Today: [Jeremiah 17] Are You Capable of Repentance? In this chapter, Jeremiah declares that the people of the nation are indelibly sinful and resistant to change. Have you ever tried to wash permanent marker out of a piece of laundry? Sin is like that. Do you have a pet sin, or attitude so deeply ingrained in your character that it is like that permanent marker? Would you be willing to see it, if it existed? That is the message of Jeremiah in ch. 17.
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[Jer 17:1-27 KJV] 1 The sin of Judah [is] written with a pen of iron, [and] with the point of a diamond: [it is] graven upon the table of their heart, and upon the horns of your altars; 2 Whilst their children remember their altars and their groves by the green trees upon the high hills. 3 O my mountain in the field, I will give thy substance [and] all thy treasures to the spoil, [and] thy high places for sin, throughout all thy borders. 4 And thou, even thyself, shalt discontinue from thine heritage that I gave thee; and I will cause thee to serve thine enemies in the land which thou knowest not: for ye have kindled a fire in mine anger, [which] shall burn for ever. 5 Thus saith the LORD; Cursed [be] the man that trusteth in man, and maketh flesh his arm, and whose heart departeth from the LORD. 6 For he shall be like the heath in the desert, and shall not see when good cometh; but shall inhabit the parched places in the wilderness, [in] a salt land and not inhabited. 7 Blessed [is] the man that trusteth in the LORD, and whose hope the LORD is. 8 For he shall be as a tree planted by the waters, and [that] spreadeth out her roots by the river, and shall not see when heat cometh, but her leaf shall be green; and shall not be careful in the year of drought, neither shall cease from yielding fruit. 9 The heart [is] deceitful above all [things], and desperately wicked: who can know it? 10 I the LORD search the heart, [I] try the reins, even to give every man according to his ways, [and] according to the fruit of his doings.
Chapter 17 begins with Jeremiah’s declaration that the sins of the nation are written indelibly upon the tables of the hearts of the people. Though they have been remonstrated with from Isaiah to Jeremiah for almost 100 years, there has been no repentance. Even when godliness reigned under king Hezekiah, evil was returned to under the reign of his son Manasseh. Continually the children return to the pagan practices of their fathers, even when the first generation showed forth godly sorrow. One writer made the statement what we allow in moderation, our children will take to excess. It is a truth that many times children will gravitate to the sins of their fathers before they will choose the right path their parents take later in life. Unfortunately there are many times those around our children who delight in denigrating our testimony and telling our children about our misspent youth. To this our children often and tragically gravitate.
Because the high places remain, and idolatry continues to be practiced Jeremiah declares that God will cause the people to serve their enemies in a place that know not. Here is where discernment is needed. When you are experiencing something other than yoke easy and burden light; when you look around and say with frustration “I just don’t know what is going on, I don’t understand at all…” This can be an indication and a pointer to a need for repentance. It is not and should not be the extended experience of a believer to struggle and suffer and go through difficulty. If this is your experience, God has not changed and His word has not changed. Things are the way they are because of what you are doing. If you want something different you must do something different. It requires at times brutal self-scrutiny that most of us are incapable of applying to our hearts.
11 [As] the partridge sitteth [on eggs], and hatcheth [them] not; [so] he that getteth riches, and not by right, shall leave them in the midst of his days, and at his end shall be a fool. 12 A glorious high throne from the beginning [is] the place of our sanctuary. 13 O LORD, the hope of Israel, all that forsake thee shall be ashamed, [and] they that depart from me shall be written in the earth, because they have forsaken the LORD, the fountain of living waters. 14 Heal me, O LORD, and I shall be healed; save me, and I shall be saved: for thou [art] my praise. 15 Behold, they say unto me, Where [is] the word of the LORD? let it come now. 16 As for me, I have not hastened from [being] a pastor to follow thee: neither have I desired the woeful day; thou knowest: that which came out of my lips was [right] before thee. 17 Be not a terror unto me: thou [art] my hope in the day of evil. 18 Let them be confounded that persecute me, but let not me be confounded: let them be dismayed, but let not me be dismayed: bring upon them the day of evil, and destroy them with double destruction. 19 Thus said the LORD unto me; Go and stand in the gate of the children of the people, whereby the kings of Judah come in, and by the which they go out, and in all the gates of Jerusalem;
In verse 5 we see what is often at the heart of idolatry and external dependencies in our lives. Cursed be the man that trusts in man. When we are under pressure we want to look to man that we can see for our solutions because it is easier than looking to God who can seem distance during times of trial. Aren’t we supposed to trust in each other? Not according to Jeremiah. Cursed is the man who trusts in man. Have people let you down? Are you hurt and wounded from mistreatment? We often wrap ourselves in garments of victimhood and self-pity. In reality, offense toward others implies expectations and trust were wrongfully placed. We looked to man rather than to God and we paid the price. We are not to trust in man. We are love others and trust in God. When we turn that around (trusting others and loving God) – it is a recipe for disaster.
