Jeremiah 20 Commentary

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Today we’ll be finishing the section that consists of Jeremiah 18-20. In Jeremiah 18 we saw the action and plot revolving around a potter. In Jeremiah 19 everything had to do with a pot. And now in Jeremiah 20 we finally become acquainted with a man named Pashur who is violent and aggressive and doesn’t care for Jeremiah’s message from the last chapter.

Jeremiah 20 Commentary | Offensive Message

So, let’s witness the aggression and subsequent judgement of this man named Pashur in Jeremiah 20:1-6.

KJV Jeremiah 20:1 ¶ [Now/When] Pashur the son of Immer the priest, who was also chief [governor/officer/of security] in the house of the LORD, heard that Jeremiah prophesied these things.

What things? What did Jeremiah prophesy that Pashur heard? And I break in here because this verse expects you to know what things Pashur heard but it doesn’t tell you in this chapter.

We learned that in Jeremiah 19. God had Jeremiah take a hardened clay pot and smash it in front of the religious and lay leaders of Judah. Then Jeremiah was to tell those leaders that Judah would be smashed in a similar way for their lack of repentance.

It was a controversial message – a confrontational message – and a message directly from the mouth of the living God.

Jeremiah 20 Commentary | Pashur’s Reaction

Well, when Pashur heard that message, Jeremiah 20:2…

2 Then Pashur [smote/had beaten/had flogged] Jeremiah the prophet,

and put him in the stocks that were in the [high/upper] gate of Benjamin, which was by the house of the LORD.

This is so frustrating. Here we have this Pashur. He’s supposed to be a someone in the Lord’s Temple – an important person. He’s charged with governing in some way the Temple – the only place on earth that true religion had a chance. Right? Where else would you go on earth at this time in world history to hear the words of the only true God? It’s the Temple.

And this man, who’s been given some level of authority in this holy place and whom you’d expect to be one who is concerned with the desires of the one who ultimately owns that place – the Lord – well, this man reacts in a most despicable way to this message from the true Governor of that Temple.

God intended for his words of warning to be heard and heeded. He demanded repentance. But what did he get from Pashur? Certainly not repentance. Not humble obedience. No, the man beat Jeremiah and put him in chains in the Temple.

What arrogance. It reminds me of New Testament times. Jesus Christ, God in the flesh, came and he received this same treatment from those who should have been spiritual leaders of God’s people. The apostles also after Jesus suffered persecution at the hands of the Jewish religious leaders.

So, yes, Pashur’s actions are shocking. But they’re only a continuation of a practice that would be repeated again and again by unbelieving Jewish religious leaders.

By the way, I hope Pashur’s actions make you a little angry. I think this is one intention of God making this book 52-chapters long. He’s laid out his complaint against Judah. He’s shown himself to be merciful to them. He gives us this narrative to demonstrate the hardened wickedness of these people. He’ll show us more and more for another 30-some chapters!

We have such a tendency to side with people over God. We have a tendency to conceive in our minds that the Lord is unfair or too harsh or whatever else. But one reason God gave us the book of Jeremiah and the humongous section of the Bible known as the Prophets – one reason he gave us so much here is to exonerate himself and to justify his actions to would-be critics.

If you can walk away from the story of Pashur and his blindness and hardness of heart, then God’s going to give you the rest of the book of Jeremiah and the rest of the prophets to try to get it through to you just how awful and just how deserving of punishment his people were.

So, if Pashur makes you angry, good. The story is having its intended effect on you.

Jeremiah 20 Commentary | Release

OK, so Pashur responds to God’s message by beating and imprisoning his messenger. What happens next? Jeremiah 20:3…

3 [And it came to pass on the morrow/On the next day/But the next day], that Pashur [brought forth/released] Jeremiah [out of/from] the stocks.

Now, Pashur might have thought that Jeremiah learned his lesson, but actually the prophet has another grave message from God.

Then said Jeremiah unto him,

The LORD hath not called thy name Pashur, but [Magormissabib/“Terror is Everywhere”].

