Sunday, July 15, 2012

Jeremiah 8
The Hardened Refuse to Repent

Israel Refused to Repent
Jeremiah 8:4 –7

The natural thing to do is to change direction when you realize you are going the wrong way. Or if you fall down, you do not stay on the ground, you get up and get going.  If you are a guy you say “I’m good” and get going. (4) 

But Israel did not do this. (5) They kept going their own way.  In fact, they went at it so hard it was like they charged into battle.  (6)

They were dumber than animals.  Even birds know when to go a certain direction. (7) We have all seen birds migrate across the sky in fall, flying in a giant “V” going to their next nesting spot.  God says they are smarter than the Israelites.

What causes this kind of dumbness?  It is sin.  Sin darkens the mind.  It prevents you from thinking God’s way.  Paul explained it in Romans 1:21-23. They became futile in their thinking. Their foolish hearts were darkened.  Claiming to be wise, they became fools.

In 1 Corinthians 2:14, Paul explained it further.  He said the natural person cannot accept the things of the Spirit of God. They are folly to him or her because they are spiritually discerned.  But those who have the mind of Christ understand the mind of God. 

If you want to understand God, you must learn about Him in his word and obey him.  The book of the Bible devoted to wisdom is Proverbs.  It tells us that in the second verse.  Proverbs 1:7 tells us “the fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge; fools despise wisdom and instruction”.  Psalm 1:2 tells us the blessed person is one who delights in the law or instruction of the Lord and meditates on it all day long.  This person does not listen to the counsel of the wicked. (Psalm 1:1)

Yet, the Israelites kept pressing forward in their own path, rejecting God’s covenant, wisdom and warning.  We do it, too.  Man’s heart is rebellious and we must bring it under the will of God. 

Scott Underwood wrote a song called “Take My Life”.  The chorus says this:
Take my heart and form it
Take my mind, transform it
Take my will, conform it
To Yours, to Yours, Oh Lord.

Again, Paul summed up the idea nicely.  Romans 12:2 says “Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind.” And why should we do that?  Because, Paul said, “that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect”.

The Bible Is Not a Lucky Charm
Jeremiah 8:8-9

The Israelites thought they were special and wise because they had the law.  But, God said the law is not a luck charm.  Putting your Bible on the dashboard of your car does not prevent wrecks.  It is the living word tucked into your mind to understand and your heart to obey that changes you into a person who pleases God and is pleased to do so.

People in our denomination sometimes refer to themselves as “People of the Book”.  Yet they read the Bible as a collection of neat sayings and inspirational thoughts, rather than as God’s revelation of himself to us.  There is even a pastor in our state who holds up his Bible at the beginning of each sermon and proclaims to follow it, then preaches a lot of positive thinking pop psychology.

Verse 9 contains the first Biblical reference to the “scribes” as a professional religious class.  It is not a flattering reference.  God says the scribes had lying pens and made the word into a lie.  No one has the right to change the meaning of the Word, or to discount its applicability to their time or to tell others not to obey it.  Jesus condemned that practice in the Sermon on the Mount.

The Result: Destruction
Jeremiah 8:10-13

The Lord repeats that he will punish and overthrow them because they broke the covenant and would not repent.

Accepting Their Fate
Jeremiah 8:14-15

These verses seem to say the Israelites accepted their fate.  They would not repent, but knew they would fall as a result. They want to retreat behind the walled city, but know they will die there because God has doomed them. (14)

The poisonous water may be a reference for the test of adultery in Numbers 5:11-3. Here, the Lord tested them for spiritual adultery, worshipping other gods, and found them guilty. 

God Does Not Relent
Jeremiah 8:16-17

Again the Lord states he will send an enemy from the North, that the tribe of Dan can already hear the horses.  This enemy will devour Judah.  They are like serpents which bite and cannot be stopped.

The metaphor of serpents for the Babylonians might be an allusion to the plague of serpents that befell the Israelites in the wilderness.  On that occasion, Moses intervened for them and God provided relief in the form of the bronze serpent. (Numbers 21:4)  When anyone looked at the bronze serpent, they were healed of the snake bite.  This time God says that will not happen.  No relief will come from this attack.  And none did. 

Jesus picked up this thought in John 3:14-16, comparing himself to the bronze serpent. He would be lifted up so that all who believe in him can have eternal life. In a sense they are healed from their sins.   

As Isaiah wrote, “with his stripes we are healed”. (Is. 53:5)
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