I started a Bible study on Jeremiah a while back and got side-tracked. Too many issues in the world needed to be addressed and so for a while my posts centered on them. While I still continued on in my studies I did not share them here. I hope to get back to that on a regular basis, starting with this post.
We will begin with Jeremiah 12. It is a crucial chapter because Jeremiah comes right out and asks God - why do the wicked prosper? I wrote about this some time ago when I was frustrated with corruption in government. God showed me then what He has planned for those who govern us. But in this chapter the "wicked" are not those who rule over us, but those who are charged with the spiritual welfare of God's people - namely the priests and teachers of the Law.
Many rulers have destroyed My vineyard,
In the KJV the word "rulers" is replaced with "pastors" because the Hebrew word that was used in the original context was ra`ah which means "pastor, shepherd or teacher". In fact, Jeremiah's chief complaint in this passage are the religious leaders. He acknowledges that God planted them and that they had taken root, grown, and born fruit. Yet their mouths had all the "religious speak" but their minds were far from God (Jeremiah 12:2). So, he rather bluntly asks God to "take them out" (Jeremiah 12:3).
God's response was one of empathy. He agrees with Jeremiah that those charged with the spiritual well-being of his "inheritance" (Israel) have failed miserably. He likens Jeremiah's estrangement from his family, to His own, in that Israel has forsaken Him. He also agrees that something has to be done about it. He says of these religious rulers that they "have sown wheat, but reaped thorns" and that they should be ashamed of their harvest (Jeremiah 12:13). God also agrees (in part) with Jeremiah's plan to "lead them like sheep to the slaughter" (Jeremiah 12:3), but He includes a promise. First, He will pluck them out from the land for their treachery in encouraging God's people to worship idols. But, when they have suffered enough, God will bring them back to the land of their inheritance, IF they will teach the people to worship Him and learn His ways, rather than the ways of Ba'al. However, if they do not establish the people in worshipping God alone, He will utterly destroy them (Jeremiah 12:14-17).
How Does This Apply to the Church Today?
In the same way that Israel's priests and teachers were charged with the spiritual welfare of their people, so too are those who have been called to proclaim the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Those pastors who lead congregations, or teachers who lead in Bible study, are responsible for the words that come out of their mouths and the actions that they take when representing our Heavenly Father. They must not teach falsely, nor act in a manner that would encourage those they lead to do the same. For those who are discerning it is easy for us to spot false teachers and doctrines today, because we have kept the Word of God close to our hearts and fed our souls with it. But for those who forsake Bible study they are in danger of being lead like sheep to the slaughter, because they follow false doctrines and teachings that go against Almighty God. There is however, a solution to not becoming a victim of false teachers and preachers and it is quite simple - read your bible.
I realize I talk a lot about the importance of reading your Bible. I also talk a lot about false prophets and teachers, but if we can learn anything from Jeremiah it is this - God says they should be ashamed of themselves (Jeremiah 12:13). If they don't repent then their fate (and those who follow them) will not be pleasant, for God will deal as harshly with them as He did with Israel's religious leaders (2 Peter 2:1-22).
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This morning when I woke up I began thinking about my study in Jeremiah. I am using as my guide, the New Inductive Series by Precept Ministries founder Kay Arthur. When I first began the study I was thinking it would lead me into the same theme that Kay found - Listening to God in Difficult Times. But the Lord has taken me in a completely different direction.
I began to notice after chapter three, that the Lord was showing me how the warnings from God through Jeremiah to his people apply to the people of this century. These warnings given centuries ago to the Jews are eerily similar to events transpiring today. And that is not a coincidence. The Bible wasn't preserved for over 2,000 years merely to entertain us with its stories. It is filled with words of wisdom, history, the plan of salvation, lessons and commandments on how we should live, and most importantly, how God expects us to live in light of His presence.
But one thing I keep seeing during my studies is how history is prone to repeat itself. Just as the people in the past were sinful, so is this world today. But will God deal with us the same way He dealt with people during Jeremiah's time? Most of the lessons I'm learning during this study seem to be saying yes. But sadly, it seems no one is listening.
Have We Forgotten the Past?
In 2 Chronicles 6 we read a lovely prayer from King Solomon as he dedicates the newly built Temple in Jerusalem to God. Immediately after his prayer this happened:
When Solomon finished praying, fire came down from heaven and consumed the burnt offering and the sacrifices, and the glory of the Lord filled the temple. The priests could not enter the temple of the Lord because the glory of the Lord filled it. When all the Israelites saw the fire coming down and the glory of the Lord above the temple, they knelt on the pavement with their faces to the ground, and they worshipped and gave thanks to the Lord, saying,“He is good. His love endures forever.” Then the king and all the people offered sacrifices before the Lord. - Jeremiah 8:1-4)
God had just made Himself known and His glory filled the temple. Yet, it was this same temple that Jeremiah would stand at the gates of (see Jeremiah 7), hundreds of years later, warning the people that destruction was about to come upon them. Why? Because they had forsaken God and disobeyed Him.
