Jeremiah 1-20 - The Bible from 30,000 Feet - Skip Heitzig - Flight JER01
The Bible from 30,000 Feet: Soaring Through the Scripture from Genesis to Revelation.
Back in 1970, a band called Three Dog Night said, "Jeremiah was a bullfrog, was a good friend of mine. Didn't understand a single word he said, but I helped him drink his wine." It goes to show you that musicians really don't have to think through their lyrics to get a popular song. It's sort of a meaningless set of lyrics. And it's very narcissistic to just have a friend just to be able to drink his wine, but you could care less about what he says.
But anyway, they said, Jeremiah was a bullfrog. Actually, Jeremiah was a bullhorn. This Jeremiah is making strong cries and proclamations to the nation of Judah, principally, as well as to other nations, secondarily. He was God's bullhorn, announcing to kings, announcing to royalty, announcing to the people who would gather in Jerusalem what is coming in their future.
Jeremiah was both a priest and a prophet. He was a priest-- living in Jerusalem, working in Jerusalem-- when God called him at a young age. And he ministered through almost five decades-- between 40 and 50 years, altogether. Some of the kings that he prophesied under the reign of are mentioned here in chapter 1.
He is called God's 11th-hour prophet because the clock of judgment is about to strike midnight. And at the 11th hour, even though other prophets that have gone before, including Isaiah-- to no regard, they didn't heed him-- Jeremiah comes and repeats that strong message and is a little more emotional with it than Isaiah was.
He says, please, to king Zedekiah at one point. Please, turn back to the Lord. Spare yourself, spare this city. It's not too late. But like Isaiah, his cries were unheeded, as well.
Jeremiah's prophecy reminds me of an illustration I read about. Seems that a wedding took place at a church in the church basement. And I don't know if you've ever been to some of the old churches. The church basement is sort of like their fellowship hall. It's the only extra big room they have.
And so because a lot of different meetings take place, this one basement was decorated with different scriptures all around it-- usually about God's love, and God's mercy, and God's patience, et cetera-- just reminding people, different scriptures. But during this wedding reception, right above the wedding cake happened to be the scripture Matthew chapter 3, verse 7 that read, "Flee from the wrath that is to come."
An odd, perhaps prophetic, proclamation of what that marriage might encounter. "Flee from the wrath that is to come." In an era in which other prophets-- false prophets and politicians-- were trying to quiet and calm the people and say, it's all good, nothing bad is going to happen, Jeremiah was saying, flee from the wrath that is to come. He was the only straight shooter of the bunch.
Now, from Isaiah's time, the chronology has advanced. Jeremiah has the grim duty of overseeing the death of a nation. He predicts it, but he will live through it.
He's going to witness the Babylonians come in. He's going to watch as the city is burned. He's going to see people that he loved being taken captive to another land. So Jeremiah is the prophet who oversaw the death of a nation.
I look at Jeremiah as a tender warrior. He had a hard message, but he was a mix of toughness and tenderness in one person. And that's good, especially for a guy who has to deliver a very hard message.
Somebody once said, no one has the right to preach about hell who doesn't first weep over it. And Jeremiah is, interestingly, known as not just the 11th-hour prophet, but he's called the weeping prophet. And you'll see why next week-- more on that later.
The book of lamentations means, the book of crying. Jeremiah writes as he sees Jerusalem being overtaken, and he weeps over it. And this is why, perhaps, Jesus reminded people so much of Jeremiah.
You remember when our Lord said to his disciples, "Who do men say that I am?" And of all the people, they said-- the people said-- reminded Jesus of was Jeremiah. Some say that you are Jeremiah, Elijah, or one of the prophets.
And that's probably because Jesus would pronounce denunciation, on one hand. He would say, woe unto you scribes and pharisees, hypocrites. But at the same time, he would turn with tenderness and compassion to those who needed it the most, like the woman caught in adultery.
Jesus wept over the city of Jerusalem, as well as Jeremiah. Jesus coming down from the Mount of Olives, overlooking the city, at one point began to weep-- the New Testament says-- saying, "Jerusalem, Jerusalem, how often I would have gathered you as a mother hen gathers her chicks, but you were not willing." And then, like Jeremiah, Jesus predicted the destruction-- not of the Babylonian army, but of the Roman army against Jerusalem.
Now, let me give you an outline of the book. I'm going to slice it up, as I did in the book The Bible from 30,000 Feet, into three simple slices-- preparation, proclamations, predictions. Jeremiah's preparation formulated-- that's chapter 1. Then, Jeremiah's proclamations foretold-- that's chapter 2, all the way to chapter 51. That's most of the book.
