Around a month ago I posted some thoughts from the first six chapters of Jeremiah.
I’ve now finished reading the first thirteen chapters (out of fifty-two) and have moved on to another book1 for the time being.
Like that previous post I’m intending to quote from the New American Standard Bible.
For I did not speak to your fathers, or command them in the day that I brought them out of the land of Egypt, concerning burnt offerings and sacrifices. But this is what I commanded them, saying, ‘Obey My voice, and I will be your God, and you will be My people; and you will walk in all the way which I command you, that it may be well with you.’ Yet they did not obey or incline their ear, but walked in their own counsels and in the stubbornness of their evil heart, and went backward and not forward. (Jeremiah 7:22-24)
This is interesting because the Lord is laying out His expectations - reiterating expectations from when the Israelites were released from bondage in Egypt some 700 years earlier. What’s critical here is that the Lord is seeking a relationship and obedience rather than sacrifices - relationship rather religion. An inward orientation and understanding of God rather than outwardly keeping rules and formulas and offerings. And many/most people are exactly the opposite - favouring form and rules over relationship with God because these are things we can do without putting our hearts into it.
There is also the indictment in the last sentence - no obedience, no listening, but stubbornness. And the result? They went backward not forward!
You shall say to them, ‘This is the nation that did not obey the voice of the LORD their God or accept correction; truth has perished and has been cut off from their mouth. (Jeremiah 7:28)
This picks up on some of the ideas mentioned in the previous verses quoted - of not accepting correction and stubbornness of heart. And the further indictment - “truth has perished”.
“You shall say to them, ‘Thus says the LORD, “Do men fall and not get up again? Does one turn away and not repent? “Why then has this people, Jerusalem, Turned away in continual apostasy? They hold fast to deceit, They refuse to return. “I have listened and heard, They have spoken what is not right; No man repented of his wickedness, Saying, ‘What have I done?’ Everyone turned to his course, Like a horse charging into the battle. (Jeremiah 8:4-6)
Same story again - rejection, stubbornness, deception. And that great cry of (misplaced) innocence “what have I done?” Who, me?
“From the prophet even to the priest Everyone practices deceit. “They heal the brokenness of the daughter of My people superficially, Saying, ‘Peace, peace,’ But there is no peace. (Jeremiah 8:10b-11)
Another interesting couple of verses where everyone including the prophets and priests practice deceit. And the nature of this deceit is superficiality. Healing is announced when the people declare “peace, peace”. But it is not true. True peace can only be declared and come and be received when the conditions for peace exist - and that is in the restoration and redemption available, in these times post-Jesus - through belief and faith in Jesus.
Thus says the LORD, “Let not a wise man boast of his wisdom, and let not the mighty man boast of his might, let not a rich man boast of his riches; but let him who boasts boast of this, that he understands and knows Me, that I am the LORD who exercises lovingkindness, justice and righteousness on earth; for I delight in these things,” declares the LORD. (Jeremiah 9:23-24)
This is a great summary of the contrast between secularism and faith - between humanity’s wisdom and knowing God. Humanity boasts in achievements and possessions - wisdom, might, wealth. But true wealth rests in knowing God. And it’s all about character - lovingkindness, justice and righteousness.
For the shepherds have become stupid And have not sought the LORD; Therefore they have not prospered, And all their flock is scattered. (Jeremiah 10:21)
Something of an indictment that can be applied to many parts of the church today - poor misguided shepherding leads to failure and a scattering of the flock.
“If you have run with footmen and they have tired you out, Then how can you compete with horses? If you fall down in a land of peace, How will you do in the thicket of the Jordan? “For even your brothers and the household of your father, Even they have dealt treacherously with you, Even they have cried aloud after you. Do not believe them, although they may say nice things to you.” (Jeremiah 12:5-6)
These verses are something of an encouragement and serve to Jeremiah. How can Jeremiah expect to run with horses when he can’t keep up with footmen? How can Jeremiah expect to uphold and declare prophecy in the troubled land of the Jordan when he can’t do so in areas of relative peace? And the warning to trust no-one in these troubled times because even though they are saying nice things about Jeremiah, they are dealing treacherously with him. Happy days!
Drawing some of these threads together we can see some things that “work” in relation to living a life in harmony with God; and we can see a raft of ideas and approaches that either ignore God or actually promote discord.
|What doesn’t work||What works|
|Religious form||Relationship with God|
|Tradition for its own sake||Obedience|
|Doing things our own way||Heart attitude|
|Holding onto deceit||Listening to the Lord|
|Protesting misplaced innocence||Seeking to understand God|
|Reliance on human wisdom and achievement|