Let's open our Bibles to the Book of Jeremiah. Father, we now present our bodies as living sacrifices and we are thankful Lord that we have a brother with us and others, brothers and sisters watching in California, watching back East and Belize and other places, Lord that we feel connected to and a part of them and we pray for them and their families, their spiritual growth and their community, Your blessing upon them.
We pray Father for rich blessings upon us as we gather and Lord we worship You, You are the center of attention tonight in this place. You are the theme of the songs. This book was written about You and for Your praise and glory and we pray Lord that our hearts would be right before you tonight. And that our minds would be focused upon truth, Lord as we gathered here from the prophet Jeremiah, in Jesus name. Amen.
Well, Jeremiah, was a bullfrog, no I am just kidding. "Do you remember that song, Three Dog night?", I just had to say that, and actually that was my first introduction to the name Jeremiah, I wasn't a Bible reader growing up so it was that Three Dog Night song, joyed at the world that I first heard of Jeremiah, so when I read the book of Jeremiah, I couldn't get that out of my mind, every page Jeremiah was a bullfrog, was a good friend of mine and that shows you how Biblically illiterate we can be as Americans, sometimes.
In fact, a lot of us know more about songs like Three Dog Night that we do about the actual prophet Jeremiah, but we are going to overview the 52 chapters in the Book of Jeremiah and because there are so many we can only overview them by way of outlining it and drawing out some very important salient principles. Now, "do you remember the story of chicken little?" How chicken little walked out one day and an acorn fell on her head, I think I have the story right and she shook and she was so scared that half of her feathers fell out and she said, "the sky is falling, the sky is falling and I have to go tell the king".
Jeremiah had a very precarious position of declaring to the nation of Judah, that the sky was falling. Judgment was coming. The Babylonians were on their way, but he was up against a group of prophets, false prophets who were saying just the opposite. The sky is not falling, everything is just fine, there is nothing at all to worry about.
So Jeremiah, because of the situation had to be both tough and tender and really that's a good way to remember Jeremiah, he was a tender warrior. He had enough toughness to get the job done, but he was also very tender toward God's people and that shows up through this book.
In fact, by the way I would say that's a good qualification for any leader. A leader needs to be tender, because if he is just tough, then he can come off his pride for arrogant, aloof, non-caring, but if you are too tender, you can't really be a leader and call very important decisions at the time of crisis.
I have always loved that the description of a good pastor, by Stuart Briscoe, he said that a good pastor should the mind of a scholar, the heart of a child, and the height of a rhinoceros.
Jeremiah had such a make up, he is a tender warrior, in fact, Jeremiah reminds us of Jesus, "did you know by the way that, that was one of the rumors going around about Jesus?". Remember when Jesus asked them in Matthew 16, "Whom do men say that I the Son of man am"? Some say you are John the Baptist, others say "You are Jeremiah or one of the prophets".
Now, why would they say that? Well, there are certain characteristics about Jeremiah that were present in Jesus.
Jeremiah, could be tough, Jesus could be tough, like the time he said to the Pharisees, "woe unto you, hypocrites", over and over again he used that term.
On the other hand, Jesus was tender like Jeremiah, said to the paralytic, "Son be a good cheer, your sins are forgiven".
Jeremiah is called the "weeping prophet", because of some passages in this book and in the next book, the Book of Lamentations also written by Jeremiah, the prophet.
Jesus wept over Jerusalem as he saw Jerusalem for the final time before his crucification and he wept and said, "Oh Jerusalem! Jerusalem! how often I would have gathered you like a hand gathers a young, but you were not willing."
Now I want to give you an outline of the book and it's an outline that I came up with and I hope it's helpful and it's really comprised of one chapter, the bulk of all of the rest of the chapters and then the final chapter.
So we have preparation, number 1, proclamations, number 2 and prediction, number 3. So here is the outline.
Chapter 1 is the preparation of Jeremiah formulated. That is God calls him, God prepares him, with what he is about to be doing. Preparations of Jeremiah formulated.
Then Chapters 2 through Chapter 51 are proclamations of Jeremiah foretold. The rest of the book is really a book of proclamations, proclamations against Judah and against nations.
So under number 2, large A, it's proclamations against Judah, that's Chapter 2 to Chapter 45 and then proclamations against the other nations that would be the large B under 2 and that's Chapter 46 through 51.
Then the third division is simply the last chapter and that is the prediction of Jeremiah fulfilled. Everything Jeremiah said would happen to Judah, happened and it's recapped in that last chapter.
Let's go to Jeremiah Chapter 1, verse 1, the word's of Jeremiah, the son of Hilkiah, of the priest who were in Anathoth in the land of Benjamin. This is just a little town about three miles from Jerusalem, to whom the word of the Lord came in the days of "Josiah" the son of Amon, the king of Judah, in the thirteenth year of his reign.
They came also in the days of Jehovah, came, the son of Josiah, the king of Judah, until the end of the eleventh year of Zedekiah, the son of Josiah, the king of Judah, until the carrying away of Jerusalem, captive in the fifth month.
