Jeremiah 14-15

A People Of Influence.

“If you return to me, I will restore you so you can continue to serve me. If you speak good words rather than worthless ones, you will be my spokesman. You must influence them; do not let them influence you!” ­– Jeremiah 15:19 NLT

Like all prophets, Jeremiah had a difficult job. He was commanded by God to preach a message of coming destruction if the people did not repent of their sins and return to God. Every day he had to point out the sins of the people and remind them of what God was going to do to them if they didn’t stop. He had to tell the religious and political leaders that they were also doomed because of their lousy leadership. As a result, Jeremiah was anything but popular. He wasn’t invited to parties or greeted warmly when passed on the streets. As God’s representative, he was blamed for anything bad that was going on. And as if his job was not hard enough, he had to face competition. There were other prophets walking around, but their messages were contradictory to Jeremiah’s. They were telling the people that, “all is well – no war of famine will come. The Lord will surely send you peace” (Jeremiah 14:13 NLT). Who do you think the people listened to? Jeremiah was a lone voice crying in the wilderness. His messages went unheeded. Jeremiah was a social pariah, a reluctant loner who cared deeply for the people of Judah, wanted to remain faithful to God, but who longed to have a normal life. At one point, he got so low that he prayed, “Unlucky mother – that you had me as a son, given the unhappy job of indicting the whole country! I’ve never hurt or harmed a soul, and yet everyone is out to get me” (Jeremiah 15:10 MSG). Jeremiah let the Lord know just how he felt: “I never joined the party crowd in their laughter and their fun. Led by you, I went off by myself. You’d filled me with indignation. Their sin had me seething. But why, why this chronic pain, this ever worsening wound and no healing in sight? You’re nothing, GOD, but a mirage, a lovely oasis in the distance – and then nothing!” (Jeremiah 15:17-18 MSG). Jeremiah was feeling the affects of his occupation. He was wearing down and feeling low. You might say he was having a pity party.

But in the midst of Jeremiah’s moment of sorrow, God responds. He doesn’t blast Jeremiah for the brutal honesty of his prayer, but instead He encourages him. God fully understood what Jeremiah was feeling. He knew the difficulty of Jeremiah’s job. It was not easy. But God needed Jeremiah to stand strong. He needed Jeremiah to complete the job he had been given. So God tells Jeremiah, “Take back those words, and I’ll take you back. Then you’ll stand tall before me. Use words truly and well. Don’t stoop to cheap whining. Then, but only then, you’ll speak for me. Let your words change [them]. Don’t change your words to suit them. I’ll turn you into a steel wall, a thick steel wall, impregnable. They’ll attack you but won’t put a dent in you because I’m at your side, defending and delivering. GOD’s Decree” (Jeremiah 15:19-20 MSG). God knew just how difficult Jeremiah’s job was, and He knew just how tempting it would be to just simple tell the people what they wanted to hear. Just by changing his message, Jeremiah could change his condition. He could become popular. He could go from social outcast to social butterfly, well-liked, well-known and well-received in all the right social circles. But that was not God’s call on his life.

God needed Jeremiah to stand firm and remain strong. He wanted Jeremiah to stick to the truth, and remain faithful to the message he had been given, no matter how difficult it might become. And the same stands true for us today. A message of sin and repentance is not popular today. No one wants to hear that their a sinner in need of a Savior. No one wants to think that they might be guilty and in need of punishment. So the message of the Gospel falls on deaf ears. People reject the truth and search for alternative messages. Paul warned Timothy about this. “You’re going to find that there will be times when people will have no stomach for solid teaching, but will fill up on spiritual junk food – catchy opinions that tickle their fancy. They’ll turn their backs on truth and chase mirages. But [you] – keep your eye on what you’re doing; accept the hard times along with the good; keep the Message alive; do a thorough job as God’s servant.” (2 Timothy 4:3-5 MSG). We are called to be a people of influence, telling the truth of God, even when falsehood might make things easier on us. We are to remain faithful to the message God has given us and the task He has assigned us. Paul told Timothy, “Preach the message, be ready whether it is convenient or not,reprove, rebuke, exhortwith complete patience and instruction” (2 Timothy 4:3 NET). Keep on keeping on. Remain strong. Be a people of influence.

Father, don’t let me give up or grow weary. Your message of hope and salvation needs to be heard, even if no one wants to hear it. Keep me faithful to Your Word and Your calling. May I be a person of influence – but solely based on Your Word. Amen

Ken Miller
Grow Pastor & Minister to Men
kenm@christchapelbc.org

Jeremiah 12-13

God’s Special Possession.

