Through the years it has been my custom when we start a new year to address kind of the state of the nation. Talk about the issues that face us in the culture. Now over the last number of weeks, I gave a series of messages on the state of the church and what it is that we face in the church of our time. But this morning I want to talk about our nation, our civilization, our society, the culture in which we find ourselves today and the obligation we have to that society.
One of the most formidable minds in Evangelical Christianity today belongs to a man by the name of Philip Johnson. Philip Johnson is a graduate of Harvard Law School, a very, very esteemed man of law, teacher of juris prudence, has been the leading faculty member at the University of California at Berkeley and takes a very strong Christian position. He wrote a book a few years ago called, Darwin on Trial, in which he took Darwin to court and showed the irrationality of evolution. He has followed that book up with a sequel to it called, Reason in the Balance, which I had the – the distinct joy of reading this week.
He says in that book that the most influential intellectuals, most influential philosophers, scientists, educators, politicians and judges in America and throughout the world are naturalists. Now the question is what is a naturalist? Well a naturalist is someone who believes that matter is all there is. To put it another way, naturalism is atheism. It is the opposite of super naturalism. Naturalists assume that God exists only as a fantasy in the imaginations of religious people.
Philip Johnson says that in our universities across the western world, and certainly in our own country, naturalism, the idea that nature is all there is, is the virtually unquestioned assumption on which all matters of life are based. God, says our modern intellectual elite, is an irrational superstition. God has been created out of pre-scientific imaginations, people who really don’t understand science, philosophy. Evolution, they say, is the only real creator. Evolution, which has no mind, evolution which has no will, evolution which has no purpose, has no standard and has no goal.
In fact, they tell us, these intellectuals, – and they’re all through the fabric of our culture – that life as we live it in this material universe is the result of purposeless, unconscience – unconscious I should say, forces of random mutation. Man, says evolutionary science, is the end of a purposeless process which never has had Him in mind. We’re an accident. We’re a mutation. This lie has permeated all of our culture, the morality of our culture, the politics, the sociology, the psychology, the education and the law are all affected by it.
Philip Johnson says that even the judges who make the legal decisions and the journalists who report the news get their education at the universities where atheistic naturalism is the unquestioned sovereign. Those who believe in God, therefore, and those who believe in the Bible, are irrational. In fact, they’re not only irrational, they’re downright dangerous. They’re dangerous to our freedoms, these people who believe in God, these people who believe in the Bible, and they must only be allowed to have very limited influence in the public culture. Since God has no place in our scientific world, God is given no place in public life, no place in education, no place in government, no place in social policy, no place in law, no place in the courts and, certainly, no place in determining morality.
Anybody who is into the superstition of God must be kept in a very confined environment or they will begin to tamper with our freedoms. So if you’re teaching on a university level and you take a strong position affirming the character of God and the truth of the Scripture, you may not survive the academic environment. You may lose your tenure, you may lose your rank, you may lose your job, you may lose your right to proclaim your Christina faith. It is happening across America in case after case, where faculty members are being told they can’t say anything in class about the Gospel.
All of this high-level rejection of God is purported to be scientific. It’s purported to be intellectual. It is purported to be freedom loving. In other words, in the name of freedom, free enterprise, intellectualism, science, we reject God they say. The truth is, however, that there is no shortage of evidence for God. There is ample evidence to come to the conclusion that God exists. In fact, only a willful ignorance could conclude anything else.
They are not naturalists because of the evidence; they are naturalists for one reason and one reason alone. They love sin. They love sin. They are intellectual sinners. They are elite sinners. They are sinners with PhD’s but they’re no different than the basis kind of sinner. In fact, they are the worst kind because they not only love their sin but they commit the grossest of all sins and that is to deny the existence of the Creator Himself.
This is a not a result of science. This is not a result of philosophy. This is not a result of rational thought. This is purely the result of the love of inequity. They don’t want God because if there is God who is the Creator, He is the Creator of everything and that includes morality. And if He is the Creator of morality, He is the judge and they reject any thought that might limit their freedom to express their inequity. Men reject God simply because they are wicked and they love their sin. The fool has said in his heart there’s no God and he says it because he wants no accountability. They want independence, they want freedom of thought, they want freedom of action, they want to fulfill their lust without guilt, they want to fulfill their lust without any negative consequences. And so, there can be no God in their way. But it is not intellectual, it is not rational, and it is not even scientific.
Sad to say, if you were to survey universities, you would find in these science departments and philosophy departments and other areas of the university campus, some who believe in God. But Philip Johnson points out in his book that they have been so intimidated that they have fallen into silence and they have even accommodated the current scientific naturalism by becoming, quote/unquote, “Christian evolutionists.”
I would say the same is true in just the general populous. While the majority of American’s, if surveyed, would say they believe in God, they live as if they don’t. So while you may not have in our country an intellectual atheism, you wind up with a practical atheism. The prevailing atheistic, moral relativistic – I should say amoral relativistic naturalism has found its way to the fabric of American life. And even people who believe in God sort of have that over here and the rest of everything else is over here and the two never meet. Now behind all of this is this satanic idea of evolution. The single most dominating lie in the philosophy of our era is evolution.
