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?
We looked for peace, but no good came
Today as I finished up my study of Jeremiah 8, I was struck by several things that made me feel the grief and agony Jeremiah felt when God warned him judgment was coming upon his people. He had been warning the people that God was going to deal with them harshly, and soon, if they didn't repent. However, the priests and false prophets were telling the people the exact opposite. They kept assuring them that everything was fine. God would not judge them or harm them in any way because He loved them too much. This is the refrain of many modern day preachers in the Emergent Church movement like Rob Bell and Brian McLaren, who say that God is a loving God and no one on earth is going to hell. They reject all verses in the Bible that say otherwise because they simply cannot accept that God is capable of divine wrath. By teaching this "no one goes to hell" or "there is no hell" theory, they are taking Jesus off the cross and making His death insignificant. Why? Because it was due to God's wrath over disobedience and sin that Jesus came in the first place. If there is no hell or no punishment to come in the hereafter for those who refuse to repent, then why did Jesus come? So now these modern preachers say, Jesus saved us from all that. We no longer have to fear God because everyone is saved and everyone wins. By doing that however, no one feels the need to repent and turn back to God. Life just got easier - eat, drink and be merry - because it really doesn't matter what we do - God is a loving God who would never harm anyone.
The dangers of this type of modern day preaching is what Jeremiah was dealing with from the priests and prophets of his day, who kept insisting the same things. They were probably even telling the people not to listen to Jeremiah as he stood at the gates of the temple every day, warning of impending destruction. To them, Jeremiah was just a crazy man preaching about the end of the world. And what does the world do with people like that? They tune them out and continue on their way - much to their detriment.
But what does the Bible say about people like that?
If we are "out of our mind," as some say,
So here we have Jeremiah warning the people of their destruction and no one is listening to him. Why? They are listening to the priests and prophets who have authority. To them Jeremiah had no authority, so they thought he's crazy. Don't we have the same thing going on in the world today? People think Christians are crazy because we warn others that they could go to hell for all eternity if they don't repent of their sins. They call us fools because we believe Jesus is returning soon. They call us intolerant because we believe, like God, that sin is sin. And they call us self-righteous because we believe anyone who doesn't come to faith in Christ will not be saved.
What they fail to realize (and this was the same for Jeremiah's people) is that we warn of these things not out of self-righteousness, but out of a deep concern for the lives of those who do not know God. Jeremiah expresses his concern for his fellow man this way:
For the hurt of the daughter of my people I am hurt.
And isn't that what every Christian feels when trying to get the message of salvation across to others? We feel the heart of God, who does not want anyone to suffer or perish in their sin. We hurt for those who are lost. But it is not self-righteousness. We feel this concern for the lost because we have the Holy Spirit within us. This is why we cannot be silent, for it is the Lord's Holy Spirit who urges us to speak!
Jeremiah would find out that the people would only listen to those in positions of authority. To them he was just a street-corner preacher holding up a sign of impending doom. A crazy person. And today we find the same attitude in our world. People will only listen to those in positions of authority and unfortunately, some of those people are like the false priests and prophets of Jeremiahs' day. Jeremiah lamented this by saying something that is so prophetic for today:
The harvest is past,
In the future, this will be the sad refrain of many. God will have reaped His harvest and those left behind will realize they are not saved - it will be too late by then. Jeremiah realized that for his people that time was upon them and he cried:
Is there no balm in Gilead,
Gilead was a region east of the Jordan River. It was known for its spices and medicinal herbs (Genesis 37:25). Jeremiah wished that someone would come and heal his people of their sin. Now, let's take this a little further and compare it to our great physician - Jesus Christ. He is the balm in Gilead! He is the solution for the spiritual health of all people today. And Satan knows that, which is why there is so much apostasy in the church today - he's been working overtime because he knows this world is winding down. The harvest is about to finish and the summer (this golden age of God staying His hand against the world) is about to end. Jesus is coming soon and He will be coming as a righteous judge. The time for repentance therefore, is now - not when you see Him coming in the clouds. By then it will be too late.
