Morning Light – Jeremiah 4

Today: [Jeremiah 4] Jeremiah Calls God a Liar. In this chapter the Father speaks through Jeremiah of the full fury of His judgments to come upon the people. Shocked by the words of God coming out of his own mouth, Jeremiah reacts and calls God a deceiver. Is this true? How do you reconcile the promise of God to bless us with the warnings of fury and judgment if we go our own way? What right does God have to run rough shod over our lives when we have no defense from His sovereignty? In this chapter we reconcile this contradiction that surfaces in the debates of men about the existence of God and the love of God that is constant even in the midst of a fallen world that suffers greatly resulting from its rejection of the truth.
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[Jer 4:1-31 KJV] 1 If thou wilt return, O Israel, saith the LORD, return unto me: and if thou wilt put away thine abominations out of my sight, then shalt thou not remove. 2 And thou shalt swear, The LORD liveth, in truth, in judgment, and in righteousness; and the nations shall bless themselves in him, and in him shall they glory. 3 For thus saith the LORD to the men of Judah and Jerusalem, Break up your fallow ground, and sow not among thorns. 4 Circumcise yourselves to the LORD, and take away the foreskins of your heart, ye men of Judah and inhabitants of Jerusalem: lest my fury come forth like fire, and burn that none can quench [it], because of the evil of your doings. 5 Declare ye in Judah, and publish in Jerusalem; and say, Blow ye the trumpet in the land: cry, gather together, and say, Assemble yourselves, and let us go into the defenced cities. 6 Set up the standard toward Zion: retire, stay not: for I will bring evil from the north, and a great destruction. 7 The lion is come up from his thicket, and the destroyer of the Gentiles is on his way; he is gone forth from his place to make thy land desolate; [and] thy cities shall be laid waste, without an inhabitant. 8 For this gird you with sackcloth, lament and howl: for the fierce anger of the LORD is not turned back from us. 9 And it shall come to pass at that day, saith the LORD, [that] the heart of the king shall perish, and the heart of the princes; and the priests shall be astonished, and the prophets shall wonder.
In this chapter Jeremiah continues to plead by the Spirit of the Lord with the people of God to forsake their idols. The promise is in verse 1 that if the people will reform their ways that they will not go into captivity to Babylon, which at this point seems all but inevitable. It is important to remember that Jeremiah’s hearers did not think they had any area of their lives that needed correction. They felt they were observant believers rendering up to God all that was just and right to identify them as faithful, observant followers of Jehovah. In the areas Jeremiah emphasized changed needed to come, they simply felt the prophet was out of touch with the main stream and not sophisticated enough in his theology to realize there wasn’t really anything amiss in regard to their piety toward God.
Jeremiah has breathed out threatenings by the word of the Lord and ominous warnings but now turns and emphasizes the promises of repentance from the backsliding state of the people. If the people forbear from their backslidings, v. 2 promises that they shall live and bless themselves in the Lord and know His glory. V. 3 is a well-known verse admonishing us to break up our fallow ground and sow not among thorns. What does it mean to break up our fallow ground?
Fallow ground is ground that is plowed and harrowed but left unsown in order to restore its fertility as part of a crop rotation. This is very interesting because many look at this verse and think it speaks to an unprepared heart that neglects to follow God. In reality this ground has been prepared in time past but there was no follow through because there were it was determined reasons for not going ahead to sow in righteousness when necessary. Is this not descriptive of many who give their lives to Christ and follow Him passionately in their youth but then in the intervening years neglect the disciplines and passions of living for the Lord to simply live their lives? This is what happens when the urgent supersedes the important. We know our lives should look differently than they do in terms of following God but we feel we simply don’t have the time due to other commitments and demands on our circumstances. Thus as the verse says we wind up sowing our resources among thorns (which represent deceitfulness of riches and the cares of this life, according to Jesus in Mark 4:18). Because of these choices the prophet Jeremiah laments that the nation will go into captivity.
10 Then said I, Ah, Lord GOD! surely thou hast greatly deceived this people and Jerusalem, saying, Ye shall have peace; whereas the sword reacheth unto the soul. 11 At that time shall it be said to this people and to Jerusalem, A dry wind of the high places in the wilderness toward the daughter of my people, not to fan, nor to cleanse, 12 [Even] a full wind from those [places] shall come unto me: now also will I give sentence against them. 13 Behold, he shall come up as clouds, and his chariots [shall be] as a whirlwind: his horses are swifter than eagles. Woe unto us! for we are spoiled. 14 O Jerusalem, wash thine heart from wickedness, that thou mayest be saved. How long shall thy vain thoughts lodge within thee? 15 For a voice declareth from Dan, and publisheth affliction from mount Ephraim. 16 Make ye mention to the nations; behold, publish against Jerusalem, [that] watchers come from a far country, and give out their voice against the cities of Judah. 17 As keepers of a field, are they against her round about; because she hath been rebellious against me, saith the LORD. 18 Thy way and thy doings have procured these [things] unto thee; this [is] thy wickedness, because it is bitter, because it reacheth unto thine heart. 19 My bowels, my bowels! I am pained at my very heart; my heart maketh a noise in me; I cannot hold my peace, because thou hast heard, O my soul, the sound of the trumpet, the alarm of war.
