Sunday, July 22, 2012

JEREMIAH'S LAMENT


Jeremiah’s Lament
Jeremiah 8:18-9:16

Although Jeremiah was ignored by his people, subject to assassination attempts, maligned and imprisoned, he mourned for them. He knew how they would suffer and he grieved for them even though they treated him badly.

In verse 8:18, he said his joy was gone and replaced by grief. It was as if he could hear them cry before the crying actually started. Even as he recited their sins, he mourned their punishment.

Chapter 9 is the reason Jeremiah is sometimes referred to as “The Weeping Prophet”. (9:1)

Paul felt this way about the Jews of his time.  In Romans 9:2, he said he had great sorrow and unceasing anguish in his heart for them.  He would be cut off from Christ if it would mean their salvation.

Jesus expressed sorrow over Israel and its coming judgment as well.  See Matthew 23:37-38.

We should remember this.  We are surrounded by sinful, mocking and depraved men and women.  We know their end.  While it will be a vindication of our faith, we should grieve their lostness.  They do not have the love of God in their heart. Ephesians 2:12 says they are without hope and without God in this world.

There is also grief in God over the infidelity of Israel.  Certainly his wrath and fury against sin are evident.  But God is also grieved by the rejection of his people. For example, in Ezekiel 6:9, God said “I have been broken over their whoring heart that has departed from me and over their eyes that that go whoring after their idols.”

In Ephesians 4:30, Paul told us not to grieve the Holy Spirit in whom we are sealed.  We grieve the Holy Spirit when we live according to the flesh rather than the Spirit.  It means to sin, which is rebellion against the Holy Spirit, rather than to submit to him.

Here is part of an old hymn by William Cowper:
What peaceful hours I once enjoyed,
How sweet their memory still!
But they have left an aching void,
The world can never fill.
Return, thou sacred dove, return,
Sweet messenger of rest,
I hate the sins that made thee mourn,
And drove thee from my breast.
The dearest idol I have known,
Whate'er that idol be,
Help me to tear it from its throne,
And worship only thee."

9:12-16
The Wise Man Understands

The Lord says only a wise man understands the cause of Israel’s problems. And by that he means wise with spiritual wisdom.  Obviously few understood the problem.  The Lord spelled out in verse 13 that Israel broke the covenant (forsaken my law) and now must suffer the consequences set out in the covenant. 

9:17-22
Mourning

Here the call is for professional mourners.  These were usually women.  They would sit around and cry and wail, then accompany the body to the tomb singing dirges.  The Lord is saying Jeremiah’s lament is not sufficient for the grief and loss that is to come. They needed more mourners. Israel is about to lose everything and so the mourning should be in proportion to the loss.

9:23-24
What Is Important

This is a great passage, for in it God tells us what is important.  He also tells us things about himself and what pleases him.  What more could you want from a passage of scripture?

First, the Lord said not to boast in our own abilities. You may be wise, but you are not to boast in your wisdom.  You may be strong (mighty) but should not boast of your strength.  That pretty much would kill professional sports, wouldn’t it?

The Bible tells us that praise is our response to a great God who has saved us solely through his grace.  Ephesians 2:8-9 tells us no one can boast.  Paul wrote in 1 Corinthians 1:28-29 that God in fact chose the lowly, the weak and the despised in the world, not the great, so that no person could boast in God’s presence. 

Instead, we are to boast in the Lord.  Those words appear in Psalm 34:2 and are quoted by Paul in 1 Corinthians 1:31.  Boasting in the Lord is praise.

God taught that principle through Jeremiah in 9:24. We may boast, if we boast at all, that we understand and know God.  Since God is the greatest, knowing him and understanding him is the greatest thing we can do.  So, Jesus taught us to seek first God’s kingdom and his righteousness.  We pay more attention to the last part of Matthew 6:33, for we want assurance that God will supply all the things we want.  But the verse gives us an instruction: see God’s kingdom and righteousness before you seek anything else.  Give knowing God and serving him priority in you life. 

Next, God graciously reveals part of his character to us.  He described himself as the Lord who practices steadfast love, justice and righteousness in the earth.  (24)

So, here are 3 traits of God:
1.  steadfast love
2.  justice and
3.  righteousness.

Why is it important for us to know these traits?  First, just because they tell us who God is and what he is like.  For you to know God, you have to know what he is like, what his character is.  You must love him for who he is, not for some figure you invent.  That is idolatry. 

Notice also that God does not have just one character trait.  People argue as if he does.  They will say, how can a loving God do a particular thing.  The response often is that God is also a just God.  Justice requires punishment for sin and reward for righteousness.  Justice is right judgment. 

Finally, God is righteous.  That is somewhat hard to distinguish from just.  But it basically means God acts according to his character at all times.  He is not inconsistent in his actions.  Accordingly, we are righteous when our actions are consistent with God’s character and actions. Righteousness is right behavior. 

Not surprisingly, God says he delights in those 3 things (24). He delights in his own perfection when he evidences them.  This is part of his glory, the shining forth of his perfect nature.  But he also delights in us when we do them. That is because we reflect his character.

Micah 6:8 expresses the same thought.  He asked the question: “what does the LORD require of you?” Then he gave the answer: “to do justice and to love kindness (or steadfast love)  and to walk humbly with your God”.

Jesus said whoever does what is true comes to the light so that it may be clearly seen that his works have been carried out in God. (John 3:21)

Ephesians 5:17 tells us not to be foolish, but to know what the will of the Lord is.  Here are three things that are his will.  Do them and know his delight.  How great would that be, to know the Lord delights in you because you reflect his glorious nature!

9:25-26
What Matters Most

What matters most is the heart.  God will punish all who are uncircumcised in heart even if circumcised in the flesh.  Every person whose heart is not submitted to God by faith in Christ will suffer this punishment.  Unfortunately, Israel is lumped in with the pagan Gentiles in this judgment.

This theme of circumcision of the heart will continue throughout Jeremiah.  Paul took it up in his writings also. Jesus, in Revelation 2:23, described himself as “he who searches mind and heart”. 

This week, submit yourself to the gospel.  Live by grace through faith.  Reflect your savior and heavenly father in your conduct.  Practice steadfast love, justice and righteousness. 

Then know God’s delight.


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