The last prophet before the captivity has a dire message!
Let’s talk for just a few seconds about the figs.
God had sent the the people of Judah out of their land into the land of the Babylonians as punishment.
These were the good figs. And God promised to watch over them for their good. This was like a loving father who, when he sees his child misbehave, quickly disciplines the child so as to correct the behavior before the bad behavior becomes ingrained in the child. As the father of three boys, I know that there is a better chance of molding good behavior if you correct bad behavior quickly.
The bad figs were those who stayed in their own land longer, and those who were in Egypt, allowing the bad behavior to go on. When a bad child is not corrected, he eventually becomes spoiled, and it is less likely that he will ever accept correction. We’ve all seen children who were allowed to misbehave. What happens? Often they grow up to become bad people. God knew those bad figs would never become good figs, so he told Jeremiah that they would be destroyed.
It seems sad that some must be allowed to spoil, but remember that God gave mankind the ability to make their own choices…to have free will. For free will to truly exist, there must be the ability to make bad choices as well as good. And God, being omniscient, or all-knowing, He knew that these people would not correct their behavior.
Choose, while you can, to be a good fig.
Jeremiah 8 begins where chapter 7 leaves off. God has announced judgment on his people, which is to be meted out through their defeat at the hands of a foreign army, which by the way was the Chaldeans.
The Lord declares that the bones of the kings, officials and priests and prophets will be dug up and scattered across the land, and those who are left alive will wish they were dead.
He talks about their sin, their lack of repentance,and their stubbornness. He says that their teachers have twisted the Word of God, and that they tell the people that all is well, that God will prosper them and preserve the peace.
But of course the exact opposite is true, and their prophets and priests will die by the sword, along with the people.
And then as the chapter ends, we hear Jeremiah cry out to God because of the judgment that is coming. He knows that God means business, and he is heartbroken.
Chapter 9 continues Jeremiah’s lament for the people, and then God says, in essence, “I told them this was going to happen, but they would not listen.”
And then the people protest, saying, “Hey. Look! We’re circumcised! We are your people!” And God responds by saying that the days are coming when He will punish all the wicked, those who are circumcised in the flesh only, and those who are uncircumcised. Israel is being punished because their hearts are uncircumcised, meaning their hearts are not set apart for God.
And yet again we are reminded that above all, God looks at the heart. What is the condition of yours? If you are listening to this podcast, chances are good that your heart has been reborn through believing in Jesus. I sure hope so.
The heartbreak that Jeremiah had for the people of Israel should be reflected in us as we look at the people around us. Most of them have no idea what is coming for them. We’ve talked about how dire the situation is in the world today, but if we’re honest, we don’t know for sure that we are in the last days, or what is in the future for our country. Maybe things will turn around. But on an individual basis, it makes no difference. If things pick up and there is a revival in the country and in the world, each individual who refuses to accept Jesus faces a grim future. A future as devastating, even more so, than the picture painted in Jeremiah. Pray for your friends who do not know Jesus. Ask the Lord to give you opportunities to share the Good News with them. Their eternity depends on it.
In chapter 7, God tells Jeremiah to tell the people of Judah several things. One is, “Change the way you live and act. Then I will let you live in this place.” And he tells them several things in particular that they should do. Then he lists His charges against them.
And He says, “Then you come and stand in front of me. You keep coming to this house where I have put my Name. You say, ‘We are safe.’” So they think that just because they go to temple, they’re safe. God says, “It is the temple you trust in. It is the place I gave to you and your people of long ago.
15” ‘ “But I will throw you out of my land.”
The people of Judah thought they were safe merely because they went to temple. They thought they were safe because they were not suffering at that particular time. They thought God would not judge them.
At one time, Judah had been great. They were blessed by God because they at one time did truly worship and follow God. But then they began to fall away. They worshipped other gods and began to do a great many things that God hated.
And now it has come to this. God is giving them a final warning. Destruction is coming if they do not change their ways.
Friends, God will not be mocked. He is a righteous and holy God, and He will not…He cannot bless a people who thumb their noses at Him. If He brought judgment on His chosen people, He will bring judgment on any people who refuse to worship and honor Him.
Can you think of one nation in the world that God should bless at this time in our history? Just one?