I don't know why, but my study of Jeremiah seems to be having a theme that centers around false teachers and bad politicians, and yet this is not the theme of the study I'm following. I believe I already mentioned I'm following Kay Arthur's study on Jeremiah, titled Listening to God in Difficult Times. And I am once again amazed as to what God is showing me. True, the people in Jeremiah's time were not listening to God at all, but it was their complete and utter disregard for God and His ways that made it impossible for them to hear Him. This is why He sent Jeremiah. To warn them of their wickedness.
I am currently looking at Jeremiah 8 and today while reading, I paused and reflected on several different verses that got me thinking about Joel Osteen and his power of positive thinking and the false prosperity gospel he preaches. I also kept hearing in my head that song from the Lego Movie called "Everything is Awesome". I have talked about false doctrines and false teachers before, and in my book He Who Has an Ear I even have a chapter on who the wolves in sheep's clothing are today. But today, a series of verses seemed to strike a chord with me about these types of preachers who preach that everything is awesome, and the Christians who listen to them and accept what they are saying without checking their bibles first to find out if it's truth, are doing themselves no favours.
You shall say to them, Thus says the Lord: When men fall, do they not rise again? If one turns away, does he not return? Why then has this people turned away in perpetual backsliding? They hold fast to deceit; they refuse to return.
In the verses above, God is lamenting that the people of Jerusalem fall or backslide and never return to Him. They refused to hold onto His laws and obey Him and instead they worshipped other idols. The false beliefs and practices they clung to made them feel good, but they did not honour God and were not believing or practising their faith as God intended. But because they were so entrenched in their new beliefs and believed that it was okay to practice idol worship and worship God at the same time, they refused to repent and return to God and His ways.
I have paid attention and listened, but they have not spoken rightly; no man relents of his evil, saying, ‘What have I done?’
Today's false teachers have not spoken rightly. They have not relented of their evil but have encouraged others to follow them in their false beliefs. They have discarded God's Word which calls sin, sin and have instead opened their arms to the approval of immorality and man's opinion. They have encouraged the people they lead to treat God like a genie in a bottle, who is there at our disposal, ready to grant our every wish. The mantra of Osteen is to think positively if you want good things to happen. In other words, if you believe it enough, God will make good things happen for you. And just like Jeremiah's people, Christians who do not know the Word of God are blindly following these wolves in sheep's clothing and are plunging headlong towards a spiritual battle where they will have to make a choice - believe what feels good, or accept that the only way to God is through repentance and confessing Jesus Christ as Lord.
Even the stork in the heavens knows her appointed times; And the turtledove, the swift, and the swallow
This holds true for the church today. Many Christians have a misinformed belief that revival is coming to the church and a "new wave" of God's Spirit is about to move over the land that will revitalize the church in general. But the Bible predicts that the end-time church will be wracked with apostasy. This is coming true before our eyes as we see one prominent church leader after another rejecting God's Word in favour of man's opinion and a "feel good" Gospel that tickles the ears. God's people do not know or realize that judgement is about to come upon them!
“How can you say, ‘We are wise, and the law of the Lord is with us’? But behold, the lying pen of the scribes has made it into a lie. The wise men shall be put to shame; they shall be dismayed and taken; behold, they have rejected the word of the Lord,
The "wise men" of Jeremiah's day were the scribes and priests. They believed that it was okay to worship God and idols and they spread these lies by manipulating God's laws. They told the people they would go unpunished, and as these verses indicate, they probably wrote down these lies and added them to God's laws. But what does God say about them? He says, they have rejected the word of the Lord and there is no wisdom in them.
Again, this holds true for false teachers and preachers today who have rejected God's laws for their own wisdom. Worse, they write books about their false doctrines that sell thousands of copies and deceive everyone who reads them into believing their words come from God.