There’s no God, everything just happened out of some primordial ooze. Our nation, and largely the western world, has bought that lie and that lie is sovereign. God has virtually been replaced by random chaos and there’s no purpose to the chaos. And there’s no mind to the chaos and there’s no will and there’s no design and there’s no standard. And there’s no goal, so nothing really matters except that you do whatever you want to do. Has there ever been a time like this? Sure, many times. One such time was during the life of Jeremiah and I want you to open your Bible to the book of Jeremiah this morning.
We don’t spend a lot of time studying the books of the Old Testament for a number of reasons. The New Testament, of course, is the new covenant which is priority. And secondly, I’m always afraid that if I get into one of these Old Testament books I’ll never get out of it. Jeremiah, for example, would be such a book, if for no other reason than the fact that it has 52 chapters. But I want you to get some kind of an idea of Jeremiah because it is such an important thing to see the parallels between his own time and our time, and the kind of man he was for his time and the kind of men and women we need to be for our time.
The Prophet Jeremiah faced a very similar situation, a nation rejecting God. A nation that had, of course, received the law of God, received the Word of God, been called the people of God, received the covenants of God and yet turned their back on God. Not unlike this country, which from its beginnings was born in a desire to worship the true God in a biblical way. We had all that great heritage and of course have abandoned and rebelled against it. But let’s begin by looking at Jeremiah chapter 5, and you can see a very clear parallel to what I’ve been saying to you by way of introduction.
In Jeremiah chapter 5, verse 20, Jeremiah is told to declare this in the House of Jacob and proclaim it in Judea. Here’s what he is to say: “Hear this, O foolish and senseless people, who have eyes but see not; who have ears but hear not.” Let me stop there for just a moment by saying the first thing that Jeremiah wants to get across, as far as our little topic this morning and looking at it, is that any rejection of the true God is foolish and senseless and it is against all evidence. You have eyes but you can’t see reality. You have ears but you can’t hear reality. God is both manifest and he is audible. God has revealed Himself and God has spoken. Only fools and senseless people don’t see that and hear that, an indictment that could suit very well our own times.
Then in verse 22, “‘Do you not fear Me?’ declares the Lord. ‘Do you not tremble in My presence?’” How foolish can you be not to recognize that I exist, that I am to be worshipped and I am to be feared as judge. You should be trembling in the realization of My presence. Then in verse 22, he says, “For I have placed the sand as a boundary for the sea, an eternal decree, so it cannot cross over it. Though the waves toss, yet they cannot prevail; though they roar, yet they cannot cross over it.” This is quite a remarkable statement. God is identifying Himself as the Creator.
You senseless, foolish people; you have all the empirical evidence available to your eyes and your ears and you can’t see it and you can’t hear it. You are senseless, you do not fear Me, you do not tremble at My presence, even though I have created the land and the sea. I have created the sea, I have bordered it with the land, but verse 23, “This people has a stubborn and rebellious heart.”
What is Jeremiah saying? He’s saying that the Majesty of God is revealed in creation and providence. It ought to stir up the people’s minds. It ought to stir up their hearts in adoring wonder, in adoring worship, in fearing God. It ought to melt their wills into submission and obedience to God’s law. The Almighty power of Jehovah is so clearly manifest in the works of His own creation that it could – it should constrain man to fear His name and reverence His person. When we know that the mighty sea is totally under His control, when we know that God who made the sea bridles the tempest, curbs the storm, we should fear Him. The contemplation of the marvelous creative and sustaining power of God as He controls the seas should inspire worship and obedience.
Charles Spurgeon once said in one of his sermons, “I can scarcely concede a heart so callous that it feels no awe or a human mind so dull and destitute of understanding, as to view the tokens of God’s omnipotent power and then turn aside without some sense of the fitness of obedience. What fool who can see such power and reject God, who can see such Majesty and have no awe? Has all this nothing to say to man? That’s Jeremiah’s plea. How can you sin against so great a God? How can you sin against the greatness of the Almighty?
Jeremiah is reminding us of the enormity of sin, man shaking his puny fists in the face of Almighty God. But there’s another concept in this verse that’s even beyond that one and closer to, I think, what Jeremiah really has in mind. Look back at verse 22 again in the middle of the verse, “I have placed the sand as a boundary for the sea,” – and this is permanent – “so it can’t cross over it. The waves toss, yet they can’t prevail; though they roar, they can’t cross over it.” The seas stay in their place. There are those tsunamis and those hurricanes and those tidal waves and they come smashing and crashing in the storms. But they never go very far and it’s not long until they recede.
In other words, God has controlled the sea. It never breaks its boundaries. It obeys God in all its movements. Its tides come and go, controlled by God’s creation as He has designed the moon to generate those tides. What is He saying? He’s saying I can control the sea with a little belt of sand around it and I can’t control you. The sea only goes so far and always recedes back inside its band, inside its limitation. But My people are a revolting people. Look what it says there. Verse 23, “This people has a stubborn and rebellious heart; they have turned aside and departed.” I can’t control My people. “They don’t say in their heart,” – verse 24 – ‘Let us now fear the Lord our God.’” They had turned against God too, just like our society.
The God who gives rain in its season, the God who brings the autumn and the spring rain, the God who keeps for us the appointed weeks of the harvest back to creation again. Back to – to providence, back to the sustaining of creation. It is the God who created everything and upholds it by His power that is being ignored. How can they do that? “They have turned aside and departed.” They have gone beyond their restraints. The sea I can control. The sea is restrained merely by a little belt of sand, the massive sea. And My people; I’ve given them stronger restraints then sand. I’ve given them My covenants and My promises and My word and My love and My forgiveness and My will and the threat of My judgment and My promises, and they still revolt.
