In Jeremiah 32, we receive more prophecy about the fall of Judah the hands of the Babylonians which is remarkably accurate, but we also get a kind of recap of why this entire situation was coming to be.
Jer 32:30 For the children of Israel and the children of Judah have only done evil before me from their youth: for the children of Israel have only provoked me to anger with the work of their hands, saith the LORD.
Jer 32:31 For this city hath been to me as a provocation of mine anger and of my fury from the day that they built it even unto this day; that I should remove it from before my face,
Jer 32:32 Because of all the evil of the children of Israel and of the children of Judah, which they have done to provoke me to anger, they, their kings, their princes, their priests, and their prophets, and the men of Judah, and the inhabitants of Jerusalem.
Jer 32:33 And they have turned unto me the back, and not the face: though I taught them, rising up early and teaching them, yet they have not hearkened to receive instruction.
There are a few things to point out about this one. First, it wasn’t just the fact that the people were thinking evil things, but they were actually doing them. We certainly need to control our thought lives, but they were going even one step further. We all tempted, but we need to resist that, and apparently the people of Judah were not doing that very well.
A second important point is the fact that God was angry. We like to “sanitize” our image of who God is, and we sometimes wipe out the parts that we don’t think are so easy. However, this anger is a part of the character of God. It is a part of the Biblical account, so we cannot deny it. People violate His will, and while He certainly is forgiving, it is not as if He loves being sinned against.
Finally, the last point I want to emphasize is this idea of teaching. When the people were taught, they were not listening. In other words, the effect of the teaching was entirely lost on them because they were not actually involved with it and trying to apply it to their lives. How often can we do this in church today? Will that happen this morning?
The people of Judah obviously had a lot of things wrong with the culture, and I think we would have to be oblivious to not realize that many of these things happening in our society today. We need to control temptation, actually realize who God is and receive instruction from the Lord of all eternity.
I don’t know about you, but it feels good to be in charge. It feels good to have some semblance of control in a situation. You feel more independent, and you feel a little bit safer because you probably trust yourself more easily than you trust anyone else.
That is why Psalms 123 as well as a majority of Jesus’ teachings are so radical. Let me throw a verse at you quickly.
Psa 123:2 Behold, as the eyes of servants look unto the hand of their masters, and as the eyes of a maiden unto the hand of her mistress; so our eyes wait upon the LORD our God, until that he have mercy upon us.
Figuring out the comparison is not very difficult here. Just as servants watch their masters, we ought to watch God. Not only that, but if you think about a servant, they are people who are hired to do the will of whoever is paying them.
If you are a servant and the boss wants you to clean the house, that’s exactly what you do. You give up your own authority to some extent because you have decided to work for someone else.
Christianity is the same way. By becoming followers of Jesus, we have surrendered what should be our entire lives. I would be the first to admit that it is really hard to do that, but that is what we are called to do.
How do we go about doing that? It is much easier said than done, but let me give you another few verses from the teachings of Jesus.
Mat 16:24 Then said Jesus unto his disciples, If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me.
Mat 16:25 For whosoever will save his life shall lose it: and whosoever will lose his life for my sake shall find it.
We need to deny ourselves. We need to put our priorities below following God. This needs to be a conscious decision since we are going against what we would normally be doing.
Let me give you a small example. Let’s say that I have a tendency to lose my temper and blow up on all those people around me. We are not talking about righteous anger like Jesus demonstrated. I happen to be really cruel and mean to those around me for no reason for the sake of the argument so that we don’t debate on the rightness or wrongness of anger.
Now, someone makes me really mad. My natural tendency is to blow up on all those people around me. I have to make the conscious decision to not do that. I need to deny what I would want to do myself because, as a Christian, I know that I should not be cruel to other people. I need to apply that understanding to my current situation in order to overcome my natural tendency. However, that strength is coming from God because my strength is wanting me to blow up. There is some other strength there that is helping me fight against my own strength.
Do you see how that works? If we leave ourselves to our natural tendencies, then it isn’t going to work. As Christians, we need to actively deny ourselves and remember that we have committed to be a servant of Jesus. It is a big charge, but it is a good thing that we are working for the best boss in the universe.
Anger causes people to make many bad decisions. In 1 Samuel 22, Saul was incredibly angry that he wasn’t able to catch David. He could not believe that everyone was trying to help David out.
1Sa 22:7 Then Saul said unto his servants that stood about him, Hear now, ye Benjamites; will the son of Jesse give every one of you fields and vineyards, and make you all captains of thousands, and captains of hundreds;
1Sa 22:8 That all of you have conspired against me, and there is none that sheweth me that my son hath made a league with the son of Jesse, and there is none of you that is sorry for me, or sheweth unto me that my son hath stirred up my servant against me, to lie in wait, as at this day?
