Read Jeremiah 21:1-14
As I have been reading through the book of Jeremiah I was once again struck by the timely message it holds for our nation's leaders. In the previous chapter Jeremiah was thrown in the stocks because of his prophecies. In this chapter, Pashhur the son of Melchiah, and Zephaniah the son of Maaseiah, whose father was a priest, are purposely seeking him out for guidance. They are on a mission for the king (whom Jeremiah has been prophesying against) and their actions seem to acknowledge that Jeremiah is a true prophet from God.
So they asked Jeremiah to inquire of the Lord on what they should do about Nebuchadnezzar, the king of Babylon, who was making war against them. In other words, they believed (or rather King Zedekiah believed) that if they begged God for help He would ignore all the warnings Jeremiah had been prophesying about and Nebuchadnezzar would leave them alone. Up until this point in time Jeremiah's prophecies about their coming destruction at the hands of the King of Babylon, were met with derision. But suddenly those prophecies started coming true and so they rushed to Jeremiah for advice on how to make it stop. They believed they could bargain with God.
They were wrong.
Jeremiah gave them startling news. They weren't just going to war with the King of Bablyon, they were going to war with God Himself.
Thus says the Lord God of Israel: “Behold, I will turn back the weapons of war that are in your hands, with which you fight against the king of Babylon and the Chaldeans who besiege you outside the walls; and I will assemble them in the midst of this city. I Myself will fight against you with an outstretched hand and with a strong arm, even in anger and fury and great wrath (Jeremiah 21:4-5, NKJV).
For years they had ignored Jeremiah's warnings to repent and return to God before it was too late. Now, when all seemed lost instead of repenting, they were looking for an easy way to escape the coming judgment. And God provided it, but it was costly.
“Behold, I set before you the way of life and the way of death. He who remains in this city shall die by the sword, by famine, and by pestilence; but he who goes out and defects to the Chaldeans [Babylonians] who besiege you, he shall live, and his life shall be as a prize to him" (Jeremiah 21:8-9, NKJV).
The Lord decreed that those who remain in the city would die by sword, famine and pestilence, but if they willingly went out of the city and defected to the Babylonian side, they would live. So the people of Zedekiah's kingdom had a choice to make. Reject their allegiance to him and their beloved Jerusalem and defect to the Babylonian side, thus saving their lives, or stay and fight a losing battle. As for King Zedekiah, his fate was already sealed.
The Lord reminded King Zedekiah that since he was from the Davidic line he had a responsibility to execute justice in his land for the oppressed. But Zedekiah was a wicked and arrogant king and the Lord knew this, so He told him he would be punished for his wickedness and Jerusalem would be destroyed. He knew King Zedekiah would never bow to another king and pledge allegiance to him. He would never defect to Babylon. He couldn't. He was the king of Judah, his pride wouldn't let him. He would fight against the Lord and lose.
It doesn’t matter how rich you are, how powerful you are or who you are related to, in the end God judges our hearts and our actions. King Zedekiah was a covenant king, responsible for the welfare of the people and ensuring that God alone was worshipped and glorified. But he was wicked and his arrogance lead him to believe he was untouchable. Imagine his surprise when the Lord waged war against him through the King of Babylon.
Governments from all over the world today act much the same way – with arrogance. Unafraid of the consequences of evil deeds. We need only to look at the current wicked President of Syria, Bashar al-Assad, to see arrogance and defiance towards God and man in action. We see this kind of arrogance from leaders all over the world. Like Vladimir Putin, who long ago should have had sanctions against him because he has supplied the arms that contributed to Assad's murderous reign. We see it in terrorist groups like ISIS who are constantly shaking their fists at God by bombing churches and beheading Christians - just daring Him to stop them.
And one day He will, and those in power will have to answer to the King of Kings face to face for their wickedness, unless they heed the warning Jeremiah gave to King Zedekiah to repent and return to God.
As we draw closer to the Lord’s return, it is becoming more and more apparent how arrogant and wicked our leader’s in government are. They make decisions that affect millions of people and lead their nations further and further away from God. Today, I thank God for godly leaders but pray for those who do not acknowledge Him, to repent and return to Him before it is too late. Will you join me?
