"Oh to Grace how great a debtor
daily I'm constrained to be.
Let thy goodness, like a fetter
bind my wandering heart to Thee!"

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Expository Thoughts on Jeremiah 18

I realize that a lot of today's evangelical sermon menu is plagued with topical sermon after topical sermon in hopes that 'this' will be the thing that finally gets the world to pay attention to Christianity. The more relevent you make it to today's times, the more likey they are to come and listen! Right? Hmm. It hurts my soul to think about that. Since when has the Word of God alone not been enough? It is the living Word of God...and the power lies in it, not some extra attention getter. I also realize that by putting the word "expository" in the title of my blog post I have probably run 50% of you off because who wants exposition of the Bible these days? Just give us the 'practical' stuff that we deal with in everyday life and support your claims with a few scriptures. Well, by doing that you miss out on the amazing attributes of God's truths that are found in the books that are deemed "unrelevent" or the verses that tell a story and can't just be taken out of context to support your claim. The Bible recounts a historical story (an amazing one at that), it has a plot, and it is not to be taken as a buffet style book where you pick and choose what you want to hear. I am so grateful for those that stay true to the expository preaching method because it allows the richness of God's Word to penetrate your life. I'm not saying that all topical sermons are bad, I'm just pointing out the importance of the authority of God's Word and our responsibility to expose it properly. So here's a chapter in Jeremiah. Take a look at what we can learn from such a man sent by God to preach truth day in and day out (warning, it's long but the message from God's Word is worth the read) :)

The word which came to Jeremiah from the LORD, saying, Arise, and go down to the potter’s house, and there I will cause you to hear my words.
-Theres an idea here of simple obedience. Many times in this book God simply tells Jeremiah to go and do something, and as silly or random as it sounds to Jeremiah, he goes. Lesson #1 if you ask me.

Then I went down to the potter’s house, and, behold, he worked a work on the wheels. And the vessel that he made of clay was marred in the hand of the potter: so he made it again another vessel, as seemed good to the potter to make it.
-That last phrase is HUGE! Here we see the sovereignty of the potter! He can do whatever he sees fit with the clay.

Then the word of the LORD came to me, saying, O house of Israel, cannot I do with you as this potter? says the LORD. Behold, as the clay is in the potter’s hand, so are you in my hand, O house of Israel. At what instant I shall speak concerning a nation, and concerning a kingdom, to pluck up, and to pull down, and to destroy it;
-God is the potter, we are the clay. God is a sovereign God, and He will do with us whatever is most glorifying to Him. Here we see that God is sovereign over nations. And Paul refers to this same message in Roman chapter 9, but it is a personal message. He explains God's sovereignty over each and every persons' lives. Isn't it great to see that Paul is referring to Old Testament Scripture when he writes? The thing is...both of these messages BOTHER people. This bothered the people of Isreal then, and it continues to bother people today when they read Romans 9. Why? Because it asks: who can resist the will of God?...and the answer everytime is NOBODY! So if that is true, people want to know then what kind of God would do such a thing. God has a character, and it is revealed through these very scriptures, and you must understand that God's sovereignty will NEVER go against His character. Do you see now how important it is to read the entire counsel of God so you know His character? Ok keep reading, because we are about to see some of these very important truths.

If that nation, against whom I have spoken, turn from their evil, I will change from the evil that I thought to do unto them. And at what instant I shall speak concerning a nation, and concerning a kingdom, to build and to plant it; If it does evil in my sight, that it obeys not my voice, then I will change from the good, with which I said I would benefit them.
-Here we see the sovereignty of God again. God says, if this nation whom I have spoken evil of in the previous verse REPENTS and turns from their wicked ways, then I will change (KJV uses the word "repent") of the evil I have pronounced. A great example of this is the city of Nineveh is the book of Jonah. But God is setting up 2 situations here, because He says that if a nation that He has spoken blessing upon changes to disobedience, then He will repent of the good He pronounced. So once again we see the Sovereignty of God and the responsibitly of man to REPENT. (Keep in mind that building a viewpoint or worldview without these truths is perverting the message.)

Now therefore go, speak to the men of Judah, and to the inhabitants of Jerusalem, saying, Thus says the LORD; Behold, I am shaping evil against you, and devise a plan against you: return you now everyone from his evil way, and make your ways and your doings good.
-Here God is telling Jeremiah to go and tell the men of Judah this message that he has received. He is to warn them that God is devising a plan against them because of all their iniquities, BUT that there is still time for them to return to Him and repent of their evil ways. WOW, after all that Judah had been doing, God still opens the door to repentence once again. So that is the end of the message from the Lord via Jeremiah, now it is time for the people to respond...

And they said, There is no hope: but we will walk after our own plans, and we will everyone do the imagination of his evil heart.
-Wow! They respond saying that there is no hope for them. This is the ultimate rank on belief that there possibly could be. Who are they (and us) to sit around and say there is no hope when God says there is! Who are they to say that God can't change them? I think what has happened to them is the same thing that is happening today. People have these horrible sinful habits and they have tried over and over again to self-reform, and it has never worked so they give up. And it never will work. That is why such self-help messages like Olsteen's and many others are so dangerous because it points to yourself as the remedy, not God...just like these people in Judah. This is also another great example of how men love darkness, and they will reject God's command to repent because of this love. The difference in someone who is saved and someone who is not is this: a saved person already is aware of how bad they are, so they respond to this message by going to the Lord for help, not themselves. People who deny this total depravity are unable to respond to this call to repentance because they still aren't getting the fact that they are bad enough to need to repent.