We’ve seen this term “Magor Missabib” before in this book. It appears seven times in the Old Testament – once in Psalm 31:14, once in Lamentations 2:22, and five times in Jeremiah.

Let’s quickly read those references to get an idea of what the Lord is saying with this phrase.

Psalm 31 is a lament psalm. Psalm 31:13 associates Magor-Missabib with the slander and violent deadly plots of enemies. “KJV Psalm 31:13 For I have heard the slander of many: fear was on every side: while they took counsel together against me, they devised to take away my life.”

Jeremiah 6:25 has the Lord speaking through the prophet and warning the citizens of Judah of danger from their enemies. That passage links the concept of danger from enemies with Magor-Missabib. “KJV Jeremiah 6:25 Go not forth into the field, nor walk by the way; for the sword of the enemy and fear is on every side.”

Then of course we have our passage for today. Jeremiah 20:3-6 links Magor-Missabib with destruction from the enemies of Judah that we’ll read about in a few minutes.

Later in this chapter in Jeremiah 20:10 we have Jeremiah giving a lament where he links Magor-Missabib with slander and violent plots against himself from his enemies – just like we saw in Psalm 31.

Jeremiah 46:5 has the Lord speaking. And there he again connects Magor-Missabib with military defeat from enemies. “KJV Jeremiah 46:5 Wherefore have I seen them dismayed and turned away back? and their mighty ones are beaten down, and are fled apace, and look not back: for fear was round about, saith the LORD.”

Jeremiah 49 is speaking of coming judgement on the nations that surrounded Judah at that time. One of those nations spoken of there is told that enemies would come and defeat them and take their things. “KJV Jeremiah 49:29 Their tents and their flocks shall they take away: they shall take to themselves their curtains, and all their vessels, and their camels; and they shall cry unto them, Fear is on every side.”

Finally, Lamentations 2:22 links Magor-Missabib with the destruction that finally did come to Jerusalem from their enemies. “KJV Lamentations 2:22 Thou hast called as in a solemn day my terrors round about, so that in the day of the LORD’S anger none escaped nor remained: those that I have swaddled and brought up hath mine enemy consumed.”

So, Magor-Missabib is consistently used as a phrase in the context of imminent danger from enemies – whether they be one’s own countrymen or foreigners.

And that’s the message for Pashur – this man who persecuted Jeremiah and ignored the Lord’s message though him. Destruction is coming to you, Pashur, from your enemies.

Jeremiah 20 Commentary | Magor-Missabib Fleshed Out

Now, the Lord spells out the details of that threat of Magor-Missabib in the next several verses.

4 For thus saith the LORD,

Behold, I will make thee [a terror to thyself/terrified], [and to all/and] thy friends [i.e., of what’s to come]:
and they shall fall by the sword of their enemies,
and thine eyes shall behold it:

and I will give all Judah into the hand of the king of Babylon,
and he shall carry them [captive/away as exiles] into Babylon,
and shall slay them with the sword.

5 Moreover I will [deliver/hand over] all the [strength/wealth] of this city,
and all the [labours/produce/fruits of the labor] thereof,
and all the [precious/costly/prized] [things/possessions] thereof,
and all the treasures of the kings of Judah will I give into the hand of their enemies,
which [i.e., the enemies] shall [spoil/plunder/seize as plunder] [them/these things],
and take them [i.e., away], and [carry/bring] them to Babylon.

6 And thou, Pashur, and all that dwell in thine house shall go into captivity:
and thou shalt come to Babylon,
and there thou shalt die,
and shalt be buried there,
thou, and all thy friends, to whom thou hast prophesied lies.

And we weren’t told that Pashur was a prophet, but apparently through his affiliation with the Temple in his position of authority he was involved in supposedly giving God’s messages to the people. You wonder if maybe he was in the group of folks who were assuring the Judeans that they were safe because God’s Temple was in their midst – do you remember that emphasis that the Lord through Jeremiah had to correct? Maybe that was Pashur’s false message.