And then, the last chapter is Jeremiah's prediction fulfilled. Tell us how the city actually fell, according to what Jeremiah predicted. Now, that large section-- so you have the bulk of the book. That is Jeremiah's proclamations. You have then two end caps-- his preparation and his predictions.
In that center core of the book, Jeremiah proclaims against two different groups. Number one, Judah-- that's that southern kingdom of two tribes, Judah and Benjamin. That's Jerusalem-- the southern kingdom of Judah. And then, finally, the other nations around Judah that God would judge because of their antagonism toward Judah and the Jewish people. That forms the whole book.
So we begin, in chapter 1, with Jeremiah's preparation. And know this-- Jeremiah is the author of the book. But the one who actually penned the book was probably his scribe, mentioned 21 times in the book-- a guy by the name of, Baruch. So you have to picture a man dictating with an amanuensis-- that is, a scribe, or a secretary-- taking down what the prophet would say. Or putting together the speeches that he gave, or wrote, or things he wrote-- poems he wrote, et cetera-- and sort of like an anthology, presenting this collection, called the book of Jeremiah.
Jeremiah is the one who gave it, but the one who penned it was his secretary, named Baruch. So chapter 1, verse 1, "The words of Jeremiah the son of Hilkiah, of the priests who were in Anathoth in the land of Benjamin." You say, where is Anathoth? Anathoth is a little Arab village today called Anata, and it's about three miles north of Jerusalem.
I've only seen it once. It's not much. It's just a little bit of a village. But at that time, it was a village assigned to the Leviticus priest. So a lot of the priests who served in the temple lived there.
Verse 2, "to whom the word of the Lord came in the days of Josiah, the son of Amon, king of Judah, in the 13th year of his reign. It came also in the days of Jehoiakim, the son of Josiah, the king of Judah, until the end of the 11th year of Zedekiah, the son of Josiah, King of Judah, until the carrying away of Jerusalem captive in the fifth month."
So there's a lot of weird names there. And I'm going to actually go over a couple of them in the moment. But what we're told, basically, is Jeremiah had a 40-plus-year ministry. Jeremiah ministered during the reign of five different Judean kings.
Not all of them are mentioned here, because some of the reign of those kings was so short that they're left out of this book. But they are included in the narrative of II Chronicles 36, II Kings, chapter 8, 23, 24, 25, right around there. They're mentioned in those places. So just a few of the kings are mentioned here, but let me give you a little rundown.
Down south, there was a good king named Josiah, who's mentioned here. Josiah became king of Judah at a young age. He was a good guy. But he became a really great guy when a guy by the name of Hilkiah found a copy of the Torah, the law.
And the Bible says that the people of Judah had not really read the law much up to that point. They really didn't know what was in it. Can you imagine? That was sort of their playbook.
That's sort of like going to a church, finding a Bible, and nobody-- a Bible? What's in that? We want to read that baby? I have no idea what that's all about-- finding a New Testament.
So they found the law, and Hilkiah read the Torah in front of king Josiah. When Josiah heard it, he tore his robe, put sackcloth on his head, and said, we are in deep trouble because what he just read-- we are violating that covenant. So unless we repent, we're going to go into captivity like Deuteronomy 28 and 29, In the law that he just read, said.
So he humbles himself, asks God for forgiveness, reads it to the elders. And there is a superficial turning, at least in leadership-- a heartfelt turning of the king, but a superficial turning toward God of the people. That's Josiah. Josiah dies in battle.
When Josiah dies in battle, his son, Jehoahaz, becomes king. Jehoahaz is not king very long. He's not mentioned. He's on the throne for three months. He barely gets the throne warm. And he is deposed by pharaoh Necho, the King of Egypt, taken down to Egypt, placed in shackles, and put in prison by pharaoh Necho.
Following me so far? So we have Josiah, followed by Jehoahaz. Jehoahaz is now in Egypt in jail. In the place of Jehoahaz, the pharaoh who took him prisoner put his brother Eliakim on the throne. He's not mentioned here, and here's why.
Pharaoh Necho changed the name of Eliakim to Jehoiakim. See how complicated it gets? He changed his name, probably to show superiority-- I'm in charge, I conquered you, so I'm going to make a new name. That was what kings sometimes did.
So we have Josiah-- killed. Jehoahaz, his son-- three months, now in jail. Eliakim, his brother, now a.k.a. Jehoiakim-- on the throne for 11 years. As he is on the throne, Jeremiah is prophesying. Over in the east, Nebuchadnezzar and Babylon are gaining strength. They're coming, making a move toward Judah.