That was the indictment on Judah that they revolted against all that God had told them. They were incurably rebellious. So Jeremiah is confronting a rebellious people and he stands on the edge of the holocaust, the holocaust being the Babylonian captivity in 586 B.C. The Babylonian Hoards came over, slaughtered the Jews and took the remaining ones who were alive captive back to Babylon. Jeremiah’s message is that judgment. Jeremiah is right at the brink of it, in fact, he lives to see it happen, or nearly at the time it happened.
He preached judgment to come at the hands of Babylon. He says your judgment is coming because your rebellion has gone as far as God will allow it to go. You are now doomed, slaughter and capture is coming. This is the end of the glory days of Judah. The northern king of Israel was already gone and now Judah was about to go. It was Jeremiah’s lot to prophesy at a time when all things in Judah were rushing down to the final and mournful catastrophe.
It was his time when political confusion was at its height, when the worst passions imaginable controlled the people’s hearts, when the most fatal and unwise councils prevailed and God was going to move in judgment. Now remember, the judgment had already been prophesied and promised by Isaiah. But Isaiah had prophesied 80 to 100 years before this, before the actual captivity came. Now, the crisis is full blown and Jeremiah’s is the last voice before the judgment falls.
Let me tell you a little about Jeremiah so you’ll understand something of his ministry. He preached for 42 years. That’s a long time. He preached for 42 years and he preached judgment. He preached captivity. He preached slaughter. He warned. In fact, he preached through the reign of five kings. The first king, and this is very important, was a man by the name of Josiah. You remember, he took the throne as a boy? And by the end of the reign of Josiah there came a period of reformation, a period of revival in Judah. The law had been discovered; it was lost and it was discovered. And Josiah led a great revival in the worship of Jehovah.
But at the same time that revival was going on, there was a woman who appeared on the scene by the name of Huldah, H-U-L-D-A-H, and she was allowed to speak for God a prophecy. And she told Josiah that no permanent result would come from this revival because the people, she said, are following Josiah out of attraction to him and not love for God. It was a popularity contest. It was a celebrity attachment movement. Josiah was a good man and there was a sort of quasi revival, a restoration of worship, an interest in the true God. And it was right during that time that Jeremiah began to prophecy doom. God allowed Jeremiah to see beyond the superficiality of that temporary revival. God allowed Jeremiah to see what Huldah had seen, by God’s revelation, that this was only short lived, had no lasting impact.
It wasn’t really the – the genuine revival they might have hoped for. They were more attached to Josiah, to their hero than they were to God. Oh, how that speaks to our time. As I look back on the ‘70s and maybe even the early ‘80s, I think we might look at that and say this was a time of revival. Student movements, masses of Christians getting together, great interest in Bible study, flourishing of Christian publishing, Christian music, Christian books, writings, a high level of interest on campuses across the universities of America in Christianity and all those kinds of things. Churches grew.
I can remember when the largest church in the whole of Los Angeles had 1,700 people. We don’t think of that as a particularly large church nowadays, and that was back in the early ‘70s. The boom time of mega churches and rapid development of what would be a revival of sorts. But it doesn’t have much, if any, impact on our culture, does it? In fact, what is amazing to me is not only has the culture become more wicked but so has the church. When Josiah died, the revival was really over. He was followed by Jehoahaz, who only lasted three months. Jehoahaz was followed by Jehoakim and he – he was a wicked man. In fact, under him it was a time of appalling evil. And Huldah’s vision came to pass; the people returned to every form of idolatry.
Under Jehoakim they went back to every form of idolatry before the revival of Josiah. Jehoakim was then followed by Jehoiachin who only lasted three months. And he was followed by the last king in Judah, Zedekiah, a vacillating weakling who saw the nation move more swiftly down the steep slide of depravity that led it to ruin and extinction. And Now Jeremiah preached through all five of these men and he was preaching judgment even during the revival, a superficial quasi revival that it was. It wasn’t about to change the end of God’s judgment; it was going to come.
His preaching in no way deterred the disaster. Never did he see any large impact on the part of the people, though he preached for 42 years, they didn’t pay attention to him collectively. There were a few who believed but he preached to masses who hated what he said and hated him. And I see so many parallels here. We’re living in a time when somebody might say there’s a great Christian revival. We’re on radio, we’re on television, we’re in the books, we’re all over the place.
And yet, look at the character of the church. Is the church becoming increasingly more Holy? Is its doctrine becoming increasingly more clear? Is it having an increasingly greater impact on the world? Answer, no! Is it preoccupied with certain celebrities? Yes. Is there brokenness and repentance, a striving after holiness, a purging of the doctrine and the living of God’s people? Is it devastatingly affecting the ungodly culture? No. No, there’s more divorce, more messed up homes, more shattered relationships, more materialism, more tolerance of inequity, more vacillating theology in the church then I’ve seen in my lifetime. It’s some kind of a movement but I’m not sure it could be defined as a real reformation.
