Today: [Jeremiah 14] When God Says Stop Praying. In this chapter, we find the nation of Judah dealing with the invading Babylonians, when something worse happens. Have you ever experienced compound problems, one after another? It is devastating emotionally and draining physically to fight a battle on more than one front. Jeremiah cries out to God and acknowledges that even in the midst of terrible problems, the people are unrepentance and refuse to cease from their transgressions. In the midst of very compassionate intercession, God tells Jeremiah to stop praying because He will not hear their cries. Why would this be the case and would this ever apply to situations we find ourselves in?
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[Jer 14:1-22 KJV] 1 The word of the LORD that came to Jeremiah concerning the dearth. 2 Judah mourneth, and the gates thereof languish; they are black unto the ground; and the cry of Jerusalem is gone up. 3 And their nobles have sent their little ones to the waters: they came to the pits, [and] found no water; they returned with their vessels empty; they were ashamed and confounded, and covered their heads. 4 Because the ground is chapt, for there was no rain in the earth, the plowmen were ashamed, they covered their heads. 5 Yea, the hind also calved in the field, and forsook [it], because there was no grass. 6 And the wild asses did stand in the high places, they snuffed up the wind like dragons; their eyes did fail, because [there was] no grass. 7 O LORD, though our iniquities testify against us, do thou [it] for thy name’s sake: for our backslidings are many; we have sinned against thee. 8 O the hope of Israel, the saviour thereof in time of trouble, why shouldest thou be as a stranger in the land, and as a wayfaring man [that] turneth aside to tarry for a night? 9 Why shouldest thou be as a man astonied, as a mighty man [that] cannot save? yet thou, O LORD, [art] in the midst of us, and we are called by thy name; leave us not. 10 Thus saith the LORD unto this people, Thus have they loved to wander, they have not refrained their feet, therefore the LORD doth not accept them; he will now remember their iniquity, and visit their sins.
This chapter opens with the appearance of a new problem In the nation of Judah. The Babylonians are gathering for war and beginning to take cities to themselves and Jerusalem is eyeing these difficulties with strained faces. Then in the midst of one problem, another emerges – a severe drought and consequent famine. Have you ever experienced compounded problems with one trouble following upon another? That is where the term “the straw that broke the camel’s back” came from. Sometimes the trials and difficulties are too much for the mind to comprehend. In this case the city of Jerusalem and the nation of Judah is turning from belligerent false confidence, and rejection of the words of Jeremiah to mourning and languishing in sorrow because of the suffering brought on by this dearth.
As the drought continues the wells are dried up and the adults are ashamed to go look down empty cisterns so they send their children. Isn’t that what happens in times of difficulty? We make even everyday responsibilities the task of others because we don’t even want to get out of bed. The nobles are ashamed and despondent. The plowmen, the farmers are confounded and covered their heads in mourning because though they apply all of their skill in irrigation and other methods, the drought is so devastating that nothing works and even the wild animals and beginning to be decimated and abandon their young because there isn’t even any grass.
We’ve seen this in history during the depression and the Oklahoma dustbowl days, men would leave their families to starve on shattered farms that were once thriving enterprises, and ride the rails to oblivion, drowning their sorrows in alcoholism and sin because they didn’t know what else to do. The hobo population of America was in evidence even 40 years after the end of the Great Depression. I remember going down to the freight depot as a young boy in our small Midwestern town, to observe the hobo’s and transients sleeping under the loading dock of the depot. Once proud, productive men with families and properties were reduced to nothing. This was the circumstance and the situation in Judah. From the glory of Solomon’s time the nation has been reduced by threats without, and by troubles within and the hearts of the people are completely depleted – yet they refuse to repent and return to the Lord.
Jeremiah realizes that even this deep suffering will not cause repentance to come so he intercedes for the nation that God would act, not because they are returning to godliness, but that He would act to save them because of His name’s sake. He asked the Father to save them because it will make God look bad if He doesn’t. Have you ever prayed that way? You have people in your life who shake their fist in God’s face and have no intention of yielding to the Holy Spirit and we ask the Father to move in their situations for His name’s sake, to protect His reputation and deliver them. Is this a prayer that God will answer? We have to remember that God is a God of order and law, as well as grace and mercy. Unlike human parents who will throw all caution and wisdom to the wind to help out their children in difficult times, God doesn’t think that way. We may not want to admit this is who God is, but He is so committed to His own sense of integrity that He allowed and actually planned for His own son to go to the cross and die a brutal death on the cruelest instrument of the cross – because He will not violate His own word. Because the people have “loved to wander” and given themselves up to pagan practices – the hand of God is restrained from delivering them.
