Jeremiah 9:24, “But let him that glorieth glory in this, that he understandeth and knoweth me, that I am the LORD which exercise loving kindness, judgment, and righteousness, in the earth: for in these things I delight, saith the LORD”
Our Text – (Jeremiah 8:18 – 9:26)
Our theme – True wisdom holds to the Lord and His Word rather than practicing ungodliness.
A newspaper ad read. Lost one dog. Brown hair with several bald spots. Right leg broken due to auto accident. Left hip hurt. Right eye missing. Left ear bitten off in a dog fight. Answers to the name “Lucky.” As believers in Christ, we don’t believe in luck, even though we may at times use the phrase without thinking when we had a narrow escape or experience an unexpected but positive incident. However, there are many people who believe in luck. I have seen many people use as their lucky charm, a rabbit’s foot or four-leaf clover, or they play their lucky numbers in the lottery. Sometimes believers in Christ use “lucky charms” in their relationship with God.
They say or do certain things because they think it will appease God and ward off His judgment on their sin. They put their faith in their actions instead of in God. Judah counted on her position as God’s people as a lucky charm. God made it quite clear to the nation that their standing with Him would not prevent His judgment on their sin. The last few verses of Jeremiah 8 and the beginning of Jeremiah 9 record the personal pain Jeremiah’s prophetic ministry brought to him as he proclaimed God’s message of judgment. The prophet had to speak harshly to a nation that was foolishly rebelling against the Lord. Although Jeremiah was compelled to preach judgment, this duty brought him no joy. Such is often the cost for faithful ministry for the Lord.
A Tearful Prophet and a Sinful People
Jeremiah 8:18-20, “Oh my Comforter in sorrow, my heart is faint within me. Listen to the cry of my people from a land far away: Is the LORD not in Zion? Is her King no longer there? Why have they provoked me to anger with their images, with their worthless foreign idols? The harvest is past, the summer has ended, and we are not saved. Since my people are crushed, I am crushed; I mourn, and horror grips me. Is there no balm in Gilead?
Balm was a resin or gum from evergreen trees used for cosmetic and medicinal purposes. Gilead was a region north of Jerusalem. Caravans usually brought spices/balm from up north, thru Gilead, en-route to Egypt. Trees also grew in Gilead. Jeremiah is saying there are no physicians there and why then is there no healing for the wounds of my people. God chose this man, who had a mother’s heart, a trembling voice, and tear-filled eyes, to deliver a harsh message of judgment. The message that he gave broke his own heart. The prophet Jeremiah wept bitterly for his sinful nation and here he expressed the sorrow of his own broken heart. As he preached God’s message of judgment, he, too, was crushed by the words he proclaimed. From the dialogue between Judah and God in verses 19-20, what can you conclude about what Judah was expecting God to do for them in their dire situation? Judah wanted a remedy to deal with the symptoms of their disease (their rebellion against God) but they didn’t want to address the disease itself. They wanted relief from the pressure but were not willing to repent of their sin. Instead of questioning where God was, they needed to question where they were. God didn’t leave them; they left Him. Jeremiah loved his people and identified personally with them. He called the people of Judah “my people” (verse 9:1). He was emotionally involved in what was happening to them. Furthermore, Jeremiah didn’t set himself above the people by self-righteously scourging them from their sins. Instead, he demonstrated that he could not properly preach God’s judgment until his own heart was broken.
Jeremiah 9:2-6, “Oh, that I had in the desert a lodging place for travelers, so that I might leave my people and go away from them; for they are all adulterers, a crowd of unfaithful people. They make ready their tongue like a bow, to shoot lies; it is not by truth that they triumph in the land. They go from one sin to another; they do not acknowledge me,” declares the LORD. 4 Beware of your friends; do not trust your brothers. For every brother is a deceiver, and every friend a slanderer. Friend deceives friend, and no one speaks the truth. They have taught their tongues to lie; they weary themselves with sinning. You live in the midst of deception; in their deceit they refuse to acknowledge me,” declares the LORD”
Their/our speech (vv. 3-5) – Jeremiah wrote that the people proceeded “from evil to evil” (v. 3). Instead of using their speech to praise the Lord, their words were of gossip, slander or backbiting. It would behoove us as believers in Christ to control what proceeds out of our mouth. To illustrate this point, Nancy had repeated some interesting gossip she heard concerning her next-door neighbor. Within a few days, the whole community knew the story. The person it concerned was deeply hurt and offended. However, later in the week Nancy learned that the gossip she had spread was entirely false. Of course, she was very sorry and went to a very wise old man to find out what she could do to repair the damage. He told her to go to the marketplace, purchase a chicken, and have it killed. Then on your way home, pluck its feathers and drop them one by one along the road.” Although surprised by this advice, Nancy did what she was told. The next day the wise man said, “Now, go and collect all those feathers you dropped yesterday and bring them back to me.” Well Nancy followed the same road, but to her dismay, the wind had blown all the feathers away. After searching for hours, she returned with only three feathers in her hand. “You see,” the old man said, “It’s easy to drop them, but it’s impossible to get them all back. It is the same when we gossip. It doesn’t take much to spread a false rumor, but once it is spread you can never completely undo the wrong.”