So Jeremiah says, yo-- I don't know if he actually said, yo. But he said, king, king, Jehoiakim, whatever you do, don't rebel against King Nebuchadnezzar because he looks like he's going to take over the world. So don't rebel. Well, he rebelled. So King Nebuchadnezzar deposed him from the throne and put a new guy in named Jehoiachin.
You're saying, Skip, you're not making it any easier. I just want to show you, A, the complications of some of these strategies and what's going on in the world. And I'm actually summing up for you the whole intrigue of what's going on with Jeremiah, the prophet. So we have Josiah, Jehoahaz, Eliakim-- AKA, Jehoiakim. Now, we have Jehoiachin.
He's on the throne three months and 10 days when, because he rebels against Nebuchadnezzar, Nebuchadnezzar deposes him, takes him to Babylon, and places his uncle, Zedekiah-- don't worry, that's the last one. Zedekiah is now the vassal King of Babylon. Following me so far? He's in good shape till he rebels against the Babylonian king. Nebuchadnezzar then destroys the city of Jerusalem.
But here's what I want you to know. Zedekiah, who rebels against Nebuchadnezzar-- obviously, Nebuchadnezzar now is in charge of the world, including Egypt, pharaoh. He wins a battle of Carchemish-- another story, another time.
But Nebuchadnezzar knows the king Zedekiah, the last king of Judah, has run down to the Jordan. He's taken his family. He's rebelled against the King. But now, he's running away.
The King chases him down with his army, kills his two sons in front of his eyes. And Zedekiah was probably no more than 30 years of age, so his sons must have been young boys. So he kills his two young sons in front of his eyes. Then, he puts his eyes out. He blinds him and takes him as a captive to Babylon so that the last living memory he would ever see in his life is the death of his own sons. That's how cruel Nebuchadnezzar was.
During all of that time of those kings and intrigue, Jeremiah was being faithful to say, Babylon is coming, turn to God. Babylon is coming, turn to God. Don't harden your hearts, turn to God. But the people got harder, and harder, and harder.
Sorry I took up so much time on the names. I wanted you to get sort of the background of it. We're still at the beginning of chapter 1. Verse 4, "Then the word of the Lord came to me saying, before I formed you in the womb, I knew you. Before you were born, I sanctified you. I ordained you a prophet to the nations."
Please notice God's view of life in the womb, by what he says to Jeremiah, indicates that there was a plan for the unborn zygote. The cells have come together. Now, they're starting to divide in that pre-embryonic state when the DNA has just come together and is starting to formulate into more and more cells. Before there is even a formation, God says, I knew you intimately, and I formulated my plan for you.
You know we live in a state that flatly goes against the Bible's view on the sacred sanctity of life in the womb. You know that we happen to live in a state that has pushed for, in the legislature, late-term abortion on demand for any reason, and even without parental consent if you're a minor. And even if you're a doctor and you say, I can't perform that abortion on moral grounds or religious grounds, our legislators in this state have been pushing that they have to terminate that pregnancy if that person says they want it. You have no say in it.
Now, you compare that to this. "Before I formed you in the womb, I knew you." And I ordained you, I sanctified you, I ordained you as a prophet to the nations. I know I may be taking up too much time with this, but it's on my heart. So Psalm 139-- I'm just going to read a couple verses to you. David wrote this Psalm, and he said this.
"For you formed my inward parts. You covered me in my mother's womb. I will praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made. Marvelous are your works and that my soul knows very well. My frame," that is, my skeletal structure, "was not hidden from you when I was made in secret and skilfully wrought in the lowest parts of the earth. Your eyes saw my substance, being yet unformed. And in your book, they were all written, the days fashioned for me, when there was as yet none of them."
David is going to the womb for an example of God's power. He goes to the heavens. But he goes, now, look in the womb. because God's view of personhood begins at the moment of conception.
And so a professor in an ethics class presented this dilemma to his students. He said, how would you advise a mother pregnant with her fifth child based upon the following? Her husband has had syphilis, she had tuberculosis. The first child was born blind, the second child died. The third child was born deaf, the fourth child had tuberculosis.
Now, with this pregnancy, the mother is considering an abortion. Would you advise her to have one? Most of the students agreed that this mother-- this woman-- should have an abortion. And the professor then said, congratulations, you've just killed one of the greatest composers ever, Ludwig Von Beethoven. The professor went on to say, those were the circumstances in that family.
All of that to say this-- God has a plan for you, and it began long before you were even born. God chose this prophet when he was yet unformed. That's how God begins with this calling. So it's pretty exciting to know that God chose you way, way before you even came into this world.