That’s Jeremiah’s time and it’s – it’s our time. That’s the time that Jeremiah ministered. Now why have the people turned from God? Was it intellectual? No, turning from God is senseless. Turning from God is foolish, it is stupid; it means you can stare at the evidence and not see it. You can listen to the evidence and not hear it. Why? Look at verse 25 of Jeremiah 5, “Why did they turn? Your inequities have turned these away and your sins have withheld good from you.”
That is always the issue. It is not empirical, it is not evidential, it is not rational, it is sin that compels the rejection of the true God. They love their sin; they, therefore, gave no place to God. So here is Jeremiah, he’s looking at a society on the brink of the judgment of God, literally polluted to the brim with sin, while at the same time having passed through some kind of revival. And the question is; what kind of man, what kind of person does he need to be for that hour of crisis?
Three things that I want to mention about Jeremiah, three things that God shows us and I think they’re things that we need to be aware of. Number one, he had a divine mandate, he had a divine mandate. Let’s go back to chapter 1. Here’s where we see this divine mandate unfold. Chapter 1, verses 4 through 10, but let’s start with verses 4 and 5. “As he begins his prophecy he says the word of the Lord came to me saying,” here’s where it all starts. “Before I formed you in the womb I knew you.” By the way, just in case anybody asks whether a fetus is life created by God that ought to help. ““Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, before you were born I consecrated you; I have appointed you as a prophet to the nations.” Wow!
What are we talking about here? Predestination by God, predestination by God. This began long before Jeremiah was ever conceived. God had decided to make this man, Jeremiah, to make him in the womb of his mother, to put him in a unique place as a consecrated prophet who would speak His word at a time of judgment. “Before I formed you in the womb I knew you.” Now there’s omniscience, right? God not only knows everything that is but he also knows everything that isn’t yet, including Jeremiah. Before he was formed in his mother’s womb he was called, he was appointed, he was predestined to be a prophet to the nations. Predestination, it’s just incredible.
That’s the true biography of Jeremiah in eleven short Hebrew words, only his biography starts in eternity. When men face a crisis, they look for a program, they look for a method. God looks for a man or a woman. When God wants to deal with a crisis he might start with a baby, in this case Jeremiah. He had to know from the beginning that he was appointed by God, why? Because he had to have a sense of destiny. He had to know that he was separated from others to a unique calling and God tells him that. “Before you were ever born, I had put my hand on you, consecrated you, set you aside to be a prophet, this is your destiny.” I can tell you that whoever doesn’t have a sense of being predestined by God to such noble service will never work or ever has worked a revolution for God.
And it’s true of you, you may not be called to be a prophet, but I’ll tell you this, you were called from before you were born to belong to Christ. Is that not so? You were predestined before the foundation of the world; your name was written in the Lamb’s Book of Life before the foundation of the world. All of that happened before you were ever born. In the decree of God in eternity past, you have a destiny and your destiny is that you were predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son. You were predestined to be made like Jesus Christ, who would then be the first born among many brethren. You were predestined to belong to Christ; therefore, you were predestined to be in this world as a messenger of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Most of the people in the church today have no real, clear understanding of that. They lack the true sense of divine mission.
S this is why you’re here. I don’t care whether you’re a doctor, a lawyer, an Indian chief, I don’t care whether you’re a schoolteacher or – or a mechanic, whether you own your own business or work for somebody else, whether you work in the post office, or whether you work in some religious organization, or some spiritual effort, or some ministry, or whether you’re a housewife or whether you’re retired, or whether you’re a student or what you are, all of that stuff is incidental to your real destiny. All that stuff does is define the realm in which you fulfill your destiny, but your destiny is as an ambassador of Jesus Christ. That’s why you were predestined. To take on the image of Jesus Christ, to proclaim Him in time and to reflect Him in eternity.
Well, how can we get so caught up in building our career? That’s only incidental. How can we get so caught up in creature comforts, the current fashion of the world? That’s triviality, that’s superficial, that’s peripheral. Our destiny is that of Jeremiah and that is to go to a godless and dying society with a message. We are witnesses, we are witnesses. We may not be as unique as Jeremiah. You may not be a preacher like other preachers but you are all called to be witnesses. That is your spiritual destiny for which you were called before the foundation of the world.
And Jeremiah – look at chapter 2, verse 18, He says to the people in light of – of this reality that you, too – by the way Israel had been called to the same thing, they were a witnessing people. Verse 18, “Now what are you doing on the road to Egypt, to drink the waters of the Nile? Or what are you doing on the road to Assyria, to drink the waters of the Euphrates?” What in the world are you doing? What does he mean? God had chosen Israel to be separate from the other nations, to be a witness nation. They had violated that calling and you know what they were doing? They were running down the road to Egypt and running down the path to Assyria, and they were drinking out of the mucky waters of the Nile.
What does that mean? They were engaging themselves in free relationships with pagan Egyptians and they were into pagan idols and pagan gods. They were running over to drink the waters of Assyria, the Euphrates River. They brought back Egyptian gods and they brought back Assyrian gods, that’s what they did. And they set up high places where they built Egyptian idols and Assyrian idols and they worshipped the filthy abominations of Egypt and the filthy abominations of Assyria and when oft reproved by God, the Old Testament says, “They just hardened their neck and became more stiff necked.” God says to them here through the prophet Jeremiah, “What in the world do you have in common with Egypt? What do you have in common with Assyria?”
