Guard Against Sin

Explore the Bible Series

March 13, 2005

 

Background Passage: Jeremiah 2:1-6:30

Lesson Passage: Jeremiah 5:1-5, 7-8, 11-12

 

Introduction: This portion of Jeremiah follows the pattern of a particular ancient form of litigation.J.A. Thompson points out that vassal rulers often displeased their overlords, and the supreme ruler would take the lesser governors to task by means of a document that followed a similar pattern to these chapters. He identifies five features of this type of document.

(1). a call to the vassal to take heed to this warning and an appeal to the earth and sky to act as witnesses in the case

(2). a list of questions that sharpen the accusations against the vassal

(3). a recounting of the benefits the overlord has bestowed upon the vassal

(4). the vanity of the vassal resorting to other kings for aid in this case

(5). an account of the vassalís liability for wrongs committed and the threat of impending judgment

 

In all probability, Jeremiah preached the material in these chapters during the reign of King Josiah (ruled c. 640-609 B.C.); thus, this is a record of some of the earliest of the prophetís work.

 

I.                   Judahís Unfaithfulness to God (Jeremiah 2:1-37)

A.    Godís former kindness to Israel (2:1-13): God recalled the days of his mercy to Israel when he rescued his people from the bondage of Egypt.They had loved him, at one time, and he led and sustained them through the difficult years in the wilderness.The Lord provided for their needs and protected them from the harsh desert environment. Nevertheless, they defiled the Promised Land, the priests failed to teach the law, and false prophets led the people into Baal worship.†† Therefore, God brought two charges against Israel: (1) they had forsaken God, the ďfountain of living watersĒ; (2) they had hewn broken cisterns that held no water (See 2:13).People from an arid climate would understand this illustration of the danger of Israelís action.Springs in the desert bring life and comfort to all, but leaky cisterns bring nothing but disappointment and death. Israel had abandoned her resource of strength and life.

B.     The result of Israelís sin (2:14-19): Terrible calamities had come upon Israel; yet, they saw no connection between this chastening and their transgressions.Other nations had devoured them (like young lions consume their prey), and the people of Egypt (Noph and Tahpanhes) had broken (perhaps ďshavedĒ) the crown of their heads.Israel hoped to find refuge in Egypt or Assyria, but their sins would find them out wherever they might hide.

C.    Israel denied her sinfulness (2:20-37)

1.      Analogies of sin

a.       a swift camel that runs wild (v.23)

b.      a wild donkey in heat (v. 24)

c.       a shameful thief who is caught (v.26

2.      The foolishness of Israelís sin

a.       called upon idols of wood and stone (v. 27-28)

b.      refused to accept correction (v. 30)

c.       killed the prophets (v. 30)

d.      denied that they had sinned against the Lord (v. 35)

 

II.                A Plea to an Unfaithful Nation (3:1-4:4)

A.    Judah compared to an unfaithful wife (3:1-6): The prophet accused Judah of spiritual adultery. Deuteronomy 24:1-4 forbids a man, once he had divorced an unfaithful wife, to marry her again.Judah had played the harlot by giving herself to the worship of false gods, and had brought ruin upon the nation.Her ruin, however, had not persuaded her to turn from her infidelity.

B.     A plea for repentance (3:6-25)

1.      Israelís spiritual adultery had little effect on Judah (vv.6-11):Godís dealings with Israel, through the ruthless Assyrians, had not turned the heart of Judah at all.Like her faithless sister, Judah had continued to disregard the Lordís word and warnings.

2.      God offered repentance to sinful Israel, and he promised, if they would turn from their sins, he would bring them back to Zion (vv. 12-18).The Lord pledged that he would give them godly spiritual leaders (v. 15), that the people would multiply in the land (v. 16), the presence of the Lord would return to Jerusalem (v. 17), and the Houses of Judah and Israel would be joined together again (v. 18).

3.      Godís grief over his wayward people (vv. 19-25): The Lord intended good for Judah, but she would not have his blessings.Jeremiah returned to the analogy of an adulterous wife who dealt treacherously with he husband (v. 20).In verse twenty-two, the prophet changed the analogy.Now, he compared Judah to a rebellious son, and his Father pleaded with the rebel offspring to return to his Fatherís house and receive the healing of the Lord (v. 22).The shameful lusts of the defiant son brought only chastisement, shame, dishonor, and rebuke (vv. 24-25).