Verse 6, "Then I said, oh, lord God." Not a great reception to God's word-- ah, lord God. "Behold, I cannot speak, for I am a youth." Now, Jeremiah's probably in his 20s, at the latest.
"But the Lord said to me, do not say I am a youth," even though he was a youth. Don't begin with that, don't dwell on that, don't say that I am a youth. "For you shall go to all to whom I send you. And whatever I command you, you shall speak. Do not be afraid of their faces."
You know, this is good for any speaker. Because when a speaker looks at a crowd of faces, there are what experts call yes faces and no faces. There are faces who-- their resting face is very pleasant. But there are others whose resting face-- they just look grumpy. They can't help it.
My resting face, if I just look serious, is pretty grumpy looking. And I'm looking out at some pretty grumpy looking dudes right now. But not all-- not all of y'all. Some are yes faces, some are no faces.
But what do you tell a 20-something who says, I'm afraid to speak? Well, don't be afraid at looking at their faces. Don't go by that, because I've called you. "For I am with you," verse 8, "to deliver you, says the Lord."
Do you ever notice in scripture how God uses the very people who think they're unqualified to be used? Moses said, I can't speak. I'm a man of uncircumcised lips, or I stutter. God sent him to be a spokesman.
Isaiah, when God called him, said, woe is me. I'm undone, I am a man of unclean lips. I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips. God said, don't worry about it. I'll clean your lips, I'll give you the power. And so he finally said, here I am, send me.
Paul the Apostle said, I'm less than the least of all the saints. And yet, he recognized God called him to speak the unsearchable riches of Christ. The general principle is this-- God chooses the most unlikely, the weakest-- doesn't look for the best or latest model.
And usually the people who say, man, I'm awesome, I can't believe God isn't using me more, God will often bypass to find the ones who say, I don't know if God should ever use me. Bingo, you're the one I've been looking for. I've had you on my mind all along, even before you were born. I'll put my words in your mouth. And I will be with you, says the Lord.
Well, Jeremiah is called. That's chapter 1. So that's that first part of the outline. Jeremiah's preparation is formulated. He goes from here and he preaches for four to five decades-- a long, healthy ministry.
Are you listening now? Here's the most important part-- very long ministry, but absolutely unfruitful. We would call Jeremiah's ministry unsuccessful. Most ministry boards, most mission boards, would call him home.
Dude, you've been there 40 years, been there 50 years. You haven't seen a single stinking convert. You're coming home. We're not going to pay your wage. You're off the mission field.
Jeremiah didn't see one person-- at least recorded-- obey him or turn back to the lord. So was he in his sweet spot, in his peace zone? I don't think so, but he was obedient. He did what God called them to do.
Jeremiah chapter 2 to chapter 45 are those proclamations I told you about. And these are the proclamations against Judah. Jeremiah reviews their backslidings, but he does it with pathos, with tenderness. Look at chapter 2, verse 1.
"Moreover, the word of the Lord came to me saying, go and cry in the hearing of Jerusalem saying, thus says the Lord, I remember you, the kindness of your youth, the love of your betrothal, when you went after me in the wilderness, in a land not sown."
He's reviewing their history, when God called them out into the wilderness of Sinai, out into the desert. And there they were, obeying the calling of God, leaving pharaoh, being delivered to the Red Sea, trusting completely in the Lord, learning how to walk by faith, learning to believe in water coming from Iraq and bread falling from heaven.
And God says, man, I remember those early years, and I miss them. I miss that relationship we had. I miss that trust that you had. So in the most beautiful relational terms, God is rebuking his people. But he's saying, what I miss most is you, and us, and the relationship of intimacy that we had.
This is similar to the church of Ephesus. In the New Testament-- in Revelation, the first few chapters-- there are seven letters to seven churches. And the first letter that Jesus gives-- it's really a postcard. It's just a very short little few words.
He says to the church of Ephesus, I have something against you. You have left your first love. You didn't lose your first love-- I hear that often misquoted-- you've left your first love. You don't love me the same as you did at first.
He said that to the church of Ephesus. Here's what's amazing about that. We believe that Paul the Apostle founded the church of Ephesus in AD 52. In AD 62, 10 years later, Paul the Apostle writes the letter to the Ephesians-- a very tender, healthy letter. In AD 66, it has grown to the point where the apostle John needs to move there and pastor the church that Paul started.
So we have AD 52, AD 62, AD 66. In AD 96, John gets exiled to the island of Patmos. There, he gets a vision from the Lord. And right out of the chute, he sends a first postcard to Ephesus saying, you have left your first love, I have that against you. Only 44 years after the church of Ephesus was founded by the apostle Paul, it has back slid into a state where Jesus has to rebuke it for leaving that love relationship.
