JEREMIAH 4:1 – 6:30 and JAMES 4:1–17
The Lord again gives an invitation for Israel to return unto Him but it comes with conditions. They have to repent and put away their abominations and then He would plant and establish them. This is actually the promise the Lord gives to those who respond to the message of the captivity. This is very consistent throughout the scriptures in how the Lord deals with His people. This is why it is vitally important to have good teaching in our churches. It should help to reinforce the message of true repentance while giving those who come back into the church an opportunity to be restored. The problem with revivals and moves of God is that there is often no long-term means of sustaining it. Nehemiah will later institute great reforms in the rebuilding of the city only to see it digress in his absence (Neh 13). This will be true of the last day harvest; there will be many souls that will come into the kingdom in this last great revival but will the church be ready? Will there be a strong infrastructure within to help secure the harvest. Good teaching brings good fruit and it helps to bring about true repentance.
The instruction from the Lord in verses 3-4 is that the fallow ground of the hearts be broken up. How is this achieved? It is through the process of having the hearts circumcised. Once again, this would relate to good teaching because it is the Word of God, the sword of the Spirit that gets into the hearts of people (Heb 4:12). What is the ultimate purpose of true circumcision of heart? According to Deut 30:6, it allows for one to love the Lord with all his heart and soul. This kind of relationship does not dissolve quickly and will help ensure that a people will stay close and faithful to the Lord. The arising of Babylon is now portrayed in verses 5-9 as the means of God’s instrument of judgement. The beautiful promises mentioned earlier are tempered with the reality of the described lion of the north coming down against Israel. The cry goes forth for national mourning as the strength and splendour of Israel is stripped away in judgement. In verses 10-13 there is the sentence of judgement that will be carried out against Judah. There will be the shame of those who prophesied falsely concerning Jerusalem; those who felt that God would never allow such a thing to happen. One of these prophets is Hananiah who will be seen in chapter 28. He prophesied a message that undermined the Word of the Lord that came through Jeremiah. His message was certainly more popular due to being an easier one. The description in these verses (vs 10-13) shows Babylon as being swift in when they come to conquer and overrun Israel. Though there will be many prophetic warnings given it will still hit the majority in an unexpected way. The time would come when Babylon would gather around the city and the Lord reminds them as to why He is allowing it to happen (vs 17-18). It was their deliberate and persistent lifestyle of sin.
The prophet is now seen in travail as he pronounces some of the judgements that are going to be unleashed upon Israel. This is true intercession as he is becoming acquainted with the magnitude of suffering that will come upon the people. A prophet does not just declare a message he experiences and carries the burden of it. This is what distinguishes many of the true prophets from the others. In verse 21, you can see that Jeremiah is becoming overwhelmed with the continual onslaught and begins to ask the Lord as how long will this continue. He literally saw what was going to happen to his beloved people and land. As is often the case the people are clever and wise in knowing how to commit evil but foolish when it comes to the things of God. Is it any different today? Man is defying God at every turn with his modern approach to everything in life. The seeking of God is being replaced with the exultation of man. There is a modern day variant of Nimrod and Babel that is arising to the surface which will culminate at Armageddon.
In verses 23-27 Jeremiah sees in a vision what Jerusalem is going to look like after the Babylonian assault. It almost sounds like the beginning of creation in verse 23 (Gen 1:2). The devastation would be so acute that even the birds of the air will not be able to find a resting place (vs 25-26). It has a hint of what the earth was like after the flood in Noah’s day. In any case, the damage and destruction will be extensive and it will not be until the time Nehemiah arises before Jerusalem will come to be restored. Remember, Nehemiah will be greatly moved when he later comes to hear the reports of how the city had been broken down (Neh 1:4). The Lord will not change His mind concerning His determined judgement upon His people. The sins under the reign of King Manasseh is what has allowed the cup of God’s indignation to its fullness (vs 28). The Lord speaks in verse 30 that in the end it will be her lovers (Babylonians) that would destroy her. There was a time when God’s people intermingled with the Babylonians. The parallel today would be the church’s relationship with the world. The world and its system will persecute the church in increasing measure in the days to come.