From the prophet even to the priest everyone deals falsely. For they have healed the hurt of the daughter of My people slightly
And here we come to the crux of the matter. Preachers and Christians in general who proclaim peace when there is no peace. Who shout from the rooftops about the power of positive thinking - of believing and claiming. One of Joel Osteen's lies is, "If you want a shift to occur, you've got to think positive." In his newest book, The Power of I Am, he encourages his readers to use God's name - I AM - (Exodus 3:14) in a blasphemous way. He couches his words with life-affirming thoughts that are always focused on the positive. Negative things in life are, according to Joel, not from God. He rejects sickness, suffering and in a recent Sunday morning telecast he even rejected growing old and putting on weight as something that could simply be changed by saying, "I am not old. I am not overweight. I am young and I am thin." This is not biblical! If it were then the Apostle Paul would be, according to Joel, the worst sort of Christian because he says in 2 Corinthians 12:9 that God's "strength is made perfect in weakness." And he continues in 2 Corinthians 12:10-11 by saying; "Therefore most gladly I will rather boast in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me. Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in needs, in persecutions, in distresses, for Christ’s sake. For when I am weak, then I am strong.
What Joel is preaching and writing about is a lie from the devil. The Bible does not teach that if we believe it enough or say it in a certain way something good will happen. God is not Santa Claus! That's like Dorothy clicking her heels together three times and wishing she were back in Kansas. So what does God say about people like Joel and the people who "trust in Joel" rather than in God? He says He is going to judge the church.
1 Peter 4:17 warns us: "For the time has come for judgment to begin at the house of God; and if it begins with us first, what will be the end of those who do not obey the gospel of God?" His words were prophetic, because it would not be too many years after he wrote them that the Temple in Jerusalem would be destroyed in A.D. 70. But this verse still applies to the church today, because if you as a Christian are mixing false doctrines with the Word of God then you are doing exactly as the people in Jeremiah's day.
The foundation of your faith should not be based on false promises, good feelings and positive thinking. Your faith should be built on the Rock of Jesus Christ and the Word of God.
If it isn't, you are on shaky ground my friend. If you have turned your ear from listening to the true Gospel and instead have forsaken it for the teachings of false prophets and liars then you are no better than the people of Jeremiah's day. They wanted to believe that everything was awesome and God would never allow them to suffer because they belonged to Him and all He wanted was the best for them. Well guess what? This is what false prophets are teaching today. They don't want to believe that when God comes again it will be in wrathful anger and judgement. And they don't want to believe or preach that the church will be the first one judgement is going to be executed upon. Instead they want to cry out, "Peace! Peace! Revival is coming. Get ready for a fresh outpouring of God's Holy Spirit to move over the land."
If you believe in Jesus Christ as your Lord and Saviour and have trusted in his atoning sacrifice, then rest assured you are saved from God's condemnation. However, if you have added to your foundation with false beliefs, you will not escape God's correction, which, as Jeremiah's people discovered, feels a lot like punishment.
Joel Osteen and those in the Word of Faith movement want you to believe that sickness, tragedy, bad finances, etc. are all of the devil. They want you to rebuke all these bad things. O Christian, that is Satan talking. When bad things happen to us, it is God saying, "You need a course correction in your life. Now listen up!" Sometimes that tragedy can be too much to bear. It might mean the loss of someone you love. I understand that pain. It's hard to fight through the grief to see if God is trying to tell you something. But more often than not, even the death of a loved one can lead us closer to God. We may even have something tragic happen to us physically, but again whatever happens in this life does not happen without God's knowledge. He always has a plan and a reason. Joni Eareckson Tada knows that first hand after a diving accident in 1967 left her a quadriplegic. But God used her in a mighty way despite her disability.
Have you forsaken God's Word? Are you putting more trust in celebrity preachers? To listen to preachers who expound on all things positive, is a dangerous thing. It's time to come away from these people now. Stop giving them the glory (and your money) and return to God. If you have been deceived by the likes of Joel Osteen, Kenneth Copeland, Benny Hinn and anyone else in the Word of Faith movement, then repent and return to the Lord before it is too late.