In verse 13 Jeremiah laments that the people have forsaken God. He describes the Father as a fountain of living waters – as a resource according to v. 14 that Jeremiah saw as a place of healing and salvation. In the midst of Jeremiah’s pain (v. 15) the people come along and taunt him. They see Jeremiah is upset and in lamentation. “Where is the word of the Lord, now?” they ask in contemptuous tones. This often happens when a messenger or minister’s word is not what people want to hear. The people wait for a moment of vulnerability and then pounce on the man or woman of God to vilify and dismiss them because of some perceived flaw or fracture in their character.
Jeremiah (v. 15) endures the sleights of the people with a right heart. He says he has not “hastened from being a pastor” nor has he “desired the woeful day”. Sometimes ministers preach harsh and denunciatory messages because they are wounded by the people and angry at the people. They dream of a day when they will no longer be a pastor or be saddled with the cares of the people. Moses went through this and because he did not keep himself in check was not allowed to go into the land of promise.
In verse 18 we see something of Jeremiah’s prayer life. He calls for those that are in opposition to him to be confounded and dismayed. Isa. 54:17 tells us to condemn every tongue that rises up against us. When you are under pressure from people learn to ask God to occupy them elsewhere. Learn to plead the blood of Christ over the words, opinions and actions of others against you. You cannot fight the battle yourself or solve the problem on the level of the problem. Pray and declare that the words, thoughts and plans of others against you that are contrary to God’s heart will fall inert at your feet. Many strategies of hell go unchecked because we do not intercede in this way.
20 And say unto them, Hear ye the word of the LORD, ye kings of Judah, and all Judah, and all the inhabitants of Jerusalem, that enter in by these gates: 21 Thus saith the LORD; Take heed to yourselves, and bear no burden on the sabbath day, nor bring [it] in by the gates of Jerusalem; 22 Neither carry forth a burden out of your houses on the sabbath day, neither do ye any work, but hallow ye the sabbath day, as I commanded your fathers. 23 But they obeyed not, neither inclined their ear, but made their neck stiff, that they might not hear, nor receive instruction. 24 And it shall come to pass, if ye diligently hearken unto me, saith the LORD, to bring in no burden through the gates of this city on the sabbath day, but hallow the sabbath day, to do no work therein; 25 Then shall there enter into the gates of this city kings and princes sitting upon the throne of David, riding in chariots and on horses, they, and their princes, the men of Judah, and the inhabitants of Jerusalem: and this city shall remain for ever. 26 And they shall come from the cities of Judah, and from the places about Jerusalem, and from the land of Benjamin, and from the plain, and from the mountains, and from the south, bringing burnt offerings, and sacrifices, and meat offerings, and incense, and bringing sacrifices of praise, unto the house of the LORD. 27 But if ye will not hearken unto me to hallow the sabbath day, and not to bear a burden, even entering in at the gates of Jerusalem on the sabbath day; then will I kindle a fire in the gates thereof, and it shall devour the palaces of Jerusalem, and it shall not be quenched.
In verses 19-20 Jeremiah is instructed to go and prophesy in the gates of the city. Up to this point most of his prophesying was in the gate or the door of the temple. Now he prophesies to those carrying burdens and conducting business out in the marketplace. This is what we call marketplace ministry and Jeremiah is an early example of it. He commands the people first of all to take heed to themselves. Why would he say this? Most people compartmentalize their lives. They act one way in the house of God and something else altogether in the public square. I remember one minister that I worked for in a contracting business was vulgar, brutal and mean spirited on the job but in church would turn into the sweetest most loving person you could imagine. We need to take heed to ourselves that we are the same person in the marketplace that we are in the company of other believers.
In spite of Jeremiah’s warnings, v. 23 tells us that the people did not obey, neither would incline their ear. Do you ever hear people say “I just can’t hear that – I won’t hear that…” God wants to give them instruction but because it doesn’t come through a popular teacher or doesn’t encourage them in decisions they have already made, they resist. Jeremiah’s response at first is a positive one. He says “if you will diligently hearken – you will remain in this city forever…” He is answering the prophets who have been saying all along that the captivity will not come. The difference is that the false prophets were making promises without any expectation on the people to repent. Jeremiah is saying “yes, you will be secure and safe – but ONLY if you amend your ways…”
Are you capable of repentance? Are you capable of brutal self-examination? When was the last time you made a radical change in your behavior and lifestyle that cost you deeply but was necessary to maintain integrity before God? When was the last time you severed an ungodly relationship, even when others didn’t understand and made things difficult for you when you did? When was the last time you dealt with what amounted to idolatry in your life, relinquishing a secret sin because the Holy Spirit was tugging upon your heart? There are two groups of people in this chapter, the pious and the profane. It is their sensitivity and willingness before God to change that makes the difference.
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