But We Do See Him

Jeremiah 19 -21

 

Last week, in an expansion beyond the focal passage, we looked at Jeremiah’s persistence in announcing the message of judgmental terror coming upon Judah. The opposition drove him to share God’s anger against the people, though. Like God, the anger arose from an exalted sense of what the people could have been given their place of unparalleled privilege as the receivers of God’s oracles and his special conserving and protecting providences. The same message predominates throughout Jeremiah but expands to include every aspect of the social and religious structure of Judah. Not only the people but the king, the priests and the prophets have been sucked into the vortex of pleasure seeking, a pleasure seeking that has gone to such extremes that it involves unspeakable cruelty. All of this goes to demonstrate that among the necessary elements of human redemption is a supernatural alteration of the heart of sinful persons. More revelation, and more intensely illustrated revelation, will never alter the heart. That is clearly displayed in the lesson for this week. Clearly, a new heart is needed. Also, one does not find in any of the offices of the nation, prophet, priest, and king, a solution to the nature of human corruption. The human holders of these offices have neither redemptive capacities nor purifying power. Thus one who is infinitely worthy and capable must come to take the tasks implied in these offices, and, as prophet, priest, and king accomplish the perfect role of each.  The enmeshment of people, prophet, priest, and king in a single and relentless movement of rebellion constitutes the evil against which Jeremiah throws himself in his God-ordained ministry of preaching repentance and doom.  Some of the material from last week’s expanded discussion will be employed in this week’s suggestions, along with added observations.

 

 I.  Jeremiah and the Kings – During his time of prophesying Jeremiah dealt with conditions during the time of four kings

A.      Josiah reigned 31 years – killed in a battle with Pharaoh Neco [see 2 Kings 23:25]; Jehoahaz, (son of Josiah) three months –imprisoned by Neco and he died in Egypt; Eliakim, son of Josiah whose name became Jehoiakim, reigned 11 years and taxed the people heavily to pay Neco and “did evil in the sight of the Lord according to all that his fathers had done.” Nebuchadnezzar began his control of Jerusalem during the time of Jehoiakim, around 605 BC. Jehoiachin, (son of Jehoiakim, grandson of Josiah)also called Coniah, was eighteen when he began to reign, and reigned only three months –  In the eighth year of Nebuchadnezzar’s reign in Babylon, massive deportations occurred including Jehoiachin, his mother his servants, the captains, the “mighty men of valor”, the craftsmen and the smiths; only the poorest of the land remained;  Then Mattaniah, another son of Josiah and uncle of Jehoiachin, was placed as king by Nebuchadnezzar.  His name was changed to Zedekiah.  Another attack from Nebuchadnezzar took place that resulted in a devastating famine and Zedekiah with the army fled the city.  They were captured by Nebuchadnezzar.  Zedekiah’s sons were killed in front of his eyes, and then his eyes were put out.  The city was burned and the walls destroyed, the temple was burned, and the deportation was completed except for the poorest of the people who were left for some horticultural purposes.  The chief priest, the second priest, three officers of the temple, the kings advisers, and those who oversaw and mustered the army were all executed at Riblah before Nebuchadnezzar. Jeremiah was in consistent conflict not only with the kings and their refusal to hear his message, but with the prophets that prophesied falsely, and with the priests that led in false and insincere worship.

II.  The broken flask –  Jeremiah 19:1-15

A. An unrepentant nation sees a message of the irremediable state of their rebellion

1.  God commanded Jeremiah to buy a Potter’s earthenware flask.

2.  He bought a potter’s flask, gathered some of the elders from the people and from the priests and Preached to them at Ben-Hinnom [1-3]. This was a combination of word and symbol to a select group. Surely the vivid action of the symbol would etch the message in the minds of these elders and they would spread this message to the people throughout Jerusalem. It would serve only to solidify their opinion that Jeremiah was a radical not to be trusted or believed and make them impervious to the threats contained in the earnest and true message of Jeremiah.

2.  He preached to them about their conscienceless cruelty. This message addressed both the kings and the people for a sustained line of pagan religious conduct. Evidently, only a small number had responded in conscientious repentance to the reforms of Josiah.

·         They had used the valley for rituals designed to appease other gods. 4a

·         This worship had involved the sacrifice of their own children [2 Kings 21:5,6; 23:5, 6]. Josiah had destroyed these places [2 Kings 23:10] during his reform and had destroyed the priests responsible for conducting these ceremonies [2 Kings 23:5, 8, 20] According to Huldah the prophetess, [2 Kings 22:14-20]the reforms of Josiah formed a short parenthesis in the fine-grinding movement of divine judgment that was coming on Judah.

·         Part of the judgments would be a replication of the terror and slaughter that had been an act of religious worship for the people. They would now experience a slaughter in which their blood would run, and a siege that would pres them to the edge of starvation and cause them to eat their sons and daughters and neighbors. Jeremiah 19:6-10] 

3.  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. The priests were among those that saw this sermonic drama of certain judgment for their perversions.

