Many people will culturally say that they believe in God, and they might even go to church regularly. However, that isn’t the entire story. Without that relationship with Jesus Christ, you really aren’t a child of God.
The belief in God has become simply cultural in many cases, but not in the way that many of us wish it would. If everyone had a sincere belief in Jesus Christ, I would obviously be very happy, but this kind of culture where people acknowledge a name but don’t live in accordance with that belief is even more damaging.
Think about America. It has been culturally Christian for hundreds of years, and now that is being challenged. Because people spent so many years being complacent and using Christianity as nothing more than a label, they fall away when they are challenged on the basics of Christianity. They don’t know how to answer the challenges from other belief systems, and because they have no more reason than the fact that everyone did it, we have a lot of falling away.
The answer to this dilemma is somewhat proposed in verses three and four. These people were totally tuned out to God, and that was the problem. Therefore, it makes sense that staying in touch with God is a big deal. Yes, we want Christianity to influence how we interact with the world, and if enough people do that, it will certainly have an impact on culture. However, we come to a dangerous point if people are professing Christ simply because that is the cultural norm. It needs to be an actual decision that people are actually committed to living out.
Jeremiah chapter 4 is tragic. It is important to remember that Jeremiah was a prophet who really did not get listened to very much. In this chapter, he predicts that in the invaders coming from the north who had already done a lot of damage to the Gentile nations. In other words, Babylon was coming, and there was not an awful lot that the people could do about it.
Jer 4:21 How long shall I see the standard, and hear the sound of the trumpet?
Jer 4:22 For my people is foolish, they have not known me; they are sottish children, and they have none understanding: they are wise to do evil, but to do good they have no knowledge.
Jer 4:23 I beheld the earth, and, lo, it was without form, and void; and the heavens, and they had no light.
Jer 4:24 I beheld the mountains, and, lo, they trembled, and all the hills moved lightly.
Jer 4:25 I beheld, and, lo, there was no man, and all the birds of the heavens were fled.
Jer 4:26 I beheld, and, lo, the fruitful place was a wilderness, and all the cities thereof were broken down at the presence of the LORD, and by his fierce anger.
Jer 4:27 For thus hath the LORD said, The whole land shall be desolate; yet will I not make a full end.
Jer 4:28 For this shall the earth mourn, and the heavens above be black: because I have spoken it, I have purposed it, and will not repent, neither will I turn back from it.
It had come to a point where there was going to be domination no matter what. That makes verse 28 particularly interesting. God was not going to turn back from what had been put in place. I think that the immediate response from you and I is of great concern. What if all of the people repented? Wouldn’t God call off the punishment? That verse seems to imply that He wouldn’t.
I think that it is important to go back to verse 22 to appreciate the perspective here. The people have not repented, and they are not going to repent. Compare this to the story of Jonah and Nineveh. God was going to destroy Nineveh, but the people did repent. It is not that God changed His mind, but that was the original deal. If they repent, they will be saved. God knew that they would repent.
In the case of Israel, God already knew that they would not repent. Again, because He knows the future, God knew they would not repent, so the judgment was coming no matter what. God was not going to hold back because He is a God of justice.
This is a tragic story for the people of Israel. They had fallen so far that God knew that they would not return to Him. Even with dire warnings like this one, it is hard to believe that the people missed it.