So we just read a bunch of verses and you read a bunch of names, you might be thinking "so what?"
So let me just give it to you this way: Jeremiah had a forty-year ministry that spanned at the reign of five different kings.
Not all of them are mentioned here, so, I am going to mention them all in order.
First of all, the reign of Josiah, Josiah was a good guy, he was a good king. He brought in reforms, spiritual reforms, not quite revival, but almost real spiritual reformation and so towards the end of that reign came the prophet Jeremiah. That's first Josiah.
After Josiah, Jehovah has his son, became king. Now he is not mentioned because he only lasted three months and then he was deposed by the Egyptians.
So he barely even got the throne warm, Jehovah has did and he was dethroned and taken to Egypt.
The Egyptians put and Jehovah has his place, his brother named Eliakim. Okay, it gets worse, because they changed his name to Jehoiakim.
So Eliakim aka Jehoiakim took the place of Johevahs, by the Egyptians. Now he lasted, that is Jehoiakim, eleven years. Now while he was king, Jeremiah came to Jehoiakim and said, "hey! Whatever you do, don't rebel against the Babylonians, don't mess with Nebuchadnezzar, don't rebel.
He didn't listen, he rebelled, the Babylonians took him off the throne and put somebody else in charge, Jehoiachin, see how bad it gets from Eliakim to Jehoiakim to now to Jehoiachin. Now Jehoiachin, he didn't last long either, he lasted three months and ten days.
The Babylonians took him off the throne, took him captive to Babylon and put a guy, last kind, mentioned here, Zedekiah, and king Zedekiah lasted on the throne of Judah, he was the final king until 586 B.C. when the Babylonians came in, destroyed the city, Zedekiah fled for his life, they caught him down in the Jordan Valley and gouged out his eyes and took him to Babylonia.
That's what Jeremiah was up against.
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".
That's a very important verse, it's one of my favorite verses in the book of Jeremiah and when I read it I can't help, but think I am so glad that Jeremiah's mother didn't terminate the pregnancy, because God said, "I knew you before you were born, my plan for your life started way before you even came out of the womb".
It shows us how the Bible views life and the sanctity of life and when life begins, they have to do is look at the Bible. Life begins in zygote form. As soon as that sperm and egg unite and the cell start dividing at a very primitive stage, person-hood exists. Now, I am going to tell you a little story. This was a story that a Bioethics Professor gave to her class to challenge faulty human reasoning. Here is the story.
She said, "How would you advise a mother who is pregnant with her fifth child based on the following data." Her husband had syphilis, she has tuberculosis. The first child was born blind, the second child died, the third child was born deaf, the fourth child had tuberculosis. Now, the mother is considering an abortion, the professor would not. Would you advise her to have one? Most of the students agreed, she should have an abortion based on the medical data of the parents. The teacher then said, "Congratulations! You've just killed one of the world's greatest composers Ludwig van Beethoven." That's the medical history of his family.
God says, Jeremiah, before you even became a bullfrog, no, I mean a prophet, before you were even born, I knew you. And my plan for you began very early on. To me, that's exciting to think God has a plan for us. Let's discover what it is. Then, I said Verse 6, Ah, Lord God behold, I cannot speak for, I am a youth. It's probably between age 20 and 25 when God called him. But the Lord said to me, "Do not say 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 for I am with you to deliver you". I think that's really good, because sometimes when you look at a crowd of faces, there are some people in the crowd that have 'Yes Faces'. There are other people who have 'No Faces'. They just look grumpy. They are not necessarily, but if you look at their face and then you project, what are they thinking about me, it can get really weird.
So God tells this young man, "Don't even worry about looking at them. I am going to put my words in your mouth". Now, something that you've probably noticed about some of the greatest people in the Bible that God has used is that when God calls them often times they are the very ones who think, I can't do this, and thus they are qualified, because they don't trust themselves. They are now having the trust the one who called them.
So when God called Moses, the Moses go, "I am finally glad you asked." It's about time, do you know who I am?" He said, "Lord, they're not going to listen to me. I am a man of uncircumcised or faulty speech, uncircumcised (ph).
When God called the Prophet Isaiah, "Wow! It's me, for I am undone" said young Isaiah, "I am a man of unclean lips, I live in a generation of unclean lips". When God called Paul, the apostle, you know what Paul said about himself, "I, who am less than the least of all the saints, this grace was given that I might preach among the gentiles, the unsearchable riches of Christ". You notice a pattern that God calls people like Jeremiah, but they are very familiar with their own inadequacy, their own inability, their own inexperience as was this 20 to 25 year old prophet. But, Paul told young Timothy, "Let no man despise your youth, or don't let them look down on you because you are young". I am sure this 20 year old or 25 year old young prophet, the idea of going before the kings of Judah and the people in Jerusalem, and the priest at the temple, and then the emissaries to the nations that he would speak was a daunting task, but that was the calling.
