Jeremiah 16; 23; 29; 31
Worse than your Fathers
The Lord tells the people that the destructions that are about to befall Jerusalem will be devastating. No one would be left to mourn or rebuild. There would be no more joy for Israel, because the temple would be destroyed, and the people of God will not remain in the Promised Land.
When the people ask why the Lord has forsaken them, Jeremiah explained:
”ye have done worse than your fathers; for, behold, ye walk every one after the imagination of his evil heart, that they may not hearken unto me” (Jer 16:12).
Remember, their forefathers included Manasseh, who placed a statue of Baal inside the Temple of Jehovah, and who killed Isaiah! They did not just follow another god in a particular direction, they had all turned to their own devices and imaginations.
Today, we can occasionally see the same thing, as people reject major teachings in the scriptures, simply because they no longer seem politically correct. Sexual sin, in all its myriad of colors and flavors, is now repudiated even by many Christian churches as belonging to an old era. How can one argue with such teachings, when religions focus on favorite passages, while ignoring or rejecting others. The concept that people can be sexually active outside marriage, or involved in extreme violence (real violence or on video games) and still be fully accepted in God’s eyes truly is an amazing imagination. Yes, people are saved by grace and faith, but true Christian fellowship with God requires us to be like-minded with God. “By their fruits, ye shall know” those who truly follow Jesus and embrace his grace. Works are a natural outcome of conversion and salvation. Many believe that they can be saved and be sinners at the same time. Yet, the teachings of Christ in the Gospels teach us time and again that repentance and good works are necessary as an example of our walk with God.
Yet many imagine they can break the law of gravity and avoid the eventual consequences of it. In 2008, we found out that government, business, bankers, and home owners all imagined they could spend way above their means without consequence. Truly each walked after his/her own imagination. And even now, many insist on continuing their dream, rather than awaking and repenting or changing their lifestyles to a form that is sane.
Too many Americans today want government trimmed down, but do not want their own entitlements or favorite programs cut one iota. No wonder in 2010 we have continued financial struggles. If everything is selfishly considered sacred, then nothing can be fixed.
A true return to God and law requires true repentance, a change of heart and mind. It may often mean rejecting the concepts the world tries to impose upon us, and instead seek to save the world from itself. Mormon, Moroni, and Ether all were in the minority of nations that ripened in iniquity. Jeremiah would be imprisoned and Lehi’s life would be sought after by those in Jerusalem. Their words were politically incorrect. People do not want to hear hard words, but sometimes they need to hear them. Perhaps that is the only thing that pushes people off the fence of apathy, and into deciding to be for or against God and his prophets.
Woe to False Pastors
“Woe be unto the pastors that destroy and scatter the sheep of my pasture! saith the Lord.
Therefore thus saith the Lord God of Israel against the pastors that feed my people; Ye have scattered my flock, and driven them away, and have not visited them: behold, I will visit upon you the evil of your doings, saith the Lord” (Jer 23:1-2).
Along with true prophets that call the people to repentance, are the false preachers who seek gain by preaching smooth things to the people. Power and money are often the ends sought after by those who preach another gospel than the one Jesus taught in the Gospels and through his prophets. Few today are called upon to take up their cross and follow Jesus.
However, in the last days, we are promised that a new King David will come and reign over Israel. Christ seeks to be the king over spiritual Israel, and in the Second Coming will conquer all enemies and pretenders to his throne and religion.
“Mine heart within me is broken because of the prophets; all my bones shake; I am like a drunken man, and like a man whom wine hath overcome, because of the Lord, and because of the words of his holiness.
For the land is full of adulterers; for because of swearing the land mourneth; the pleasant places of the wilderness are dried up, and their course is evil, and their force is not right.
For both prophet and priest are profane; yea, in my house have I found their wickedness, saith the Lord” (Jer 23:9-11).
Again, God shows the land full of sexual sin. This has both physical and spiritual connotations, as Israel, God’s chosen, has been unfaithful. But the children of Israel have also rejected him and found their own prophets and priests to follow. The Lord proclaims that even in the Temple, the priests profane the holy work they are to perform. Again, this applies to our world today, when pretenders proclaim their version of the gospel, rather than seeking first the will of God and then proclaiming it.
Jeremiah is not a popular figure. And in days of great wickedness, modern prophets will also be found to be unpopular with popular notions of the world.
“Thus saith the Lord of hosts, Hearken not unto the words of the prophets that prophesy unto you: they make you vain: they speak a vision of their own heart, and not out of the mouth of the Lord.