Now, in other parts of the Bible, people have been angry. Jesus himself was incredibly angry at the money changers in the temple, and he absolutely demolishes their display.
The emotion is not wrong, but the results that come about because of that emotion can certainly have major consequences.
1Sa 22:17 And the king said unto the footmen that stood about him, Turn, and slay the priests of the LORD; because their hand also is with David, and because they knew when he fled, and did not shew it to me. But the servants of the king would not put forth their hand to fall upon the priests of the LORD.
1Sa 22:18 And the king said to Doeg, Turn thou, and fall upon the priests. And Doeg the Edomite turned, and he fell upon the priests, and slew on that day fourscore and five persons that did wear a linen ephod.
Saul ordered a mass murder because he thought that all the priests were in conspiracy with David and were not loyal enough to him anymore. Obviously, this is not a good action to follow the emotion of anger.
In fact, I even find this murder somewhat symbolic beyond just the fact that he killed a lot of priests.
At the beginning of his career, Saul tried to do what God wanted. However, as soon as he started sliding downhill after performing the sacrifice by himself, he also started falling away from God. Killing the people who needed to perform the sacrifices that would bring people closer to God was another sign that he was moving farther away.
While there are times when anger is certainly appropriate and called for, we also need to be careful that it does not lead us to do things that would be contrary to what God would want.
Guess what happened in Judges chapter 10. The people of Israel wandered away from God yet again.
Jdg 10:6 And the children of Israel did evil again in the sight of the LORD, and served Baalim, and Ashtaroth, and the gods of Syria, and the gods of Zidon, and the gods of Moab, and the gods of the children of Ammon, and the gods of the Philistines, and forsook the LORD, and served not him.
Then, guess what happened next.
Jdg 10:7 And the anger of the LORD was hot against Israel, and he sold them into the hands of the Philistines, and into the hands of the children of Ammon.
The pattern is becoming pretty predictable. The children of Israel were in captivity for 18 years. Then, they decided that they needed to come back to God and allow Him to take care of them again.
Let me return to this idea of language. The word sold can be literal or figurative in Hebrew in this situation. Therefore, another possible translation is surrendered. That makes quite a bit more sense. God let the Philistines take over. God did not literally make a profit by selling Israel. He allowed them to be taken.
Jdg 10:10 And the children of Israel cried unto the LORD, saying, We have sinned against thee, both because we have forsaken our God, and also served Baalim.
Jdg 10:11 And the LORD said unto the children of Israel, Did not I deliver you from the Egyptians, and from the Amorites, from the children of Ammon, and from the Philistines?
Jdg 10:12 The Zidonians also, and the Amalekites, and the Maonites, did oppress you; and ye cried to me, and I delivered you out of their hand.
Jdg 10:13 Yet ye have forsaken me, and served other gods: wherefore I will deliver you no more.
Jdg 10:14 Go and cry unto the gods which ye have chosen; let them deliver you in the time of your tribulation.
Jdg 10:15 And the children of Israel said unto the LORD, We have sinned: do thou unto us whatsoever seemeth good unto thee; deliver us only, we pray thee, this day.
Jdg 10:16 And they put away the strange gods from among them, and served the LORD: and his soul was grieved for the misery of Israel.
Let me give you a little bit of a preview from tomorrow. God does help the children of Israel just like He always does.
This is forgiveness in a nutshell.
We do something wrong. It happens all the time, and even though we try to avoid it, it seems like sin is always somewhere.
Then, God never stops loving us, but He may allow consequences to come into our lives. Again, we have to go back to the end of Deuteronomy. God told people that they could have good consequences or bad consequences. It was their decision, and they were certainly informed of the situation.
However, when we come to God to ask for forgiveness, He is faithful to forgive us every time. Just like Israel, we need to acknowledge that we have been wrong, and we need to change our practice like they put away their idols.
I know this is not necessarily an optimistic chapter, but I think that if you view it from a forgiveness perspective, we can certainly learn something about the character of God.
God doesn’t mess around. Particularly, He gets incredibly angry when people begin to follow other gods. This is illustrated pretty clearly in Deuteronomy 29.
Deu 29:24 Even all nations shall say, Wherefore hath the LORD done thus unto this land? what meaneth the heat of this great anger?
Deu 29:25 Then men shall say, Because they have forsaken the covenant of the LORD God of their fathers, which he made with them when he brought them forth out of the land of Egypt:
Deu 29:26 For they went and served other gods, and worshipped them, gods whom they knew not, and whom he had not given unto them:
Deu 29:27 And the anger of the LORD was kindled against this land, to bring upon it all the curses that are written in this book:
I wrote a piece a few days ago about how it is important to keep your promise to God, and it really should be a serious and intentional commitment rather than just a flippant phrase.
