Dodge Disaster

Explore the Bible Series

May 15, 2005

 

Background Passage: Jeremiah 40:1-45:5

Lesson Passage: Jeremiah 44:2-10, 18, 28

 

Introduction: What were these people thinking?  Again and again, I have asked myself this question as we have studied through the Book of Jeremiah.  Despite the unambiguous preaching of the prophet and the disastrous consequences of their sin, the people of Judah continued their pattern of disobedience.  Why did they refuse to hear the word of the Lord and correct the ruinous mistakes they made?  Chapter Forty-four gives a clear answer to this question.  These people had no fear of God (See 44:10).

 

Edward T. Welch  (See When People Are Big and God Is Small. pp. 96 f.) observes that the Bible describes two kinds of fear toward God.  One type of the fear of God grows from an awareness that God is utterly holy, and human beings are corrupt, defiled, and guilty of terrible sin against the Lord.  God cannot look upon the sinfulness of man, and the Lord is bound, by his uncompromised righteousness, to judge all nonconformity to his holy will.  Welch concludes that many of the “psychological” problems of our day (free floating anxiety, low self-esteem, etc.) grow from this form of the fear of God. 

 

The second aspect of the fear of God relates to a deep sense of reverence for the Lord.  Welch defines the fear of God in the following manner.

 

This fear of the Lord means reverent submission that leads to obedience, and it is interchangeable with “worship,” “rely on,” “trust,” and “hope in.” Like terror, it includes a knowledge of our sinfulness and God’s moral purity, and it includes a clear-eyed knowledge of God’s justice and his anger against sin.  But this worship-fear also knows God’s great forgiveness, mercy, and love. (p. 97)

 

The people of Judah lacked both forms of the fear of God.  They turned to other gods, in part, because they feared their idolatrous neighbors, and they sought to appease their enemies by disobeying the Lord God.  They feared men more than they feared God.  Moreover, they failed to understand their own sinfulness before God.  Their idolatrous actions seemed acceptable to them, and they followed the dictates of their own seared consciences.  God sent them many prophets, including Jeremiah.  At several points, the people of Judah simply ignored Jeremiah, and, at times when he would not be ignored, they turned on him with violence and hatred. In this manner, they demonstrated that they had no fear of God.

 

The Apostle Paul invested more than two chapters of the Epistle to the Romans to describing the sinfulness of man.  In excruciating detail the apostle laid out the indictments against the entire human race, and his description reached a crescendo in chapter three.  In verse eighteen Paul wrote, “There is no fear of God before their eyes.”  Of course, Paul knew that this theme was also clearly found in the Old Testament (See Psalm 36:1b).  This is the essence of sin.  Sin does not merely consist of falling short of a code of conduct; rather, it reveals a heart that views God with disdain and irreverence.  The people of Judah refused to hear Jeremiah and repent of their sins because they held God in contempt.  Ultimately, all of Judah’s disobedience revealed that sin is, in the final analysis, a matter of the heart.

 

 

Outline of Background Passage:

 

I.                    The Governorship of Gedaliah (40:1-41:18)

A.     Jeremiah released from Ramah by Nebuzaradan, captain of the guard (40:1-6)

1.      Nebuzaradan’s awareness of the sovereignty of God (vv. 1-3)

2.      Jeremiah’s options to go to Babylon or return to Judah (v. 4)

3.      Jeremiah’s choice to go to Mizpah to enjoy the protection of Gedaliah (vv. 5-6)

B.     The return of the people of Judah to their land (40:7-12)

1.      Ishmael and his followers came to Mizpah to speak with Governor Gedaliah (vv. 7-8)

2.      The oath of Gedaliah (vv. 9-10)

3.      The Jews returned to the land (vv. 11-12)

C.     Johanan alerted Gedaliah to the treachery of Ishmael (40:13-16)

1.      Johanan’s warning (vv. 13-15)

2.      Gedaliah refused to believe Johanan’s report (v. 16)

D.     The Assassination of Gedaliah (41:1-18)

1.      Ishmael killed Gedaliah and all those with him (vv. 1-3)

2.      Ishmael murdered seventy pilgrims and cast their bodies in a pit (vv. 4-10)

3.      Johanan pursued Ishmael and his men (vv. 11-18)

 

II.                 The People Fled to Egypt (42:1-45:5)

A.     The people asked Jeremiah for guidance (42:1-6)

B.     Jeremiah’s instructions for the people (42:7-22)

1.      Jeremiah waited for ten days to give an answer (vv. 7-8)

2.      The people instructed to wait in Judah (vv. 9-22)

C.     The people blatantly disobeyed the Lord’s instructions (43:1-13)

1.      The proud leaders made false accusations against Jeremiah and Baruch (vv. 1-7)

2.      The “parable” of the buried stones (vv. 8-13)

                  D.  God’s promise of judgment on the people of Judah (44:1-30)

                                 1.   the three-fold sin of the people (vv. 1-10)

                                 2.   God pledged to judge the remnant of his people (vv. 11-30)

 

III.               Assurance for Baruch (45:1-5)

A.     Baruch’s faintheartedness (vv. 1-3)

B.     The Lord’s reassurance to Baruch (vv. 4-5)

Observations from the Lesson Passage:

 

1.      A mere change in their physical circumstances did not change the hearts of the Jews.  They moved from Judah to Egypt; yet, their hearts remained corrupt and rebellious against the law of God.  Foolishly, many in our day may reason that changes in one’s outward circumstances can lead to moral reformation.  The men of Judah carried their problem with them: a corrupt and disobedient heart.

2.      God hates sin (See v. 4).  Some conceive of God as a grandfatherly figure who indulges his children in their moral mischief.  The Lord of Hosts hates sin.  He loathed the very things the men of Judah held dear.  Their darling sins brought the Jews in direct and hostile confrontation with the Holy One of Israel.

3.      Sin does terrible harm to those who disobey God (See v. 7).  Occasionally, one will hear a person defend a particular sin on the grounds that this pattern of disobedience brings such great pain that no one would deliberately choose it.  Therefore, they reason, this pattern of sin must be an in-born inclination.  In fact, some would go so far as to assert that God made them to follow this pattern of behavior.  This passage indicates that all sin is self-destructive.

4.      This tragic experience revealed the three-fold nature of Judah’s sin (See v. 10).  First, they had not been humbled.  The Hebrew word denotes being “crushed.”  Second, they did not fear the Lord.  Third, they did not obey the Lord’s commandments.