Now, that should be a warning to us. Church history is littered with movements and churches that go this way. They start out well. They can even mushroom and be even bigger. But then, they start to decline. Individual churches, individual congregations, can lose steam, can lose the love relationship.
And you say, I don't want that to happen to us. Then don't let it happen to you, personally, because what happens to all of y'all happens to all of us. And so all we are is the combination of all us. And so you keep your heart right with the lord. You let this speak to your heart. You get back to that intimacy with Christ.
Verse 9, "Therefore, I will bring charges." I can see this is going to take awhile. "I will bring charges against you, says the Lord, and against your children's children." I will bring charges, that's a legal term. "For I'm going to file a lawsuit against you in court."
Verse 11, "Has a nation changed its God's, which are not gods? But my people have changed their glory for what does not profit." What he means by that is, you've left that glorious relationship with the only true and living God, and you have put up altars all around Judah. You are worshipping pagan gods. You are listening to false prophets and bad politicians, and you have fallen from your glory for what does not profit.
Verse 12, "Be astonished, oh heavens, at this, and be horribly afraid. Be very desolate, says the Lord." Verse 13, "For my people have committed two evils." Here's the first. "They have forsaken me, the fountain of living waters." Here's the second. "They have hewn themselves broken cisterns that can hold no water."
Thousands of years ago, there were only two ways to get water. Number one, moving water-- a river, a fountain, a spring, a well, something that bubbles up and moves. And if it's moving water like a river, they called it living water. That's where the term living comes from. It's moving, it's not stagnant.
Or they would collect rainfall. There are two basic rainfalls in the land of Israel-- the early rain, called the [NON-ENGLISH], and the latter rain, called the [NON-ENGLISH]. When it rained early in the season-- in the winter, and late in the winter, early spring-- in places where there wasn't living water, they would collect it in a cistern. They would take a rock. They would cut out a big hole in it, and dig it deeper and deeper-- 10, 20, 30, 40, 50 feet deep out of solid rock, if it would maintain it.
But there was a problem. When digging out a cistern, sometimes they would dig it out, and they would find this fissure that is in the rock. And they wouldn't know it until the rain came and they collect all the water. They go the next day hoping to get water, and it's empty, because the crack-- it leaks out. They would then go in and try to plaster it and fix it. And sometimes, they were successful, sometimes they weren't.
So here's what God is saying. There's two things you've done wrong. You've forsaken me, the fountain of living water, true refreshment. And you have turned to your own passions, and visions, and devices to get filled up, to get satisfied on your own. And you've discovered it doesn't work, because all of those pursuits are nothing more than broken cisterns that hold no water.
You've forsaken me, the fountain of living water. You've dug out broken cisterns that hold no water. If you forsake God, or if you stop seeking God, one thing will happen to you-- you will get thirstier and thirstier and thirstier. And you will never be filled up, no matter where you seek.
Jesus said to the woman at the well of Samaria-- and you could write this over every earthly pursuit-- drink from this water, and you will thirst again. If you are seeking fulfillment in a relationship, drink of that water. You'll thirst again. If you're seeking fulfillment for your life in a position, a job, a career, drink of that water, but you'll thirst again. If you look for it anywhere else other than God, you'll just get thirsty.
I think it needs to be said on this day-- July 3, the eve before July 4-- that we, in this country-- what Jeremiah said to his country, I think we could say to this country. I think we live in a nation that has basically tried to rule God out of national life, push God out of the public square. Don't mentioned God, don't mention Jesus, ever. And don't ever pray at a public meeting, or get a lawsuit filed against you-- I know-- or pray in public schools. They don't know about students taking tests. They always pray in public schools.
Teachers just don't know about it. But for years, I have heard people say, America better watch out, or God is going to judge America. I am under the belief that you are experiencing the judgment of God. I don't think it's future. Oh, it will be worse, but I think we are under God's judgment now.
I developed this in our study in Romans, several weeks ago. I commend you listening to that, because the first step-- or evidence-- that God is judging a nation is when he gives them over to what they so desperately say they want. You want independence from me? You want no morality-- do what you want. sleep with who you want, male or female, or anybody or anything? Have it.
When God gives you over to those desires, it's an indication that God is judging that nation. So I think it's already begun. Arnold Toynbee, who is a very renowned historian, said that out of 22 civilizations appearing in history, 19 of the 22 collapsed when they reached the present moral condition of the United States of America. He said that a generation ago. 19 of them, in his expert study on human history, collapsed.