Lies controlled Judah’s speech, and truth was nearly unknown. At the root of the nation’s ills was their lack of the knowledge of God (v. 3). This isn’t saying that Judah didn’t know about God, but they most certainly had no close relationship with Him. They selfishly followed their own ambitions, desires and pleasures. 2 Timothy 3:4 puts it this way, “Lovers of pleasures more than lovers of God.” What about today? How does this apply to us? Sadly, to say, this is where the majority of people are today as it was with Judah! The concept of today is that we can be only happy when we have freedom to fulfill our every selfish and pleasurable desire. The world is filled with people who are only pleasure seekers. These people build huge casinos and call them pleasure palaces. They buy luxurious yachts called pleasure craft. Walt Disney World Resort has a pleasure island and in Idaho’s scenic panhandle region located on 960 acres is the Western Pleasure Guest Ranch.
Everywhere you turn in the entertainment media it seems like people are looking for some form of self-gratification. Don’t get me wrong, many pleasures are wholesome and provide a much-needed diversion in our stress-filled lives. Yet, the endless round of pleasure seeking can very easily keep people from finding something far more better … an enduring joy that does not depend on circumstances or some new thrill. If they only knew the significance of godly joy and a personal relationship with Jesus Christ, they wouldn’t be looking so hard to find the pleasures of this world. Thus, the widespread of dishonesty caused the people of Judah to mistrust each other, and became a society of treacherous deceivers.
Rejection of God (v. 6)
In verse 6 the Lord spoke directly to Jeremiah, pointing out what the prophet already knew: that the people of Judah rejected Jeremiah because they had first rejected the Lord. As God’s representative, Jeremiah had to expect to bear the pain of rejection, because those who have rejected the Lord will also reject His messengers. If you know Christ as Savior, you are His messenger today and as such we celebrate an event, which divides everyone into two separate groups. Journey with me as we travel to Golgotha, a hill just outside Jerusalem, to watch the scene unfold. Approaching the hill, we see three crude wooden crosses. On the two outside crosses are criminals hanging in intense agony as payment to society for their crimes. On the middle cross hangs an innocent Man, as His pain has come through no fault of His own. He is suffering for others. He is Jesus Christ, God’s only Son. As we watch the three men, one of the criminals begins to ridicule Jesus. However, the other criminal rebukes this mocker. Then, turning toward the Man in the middle, he pleads, Lord, remember me when You come into Your kingdom, to which Jesus replies, Assuredly, I say to you, today you will be with Me in Paradise. The dividing line is drawn: One man finds forgiveness and hope; the other dies in his sins. My friend, if you haven’t done so, you need to turn your eyes toward Jesus. He knows all about you, and nothing is hidden from His eyes. He died on the cross so He could forgive you and be with you. He wants to look into your eyes as He did the criminal hanging on the cross and forgive you. He longs to show His love to you in your worst moment. All you must do is look to Him and believe as the criminal did. You see Jesus Christ is still the dividing line between two segments of humanity. Jesus said that whoever believes in Him is not condemned but receives eternal life (John 3:15-18). We have only two choices:
(1) Reject His sacrificial death for your sin and be lost for eternity, or
(2) Trust in His work on the cross and receive eternal life.
The way of the cross is costly; however, it is the only path where a person can find a love that can never be fathomed; a life that can never die; a peace that can never be understood; a rest that can never be disturbed; a joy that can never be diminished; a hope that can never be disappointed; a glory that can never be clouded; a happiness that can never be interrupted; a light that can never be extinguished; a strength that can never be overcome; a beauty that can never be marred; a purity that can never be defiled, and Resources that can never be exhausted. Jeremiah was paying the price that those who live for God have always had to pay. This sinful world is an affirmed enemy to godly people, and we must be ready to feel the sting of hostility and rejection as we witness to those who have no hope, and we must follow Jeremiah’s example of compassion for those who refuse to listen.
