The Lord calls us back from our backsliding: “Return, faithless people; I will cure you of backsliding” (Jeremiah 3:22). The returning people say, “Yes, we will come to You, for You are the Lord our God … surely in the Lord our God is the salvation of Israel” (Jeremiah 3:22-23). As we return to the Lord, He gives us this calling: “Become blameless and pure, children of God without fault in a crooked and depraved generation, in which you shine like stars in the universe as you hold out the Word of life” (Philippians 2:15-16). To those who return to the Lord and seek to live as His holy people, the Lord gives His promise of blessing – “The Lord remembers us and will bless us … He will bless those who fear the Lord – small and great alike” (Psalm 115:12-13).
The Word of God is like a fire, burning up the sin of man (Jeremiah 5:14). The purpose of this fire is not, however, destructive. God’s purpose is to burn up the pride which “puts confidence in the flesh”, to burn away the “legalistic righteousness.” All of that is to be “considered rubbish” (Philippians 3:4,6,8). Once the rubbish has been burned in the fire of judgment – the judgment which was laid upon the crucified Christ for us, man is led to receive the “righteousness which is through faith in Christ” (Philippians 3:9). Once this righteousness has been received, we are to keep walking in the way of faith: “I will call upon Him as long as I live” (Psalm 116:2).
The false prophets say, “Peace, peace … when there is no peace” – “They dress the wound of God’s people as though it were not serious” (Jeremiah 6:14). The true prophet of God comes with a very different message. He says, “Do not say, ‘This is the temple of the Lord, the temple of the Lord, the temple of the Lord!’” (Jeremiah 7:4). A faithful exercise of prophetic ministry is very demanding. Nevertheless, the Lord gives His servants the strength to say, with conviction and confidence, “I can do everything through Him who gives me strength” (Philippians 4:13). As this ministry is faithfully exercised, there is a deep satisfaction in the soul and an increased confidence in God: “Wisdom is sweet to your soul; if you find it, there is a future hope for you, and your hope will not be cut off” (Proverbs 24:14).
There is a great contrast between sin – “Do not trust your brothers. For every brother is a deceiver … and no-one speaks the truth” (Jeremiah 9:4-5) – and salvation – “the holy and faithful brothers in Christ … the Words of truth, the gospel … has come to you” (Colossians 1:2,5-6). God is calling us from sin to salvation, and then on to service. Those who say, “I will lift up the cup of salvation” go on to say, “O Lord, I am Your servant” (Psalm 116:13,16). This service is offered to the Lord in gratitude for His salvation,. We acknowledge Him as Saviour, saying, “You have freed me from my chains”, and we say to Him, “I will sacrifice a thank-offering to You” (Psalm 116:17).
The Lord’s people are called to a ministry of preaching the Gospel and teaching the Word (Jeremiah 11:6; Colossians 1:25,28). While this ministry is carried out by particular individuals, e.g. Jeremiah and Paul, it is a ministry which is strengthened by the support and encouragement which comes from the Lord’s people. It is not only to the preachers and teachers that God says, “Extol Him.” He says, “Extol Him all you people” (Psalm 117:1).
The life of faith is a life of conflict. We live among “the faithless” – God is “always on their lips, but far from their hearts” (Jeremiah 12:12). We are called to maintain the faith in the face of “hollow and deceptive philosophy, which depends on human tradition and the basic principles of this world’s rather than on Christ” (Colossians 2:8). There is conflict, but there is also victory – “The Lord is with me … I will look in triumph over my enemies … “ (Psalm 118:6-8).
Our spiritual warfare is both outward and inward. We have enemies coming at us from without and from within. Concerning the enemies from without, God says, “This people will fight against you but will not overcome you, for I am with you to rescue and save you … I will save you from the hands of the wicked and redeem you from the grasp of the cruel” (Jeremiah 15:20-21). Concerning the enemies from within, God says, “Put to death … whatever belongs to your earthly nature” (Colossians 3:5). We are not to “fret because of evil men” (Proverbs 24:19). We are to “fear the Lord” (Proverbs 24:21).
“A glorious throne, exalted from the beginning, is the place of our sanctuary” (Jeremiah 17:12). The Lord is enthroned on the praises of His people – “Jesus, we enthrone You … We lift You up with our praise. And as we worship, build Your throne. Come, Lord Jesus, and take Your place.” When the Lord is enthroned on the praises of His people, there will also be prayer and proclamation – “Devote yourselves to prayer … that we may proclaim the mystery of Christ … clearly” (Colossians 4:2-4). The blessing of the Lord is upon those who come to His House, seeking Him: “Blessed is he who comes in the Name of the Lord. From the House of the Lord we bless you” (Psalm 118:26).