You might be witnessing now-- like Jeremiah was witnessing-- the very collapse of our nation under the judgment of God. I'm not trying to scare you, but I want to prepare you. There's hope for us, as you know.
Chapter 3, verse 14, "Return, oh backsliding children." I'll speed it up, I promise. "Says the Lord, for I am married to you." There's another relational term. "I will take you, one from one city, two from a family, and I will bring you to Zion." He'll bring them back.
Go down to verse 22. "Return, oh, backsliding children, and I will heal your backsliding." 16 times in this book-- 1-6, 16-- the word or term "backsliding" or "backslidings" appear. You're familiar with what a backslider is, right? It just means, to move backward.
If you want to get an illustration of backsliding, have you ever tried to climb up a slide on a playground? If you try to climb it, and you let go of the side rails, you will backslide. You'll slide backwards, you will lose ground. You may try to gain ground, but you will more quickly lose ground.
So this is a metaphor, and the book of Jeremiah is filled with metaphor like this-- 21 different pictures of judgment. And that's because Jeremiah was a good communicator. He didn't just help people hear it, he wanted people to see it. So he chose very, very vivid language for that to happen.
Here's another example-- chapter 4, verse 3. See, we're making progress. "For thus says the Lord to the men of Judah and Jerusalem, break up your fallow ground. This is agricultural terminology. "And do not sow among thorns. Circumcise," different metaphor, obviously. "Circumcise yourselves to the Lord and take away the foreskin of your hearts, you men of Judah, you inhabitants of Jerusalem, lest my fury come forth like fire and burn so that no one can quench it because of the evil of your doings."
Now, chapter 5 and chapter 6 happened to be during that reform I told you about. Remember I mentioned King Josiah, the good king, who heard the law, tore his robe, humbled himself, turned to God in sincerity? Some of the leaders did, too, but it was really a superficial turning as far as the general population was concerned. OK, man, the king's into this. We better get into it, too.
Any pig can fly in a hurricane, and anybody can jump on a bandwagon. And it's like, ah, there's a Jesus movement happening. I'm going to jump on. And there's a revival-- OK, I'm going to get in, because the King-- I want him to be happy with me, so I'll do it, too.
So it was very superficial. It wasn't a national turning at all. There was no real change. So chapter 6, verse 13, kind of isolates one of the problems here.
it Says, "Because from the least of them, even to the greatest of them, everyone is given to covetousness. And from the prophet, even to the priest, everyone deals falsely. They have also healed the hurt of my people slightly saying, peace, peace, when there is no peace."
Now, there's a couple of bad groups here. One group is politicians, which I generally find is a bad group, anyway. Just honestly speaking-- very hard to find a good one. I find good, godly ones very rarely. They're out there, but I also know God uses them.
I know God uses them. And God sets them on thrones and brings them down, raises them up. The Bible says that. And we're told to pray for them. Anybody in elected office, you should pray for, whether you voted for them or not, whether you like them or not, whether you like their policies or not, whether you agree with their tweets or not.
You're to pray for every single leader. Is that right, or wrong?
[APPLAUSE, CHEERING, CHATTER]
So bad group number one-- politicians, here. And I'll tell you why in a minute. Bad group number two-- prophets. And as suspect as politicians are, preachers are often-- I'm very suspicious of preachers. I am one, but I'm still very, very skeptical of many of them, if not most of them.
And in this case, you had politicians and prophets-- preachers-- who wanted the people of Judah to not be worried about the reports of Jeremiah saying the sky is falling, the sky is falling, Babylon is coming. They wanted to quiet that kind of anxiety in the hearts of the people. And so politicians went to form alliances with other nations rather than trusting God. We covered that last week. And prophets wanted to preach fun, feel-good, happy messages.
Enter Jeremiah the prophet, who brought truth. And they didn't want to hear the truth. And it will get him in trouble. So this bad group of prophets and politicians were trying to treat the real core problem of Judah superficially. They were-- if I can use this metaphor-- putting a Band-Aid on an arterial bleed. The patient would bleed out. They were quacks.
I read a true story about a 50-year-old nurse. You think she would know better. She had ovarian cancer-- very, very difficult form of cancer to eradicate. She was scheduled to go into surgery and chemotherapy afterwards, a lot of treatments. My wife had a very similar cancer, so I know the routine.
But a doctor said, I found this ointment, this black salve that has healed many cancers, including my own. She canceled her surgery, submitted to his treatment and, after several months, became far worse. And the area he treated with his black salve became highly infected, and she ended up dying.