Now, I have got to tell you this. This is an interesting fact about Jeremiah, because it sounds really good, God is calling him, he get all excited. He preached for four decades. He didn't see one single conversion. Now, one person turned. No one listened to him. No one admitted his words into their hearts. No one took it to heart. So we would look at that and go, he was a failure, maybe he shouldn't have gone, maybe he was right. He is young and inexperienced. But he is not, because later on, in captivity, they would read this book. I'll show you that in a minute, it's fabulous. He also predicted the captivity and the return of the captivity which would comfort the Jews for generations to come. He was God's spokesperson, though he didn't see immediate results, there were eventual results.
Chapter 2 through 45 is the proclamation of Jeremiah against Judah. Though they are denunciatory in nature, something striking about Jeremiah, is his words are filled with tenderness and pathos. Look at chapter 2:1, "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 is getting to look back over their history, when they used to live in Egypt, and were slaves in Egypt, and then God brought them out in the desert, and they only had God to trust in.
They had no water, they had no food, man had to fall from heaven, water had to come from the rock, and it was that daily trusting in God. God said, "I missed that. I longed for that. I loved it when it was just you and me and there wasn't all of the fancy organizational rigmarole that you have placed between you and me. I miss just those early days".
Now, this is very similar to what the Lord Jesus said to the Church of Ephesus, remember from where you have fallen. You have left your first love. That tender relationship that a person has with Christ, you remember it, remember it well. It was just the Bible and you trust God, the Holy Spirit will reveal things to you, and he will guide you in his word and then you started learning a few things and become a little smarter and then you got maybe even weird, I don't know.
God says, "I just miss it when it was just that innocent early stage of our relationship. You know as a pastor one of the things that break my heart, is to see people that I have counseled or married over the years not getting along. Sitting across from me in an office, looking at each other, and one says about the other, "I don't love her anymore. I don't love him anymore" and I am thinking, goodness, I remember ten years ago. Your eyes are like puppy eyes, you are like little drool coming out of your mouth when you looked at or now you don't want to be around her. What happened, what happened to that? It wasn't overnight.
I'll tell you that it was a long, slow erosive process of a couple leaving their first love, and with the Church of Ephesus I mentioned them, that little postcard that Jesus wrote in revelation, guess what? That was written 60 years after the church was founded. In 60 years time, a church that was a lighthouse to that part of the world is completely dwindled away, very short period of time this can happen.
Okay, let's move on to Verse 9. Therefore, I will yet bring charges against you says the Lord, and against your children's children, I will bring charges. This is legal terminology for filing a lawsuit in the Old Testament in court.
Verse 13, For my people have committed two evils. Speaking now these are proclamations against Judah. My people have committed two evils. They have forsaken me the fountain of living waters and huened (ph) themselves cisterns, broken cisterns that can hold no water. Let me explain that.
There were two ways of getting water back then. One was through rivers, streams and the other was rainfall collected in cisterns. Now, when water ran in a stream, moving water, that's what it was, it was moving water, the Hebrews called it living water. It's alive, it's not stagnant. It's moving quickly. That's where the term 'Living Water' even in the New Testament derives its meaning from a moving stream of fresh water.
The other way is by rainfall, and because they didn't have abundance of rivers in that part of the world, they depended on yearly winter rainfall. So when the rain came, the early rain, the Yoreh in Hebrew, the latter rain, the Malqoesh in Hebrew. They would always collect the water in these big rock swimming pools called cisterns that would collect the water. Problem is, once you dig out the cistern, you may not realize until it's done that the rock you used had an inherent defect, a fissure, a crack. So you get it all done, you plaster it all, and then you know, just a little bit of size making activity in a single year and there is a huge crack and all the water is drained out.
So God is saying, "You guys left moving water, living water, my refreshment, and you have had to replace my refreshment, the source of refreshment with your own devices. You have gotten refreshed by forming alliances with Egypt, forming alliances with the Syria, you forgotten to trust me. You have left the refreshment, you've turned to broken cisterns that can hold no water"
Remember the day the Jesus went to Samaria and saw that woman at the well. Remember what He said to her, one of the things He said, "Hey! If you drink this water, you'll get thirsty again. But, whoever drinks the water that I give will never thirst." He spoke about living water. Then she was all cocking and she said, "Sir, give me some of that living water, so I don't have to run to the well everyday and pick it up."
He spoke about living water, you could write that saying over every human endeavor. What is it you are looking for happiness from in your life? Drinking this water and you'll thirst again, relationship is it? Drinking this water, you'll thirst again, lot of money, drinking this water, you'll thirst again, position, drinking this water, you will thirst again, broken cisterns. NBC had a TV special a while ago, while back, and it was called The Mystery of Happiness: Who Has It & How to Get It, that's what the show was called, The Mystery of Happiness: Who Has It & How to Get It, and they ask people what is happiness? I don't know how you would answer it, but let me tell you a few answers that people on TV had.
One guy said, "Happiness is $10 million". He had a figure in mind. Another person said, "Happiness is just more ready cash." Another person said, "Happiness would be a castle, if I had a castle." Another person in the documentary said, "A private Island, that would be happiness." And then one guy predictably said, "A bunch of women." That's happiness for you, not the women.