“I have abandoned my people, my special possession. I have surrendered my dearest ones to their enemies. My chosen people have roared at me like a lion of the forest, so I have treated them with contempt.” ­– Jeremiah 12:7-8 NLT

Sometimes when we read a book like Jeremiah, we become calloused towards God as we read of His anger, wrath, and warnings of eminent destruction. We begin to see God as a vindictive and vengeful deity with a short temper and unrealistic expectations on His people. And it’s easy to reach those conclusions when you read phrases like, “On all the bare hilltops, destroying armies can be seen. The sword of the Lord devours people from one end of the nation to the other. No one will escape!” (Jeremiah 12:12 NLT). Or how about, “I myself will strip you and expose you to shame”? (Jeremiah 13:26 NLT). It would be easy to build a case from those verses that God is uncaring and heartless, eager to bring destruction on the disobedient. But that would be a wrong conclusion and a dramatically false understanding of God.

Woven throughout all the messages of destruction are the clear indications of God’s unfailing love. He repeatedly refers to the nation of Judah with phrases like my people, my special possession, my dearest ones, my chosen people, and my vineyard. These are not the words of a dispassionate, uncaring deity with destruction on His mind. They are expressions of love and affection. God cares for His people. He longs to bless them, but because He is holy and righteous, He must deal righteously and justly with their sin. He cannot overlook their sins. He must do what is right. He must punish those who break the Law. But He does not do so joyfully. Like a proud and loving father, He is having to punish His disobedient children. He chose them from among all the nations of the world. He grew them from nothing – from one man, Abraham, to a nation that numbered in the millions. He had rescued them out of captivity in Egypt. He had led them across the wilderness for 40 years, tolerating their disobedience and sin, then leading them into the very land He had promised to give them. He gave them victories over superior foes. He provided houses and cities to live in that they didn’t have to build and vineyards they didn’t have to plant. He gave them His Law to guide all their daily activities and the sacrificial system to provide forgiveness and restoration when they failed to keep the Law. He had given them judges and prophets to guide and redirect them when they strayed. All along the way God had proven His love for them. But enough was enough. Their sin had become too great to ignore. Their rebellion had become intolerable.

But God was not pleased with what He was having to do. To prove it God gave Jeremiah a visual illustration of what this meant to Him. He had Jeremiah buy a linen loincloth. This was an intimate undergarment that was worn close to the skin. Jeremiah would have had to have sacrificed financially to buy a linen one. Then God told Jeremiah to put it on. But before long, Jeremiah was instructed to take it off and hide it in a hole in the rocks down by the river. After a long time had passed, Jeremiah was told to go and retrieve the linen loincloth. But it was ruined. It was rotting and falling apart – it was good for nothing. Jeremiah could not wear it any longer. It was useless, wasted, and no longer able to function as it had been intended. And God says, “This shows how I will rot away the pride of Judah and Jerusalem” (Jeremiah 13:9 NLT). God compares Judah to the loincloth. Because they refuse to listen to Him and stubbornly follow after their own desires and worship other gods, God says, “they will become like this loincloth — good for nothing! As a loincloth clings to a man’s waist, so I created Judah and Israel to cling to me, says the Lord. They were to be my people, my pride, my glory — an honor to my name. But they would not listen to me” (Jeremiah 13:10-11 NLT). God had chosen the nation of Judah to have an intimate relationship with Him. They were to be His special possession. But instead of enjoying their place as His people, they turned against Him and turned to other gods instead. They spurned God’s love and attention. They refused His affection. They rejected His gracious favor. And how do you think God felt? God, who is perfect love, was spurned and rejected. He was rejected. The one who was love, was unloved. But God was not punishing them because they refused to love Him. He was punishing them because of their sin. And yet, in spite of their sin, God was not washing His hands of them altogether. He would bring punishment, but He would also bring restoration. Not only to Judah, but to the nations as well. He promised, “afterward I will return and have compassion on all of them. I will bring them home to their own lands again, each nation to its own possession” (Jeremiah 12:15 NLT). He will punish, but He will also have compassion. He will rebuke, but He will also restore. He is a holy, righteous, just, and demanding God, but He is also a loving, merciful, gracious, patient and forgiving God. All He asks is that we return and repent. He always stands ready to forgive and restore. Because that is who He is.

Father, even in your anger, You are loving. Everything You do is bathed in love – even when I can’t see it or understand it. You love us more than we could ever know. You discipline us in love. You restore us in love. Everything about You is love because You ARE love. Never let me lose sight of that fact. Amen

Ken Miller
Grow Pastor & Minister to Men
kenm@christchapelbc.org