We continue to explore The Book of Jeremiah. In the last episode, we covered the first of Jeremiah’s three components – the charge – and now we explore the verdict and the restoration. During the challenges of exile, we are faced with an important question: “Who should we trust?” How we answer is one of the most foundational decisions we will ever make. We are called trust in God in all circumstances and seasons. To believe in his faithfulness and hold out hope we will be restored. We pick up in the fifth chapter of Jeremiah.
So let’s get into some specifics. Let’s look back at chapter 5. We’re just going to sort of reel through these. And they’re all going to be things that are contemporary to us. Every one of these things is not an ancient thing; it’s a human thing.
5:1. “Run to and fro through the streets of Jerusalem;
See now and know;
And seek in her open places
If you can find a man,
If there is anyone who executes judgment,
Who seeks the truth,
And I will pardon her.
Just find one somewhere. Find someone that’s seeking the truth and applying it to judge righteously.
You know, we tend to, in our culture, say you don’t judge anything, right? Well that’s not the biblical deal. The biblical deal is you don’t sit in God’s chair; but judgment is something that comes when you see things truly. Well, that’s something that was missing in this culture.
Look at 5:7.
“How shall I pardon you for this?
Your children have forsaken Me
And sworn by those that are not gods.
When I had fed them to the full,
So there we go. And then the basis of all these things is trusting the wrong thing.
Then they committed adultery
And assembled themselves by troops in the harlots’ houses.
By troops! You go to the harlots’ houses, and the parking lot’s full. Sexual immorality abounding. So, no truth. Nobody’s seeking truth. Not applying truth. Sexual immorality abounding.
Verse 12. They have lied about the Lord,
And said, “It is not He.
Neither will evil come upon us,
We’re not going to see sword or famine. So God’s not a God that allows—he’s always going to protect us. He would never do that! That’s the God of the Old Testament. The God of the New Testament’s just loving. He won’t do anything like that! If you believe in a God that would do something like that to somebody, then that’s not a God worth believing in.
6:7. As a fountain wells up with water,
So she wells up with her wickedness.
Violence and plundering are heard in her.
Before Me continually are grief and wounds.
So violence. People are doing violence to one another. When you have a culture where everybody’s seeking their own pleasures and following their own appetites and everything’s about me—sexual appetite, what I want reality to be, truth doesn’t matter, there’s no truth standard that I’m under, I make truth for myself—it’ll always lead to violence because now what you want to do is control other people for your own pleasure. And here it is. Violence.
6:10. To whom shall I speak and give warning,
That they may hear?
Indeed their ear is uncircumcised,
And they cannot give heed.
Behold, the word of the Lord is a reproach to them;
They have no delight in it.
Not only do they not want to hear the truth, when they do hear the truth they say, “No, don’t say that! You can’t say that! Make it stop! You stop talking that way! God doesn’t do that, and if he does, he’s a bigot; and you’re a bigot!”
6:13. “Because from the least of them even to the greatest of them,
Everyone is given to covetousness;
And from the prophet even to the priest,
Everyone deals falsely.
Here we’ve got a society that has become covetous. They’re just chasing envy. One up with the Joneses. If you have it, I need it. If you’ve got it, I want it. If I see an advertisement that everybody else has one, then I have to have one, even if I’ve got to hock my credit cards. That’s the society that they’re in.
Verse 15. Were they ashamed when they had committed abomination?
No! They were not at all ashamed;
Nor did they know how to blush.
So not only is all this happening, but it’s gone to, “Yeah, this is fine. This is the way it’s supposed to be. Yeah, gross sexual immorality out in the marketplace? What’s there to be ashamed of? We shouldn’t be ashamed! We want to celebrate it!”
Lying. “Oh, yeah. No problem. It’s funny. Let’s make a commercial out of it, that when you can use your phone app to lie to your spouse about you forgetting your anniversary, it’s funny! It’s great! You cover your lie. Your electronics can do it.”
7:5. “For if you thoroughly amend your ways and your doings, if you thoroughly execute judgment between a man and his neighbor,
if you do not oppress the stranger, the fatherless, and the widow, and do not shed innocent blood in this place, or walk after other gods to your hurt,
then I will cause you to dwell in this place, in the land that I gave to your fathers forever and ever.
By implication what’s happening here is innocent life is being taken, and people are being oppressed.
7:28. “So you shall say to them, ‘This is a nation that does not obey the voice of the Lord their God nor receive correction. Truth has perished and has been cut off from their mouth.
Again, they don’t want to be corrected. Not only do they not like truth, when they hear it they won’t receive it.
7:30. For the children of Judah have done evil in My sight,” says the Lord. “They have set their abominations in the house which is called by My name, to pollute it.
This is idols.