Jeremiah is the true doctor. These other guys are quacks. And the nation loves it, because they don't want to hear the truth-- that you need surgery.
So chapter 7 through 10, Jeremiah goes to ground zero, and that is the temple of God itself. Chapter 7 to 10, we call them temple discourses. He is sent to the temple, the main worship center in Jerusalem, to preach sermons. There is another temple sermon in chapter 26. We won't get to that.
Chapter 7, verse 2, God says, "Stand in the gate of the lord's house and proclaim there this word and say, hear the word of the Lord all you of Judah who enter into these gates to worship the Lord, thus says the Lord of hosts, the God of Israel. Amend your ways and your doings, and I will cause you to dwell in this place. Do not trust in these lying words of the false prophets and politicians saying, the temple of the Lord, the temple of the Lord, the temple of the Lord, are these."
What does that mean? It means that these false prophets and bad politicians were saying, look around you. This is the temple built by King Solomon. This is the center of worship.
God wouldn't let anything happen to this, just like somebody would say, God would never let anything happen to the US. God wouldn't let anything happen to Judah or this temple. This is the temple of the lord.
And so Jeremiah has to go where all the people are gathering, maybe even on one of the three pilgrim feasts, like Passover, or Pentecost, or Tabernacles. And there's thousands of people coming in saying, don't trust in these lying words. Part of the problem is that the people retained the symbol of worship but left the substance of worship. The symbol is the temple, the substance is the lord of the temple.
There are many people who are content with ritual short of a relationship. They'll keep the ritual. Hey, are you a Christian? Do you know God? Do you know you're going to go to Heaven? Well, you know, I was raised in the church.
Translate what they're saying-- I believe in the ritual. I was baptized by my parents. I was confirmed when I was a child. My parents took me to church. They always taught me.
What about your relationship? So many like this trust in the ritual short of an actual relationship. Some look to a place as a holy place.
Fast forward to the New Testament. Are there any holy places? Are there any holy places? Well, every place is holy in that sense. Wherever God is-- that's holy.
But are there holy temples that are holier than others? No, there are no holy places in the New Testament. God does not dwell in temples made with hands, as the prophet said. That's Stephen's sermon, in the book of Acts. So there is no holy places, but there are holy people.
So the holy place that God dwells in now are people-- you. You're the temple of the Holy Spirit. He lives in you. So they were looking to the place, but they didn't become holy people. So that is part of the problem.
So it gets so bad that, in verse 16, God tells Jeremiah not to pray for the people anymore-- first time God ever gave that commandment to a prophet. He says, don't even pray for these people, because it's a waste of your breath. I'm not going to answer it. They've now crossed the line of no return.
Chapter 11 through 20 is what I'm going to call performance prophecy. You saw a great performance by Cindy moments ago as she took to the little clay and she molded it into a vessel. Here, Jeremiah-- in chapters 11 through 20-- uses visual aids to get people's attention. They would look, they would get the message as he would do certain things.
So chapter 13, God becomes Jeremiah's fashion consultant and says, hey, Jerry, go take this piece of cloth, this sash, and bury it in the muddy ground. Then, after a while, take it out and wear it. And that would be a prophecy-- a symbol of Judah's pride-- that has become beat up, and worn out, and soaked, and sullen, and useless.
In chapter 16, God says, Jeremiah, don't get married. Stay single. Don't you dare raise a family in this place. Now, why would he do that? That's an unusual request, because typically by age 20, all Jewish males were well married by that time in that day and age.
By 20, they were married. They were expected to be. In fact, a Jewish rabbi even said, of all of the people who will not enter heaven is a Jewish man who has no wife. So they expected people to get married. God says, don't get married. Don't raise a family. Why?
Chapter 16, verse 2, "You will not take a wife. You shall not have sons or daughters in this place," here's why, "for thus, says the Lord concerning the sons and daughters who are born in this place, concerning their mothers who bore them and their fathers who begot them in the land, they shall die gruesome deaths. They shall not be lamented, nor shall they be buried, but they shall be like refuse or dung on the face of the earth. They shall be consumed by the sword and by famine, and their corpses shall be meat, food for the birds of heaven and for the beasts of the earth." Now, that's a good incentive to stay single.
Chapter 18, Jeremiah's invited to Pottery Barn-- that is, the house of the potter-- where he would go to the workshop, watch the potter make a vessel on the potter's wheel, watch as that vessel became marred in the potter's hands, watch as the potter then took that marred vessel and reshaped it into something different. In chapter 19, Jeremiah is told to take a pot from Pottery Barn, from the potter's house, go outside the city of Jerusalem, outside the gate, and smash it. And here's why-- chapter 19, verse 1.