But how did the people get so far off track, from seeing the glory of God to not being afraid of Him and not caring at all if they offended Him? It was because of their leaders. Incredibly, disobedience toward God and sinning against Him started first with King Solomon, the one who built the temple to honour God, whom God appeared to twice. - 1 Kings 11
And it continued on with his children and grandchildren.
In the seventeenth year of Pekah son of Remaliah, Ahaz son of Jotham king of Judah began to reign. Ahaz was twenty years old when he became king, and he reigned in Jerusalem sixteen years. Unlike David his father, he did not do what was right in the eyes of the Lord his God. He followed the ways of the kings of Israel and even sacrificed his son in the fire, engaging in the detestable practices of the nations the Lord had driven out before the Israelites. He offered sacrifices and burned incense at the high places, on the hilltops and under every spreading tree. - 2 Kings 16:1-4
The king led his people into sinning against God. And it didn't stop with Ahaz. It continued with Manasseh. "He sacrificed his own son in the fire, practiced divination, sought omens, and consulted mediums and spiritists. He did much evil in the eyes of the Lord, arousing his anger. - 2 Kings 21:6. He built altars to foreign gods and put them in the temple of God. You can read about all the evil he did in 2 Kings 21. In fact, if you go to Biblegateway.com and type in the words "did evil" you will get a list of all the kings who led their people into sin.
How Does This Relate to us Today?
Look at our leaders. What are their values? Where do they stand as far as God is concerned? What about the world in general? We don't have to look far to see how ridiculous things have become: Donald Trump, an egotistical, narcissistic, racist maniac is running for president of the United States and God's people (Evangelical Christians) are supporting him. This isn't just evil, it's crazy! Why wouldn't they support Ted Cruz or Mark Rubio, who have both professed belief in Jesus as their Saviour? Both of these men know their Bible. They know their God. Donald Trump "says" he is a Christian, yet it is clear by his behaviour that he is anything but. Donald Trump is a modern day Herod and the only reason Christians are favouring him is because they are no longer listening to God. If he is by some horrible twist of fate, EVER elected president, history will repeat itself and America will have its very own Herod the Great ruling over them.
Think it can't happen? How do you think Obama got elected? The people didn't listen to God and God said, "Fine. Here 'ya go. Here's the leader you wanted so badly." And then He stepped back and watched Obama destroy not only the inner workings of America, but the reputation of America. All because the people wanted a new king (1 Samuel 8:1-20). When people ask for unreasonable things, sometimes God gives them what they ask for just to teach them a lesson.
Obama has destroyed relations with Israel, the only democratic country in the Middle East, and he openly welcomed terrorists into the White House! He played a game of cat and mouse with the American people. Pretending to be a Christian to get votes and then showing his true colours when he was elected. And he didn't do it once - he did it twice! Donald Trump is ALREADY showing his true colours and yet against all reason, people are supporting him. And those Christians who have not fallen sway to a deceiving spirit are shaking their heads in disbelief. People are actually starting to fear Donald Trump might be elected as President. Think it can't happen? As a Canadian I am still stunned at our change in leadership.
Our new Prime Minister, Justin Trudeau, has said he admires China's Communist dictatorship, echoing his father, Pierre Trudeau, who not only claimed communist leader Fidel Castro as a friend, but also deeply admired mass murderers Mao Tse Tong and Joseph Stalin. History shows that Pierre Trudeau was the one who liberalized Canada's laws on divorce, abortion, and homosexuality. Following in his father's footsteps, Justin is a huge supporter of gay rights, he also says yes to murdering babies and wants to make abortion clinics more accessible to women. In addition, he is in the process of allowing medically assisted suicide. So while he isn't personally burning children as sacrifices to Ba'al, his approval and encouragement of both of these practices show us that, like his father, Justin has rejected the Bible and God, by couching it with the words "equal rights."
These things are just the tip of the iceberg and are only about the leaders on this side of the world. Don't get me started on what is going on in Europe. One thing is certain, our world is on a downward spiral, whose leaders are setting the course of our demise and God will wait only so long for a nation to repent before He acts.
God warned the people, speaking through Jeremiah saying:
This warning rings true for us today. Our leaders have forced God out of schools, government, and businesses. They have consistently, as Anne Graham Lotz once said, "Shaken their fist at God." But we don't need to follow our leaders into immorality. We don't need to believe what they believe. We can stand firm in our convictions and believe in and continue to trust in God and follow Him and this is something we must do!
God will be patient for only so long and then He will act. Will you be ready?
Now concerning the times and the seasons, brothers, you have no need to have anything written to you. For you yourselves are fully aware that the day of the Lord will come like a thief in the night. While people are saying, “There is peace and security,” then sudden destruction will come upon them as labor pains come upon a pregnant woman, and they will not escape. - 1 Thessalonians 5:1-3