And they have built the high places of Tophet, which is in the Valley of the Son of Hinnom,
This is the valley that’s just offset on Jerusalem to the other side of the West. The eastern valley is called the Kidron valley; the western valley is the Hinnom valley. Still there today. And this is the valley that is transliterated into the word Gehenna. So when you see hell in the New Testament, most of the time, if not all the time, that is a translation of Gehenna, which is actually an interpretation that the translators are doing on what they think that this physical valley is representing.
And here it’s called Tophet because Tophet means drums. And what they would do is they would put the idol of Moloch out in this valley where there was refuse and sewage and any kind of dead carcass you’d put out there, and it’s always smoldering fire. This is the valley of the waste, the dump, the sewage plant.
And they would go out there and put this Moloch statue and heat it up, and then they would beat the drums so you couldn’t hear the shrieking of the children, and they would go put their children on Moloch and burn them as a sacrifice.
So this is what comes from trusting these other gods. This is how you get the favor of the god and perhaps get rid of somebody you don’t want.
7:31-34. They have set their abominations in the house which is called by My name, to pollute it.
Verse 31. And they have built the high places of Tophet, which is in the Valley of the Son of Hinnom, to burn their sons and their daughters in the fire, which I did not command, nor did it come into My heart.
“Therefore behold, the days are coming,” says the Lord, “when it will no more be called Tophet, or the Valley of the Son of Hinnom, but the Valley of Slaughter; for they will bury in Tophet until there is no room.
He’s predicting the impending doom.
Then in 17:19, Thus the Lord said to me: “Go and stand in the gate of the children of the people, by which the kings of Judah come in and by which they go out, and in all the gates of Jerusalem;
and say to them, ‘Hear the word of the Lord, you kings of Judah, and all Judah, and all the inhabitants of Jerusalem, who enter by these gates.
Thus says the Lord: “Take heed to yourselves, and bear no burden on the Sabbath day,
And he actually tells them, if you’ll just honor the Sabbath day, I’ll relent from your judgment. Just give me a starting place. Just trust me in something. And then we can go from there. But that doesn’t work either.
The root of all of this, of course, is who they trust.
Let’s look at 7:4. Do not trust in these lying words, saying, ‘The temple of the Lord, the temple of the Lord—
One of the things that the Israelites believed is because they had the temple, God would never allow destruction to happen because that was God’s temple, and God would not allow that to happen to his name. And God sends a prophet and says, no, the temple is just something to remind you of me. If you’re not following me, the temple’s not doing any good. I will knock it down.
“No, no, no. The temple, the temple. We’re safe because of the temple.”
So they’re trusting in the temple. That’s one thing they trust in.
Here’s what Jeremiah says to him about the temple. Let’s look at 7:12.
But go now to My place which was in Shiloh—
Shiloh was the worship center in the northern kingdom which, you recall, was knocked down some decades earlier.
But go now to My place which was in Shiloh, where I set My name at the first, and see what I did to it because of the wickedness of My people Israel.
If you don’t think I’ll knock a temple down, go look at one that’s knocked down.
Well this obviously didn’t do any good.
Look at 7:16. We’ll see something else they trust in.
“Therefore do not pray for this people, Jeremiah, nor lift up a cry or prayer for them, nor make intercession to Me; for I will not hear you.
Do you not see what they do in the cities of Judah and in the streets of Jerusalem?
The children gather wood, the fathers kindle the fire, and the women knead dough, to make cakes for the queen of heaven; and they pour out drink offerings to other gods, that they may provoke Me to anger.
Let’s skip over to chapter 44, and I’ll show you a little episode here that gives you some idea why they would do this. And this is at the heart of all pagan worship. This is actually after Jerusalem has fallen, and the people want to do, what? Do you think the people, after Jerusalem has fallen and everything happened just like Jeremiah said, what do you think the people want to do? Go to Egypt.
And Jeremiah says, no. Trust in Babylon. And they go to Egypt. Slow learners.
Chapter 44. He’s having this back and forth with them. They come to him and say, “We want to go to Egypt. Go inquire of the Lord.”
And he comes back and says, “I’m going to tell you, but you’re not going to listen because you didn’t actually ask with your heart wanting to know; you just wanted a blessing for what you’d already decided you want to do.”
44:15. Then all the men who knew that their wives had burned incense to other gods, with all the women who stood by, a great multitude, and all the people who dwelt in the land of Egypt, in Pathros, answered Jeremiah, saying:
“As for the word that you have spoken to us in the name of the Lord, we will not listen to you!
But we will certainly do whatever has gone out of our own mouth, to burn incense to the queen of heaven and pour out drink offerings to her, as we have done, we and our fathers, our kings and our princes, in the cities of Judah and in the streets of Jerusalem. Why? For then we had plenty of food, were well-off, and saw no trouble.
But since we stopped burning incense to the queen of heaven and pouring out drink offerings to her, we have lacked everything and have been consumed by the sword and by famine.”