“The Lord is with me like a mighty warrior; so my persecutors will stumble and not prevail” (Jeremiah 20:11). This is a tremendous Word of encouragement when the battle is at its fiercest. In this battle, we are empowered by the Holy Spirit (1 Thessalonians 1:5), empowered to speak for the Lord and to live for Him. He gives us the strength to battle for the glory of God, “not trying to please men but God … not looking for praise from men” (1 Thessalonians 1:4,6). This is the way of blessing – the way of doing what God wants us to do – “blessed are they whose ways are blameless, who walk according to the law of the Lord” (Psalm 119:1).
“O land, land, land, hear the Word of the Lord” (Jeremiah 22:29). When we truly hear the Word of the Lord with attentive hearts, there will be an “increase and overflow” of “love” and a strengthening of holiness (1 Thessalonians 3:12-13). This is the teaching of Psalm 119:9 – “How can a young man keep his way pure? By living according to Your Word.” This is why we hear the Word of the Lord – so that we might learn to do the will of the Lord: “I have hidden Your Word in my heart that I might not sin against You” (Psalm 119:11).
How are our lives to be changed? They can be changed by God – “I will give them a heart to know Me, that I am the Lord” (Jeremiah 24:7). Knowing God makes a difference. Those who do know not Him live “in passionate lust” (1 Thessalonians 4:5). Those who do know Him “live in order to please God” (1 Thessalonians 4:1). We must not be like “the sluggard … the man who lacks judgment” (proverbs 24:30). We must apply our hearts to learning the lessons God is teaching us, lessons which will provoke us to greater spiritual alertness and increased spiritual blessing (Proverbs 24:32-33).
The word of judgment is not an easy word to speak, yet it must be spoken in every generation. It was spoken by the Old Testament prophets (Jeremiah 25:15). It was spoken by the New Testament apostles (1 Thessalonians 5:9). The wrath of God is part of the message which is to be proclaimed by those who are faithful to God. When God speaks of His wrath, He “rebukes the arrogant who are cursed” (Psalm 119:21). There are those who “stray from God’s commands” (Psalm 119:21), but we must commit ourselves to Him – “I will obey Your Word … Your servant will meditate on Your decrees. Your statutes are my delight; they are my counsellors” (Psalm 119:17,23-24).
There was a message of hope (Jeremiah 29:11), but, first, God’s people had to suffer seventy years of captivity in Babylon (Jeremiah 29:10). There is a glorious hope – “He comes to be glorified in His holy people and to be marvelled at among all those who have believed” (2 Thessalonians 1:10), but, first, we must endure “persecutions and trials”, suffering for “the Kingdom of God” (2 Thessalonians 1:4-5). There are difficult times – “My soul is weary with sorrow” (Psalm 119:28), but there is also strengthening – “Strengthen me according to Your Word” (Psalm 119:28). In each of these passages, there is a wholesome combination of realism and faith.
In the Christian life, there is always the problem of the false or counterfeit which opposes the true or authentic. In Jeremiah 29:31, we read about the false prophet. In 2 Thessalonians 2:9, we read about “the lawless one.” There are also the promises of God’s blessing (Jeremiah 31:1-6; 2 Thessalonians 2:13-17). As we consider the contrast between the false and the true, we must learn to say, “Turn my eyes from worthless things; preserve my life according to Your Word” (Psalm 119:37).
Jeremiah 32:17 tells us that nothing is too hard for the “Sovereign Lord”, the Creator of “the heavens and the earth.” He is able to deliver us “from wicked and evil men”, to “strengthen and protect us from the evil one” (2 Thessalonians 3:2-3). We are enabled to persevere because “the Lord directs our hearts into God’s love and Christ’s perseverance” (2 Thessalonians 3:5). As the Lord Himself leads us in His love, leading us not into temptation and delivering us from evil, He “removes the dross from the silver, and out comes material for the silversmith” (Proverbs 25:4).