4.      Another offer of grace (4:1-4):It was not too late for Judah to repent.Even at this critical hour, the Lord extended the hand of mercy to his people.He required that they put away their abominations, break up the fallow ground (cultivate godliness in their hearts), and circumcise the foreskins of their hearts (renew their covenant bonds with the Lord).

 

III.               Imminent Judgment from the North (Jeremiah 4:4-31)

A.    Godís warning of judgment (vv. 5-9):God told to Jeremiah to sound the trumpet of alarm and judgment over the land.A mighty northern nation, the Neo-Babylonians, would soon emerge like a lion from its lair and serve as Godís instrument of judgment on Judah.

B.     Jeremiahís lament (vv. 10-13 and 19-22): These verses seem to reflect the grief of the prophet for the dreadful news about the destruction of Jerusalem. The Lordís words overwhelmed the sensitive young man as he mourned for Judah.

C.    The utter ruin of the people of God (vv. 23-31):Though ruin loomed on the historical horizon, the people of Judah seemed oblivious to the pending disaster.As indicative of their lustful hearts, they adorned themselves with costly array and painted their eyes to make themselves beautiful; yet, they became like jilted lovers (v.30).

IV.              The Search for One Righteous Man (Jeremiah 5:1-31)

A.    God sent Jeremiah to find one righteous man in Judah (vv. 1-13): The prophet was challenged to find a single just man, but he could not.Ungodliness pervaded the entire nation, the men were like lustful stallions (v. 8), they had assembled themselves at the houses of harlots (v. 7), and the prophets did not preach the word of God to the people (v.13).

B.     Jeremiah, unlike the sinful prophets, preached the truth to Judah (vv. 14-31):God promised he would make Jeremiahís words like fire that would consume the people.A terrible judgment brooded over the land, and a mighty nation would soon lay waste to Judah (vv. 16-17).The people had grown spiritually dull (v. 20-21), they no longer feared the Lord (v. 22), they were defiant (v. 23), they had no fear of the Lord (v. 24), they grew fat and rich (vv. 27-28), and their religious leaders failed to call them back to Jehovah (vv. 30-31)

 

V.                 Another Warning of Judgment from the North (6:1-30)

A.    Counsel to flee from the coming siege (vv.1-5): God, again, warned the people of the Tribe of Benjamin to flee from the impending siege of Jerusalem.The warm pastoral and familial relations of the past would be replaced, Jeremiah predicted, with a bloody war (vv. 2-4).

B.     A warning to prepare for the siege (6:6-15): The Lord instructed Judah to anticipate that the Babylonians would build ramps to attack the Jerusalem because sin welled up in her like a fountain (vv.6-7).The city would be stripped clean; yet, the inhabitants refused to listen to the Lordís warnings (vv. 8-9).God spared no one from the destruction (vv.10-13).Above all, the religious leaders met the judgment of the Lord because they had given false security to the sinful people of Judah (vv. 14-15).

C.    Another appeal for the people to repent (6:16-21):The Lord invited Judah to return to the old paths of righteousness and obedience.Also, he had sent prophets to warn the people of their grave circumstance, but Judah refused to hear the Lordís prophets (vv. 17-19).Since the people had declined to heed the Lordís warnings, he rejected their worship (vv. 20-21).

D.    A cruel and merciless nation will bring judgment from the North (6:22-30): God sent Jeremiah as an assayer who would test the metal of Judah (vv. 27-30).He found them wanting, and God had rejected them because they were found useless.The dreaded enemy from the North would be used of God to strike fear in the hearts of the people of Judah (vv. 22-26).

 

 

Conclusion: The words of these chapters pummel the reader with the charges God brought, through the prophet, against the people of Judah.While overtures of grace do appear in these chapters, the major thrust of the material drive the reader to despair. God takes sin seriously.

 

1.      How does this record of Jeremiahís preaching challenge the ďseeker friendlyĒ emphasis of our day?

2.      How do the sins of ancient Judah compare to the sins of the evangelical churches in the United States?

3.      What do these chapters indicate about Godís sovereignty over the nations?

4.      How does one reconcile the strong warnings of the impending judgment of God with the warm offers of grace in these chapters?