Today: [Jeremiah 16] Are You Called to Be Single for Jesus? In this chapter Jeremiah is commanded to remain unmarried. This is not without precedence in Christian culture. There is an unspoken judgment among many that if you are REALLY serious about serving Jesus, that you will choose to be single and celibate. Is this true? Why was Jeremiah commanded to be celibate? In the Catholic church historically we find that husbands were excommunicated for choosing marriage and their wives were sold into slavery and their children abandoned in the streets – all designed by the Bishops to appropriate the wealth and property of married Germanic bishops. When we look deeper into the scriptures concerning this issue we find that Jeremiah’s celibacy was for a very different reason.
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[Jer 16:1-21 KJV] 1 The word of the LORD came also unto me, saying, 2 Thou shalt not take thee a wife, neither shalt thou have sons or daughters in this place. 3 For thus saith the LORD concerning the sons and concerning the daughters that are born in this place, and concerning their mothers that bare them, and concerning their fathers that begat them in this land; 4 They shall die of grievous deaths; they shall not be lamented; neither shall they be buried; [but] they shall be as dung upon the face of the earth: and they shall be consumed by the sword, and by famine; and their carcases shall be meat for the fowls of heaven, and for the beasts of the earth. 5 For thus saith the LORD, Enter not into the house of mourning, neither go to lament nor bemoan them: for I have taken away my peace from this people, saith the LORD, [even] lovingkindness and mercies. 6 Both the great and the small shall die in this land: they shall not be buried, neither shall [men] lament for them, nor cut themselves, nor make themselves bald for them: 7 Neither shall [men] tear [themselves] for them in mourning, to comfort them for the dead; neither shall [men] give them the cup of consolation to drink for their father or for their mother. 8 Thou shalt not also go into the house of feasting, to sit with them to eat and to drink. 9 For thus saith the LORD of hosts, the God of Israel; Behold, I will cause to cease out of this place in your eyes, and in your days, the voice of mirth, and the voice of gladness, the voice of the bridegroom, and the voice of the bride.
In this chapter, we find that Jeremiah is forbidden of the Lord to take a wife or to have sons and daughters. This is a common practice historically in Christianity. The church was 1000 years old when this practice was enforced within the Medieval church. At Second Laterin Council in 1139 a rule was passed, forbidding priests to marry. Priests were excommunicated who were found to be married and their wives were sold into slavery and their children were abandoned in the streets. One of the primary objections was the church found it offensive that a married priest upon his death rather than leaving everything to the church, would leave of his world’s goods to his children and heirs. In spite of this, many popes were the sons of other popes and clergy who had been commanded to be celibate. The primary objection to marriage according to St. Augustine who himself kept a concubine, was that the caresses of a woman were considered to be one of the most pernicious and faith destroying influences in the earth.
We can see the error of the celibacy doctrine in the church of the Middle ages but why then was Jeremiah commanded to be celibate? It was for a very specific reason, not because God intended for all mystics, ministers and clergy to be single. Jeremiah was commanded to be unmarried because the judgments coming upon the land of Judah would be particularly harsh for those with wives and children. His celibacy was a demonstration that in spite of the people’s dismissive attitude toward Jeremiah and his prophesies, judgment was forthcoming regardless. It was highly unusual for a Jew to remain unmarried, therefore Jeremiah’s celibacy was an open astonishment to all who knew him.
