RAF: Note this chapter’s 3 sections. a. 1-4 / Jeremiah’s question: How is it that God can be so hard on His people, when the heathen seem to prosper? b. 5-13 / The Lord answers: Because Israel’s sin is a sin of betrayal – of forsaking their relationship with Him. c. 14-17 / The Lord answers more: But don’t forget, I will restore my people. And those who prospered due to my chastening Israel – will pay for it. Heavenly Father, may we live with complete confidence in your love and faithfulness.
2 – “Can the Ethiopian change his skin or the leopard his spots? Then also you can do good who are accustomed to do evil.” (Jeremiah 13:23, ESV)
RAF: Sin is not merely something we do – it is part of us. We cannot become righteous by changing our behavior any more than a man change his own skin color, or a leopard its spots. Something above nature must happen. This is the glory of our salvation. A God who forgives our sin, imputes to us the righteousness of Christ Himself, and then works in us by His Spirit to make us into something by nature we are not. To give us a new nature. His. That we might be holy as He is holy. Oh what a great salvation this is! And how powerless and putrid the religion of man is.
3 – “I have seen your abominations, your adulteries and neighings, your lewd whorings, on the hills in the field. Woe to you, O Jerusalem! How long will it be before you are made clean?”” (Jeremiah 13:27, ESV)
RAF: We are used to hearing the words “how long?” coming from our own lips. How long must we suffer such and such? How long before our loved one is saved? How long must we endure this trial? How long Lord? But He too at times makes that same plaintiff cry. To His people there, and to us He asks, “how long?” How long will we love our sin above Him? How long will we be delighted more with this corrupt world than the glories of Heaven? How long will we play with our sins and not put them off? How long will we be distracted by anything and everything rather than serve Him? How long will we doubt the fullness and greatness of His love and mercy toward us in Christ? How long will we fear when He has always been utterly faithful? How long will we doubt Him? How long? To the lost – how long will He hold out salvation to you and still you will not come? Does it not break our hearts to hear it from the lips of our God? It ought to.
4 – “ The word that came to Jeremiah from the Lord: “Arise, and go down to the potter’s house, and there I will let you hear my words.” So I went down to the potter’s house, and there he was working at his wheel. And the vessel he was making of clay was spoiled in the potter’s hand, and he reworked it into another vessel, as it seemed good to the potter to do. Then the word of the Lord came to me: “O house of Israel, can I not do with you as this potter has done? declares the Lord. Behold, like the clay in the potter’s hand, so are you in my hand, O house of Israel. If at any time I declare concerning a nation or a kingdom, that I will pluck up and break down and destroy it, and if that nation, concerning which I have spoken, turns from its evil, I will relent of the disaster that I intended to do to it. And if at any time I declare concerning a nation or a kingdom that I will build and plant it, and if it does evil in my sight, not listening to my voice, then I will relent of the good that I had intended to do to it. Now, therefore, say to the men of Judah and the inhabitants of Jerusalem: ‘Thus says the Lord, Behold, I am shaping disaster against you and devising a plan against you. Return, every one from his evil way, and amend your ways and your deeds.’ “But they say, ‘That is in vain! We will follow our own plans, and will every one act according to the stubbornness of his evil heart.’” (Jeremiah 18:1-12, ESV)
RAF: It is a very great error to miss either side of what is being set forth here. First, we see that God is sovereign. Absolutely. Like a potter with his clay. He can mold and shape and do as He sees fit. And, He does so in all the world and among men and nations. But note too that man acts, and is responsible, and God interacts with him accordingly. We do not hold to fatalism. We see how God moves and responds to man. How what we do really does matter. Man’s free agency and God’s sovereignty are not two irreconcilable or opposing realities – they are concurrent realities. It is God’s job to figure out how that works, not ours. Ours is to believe. God is sovereign. What man decides and does is real. We cannot ignore responsibility because God is sovereign, we cannot blame Him for what we ourselves decide to do. Nor, do we see any situation as hopeless. For because God is sovereign, and because He does interact with us, He hears and relents when we repent.
