Judgment is on the Way
Jeremiah 4 SCC 9/18/16
REPENTING IS NECESSARY TO AVOID GOD’S INEVITABLE JUDGMENT
Verses 1-2: God promised to respond positively if Israel and Judah would return to Him. However, the repentance had to be genuine and demonstrated by the act of putting away the idols. Its ‘if’ v 1 with follow through in v 2. Just saying it is not enough. How will that translate into action. This is the repentance that was necessary for Yahweh to return to His "wife” 3:1. This is what John the Baptist called “fruits” of repentance (Matthew 3:8). The Gentile nations would discern in the example of Israel that the source of true blessing lies in God.
Verses 3-4: God appealed to them with two agricultural metaphors. They needed to plow up the previously unplowed soil that symbolized their hearts v 3. They needed to cultivate soft hearts that would welcome the Lord's words and stop investing in counterproductive ventures such as idolatry. Changing the figure, they should make a radical and permanent change in their commitments, a change that sprang from their innermost being v 4. Removing the foreskins of the heart means repentance needed to be inward. Unless they did this, not just pretend to, they could count on God's judgment—that would burn and consume them like unquenchable fire—because their deeds were so evil. Breaking the covenant carried very serious consequences.
NB: Repentance begins in your heart. This sermon clarifies that the essence of repentance is turning. Repentance says one agrees with God about what is true and now pursues that.
INEVITABLE JUDGMENT IS A PRODUCT OF GODS WRATH AGAINST WILLFUL SIN
Verses 4:5-9: What will God’s wrath look like v 6, 8, 12? I am bringing evil from the north, and great destruction v 6, 8. People in the countryside will flee into the fortified cities—blow horns and assemble like sirens today v 5. The people were to lift up a flag or light a signal fire in Jerusalem as a sign of impending attack v 6. Yet your cities will be ruins without inhabitant v 7. The people should go into mourning over this situation v 8. The heart of the civil and religious will fail, be appalled, and astounded when this happens v 9. False prophets had created the illusion that peace would continue indefinitely. This is the 3rd declaration to Judah and Jerusalem v 3, 4 and 5 to consider the inevitable if there is no response—blow, cry aloud, assemble, lift up, seek refuge, put on, and lament.
Verse 10: Jeremiah reacted to this revelation, by objecting that the sovereign Lord had misled His people—by telling them that they would have peace when really they would have war. The basis of his charge seems to be that God had allowed false prophets to predict peace 6:14. In fact, God continually warned the people of the coming judgment/invasion. Through His Prophets He said there would be no peace. Jeremiah must be referring to the fact that God allowed these false prophets to deceive the people in order to bring about His judgment on them for turning away from God and worshipping the idols.
NB: God sometimes deceives people so they won’t believe (1 Kings 22:19-23; 2 Thess 2:11). Why? To bring about His plan. Still, people are responsible for not being deceived because the truth is available.
WILLFUL SIN INVOKES CATASTROPHIC JUDGMENT THATS IRREVERSIBLE
Verses 11-12: The Lord also said that when this invasion came, it would descend like a violent wind from the north v 11. It would be far more severe than an ordinary attack, that the prophet compared to a gentle breeze winnowing the grain of the people. This "wind" would come at God’s command and would be the instrument of God's judgment on the people v 12. The western wind helps with the winnowing (separating the grain from its husks/chaff by tossing it in the air and letting the wind blow through it). The hot, dry, east wind that blows in from the desert is too strong and withers the vegetation.
Verses 13-14: The approaching enemy was like a bank of storm clouds growing in the north v 13. The coming tornado was like a chariot on which the Lord rode to fight. God again appeals to Judah to repentance. Wash your heart from evil, O Jerusalem that you may be saved [from the Babylonian destruction] v 14. Notice that it is not just their actions but also their wicked thoughts lodging within them. Satan fell when God saw his thoughts (Isa 14:13). God will judge our thoughts (1 Cor 4:4).
Verses 15-18: The approach of the Babylonian army would be proclaimed from Dan (northern border of Israel) and from Mt. Ephraim (the hills north of Jerusalem) v 15. They are coming to Jerusalem v 16. Why? “Because she has rebelled against Me,” declares the Lord v 17. Judah herself is responsible for the coming invasion v 18 how it has touched your heart! Rebelling against God is disagreeing with Him About what is sinful. You now decide what is in your best interests. Watch out! God was not acting arbitrarily. Their evil had been great, but it had not moved them to repent.
NB: We should never ponder or believe that God will give his people a break, grade on a curve, and allow willful rebellion with a wink and a nod. Misunderstanding Gods will is no excuse either.
THE DEVOUT R ANGUISHED BY INEVITABLE JUDGMENT COMING TO REBELLIOUS
Verses 19-22: Jeremiah responded to the news of the coming invasion by crying out in anguish v 19. His heart was pounding as he thought of the coming disaster. This announcement meant sudden and complete devastation for Judah v 20. He longed to stop hearing this bad news and seeing the signal that indicated the need to flee for safety (v 5-6) v 21. The Lord complained that His people were foolish, like stupid children v 22. They did not really understand Him, but felt they could deceive Him, and that He would not bring them to account for their sins. They were clever when it came to sinning, but not clever at all when it came to understanding that He would punish their sins (Prov. 1:2-3).
Verses 23-28: Jeremiah pictured God’s coming judgment as an undoing of Creation v 23 I looked 4 tms. The mountains would be quaking, there would be no man, and the birds would flee v 24-25. The fruitful land (God’s will) was a wilderness (God’s plan, God keeping His Word of the Mosaic Covenant) v 26. Although the whole land shall be desolation, yet I will not execute a complete destruction v 27. There is hope in judgment because God will leave a remnant. Then God makes a strong sovereignty statement: I have spoken, I have purposed, and I will not change My mind, nor will I turn from it v 28. Later, several times, God tells Jeremiah not to pray about it and that even if Moses and Samuel were to pray about it, God would not change His mind (15:1). Disaster v 20, devastation v 20, desolate v 30 is coming.
NB: Loving someone is not tolerating their rebellion against God but confronting it. We don’t love others when we allow them to disagree with God about what is right, just, and in their best interest. While pleading that they repent we also mourn reality of their judgment before God in real loss.
WHEN JUDGMENT ARRIVES IT WILL BE DESTRUCTIVE AND TERRIFYING
Verses 29-31: As the invading army approached Judah, the people in every city flee; they go into the thickets and climb among the rocks v 29. The result would be vacant cities throughout the land. In Jerusalem, the people tried to act like a harlot to be attractive to the Babylonians v 30 but the nations that pretended to love her would turn against her and attack her. No last-minute compromise with the invaders would placate them. In vain you make yourself beautiful; your lovers [Assyria and Egypt] despise you [no help]. As the Babylonians approached, Judah would cry out like a woman giving birth for the first time v 31. She would be in agony because of the adversaries who had come to put her to death. Neither pretty words (v. 30), nor a pitiful cry (v. 31), would turn the Lord back from His decision to judge His people. Murderers [the Babylonians] were coming.
1. God’s people will not get away with sin. Hebrews says, it is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of an angry God. Paul says believers will suffer loss at judgment seat and be shamed at his coming 1 Jn 2:28.
2. We must make decisions which are much more consistent with our eternal welfare. Its preparing for the heaven we are going to and destined to rule. Sinful choices will be accounted for.
3. We often think judgment of unbelievers severe. Yes the same is true for believers. Remember that.