They say still unto them that despise me, The Lord hath said, Ye shall have peace; and they say unto every one that walketh after the imagination of his own heart, No evil shall come upon you.
For who hath stood in the counsel of the Lord, and hath perceived and heard his word? who hath marked his word, and heard it?” (23:16-18)
The answer here is that only the true prophets, such as Isaiah (Isa 6), and Jeremiah (Jer 1) have stood in counsel with God and heard his word. All others use the philosophy of men with a few scriptures tossed in to promote their own belief systems.
Seventy Years of Repentance
Jeremiah tells the people to not fight the Babylonians, but to accept the fact that they are going to be carried off. Many Israelites looked to Egypt to save them from the coming battle, and thinking that because they have Jehovah’s temple in their midst, they would be spared. Jeremiah insists that if they fight Babylon, their pride shall cause great destruction and ruin upon Israel.
Still, even many already in Babylon fought Jeremiah. Shemaiah proclaimed himself a prophet, sending letters to Jerusalem to repudiate Jeremiah:
“The Lord hath made thee priest in the stead of Jehoiada the priest, that ye should be officers in the house of the Lord, for every man that is mad, and maketh himself a prophet, that thou shouldest put him in prison, and in the stocks.
Now therefore why hast thou not reproved Jeremiah of Anathoth, which maketh himself a prophet to you?
For therefore he sent unto us in Babylon, saying, This captivity is long: build ye houses, and dwell in them; and plant gardens, and eat the fruit of them” (29:26-28).
The people chose to believe Shemaiah, because he told them what they wanted to hear. He insisted Israel would return and he would be the new temple priest shortly, and that Jeremiah and the other prophets who said otherwise should be imprisoned.
Today we have people who seek to listen to worldly prophets. They speak soothing and often inspiring words to the people. People seek a savior of their own making, as we saw in 1930’s Germany’s embrace of Hitler, who promised them a way out of poverty. Today, we still seek salvation, happiness, and prosperity through the gods and prophets we make for ourselves, whether they are rock stars, movie stars, corporate CEOs, or leaders of nations. Eventually, when we are sitting in the midst of ruin, we will be forced to look up to the only true salvation: Jesus Christ.
The Restoration of Israel
And eventually Israel and the world will awaken from their deep sleep. Their wild imaginations and riotous living, sex and violence, will not save them. They will look at the things which at one time brought them pleasure, and realize they are nothing but a bunch of empty dreams.
As a small child, one of my sons begged me to purchase him a particular video game, saying it would make him happy. That happiness lasted a few days, until he beat the game three or four times, and now was bored with it. He needed a new fix, a different game. And so it is in the games adults play today. Marriage is no longer an eternal or lifetime event, but only a convenient fairy tale until it becomes boring. The power to procreate is now only looked at as a means to pleasure. Procreation, a loving and selfless act, is replaced by selfishness and the destruction of potential life for convenience sake. Families are torn apart by society and even by government forces that mean well, but regulate fathers out of families. Christ-like compassion and forgiveness have been replaced by anger, division, and retribution.
In the day when spiritual Israel is reborn, and physical Israel returns to its rightful righteous station, the world will no longer bear sway over mankind. Ancient Babylon held Israel captive. Modern Babylon holds many captive as well. Only turning to the living prophets, following the teachings of Christ, and walking in His path, can we ever hope to be freed from Babylon today.
“For thus saith the Lord; Sing with gladness for Jacob, and shout among the chief of the nations: publish ye, praise ye, and say, O Lord, save thy people, the remnant of Israel.
Behold, I will bring them from the north country, and gather them from the coasts of the earth, and with them the blind and the lame, the woman with child and her that travaileth with child together: a great company shall return thither.
They shall come with weeping, and with supplications will I lead them: I will cause them to walk by the rivers of waters in a straight way, wherein they shall not stumble: for I am a father to Israel, and Ephraim is my firstborn.
Hear the word of the Lord, O ye nations, and declare it in the isles afar off, and say, He that scattered Israel will gather him, and keep him, as a shepherd doth his flock.
For the Lord hath redeemed Jacob, and ransomed him from the hand of him that was stronger than he.
Therefore they shall come and sing in the height of Zion, and shall flow together to the goodness of the Lord, for wheat, and for wine, and for oil, and for the young of the flock and of the herd: and their soul shall be as a watered garden; and they shall not sorrow any more at all.
Then shall the virgin rejoice in the dance, both young men and old together: for I will turn their mourning into joy, and will comfort them, and make them rejoice from their sorrow” (Jer 31:7-13).