Now, I do see striking similarities to what happened to Judah and what is happening to America. I am not going to follow it down to the pinpoint, they are just some things that are hauntingly familiar. For instance, we have decided to rule God out of national life so to speak. For the most part, God that once was okay even in national life, even in public prayers, even in political arenas is just so dicey now to do that.
In public schools, you can do anything almost except pray. God has been ruled out of national life, out of public life, out of scholastic life. There is even a group as you know, they have been for sometime trying to strike the phrase out of the pledge of the legends that says, one nation under God, 67% of Americans; that's a lot, and that 67%, that's most of them believe there is nothing called right and wrong. There is no such thing as right and wrong, definite right, definite wrong; black and white. 67% of Americans are existential in their world view. There is no such thing as right and wrong.
Now over the years, I have been listening to a lot of people, politicians, and religious leaders, and I hear religious leaders often say, "If America doesn't turn soon, God is going to judge America." Well, I agree with that, I'll say something that is probably controversial. I think maybe perhaps it's already started. It's not going to come, it's here, and it's been here for a while. We just don't see it.
The reason I would say that is because one of the first indicators that God has decided to judge a nation is when he turns that nation over to its own desires. That's Romans Chapter 1, when God does that, okay you want that, you can have that, and judgment has begun and God's wrath has turned on them by simply giving them their own desires. Arnold Toynbee, the historian wrote, out of 22 civilizations that have been appearing in the history of the world, 19 collapsed when they reach the present moral condition of the United States of America.
Go down to Verse 14 "Return", he says, "O backsliding children," says the Lord; "For I am married to you, I will take you one from a city, two from a family, and I will bring you to Zion" Chapter 3:22, same message, "Return you backsliding children and I will heal your backslidings."
Now, you have heard the term backslide or backsliding. It's a term that comes from the Old Testament, 16 times the word appears in the Old Testament. It simply means to leave your original position. I remember when you were in the wilderness, remember we just read that, the love of your betrothal, how sweet it was when you just trusted to me. They left their original position. They backslid in their relationship with God. So you will find that throughout this book, and you'll find something else.
Jeremiah is very colorful. He use this colorful language, he is a good communicator. He draws pictures for your mind to see. There is 21 different metaphors for judgment used in Jeremiah alone, besides other word pictures for a number of other things. For an example, go to Chapter 4:3. Look at this example of same message against Judah. For thus says, the Lord to the men of Judah and Jerusalem, "Break up your fallow ground, and do not sow among thorns. Break up the hardened untilled, that's fallow ground."
Now, every winter after the rain stop, the last part of the winter and that part of the world, farmers go out, and that's where they do this. They break up the fallow ground, the pull the weeds, they pull thorns, they move rocks and debris, and they take the hardened topsoil and break it up with the plough. So that the seeds they plant will take root and grow and bring a harvest. So spiritually speaking, can you apply that, break up the fallow ground as H.A. Ironside put it, "The ploughshare of conviction must overturn the hardened soil of the heart." That's the message God is saying to these people in Jerusalem.
Let the conviction of God really dig into your heart, feel what I am saying. Let that topsoil, as allowed you to listen the words of prophets and preachers and turn them off, let them sink in, break up the fallow ground. Even Jesus gave a beautiful parable of the sower and the seed and you remember he said, "Some of seed fell among the thorns which choked up the seed and it became unfruitful."
In other words, the farmer didn't get out there and pull those weeds that can grow and choke up the seed, here is a believer who is torn between the things of the world, and the things of the Lord. He has too much Jesus in him to be really satisfied in the world, but really too much of the world than him to really be satisfied in Jesus. They choked seeds, break up the fallow ground.
Chapter 5 and 6, are prophecies that were given during the early reforms of that first King I mentioned, King Josiah, the good guy who brought a measure of revival, a measure of reform. But it was really superficial, it didn't last very long. So there was this emotional uproar, and other people saw the emotion and they decided to be a part of it, but overtime it didn't last.
There is an old saying that a friend of mine likes to use, he said, "You know, Skip, any pig can fly in a hurricane." There is a good wisdom in that, any pig can fly in a hurricane. You just get enough storm going on and lot of people get involved in this storm flying around, so what, how long will it last? A lot of time what poses as revival isn't revival at all, it's simply an emotion eruption without lasting through. That was one of the problems in Jeremiah's time, Chapter 6:13, "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.
Let me explain, there was two groups back then. Two groups of leaders that wanted to spare the people from the panic of an impending invasion from Babylon: you follow me. Now these two groups that wanted to spare the people from the panic of the impending invasion of Babylon were politicians and prophets; false prophets.
Now, the politicians wanted to do it by forming alliances with other nations instead of trusting God. We'll make these political, we'll sit down and negotiate with Egypt and the Syria and form a strong political alliance, and that's sparing the people from what happened anyway.