The prophet are instructed of the Lord to answer the question as to whether there were any worthy men who were upright in the streets of Jerusalem. It is a direct challenge to see if there were any who did justice and love truth. If so, the Lord would pardon it. Here is another account that sounds like something we see in Genesis. The Lord spoke to Abraham whether there were 50 righteous men in the city. The Lord even said he would not destroy Sodom if there were 10 righteous men that could be found. It seems like Jeremiah is being given this same opportunity. What would Jeremiah find? He sees a people who do not seek after truth nor accept His chastisements and dealings. Their countenance would be hardened as would their heart and yet they still would not return (vs 3). They are a people who do not know the ways of the Lord. Remember, it was Moses who cried out to know God’s ways and His glory. There is no such desire or cry here. Their transgression was so severe that there was no possibility of pardon that the Lord could give to them. The sad truth is that there can come a time when a line has been crossed and such is the case with Israel. Their judgement is pronounced and there is no turning back from it.
In verses 10-18, we have an indictment given to those who speak and prophesy falsely. These prophets saw no evil and could not reconcile the fact that God had decreed judgement upon them. They prophesied that they would not see sword or famine. We see these two prophetic streams contrasted in verse 14. The false prophets would be like wind with no backing or substance in their message. On the other hand, the words of Jeremiah would be like fire that would devour their predisposed notions. A further description of the Babylonians is given in verse 16. They were going to be a vicious people who would be merciless killers. Can you imagine the anguish and pain that the prophet would be feeling at this juncture? He is being given a clear-cut revelation of what was to come. They would have no respect for the people or any respect for the land and its beauty. They will be barbarians that will invade a place that the Lord had set aside for His own. It is also important to consider how the heart of the Lord would be in all of this. He takes no pleasure in allowing His people and land to come under such atrocities however; He is a Holy God and His Holiness demands justice. God has been longsuffering in how He has handled Israel but they have come to the point of crossing the line. Still, even in the midst of pending judgement God is going to great lengths to prepare His people and to give them promises if they would learn to heed.
In verses 19-24 the Lord gives further reasons as to why they would be experiencing such magnitude of judgements. The primary reason is due to their idolatry. They served strange gods in their land of Israel, now they were going to serves strangers in a land that was not theirs. God is going to allow His people to have a taste of their own medicine. What is amazing in all of this is that Moses spoke of these things several hundreds of years earlier.
Deu 28:64 And the LORD shall scatter thee among all people, from the one end of the earth even unto the other; and there thou shalt serve other gods, which neither thou nor thy fathers have known, even wood and stone.
One of the problems with Israel as it is with us today is that there is no Fear of the Lord amongst the people. The Fear of the Lord is the foundation for wisdom, understanding and knowledge. When you lose that reverential fear of the Lord, you lose ability to grow in wisdom and knowledge. Isaiah mentioned that wisdom and knowledge would be the stability of the last days. We see in verse 22 the importance of having the Fear of the Lord at the center of everything we do. Once the reverential Fear of the Lord is gone, the heart becomes hardened and rebellious; we lose that sensitivity to the heart of God. The result is the likely breakdown of moral and ethical boundaries due to an indifference to the things of God. It is a very dangerous place to be.
Many of the people were rich and influential throughout Israel. How did they get their wealth, how did they utilize it etc? There was no law and justice in the land. It was just another area where their iniquity was coming to ripeness. God in His justice and righteousness had no recourse now but to allow judgement to come upon Israel through the Babylonians.