Trial of the Sinful
Jeremiah 9:7-11, “Therefore this is what the LORD Almighty says: See, I will refine and test them, for what else can I do because of the sin of my people? Their tongue is a deadly arrow; it speaks with deceit. With his mouth, each speaks cordially to his neighbor, but in his heart, he sets a trap for him. Should I not punish them for this? Declares the LORD. Should I not avenge myself on such a nation as this? I will weep and wail for the mountains and take up a lament concerning the desert pastures. They are desolate and untraveled, and the lowing of cattle is not heard. The birds of the air have fled and the animals are gone. I will make Jerusalem a heap of ruins, a haunt of jackals; and I will lay waste the towns of Judah so no one can live there”
Refining fire (Jeremiah 9:7)
Because of Judah’s stubborn disobedience, the Lord chose to “melt,” or refine, the people with the fire of judgment. “I will melt them,” Jeremiah wrote, “and try them” (v. 7). Their rebellion required the purifying heart of God’s punishment. A loving God will lovingly discipline His people in order to draw them back to His side and to the blessings, He longs to give them. Thus, through God’s refining fire He will teach His people to rely on Him, to submit to Him, and to obey Him.
Wickedness (Jeremiah 9:8, 9)
Once more the Lord pointed to the sin of the people who had brought about the need for His judgment. Deceitful speech infected the people of Judah; their words were like deadly arrows (v. 8). Specifically, the supposed spiritual leaders of Judah were telling the people that they could in essence live in sin and still be okay because they worshiped God. These spiritual leaders appeared peaceful, but their intentions were destructive. Instead of building up their companions, they were lying in ambush, waiting to attack. They were untruthful, unjust, and unloving; and both the liars and those who believed the lies were subject to God’s refining fire. The people’s behavior was an absolute contradiction of God’s character and His law, and they brought dishonor on His name and disgrace upon themselves. Sinfulness had marred the nation that was to be God’s light to the world. The Lord asked rhetorically in verse 9, “Don’t I have just cause for punishing My people who do such evil?”
God’s sorrow (Jeremiah 9:10-11)
In verses 10 and 11 the Lord did a most amazing thing. He sang a dirge over the nation He was destroying. In this, we see His justice and compassion working together. The Lord was too holy to overlook Judah’s sin, but even in His wrath, He loved them deeply, and He lamented over the fact that He must punish His people. The judgment to come would bring utter desolation to Judah. The pastures would be stripped of their livestock, and the birds and wild animals would flee for their lives. The cities would not escape destruction either. The great capital, Jerusalem, would be left in ruins. People would abandon the city, and it would become the haunt of jackals (“dragons”).
Trouble for the Stubborn – (Jeremiah 9:12-14)
Jeremiah 9:12-14, “What man is wise enough to understand this? Who has been instructed by the LORD and can explain it? Why has the land been ruined and laid waste like a desert that no one can cross? The LORD said, “It is because they have forsaken my law, which I set before them; they have not obeyed me or followed my law. Instead, they have followed the stubbornness of their hearts; they have followed the Baals, as their fathers taught them”
Because Judah was so dominated by sinful thinking, few people were wise enough or spiritually sensitive enough to comprehend what the Lord was doing. No doubt, they found all sorts of factors to blame, but they failed to account for their own responsibility in bringing the judgment upon themselves. In Jeremiah 9:12 he asked a series of questions, perhaps representing what the people of Judah were asking. These questions focused on why the desolation was coming. The answer to their questions came in verses 13 and 14. Judah deserved judgment for the following two major reasons.
(1) Forsaking the law (v. 13)
Judah had forsaken and disobeyed the law of the Lord. The Lord had clearly spelled out His standards in the law. He gave to Moses. He had ordained that the law be read regularly and taught carefully by the priests and by the parents. However, Judah refused to live under God’s authority, to listen to His word, or to live by it.