The women also said, “And when we burned incense to the queen of heaven and poured out drink offerings to her, did we make cakes for her, to worship her, and pour out drink offerings to her without our husbands’ permission?”
Then Jeremiah spoke to all the people—the men, the women, and all the people who had given him that answer—saying:
“The incense that you burned in the cities of Judah and in the streets of Jerusalem, you and your fathers, your kings and your princes, and the people of the land, did not the Lord remember them, and did it not come into His mind?
So the Lord could no longer bear it, because of the evil of your doings and because of the abominations which you committed. Therefore your land is a desolation, an astonishment, a curse, and without an inhabitant—
That’s what your burning did. It didn’t make you prosperous! That made you desolate! What are you thinking?
I think the great allure of something like pouring out drink offerings to the king of heaven is, who’s in control of the queen of heaven? Who do they think is in control of the queen of heaven? They are.
And this goes to the heart of the problem. If we go back to 17:5
Thus says the Lord:
“Cursed is the man who trusts in man
And makes flesh his strength,
Whose heart departs from the Lord.
And this is the bottom-line problem. “Oh, the temple of the Lord, the temple of Lord.” That’s something physical that they can see and touch. That will keep us safe.
“The queen of heaven, the queen of heaven.” That’s something I control. My own mouth. I’ll trust my own mouth, the things that I say. I’m not going to trust what God says.
This is the fundamental problem. And this is what leads to disaster and catastrophe.
And, again, it’s self-destruction. If we want to trust God, make good choices, have good attitudes, then we get a blessed life. Now trouble comes with it, as it did with Jeremiah; but the peace that passes understanding, the rewards of God’s approval vastly outweigh that.
But the alternative is to trust ourselves; and, ultimately, we get self-destruction. That’s the basic deal.
So the verdict is death, exile, and suppression.
Chapter 18 and 19 are great chapters. I don’t have time to read them. I’ll just tell you about them. In chapter 18, it’s the potter. And God says, “Go down to the potter’s house, and watch the potter.”
So there’s a potter making a pot. Jeremiah standing there watching. He puts it on the shelf. He makes another pot. He makes another pot. And then he makes one and messes up, so he takes the thing and just clumps it down in a clump starts over again.
And the Lord speaks to Jeremiah and says, “See what the potter just did? That’s what I’m going to do. I’m going to remake Israel.”
Because one of the things he makes clear in this book is nothing I’m saying is going to mean that my promise to Israel is not going to still take place. I’m still going to fulfill all my promises to Israel. I’m just going to go a different route because you’re insisting that I go a different route.
See, we as new creations in Christ have a destiny to be in his family. That’s irreversible. We’re going to be in heaven and in the new earth with God.
The question is, what path are we going to take there? Are we going to take a self-destructive path that results in destruction here on earth and destruction at the judgment seat of Christ and immense loss of what we could have become? Or are we going to take the path God asks us to take with blessing that compounds beyond what we’re even able to think of if we love him he says. You can’t even imagine the blessings I have for you.
That’s the basic idea here.
In chapter 19, he says take the elders and go out to the potter’s gate and take one of those pots and break it, and say I’m about to break Israel like I just broke that pot.
And the potter’s gate looks out on the valley of Tophet, the valley of the son of Hinnom. And he says this valley is going to be full of dead bodies because there’s not going to be enough graves to hold all the people that are about to be killed in Jerusalem.
Now all this time, Jeremiah is telling the king, just trust in Babylon and none of this will happen. Even when the siege is taking place, he says anybody that goes out and surrenders, you’ll be saved. And it happens just like Jeremiah says it’s going to.
And then suppression. You’re going to be under the yoke of Nebuchadnezzar. God gave Nebuchadnezzar the rule over all the earth. In Daniel 2 he says, “You, O king, are the great king above all kings. God has given you dominion over the entire earth.”
Remember, Daniel goes in this first wave in 605, and he’s actually in Babylon. Ezekiel goes in 597, the second wave, and he’s actually in the countryside outside Babylon. And they are ministering at the same time as Jeremiah.
And then the third point is restoration. We have the charge, we have the verdict, and we have the restoration. Let’s look at 24:4.
Again the word of the Lord came to me, saying,
“Thus says the Lord, the God of Israel: ‘Like these good figs, so will I acknowledge those who are carried away captive from Judah, whom I have sent out of this place for their own good, into the land of the Chaldeans.
For I will set My eyes on them for good, and I will bring them back to this land; I will build them and not pull them down, and I will plant them and not pluck them up.
25:12. ‘Then it will come to pass, when seventy years are completed, that I will punish the king of Babylon and that nation, the land of the Chaldeans, for their iniquity,’ says the Lord; ‘and I will make it a perpetual desolation.