The slaves were to be set free (Jeremiah 34:8-9). The setting free of slaves is a form of imagery which is used in Scripture to declare the wonder of God’s saving grace. We do not deserve to be set free, yet, in grace and mercy, the Lord saves us (see Paul’s testimony in 1 Timothy 1:12-17). Through His wonderful grace and boundless mercy, the Lord gives to His people this joyful testimony: “I will walk about in freedom, for I have sought out Your precepts” (Psalm 119:45). Freedom is not only God’s gift at the beginning of the Christian life. It is His blessing throughout the Christian life, as we walk in His way.
Life was not easy for the prophet Jeremiah. The king and his attendants did not pay “any attention to the words the Lord had spoken through Jeremiah the prophet” (Jeremiah 37:1-2). We must pray for “kings and all those in authority” (1 Timothy 2:1-2). They have so much power to do good or evil. As we consider the nation’s life, we must affirm, with the Psalmist, “I remember Your ancient laws, O Lord, and I find comfort in them” (Psalm 119:52).
The difficulties faced by Jeremiah were great – “bound in chains” (Jeremiah 40:1). They were not insurmountable – “the commander … let him go” (Jeremiah 40:5). The Psalmist says, “Though the wicked bind me with ropes, I will not forget Your law” (Psalm 119:61). Whatever difficulties we may face, we are still called to “keep hold of the deep truths of the faith with a clear conscience” (1 Timothy 3:9).
“Do not go to Egypt” (Jeremiah 42:19) – Here is a Word from the Lord which is more than geographical directions. It is a Word concerning our walk with God. In Scripture, “Egypt” is not simply a particular geographical location. “Egypt” is symbolic of a proud, unbelieving hardness of heart. “Do not go to Egypt” means “Do not harden your heart against the Lord.” “The Spirit clearly says that in later times some will abandon the faith (1 Timothy 4:1). We must not abandon the faith. In the face of much falling away, God says to His servants, “Devote yourself to the public reading of Scripture, to preaching and teaching” (1 Timothy 4:13). The Word is to be “aptly spoken … like apples of gold in settings of silver” (Proverbs 25:110. There is nothing more precious than the Word of the Lord.
Concerning Egypt, God says, “I will punish you in this place” (Jeremiah 44:29). There can be no blessing when we live in direct contradiction to His Word. What we must never forget is the existence and activity of Satan (1 Timothy 5:15). He is always there, seeking to make us “turn away from God to follow Satan.” We must learn to say to God, “I believe in Your commands … I obey Your Word …. Teach me Your decrees … I keep Your precepts with all my heart … I delight in Your law … The law from Your mouth is more precious to me than thousands of pieces of silver and gold” (Psalm 119:66-70,72).
The judgment of God is upon those who set themselves against Him. This is the message which emerges from Jeremiah’s preaching regarding Egypt. The Lord sets Himself against those who teach false doctrine which “does not agree to the sound instruction of our Lord Jesus Christ and to godly teaching” (1 Timothy 6:3). The contrast between “the arrogant” and the godly is clear – “May the arrogant be put to shame for wronging me without cause, but I will meditate on Your precepts” (Psalm 119:78).
“A curse on him who is lax in doing the Lord’s work!” (Jeremiah 48:10). We should not be lax in doing the Lord’s work, “For God did not give us a spirit of timidity, but a Spirit of power, of love and of self-discipline” (2 Timothy 1:7). Through the power of the Spirit of God, we are able to say, with Paul, “I am not ashamed, because I know whom I have believed, and am convinced that He is able to guard what I have entrusted to Him for that Day” (2 Timothy 1:12). Through the power of the Holy Spirit, we are enabled to “obey the statutes of Your mouth” (Psalm 119:88).
Jeremiah speaks of a time of judgment upon Babylon (Jeremiah 50:1-3) and a time of blessing upon the people of Israel (Jeremiah 50:4-5). If the blessing, and not the judgment, is to come in our own day, we must be faithful in the ministry of God’s Word (2 Timothy 2:15). Faithful ministry of God’s Word is “like cold water to a weary soul.” It is “good news from a distant land” (Proverbs 25:25). It is the Good News sent down from heaven, the Living Water of the Holy Spirit.
This part of Jeremiah’s prophecy is concerned with God’s judgment upon Babylon. God sets Himself against those who set themselves against Him. We live in times when “evil men and impostors will go from bad to worse, deceiving and being deceived” (2 Timothy 3:13). In such times, we must build upon “the Holy (God-breathed) Scriptures which are able to make us wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus” and which will “thoroughly equip us for every good work” (2 Timothy 3:15-17). This Word of the Lord is “eternal”, and God’s “faithfulness continues through all generations” (Psalm 119:89-90). To say that God’s Word is eternal does not mean that it is distant and remote from time. Rather, it is to emphasize that it is relevant. It is relevant to every generation. It is eternally relevant.