The message to us would be what do you have in common with the world around you? Come out from among them and be separate. Why would you drink the mucky, muddy waters of your Egypt? Why would you go over and taste the idolatry of Assyria? Whatever happened to the cool streams of Lebanon? Why isn’t the true God that your – your God enough? They failed to be separated. That was their problem. God had to raise up a special man to call them back from this terrible compromise. And I see this in our day. The church – the church has chased after everything in this world, compromised itself so tragically. So there was predestination by God in the case of Jeremiah.
Go back to chapter 1 and let’s see provision by God. Jeremiah’s reaction was maybe what yours would be, it’s nice to know I’m called like that but verse 6, “Then I said, ‘Alas, Lord God!’” – or maybe woe is me – “‘I don’t know how to speak.” Now that is a problem. I’m supposed to be a preacher, I’m supposed to be ordained to speak from before I was ever conceived and I’m telling you I’m not very good. Not only that, “I’m a youth.” He was around 30 at the time. This is great anguish. Woe is me, he shudders at the very thought of such a task as being sent as a prophet to the nations because he’s not an adequate speaker, he’s not a great orator. I can’t, he says, I cannot do it. He uses a Hebrew word that denotes to know it by experience. In my experience I’ve tried speaking and I can’t do it, and I’m a child, and I’m – I’m too young.
By the way, Moses said that. So did Gideon and so did Isaiah. If you feel fearful, inadequate then you’re in good company. Verse 7, “But the Lord said to me, ‘Do not say I am a youth, because everywhere I send you, you shall go, and all that I command you, you shall speak.’” Boy, what a provision. Don’t worry about your inabilities I’m going to send you where I want you to be and I’m going to give you to say what I want you to say. That’s all you could ever ask for. I’m going to send you to the places I want you to go, which means I’m going to prepare the way, and then I’m going to give you the message to speak.
And, beloved, we can have that same confidence that wherever we go the Lord’s sending us. We have the message to speak because we have His Word. That’s the provision. Don’t worry about your looks, your oratorical skill, your voice, your experience, your abilities, your personalities, I’m going to give you My Word and that’s going to be your provision. So He gave to him the word about predestination which said his destiny was fixed and He gave him the word about provision. He didn’t need to worry about what he would say. God would give him the word and what a blessing it is that he’s given it to us.
Thirdly, you have not only predestination and provision by God but protection by God. Verse 8, “‘Do not be afraid of them, for I am with you to deliver you’ declares the Lord.” He would have opposition. I mean Jeremiah, bless him, had fierce unrelenting hatred from his own people. And by the way, tradition says he died in Egypt eventually, because he was shipped there, sent there because they tried to silence him, they wanted - he spent time in prison, he wrote chapters 30 to 33 from prison. He was eventually sent to Egypt and there he died – are you ready for this? – at the hands of his own countrymen, the Jews, who killed him. It would be like a preacher being martyred by the church.
But through it all, 42 years, “Do not be afraid of them, I am with you to deliver you.” Until his time came, until the ministry was done and the captivity had happened, God protected that man, faithful against all antagonism and all opposition. It’s easy to be afraid when you go out to face a dying culture. It’s easy to be afraid when you go out to face a society that has rejected God and turned to atheistic naturalism, prides itself on its rationalization and its scientific thinking capability. It’s easy to be afraid of that. Jeremiah was afraid. God had to say, “Fear not,” He said fear not to Abraham, He said fear not to Moses, He said fear not to Daniel, He said fear not to Mary, He said fear not to Simon in Luke 5 and He said fear not to Paul in Acts 27, so you’re in good company. The paralyzing human emotion is normal at the formidable character of the task ahead of us.
Well, not only was he given predestination, provision, protection, but fourthly, power from God. Look at verse 9. “The Lord stretched out His hand and touched my mouth, and the Lord said to me, ‘Behold, I have put My words in your mouth. See, I have appointed you this day over the nations and over the kingdoms, to pluck up and to break down, to destroy and to overthrow, to build and to plant.’” Wow, what influence. You’re literally going to go careening through the world making havoc. Why? Because you speak the Word of God. Not because you’re so clever, not because your personality is so commanding, not because your personal presence has such authority but because you speak My word. You may be unskilled and oratory but when you speak My word you are going to build and tear down, you are going to make a difference on the earth.
And that’s the message that I want to convey to you. We live in a society that has gone through a quasi-revival on the brink of the judgment of God that has happened to many nations before us. This nation careens more rapidly in a depraved way toward the pit of inequity. And here we come into that society predestined by God to confront that society, to speak. This is our destiny, everything else is peripheral and incidental, and we come at that situation knowing that God will be there to provide the truth for us, to give us the protection we need and to empower us with energy from on high. What a tremendous privilege.
So first of all, Jeremiah faced this formidable responsibility with a divine mandate. Secondly, with a direct message, with a direct message. Some would tell us today we’ve got to be subtle and we’ve got to tone down the message. And I’ve talked about this before. I won’t beg the issue. And we’ve got to make sure we don’t offend people and we’ve got to have people like us a lot. So we can’t really confront things, we’ve got to be careful and subtle, clever and tolerant, and loving and all of that. That was not Jeremiah. In a time like this, a serious time, that is the opposite of the right approach. He doesn’t pamper people, he doesn’t cajole them, he doesn’t soft soap them, he doesn’t skirt issues, he doesn’t try to be popular, he doesn’t avoid controversy.