The last two verses actually gets to one of the primary reasons why this is happening. It is due to the corruption of both the prophetic and priestly ministries. The prophets were speaking lies that were giving false hope and guidance to the people. This is a big problem today in many of the modern prophetic circles. There is the added warning of God allowing prophets to speak according to what is in the hearts of people. If we have a pure heart, we will have the ability to see God and know clearly of His ways. If our heart is uncircumcised and there is an unwillingness to yield, these areas to God a prophet may well speak a Word to affirm these things (Eze 14:3, 7, 9, 20:24-25). This will be one of the primary ways in how the church will divide in the last days. Secondly, the priests bear rule by their own means. This indictment is just as bad as that spoken concerning the prophets, if not worse. The priests here are being accused of serving God on their terms. It is a picture of the congregation of Israel at the foot of Mt. Sinai doing their own form of church (Exo 32:1-6). The contrast to this would be Moses atop Mt. Sinai with God. He was given the Law and he was having the opportunity to have a revelation of whom God is. This is the place and ministry of the true priest that needs to come forth in these last days. Ezra the priest of the restoration era will be such a priest. In fact, he is known as the 2nd Moses. May God help place within us that same desire and cry that Moses had that we might see God and become more like Him.
The beloved city of Jerusalem and dwelling place of the Lord at Zion is going to be overtaken by the Babylonians. A description of the siege is presented and it is clear from verses 4-5 that there would have to be battles at night. It will be during some of the night battles that the king and his army would flee the city. The sins of the city are now at a climax and likened to a fountain casting forth its waters. It is sobering to see that there is a similar spewing forth of evil in our day. What makes it even worse it that we are a so-called enlightened people. If we think that, the judgements of the Lord are severe upon Judah how much more the church of the last days that does not give heed to His Word and warnings. Still, the Lord gives exhortation to return unto Him lest they are totally torn apart from Him. This is something that will be seen during the end time as cited in the Book of Revelation. In the extreme judgements that will be poured out the Lord will still look for those who would repent of their ways (Rev 16:9).
The Babylonians will be very thorough in seeking out all of the captives when they invade the land. They will search out caves and hiding places to crush any of whom may be fleeing and seeking to escape. These messages are meant to be a warning to the people. They should be grateful that God would warn ahead of time before the onslaught would come their way. They rejected these messages and turned against the one that was delivering it. Whether they knew it or not God was being merciful to them. In verses 11-13, the awesomeness of God’s judgement is now being realised. The Lord’s fury is full and the result will be total destruction. In addition to the people being crushed, they will also see their homes, lands and goods being confiscated. Can you imagine what that would be like after living comfortably for so many years? In one stroke, all is lost and this scenario may well play out again in our day. They are guilty of covetousness while at the same time being served by a self-serving priesthood. This priesthood was linked with prophets that were speaking forth a false message of peace. The message of peace sure sounds better than war or being brought into captivity right? It may sound good but it was not the Word of the Lord. It can be likened to the false message of “grace” that is propagated today. This makes it difficult for those who seek to speak that which is on God’s heart. People prefer an easier message and to top it all off they were in the midst of revival.
The prophet exhorts them to ask for the old paths and the old ways that established Israel as a nation in its youth (vs 16). This means that one needs to stop right where they are and proceed no further down the pathway of sin. They are to seek out counsellors and guide who can instruct them in the ways of the right path. I personally had this experience after backsliding into the world. The Lord apprehended me with great love but with a stern warning to stop doing my thing. I then came across a man who was able to speak into my life and get me onto the right path. All I can say that after 35 years I am most grateful for my senior pastor. God has been so merciful to me.
God sent watchmen their way but they would not hearken; they refused God’s laws and continued doing their own thing. Since they would not open their hearts to God, He will allow stumbling blocks to be placed before them. As was mentioned on several other occasions God, after a time will answer us according to what is in our heart. This is scary and it is dangerous.
Many repeated truths appear to be for emphasis. How many times does the Lord have to send warnings to his people? God is so loving and faithful even in the midst of pronouncing judgement. Man will be without excuse when standing before the throne of God.
The question is asked as to how wars come about. They usually can be traced back to a lust for power and possession. This is how the initial war in heaven took place; Lucifer was not content with his position and authority resulting in his attempt to ascend his throne above that of the Lord. This is very similar to what the man of sin will look to achieve when he sits in the temple and offers the abomination. It all seems to be coming full circle. The throne of God was being contended for in heaven with Lucifer and his angels. The time will come when the throne of Christ will be contended for by the antichrist in much the same way. Make no mistake there will be many who will be aligned with him up to that moment. This kind of rebellion takes place because of the lusts in the heart. There is a real warning to those who are in ministry to not be carried away with position and authority. The same lust that led Lucifer and others to war is very capable of taking root in any heart.
