When God Says No . . .
Read Jeremiah 15:1-21
The terror that awaits God’s people builds in this chapter of Jeremiah. We catch a glimpse of how angry God is with His disobedient children and what is about to happen to them. We also hear Jeremiah questioning why he has to suffer along with his people when he has been obedient to God. God answers him, and Jeremiah soon discovers that sometimes we suffer not because we are disobedient towards God, but because we are being used by God for a greater purpose.
This chapter of Jeremiah gives us an incredible example of how God works towards those who love Him. Yes, God wants what is best for us, but some Christians taken the illogical jump that nothing bad should ever happen to us. This is what preachers like Kenneth Copeland or Joel Osteen preach. It is a "happy gospel" founded on unbiblical principals that sickness, accidents, poverty, etc. are from the devil and not from God, therefore all we need do is rebuke them or "bind" them in Jesus name and they will bother us no more. They base their beliefs on scriptures taken out of context and do not bother to see the big picture of how God works. So when sickness or poverty do not go away they blame it on the Christian as not having enough faith. When in truth, poverty, sickness, and other problems we encounter in life, don't go away because those who teach these lies are false teachers preaching false gospels and not acting on behalf of God or according to His Word.
Starting in Jeremiah 15:10 we get a glimpse into all that Jeremiah has suffered at the hands of his own people, all because he has been obediently proclaiming God’s warning of impending judgment. He is beginning to realize that even though he had not sinned and rejected God as the others had, he would still be sent into exile along with them. So he, to put it bluntly, starts having a pity party. And how does God respond? Does He say, "I want only the best for you, so I will keep you from this hour of torment?" No. Does He let Jeremiah know that he doesn't have enough faith and that is why he won't escape the coming invasion?" No.
Instead, the Lord says that He will deliver Jeremiah into the hands of the enemy, but his enemies will intercede for him during the coming persecution. The word used for intercede is paga` and means "to entreat, plead or intercede." So the enemies will, by God’s hand, recognize Jeremiah as one who speaks for God. As idol worshippers, they no doubt were very cognizant of the God of the Hebrews and being a superstitious and fearful people they would, no doubt, not want to make the Hebrew God angry. So in the end, Jeremiah would go into exile and be captured by his enemies, but unlike his own people who refused to listen to him, his captors would regard him as someone to be feared.
God is adamant – he will go into exile, but for a purpose. And God will be with him and deliver him. He tells Jeremiah that the enemy will fight against him but they will not prevail, for God will rescue him.
Jeremiah did everything right. He was obedient to God by prophesying to the people about God’s coming judgment. It cost him everything and eventually leads to Jeremiah and his people being taken captive and sent into exile. He rightly thought he would escape the coming judgment because he was God’s servant and was obedient to him. He was wrong. But, God did promise to deliver him and rescue him from the hand of the wicked. Notice it does not say he will rescue Jeremiah by allowing him to stay in Jerusalem or by allowing him to live. It simply says, “I will deliver you from the hand of the wicked, and I will redeem you from the grip of the terrible” (Jeremiah 15:21). Ultimately, Jeremiah would not be separated from God in this life or in the one to come. He would be used by God, for God's good purposes and His glory. He did not give Jeremiah an easy "out" because he was His servant. Instead, God used Jeremiah's obedience and faith for His own glory and as history would show, elevated him as one of the major prophets in Biblical history.
The point is this - God does not always say yes and He does allow bad things to happen to His people, despite what prosperity preachers proclaim. But those "things" are for His glory and ultimately lead to our sanctification, so that when we leave this earth we will be able to stand before the Father and He will be able to say, "Well done! My good and faithful servant!"
As I continue on with my Bible study of Jeremiah I am constantly struck by what the Lord wants me to share with you. I'll be honest, I'm starting to wonder why everything I post is a warning for the church! I want some good news to share. I want to talk about how great Jesus is and what He's done and is doing in my life. But when I try to write about those things I'm stopped. I have to be obedient. So here is what I learned today from Jeremiah 14.
Jeremiah continues to hear from the Lord and prophesies that sword, famine and pestilence will come upon the people because of their wickedness.
And those who claim to speak for God, those false prophets who tell the people that there will be no famine, sword or plague – will die by those very things. God says, “by sword and famine they will be consumed” (Jeremiah 14:15). Today’s false prophets do the same thing. From their pulpits they proclaim that a revival is coming. They proclaim that God will restore our country to its former glory and that the revival will reach all the way into the halls of government. They proclaim all kinds of wonderful things that are going to happen to make us a great nation again. But I am learning some hard truths from Jeremiah. I am learning how false prophets work. They tell the people what they want to hear and unfortunately, those who listen to them are, according to the Scriptures, as doomed as they are, for God says He will pour out their wickedness upon them (Jeremiah 14:16).
The first nine verses in Jeremiah 14 are about the droughts and famine that would come to the land. Judah is in mourning because they realize they are being punished for their sins, but at the same time, they are astonished that God would actually follow through with His threats, so they beg the Lord to heal the land.
But God reminds them that they love to wander. Therefore, He will remember their sins now and they will be punished. So He tells something to Jeremiah that is very significant and contrary to what most of us are used to. He tells Jeremiah not to pray for them and goes on to say that He will not hear their cries, nor will He accept their offerings. But He will bring the sword, famine and plague upon them.