In fact, he was heavily into controversy as I told you. He went right at that those people. For example, chapter 14, verse 7 he says, “You’ve sinned against God.” Chapter 17, verse 9, “Your hearts are deceitful and desperately wicked.” He names the sins of the people, he calls them exactly what they are. Let me give you just a few. First of all, he assaults false religion, false religion. Look at chapter 3 for just a moment. And he identifies their false religion as a kind of spiritual adultery, a – a hypocrisy of the rankest kind. When a man in a marriage, for example, tells his wife he loves her and loves her alone, and is singularly devoted to her and in love with her, and loyal and faithful to her, and he’s got harlots on the outside, he is a hypocrite of hypocrites.
And that is exactly what Israel had done, showing up at the temple, going through the motions, affirming their devotion to God, and worshipping idols all over the place. They had many spiritual harlotries and that is addressed here. The end of verse 1, “You are a harlot with many lovers.” End of verse 2, “You have polluted a land with your harlotry and with your wickedness.” Verse 8, he speaks of “the adulteries of faithless Israel.” Verse 9, end of the verse, “She polluted the land and committed adultery with stones and trees.” What does that mean? They made gods out of stone and idols out of wood. Verse 10, “Judah did not return to me with all her heart” They kept coming back to me and back to the temple, but not “with all her heart but rather in deception.” And there you have it. False religion, hypocritical religion that purports to worship the true God but has many other lovers. False religion.
I suppose that some of it is in chapter 2, verses 12 and 13. “‘Be appalled, O heavens, at this, and shudder, be very desolate,’ declares the Lord.” In other words, this is so serious and so severe that the whole universe ought to shake. “For My people have committed two evils.” – Here they are: One, “They have forsaken Me, the fountain of living waters,” – How stupid is that? They’ve turned their back on me. There it is. In our culture, atheistic naturalism or practical atheism, whatever. They’ve turned their back on the one who is “the fountain of living waters.” That’s the first evil. Second evil: they “hewed out for themselves cisterns, broken cisterns that can hold no water.
They took stone and built false gods that offered them nothing. How foolish. They turned from the true God and erected gods and idols of their own. Man endeavoring to work out his own salvation leaves the clear fresh water of the true God for empty broken wells. Proliferation of false religion all around us, false Christianity, cults, liberalism, atheistic humanism, all broken cisterns. By the way, even in the Book of Jeremiah, chapter 7 in verse 18, Jeremiah indicts Judea for worshipping – are you ready for this – “the queen of heaven.” All that false religion, all that hypocritical religion, and we have a lot of it. And some of it is named Christianity and some of it is not. But even within Christianity, there is so much false and hypocritical worship.
Secondly, he indicts them for corrupt leadership. You know, just a footnote to that. Sometimes people say, why do you have to be divisive and why do you have to say something about those people you don’t agree with? I simply would say to you that we have an obligation as Jeremiah did to confront false religion and call it what it is. That’s a mandate. But let’s look at the second issue which is corrupt leadership, chapter 5. Jeremiah has to address that because it’s such an obvious issue. In Jeremiah chapter 5 verse 13, this is very, very graphic. “The prophets are as wind, and the word is not in them.”
Well, this is a very graphic statement. Let’s just say for the sake of propriety this morning that they are windbags. They’re not saying anything they’re just hot air, they’re just
“wind and the word is not in them.” They just talk. Preaching today is just a lot of talk, a lot of hot air. Possibility thinking, platitudes, feel good messages, psychology, mysticism, you name it. They speak their own ideas, make up their theology as they go, false teachings of all kinds, windbags, hot air, not God’s word.
Then there’s immorality; he has to indict that. Sexual sin that went along with the idol worship. They were not only engaged with idols but they would also engage in sexual sin. That’s why the imagery of harlotry in chapter 3 is such a good image because there was actual harlotry going along with the worship of the Egyptian gods and the Assyrian gods. Then there’s general wickedness at the end of the chapter 3, verses 24 and 25. Look at verse 25, for example, “Let us lie down in our shame.” in other words they were like pigs lying in the muck. They were just wallowing in shame because their sin was just rampant. “We have sinned against the Lord our God, we and our fathers, since our youth even to this day. And we have not obeyed the voice of the Lord our God.” There’s a general indictment, just a general wickedness.
And then you come to chapter 5, verses 1 and 2, and you come to another direct message of sin, another direct word. “Roam to and fro” – chapter 5, verse 1 – “through the streets of Jerusalem, look now and take note. Seek her – seek in her open squares. If you can find a man, if there is one who does justice, who seeks truth, then I will pardon her.” Can you beat that? All it would take would be one person doing justice and one person seeking truth and God would hold judgment back. Liars, deceivers, and God hates lies. They swear falsely, verse 2, and they do it saying, “As the Lord lives.” Taking an oath on the – on the Eternal God. As the Lord lives this is true,” and they are lying, they are liars.
We shouldn’t be surprised by that, people lie all the time. Our politicians lie, our leaders lie, people lie in court all the time, put their hand on a Bible and then lie. The idea is not seeking truth; the idea is not doing justice, that’s not the idea. The idea is to achieve your personal goal. Lies all over the place. How many politicians have we heard of who denied, denied, denied, denied, denied and then all the evidence came down and they were lying all along. Lies, lies, lies.