Let’s take a quick look at the end of the the last chapter of Acts. If you’ve been listening to the show for the last few weeks, what Paul quoted to the Jewish leaders should have sounded familiar. He quoted from the book of Isaiah, which we are reading on track one. To be specific, Paul quoted Isaiah 6:9 and 10.
When God gave that message to Isaiah, it was a message to the Jewish people. It was one of the times that God had had enough of their rejection of Him.
And now, Paul is quoting these verses to the Jewish leaders in Rome because the Lord wants them to know that the message of the Gospel which has been presented to them, and which they rejected, will be taken to the Gentiles, where it will be embraced and accepted.
You see, God is patient, but there is a point at which He draws the line.
As I record this, it is Sunday afternoon, June 12, 2016. Last night, an Orlando, Florida nightclub which reportedly was known to be popular with the homosexual population was attacked by an avowed ISIS radical, who killed at least 50 and injured as many.
Listen very carefully. I don’t want there to be any misunderstandings of my next statement. I believe we are getting very close to the time when God says, “Enough. You have rejected my Son long enough. I have offered you forgiveness through His shed blood, and you have chosen your own way. You refuse to listen to my Holy Spirit as He tries to speak to you, and your ears will not hear and your eyes will not see. Your hearts are hardened. Therefore you cannot turn to me and let me heal you.”
Just as this message in Isaiah was not directed toward a specific sin, other than the rejection of God, I do not believe God’s displeasure with mankind today is directed at a specific sin other than the rejection of Christ. Any sin you want to name can be traced back to man’s pride and wanting to be his own master. Adam and Eve’s sin was the pride of wanting to be like God. Every sin is a rejection of God.
As our nation and our world falls deeper and deeper into sin and farther and farther away from God, we are seeing more horrendous acts. It’s no wonder, because without God, man is unable to govern himself.
Now is the time for each of us…you and me and every believing person on the planet…to get on our knees and pray. Pray for God’s hand in the affairs of the world. Pray that people would open their eyes. Pray for your unsaved family and friends. Time may be short, beloved. Don’t let them be left behind. Be bold. Don’t be cowed by those who will not hear. You have the message of life. Don’t be afraid to share it with those dying around you.
And pray for the families who lost loved ones in Orlando.
Our reading was short today because the next chapter of Isaiah, chapter 36, sort of shifts gears and begins a different kind of writing.
In our chapters today, chapter 34 talked about God’s judgment on the nations. It is severe because of their defiance of God.
Chapter 35 shows what can happen when the nations turn from their wicked ways and God’s grace begins to heal them.
I’ve said it before, and I think it bears repeating. People talk about the wrathful God of the Old Testament and the loving God of the New Testament, almost as if God is a schizophrenic or manic-depressive. I just don’t see that. What I see is a long-suffering patient God who does His best to tell His children in very specific ways how they can have everlasting peace, abundance and sweet fellowship with their creator. Over and over again He tells them (and us) that if they will only do what is right and acknowledge Him, all will be well with them.
God’s laws never were about keeping them from having “fun”. They are to keep us from harming ourselves. A loving parent tells his child to stay away from fire or not to run out in the street, because the child will get hurt if he does those things. Sometimes a parent has to give a swat on the behind if the child continues to ignore the parent. That’s what God sometimes has to do.
Of course, this is a very simplified way of looking at it, but I think the analogy is accurate.
Once the child learns the lesson and obeys the parent, a good mom or dad will reward the child with hugs and kisses.
Now, Paul tells us in Romans that mankind is unable to follow the law. We are hopeless sinners because sin has infected all of creation. Because of that, God made a way for us to be healed of that infection. Jesus is the cure, and His treatment is free to us, even though it came at a great cost to Him. If we accept Him, God sees us as free from sin and He lavishes His grace on us, as was we read about in chapter 35.
This is the God of grace in the Old Testament as well as the New Testament. He loves you. He wants nothing more than to lift you in His arms to hug and kiss you like the loving Father He is.
Amidst the prophecies of judgment in much of the book of Isaiah, chapter 12 brings a ray of hope.
The prophet tells us that a righteous king is coming. And as we have seen in many previous books in the Bible, when a righteous king is on the throne, God not only blesses the land with peace and prosperity, but the people also act with righteousness.
