JEREMIAH 16:1 – 18:23 and 1 PETER 3:1–22
The Lord is now going to speak to the personal life of Jeremiah. He is instructed to not take a wife. The Lord had a unique calling upon Jeremiah and it required that he not take a wife nor have sons and daughters in the place where he was living. One of the most important decisions that a believer makes is the choice of a life partner. It is critical in allowing the Lord to be involved in this life changing matter. The callings should be complementary otherwise; there will be frustration and disappointment throughout the marriage. Marriage is a gift and it should be sought after prayerfully. This was another costly component of the call that was upon the prophet. The solace, comfort and support of a devoted spouse is so helpful when a couple function in ministry together. Jeremiah did not even have this luxury; his was a solitary and lonely ministry.
In verses 2-4, we see one of the primary reasons why the Lord spoke to Jeremiah regarding the taking of a wife and children. The destruction that was to come to Israel would be so thorough that spouses and children would have been killed in the assault upon Jerusalem. One should never assume that it is always God’s will to have children; one should be careful to seek the Lord and know His timing. The judgements that are to come upon the earth in the last days will be so severe and it is important to have the mind of the Lord concerning these important decisions. The Lord gives Jeremiah the instruction to not mourn for those who would die because in effect he would be siding with then in their wickedness. It would be making the statement that God should not have judged them. This is a very hard truth and it sounds cruel. We are to pray and lament for the sins of the people but if the Lord has determined judgement then we have to take the position that the judgements of God are righteous and true. When God judged Korah, Dathan and Abihu there were those who sympathised with their sentence. The result was that God in turn judged them as well.
We see further evidence of the severity of judgements that will come upon the land at the time of the Babylonian assault. They will not even have time to arrange funerals to mourn the dead. There would be no joyful sounds of weddings that will take place. All joy and gladness will be taken away. We will see later that the Lord does give the future promise of the voice of the bride and bridegroom being heard again and joy returning to God’s people (Jer 33). This is a Word that is given to those who heed to the Word of the Lord; it is a promise of a future restoration that will take place amongst God’s people. The Word here is being given to those who will be living at the time of the initial Babylonian invasion (vs 6-9).
The Lord reminds the people again for the reasons of His severe judgements. Their fathers have turned to idols and forsaken His Law. The indictment is even heavier upon this generation seeing that they live after the imaginations of their evil heart. The judgments are always more severe upon succeeding generations because they should know better. What does that say about our generation? We have the example and advantage of history so what is our excuse? God brings forth a Word of encouragement by stating that there will be a Restoration, a time when there will be a people who will return to their land (vs 14-15).
The chapter closes by making known the level of idolatry that is seen in Israel. When the Babylonians come into the land, they will seek help from their idols but to no avail. It will be here where they will see the futility of giving such allegiance to the works of man’s hands. What a horrible discovery it will be when they find there is no hope. It will not be until at least another 70 years when Israel will come forth with a renewed love for God. The upshot from their Babylonian captivity will be that they will no longer bow down and serve the idols made from the hands of man. It is a high price to pay and it is an experience that could have been avoided if they simply would have obeyed God and kept His laws.
This is a most instructive chapter and it gets to the heart of why God is bringing such severe judgements upon His people. His beloved Judah was given a very high calling and responsibility of being an example of who God is to the other nations (Eze 5:5). The reality is that they are steeped in sin by way of idolatry and adultery. What a very sad commentary for this nation that was given such hope and promise. It is the fruit and consequence of not giving heed to the instruction and command that God gave to Moses back during the time of Deuteronomy. The Lord gives a vivid description as to how serious their sin is; it is likened to a pen with a diamond point that has sin engraved upon the heart. This is the exact reverse of the New Covenant where the Law of God is to be engraved upon the heart. This is where the contrast between SIN and the LAW is seen at its climax. The question is which of the two will shape and form our hearts? The description of sin in these first few verses helps to shed light as to why God is moving against Judah in such severity (vs 2-4).