That is what is happening here. God is saying that if the people of Israel do not follow through on the promise they made to Him, all of the curses listed back in chapter 28 could very well fall on them.
I know what you’re probably thinking. How could a loving God do this? Why would He ever punish anybody?
Part of the answer to that lies in the fact that God is just. He needs to follow through on His word, and it needs to apply to everyone equally. If anybody, even His chosen people of Israel, starts messing up, the consequences are the same.
If He was not just, then it would be impossible for Him to be the Judge of all eternity.
Another part of this answer lies in the fact that it any type of punishment would be the people of Israel’s own fault. There was definitely a way that they could follow God and avoid all of these problems. It isn’t like they had to guess what God wanted. Through the first five books of the Bible, God communicated His law to the people of Israel.
This also shows the justice of God again. The people of Israel really had to decide what they wanted, but they were working with very complete information. They could follow God, or they didn’t have to. They knew the consequences of both.
Leviticus chapter 10 discusses what seems to be a very challenging time for the Israelites.
Lev 10:1 And Nadab and Abihu, the sons of Aaron, took either of them his censer, and put fire therein, and put incense thereon, and offered strange fire before the LORD, which he commanded them not.
Lev 10:2 And there went out fire from the LORD, and devoured them, and they died before the LORD.
Lev 10:3 Then Moses said unto Aaron, This is it that the LORD spake, saying, I will be sanctified in them that come nigh me, and before all the people I will be glorified. And Aaron held his peace.
Two of Aaron’s sons used the wrong type of fire in the censer. God had commanded them not to do that, and they ended up dying because of it.
Although it might seem a little bit cold coming from me, I keep coming back to a New Testament verse when I think about this passage.
Rom 6:23 For the wages of sin is death; but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.
Wages are earned when services are performed. When sin is performed, in order to satisfy that sin, death is what is required. Jesus paid that debt for us when He died on the cross almost 2000 years ago.
Of course, we do not all physically die when we sin. If that was the case, there’d be no one left alive on earth right now. Jesus would have been the only human being to make it through life.
However, our sin is a type of spiritual death. It separates us from the life of God. In a physical sense, when we are separated from life, we are dead.
It is hard to tell exactly what made the sin of the sons of Aaron so bad that they needed to be killed, but this passage did make me think about how bad sin really can be. Because of all of our sin, we do not deserve the eternal life of God, but Jesus died in our place so that we might live eternally with Him. Forgiveness is a major gift to say the least. I know that I departed from Leviticus a little bit, but I hope that these two passages made some amount of sense when they were put together.
If I were Pharaoh, I think that I would have been pretty scared about the message Moses left at the end of Exodus chapter 10.
To set the stage a little bit, Moses had been coming to Pharaoh after every plague, but Pharaoh would never let the people of Israel leave to go worship God in the wilderness. Finally, everything came to kind of a climax.
Exo 10:28 And Pharaoh said unto him, Get thee from me, take heed to thyself, see my face no more; for in that day thou seest my face thou shalt die.
Exo 10:29 And Moses said, Thou hast spoken well, I will see thy face again no more.
What does that mean? Well I don’t want to jump ahead to tomorrow prematurely, but let’s just focus on these two verses for right now. In fact, I want to focus on something that stands out to me about this passage rather than the text of that passage itself (does that make sense?).
I don’t think that many of us operate with life or death stakes most of the time, but we do have relationships that can be a little bit tense. However, how do we handle that tension? Are we like Pharaoh and simply shut down the relationship altogether?
There are certain ways that God wants us to relate to each other.
In fact, if we fast forward through time to the Sermon on the Mount, we find that we aren’t even supposed to worship while we still have problems going on with others.
Mat 5:24 Leave there thy gift before the altar, and go thy way; first be reconciled to thy brother, and then come and offer thy gift.
If you think about it, that is a pretty heavy charge. Given a lot of what I have been writing lately, you may remember how we are supposed to worship all the time and always be giving thanks. In a sense, if we think about our worship as a gift (Psalms 100:4 states that we give praise to God which feels like a gift because we give it), this verse is pretty much saying that we don’t have time to be angry with our brothers.
Think about it, if we are not supposed to leave our offering of worship on the altar until we reconcile with whoever we are having a problem with, time is going to go by where we aren’t leaving that offering.
That flies completely in the face of worshiping all the time because we can’t do that if we have to take time off.
Therefore, it becomes relatively obvious that having tense relations with others is a major problem. When we are angry with others, we are wasting time that we should be praising, and we should aspire to be praising all the time.
I know that I kind of started you in Exodus before taking you over to a somewhat different topic, but when I saw the tension in that relationship, it made me think about how God really wants us to treat each other all the time.