Saturday, March 01, 2008
Jeremiah 3:1 – 4:4 Spiritual Declension And Revival
Pulling out of the nosedive .. English churches the well known decline in church attendance is slowing. 1/3rd of churches in England growing.
16% stable. And 50% declining.
A little less than 65% decline in 2000.
Church attendance.. pulling out of the nosedive.
Jeremiah.. a return to the Lord during the reforms of Josiah.. but it was wrong. The hearts of the people were still stone. They hadn’t turned from idols back to the true and living God.
God will not be mocked. He is a God of Justice, even for the people of God.
This is a very moving passage.
Many today feel its no big deal if a Christian is involved in adultery, or a Christian is involved in drunkenness. God feel s a whole lot differently. Do you remember 30 years ago pastors would warn frequently about backsliding. These days many would be hypocritical so to warn.
The people of Judah – looking for lovers (verses 1-2)
• a prostitute by the roadside seeking clients
• a bandit in the desert seeking victims
Yet without any embarrassment
“Yet you have the brazen look of a prostitute; you refuse to blush with shame.” (Jer 3:3)
1. HAVE YOU BEEN DECEIVED BY SIN?
Hebrews 3: 12 Watch out, brothers, so that there won’t be in any of you an evil, unbelieving heart that departs from the living God. 13 But encourage each other daily, while it is still called today, so that none of you is hardened by sin’s deception.
• are you ignoring the seriousness of sin (verse 1)
Their unfaithfulness is fully justified in his divorcing them and there is no way back! Vs1.
“If a man divorces his wife and she leaves him and marries another man, should he return to her again? Would not the land be completely defiled? But you have lived as a prostitute with many lovers -would you now return to me?” declares the LORD. (Vs1) see Deuteronomy 24: 1-4 “If a man marries a woman, but she becomes displeasing to him because he finds something improper about her, he may write her a divorce certificate, hand it to her, and send her away from his house. 2 If after leaving his house she goes and becomes another man’s wife, 3 and the second man hates her, writes her a divorce certificate, hands it to her, and sends her away from his house or if he dies, 4 the first husband who sent her away may not marry her again after she has been defiled, because that would be detestable to the Lord. You must not bring guilt on the land the Lord your God is giving you as an inheritance).
• are you ignoring the consequences of their sin (verses 2-3)
“You have defiled the land with your prostitution and wickedness. Therefore the showers have been withheld, and no spring rains have fallen.” (verses 2-3)
“Be careful, or you will be enticed to turn away and worship other gods and bow down to them. Then the LORD’s anger will burn against you, and he will shut the heavens so that it will not rain and the ground will yield no produce, and you will soon perish from the good land the LORD is giving you.” (Deuteronomy 11:16-17)
It’s cause and effect. Worship other gods and no rain, no crops. Maybe they blamed Global Warming.
The same principle:
“Do not be deceived: God cannot be mocked. A man reaps what he sows.” (Galatians 6:7)
• are you ignoring the lesson of the “sister” (verses 6-11)
Israel in the North, Judah in the South are described as 2 sisters. Judah saw it all happen with Israel. Their land had been invaded by the Assyrians, they had been carted off to Israel and the nation had been crushed out of existence.
Israel is better than Judah: Israel didn’t have an example, while Judah did! We see sin working out its consequences in people’s lives, and somehow we think we are going to get away with it!
Numbers Be sure your sins will find you out.
“‘These people honour me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me.” (Matthew 15:8; Isaiah 29:13)
All of this was going on in the reign of good king Josiah, who turned the nation back from idolatry in the 50 year reign of most wicked king Manasseh. It looked good, but all it was is pretend religion. You cannot fool God. He sees through the pretence.
The Lord exposes pretend religion “In spite of all this, her unfaithful sister Judah did not return to me with all her heart, but only in pretence, ” declares the LORD.” (Jeremiah 3:10)
We do that in church: we go through the motions but pretend religion sees our hearts far from God.