I like verses 4 and 5. “Even the hotheads will be full of sense and understanding. Those who stammer will speak out plainly. In that day ungodly fools will not be heroes. Scoundrels will not be respected.”
As I record this on June 7, 2016, the United States is in the midst of the ugliest race for president that I can remember. And my earliest political memory is of the Kennedy/Nixon race of 1960. )Yeah. I’m an old guy.) I have seen very hotly contested presidential campaigns, but none as ugly as this one. Not only are the candidates conducting themselves in unseemly ways, but many of their supporters are, too.
The candidates are hotheads and scoundrels, and their followers take those characteristics and amplify them. It’s just plain ugly.
And it can be disheartening. It makes one say, “Is there any hope? Has it gone too far? Will we ever have peace again?”
The answer is a resounding “YES!” God has not forgotten us, beloved. He is allowing the ugliness and depravity because our nation has turned its back on Him. But because of my belief in His Word, because history repeats itself, because God never changes, I believe that there will come a day when the people will cry out to God for forgiveness. They will confess their sins, and He will forgive them.
I believe that.
But if that does not happen, if people refuse to turn to God, we know that a time of ultimate judgment is on the way. Jesus will return and bring an end to this age. The enemy will be bound, and Jesus will reign with righteousness. There will be peace. There will be no wars, there will be none of the ugliness we see today. “The wolf will live with the lamb, the leopard will lie down with the goat, the calf and the lion and the yearling[a] together; and a little child will lead them.”
I, for one, am longing for that day.
How about you?
Let’s talk about a verse we read in chapter 26. It’s verse 10. Here it is again: “When the wicked are favored, they don’t learn righteousness; even among those who do right they do wrong, and they fail to see the Lord’s majesty.”
With some people, all the blessings in the world are lost on them.
As you know, I live in southern California. You may have heard that we are suffering one of the worst droughts on record. Oh, what’s that? You heard the the El Nino was supposed to bring relief this past winter? You heard we got a lot of rain? Well we did get some much needed rain, but our state agencies are telling us that we are still in a drought. How can that be?
It’s because, in their infinite wisdom, the various government agencies have not seen to it that reservoirs were built to catch the rain, so much of what falls from the sky ends up going into the Pacific Ocean.
Most of that glorious rain that God sent our way this past winter went for nought.
Now think of the blessings that God has showered on humanity. Think of the beauty that can be found everywhere, if you look for it. Think of family, friends. There are countless blessings, if we will look for them. And then, think of the piece-de-resistance: salvation through Jesus.
But yet, ”Even though the wicked are favored, they don’t learn righteousness; even among those who do right they do wrong, and they fail to see the Lord’s majesty.”
If you do see it, if you have responded to God’s blessings, thank Him even for that. Because without the Holy Spirit revealing God to you, you would be unresponsive to Him, too.
Pray for those around you that they would be able to soak up God’s showers of blessings.
We read some pretty apocalyptic things today, didn’t we? There is coming a day when God’s judgment will no longer be held back. Since the fall in the Garden, He has seen all of creation groan under the curse of sin, and one day He will say, “Enough!”
I know that it is not popular to talk about or consider that God is a God of judgment. We like to speak of His love and His grace. We emphasize Jesus’ telling us that God is our Abba, “Daddy”. And yes, that is true for those of us who have responded to His invitation to follow Him.
But there are two types of people in the world, isn’t that right? Those who serve God, and those who don’t. Bob Dylan wrote a song several years ago called “Gotta Serve Somebody”. Those who have chosen not to serve God serve…who? Themselves? Money? Power? Fame? A political ideology? Whatever you choose, it is only a manifestation of the liar of liars, satan.
Yes, satan is real. He is as real as real can be. He exists, just as you exist. And we know from scripture that he is roaming the earth, seeking whom he can destroy. He is the reason for man’s rebellion and for the evil that is all around us.
In today’s reading we found out that there is coming a day when God will no longer allow him free reign. Yes, God will bring down the corrupt and evil nations of the earth, but not before dealing decisively with the enemy of mankind, which is the object of God’s love, satan.
That will be a glorious day for those who love Him, but a dark day for those who reject Him.