(2) Following idols (v. 14)
They chose to follow their own stubborn hearts, which were hardened by sin, doing what they desired rather than what the Lord directed. In addition, they worshiped the Baals, the idols of the Canaanite tribes. In other words, they chose to follow the surrounding society instead of the Scriptures. Moreover, they imitated the sinful practices of their fathers, instead of walking in the way of the heavenly Father. Today we also have the idols of the Canaanites; however, they are the idols of sports, money, work, hobbies, and even other people. I’m quite sure you could add more to this list. Idols come in various forms, and they can and will most certainly control our lives, if we allow them. In Colossians 3:5, the apostle Paul identified covetousness as a type of idolatry. He exhorted us to say, “No” to these grasping ways that are part of our old-self, and to say, “Yes” to our new-self, created to live like Christ. In Jeremiah and Ezekiel’s day, the Lord exposed the idolatry in the hearts of His people and today He longs for us to rid our hearts of anything that would take our eyes and our focus of worship off Him, Our Creator and Sustainer. I submit to you that no one including believer and missionaries are exempt from idolatry. Please consider this illustration:
When my husband Charles and I first went out as missionaries, I recall being concerned about the growth of materialism in our society. It never crossed my mind that I myself could be materialistic. After all, had not we gone overseas with almost nothing? We had to live in a shabbily furnished, rundown apartment. I thought materialism could not touch us. Nonetheless, feelings of discontent gradually began to take root in my heart. Before long, I was craving hungrily after nice things and secretly feeling resentful over not having them. Then one-day God’s spirit opened my eyes with a disturbing insight: Materialism is not necessarily having things; it can also be craving them. There I stood, guilty of materialism! God had exposed my discontentment for what it really was, an idol in my heart! That day as I repented of this subtle sin, God recaptured my heart as His rightful throne. Needless to say, a deep contentment followed, based not on things but on Him.
The Coming of Judgment- (Jeremiah 9:15-16)
Jeremiah 9:15-16, “Therefore, this is what the LORD Almighty, the God of Israel, says: See, I will make this people eat bitter food and drink poisoned water. I will scatter them among nations that neither they nor their fathers have known, and I will pursue them with the sword until I have destroyed them”
Once again, the Lord stated that He would judge His sinful nation. This was not what He desired to do, but what their sin compelled Him to do. As the sovereign Lord Who is the God of Israel, He would force them to taste the bitterness of judgment. Their lives would be as unpleasant as eating wormwood and drinking poisoned water. They would endure exile as He scattered them among the nations. Wherever they were to go, the sword of judgment would follow them. Judah’s stubborn sinfulness had blinded them to their own sinfulness and to God. The warnings the Lord gave through Jeremiah revealed that the people of Judah were guilty and that God would indeed act with stern justice. God is patient toward sinners, but His justice requires that He deal with sin eventually.
Teaching the Sorrowful – (Jeremiah 9:17-22)
Jeremiah 9:17-22, “This is what the LORD Almighty says: Consider now! Call for the wailing women to come; send for the most skillful of them. Let them come quickly and wail over us till our eyes overflow with tears and water streams from our eyelids. The sound of wailing is heard from Zion: How ruined we are! How great is our shame! We must leave our land because our houses are in ruins.” Now, O women, hear the words of the LORD; open your ears to the words of his mouth. Teach your daughters how to wail; teach one another a lament. Death has climbed in through our windows and has entered our fortresses; it has cut off the children from the streets and the young men from the public squares. Say, this is what the LORD declares: The dead bodies of men will lie like refuse on the open field, like cut grain behind the reaper, with no one to gather them”
(1) A time of mourning (Jeremiah 9:17-20)
In verses 17-22 the Lord summoned the professional mourning women to come and begin wailing for Judah. In ancient times, funerals were times of public mourning for the dead. The grieving family sometimes hired women to lead in the mourning and to encourage the people in demonstrating their grief. The term used in 9:17 to describe these women is ironic. The Hebrew reads literally, “Send for the women who are skilled (or wise) in mourning.” In verse 12, no one in Judah had wisdom to understand what the Lord was doing. In that sinful nation, wisdom was wisdom in how to mourn. Although Judah was not yet destroyed, it was appropriate that the mourning should begin. The nation’s long-term stubbornness proved that there was no hope for recovery. The people of Judah would have to taste the bitter judgment of God because they refused to submit to His ways. The people joined in the wailing. Verse 19 pictures the men and women of Judah as they were led off into exile. They had been ruined in every way. They were humiliated by being deported, probably taking with them only scant possessions. Their confidence and pride had been as crushed as the walls of Jerusalem. Their possessions were destroyed, their houses were rubble, and their hopes were dashed. Their trust rested in their mistaken belief that Jerusalem could never fall, but that hope had proved to be a delusion.