10 And it shall come to pass, when thou shalt shew this people all these words, and they shall say unto thee, Wherefore hath the LORD pronounced all this great evil against us? or what [is] our iniquity? or what [is] our sin that we have committed against the LORD our God? 11 Then shalt thou say unto them, Because your fathers have forsaken me, saith the LORD, and have walked after other gods, and have served them, and have worshipped them, and have forsaken me, and have not kept my law; 12 And ye have done worse than your fathers; for, behold, ye walk every one after the imagination of his evil heart, that they may not hearken unto me: 13 Therefore will I cast you out of this land into a land that ye know not, [neither] ye nor your fathers; and there shall ye serve other gods day and night; where I will not shew you favour. 14 Therefore, behold, the days come, saith the LORD, that it shall no more be said, The LORD liveth, that brought up the children of Israel out of the land of Egypt; 15 But, The LORD liveth, that brought up the children of Israel from the land of the north, and from all the lands whither he had driven them: and I will bring them again into their land that I gave unto their fathers. 16 Behold, I will send for many fishers, saith the LORD, and they shall fish them; and after will I send for many hunters, and they shall hunt them from every mountain, and from every hill, and out of the holes of the rocks. 17 For mine eyes [are] upon all their ways: they are not hid from my face, neither is their iniquity hid from mine eyes. 18 And first I will recompense their iniquity and their sin double; because they have defiled my land, they have filled mine inheritance with the carcases of their detestable and abominable things. 19 O LORD, my strength, and my fortress, and my refuge in the day of affliction, the Gentiles shall come unto thee from the ends of the earth, and shall say, Surely our fathers have inherited lies, vanity, and [things] wherein [there is] no profit. 20 Shall a man make gods unto himself, and they [are] no gods? 21 Therefore, behold, I will this once cause them to know, I will cause them to know mine hand and my might; and they shall know that my name [is] The LORD.
Upon hearing Jeremiah’s prophesies of destruction and decimation upon the land of Judah, the spontaneous question was “why would God allow this to happen?” Now the people were openly worshipping Baal. Jeremiah pointed out earlier that there were different gods and images for every street in Jerusalem. There were images to Baal and Ashteroth in the temple itself alongside the Brazen Altar and the Table of Shewbread. Yet the people are so convinced of their own piety before God that it is an offense to them to even suggest that God could in any way be displeased with them. Adding to this were pastors who contradicted Jeremiah preaching “peace, peace” and other prophets who were prophesying that the invasion of the Babylonians would not affect the people and that deliverance would be forthcoming. Jeremiah’s prophecy was that the Babylonians would destroy Judah and Jerusalem and take the entire nation in to captivity – and that the people were commanded to surrender and yield to this invading army if they wanted things to go well with them in internment.
Can you imagine this? What if in the 1800’s a prophet rose up and prophesied to the African slave population to accept slavery? The suggestion would offend beyond any measurement we could put to it. The people were offended beyond the pale. They ask “why would God do this” and two answers are given: 1.) Their fathers had forsaken God in the past; and 2.) They had done worse than their fathers by walking after the imagination of their heart. How is that worse? In our culture the maxim men live by, even in Christianity is “just do your best. God understands. It doesn’t matter what you believe just so you are sincere… go to the church of YOUR choice this Sunday…” This kind of thinking is what extinguished the line of the kings of David, emptied the cities of Judah by the sword, destroyed the temple and razed the walls of Jerusalem to the ground.
In the midst of judgment however the Lord does promise in verses 14-15 that a remnant shall return. He promises that “many fishers” and hunters will drive the people, scattered to the nations back to the land of promise. No such promise was made to the northern tribes. The northern tribes went into captivity, and disappear from history, having bred themselves out of existence.
Who are the fishers that drove the people of Judah back to the southern kingdom? The Spanish Inquisition. The Holocaust. Hitler and his final solution. The rise of terrorism as we know it in the 1920’s, 30’s and 40’s. In the day of affliction the Lord became the refuge of his people, who in captivity chose to repent. Is this true of modern Israel? Generationally, have the Jewish people returned to the Middle East because they have changed their mind about God and who their Messiah is? The answer would be no. There remains a resistance to the gospel in Israel and among the Jewish people that is only exceeded by those of the Islamic persuasion. When we pray for the peace of Jerusalem we should pray against the aversion and rejection of Christ among the Jewish people. Jesus is the only way to salvation. There is no other. Though historically the Jewish people have served other gods the promise of verse 21 is that God will cause them to know His hand and His might and to have His name JESUS revealed to them in a real way.
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