Today: [Jeremiah 18] Can There Be False Repentance? In this chapter, Jeremiah is sent to the Potter’s House. The message convey to him there as he watches the potter is that of the sovereignty of God. Up to this point Jeremiah’s understanding of God was strained by the Father’s punishment of the nation of Judah. If God promised peace, why were the Babylonians invading? In answer to this, the Father points out once again the pervasive culture of idolatry that has gripped Judah for generations. Only true repentance can bring relief.
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[Jer 18:1-23 KJV] 1 The word which came to Jeremiah from the LORD, saying, 2 Arise, and go down to the potter’s house, and there I will cause thee to hear my words. 3 Then I went down to the potter’s house, and, behold, he wrought a work on the wheels. 4 And the vessel that he made of clay was marred in the hand of the potter: so he made it again another vessel, as seemed good to the potter to make [it]. 5 Then the word of the LORD came to me, saying, 6 O house of Israel, cannot I do with you as this potter? saith the LORD. Behold, as the clay [is] in the potter’s hand, so [are] ye in mine hand, O house of Israel. 7 [At what] instant I shall speak concerning a nation, and concerning a kingdom, to pluck up, and to pull down, and to destroy [it]; 8 If that nation, against whom I have pronounced, turn from their evil, I will repent of the evil that I thought to do unto them. 9 And [at what] instant I shall speak concerning a nation, and concerning a kingdom, to build and to plant [it]; 10 If it do evil in my sight, that it obey not my voice, then I will repent of the good, wherewith I said I would benefit them.
In several places in the last many chapters, Jeremiah expresses sorrow and at times outright confusion over the Father’s handling of the nation of Judah. He seeks to prevail upon God to overlook the rampant idolatries of the nation and the city of Jerusalem and simply protect them from the consequences of their actions. At one point, he complains that God misled him. In another, he implies that God has lied by promising to establish the people in the land in once place and then threatening to displace them in another. Is God contradicting Himself?
Many scholars read the vision of the potter’s house and use it to explain why God is not bound to keep His own word. God is sovereign, they maintain and therefore He can make a promise, that we are held to be in sin if we don’t believe – and then God can break that promise and is under no obligation to explain Himself. To my thinking this is very flawed reasoning. Remember the book of Jeremiah covers the period of time when the last king of the line of David is removed, and the southern kingdom is led into captivity. The 10 tribes in the north are already gone and desolation is brought by the Babylonians as the cities are destroyed, Jerusalem is uninhabited and the temple is completely thrown down.
How could this happen? Why would God as verse 7 describes, pluck up this nation and destroy it. The answer is plain. Verse 10 tells us. It is because the people have done evil in His sight, refusing to obey or to repent of their ways. How much of this level of judgment and basis of judgment affects our lives today? Does God still punish men for their actions or does the grace that comes through Jesus Christ protect us from the consequences of our lifestyles and personal choices? Consider the declaration of Paul writing to the Galatians in a warning that they were altogether too legalistic, nevertheless makes this statement:
[Gal 6:7-9 KJV] 7 Be not deceived; God is not mocked: for whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap. 8 For he that soweth to his flesh shall of the flesh reap corruption; but he that soweth to the Spirit shall of the Spirit reap life everlasting. 9 And let us not be weary in well doing: for in due season we shall reap, if we faint not.
One thing you can make observation of, is that in Jeremiah’s day there is no remediation of sin – just the imposition of the law. The law is imposed, then broken and judgment is brought down upon the people. There is no resort other than judgment. This is true today in the sense that outside of Christ the law applies and condemns all of humanity. Is the intent of the law to destroy? No – the intent of the law is to bring men to Christ. If a person however rejects Christ, he is not free to carry out his life without accountability, even if he has never heard the gospel. There is no 3rd choice. Neither does there exist for the Christian a nether world of divine tolerance that will interminable excuse sin without ultimate consequence.