11 Then said the LORD unto me, Pray not for this people for [their] good. 12 When they fast, I will not hear their cry; and when they offer burnt offering and an oblation, I will not accept them: but I will consume them by the sword, and by the famine, and by the pestilence. 13 Then said I, Ah, Lord GOD! behold, the prophets say unto them, Ye shall not see the sword, neither shall ye have famine; but I will give you assured peace in this place. 14 Then the LORD said unto me, The prophets prophesy lies in my name: I sent them not, neither have I commanded them, neither spake unto them: they prophesy unto you a false vision and divination, and a thing of nought, and the deceit of their heart. 15 Therefore thus saith the LORD concerning the prophets that prophesy in my name, and I sent them not, yet they say, Sword and famine shall not be in this land; By sword and famine shall those prophets be consumed. 16 And the people to whom they prophesy shall be cast out in the streets of Jerusalem because of the famine and the sword; and they shall have none to bury them, them, their wives, nor their sons, nor their daughters: for I will pour their wickedness upon them. 17 Therefore thou shalt say this word unto them; Let mine eyes run down with tears night and day, and let them not cease: for the virgin daughter of my people is broken with a great breach, with a very grievous blow. 18 If I go forth into the field, then behold the slain with the sword! and if I enter into the city, then behold them that are sick with famine! yea, both the prophet and the priest go about into a land that they know not. 19 Hast thou utterly rejected Judah? hath thy soul lothed Zion? why hast thou smitten us, and [there is] no healing for us? we looked for peace, and [there is] no good; and for the time of healing, and behold trouble! 20 We acknowledge, O LORD, our wickedness, [and] the iniquity of our fathers: for we have sinned against thee. 21 Do not abhor [us], for thy name’s sake, do not disgrace the throne of thy glory: remember, break not thy covenant with us. 22 Are there [any] among the vanities of the Gentiles that can cause rain? or can the heavens give showers? [art] not thou he, O LORD our God? therefore we will wait upon thee: for thou hast made all these [things].
In verse 11 the Lord tells Jeremiah to stop praying for the people because He will not hear their cry. Why? Because while they are suffering, their hearts are unchanged. This is the folly of “fire escape” religion or what others call “jail house” religion. When troubles come and the folly of our ways is being visited upon us, the repentance that comes is often not genuine, and we can observe this. How many times have we seen people whose lives were falling apart, begin to seemingly seek God until the troubles were passed and then they go back to their former ways? This is why the teaching that God will allow calamity to come upon the people in order to teach them or bring them to repentance is folly. God wants people to love Him and worship Him in truth, not just because they want to get bailed out of a difficulty.
In verse 13 Jeremiah protests to God telling Him that all the prophets are predicting peace and prosperity. Here is where you identify false prophesy – it offers the promises of God to unchanged hearts. You can mark it down, there is no promise without penitence. This is a great danger in how people approach the prophetic and how they interpret the scriptures. They focus on what God has promised, and what God is going to do for them, or has done for them without any deference to their own obligation to offer up the fruits of repentance. To come before a prophet only to learn what God will do for them is no different than going to a psychic. Many times when we prophesy and speak to the assignment of God in someone’s life we have seen those words rejected because that isn’t what people wanted to hear. They wanted to know what GOD WAS GOING TO DO in their lives, not what God expected of them. They wanted a psychic reading or a clairvoyant reading – not the true word of the Lord. Because of this God says they have prophesied lies and will be destroyed along with the disobedience people because of their divination.
Jeremiah admits to all of these iniquities and continues to petition God to ignore all these things and give the people relief. This is where you have to ask yourselves where your fidelities lie. Do you love the people around you more than you love God. It is the challenge of Moses “who is on the Lord’s side?” It is heartbreaking to see people suffer and we can never take pleasure in the difficulties of others but we also have to stop and hear the heart of God. He never chooses or delights in the suffering of men, but He is not so committed to extended clemency if it means doing so while those say men forsake His ways and shake their fist in His face.
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