“Whenever God touches sin it is independence that is touched and that awakens resentment in the human heart. Independence must be blasted clean out, there must be no such thing left, only freedom, which is very different. Freedom is the ability not to insist on my rights, but to see that God gets His.” Oswald Chambers “Independence is not strength but unrealised weakness, and is the very essence of sin. There was no independence in our Lord, the great characteristic of His life was submission to His Father.” Oswald Chambers
2. WILL YOU RETURN TO THE LORD?
God Pleads For You To Return To Him “Return” 18 times in these verses.
A. You Should Return To Him Because He Is The Merciful Lord (verses 11-13)
Go, proclaim this message towards the north: “ ‘Return, faithless Israel,’ declares the LORD, ‘I will frown on you no longer, for I am merciful,’ declares the LORD, ‘I will not be angry for ever.” (verse 12)
• a love that lasts He still pleads with His people Israel in Assyria.
• a love that forgives He doesn’t give us what we do deserve.
God’s mercy – our greatest need
Anglican church prayer book general Confession: How do we address God?
Almighty and most merciful Father; We have erred, and strayed from thy ways like lost sheep. We have followed too much the devices and desires of our own hearts.
We have offended against thy holy laws. We have left undone those things which we ought to have done; And we have done those things which we ought not to have done; And there is no health in us. But thou, O Lord, have mercy upon us, miserable offenders. Spare thou them, O God, who confess their faults. Restore thou them that are penitent; According to thy promises declared unto mankind in Christ Jesus our Lord. And grant, O most merciful Father, for his sake; That we may hereafter live a godly, righteous, and sober life, To the glory of thy holy Name. Amen.
“We do not presume to come to this thy Table, o merciful Lord, trusting in our own righteousness, but in thy manifold and great mercies. We are not worthy so much as to gather up the crumbs under thy Table. But thou art the same Lord, whose property is always to have mercy.”
The condition for receiving mercy
• we must acknowledge our guilt
• we must admit our rebellion
“Only acknowledge your guilt – you have rebelled against the LORD your God.” (verse 13)
B. You Should Return To Him Because He Is The faithful husband (verses 14-18)
“Return, faithless people, ” declares the LORD, “for I am your husband”. (verse 14)
Jeremiah looks forward to the future:
• choosing his bride “I will choose you – one from a town and two from a clan – and bring you to Zion.” (verse 14) God’s people are the bride.
• led by godly shepherds “Then I will give you shepherds after my own heart, who will lead you with knowledge and understanding.” (verse 15)
• experiencing the Lord’s presence “In those days, when your numbers have increased greatly in the land,” declares the LORD, “men will no longer say, ‘The ark of the covenant of the LORD.’ It will never enter their minds or be remembered; it will not be missed, nor will another one be made.” (v. 16) they will enjoy God’s Holy Presence.. no more going into the Holy of holies for the Priest.
• gathered from all nations “At that time they will call Jerusalem The Throne of the LORD, and all nations will gather in Jerusalem to honour the name of the LORD.” ( v.17)
The final fulfilment
“Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and there was no longer any sea. I saw the Holy City, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride beautifully dressed for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Now the dwelling of God is with men, and he will live with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God.” (Revelation 21:1-3)
C. You Should Return To Him Because He Is The loving Father (verses 19-20)
“I myself said, ‘How gladly would I treat you like sons and give you a desirable land, the most beautiful inheritance of any nation.’ I thought you would call me ‘Father’ and not turn away from following me.” (verse 19)
The Lord’s desire “I thought you would call me ‘Father’” MSG And I imagined that you would say, 'Dear father!' and would never again go off and leave me.
Through the Lord Jesus Christ you are a child of God: But when the time had fully come, God sent his Son, born of a woman, born under law, to redeem those under law, that we might receive the full rights of sons. Because you are sons, God sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, the Spirit who calls out, “Abba, Father.” (Galatians 4:4-6)
Failing to respond “But like a woman unfaithful to her husband, so you have been unfaithful to me, O house of Israel,” declares the LORD.” (verse 20)
A great tragedy “A cry is heard on the barren heights, the weeping and pleading of the people of Israel, because they have perverted their ways and have forgotten the LORD their God.” (verse 21)
D. You Should Return To Him Because He Is The great physician (verse 22)
“Return, faithless people; I will cure you of backsliding.” (verse 22) Prone to leave the God I love.