The contrast between trusting in man or God is now brought forward in verses 5-8. This is an issue we have to wrestle with as well. Whom will we turn to in the day of adversity? Throughout Biblical history, the children of Israel would resort to the arm of flesh for help. It was seen in the life of King Asa who turned to man when Judah was threatened. He then turned to physicians instead of God when he was physically infirmed. His earlier years were glorious because he sought after God in times of trial but failed in his later years. Is this not what we do today on a personal or more corporate level? If God is going to bring forth the desired breakthroughs in our lives, we then need to begin to let faith arise. The reason why man tends to turn from seeking God is because he has allowed his heart to become hardened. This is a result of disobedience to God’s Word at pivotal junctures in our walk. So many people start so well (like Asa) only to plateau along the way. There needs to be a cry from within to always have a soft and pliable heart.
The very first verses that I underlined in my first Bible are verses 7-8. It is here where we see the importance of trusting in the Lord. If we do so, it is likened to a tree whose roots go deep and tap into an underground source that others do not see. This underground source will sustain the tree when other trees become barren and dry in the midst of famine. These trees are not rooted and as a result do not have the ability to tap into that underground source. We can link these verses with the thought of the two foundations that the Lord speaks of in Luke 6:46-49. There are buildings and works that go up quickly and have the look of vibrancy and life only to succumb when the shakings come. There are many such churches and ministries today. We need to cry out for the Lord to always keep our heart tender and open so that our roots will go down deep.
The next few verses (9-11) shed light on how wicked and deceitful the human heart can be. If Jeremiah has this revelation of the heart then what does that say about ours? Let us not be deceived into thinking that we have arrived and that all is well with our heart. If we truly love, the Lord there will be a willingness to open up our hearts for his examination. This is what made David such a great man of God. He did not hide or withhold his heart; he opened it up for the Lord to search and examine it (Psa 26:2, Psa 139:22-23). This revelation helps us to understand our need for a new heart which is what the Lord promises to those who seek after Him in Ezekiel 36:26. There is also the cry for a pure heart; the heart that enables us to see God (Psa 51:10, Math 5:5).
In verses 12-14 there is a picture of the Lord’s glorious throne in contrast to the place reserved in the center of the earth for those who turn their back from God. This is not a trivial matter and like the prophet, we too should turn back to the Lord in repentance while seeking the healing of our own heart. There is a progression in the ministry of Jeremiah as he first served faithfully as a pastor, which opened the door for his prophetic ministry. This is a principle seen throughout scripture where being faithful in the smaller areas opens the door for greater opportunities. The Apostle Paul did not suddenly become an Apostle but was first noted as a prophet and teacher and later promoted to the role of apostleship. This is true in our individual life as we faithfully serve the Lord on a day-by-day basis. It is the Lord who brings forth the promotions (Psa 75:6) (vs 15-16).
The principles of keeping the Sabbath are presented in verses 19-24. This is the 4th of the 10 commandments and it should not be such a difficult one to keep. It is meant to be a day of Rest whereby a people can worship and celebrate the goodness of God. It is for the benefit of the people if properly observed. The spiritual climate of a nation and a people can be gauged as to how they observe the Sabbath. In today’s culture, Sunday is treated like any other day. It may not be a work day but it is filled with so many other pursuits at the expense of worshipping God. One of the downfalls of Judah in the lead-up to their captivity was the failure in observing the Sabbath. Have we learned any lessons from history?
In verses 25-27, there is a powerful contrast between those who observe the Sabbath as intended as opposed to those who refuse to keep the holy day. The primary message of the Sabbath is the Rest that the people of God will know in the Millennium. This is portrayed in verse 26. These were the blessings that were made available to Israel if they would but heed to the Word of the Lord. There would be blessing, protection and provision in abundance. There would be a sound of great rejoicing in the camp as the people praised and delighted before the King of kings. The warnings of not hearkening to God on this matter are displayed in verse 27, which sadly reflects their condition. It is clearly stated that Jerusalem would be destroyed by burning and destruction with no immediate hope of repair. These two contrasts should be meditated upon by the church today especially in light of how the Sabbath is practiced. There is a Rest to the people of God for our day. May we be among those who seek to enter into that rest by the grace of God (Heb 4).