Contrast this with Daniel's prayer of repentance for his nation in Daniel 9. His prayer of repentance was answered and explained by the angel Gabriel. Why? Because Daniel was a man highly esteemed by God, and He knew Daniel's heart and his prayers of repentance were sincere. But the people crying to God in Jeremiah 14 were not at all sincere. They just wanted relief from the famine, drought and plague that was coming their way. There was no repentance at all.
The rest of this chapter sees the people pleading with God, asking Him for help from the punishments they deserve. They have the audacity to make a point that He had a covenant relationship with them (vs. 21) and so He cannot forsake them. Yet, they conveniently forget that they had promised to follow Him and not worship other Gods, so they broke the covenant first. So many times we do the same thing to God. He is blamed for everything, when in fact it is man’s own sin that condemns him. If it were not for Jesus we would be eternally doomed.
So what can we learn from this chapter? If you want God to hear your prayers make sure you are right with Him first. Be like Daniel and pray with sincerity. Repent of your sinful behaviour. But don't do it just to get something from God. Do it because you want to restore your fellowship with Him and because you are sincerely sorry for your behaviour. God knows your heart. If you are sincere He will hear your prayers. If you are faking it, He'll know that too.
What happens when you ignore God, turn against His gracious gifts to you and start doing “your own thing”? You fall. And you fall hard. Why? Because you have, whether you know it or not, said in your heart, “I can do whatever I want.” Pride goes before a fall and that is exactly what happened to the kings, priests and prophets (all who were mighty) in Jeremiah 13.
In Jeremiah 13:1-14 God tells Jeremiah to get a linen sash and put it around his waist, but not to put it in water. He then speaks to Jeremiah a second time and tells him to take the sash and put it in a hole near the Euphrates. After many days, the Lord tells Jeremiah to go retrieve the sash and Jeremiah discovers that it was ruined.
Jeremiah stated it was “profitable for nothing.”
The statement that it was “profitable for nothing” may seem confusing because in our view a sash’s only use is as an adornment. But the Hebrew word for sash is 'ezowr which in the KJV is translated as "girdle", which is more accurate, as the “sash” Jeremiah wore around his waist was a garment that went beneath his other garments and was next to his skin. The garment actually went from the waist to mid-thigh. So when Jeremiah says it is profitable for nothing, he means it could not protect his skin at all for it was ruined. So how does God turn this into a lesson? He tells Jeremiah that this would be how He (God) would ruin the pride of Judah and the great pride of Jerusalem.
But God wasn't done there. He went on to imply that every bottle in Israel would be filled with wine and that the people would say to Jeremiah, "Well, of course they will be!" Their pride was evident in this answer because they believed in their wealth and more importantly, their pride caused them to trust in it. But God followed that up with this, "Thus says the Lord: “Behold, I will fill all the inhabitants of this land—even the kings who sit on David’s throne, the priests, the prophets, and all the inhabitants of Jerusalem—with drunkenness! And I will dash them one against another, even the fathers and the sons together,” says the Lord. “I will not pity nor spare nor have mercy, but will destroy them.”’”
Now, it wasn't Jeremiah who needed a lesson in how angry God was with His people. As far as Jeremiah was concerned his people deserved whatever they had coming to them. In fact, in Jeremiah 12, he prayed that God would lead them like sheep to the slaughter. So, he was not surprised at God's anger and was in fact, just as angry. So what was the tipping point? What lessons did God's people need to learn?
Three Reasons Why God Got Angry
The sash represented the house of Judah and the house of Israel and how the Lord wanted them to cling to Him. They were to be His people, for renown, for praise, and for glory. That was their special purpose.
As Christians we also have a special purpose. A mission to go into all the world, making disciples and baptizing them in the name of Jesus, sharing his message of salvation. So I wondered, if God got angry at His chosen people because they refused to listen to Him or His words, will He not do the same with us if forsake His Word and refuse to listen Him? It is alarming how many church leaders today are turning from the belief that the Bible is the unerring Word of God and encouraging their congregations to believe the same thing. Just as the priests in Jeremiah's time encouraged the people to turn from God and His Word, so are some church leaders today doing the same thing. Why are they turning from their once strongly held beliefs that the Bible is infallible and "God-breathed"? Because they don't want to be seen as intolerant to a certain sector of society. They have failed to realize that it is possible to love other people and associate with them without agreeing with them on everything. I have friends and family that I love who smoke - which I hate. But I'm not going to take up smoking to appease them and I'm not going to stop loving them because they smoke. On the contrary! It is possible for people to agree to disagree on any number of subjects. Not so with some mainstream and evangelical churches today. Many believe they owe apologies or need to repent because of what God's Word says about homosexuality in particular. They are actually apologizing for what God said in His Word! The audacity that takes boggles the mind. So they are refusing to acknowledge God's Word and following after the dictates of their own hearts. That's two things Christian leaders are doing that were the same as in Jeremiah's time. Will they start worshipping other gods as well? Sadly, some already have and I believe it will only continue to escalate as it did in Jeremiah's time, until Jesus comes again.
Pride goes before a fall. Jeremiah's people forsook God's Word and His ways so that they could follow their own hearts. They were, like today's Christians, proud of how forward thinking they were. If the lessons learned in Jeremiah are not heeded by the church, we may soon find ourselves in the same situation.