Therefore thus says the LORD; Ask you now among the nations, who has heard such things: the virgin of Israel has done a very horrible thing. Will a man leave the snow of Lebanon which comes from the rock of the field? or shall the cold flowing waters that come from another place be forsaken? Because my people have forgotten me, they have burned incense to worthless idols, and they have caused them to stumble in their ways from the ancient paths, to walk in pathways, and not on a highway;
-The answer to those first questions is of course not. God is making the point that no one in their right mind would leave these things, and yet the people of Judah have done this very thing. They have forsaken the beauty of the Lord for worthless idols. Pretty self explanitory, and if you ask me...pretty fitting for what is going on today. They have exchanged the truth for a lie, and have chosen to walk in pathways that are not on a highway. Their paths are not leading upward towards God.

To make their land desolate, and a perpetual hissing; everyone that passes by it shall be astonished, and shake his head. I will scatter them as with an east wind before the enemy; I will show them the back, and not the face, in the day of their calamity.
-Well, then here is the punishment to all that give leads to the path of the devil. A lady in our church is a missionary in Haiti, and she said that this is exactly what happened to Haiti. 200 years ago it was one of the richest colonies in the west, and now after the country began giving leads to the devil and feeding the lusts of their flesh, it is one of the poorest nations. (You might say that this is not always the case, for many wicked people/countries seem to be the successful ones. Jeremiah makes the same observation in chapter 12, verses 1 and 2. You must realize that the wicked have the wrath of God waiting for them on Judgement Day, no matter how great their lives seem to be going here on earth. Also, it is brought up again in verse 20 of this chapter so keep reading).

Then said they, Come, and let us devise plots against Jeremiah; for the law shall not perish from the priest, nor counsel from the wise, nor the word from the prophet. Come, and let us attack him with the tongue, and let us not give heed to any of his words.
-Ah yes, if you don't like the message, get rid of the messenger right? That's what the people of Judah's response to this message from the Lord was. They wanted to kill Jeremiah so they wouldn't have to hear the judgment anymore. SIDENOTE- one of my close Christian brothers, Joey, (and probably the closest person I have known to a modern-day Jeremiah) just left for South Korea to get married. Well, he was an open-aired evangelist who spoke truth day in and day out in the same spot on campus here at UF. There was an article written up in our school newspaper about his departure, and the responses to the editor were more or less "THANK GOD HE IS LEAVING!" This is what the people of Judah were thinking. If only they could make Jeremiah disappear they would be much better off and free of guilt. These students on campus believe that by Joey leaving they are somehow less condemned, but news to them, it's not the messenger, its the message which condemns us. And at the end of verse 18, the people decide to verbally smear Jeremiah in hopes of destroying him, and they decided not to listen to anything else he had to say. What really gets me in both situations is that there is a remedy being offered by these guys from the Lord himself: repentence from evil ways and surrendering to Him. But men love their darkness, so they pay no attention.

Give heed to me, O LORD, and listen to the voice of them that contend with me. Shall evil be recompensed for good? for they have dug a pit for my soul. Remember that I stood before you to speak good for them, and to turn away your wrath from them.
-Here Jeremiah begins to pray. He again questions how evil can be recompensed for good, as he struggles with his afflictions. Yes, in a perfect universe good should be repayed with good and evil with evil, but that is not one that we live in. Don't believe me? Look at how Christ, the ULTIMATE good, was treated on this earth. Once again we must keep our eyes on the Judgment seat of Christ and know that those that have hope in this life only are of all men most miserable (2 Corinthians 15:19).

Therefore deliver up their children to the famine, and pour out their blood by the force of the sword; and let their wives be bereaved of their children, and be widows; and let their men be put to death; let their young men be slain by the sword in battle. Let a cry be heard from their houses, when you shall bring a troop suddenly upon them: for they have dug a pit to take me, and hid snares for my feet. Yet, LORD, you know all their counsel against me to slay me: forgive not their iniquity, neither blot out their sin from your sight, but let them be overthrown before you; deal thus with them in the time of your anger.
-And here we see a very frustrated and mad Jeremiah. It is obvious that he is asking the Lord to deal with these people justly, for they have completely turned their backs on Him.

But notice how Jeremiah didn't skip a beat. Even after people were trying to devise his own death, he went right back to preaching God's word and all that God had told him to share. Wow, if that isn't a lesson I don't know what is. The servant of God just keeps on sharing, no matter what the response to his message is. If we depend our motivation to preach God's word on how many respond, then we are done (or we are in danger of changing our message so that we yield more 'results'). You see, God is our motivation. The loving Lord who has saved us from His Holy wrath is the ONLY motivation we should need. If Jeremiah was fueled by those who responded posititevely to his message then he would have given up LONG BEFORE people were threatening his life.

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