"Thus says the Lord, go get a potter's earthen flask, and take some of the elders of the people, and some of the elders of the priest. Then you shall break this flask in the sight of the men who go with you and say to them, thus says the Lord of hosts, even so, I will break this people and this city as one breaks the potter's vessel, which cannot be made whole again. And they shall bury them in Tophet, until there is no place to bury."
There's several of these kinds of sermons in this book. I heard that, when a speaker speaks like I'm doing now, people who listen will retain. If they're listening very carefully-- some of you are. Not all of you are, but some of you are.
If you're listening very carefully to my words tonight, you're going to remember-- at best-- 10%. If you listen to this twice-- that is, if you go home, go, I'm going to get on the computer and listen to it again-- you'll remember 25%. And that's very discouraging to a guy who speaks.
If you want to up your odds, you show them. If they see something, people usually retain about 50% of what they see. I guarantee everybody who saw Jeremiah break this jar that day remembered every detail of what they saw. And then, they would be more inclined to remember the message that he gave.
Now, Jeremiah gets discouraged, because-- and here's one of the reasons. Chapter 20, verse 1. "Now Pashhur, the son of Immer, the priest who was also chief governor in the house of the Lord, heard that Jeremiah prophesied these things. Then Pashhur struck Jeremiah and put him in the stocks that were in the high gate of Benjamin, which was in the house of the lord."
Now, what do you think Jeremiah is thinking at this point? This isn't in my job description. I didn't sign up for this. I'm not feeling it, man. Maybe all of the above.
He was so discouraged, he wanted to quit the ministry. We understand that. I understand that.
Verse 9, "Then I said, after all this bad turn of events," he's now in prison. "Then I said, I will not make mention of him nor speak any more in his name." This is Jeremiah turning in his resignation. He's quitting. Jeremiah the prophet now wants to become a non-profit organization.
I quit the ministry. I'm done-for. I'm out. Well, we're not done with the book, yet. What kept him going? Verse 9 continues.
"But his word was in my heart like a burning fire, shut up in my bones. I was weary of holding it back, and I could not." There's something about God's word, and I had to look for an opportunity to get it out.
Do you remember those two disciples who were discouraged on the Road to Emmaus? They didn't know Jesus rose from the dead. He walks up to them, incognito. He speaks to them from the Old Testament. Once Jesus is revealed to them, they said, did not our hearts burn within us as he spoke to us along the way?
What burned? God's word. What did he do? Speak to them. He spoke to them. The word of God-- it burned within them, it motivated them. And for Jeremiah, likewise, God's word motivated him to keep on in ministry.
DL Moody was a preacher in Chicago a century ago. He said, I know the Bible is inspired, because it inspires me. Something about God's word-- that gets me, yours truly, out of many a rut.
Martin Luther put it this way-- the Bible has hands. It lays hold of him. It has feet. It runs after me. It's like this living entity that grabs a hold of my life and picks me up when I'm at my lowest.
So he's ready to quit, and he does it. And we'll continue finishing-- get this-- the book of Jeremiah. And it's perfect, because the very short book of Lamentations should be tacked onto the study of the book of Jeremiah. So we're going to take next week, the book of Jeremiah, part 2, and the book of lamentations, where he is seeing Jerusalem falling and comments on it.
Father, we thank you for your word that has sustained us through some very deep moments of our lives. Some of us, Lord, who have doubted a relationship we're in, doubted your calling us into that relationship, doubted a calling that we had once were very, very secure about and sure about. At times, we were very weary, and confused, and anxious. At times, we lost sleep, or were even very depressed.
Then, you spoke a word, a verse. We heard a message. We heard a promise. And we were lifted up out of the mirey clay, and you set our feet upon a rock. You established our goings.
Lord, do that for those who find themselves in very similar circumstances here tonight. I pray for those who are very weak, very desperate. Lord, we know that, in any group, there is going to be several who are in that condition. Or they're pleading for somebody else that they're close to. Would you speak your word to them?
Use, even, some of the word already spoken through the promises and prophecies of Jeremiah to encourage their hearts. Give them courage to go on. And then, Lord, use them to speak words of hope and encouragement to others. Rebuke, if need be, like Jeremiah, but always filled with hope at the possibility of those listening turning to you and making the best out of what is left in a person's life. We ask these things in Jesus' name, amen.
We hope you enjoyed this message from Skip Heitzig of Calvary Church. For more resources, visit CalvaryNM.church. Thank you for joining us for this teaching from The Bible from 30,000 Feet.