Mr. “Terror on Every Side”

Jeremiah 16-20

Focal passage 18:1-15


Tom J. Nettles

I                      Special Instructions to Jeremiah

A       Don’t marry and have children 16:1-4 for they will die with the others; God would be no respecter of persons in this judgment. His determination to punish is so set that even the family of Jeremiah, should he have one, would not be spared.

B        Don’t mourn 16:5-7 This judgment is not to be seen as an event that causes sadness, for the people are so wicked and have abused privilege to such a high degree increasing in intensity with each generation, that their destruction merits no sadness, no sense of loss; good riddance

C        Don’t go to a house of feasting 8, 9 – Places that ignore the severity of Jeremiah’s pronouncements and seek to shrug it all off with a frolic. God will put an end to any event that normally would be an occasion for mirth and joy.  compare with Ecclesiastes 7:2-4

II                    Jeremiah’s Preaching

A       When the people ask “Why such a great disaster?” First, they show how oblivious to both sin and holiness they are. “What is our iniquity?”  The answer is that they are being judged for idolatry, a plain issue of the first table of the commandments. 16:10-13; 16-18.  Chapter 17 gives detailed instruction concerning the commandment of the Sabbath as a national observance. Their consistent practice of ignoring it again indicates their blindness to God’s clearly revealed law, and how absurd is their incredulity concerning punishment.

B        The adamantine tenacity of sin 16: 11-13;17:1, 2, [“the sin of Judah is written with a pen of iron; with a point of diamond it is engraved on the tablet of their heart]; 9 “The heart is deceitful above all things and desperately sick; who can understand it?” 10 only God is capable of judging the heart, [note in verse 10 how connected the heart is to the actions. God searches the heart and tests the mind so that he might render to every man “according to the fruit of his deeds.” Deeds, the acting of the will, do not stand alone as disconnected events but proceed from the heart. Our actions are determined by our moral propensities, that is, a deceitful and desperately sick heart, and thus they are the morally culpable actions of a responsible moral agent; 18:12 “Each of us will follow the stubbornness of his evil heart.”

C        Judgment for cruelty 19:4, 5 – This is another detailed explanation of the reason for their punishment and a further shows the tragic blindness and moral hardness indicated by their questions in 16:10. “Why has the Lord pronounced all this great evil against us?”

1         They have sacrificed their children to Baal – This is a clear indication of the progressive nature of corruption and hardness; cruelty follows close upon the abandonment to personal pleasure, and this is pursued as a religious duty.

2         They will, therefore, eat their own children and their slain neighbors for food 19:8, 9; Their punishment will show and image the horror of their depraved lives.

D        Word of Hope: 

1         For Judah – 16:14, 15; Even though driven apparently irreparably into exile, they will be restored to the land.

2         the nations 19-21; cf. 12:14-17 – The nations, even those that taught Israel to sin, also will be brought to know the Lord. This will be accomplished by a demonstration of irresistible divine power. [16:21 “Therefore, behold, I will make them know . . . and they shall know  . .”

E         Keep the Sabbath 17:19-27 – See above, “A.”  There are not any of the ten commandments that Judah has not broken by obvious practice as a settled way of life. [16:10 “What is the sin we have committed against the Lord our God?”]

F         Sermons from Objects Lessons

1         The Potter and the Clay 18:1-11

(a)     The potter reshapes the clay as he sees fit, 1-4. God views all the nations, and individuals, in general and each nation, and individual, in particular, as broken. All are in his hands to do with as he sees fit and none has the right to say, ”Why do you do this?” Our lives already are forfeit and God may demonstrate our sin and his justice through showing that we rebel against clear commands and despise promises given upon condition of obedience.

(b)     5-11: God is free to issue covenants based on conditions that he determines; when these conditions are unmet God may proceed with absolute arbitrariness in his interaction with that nation, or person. The house of Israel, because of its rebellion against God’s intentions to bless on the basis of obedience, is like clay in a potter’s hand [18:6] Thus, though God intended to bless, and surely will do it, this generation will feel only the vengeance of divine wrath for their disobedience [18:9-11].

