Word from Scotland
by Sandy Shaw
We move on to Jeremiah Chapter 7 - and this section goes right through to Chapter 8 verse 3.
The background to this prophecy is in II Kings Chapter 22 - also in II Chronicles Chapters 34,35.
There was a general RENEWAL going on in Jerusalem - under the reign of King Josiah - and Jeremiah was the same age as King Josiah.
Now - we have seen what has been called RENEWAL - we have seen Jesus Christ pouring out the Holy Spirit – and some of us have been so blessed to have been involved in all this in the 1960’s, 70’s and 80’s.
In Israel, this had not gone far enough - it has not gone - nor been allowed – to go deep enough - and the words of the prophets have not been heeded!
Now this is what was happening in Jerusalem. There was a lot of religious activity going on - but people were not doing what the Lord required of them.
Here we are reading of two young men - one had the position and power to introduce and even impose change - and the other young man had no power and no influence - apart from the power of the Word of God and the Spirit which is upon him.
And - history vindicates Jeremiah - he is the one with real discernment - and who understands the real need of the human heart. A call to reform is never enough. A wave of renewal is never enough! Josiah was a good boy - and he wanted to be a good king - like David. He wanted the place of Worship to be shabby no longer - and he cleans up The Temple - physically. And the people had a mind to do it - but that doesn’t change your mind either. The sung and cleaned - but that did not challenge their lives at the point where their lives needed challenging. For many years they had worshipped without ‘a Bible’. They had been through the services, but they had never been through ‘the Bible’.
Josiah could pass laws - and he did - Josiah tried to make the people good by what we would call an Act of Parliament - and you cannot do that. It doesn’t work!
Josiah had the idols destroyed - he was doing it, because he was king - but that does not destroy the yearning in peoples’ hearts. Religion in the land - even in schools - has a negligible influence - and Governments think that they can change situations in the nation - but they cannot change people.
You cannot make people good - you cannot impose religion from the top.
God looks at the people - Jesus looks at the hearts of people today - and asks - “Do the people want to Worship?” “Do they really want Me - and have they a desire to walk in MY WAYS?”
Does God want more services - longer services - bigger piles of sacrifices? No!
Josiah did what he could and because he was sincere - God said that He would not bring disaster upon Josiah or upon the people while he lived - 2Kings 23verse 29 . Your motives are sincere - I will keep you from disaster - but he was killed in battle at Megiddo (Armageddon)
Reformation and Renewal are no substitute for Repentance. These two men were contemporaries of each other - they seemed to be involved in a similar work - and yet, they have so little to do with each other.
Jeremiah came in for a lot of criticism because he would not join in the popular move to clean up the nation - it was too little, too late - and it is in the light of this that God raises up Jeremiah and says - “Go and Preach”.
Ritual is no substitute for righteousness. Sacrifices are no substitute for submission. Popular religious reforms are no substitute for proper repentance of the heart.
Jeremiah preached what he did because he had a deeper insight into the situation - and he took a closer look - AND HE HEARD FROM GOD. Jeremiah took the longer view - and that is why he became known as a doom and gloom man. A momentary response is not enough - and, if you take the long-term view, then you will also see the short-term view in perspective.
Ask - ‘How lasting will it be?’ ‘How deep will it go?’ These are the questions we have to ask when Jesus moves upon us in the Power of The Holy Spirit.
Jeremiah refers to the past - to the present - and to the future.
1. He draws the attention of the people to the Temple in Jerusalem. It had been renovated - crowds are going up - we might have said - “This is Revival” - but in reality, it was only superstition.
Note what the people are saying – verse 4 - but in verse 11, Jeremiah calls it a den of robbers.
It is where you go in between crimes - it is where you are hiding during the day - he heard what people said when they left The Temple - and saw where they went. What we say after the service is as important as what we say in the service!
In verses 6 to 9 six basic themes are outlined - which make up the foundations upon which the false prophets prophesied. False Religion. Injustice. Oppression. Violence and Murder. Idolatry. Immorality.
The people were placing their trust in the Institution rather than THE PERSON Who is HOLY and JUST and FAITHFUL - and Who demands these qualities in His people. God would not defend an unholy people!