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

III. A Priest retaliates

A.  Pashur the priest. Son of Immer, beats Jeremiah and put him in stocks.

B.   Upon his release, Jeremiah prophesied the doom of Pashur, his friends, and Judah – 20:3-6. Jeremiah did not succumb to the intimidation of Pashur but upon release gave a stronger message about divine judgments and its certainty toward Judah that now included a special word about what would happen to Pashur and the horror he would have to witness personally during the coming siege. Jeremiah personified the advice that Peter gave to the troubled Christians during the persecutions of the first century, when the Jewish leaders acted precisely toward them as they did toward Jeremiah in his day [1 Peter 3:13-17. Compare also the words of Jesus in Matthew 23:29-39.

C. Jeremiah reflects on the burden and the glory of being a prophet under stringent commission. His reaction involves both praise and Complaint 20:7-18

1. The word he preaches seems like such an exaggerated concoction that he is ridiculed, and seemingly embarrassed, for its extravagance. Perhaps Jeremiah believed that in the end the people would appreciate him for telling the truth, but he found that their hostility merely increased in proportion to his insistence on the divine revelation. God, Jeremiah concluded in these moments of despair, had deceived him and yet had overpowered him so that the unpopular message continued to flow and to  bring greater reproach on the head of Jeremiah. 7, 8

2.  So onerous was this treatment from his countrymen, that Jeremiah determined that he would discontinue proclamation of his message. It was a vain effort. When he tried not to speak, he was unable to restrain himself. Spiritual truth presses on the mind and affections in such power, that the physical impact is observable. Jeremiah could not keep it in without physical damage. [verse 9] Compare with the physical impact that conviction of sin had on David in Psalm 32:3, 4.

3.  They ridicule his message and plot against him.  For the sake of revealed truth, Jeremiah had sacrificed a relationship with “close friends” [?!] who not led in the plots to provoke his downfall; they sought to deceive him somehow, perhaps playing on their past friendship and put him into a position where they could easily destroy him in an act of vengeance for his relentless accusatory and unflattering prophecies. 10

4.  God will vindicate him and punish evildoers. The sobering verdict of “eternal dishonor” (ESV) should startle us as to what is at stake in opposition to God and his Christ. Jeremiah cannot escape the necessity of praise to God for the obvious manifestations of surprising deliverance 20: 11-13

D.  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; “I stood before you to speak good or them”] 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.

IV.  In a desperate move. King Zedekiah sends Pashur, son of Malchiah [not the priest] to seek a more consolatory word from the flint-headed prophet Jeremiah.

A.  Aware of the impending attack of Nebuchadnezzar, Zedekiah sent Pashur to request a message from Jeremiah that perhaps God would miraculously intervene as he had done so frequently in the past of these chosen people. He wanted merciful intervention apart from repentance. The option of intervention always is open on the basis of repentance as Jeremiah made clear in 25:1-7.  We see clearly the results of divine revelation placed before sinful men when God grants them the option to respond on the basis of their “free will.” They were given a clear word with clear conditions stated and a certain outcome in the case of non-repentance with the promise of no harm if they repented, and on the basis of their own spiritual perceptions and affections they were allowed to respond. Such is the goodness of free will that only hatred, lies, vengeance, deceit, and opposition flow from it. Again we see both the necessity and grace of the New Covenant of God’s sovereign and irresistible intervention to give a new heart and infuse by his Spirit the true knowledge of God into the graciously chosen remnant.

B. Through Jeremiah, God promised that all their weapons of war would be ineffectual and He Himself would fight against them in fury and great wrath. Sword and pestilence will constitute the means of the divine action against the inhabitants of the city.

C.  The royal family and its servants as well as the inhabitants that survive will be turned over to Nebuchadnezzar who, without compassion, will strike them with the edge of the sword. (7)

D.  The only escape is to surrender, to go out of the city into the power of their besiegers, the mighty Chaldean army. (8-10)

E.  Embedded within the grossness of all the other sins that saturated the culture of Judah, one sees that injustice was rampant, and God called for a steady administration it. How could a society so perverse in its attitude toward divine law and so resistant to divine revelation ever be equitable and forthright in its vision of justice for the people. It could not. It would be virtually impossible for justice to be clearly in vision when every other virtue was obliterated or severely compromised.

 

V.  Applications

A.  The minister of divine truth may easily tire of a nonchalant or hostile response to his faithful exposition of the Bible.

B.  Such a minister must not give in to thinking that his offense is greater than God’s and his feelings more to be regarded than God’s holiness.

C.  These instances of continued resistance and hostile opposition to the divine message should confirm for us the depth of human depravity and the obstreperous senselessness of the human heart in truly spiritual matters. Left to our selves we court and win disaster.

D. If God saves such sinners, all who have these same propensities of moral hardness, what must be the wrath that the Son of God turned away from us when he died the “Just for the unjust.” As we will continue to emphasize, Christ the only true Prophet, Priest and King.