(c)     God might indicate that he has calamitous designs against a nation, and if the nation repents, he will relent. He has designed the threat as means under the operations of the Holy Spirit, to achieve the repentance.  An announcement of evil design that brings repentance, and thus divine blessing to a generation of NinevitesNineveh [Jonah]

(d)     An announcement of blessing and great privilege marred by hard-hearted disobedience – Judah, Jeremiah 18: 11-17

·         The threat with a call to avoid calamity by repentance resulted in more insistent commitment to sin. [11, 12]

·         God shows how senseless and unnatural this folly of Judah is, 13-16. The snow stays in its native environment and the natural springs of a mountain cannot function away from the source of their effusion. But Judah has gone after gods that are not gods, that not only have no power and have bestowed no blessings and have provided no rescue, but that have utterly no existence. The mind easily consents to Logic or a demonstrable fact in the natural realm but becomes strangely contorted by the corrupted passions of the heart when set forth in the spiritual realm. The God who has saved them from bondage, provided for their fathers and who presently calls to them to repent by the mouth of the true prophet Jeremiah, is ignored. They are determined to ignore Jeremiah [18:18] but also to devise plots against him [see III below]

2         The broken flask – in Topheth 19:1-13

(a)     He bought a potter’s flask and Preached to the elders at Ben-Hinnom [1-3]

(b)     He preached to them about their conscienceless cruelty

(c)     He broke the flask and said Judah would be broken so it could not be mended – This image is a vivid follow-up on the potter/clay image  in chapter 18. This image says that the flask can no longer be collapsed and reworked but because it is now hard it can only be broken.

G        Preaching in the Temple court  19:14, 15 – Another announcement of disaster because of their unrepented wickedness and recalcitrance

III                  Jeremiah’s Persecution

A       Make plots and spread slander 18:18

B        At the hands of Pashur 20:1, 2 “beat him and put him in stocks”

C        Other things Jeremiah is aware of  18:20, 23 “plotting to kill him”;20:10m “Denounce him.”

IV                  Jeremiah’s Prayers – note the counterpoint of God’s wrath and Jeremiah’s anger

A       For Protection from adversaries – On the basis of Jeremiah 1:17-19; 15:20, 21

1         17:14-18

(a)     His dependence on God as the giver of all blessings 14; cf. 5-8, 12-13

(b)     He is being ridiculed because his prophecies apparently are not coming true

(c)     Vindicate me while you punish them 17, 18;

2         18:19-23 Does Jeremiah feel the offense against him is greater than the offense against God?

(a)     He preached the truth to them so they could avert disaster

(b)     They respond with malice

(c)     Punish them both here and in eternity 21-23

B        Praise to God 16:19-20

V                    Jeremiah’s Praise and Complaint 20:7-18 combination of the elements of prayer above

A       The word he preaches seems like such an exaggerated concoction that he is ridiculed, and seemingly embarrassed, for its extravagance 7, 8

B        If he tries not to speak, he is unable to restrain himself 9

C        They ridicule his message and plot against him 10

D        God will vindicate him and punish evildoers; Jeremiah cannot escape the necessity of praise to God for the obvious manifestations of surprising deliverance 20: 11-13

E         Jeremiah, in the most pathetic images, wishes he had never been born 14-18. He curses the day that he was born and the man that brought news to his father of the birth of a male child. That man, the bearer of good news at the moment of his birth, becomes the focus of Jeremiah’s distress. Rather than announce the news of birth, the man should have killed Jeremiah in his mother’s womb. Surely Jeremiah has in mind his own plight [18:20b] and shifts the treatment that he is receiving to the unnamed announcer of his birth. Is it just for such responsibility to rest on those that announce events, either as good or bad, so that they are cursed for eventualities over which they have no control? That is what has happened to him and if it right for the mere announcer of truth to be endangered for his faithful announcement, then Jeremiah feels justified in cursing the man that announced his birth. These dynamics, both in Jeremiah and in his perception of the cursedness of his birth-announcer, were duplicated in the life of Christ and his designated messengers, the apostles See Colossian 4:2-4; 1 Thessalonians 2:2.

VI                  Questions for Application

A       Are there attitudes in Churches today that correspond to the attitudes of Judah?

B        What circumstances can arise that make us feel God has deceived us?

C        Are we more offended and deeply moved by personal mistreatment than by the lack of love for, irreverence toward, and disobedience to God?

D        In what ways can we prepare ourselves to bear the reproach that often comes from announcing the message of truth committed to us and to which God has committed us?

E         Are there circumstances when we can respond before God to our enemies the way Jeremiah did?

F         Why is the New Covenant not susceptible to the changes of the various manifestations of the old?