Every level, chapter 8, verse 5 ““Why then has this people, Jerusalem, turned away in continual apostasy?” Why have they gone this way? Here it is. “They hold fast to deceit,” They clutch deceit close, they love deceit, lie at every level. I’m sure that’s even true in the spiritual realm, in the church realm, lies and deception. Then he indicts them for another thing, ignoring Scripture. Chapter 11, verse 8, “Yet they did not obey or incline their ear, but walked, each one, in the stubbornness of his evil heart; therefore I brought on them all the words of this covenant, which I commanded them to do, but they did not.” I gave them My word, I gave them My covenant, I commanded them to do it, and they didn’t do it.
Verse 10, “They have turned back to the iniquities of their ancestors who refused to hear My words.” They went right back to the time before Josiah, right back to the old idolatress patterns. The end of verse 10, “They have broken My covenant.” I mean it’s just one straightforward, head-on collision after another. He gave a direct message of the hypocrisy of their false religion, the corruption of their spiritual leadership, the perversion of their sexual lives, their wickedness in general, their lies and deceit and their ignorance of an unwillingness to respond to Scripture. So he went right at their sin but that’s what we’re to do, we have to confront sin in our society. We can’t – we can’t just talk about good things. We have to confront sin.
Now Jeremiah sums this whole directness up in a most astonishing way. Look at chapter 13. You’ll never forget this. Verse 1 of chapter 13, the Lord tells him to go and buy some shorts – translated, a linen waistband. Well that’s - in Hebrew it means shorts; what – what a man wore next to his skin. Go buy some shorts – this is going to be an object lesson; it gets pretty complicated – and put them on, and “don’t put them in water.” You’ve heard of wash and wear. This is wear and don’t wash.
Verse 11. What’s the point? I mean, why does he have them go get these shorts and put them on? Verse 11, “‘Sure as the shorts cling to the waist of a man” – close – “so I made the whole household of Israel and the whole household of Judah cling to Me,’ declares the Lord, ‘that they might be for Me a people, for renown, for praise and for glory; but they did not listen.’” This is intimacy here. This is the most intimate garment a man wears and that’s how God views his relationship to His people. He brought them as close to Him as he could get them, for glory and praise, and renown and all He had was their good in mind. And he got them as close to Himself as he could get, just like the most intimate garment that a man can wear.
Now go back to verse 2 and listen to see what God tells them to do. This is going to be an illustration of God and Israel. “So I bought the shorts” – literally – “in accordance with the Word of the Lord,” and I put them on. So he got his new shorts and put them on. “Then the Word of the Lord came to me a second time, He’s standing there saying, all right Lord, what do I do know? “Take the shorts you bought, that you’re now wearing, and go to the Euphrates.” Now folks, that’s 200 hundred miles walking. Go there, “and then hide them in the crevasse of a rock.”
Take your shorts and then hide them when you get there. Now 200 miles in the same shorts would have a serious effect on those shorts. And when you get them there, take them off and stick them in a rock. It’s a long trip Lord, but verse 5, “I went” 200 hundred miles and I did what the Lord told me; I stuck them in the rock, and apparently came back, 400 miles. I can’t - this is a long trip. Verse 6. And it “came after many days, the Lord said go to the Euphrates again and get the shorts. Back again and get the shorts? So he went back and got the shorts. He dug, verse 7, found them and the shorts “were ruined and totally worthless.” That’s understandable. They had a long trip and they’d been buried for a while and never washed.
Well, what is the point? Well, verse 8, “Then the word of the Lord came to me, saying, ‘Thus says the Lord, “Just so will I destroy the pride of Judah and the great pride of Jerusalem. This wicked people, who refuse to listen to My words, who walk in the stubbornness of their hearts and have gone after other gods to serve them and to bow down to them, let them be just like this waistband which is totally worthless.” This is how vile Judah had become, filthy. Once intimately connected to God, now filthy, despised and useless like a pair of stinking, dirty, rotten, shredding shorts.
This is not a time for platitudes; this is a time for serious confrontation, isn’t it? This is the heart of the matter. Jeremiah had a very direct message, chapter 13 verse 15, “Listen and give heed, do not be haughty, for the Lord has spoken. Give glory to the Lord your God, before He brings darkness and before your feet stumble on the dusky mountains. While you are hoping for light He makes it deep darkness, and turns it into gloom.” You better – you better repent before judgment falls. Now what characterized this prophet? A divine mandate. He had to see himself as one who was predestined, empowered, protected, and he had a direct message to preach concerning the sin of his people.
There was a third part; he had not only a divine mandate and a direct message, but a deep mourning, a deep mourning. Look at verse 17 while you’re in chapter 13. Now, verse 17, “If you will not listen,” he says to the people – “my soul will sob in secret for such pride; and my eyes will bitterly weep and flow down with tears, Because the flock of the Lord has been taken captive.” I like this about Jeremiah. He cared; he was not indifferent, dispassionate, cold. These people had not become his enemy. He didn’t hate them, he loved them and he wept.
Jeremiah is known as the “weeping prophet.” Back in chapter 4 we see this same posture in verse 19. He says – listen to the – listen to the pain, that you feel it in his words. “My soul, my soul! I am in anguish! Oh, my heart! My heart is pounding in me.” This is a man who really feels deeply. Chapter 8 verse 18, “My sorrow is beyond healing,” – I am incurably sad – “my heart is faint within me.”