11 Now therefore go to, speak to the men of Judah, and to the inhabitants of Jerusalem, saying, Thus saith the LORD; Behold, I frame evil against you, and devise a device against you: return ye now every one from his evil way, and make your ways and your doings good. 12 And they said, There is no hope: but we will walk after our own devices, and we will every one do the imagination of his evil heart. 13 Therefore thus saith the LORD; Ask ye now among the heathen, who hath heard such things: the virgin of Israel hath done a very horrible thing. 14 Will [a man] leave the snow of Lebanon [which cometh] from the rock of the field? [or] shall the cold flowing waters that come from another place be forsaken? 15 Because my people hath forgotten me, they have burned incense to vanity, and they have caused them to stumble in their ways [from] the ancient paths, to walk in paths, [in] a way not cast up; 16 To make their land desolate, [and] a perpetual hissing; every one that passeth thereby shall be astonished, and wag his head. 17 I will scatter them as with an east wind before the enemy; I will shew them the back, and not the face, in the day of their calamity. 18 Then said they, Come, and let us devise devices against Jeremiah; for the law shall not perish from the priest, nor counsel from the wise, nor the word from the prophet. Come, and let us smite him with the tongue, and let us not give heed to any of his words. 19 Give heed to me, O LORD, and hearken to the voice of them that contend with me. 20 Shall evil be recompensed for good? for they have digged a pit for my soul. Remember that I stood before thee to speak good for them, [and] to turn away thy wrath from them. 21 Therefore deliver up their children to the famine, and pour out their [blood] by the force of the sword; and let their wives be bereaved of their children, and [be] widows; and let their men be put to death; [let] their young men [be] slain by the sword in battle. 22 Let a cry be heard from their houses, when thou shalt bring a troop suddenly upon them: for they have digged a pit to take me, and hid snares for my feet. 23 Yet, LORD, thou knowest all their counsel against me to slay [me]: forgive not their iniquity, neither blot out their sin from thy sight, but let them be overthrown before thee; deal [thus] with them in the time of thine anger.
Because of the lesson of the potter’s house, Jeremiah is chastened and instructed. Then the Father says in verse 11 “now go speak to the children of the house of Judah …” In other words, God wants Jeremiah to have a proper understanding of what is taking place in Judah and why – as a context for the words that he delivers to the people. God does not want us to be ignorant of His purposes. The heart of God for us is reflected in the words of David:
[Psa 103:7 KJV] 7 He made known his ways unto Moses, his acts unto the children of Israel.
It isn’t enough merely to SEE what God is saying, it is desirable in the heart of the Father that we know why He is doing it. What is the lesson of the potter’s house? That God will not excuse deferential sin. What do I mean by that? Some sin is overt, a figure of someone shaking their fist in God’s face and saying “I will not obey, I will not serve the God of the bible…” Other sin is more subtle. It is the sin of those who are outwardly worshipful and truly believe they are doing all that God requires, yet there is ingrained into their lives practices, attitudes and conduct, second nature to the person – that is an offense to God that will not be overlooked. How could God do that? Isn’t that unfair? Not in the light of the fact that He has given us that much neglected resource – even our bible.
This is why it is absolutely vital that in spite of the neglect of the word of God inherent in Christian culture, that you make a choice not only to read the bible, but to rightly discern the scripture, with careful application of its truths to your life. In our chapter there is repeated exhortation that if the people repent there will be clemency. How can you repent if you do not know what God requires? Many people repent, but they do so on their own terms, and therefore their repentance results only in turning from one imagination of their heart to another. Without apprehending the will of the Lord there can be no true and lasting repentance. Repentance outside the context of biblical mandate cannot be anything other than in error. The people of Jeremiah’s day were upset, and not happy about what was taking place, but their contrition was expressed not only on the altar of God but upon the altars of Chemosh, Ashteroth and Baal. God is looking for true fruits of repentance in our lives, and only the heart that holds His word first place above all is capable of bringing the fruits of repentance as God desires.
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