SPIRITUAL SUCCESS DEPENDS ON THE RIGHT ORIENTATION TOWARDS THE MAJOR THEMES OF OUR RELATIONSHIP WITH GOD
Sometimes in studying the Bible we get off on rabbit trails that deal with obscure and seemingly insignificant issues. In this chapter we see Jeremiah focusing on the major themes of our relationship with God. These are the Big Deal Issues that are impacting the lives of his countrymen and heading them down the path to imminent judgment and exile into Babylon. These subject areas are not electives in our pursuit of the knowledge of God. These are the foundational areas, the core curriculum that must be mastered to enjoy spiritual blessing and prosperity.
SPIRITUAL SUCCESS DEPENDS ON THE RIGHT ORIENTATION TOWARDS THE MAJOR THEMES OF OUR RELATIONSHIP WITH GOD –
5 MAJOR THEMES ADDRESSED HERE
I. (:1-4) SIN AND ITS CONSEQUENCES
A. (:1-2) Lasting Stain of Sin
“The sin of Judah is written down with an iron stylus;
With a diamond point it is engraved upon the tablet of their heart,
And on the horns of their altars,
As they remember their children, so they remember their altars and their Asherim by green trees on the high hills.”
No mistaking what constitutes sin; no glossing over sin; no ignoring the accountability associated with sin
Contrast the removal of our sins in Christ with the permanence of the recording of sins here. Repentance and faith are the keys.
Parunak: Their sin is also written on the horns of the altar. Thus the altar, which ought to be an instrument of forgiveness, bearing sacrifices to atone for their sin, has instead become a testimony against them. Instead of proclaiming forgiveness, it proclaims their sin.
Mackay: The horns of the altar were stone projections, one at each of the top corners of the altar. They performed the utilitarian role of stabilizing the sacrifice being burned on the altar, but more significantly when sacrifices for atonement were presented, blood was smeared on these horns to indicate the propitiatory nature of the sacrifice (Exod. 27:2; 29:12; 30:1-3; Lev. 4:7, 30, 34; 8:15; 16:18).
Constable: The indictment against Judah for her deeply ingrained sins was written permanently on the people’s hearts (cf. Job 19:24). It stood etched there and, also figuratively, on their most prominent places of worship, the pagan altars throughout the land. Sins engraved on the heart pictures the chief characteristic that marked the inner life of the people, which was indelible sin. When Yahweh had given Israel the covenant at Mount Sinai, He inscribed it on tablets of stone (Exodus 24:12; Exodus 31:18). But now, what was authoritative for the people was sin that they had inscribed on tablets of flesh.
Rather than blood, on the horns of the brazen altar in the temple courtyard, testifying to the people’s commitment to Him, the Lord saw their sins staining the horns of their pagan altars (cf. Jeremiah 7:21-26; Amos 4:4-5). The brazen altar was a place of sacrifice where their sins could be removed, but the horns of their altars had become places of sacrilege where their sins stood recorded.
Thompson: it seems clear that we have here (:2-3) a further reference to the prevalence of Canaanite worship throughout the land with its altars, sacred poles, and other paraphernalia of the cult.
B. (:3-4) Long Term Consequences of Sin
1. Loss of Property
“O mountain of Mine in the countryside, I will give over your wealth and all your treasures for booty, Your high places for sin throughout your borders.”
2. Loss of Inheritance = Removal from the Land and Servitude to Pagan Nations
“And you will, even of yourself, let go of your inheritance That I gave you; And I will make you serve your enemies In the land which you do not know;”
3. Due to God’s Wrath
“For you have kindled a fire in My anger Which will burn forever.”
II. (:5-8) FAITH AND ITS OUTCOMES
Focus of Our Trust – Leads to Two Very Different Outcomes
A. (:5-6) Folly of Trusting in Mankind
1. (:5) Cursing Pronounced
“Thus says the LORD, ‘Cursed is the man who trusts in mankind And makes flesh his strength, And whose heart turns away from the LORD.’”
Parallels with Psalm 1
Really only 2 approaches to life – like the tract: Two Ways to Live –
One is God centered with Christ on the throne;
The other is man-centered where we try to determine the best way to approach God and deal with our sins
Everyone has a faith orientation … the key is the object of your faith
2. (:6) Outcome Described
“For he will be like a bush in the desert and will not see when prosperity comes, But will live in stony wastes in the wilderness, A land of salt without inhabitant.”