That there’s a – there’s a phrase in the verse I just read to you from chapter 4 that talks about the walls of his heart. It was just like his heart was breaking, was ripping, his sorrow was beyond healing. “Harvest is past,” – verse 20 – “summer is ended, and we are not saved.” – that’s his – that’s his heartache – “For the brokenness of the daughter of my people I am broken; I mourn, dismay has taken hold of me. Is there no balm” – is there no salve – “is there no physician?” Can anybody heal my broken heart? It’s one thing to know you have a divine mandate it’s another to know you have a direct message and give it, but it’s something else to be driven by this kind of compassion. He cries for a healer to heal his broken heart, he can’t stand the pain. He is called to preach, he knows that. He is given the message to preach, he knows that. But that’s not going to be fulfilled is he doesn’t have a compassionate heart.
You can’t just sit by speculating about the timing of the rapture when people are on their way to hell. Jesus Himself wept over Jerusalem. You can’t be an Evangelical egghead in the midst of a time like this. This is war for the souls of men and women, the eternal souls. You can’t just be stockpiling yourself in Bible studies, arguing over semantics or it’ll only reveal your cold heart. People are perishing and Christians are content to be in non-strategic activities while the world around them is bound for eternal hell.
Chapter 9 culminates in I think the greatest statement of Jeremiah’s sorrow, he just has got so much sorrow and he can’t even release it so he says in chapter 9 verse 1, “Oh that my head were waters and my eyes a fountain of tears that I might weep day and night for the slain of the daughter of my people.” Now, tears are a release. They take the anguish of the soul and they let it break out and they release it. But he didn’t have enough tears to get rid of the anguish. He wishes his head was a perennial spring of tears and inexhaustible supply of water so that day and night he could weep giving expression to the anguish of his soul and getting some relief. They’re still his people and he still loves them. He doesn’t hate them and he doesn’t resent them; he loves them.
Later in chapter 9, verses 17 and 18 he says, I don’t want to be crying alone so “call for the mourning women.” Call for some “wailing women, let them make haste and take up a wailing for us, that our eyes may shed tears and our eyelids flow with water.” I need somebody to cry with me, he says. But he cried alone, really. And the day that Jeremiah wept he wept by himself because Jerusalem was in laughter. There was a party going on and he was a sad man at a party. He was really out of sync, but he knew what they didn’t know or wouldn’t realize. His tears and ours are for a world on its way to hell and that’s the passion of the heart. You know, you can know you’re called, you can know what the message is, but something has to drive you and that something is a concern for the eternal souls of men and women.
Jeremiah was God’s man for a desperate time. You say did anybody ever listen to him? Well, not many, not many, a few but not many. In fact, he didn’t have great results. Chapter 7 verse 23, “This is what I commanded them, saying, ‘Obey My voice, and I will be your God, and you will be My people; and you will walk in all my ways that I – that I command you, that it may be well with you.’ Yet they did not obey or incline their ear, walked in their own counsels and in the stubbornness of their evil heart, they went backward and not forward.” Verse 26, “They their neck; they did more evil than their fathers.” Verse 27, “You shall speak” – God says to him – “all these words to them, but they will not listen to you; you shall call to them, they will not answer you. You shall say to them, ‘This is the nation that did not obey the voice of the Lord their God or accept correction; truth has perished and been cut off from their mouth.’”
Tell them judgment is coming because they will not answer. That’s our message. A remnant yes, a few. By the time you get to chapter 24, the future remnant begins to be the topic of discussion and from chapter 24 all the way to chapter 33 you see the flourishing of the new covenant in the remnant and the Messiah. Yes, we can have hope. Yes, we can have confidence. There is a remnant, there is some who will believe, but the majority will not. So we don’t measure our ministry by results; we measure it by loyalty and faithfulness. God has a remnant in Jeremiah’s day, God has a remnant in our day and there will be a future when Israel is saved.
But we live, I think, in a time when judgment is near. “The harvest has passed,” – as Jeremiah 8:20 said – “The summer has ended and we are not saved.” And that’s the issue. God has made a provision for salvation, it’s up to us, we are the predestined, our destiny is to preach it. We’ve been given the direct message to confront sin and speak about repentance and the Gospel of salvation and we must have a deep mourning, a heart of compassion for those around us.
And so, what we may think is being called today, the modern culture or even postmodern, is nothing new, same old sin. God is rejected, His Word is rejected and God raises up some to confront that culture on the brink of judgment. We do it because we’ve been called to do it, we’ve been told what to say, and because we are motivated by the condition of these people and the eternal consequence of their unbelief. Let’s bow in prayer.
Father, again this morning it is our privilege to worship You and yet it is such an overwhelming responsibility to be confronted with the message of Jeremiah. Would that we had more time to unfold the greatness of the – of the man and his work. But it’s enough to feel so inadequate. Give us the sense of destiny, predestiny, a predetermined destiny to be ambassadors for Christ that makes everything else peripheral.
Keep us focused on the central message which is to confront sin and disobedience and rebellion, and call sinners to God. And give us that deep mourning, that compassion, that passion for those who are on their way to hell. May we know what it is to have a grieved heart like Jeremiah did. And then You can use us to bring some to righteousness for Your glory. We are accountable and responsible for what we have learned and we need Your Spirit to make us faithful to fulfill it. We pray in Christ’s name, Amen.
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