5 – “If I say, “I will not mention him, or speak any more in his name,” there is in my heart as it were a burning fire shut up in my bones, and I am weary with holding it in, and I cannot.” (Jeremiah 20:9, ESV)
RAF: The words of Jeremiah in this chapter (and others) ought to be of great comfort to many in ministry – and who find themselves in a love/hate relationship with it. One longs to serve God, to speak His word to His people. It is like fire in our bones. And yet, sometimes, the pressures, the rejections, the deaf ears, the refusing hearts, the outward opposition, the heaviness of realizing how God deals with sin, the weight of delivering bad news, the wrestling with our own weaknesses and sins, and the questions we are often unable to answer either for ourselves or others – these all – and 1000 more can become excruciating. We are not to imagine this as strange or without precedent. Our Jeremiah candidly displays his own misery over it that we might not be discouraged. That we might take heart and say yes, it is at times unbearable – but it is nevertheless our call, and indescribably glorious as well.
6 – “In the prophets of Samaria I saw an unsavory thing: they prophesied by Baal and led my people Israel astray. But in the prophets of Jerusalem I have seen a horrible thing: they commit adultery and walk in lies; they strengthen the hands of evildoers, so that no one turns from his evil; all of them have become like Sodom to me, and its inhabitants like Gomorrah.”” (Jeremiah 23:13-14, ESV)
RAF: This is an astounding contrast. God is less provoked by out and out idolaters, than He is by those who claim to be His leadership who: a. Live in sexual immorality. b. Fail to declare and live by God’s Word. c. Make remaining in sin no big deal. If you are in a church like this – run!
7 – “Thus says the Lord of hosts: “Do not listen to the words of the prophets who prophesy to you, filling you with vain hopes. They speak visions of their own minds, not from the mouth of the Lord. They say continually to those who despise the word of the Lord, ‘It shall be well with you’; and to everyone who stubbornly follows his own heart, they say, ‘No disaster shall come upon you.’ ”” (Jeremiah 23:16-17, ESV)
RAF: This is false prophecy at its worst: Telling people they can treat God’s Word lightly, and follow the dictates of their own sinful hearts, and it will still be well with them. This is a lie. A lie told in God’s name.
8 – ““I did not send the prophets, yet they ran; I did not speak to them, yet they prophesied. But if they had stood in my council, then they would have proclaimed my words to my people, and they would have turned them from their evil way, and from the evil of their deeds.” (Jeremiah 23:21-22, ESV)
RAF: Preaching that never confronts sin and calls men to forsake it, is not from God.
9 – ““But thus says the Lord: Like the bad figs that are so bad they cannot be eaten, so will I treat Zedekiah the king of Judah, his officials, the remnant of Jerusalem who remain in this land, and those who dwell in the land of Egypt. I will make them a horror to all the kingdoms of the earth, to be a reproach, a byword, a taunt, and a curse in all the places where I shall drive them.” (Jeremiah 24:8-9, ESV)
RAF: Why? Because they did not submit to God’s chastening by remaining in the land and refusing to go into captivity. It is a woeful thing to remain un-submitted to God’s dealings with us. Father, give us pliant hearts.
10 – “For behold, I begin to work disaster at the city that is called by my name, and shall you go unpunished? You shall not go unpunished, for I am summoning a sword against all the inhabitants of the earth, declares the Lord of hosts.’” (Jeremiah 25:29, ESV)
RAF: God’s harsh dealings with His own people are meant to be seen by all the nations as a sign that He will deal with sin no matter what. Therefor, their day of judgment is certain. If He will not relent for His own, how will those who are against Him remain?
11 – “It may be they will listen, and every one turn from his evil way, that I may relent of the disaster that I intend to do to them because of their evil deeds.” (Jeremiah 26:3, ESV)
RAF: Here is an unfathomable divine mystery: Even in His sovereignty, even in His omniscience – God hopes. He desires good and not evil, even when He judges. There is in Him, an inscrutable capacity to “wish” for better. I cannot understand it. But is gives me hope too.