The familiar analogy of the Potter’s house is the primary subject in this chapter. There are several references throughout scripture where the Lord is referred to as the Potter and we His people as the clay (Isa 45:9, Rom 9:21, 2 Tim 2:20-22). The point is that the potter has complete authority and power over the clay. There is a part that the clay (we the people) have in this process. If there are impurities or areas we do not yield to God, it will have an effect on the finished product. The Lord gives us every opportunity to furnish Him with good material and substance. If there are areas that are marred, He can start over and make it into another vessel for His pleasure (vs 4). God is so faithful even when we thwart His purpose and plan for our lives; He is the God of the 2nd chance. It was clearly seen in the life of King David, the Apostle Peter and so many others.
God’s judgement was already determined upon Israel with regard to Babylon but He speaks of a future time when he will again refashion them into another vessel (vs 5-6). Our God is also a God of Restoration and this is the primary theme being conveyed in this analogy of the Potter. A familiar contrast is given in verses 7-10. If a nation who has judgement pronounced against them repents and turns from their evil ways the Lord will spare them. If however they choose to not give heed to God’s Word, they will be judged.
The holiness of God requires judgement upon a people who have sinned in the light. Yet, God in His mercy continues to reach out to the rebellious to turn from their evil way. God has no desire that any man would perish but it is because people choose to disobey Him that they suffer the consequences. It was never God’s intention for His people to suffer and come under judgement; He has made every provision and opportunity for them to make right choices. In the end, it is because of their choice to choose evil over God that they suffer. They have chosen to forget and forsake the ways and paths of the Lord (vs 15). The result will be their destruction and their scattering among the nations. I cannot help but think of my own beloved nation in this context (USA). In fact, I am applying many of the prophetic words that Jeremiah is speaking to the future restoration and hope for America. I may be wrong but the parallels between Israel of old and America today are striking. I am not a Jeremiah but I find myself grieving and lamenting in a similar way.
The added insult of being rejected by the people is now Jeremiah’s portion as the people and leaders turn from him. They refuse to hear the prophetic message due to their harshness and tone. It does not fit into their prophetic paradigms. The more Jeremiah prophesies the more resentful they become due to the fact of their being exposed. They choose to not live up to the standards and heed the warnings of his words. In fact, they are in the midst of a revival under King Josiah so why should they listen to Jeremiah. My friends, watch for the same sequence of events to happen in the days leading up to the end. The church will misinterpret the coming revival by seeing it as God’s sanction upon the functioning of the modern church instead of seeing it as preparation for the gross darkness and judgments to come. The message and ministry of Moses and Elijah and their likeminded company will be rejected in much the same way Jeremiah is being rejected here. These prophetic books have much more meaning and applications for the last days than we realize. Help us O Lord to hear what the spirit is saying to the church in this hour.
1 Pet 3
The issue of the wife being in submission is covered in verses 1-6. There is the strong inference in the first verse for a wife to remain faithful and submissive to an unbelieving husband. The best way to win a spouse is to not be overly preachy towards them but to live and exude the life of Christ. I have personally seen this on a number of occasions. I have also seen times where an unbelieving husband has come to the Lord and the wife struggled with the change. A wife may be able to validate their behaviour by pointing the finger of blame at the unbelieving spouse. Once that spouse comes to the Lord, they no longer have that crutch or excuse to fall back on. The bottom line is that God has ordained the institution of marriage to be permanent. I want to make clear that there would be no endorsing of a woman to stay in an environment where the husband would be abusive. Still, divorce is not to be an option.