(2) A time of death (Jeremiah 9:21-22)
Verse 21 presents the garish picture of death stalking its prey. Death attacked the helpless people, sneaking in through the windows and entering the houses. It was particularly devastating to the young people. No longer would children play in the streets. Young men would no longer congregate in the town squares. The attackers would destroy the weak, and the rest would seek to hide. A desperate effort to survive would replace the joy of childhood and youth.
The words of verse 22 provide a sobering climax to the paragraph. So many people would die that they would be like dung in a pasture or like sheaves of grain in a field. There would be too few people left to pick up the corpses, and the dead would not even have the dignity of a burial. Such is the terrible price Judah would pay for refusing to turn from her sin.
Trusting the Sovereign – (Jeremiah 9:23-26)
Jeremiah 9:23-26, “This is what the LORD says: Let not the wise man boast of his wisdom or the strong man boast of his strength or the rich man boast of his riches, but let him who boasts boast about this: that he understands and knows me, that I am the LORD, who exercises kindness, justice and righteousness on earth, for in these I delight, declares the LORD. The days are coming, declares the LORD, when I will punish all who are circumcised only in the flesh – Egypt, Judah, Edom, Ammon, Moab and all who live in the desert in distant places. For all these nations are really uncircumcised, and even the whole house of Israel is uncircumcised in heart.”
The people of Judah would stumble because they trusted in the wrong things. They placed their confidence in their skills, their fortifications, their plans, and their resources. However, all of these human capabilities could not stand before God’s judgment. Human resources are inadequate for life’s challenges.
(1) Life’s goal (9:23-24)
In verse 24 the Lord said that the only worthwhile accomplishment in life is knowing Him. Judah prided herself in her achievements, but she had abandoned the standards that God honors. The Lord demonstrates kindness, justice, and righteousness in His dealings, and He desires those qualities in His people. He wants His people to have hearts committed to Him. True wisdom, power, and wealth come from faithful, godly living.
(2) Justice for all (9:25-26)
Judah may have complained that she’d been unfairly singled out for God’s judgment, but that was not the case at all. The Lord promised to bring judgment on all who denied Him, circumcised and uncircumcised alike. In Israel, male circumcision was a visible sign of the nation’s covenant relationship with the Lord (Genesis 17:10-14). A mere physical sign, circumcision was intended to represent the spiritual reality of genuine commitment to the Lord. The people of Judah had maintained the ritual of circumcision, but they did not possess the reality of commitment that it pictured. Therefore, the Lord said that He would punish those who were circumcised physically yet uncircumcised spiritually. Judah viewed circumcision as something of a talisman, or a lucky charm, instead of living up to its covenant responsibilities. In judging Judah, the Lord applied to the people the same standard of righteousness He demanded from all the nations. The other nations were uncircumcised in their bodies. All of the nations, including Israel, were uncircumcised in their hearts. It was their heart condition that merited God’s judgment. As Jeremiah 4:4 points out, God is pleased only when one’s heart is circumcised by submission to Him. That was true for the nations of the ancient Near East, and it is equally true for us today.
As a people and as a nation, how much heartache, problems and weeping could be avoided if we would only follow the principles laid out for us and found only in God’s precious and Eternal Word. While deciding on how to conclude this study my thoughts went to the passage found in 1 Kings 3:9, “Give to Your servant an understanding heart.” Oh, if only God’s children would ask for an understanding heart as Solomon! Proverbs 1:7 tell us, “The fear of the LORD is the beginning of knowledge, but fools despise wisdom and instruction.” The 1960’s are known for the rebellion of thousands of young people. But ever since the fall of Adam in the Garden of Eden, people of all ages everywhere have rebelled against authority, whether parental, governmental and most importantly divine authority.
The fool, who is referred to in Psalm 53:1, denied God’s rule over his life. People in our day do so in their hearts and in their actions. It is obvious that rebellion pays bad dividends as illustrated in this study. It inevitably results in a sense of emptiness that often leads to alcoholism, drug addiction, bizarre religious practices, flagrant immorality, broken homes, incurable diseases, and despair. Sadly, many experience the high cost of putting what they call “my way” above “God’s way.” The psalmist portrayed God as seeing the defiance of the wicked, observing their antagonism toward His people, and striking them with bewildered panic (Psalm 53:5). One way or another, people who “despise wisdom and instruction” (Proverbs 1:7) always pay a high price. My friend, to live as if there is no God is utter foolishness, for it leads to pain, despair, and eternal death. However, to live in the “fear of God” which we need more of today, is wise, for it leads to satisfaction, rejoicing, and everlasting life. You must decide, so choose wisely!
God opens the door of His Wisdom to those who open their Bibles.