In verses 2-3 we see what happens when lust is taken to its length. It can eventually lead to murder just as it did with King David. It is healthy to have a heart to ask God for what he would desire for our lives. This is safety and will keep our hearts from being led down a path that is contrary to God. It can begin with something simple as being unthankful. This hardens the heart and puts us into a position of asking for things that are not in alignment with God’s will (Psa 106:14-15). Israel complained and asked for meat; God gave them meat but sent leanness unto their soul. As we walk on with the Lord we become aware that our linkage with the world must diminish. This does not mean we alienate from the world but rather we do not embrace and have a love for the things of the world. In verse 5 we see that man was born with a nature that envies that which another has. This was the heart of Lucifer; he envied that which was God’s and set his heart on obtaining it. This nature must be cleansed and redeemed.
James now picks up on the theme of grace. No matter how powerful the sin nature may be there is grace that can give the power to triumph over it. How then is grace obtained? It is given in abundance to the humble. It is given to those who recognize their need for grace; who realize their weaknesses and who call upon God for His grace and strength. If we are proud and self-reliant we do not obtain grace. This kind of attitude says I can do it and it will take credit for any achievement. It is a reflection of the “I will’s” seen in the heart of Lucifer (Isa 14:12-13). Another key is to willingly submit ourselves to the Lord; in doing so the devil will flee. The act of submission is learned throughout the strata’s of life. A child learns submission from the parents, the teachers, employers and ministry leaders. To the extent we learn to submit is to the extent that God is able to work on our behalf. Satan understands and recognizes authority. He seeks to bring us out from a submissive environment. He injects rebellion and anti-authority venom into the minds of anyone he can lay hold of. Another key to growing in grace is to draw nigh unto the Lord. As we intentionally seek His face he will reciprocate and draw nigh unto us. There is then the opportunity of having our hearts cleansed and being set free from double-mindedness. This is an area where we as believers must be proactive in seeking after him. The admonition to once again humble ourselves before the Lord is given. Let the Lord lift you up in due time; let Him have His way in promoting in His season and timing. He is faithful and he takes note of all that is done in his name.
In verses 13-17 James makes the point that our trust has to be in God and God alone. There are many places of false securities that man can put emphasis on. We will be tested in these areas and we will have to answer the question as to whom we trust? Is it God or the ways of mammon? It is only the foundation of faith in Jesus Christ that anything will last. One of my all-time favourite verses is found in Jas 4:14. The question is asked as to what our life can be likened to? It is like a vapour, a puff of smoke that appears for a moment and then is gone. Imagine someone taking a puff of a cigarette who then exhales the smoke. You can see it wafting in the air for a few moments and then it is gone. That is what our life on this earth is like. Yet, in that very brief moment of time we are making choices that have eternal consequences. Moses came to this reality when he asked the Lord to help him properly measure his days in life. When we have a right perspective we will tend to make right choices and emphasize right priorities. Once we are on the other side of eternity it is too late to go back and undo our choices. “Teach us Oh Lord to number our days and to apply our hearts unto wisdom (Psa 90:12).
In all areas of our life we should seek to invoke God’s will. The Lord is more interested in our lives than we realize. He wants to be involved in our decisions and only wants what is best for us. Do we really believe that? If so then should we not seek more of His input into our lives? Remember, He is our creator and he knows everything about us. He is the one who purposed a plan and a destiny for each of us. As we seek to learn and know His will we then need to come to the place of delighting in His will. This is pleasing to God because it indicates a position of harmony with the Lord. There is a continual battle in the area of the will for believers. There is a way that may seem right unto a man but it only leads to death (Pro 14:12). If we can daily approach the Lord in humility in seeking to do His will and pleasure He will be faithful to help us to accomplish our life’s journey for His glory. Perhaps the greatest battle cry of all time is stated in these words. “Not my will but thine be done” (Luke 22:42).