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.
Oh, that my head were waters,
Today while studying Jeremiah 9, I was struck by a few things. First, was Jeremiah's obvious distress. He basically says that if his head were full of water, his eyes would be like a fountain of tears. That's a lot crying. He was known as The Weeping Prophet for a reason. This tells me a lot about Jeremiah the person:
The most interesting thing about Jeremiah for me though, is that he wasn't just a prophet for the Jews. He was a prophet for the nations (Jeremiah 1:5). God appointed Him to speak to ALL people. And thousands of years later, remarkable as it is, the book of Jeremiah is still doing exactly that. At least it is for me. The warnings in this book have seemed to parallel what our world is going through today, convincing me once again that ALL of God's Word (not just the New Testament) is relevant for Christians. Those who say we are not bound by the Old Testament and never bother reading it, do themselves a disservice, because it is in the Old Testament that we find lessons we can take to heart and learn more about the ways of our unchanging God.
In Jeremiah 6:27 we are told that God has set Jeremiah as an assayer and strong tower among God's people. An assayer is someone who is an inspector of metals. He judges their value. So Jeremiah is out among the people and he is assessing them. He knows they are unworthy and God knows he knows. So God makes a decision and says:
Behold, I will refine them and try them;
How are metals tested? They are put through the fire to see how well they stand up. It's called a refiner's fire. In Revelation 3:18 Jesus says: “I counsel you to buy from Me gold refined in the fire, that you may be rich.” In my book He Who Has an Ear, Who the Seven Churches of Revelation are Today, I explained it this way:
To refine gold, it must be hot enough to burn away the dross or impurities.It is known as a “refiner’s fire” and this is what Jesus was saying the Laodiceans needed to go through. They needed to be refined or tested so all the dross in them could be cleaned out. Then they would be truly rich. If there is one thing I have learned in life, it’s this: When God wants to deal with something about me He knows I’m not seeing clearly or haven’t worked towards refining, I can be sure I’ll go through a trial. Of course, when those trials go on for months, one starts to wonder, “What am I not getting?” But it may simply be that the dross is gone but God knows He has to “test the gold,” as it were, to see if it endures.
Jeremiah's people were about to be put through the refiner's fire. Not only would they be tested with the horrors of war, (they would end up going into captivity for 70 years) but the land would also be put through the fire. God said:
I will make Jerusalem a heap of ruins, a den of jackals.
You may be wondering why God would punish the land. Jeremiah asked the same question and God said it was because the people had forsaken His laws. They had not obeyed His voice or walked according to it (Jeremiah 9:13-14). Instead, they had walked "according to the dictates of their own hearts." Their sin polluted the land. So what was God's solution?
“Behold, I will feed them, this people, with wormwood, and give them water of gall to drink. I will scatter them also among the Gentiles,
What God was about to do in response to the unrepentant hearts of His people would be (essentially) bitter for them to drink or endure. Since they refused to obey Him or listen to Him anymore, He was not only going to bring destruction to Jerusalem and its surrounding cities, but He was also going to send them among the heathen nations (Gentiles) they had followed after.
How Does This Apply to Us Today?
Only the blind cannot see what is happening in the world today. We are rushing headlong toward God's judgment once again. For those who know the Lord, don't be surprised if you find your troubles in life increasing. Rejoice if they are, because the Lord is preparing you for the future. All Christians will go through a refiner's fire at some point. Be strong, stand firm and you will come out shining like gold.
To those who do not know the Lord, this is your warning from Jeremiah, me and all Christians everywhere who beg you to repent and turn to God to be saved. Jesus is coming again and He will not be coming as a meek shepherd, but as a righteous judge.
For he has set a day when he will judge the world with justice by the man he has appointed. He has given proof of this to everyone by raising him from the dead." - Acts 17:31
God set Jeremiah as an assayer - to test the people to see if they were worthy. Today, we have an intermediary, who stands before God on our behalf. His name is Jesus and one day He will come again to judge the living and the dead. He alone will decide if we have stood the test and have kept the faith (2 Timothy 4:6-8). Jesus says, "I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me" (John 14:6). Will you be found worthy when He returns?