You have a fallen nature which only God can change
Do you notice in the end of the chapter it appears that the people of God respond! They seem ready to return? (verses 22-25) “Yes, we will come to you, for you are the LORD our God.” (verse 3:22)
3. HOW CAN YOU RETURN?
A. Return to Him. 20x here in chapter 3 and 4, 125 times in the book of Jeremiah.
Its personal, to Him, not to religion, or efforts or anything else, you return to Him.
To the Ephesians the Lord Jesus said Revelation 2:1 To the angelof the church in Ephesus write: “The One who holds the seven stars in His right hand and who walks among the seven gold lampstands says:
2 I know your works, your labor, and your endurance, and that you cannot tolerate evil. You have tested those who call themselves apostles and are not, and you have found them to be liars. 3 You also possess endurance and have tolerated [many things]because of My name, and have not grown weary.
4 But I have this against you: you have abandoned the love you had at first.
5 Remember then how far you have fallen; repent, and do the works you did at first. Otherwise, I will come to you and remove your lampstand from its place—unless you repent.
You have left your first love. Love is a personal word. It has to do with relationship. That’s what you’ve got to return to, a relationship with the Lord. 5 Remember then how far you have fallen;
Oh! for a closer walk with God; A calm and heavenly frame;
A light to shine upon the road That leads me to the Lamb!
Where is the blessedness I knew When first I saw the Lord?
Where is the soul-refreshing view Of Jesus and His Word?
What peaceful hours I once enjoy'd! How sweet their memory still!
But they have left an aching void, The world can never fill.
Return, 0 holy Dove, return Sweet Messenger of rest!
I hate the sins that made Thee mourn, And drove Thee from my breast.
The dearest idol I have known, Whate'er that idol be,
Help me to tear it from Thy throne, And worship only Thee.
So shall my walk be close with God, Calm and serene my frame;
So purer light shall mark the road That leads me to the Lamb.
B. You return to Him In Repentance
5 Remember then how far you have fallen; repent, and do the works you did at first
Repentance – more than words (verses 1-2)
• do what you say “If you will return, O Israel, return to me,” declares the LORD. “If you put your detestable idols out of my sight and no longer go astray.” (4:1)
• It means not only doing what you say it also means meaning what you say
“and if in a truthful, just and righteous way you swear, ‘As surely as the LORD lives, ’” (4:2)
“then the nations will be blessed by him and in him they will glory.” (4:2)
“This shows the vital importance of true repentance. Nothing less than the evangelisation of the world depends on it. The church’s effectiveness in evangelisation and world missions is directly tied to the sincerity of its repentance. ” Reyken.
Rev. 2:5 Remember then how far you have fallen; repent, and do the works you did at first
2 thoughts are carried as to what this will all mean for you:
• a broader obedience to the Lord
This is what the LORD says to the men of Judah and to Jerusalem: “Break up your unploughed ground and do not sow among thorns.” (4:3) Unploughed ground was either left to recover, or it was the ground that hadn’t been sorted out for usefulness. What are the areas of your life that have a “no-entry” sign towards God? What areas of your life have you let go slack?
Don’t sow among thorns: don’t try and mix it up with sin. Be clean of the lot!
• a deeper commitment to the Lord
Circumcision was an external sign of the membership in the Jewish community. But God requires a deeper work than something superficial.
“Circumcise yourselves to the LORD, circumcise your hearts, you men of Judah and people of Jerusalem.” (verse 4)
Baptism is an outward sign of an inward reality. But there must be that inward reality. Don’t think you can trade on the outward sign with God. He expects a heart for Him.
“…or my wrath will break out and burn like fire because of the evil you have done –burn with no-one to quench it.” (verse 4)
There is a line by us unseen, That crosses every path,
The hidden boundary between God’s patience and his wrath.
O where is that mysterious boundary By which our path is crossed,
Beyond which God himself has sworn That he who goes is lost?
How far can one go on in sin? How long will mercy spare?
Where does grace end and where begin The confines of despair?
An answer from the sky is sent: Ye who from God depart,
While it is called “Today” repent, And “harden not your heart.” (J. A. Alexander)