B. (:7-8) Fruitfulness of Trusting in the Lord
1. (:7) Blessing Pronounced
“Blessed is the man who trusts in the LORD And whose trust is the LORD.”
2. (:8) Outcome Described
“For he will be like a tree planted by the water, that extends its roots by a stream And will not fear when the heat comes; But its leaves will be green, And it will not be anxious in a year of drought Nor cease to yield fruit.”
III. (:9-11) DEPRAVITY AND ITS MANIFESTATIONS
A. (:9-10) Fickleness of Our Heart
“The heart is more deceitful than all else and is desperately sick; Who can understand it? I, the LORD, search the heart, I test the mind, even to give to each man according to his ways, According to the results of his deeds.”
Is man basically good? That is a fundamental issue that you must come to grips with.
Feinberg: If there is such blessing in trusting God, then why do people so generally depend on their fellow humans? Why is it that the blessed are not more numerous than the cursed? The answer lies in the innate depravity of the human heart (v. 9). . . In OT usage the heart signifies the total inner being and includes reason.
Ryken: This is one of the most powerful statements of human depravity in all of Scripture. The doctrine of total depravity means that every human being is sinful through and through. No part of the human person remains untouched by sin. The mind, the will, the emotions, and the conscience are all corrupt. So is the heart, which is the innermost core of the human person. It, too, is depraved.
Maldonado: The Condemnation of the Heart: (vss 9 – 11)
A. The Heart is Deceitful. (vs 9a)
B. The Heart is Depraved. (vs 9b)
C. The Heart is Discovered. (vs 10)
D. The Heart is Delusional. (vs 11)
B. (:11) Futility of Ill-Gotten Gains
“As a partridge that hatches eggs which it has not laid, so is he who makes a fortune, but unjustly; In the midst of his days it will forsake him, and in the end he will be a fool.”
How does our depravity manifest itself? Jeremiah could have focused on any number of sins. Later in the chapter he will look at how we break the command to keep the Sabbath. Here he focuses on greed and a materialistic mindset that is bent on accumulating wealth – even wealth that is gained unjustly.
Longman: The book of Proverbs also speaks negatively about the gaining wealth without working for it and also states that such gain will be temporary (Prov. 11:4, 18; 13:11; 21:6; 22:16, cf. Ps. 73:3-6, 12).
Parunak: (YHWH) I can, and I will reward people accordingly.
1. The Lord searches and tests our innermost thoughts and motives. “Heart” as the seat of reason; “reins” (“kidneys”) as the seat of emotion. We may not be able to know ourselves, let alone others; but the Lord can search us.
2. As a result, he will reward us appropriately.
3. The parable of the partridge illustrates this. Because the bird nests on the ground, many of the eggs that it lays are never hatched. So the wealthy sinner will not enjoy the fruit of his wickedness. “He shall leave them in the midst of his days” because he will be taken into exile.
4. Application: We must trust the Lord with our hearts! Our faith is not to be in our works; it’s also not to be in our faith, since we can’t adequately assess our own faith. We find our refuge only in God.
Alternative view of partridge parable:
Guzik: According to the ancient proverb, a partridge sits upon the eggs of other birds. When they do hatch, the chicks leave the partridge because they don’t really belong to that bird. Even so, riches will leave a man when he stands before God in judgment. In the end he will be shown to be a fool for trusting in his ill-gotten gains.
MacArthur: This referred to a sand grouse which invaded and brooded over a nest not its own, but was forced to leave before the eggs hatched. It depicted a person who unjustly took possession of things he had no right to take and couldn’t enjoy the benefits, despite all the effort.
Wiersbe: What good would their wealth be when the judgment fell on the land?
Longman: This section (:5-11) is distinguished from what follows since these sayings are attributed to Yahweh himself, followed by a speech directed to Yahweh from the prophet himself verses 12-16.
IV. (:12-18) FAITHFULNESS AS THE FOUNDATION FOR WORSHIP
A. (:12-13) Hymn of Praise and Accountability
1. (:12) Majesty of God’s Reign Must Be Reflected in Worship
“A glorious throne on high from the beginning is the place of our sanctuary.”
Never forget that God created man to enjoy him and worship him forever. We are off the rails whenever we substitute anything else for the genuine worship of the one true God who exists from all eternity as the Majestic Sovereign of the Universe.