Second, were the prophets who wanted to preach fun messages, relevant messages, feel good messages, and keep out all of God's judgment because people don't like to hear that. So they were spiritual quacks. That's what it means when he says, you have healed the hurt of my people slightly saying, peace, peace when there is no peace. You guys, you politicians, you prophets are simply treating the problems superficially. It's like putting a band-aid on an arterial bleed. Anybody who would treat that way is a quack. You just can't treat it so superficially, you have to treat it radically, drastically. You need a surgeon in there.
I read a description one time by an author who described the condition of our world right now, and the condition of some spiritual leaders and politicians like this. He said, "The world is like a ship that is sinking." They don't know it, but the captain knows it. He knows the ship is sinking. So the captain turns to the whole group of people on the boat and he says, "Okay, let me just tell you something, all the rules are dropped now. If you are in second or third class, you can move up to first class free of charge. All the drinks are free, you can have as much booze as you want. You can party in the dinning hall if you like, play soccer in the dinning room. You break the lamps, we don't care. We want you to have a good time. So what will all the people of boat think? What a cool captain! He gives us so much freedom, he is like so nice, he thinks about us. What they don't know is they will be dead in five minutes." The nation is sinking, and you have got these false prophets and flimsy politicians who are healing slightly the hurt of the people.
Chapter 7 through 10, we call them the temple discourses, and that's because he preached them, where do you think? The temple, very good. So Jeremiah is called by God to go now up to the gates of the temple and give these messages to people who are going to Church, going to Temple, including priest, including the people who would bring the sacrifices.
Chapter 7:2, "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 saying, "The temple of the Lord, the temple of the Lord, the temple of the Lord are these."
You get the picture. People were saying, as long as we go to Church man, everything is going to be okay. As long as we go to the temple, you know, judgment is coming, I want to go to the temple. I went to temple today, everything is okay, the temple of the Lord.
Now, it is mentioned three times, temple of the Lord, temple of the Lord, temple of the Lord to these. I think to symbolize the three great feats (ph) that the people all over the land had to go to three times a year Passover, Pentecost, and Tabernacles, they had appeared in Jerusalem and they thought as long as we are going to the temple, everything is okay. It was all superficial. Now, listen carefully, this is what they did wrong. They retained the symbol of worship. They threw out the substance of worship. It's all about the symbol. God cared about the substance, do you really worship me and love me, and submit to me? For them, it was all about a ritual done in a place rather than a relationship with a person. They wanted the ritual in the place, God wanted the relationship with the person himself. The temple of the Lord, the temple of the Lord are these.
Verse 16 is so severe, God tells Jeremiah not to pray for these people anymore. Now, I am showing you that because this is the one and only time in the Bible where God tells one of the servants, "Stop praying because I won't even listen to you when you pray for these people anymore. I am done, it's over. I am way done, judgment is coming.
Chapter 9:23, again part of the temple discourses. Thus says the Lord, "Let not the wise man glory in his wisdom." Some of you tonight are bright, wise, you have advanced degrees, you think clearly and with perspicuity, you've got brains, you are wise. Let not the wise man glory in his wisdom. Let not the mighty man glory in his might, maybe you have position, power, clout. You know people, you can get on the phone, and people will move because you are mighty.
Let not the rich man, maybe God has blessed you financially, glory in his riches. But let him the glories glory in this, that he understands and knows me, that I am the Lord, exercising loving kindness, judgment, and righteousness, in the earth, for in these I delight says the Lord. So they boasted in minds, money, and might. Those were their idols, minds; the brains, money; their pocket book, and their might; their power. They basically were fat and sassy, and grew in their prosperity and had forgotten God. I want you to listen to this. I am going to read something to you by one of our presidents.
Now, this was spoken by President Abraham Lincoln way back in 1863. So I wonder have we gotten any verse at all as a nation from 1863 till today? Okay, so listen to what he asses the nation as back in 1863. "We have grown in numbers, in wealth, and in power as no other nation has ever grown; but we have forgotten God and we have vainly imagined in the deceitfulness of our own hearts, that all these blessings were produced by some superior wisdom and virtue of our own." There is a man who thought for what it was. There is a man who was a clear thinking godly leader. We have turned from God, we have forgotten God, we think it's all about us, look what we have done. You are on your way down as a nation when you think that.
Chapters 11 through 20 are filled with personal experiences of Jeremiah. There is the plots of evil, men and leaders in Jerusalem, as well as Jeremiah preaching very extravagantly with visual aids. We'll just touch on a few of these. Chapter 13, God becomes Jeremiah's fashion consultant. Says, "Jeremiah, here, wear this beautiful pure linen sash", which was a symbol of the pride of Judah. Then, he was to water (ph) it up, and bury it under a rock by a river and got soiled, and he was to bring it out and display it to all the people, and that's how he began his message.
Chapter 16; go over to that, God tells Jeremiah the prophet not to get married, to remain single. Sort of a bummer, isn’t. He says, "Don't get marry Jeremiah, don't have a kid, don't have a family in this place because this place is the place of judgment." It's going to get really bad here, you are not going to want a family.
Verse 2 of Chapter 16, "You shall not take a wife, nor shall you have sons or daughters in this place" which was unusual because did you know back then Jewish man by age 20 were typically married, typically married, Joseph and Mary, they were teenagers probably, certainly Mary was.