Peter exhorts the woman to respect and honour the husband. This may not be easy in situations where the husband shows little or no respect towards his wife. A wife who submits and honours her husband opens the door for the Lord to come into the situation. It is the wife more than any other house member who controls the spiritual climate and atmosphere in a home. One of the best Biblical examples to draw from would be the life of Queen Esther.
In verses 3-6 Peter emphasizes how the woman should be adorned with an inward beauty. The world we live in seems to judge everything by outwards appearances. It applies to the human body and it can be applied to churches, businesses and organizations. A business can look healthy and successful but does the inward functioning of that business measure up to inspective accounting principles? What is the true inward picture? What about our churches; does the inward reality truly reflect the outward manifestation of its success? What about an attractive personality who draws the admiration of the public due to their stunning outward appearance? What is the inward life like? This is what Peter is addressing regarding the true virtues of a godly woman. One of the ornaments that are mentioned is that of a meek and quiet spirit. God highly desires and esteems this quality. When a wife functions in meekness, it allows God to move and work in a home. The woman is not outwardly combatant but is able to see God at work in every situation. This ministry needs to come forth in greater measure in the days ahead. It is women like these who can give sound advice and counsel to those who are going times of great difficulty.
The husbands are commanded to honor their wives according to knowledge. It is no secret that men and women are different. A successful marriage is one where both husband and wife understand this and seek to move and flow according to this reality. A husband may be tired at the end of a long day of work but he needs to recognize that his wife may have worked even harder in maintaining the home. If he takes initiative to assist her upon coming home, it sends the message of his concern and care for her. This is an example of honouring a wife with knowledge. One should not be surprised if the wife then reciprocates in some special way towards her husband. This is a picture of the reciprocating love relationship the Lord as the bridegroom seeks to have with His bride the church.
In verse 8, Peter instructs of the need to have compassion upon one another. This cannot be achieved if we seek to be a lone ranger in Christian circles. It makes the case that God desires His church to function as a body of believers (Heb 11:25). As the days draw nearer towards the end we are going to recognize our need for one another all the more. Let us not forget how powerful the enemy is when he can divide. It starts in the home between a husband and spouse. It even started earlier in the Garden of Eden where he was successful in driving a wedge between God and man through sin. On the other hand, we are strengthened and empowered when we unite with God as part of his body. When Jesus became the broken bread, He was opening the way for us to be reunited with God. Let us capture the essence of what Peter is stating here in these verses. We need each other and it is through the body of Christ where the work of the Holy Spirit can be achieved.
The matter of the tongue is also addressed by Peter as it was with James. The tendency within man is to retaliate for any perceived injustice. This is very true for us as believers as well. If we always take matters into our own hands, it can prohibit God from dealing with our enemies and being able to deal with root issues in our own life. The tongue can do great damage and it must be controlled. How we use our tongue will have a bearing on the kind of life we live. We also need to be careful about some of the causes we can be caught up in no matter how righteous and well-intended they may be. What needs to be changed is the heart of people and it often is rooted in sin, which stems from the church. If we get our own house (hearts) in order, it allows God to move in much greater ways then trying to exact change through politics and movements etc.
In verses 13-17, it is shown that God hearkens and hears the prayers of the righteous. The Psalmist declared that if he were to regard or entertain iniquity in his heart the Lord would not hear him (Psa 66:18). God is able to avenge upon those who afflict the righteous. This does not mean that those who serve God will not suffer but there is the promise of God’s pleasure, joy and blessing that will help enable one to go onward. There is the realization that no matter how powerful the enemy may be God is still above him. If we walk in close harmony with the Lord there should be no fear no matter how dire the circumstances. The call of the church in the last days is to be like a lamb in the midst of tyranny and oppression. This is how the Lord faced his accusers and it was the power of the lamb that in the end destroyed them. It was the power of the Passover Lamb in Egypt that broke Pharaoh’s power. This is where true power resides and it is the power of the lamb that will enable us to reign as kings.