And then in 29:10. For thus says the Lord: After seventy years are completed at Babylon, I will visit you and perform My good word toward you, and cause you to return to this place.
For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, says the Lord, thoughts of peace and not of evil, to give you a future and a hope.
Then you will call upon Me and go and pray to Me, and I will listen to you.
And it’s actually this book that Daniel was reading and saying I was looking at the books and saw it said 70 years, and so I started praying, saying God it’s time for us to go back. So, Jeremiah’s prophecies are being sent to Babylon. And, in fact, one of the things in this book is a letter he actually sent to the exiles.
So God is using the exile for Israel’s good. In fact, what we know of as modern Judaism was born in Babylon. The synagogue was born in Babylon. The whole idea of how Jews are intellectually accelerated.
They decided since they didn’t have the temple that they would substitute study, and their nation became greatly blessed by this just in a general way.
So this is a physical restoration. But then there’s a greater restoration he talks about. Let’s just look at 23:1-7 real quick. We’ll just get a few more things in here and then we’ll wrap it up.
“Woe to the shepherds who destroy and scatter the sheep of My pasture!” says the Lord.
Verse 5. “Behold, the days are coming,” says the Lord,
“That I will raise to David a Branch of righteousness;
A King shall reign and prosper,
And execute judgment and righteousness in the earth.
Not only has he promised a restoration of the nation just as a return to the land but also a restoration of the Davidic kingdom, which, of course, happened with the advent of Jesus with the interlude before he returns to fulfill it physically.
Let’s look at 33:14. ‘Behold, the days are coming,’ says the Lord, ‘that I will perform that good thing which I have promised to the house of Israel and to the house of Judah:
‘In those days and at that time
I will cause to grow up to David
A Branch of righteousness;
He shall execute judgment and righteousness in the earth.
Again, a prophecy of Jesus, both advents of Jesus actually combined.
Then let’s look at 31:15. You see Rachel weeping for her children. So that’s the prediction of the slaughter of the innocents in Jesus’ time.
And then he goes straight into the new covenant in verse 31.
“Behold, the days are coming, says the Lord, when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel…and write it on their hearts;
This of course is a very prominent verse that’s used both by the writer of Hebrews as well as Romans and others. It’s a prominent part of the New Testament that God has taken the law and instead of writing it on stones, put it in our hearts. And, of course, we see an element of that now because we have the Holy Spirit in us, so it’s the first part of a fulfillment that will be completed in the new earth.
So where does this lead us? Well, the wages of sin is death. If we trust in anything but God, it’s going to lead to doing things some way other than God’s way.
If we trust in something other than God, we’re going to make choices that connect with those trusting the wrong thing, which ultimately is going to be ourselves, at the root of it.
Those choices have immense consequences. God in his grace holds back those consequences from us for a long period of time, giving us a chance to repent; but, eventually, if we insist, he’ll give us over to them.
And as it says in Romans, the wrath of God is poured out on the unrighteousness and ungodliness of men who suppress the truth in unrighteousness; and, therefore, his wrath pours out when he gives us what we ask for. “No, don’t do that. Don’t do that. Don’t—okay.”
And, ultimately, what that leads to is death and destruction. However, it doesn’t thwart his plan. It doesn’t thwart his ultimate objective for us.
We as a human race have really done a terrible job of obeying God just on the whole; but his promise to Adam that he’s going to restore the exile that began in the Garden of Eden is not going to be overthrown. We make it a lot harder on ourselves than we should. But his promise is not going to be overthrown.
The question is, are we going to take the promise that we have now and walk in obedience and take the blessings that he gives us? He gives us two paths, life and death, blessing and cursing.
Shall we who’ve been delivered from slavery go back into it? We can. We’re still believers. But does that make any sense?
Shall we who have been delivered from death go back into it? We can. Those sins will still be covered on the cross. Does that make any sense?
Shall we have been delivered from condemnation walk in it? Well, we can. His blood still covers it. But does that make any sense?
His promises to Israel are still there. They’re going to be restored. But look at the agony and trouble they brought on themselves because they wouldn’t follow God’s way. And they brought on themselves self-destruction instead.
Jeremiah’s message, I think, for us is still as poignant today as it’s ever been. And he’s promising that although we’ve been exiled from the Garden of Eden and we’ve fallen in death and we’ve been exiled from the world that’s supposed to be, we can by faith still participate in that if we believe in him, walk in him. And as we do so, we’re actually shining the light of God’s righteousness to the world, as Jeremiah did. They may listen; they may not. But God’s faithfulness is not in question, and his blessing is certain.
It’s not easy to do. The basic attitude we have to have is not an attitude of “I’ll trust me,” and, “Hey, this will never happen to me,” but rather an attitude of “Correct me because I want to learn.” And if we do that, we can have immense blessings for ourselves.