In fact, there was a saying by some of the Rabbis that said, "Of a list of the people that won't go to heaven first on the list, a Jewish man who has no wife. So if you didn't get marry, they thought you are weird." Something is off with you. God says don't do it, don't get married. For thus says the Lord concerning to sons and daughters who are born in this place and concerning their mothers who bore them and the fathers who begot them in this land, they shall die gruesome deaths, they shall not be lamented, nor shall they be buried. They shall be like refuse on the face of the earth. They shall be consumed by the soredom (ph), by famine, and their corpses shall be meat for the birds of heaven and for the beasts of the earth.
Now over in Chapter 18, Jeremiah is invited to pottery barn, that is he says, he has told, "Go down to the house of the potter; which is down in the Kidron Valley, it's always down where the springs of water were because the amount of water they needed for their craft and he was watching a potter work something on the wheel, and the pot got marred in the potter's hand, and the potter had to discard it and reshape it.
Now, a pot as long as there was water in it, you could reshape it. If you leave it alone and it lose its moisture and gets hardened, the only thing you do with it is you break it, and you grind it up and it becomes refuse or part of the path. Go down to the potter's house he’s told to watch an illustration of what God was going to do because of the hardness of Judah's heart.
Chapter 19, Jeremiah has told to get a pot from pottery barn, from the potter's house. Now, a dried pot and to smash it in front of the people, showing the God will break the pride of Judah and smash the nation in captivity. So this isn't smashing pumpkins, this is smashing pottery.
Chapter 19:1 thus says the Lord, "Go and get a potter’s earthen flask, and take some of the elders of the people and some of the elders of the priests." Verse 10, "Then you shall break the 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 a potter’s vessel, which cannot be made whole again; and they shall bury them in Tophet, a valley there and a little incinerating area there, until there is no place to bury.
So some of Jeremiah's preaching you notice is very visual. Now keep that in mind because when we get to the book of Ezekiel, that guy is like really visual, and people remember that, it is true. I somewhere read that people will remember 10% of what they hear and they'll remember 50% of what they see. So if you can visualize, you can empathize. That's why when we take people to Israel and we show them the land, their Bible is different, they see it now. It is true, I mean, I've seen movies over the years with my wife and she'll say, "Hey! Look at the title of movie, we're going to see that movie." She goes, "Oh! You've already seen it.’ And I go, "No, I've never seen that movie."
Well, this in it and that in it and this was sad and I go, "I never saw it. I know what I saw, I never saw it." And then we'll turn it on, and just a few scenes go by and I remember what I see more than what I hear and I go, "I've already seen this."
Now, here's what's really bad for people who give messages like myself. People remember 10% of what they hear. People will remember 25% of what they hear if it's told them twice, which means, you'll only remember 25% of this message. If you go by the CD and listen to it again, if not, only 10% of the message. So 25% retained if they are told it twice. Let me repeat that. Now, I am just kidding. You get the idea.
Verse 1 of chapter 20, let's quickly move through. 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 the prophet, and put him in stocks that were in the high gate of Benjamin, which is by the house of the Lord.
Verse 9, I just want you to see his response to all of this mistreatment. Jeremiah said, "I will not make mention of Him, nor speak anymore in His name." Here is Jeremiah, the prophet, quitting the ministry, handing in his prophetic leads, hanging them up. He didn't want to be a prophet anymore. I guess you could say he wants to be a non-profit organization. I don't know, but he doesn't want the job anymore. He quits, I quit.
Look at the end of verse 9, 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. I've had that experience. There have been low, very low times in life, in ministry. What picks a person back up, what fuels a person again, not a therapist, even more than a vacation somewhere, those are good. But truly, it's God's Word, the truth of God's Word, getting in touch again with truth and immersing yourself in the truth of God's word. The two guys on the road to a mass, they were so desperate, so despondent, Jesus walked up to them and started speaking to them about Prophecy and the Messiah and after Jesus disappeared, remember what they said to each other, did not our hearts burn within us as he spoke to us along the way.
As God speaks to you in His word, He'll revive you. That's why we insist, spend daily time with the Word of God. I don't feel like it, so what? Let the desire be the engine, the feeling be the caboose, don't let the caboose pull the engine, don't let the feeling run your life, but the decision run your life. Make the choice, do it. Let God revive you, immerse yourself in it. It was Dwight L. Moody who said, I believe that the Bible is inspired because every time I read it, it inspires me. Martin Luther used to say, the Bible is alive, it speaks to me, it has feet, it runs after me, it has hands that grabs the hold of me.
Let God's Word revive you as did this prophet Jeremiah. Chapter 21-29, illustrate the certainty of the captivity that is coming. Over and over again in this chapter or in this section, Jeremiah illustrates the coming captivity, and in chapter 29, he sends a letter to captives who won't even read it for years to come, for years to come. He is going to tell them in this letter, prepare for a long stay. Okay, now before we read a very important section of this letter that they get and you'll hear and you'll say, I can see how that would encourage them.