Feinberg: In these verses Jeremiah extols the majesty of God. True permanence, since unjustly gained riches are fleeting, is found only in the Lord.
2. (:13) Magnitude of Spiritual Adultery Reflected in God’s Unique Identity
“O LORD, the hope of Israel, All who forsake Thee will be put to shame. Those who turn away on earth will be written down, Because they have forsaken the fountain of living water, even the LORD.”
– Unique as the One Hope of Israel
– Unique as the Fountain of Living Water
Longman: Thy hymnic introduction continues in a way that begins to turn toward the subject of the petition (another reason to think that hymn and petition belong together). Yahweh is called the hope of Israel, the one who can lead Israel from death to life. Those who turn their back on Yahweh, however, will be put to shame, the same verb found in verse 18 where Jeremiah asks God to put to shame his persecutors and to keep him from shame.
SIX CHARACTERISTICS OF THE SOURCE OF OUR SPIRITUAL LIFE – DESCRIBED AS A FOUNTAIN
I. AUTHENTIC SOURCE OF SPIRITUAL LIFE
Genuine; exclusive; unique
John 4:24 “God is spirit, and those who worship Him must worship in spirit and truth.”
John 14:6 “I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father but through Me.”
II. AVAILABLE (ACCESSIBLE) SOURCE OF SPIRITUAL LIFE
We are commanded to come to the waters and freely drink
John 4:10 “If you knew the gift of God, and who it is who says to you, ‘Give Me a drink,’ you would have asked Him, and He would have given you living water.”
III. ACTIVE SOURCE OF SPIRITUAL LIFE
Produces spiritual life and vitality
John 4:42 “This One is indeed the Savior of the world.”
IV. ABUNDANT SOURCE OF SPIRITUAL LIFE
No limit to its provision or to its depth or fullness
More than merely adequate or sufficient
V. ABIDING SOURCE OF SPIRITUAL LIFE
Continuing, enduring, permanent
John 4:14 “Whoever drinks of the water that I will give him shall never thirst; but the water that I will give him will become in him a well of water springing up to eternal life.”
VI. AWESOME SOURCE OF SPIRITUAL LIFE
Should evoke our worship and praise
John 4:29 “Come, see a man who told me all the things that I have done; this is not the Christ, is it?”
“If anyone is thirsty, let him come to Me and drink, He who believes in Me, as the Scripture said, ‘From his innermost being will flow rivers of living water.’ But this He spoke of the Spirit . . ”
B. (:14-18) Lament of Vulnerability Despite Faithfulness
1. (:14-16) Personal Testimony of His Suffering and Loyalty
a. (:14) Injuries of the Prophet – He needs healing himself
“Heal me, O LORD, and I will be healed; Save me and I will be saved, For Thou art my praise.”
Mackay: does not refer to a physical malady but harks back to Jeremiah’s perception of himself as the one who is spiritually wounded and distressed (15:18). The prophet is sure that the only healing that will be effective for his condition is that which comes from the Lord (Pss. 6:3; 30:3). The words were obviously spoken at a time of dejection and depression but even so Jeremiah has not given up looking to the Lord alone as the one who can help. Though he is still in spiritual perplexity and despair, there remains (unlike 15:18) an underlying note of confidence in the Lord.
b. (:15) Inquisition of the Prophet – Disrespecting his message
“Look, they keep saying to me, “Where is the word of the LORD? Let it come now!’”
Thompson: Jeremiah goes on to quote his scoffers who ask, probably sarcastically, for some evidence of God’s action. It was imperative that Yahweh should show his hand one way or another, either in deliverance for Jeremiah or in judgment on the scoffers or both (cf. Isa. 5:19). The scoffers throw back at Jeremiah the claim he often made that he was delivering the word of Yahweh. That word was at times joy and happiness to him (15:16), but at times it brought trouble upon him (20:8). The prolonged lack of confirmation of his message exposed him to ridicule and filled him with despair.
c. (:16) Integrity of the Prophet
1) Faithfulness as a Shepherd of God’s Flock
“But as for me, I have not hurried away from being a shepherd after Thee,”
2) Compassion for God’s People in Light of Coming Judgment
“Nor have I longed for the woeful day;”
Mackay: “day of despair” – describes the ultimate disaster that would irrevocably spell the end of their nationhood. Jeremiah had not carried out his mission because he wished ill on the people and anted such judgment to come upon the country.