In prophesying the fierce anger of the Lord over the nation, Jeremiah debates and argues with the word of the Lord out of his own mouth. In v. 10 he calls God a deceiver because on the one hand he promises to bless the people and on the other predicts their impending doom. He then corrects his own wrong thinking and that of the people of God in v. 14 admonishing the city of Jerusalem to wash wickedness from its heart and to reject all such vain thoughts. Why should they do this? Isn’t it confusing for God to promise blessing on the one hand and threaten destruction on the other? What is the answer? How do we reconcile the mercy of God and the judgment of God without condemning God Himself and His word as the unreliable and contradictory ramblings originating from ancient times, completely inapplicable to our day?
V. 15 gives us a clue. We need to hear the voice that is “declaring from Dan” and “publishing affliction from Ephraim”. Dan represents judgment. We need to realize that in the fall man walks away from God but that doesn’t mean he can exempt himself from God’s judgment. Man still finds himself in the environment that belongs to God for the earth is the Lord’s and the fullness thereof. If your grown children were living with you and decided to completely reject you and relationship to you they would still answer to you because they are under your roof. Thus God gives man what He asks for but still holds him accountable for his conduct and character.
When Dan speaks v. 15 is telling us Ephraim suffers. What does this mean? If you study the history of the tribe of Ephraim you will find they were always choosing to go their own way and very reticent to submit to anyone or to do anything to benefit any tribe other than their own. Yet when great victories were won without them they would come out with great bluster and threaten civil war if they were not given a share of the bounty they refused to contend for. This character flaw by Jeremiah’s mention of it applies to the nation of God in his day and by extrapolation upon us all. We want to have our cake and eat it too. We want to go our own way without accountability or consequences and Jeremiah is saying – it doesn’t work that way. We may deny God but He will not deny Himself. Thus there are consequences for the individual, or the nation who forsakes the way of righteousness in spite of the fact that God holds out life and promise continually to us in His word and through the Lord Jesus Christ.
20 Destruction upon destruction is cried; for the whole land is spoiled: suddenly are my tents spoiled, [and] my curtains in a moment. 21 How long shall I see the standard, [and] hear the sound of the trumpet? 22 For my people [is] foolish, they have not known me; they [are] sottish children, and they have none understanding: they [are] wise to do evil, but to do good they have no knowledge. 23 I beheld the earth, and, lo, [it was] without form, and void; and the heavens, and they [had] no light. 24 I beheld the mountains, and, lo, they trembled, and all the hills moved lightly. 25 I beheld, and, lo, [there was] no man, and all the birds of the heavens were fled. 26 I beheld, and, lo, the fruitful place [was] a wilderness, and all the cities thereof were broken down at the presence of the LORD, [and] by his fierce anger. 27 For thus hath the LORD said, The whole land shall be desolate; yet will I not make a full end. 28 For this shall the earth mourn, and the heavens above be black: because I have spoken [it], I have purposed [it], and will not repent, neither will I turn back from it. 29 The whole city shall flee for the noise of the horsemen and bowmen; they shall go into thickets, and climb up upon the rocks: every city [shall be] forsaken, and not a man dwell therein. 30 And [when] thou [art] spoiled, what wilt thou do? Though thou clothest thyself with crimson, though thou deckest thee with ornaments of gold, though thou rentest thy face with painting, in vain shalt thou make thyself fair; [thy] lovers will despise thee, they will seek thy life. 31 For I have heard a voice as of a woman in travail, [and] the anguish as of her that bringeth forth her first child, the voice of the daughter of Zion, [that] bewaileth herself, [that] spreadeth her hands, [saying], Woe [is] me now! for my soul is wearied because of murderers.
In v. 22 Jeremiah laments that the people are wise to do evil but to do good they have no knowledge. This is a very common response even among Christians who complain about sermons and teaching they just don’t understand, or services that go too long but when it comes to other activities they apply themselves strenuously without complaint (for instance at a sporting event, or learning how to play a better golf game, or watch a 2 hour long movie starring their favorite celebrity).
Because of this v. 27 tells us that the whole land will become desolate. However, He does say that He will not make a full end. Even in allowing man to face the consequences of rejecting truth and life the Father retains His sovereignty and will not completely abandon us. Sin destroys us and estranges us from God’s goodness yet even as we shake our fist in God’s face the Father still sent us a savior. He still chose to make Jesus a reality in our lives even though we would crucify Him and reject Him. Here is the love of God that outlasts all judgment, hatred, rebellion and sinfulness in man. When man has exhausted himself in pursuit of his own way – God is standing at the end of the matter offering us salvation in Christ.

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