When the Babylonians came against the Judeans, they didn't do it once, they didn't do it twice. They came three separate times until they were wiped up, 605 BC, it's time number one. Daniel, the Prophet was taken during that time. Daniel was just a little boy, he wasn't a prophet yet, and he was taken from his home in captivity of Babylon, that's 605 BC. 597 BC was the second time most of the leadership and the spiritual leadership was taken captive during that time, as well as a large number of the nobility. Then number three, 586 BC, and in the summer of 586 BC, July 18th 586 BC to be exact, the temple was completely leveled and the people were taken, the rest of them to Babylon.
Verse 10, chapter 29. Here's part of the letter, imagine reading this in Babylon and you're thinking, it's all over, God doesn't love us. For thus says the Lord: After 70 years are completed at Babylon, I will visit you and perform My Good Word toward you, and cause you to return to this place. Daniel read this very verse, before he got the Daniel 70 week's prophecy, anyway. Verse 11, For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, says the Lord, thoughts of peace and not of evil, to give you a future and a hope. Then, you will call upon Me and go and pray to Me, and I will listen to you. And you will seek Me and find Me, when you search for Me with all your heart.
There they were, there they would be in captivity by the river of Babylon weeping, thinking God is over, is done with us, will never return. They get this letter, from Jeremiah the Prophet written years before and God is saying, "Look, you're in captivity,but it's not over." The captivity was God's spanking you to get you to this place where you cry out for Him and the whole purpose of the captivity was to bring you back to Him, and you'll be back in the land after 70 years. That is the purpose of discipline, is it not, to restore a relationship between a parent and a child.
I remember the times I would have to spank Nathan. I mean, just last week, now I am just kidding. When he was quite young, when he was quite young, and I hated doing it. Well, sometimes it was fun, no, it was never fun. I always hated doing it. I hated it, I knew he hated it. But, the purpose was to bring him back and bring more importantly his will to be aligned with my will. How do you break a child's will without breaking their spirit, that's the tension parents live with.
So God is a plan for you. When you're not in alignment with His plan, He'll enact discipline to restore you back in alignment with His plan, so that God can do for you what He has always wanted to do for you, but hasn't been able to until you're aligned with His plan and purpose. That's the bulk of the letter that he writes. Chapter 30-33, our predictions of God's future plans for Messiah and the New Covenant, one of the most important sections in all of the Bible. If you're fallen asleep, wake up right now because this is important.
"Behold, the days are coming", says the Lord. "When I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah, not according to the covenant I made with their fathers in the day when I took them by the hand to lead them out of the land of Egypt, My covenant which they broke, though I was a husband to them, says the Lord. But, this is the covenant that I will make". Notice the emphasis, I will do this, I will make this, not you, I will do it, with the house of Israel after those days, says the Lord, "I will put My law in their minds, and write it on their hearts; I will be their God, and they shall be My people."
I will do it, with the house of Israel after those days, says the Lord, "I will put My law in their minds and write it on their hearts, I will be their God, and they shall be My people." Oh, what a difference between the Old Covenant and the New Covenant, the Old Testament and the New Testament, the law and grace.
You see, the Old Covenant tried to control your conduct. The New Covenant promises to change your character. Here is an analogy that really helped me out. The difference between the Old and the New Covenant, the Old Covenant, it's like you are confined to sheet music, you have to play the song, you have to play the score by watching the sheet music.
The New Testament, you certainly have the ability to play by ear, all the same notes. This time there is a song, it's in your heart, it's intuitive, it's there, you hear it, you feel it, and just play it by ear. It's not mechanical. It's deep in the fiber.
Romans 3 says, "By the law is the knowledge of sin." But in the New Covenant it's the knowledge of God's forgiveness.
Chapter 34-45, Jeremiah tells more about his own personal life. By the way, Jeremiah of all the prophets tells more about his own personal life than any of the other prophets and all of the Bible, some prophets, we don't know anything about except their name. Others we know their name and where they are from, others we know their name and who their dad was. We know a lot about Jeremiah. He spills the beans about his life.
Look at Chapter 38, Verse 6. So they took Jeremiah, this is a guy prophecy gets in trouble, prophecies gets in trouble, now they take Jeremiah cast him into the dungeon that is a cistern, of Malchiah, the King's son, which was in the court of the prison, and they let Jeremiah down with ropes, and in the dungeon or cistern there was no water, but mire, that deep, dark, muddy sediment. So Jeremiah sank in the mire. This has got to be the lowest time in this dude's life. He is on ropes, it's dark and he gets sunk in the mire.
Let's take this right wing fundamental as conservative preacher and get him out of here. And they stick him in a cistern where a person will die of starvation, suffocation or hypothermia if he goes deep enough in that cold mud after the winter rains.
Well, the story goes on, he gets released from there but he has to stay in the courtyard of the prison, of the King's house that became a prison, he has to stay in the courtyard and he stays in the courtyard and lives the rest of his days there until 586 BC when that city is captured and destroyed by fire, and Jeremiah, the prophet is released.