3) Transparency and Authenticity Before God
“Thou Thyself knowest the utterance of my lips was in Thy presence.”
Guzik: In a series of brief statements, Jeremiah defended and justified his ministry before God. He did this to contrast himself with those who demanded God bring immediate revelation and resolution.
Wiersbe: Except for one episode of unbelief (Jer. 15:15-21), Jeremiah had not tried to run away from his responsibilities nor had he altered the messages God had given him to deliver. But he needed God’s help and protection, and the Lord answered his prayers.
2. (:17-18) Prayer for Protection and Vindication
“Do not be a terror to me; Thou art my refuge in the day of disaster. Let those who persecute me be put to shame, but as for me, let me not be put to shame; Let them be dismayed, but let me not be dismayed. Bring on them a day of disaster, and crush them with twofold destruction!”
Mackay: “refuge” (Ps. 46:2) is the defensive or external aspect of salvation, corresponding to human insecurity and inability to fend for oneself in the face of hostility.
V. (:19-27) OBEDIENCE (SPECIFICALLY SABBATH KEEPING) AND ITS BLESSINGS AND JUDGMENTS
A. (:19-20) Call to Attention
“Thus the LORD said to me, ‘Go and stand in the public gate, through which the kings of Judah come in and go out, as well as in all the gates of Jerusalem; and say to them, ‘Listen to the word of the LORD, kings of Judah, and all Judah, and all inhabitants of Jerusalem, who come in through these gates:’”
Parunak: v. 19, “Go.” Are we passive or active in our service to God? What have we done this week, not just through the press of circumstance, but in direct and conscious obedience to him? If nothing, perhaps we have only come to him, and not yet gone forth.
B. (:21-23) Command to Keep the Sabbath Violated
1. (:21-22) The Command Repeated
“Thus says the LORD, ‘Take heed for yourselves, and do not carry any load on the sabbath day or bring anything in through the gates of Jerusalem. And you shall not bring a load out of your houses on the sabbath day nor do any work, but keep the sabbath day holy, as I commanded your forefathers.’”
2. (:23) The Violation Cited
“Yet they did not listen or incline their ears, but stiffened their necks in order not to listen or take correction.”
C. (:24-27) Contrast Between the Associated Blessing and Judgment
1. (:24-26) Blessing for Keeping the Sabbath
“’But it will come about, if you listen attentively to Me,’ declares the LORD, ‘to bring no load in through the gates of this city on the sabbath day, but to keep the sabbath day holy by doing no work on it, then there will come in through the gates of this city kings and princes sitting on the throne of David, riding in chariots and on horses, they and their princes, the men of Judah, and the inhabitants of Jerusalem; and this city will be inhabited forever. They will come in from the cities of Judah and from the environs of Jerusalem, from the land of Benjamin, from the lowland, from the hill country, and from the Negev, bringing burnt offerings, sacrifices, grain offerings and incense, and bringing sacrifices of thanksgiving to the house of the LORD.’”
Cf. Is. 58:13-14
Ryken: God promised three blessings in particular for keeping the Sabbath:
– A royal blessing (:24-25) – the very survival of the monarchy rested upon Sabbath-observance.
– A civic blessing (:25b) – Jerusalem would be “inhabited forever” – the gates of the city would remain open for people to come and go with their goods.
– A national blessing (:26) – the whole nation would come home to give praise and honor to God
2. (:27) Judgment for Violating the Sabbath
“But if you do not listen to Me to keep the sabbath day holy by not carrying a load and coming in through the gates of Jerusalem on the sabbath day, then I shall kindle a fire in its gates, and it will devour the palaces of Jerusalem and not be quenched.”
Feinberg: In summary, the Sabbath:
(1) Recognizes God as Creator, which is a witness against idolatry, and
(2) Marks the special covenant relationship between God and Israel.
If obedience is forthcoming (v. 24), the blessings are distinctive:
First, the continuance of the Davidic dynasty is assured (v. 25).
Second, Jerusalem will be settled and continue perpetually.
Third, the temple will again be the center of worship for the nation (v. 26).
Thus Judah is assured the promise of peace, prosperity, and permanence through her native dynasty and the authorized priesthood.