Injustice mars all relationships in society. There was no trust - everywhere there was lies, deception, bribery, corruption, disorder.
Oppression is something GOD hates - He detests it. He had rescued His Own people from oppression in Egypt, when they were slaves of Pharaoh. There are times when God takes the side of the poor, the powerless, and the oppressed.
Violence and Murder. Innocent blood was being shed. One man was very unpopular in Israel a few years ago following a spate of bombings - when he remarked - that the body parts lying in the streets of Jerusalem reminded him of all the body parts lying around in Israeli abortion clinics.
Idolatry. From the beginning - Israel was to have no idols.
Verse 9 . Immorality. Jeremiah exploded with indignation. The people are doing all this and saying - We are safe !- but GOD has been watching.
Verse 16. Now Jeremiah - don’t you start praying for these people - can’t you see that it has gone too far? It must be terrible to be told by God not to pray for certain people!
Only cease to pray for people when we hear from GOD - remembering that one day we will have to answer for our praying and for our lack of praying.
Verse 21 . Let’s go back to that time in the wilderness in Sinai. Does God want bigger offerings and bigger sacrifices? NO. The emphasis in the wilderness is placed upon obedience - and one God and one altar - and one people of God.
Did God tell you to do all this? Offerings and sacrifices are a secondary matter to obedience. And why? Because if there is no real sorrow for our sins, God will not accept our sacrifices. This is the theme running through all the prophets.
Josiah wanted more sacrifices - God wanted more obedience.
Josiah wanted a clean Temple- God wanted clean hearts.
Now - there is nothing wrong with that if that is the only light you have at the time - and this is why God in His Grace and Mercy raises up Jeremiah.
Jerusalem lies at the top of a hill - the Temple is at the top - at the bottom there is this very deep valley - and people tipped their rubbish there - and burned it - and smoke rose out of that valley called Gehenna - and even then, they were burning babies to Moloch - a pagan god of the Ammonites - but you could not see this from The Temple. Verses 30,31 .
God said - I am going to make that valley a valley of bloodshed - and the picture we have is horrendous. God says that one day bodies will lie bleached in the sun in that valley, because it will be so full. Do you remember when Jesus looked at The Temple? It was being rebuilt and renovated in his day - and it was rising more magnificent than ever - crowds were coming to it - and Jesus took a whip and called it a den of robbers. Jesus uses the words of Jeremiah.
They were using the Temple as a place of escape - a cloak for their sin - something to do in between crimes! Jesus was looking for righteousness - purity - obedience - love - compassion.
Can you imagine Jeremiah preaching all this to the people who were on their way to Church? On their way to the Temple to which they had contributed money and labour for its restoration? This Word comes to Jeremiah from our heavenly Father.
Jesus died on a hill above The Temple - one of his disciples whom he had called died in the valley of Gehenna. Judas had become involved in the religious side - the wrong side. And one day, every man and woman will finish up either in the company of Judas - or in fellowship with Jesus Christ the Saviour and Lord - who forgives sin and baptises in the Holy Spirit.
Jesus is so similar to Jeremiah in so many ways – and when Jesus pours out the Holy Spirit, it is not enough to ‘feel’ renewed. Repentance is involved – and we have to be ‘reformed’ in a way which results in obedience to Christ – reflecting faithfulness to the end – and our reward will be to dwell with God forever.
“Almighty gracious faithful God – we thank You for every move and act which You motivate and inspire. As we respond, let it not be superficial – plough deeply when You have to plough and sow abundantly the good seed of the Word of God. Thank You for the gracious renewal we experienced some years ago – and which some continue to experience – let it last – let it bear fruit – let it be real – we pray in Jesus Name.” Amen.
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Alexander 'Sandy' Shaw is pastor of Nairn Christian Fellowship in Nairn, Scotland. Nairn is 17 miles east of Inverness - on the Moray Firth Coast - not far from the Loch Ness Monster!
Gifted as a Biblical teacher, Sandy is firmly committed to making sure that his teachings are firmly grounded in the Word.
Sandy has a weekly radio talk which can be heard via the Internet on Saturday at 11:40am, New Orleans time, at wsho.com.
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