The Word of God is to be preached, even if it is a difficult message. In face of the judgment pronounced upon Babylon, God says to His messengers, “When you get to Babylon, see that you read all these words aloud” (Jeremiah 51:61). Paul calls on Timothy to “preach the Word” – “In the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who will judge the living and the dead, and in view of His appearing and His Kingdom, I give you this charge” (2 Timothy 4:1-2). Those who truly love the Lord’s Word and meditate on it all day long (Psalm 119:97) will find it their joyful privilege and their solemn responsibility to speak His Word; “How sweet are Your words to my taste, sweeter than honey to my mouth” (Psalm 119:103).
The final chapter of Jeremiah speaks of the fall of Jerusalem, followed by captivity in Babylon. Difficulties face God’s people in every generation: “There are many rebellious people … “ (Titus 1:10). The Lord’s people must not be afraid to stand up for Him (Titus 1:11). Whatever others may say and do, this is what we must say and do: “I have taken an oath and confirmed it, that I will follow Your righteous laws” (Psalm 119:106).
“The Sovereign Lord is my strength; He makes my feet like the feet of a deer, He enables me to go on the heights” – These are the last words of Habakkuk (Habakkuk 3:19). “For the grace of God that brings salvation has appeared to all men. It teaches us to say ‘No’ to ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright and godly lives in this present age …” (Titus 2:11-12). Where does the strength come from – the strength we need for rising from the depths of ungodliness to the heights of godliness? The strength comes from the Lord, the God of grace, the God of our salvation. The Proverbs speak of wisdom. True wisdom is to know that our real strength comes not from within ourselves, but from above, from the Lord.
“The Lord is righteous, yet I rebelled against His command” (Lamentations 1:18). “At one time we too were foolish, disobedient, deceived and enslaved by all kinds of passions and pleasures. We lived in malice and envy, being hated and hating one another” (Titus 3:3). This is the story of our life without Christ, but it is not the full story. We must move on to Titus 3:4-7: a great declaration of the love of God, the salvation of God and the glory of God. This is God, working powerfully in our lives. Psalm 119:115 describes the transformation. No longer is it “I rebelled against His command.” Now, it is “Away from me, you evildoers, that I may keep the commands of my God!” How does this transformation take place? “Uphold me, and I shall be delivered; I shall always have regard for Your decrees” (Psalm 119:117).
At the heart of the book of Lamentations, there is this great declaration concerning the love of God: “Because of the Lord’s great love we are not consumed” (Lamentations 3:22). His love reaches us not only directly but also through the love of His people – “Your love, dear brother, has brought me great joy and much encouragement! You have cheered the hearts of all God’s people” (Philemon 7). In difficult times, our faith is tested – “My eyes fail, looking for Your salvation, looking for Your righteous promise” (Psalm 119:123). In times such as these, we cry to God, “It is time for You to act, O Lord; Your law is being broken” (Psalm 119:126). This prayer is to be accompanied by obedience: “I love Your commands, more than gold, more than pure gold” (Psalm 119:127).
Lamentations 4:20 contains an interesting phrase – “The Lord’s anointed, our very life breath.” Christ is the Lord’s anointed. Christ is our life. He is God’s Word to us – “in these last days He has spoken to us by His Son” (Hebrews 1:2). He is God’s Son – “about the Son He says, ‘Your throne, O God, will last for ever’” (Hebrews 1:8). Psalm 119:130 says, “The unfolding of Your words gives light; it gives understanding to the simple.” This opening up of God’s Word is redemptive. As we read His Word, we pray, “Redeem me” (Psalm 119:134) and there arises in our hearts the joyous confession, “O Lord … You have redeemed my life” (Lamentations 3:58).
The last words of Obadiah are a great declaration; “the Kingdom will be the Lord’s” (Obadiah 21). When we think of God’s Kingdom, we are thinking not only of a Kingdom which belongs to solely to God, but a Kingdom which He shares with the redeemed. Christ says, “Here am I, and the children God has given Me” (Hebrews 2:13). Though there may be “a fierce lion roaming the streets (the devil)” (Proverbs 26:13), the Lord will fufil His saving purpose.