Now Chapter 39 is Jeremiah's eyewitness account of the fall of Jerusalem.
Chapters 40-42 recounts how Jeremiah stays in Jerusalem and ministers to the Jerusalemites who were there, gives them God's word during those three chapters.
Then Chapters 43 and 44 he gets taken to Egypt, it's a weird deal, but I don't have enough time to get into it. He is taken to Egypt and in Egypt his life is preserved and he ministers the people in Egypt.
Chapter 46-51 is a whole list of prophecies not to Judah but to the nations. So we have the proclamations against Judah. Chapters 46-51 proclamations against the surrounding nations like Moab, Egypt, Philistines, Damascus as well as Babylon ultimately.
And finally now the last chapter, Chapter 52. This is the prediction of Jeremiah fulfilled. Chapter 52 is called an historical supplement. Didn't that sound boring? A historical supplement. I look at it as a prophecy fulfilled. Chapter 52 recalls in a nutshell form, all the Jeremiah was predicting and Isaiah by the way of the fall of Judah and Jerusalem by the Babylonians and shows how it was fulfilled in one succinct chapter.
By the way what city in the Bible is mentioned more than any other city? Than any other city in the Bible what's mentioned the most? Jerusalem. Second to Jerusalem, what's mentioned most? Babylon. Interesting that Babylon and Jerusalem are these two cities set against one another throughout the scripture, even till Revelation.
17 and 18, great Babylon has fallen, has fallen, and Jeremiah records the name Babylon 164 times or more than all of the rest of the Bible mentions that put together, and now is the fall of Jerusalem to Babylon. Let's just finish up two verses, Verse 4.
Now it came to pass in the ninth year of Mitzraim, in the tenth month, on the tenth day of the month, that Nebuchadnezzar, the King of Babylon and all of his army came against Jerusalem, and capped against it, built a siege wall against it all around.
Verse 5, "So the city was besieged until the eleventh year of King Zedekiah." It was a two-and-a-half year siege.
Remember I said, there was three attacks, this final attack started January 15, 588 BC, and finally felled, the city felled on July 18, 586 BC, two-and-a-half years after the beginning of the siege, it felled. Then the laws came down and were labeled at the beginning part of August according to history, thus fulfilled the words of Jeremiah.
Verse 13, "He burned the house of the Lord, and the King's house. All the houses of Jerusalem," that is, "All the houses of the great, he burned with fire."
Next time you are walking around Jerusalem, I would encourage you to walk down toward the Kidron Valley and as you are walking down out of the Dung Gate toward the Kidron Valley off to your right are the ancient digs of the City of David or the city that was around during this time. And you can go down and you will see stone walls that have been uncovered and these dark marks on the stone. And you ask the tour guide, "What's all this black? It looks like soot." He says, "These are the soot remains from the fire that burned the City of Jerusalem in 586 BC." You can see today visual proof of Jeremiah's words when he prophesied them, now fulfilled still today in 2008. I want to close with this thought.
When you get a phone call what do you do? Let me rephrase it. When you get a phone call what should you do? You should answer it. You don't always do, ain't you? You see who it is, you should answer it. And then you should act upon any pertinent information that you are given in the phone call. But do you know that every year in Finland in the last several years has been an International Cell Phone Throwing Competition? Truly!
Coming up in August will be the Eighth Annual Mobile Phone Throwing Competition, Championship. It's August 23, if you are in the area of Finland then you really got to go to this event. Originally, began as a little local event in a small town. Last year hundreds of people from as far away as Canada, Belgium, Russia came, and the gold medal last year went to Finland's Lassi Etelatalo. He flung his Nokia phone 89 meters.
People gathering together to throw cell phones. Has it come to this? What should you be with the telephone? Answering it, acting upon what you hear.
Here is God to the Prophet Jeremiah calling them, besieging them, answer me, "Call to me and I will answer you." Jeremiah 33:3, but they'd rather throw the cell phone away, it's rather throw it away. And so the wages (ph) as soon as death.
Death came judgment came, but you should know something else about God as seen in this book, judgment is coming but God's mercy will overshadow even the harshest judgment. Jesus is always there saying, "Behold, I stand at the door and knock, if any man will hear My voice and open up the door, I will come in with him, in fellowship with him and he with Me." Tonight salvation is offered to you, if you don't know Christ or if you have walked away from Him and decided to live in disobedience. Answer the call. Answer the phone, don't chuck it, don't throw it, answer it.
Heavenly Father, thank You for the Prophet Jeremiah, this young man who followed a very difficult call to speak to a group of people year-after-year, 40 years, and not see a single conversion, a single response, a single king or leader or even false prophet turned true. It must have been very discouraging, it was discouraging, he wanted to quit. Thank You for Your word Lord to build this up.
Father, we pray for anybody here tonight who is in that condition of being backslidden, who has fallen away, followed other Gods and other paths, who has forsaken the fountain of living waters and has drunk from broken cisterns that can hold no water, I pray You bring them back to You.
In Jesus' name, Amen!