Well, so much for Pashur. Now that Jeremiah the prophet has suffered at his hands and then delivered God’s message of destruction to him, he’s out of the picture for the rest of the chapter. But Jeremiah remains in focus now for the rest of this chapter.

And so in Jeremiah 20:7-18 we see Jeremiah delivering a lament psalm. And we see him say some really bitter things.

Jeremiah 20 Commentary |  Invocation/Lament

He starts with a very short invocation and then the lament portion of his lament psalm – the reasons for his complaining.

7 O LORD, thou hast [deceived/coerced into being a prophet] me,
and I [was deceived/allowed you to do it]:

thou [art stronger than I/overcame my resistance],
and hast prevailed [i.e., over me]:

This is Jeremiah lamenting the fact that he was called into the prophetic ministry. His reference to being deceived is probably best translated as “coerced”. Jeremiah is looking back to the events described in Jeremiah 1 where the Lord called Jeremiah into the office of prophet. Do you remember how Jeremiah argued a little bit with God at that point? He told God that he was just a youth. But God “overcame” his objection. God “prevailed” over him. In that sense, you could say that God “coerced”. And Jeremiah went along with it. Jeremiah was originally looking for a way out. But he was ultimately willing to do God’s will.

Jeremiah 20 Commentary | God’s Will

And you typically associate doing God’s will with temporal blessing and glory. But that’s not what Jeremiah experienced. Rather…

I [am/have become] [in derision/a laughingstock] [daily/all day long/constantly],
every one [mocketh/ridicules] me.

And he’s receiving ridicule and derision for the sole reason that he’s proclaiming God’s word – which was at that time a message of destruction unless people repent.

8 For [since/each time/whenever] I [spake/speak], I [cried out/cry aloud/must cry out (with the next verb)],
I [cried/proclaim] violence and [spoil/destruction] [i.e., are coming!];

because the word of the LORD [was made/has resulted in] [a reproach/insults] [unto/for] me,
and a derision, [daily/all day long].

So, Jeremiah has worked through this in his heart. If he speaks God’s word, people hate him and mock him and try to kill him.

Jeremiah 20 Commentary | Stay Silent?

So, what happens if he stops speaking God’s word? If he remains silent concerning the destruction to come? Jeremiah reviews that way of thinking in Jeremiah 20:9.

9 [Then/But if/Sometimes] I [said/think],

[“]I will not [make mention of/remember] [him/his message],
nor speak any more [in his name/as his messenger].[”]

[But/Then/But then] his [word/message] [was/becomes] [in mine heart/inside of me]
as a burning fire shut up in my [bones/heart and soul],

and I was weary [with/of] [forbearing/holding it in],
and I [could not stay/cannot endure it/cannot contain it].

So, if God’s given you a message and you’re discouraged by people’s response, there’s a temptation to just stop giving it. And things were a little different for Jeremiah from how they are for us. But we New Covenant Christians know what it’s like to have a message. And you probably know of situations where you have unfortunately withheld God’s message of future destruction unless people repent and turn to his Son Jesus Christ. And do you feel a little like Jeremiah? Like it’s just a weariness to hold in the message you were given? Well, if you can identify with that, you have some understanding of Jeremiah’s emotions regarding this task of giving God’s message to people who don’t want to hear it.

Jeremiah 20 Commentary | Slander

Well, Jeremiah seems to come back to the reason for his wanting to remain silent in Jeremiah 20:10. People slandering him and looking for him to stumble.

10 For I heard the [defaming/whispering] of many,
[fear/terror] on every side[./!] [i.e., this is what they’re saying or this is how Jeremiah feels]

[Report/Denounce], say they,
[and/yes] [we will report/let us denounce] [it/him].

All my [familiars/trusted friends/so-called friends] watched for my [halting/fall], saying,
[Peradventure/Perhaps] he will be [enticed/deceived/enticed into slipping up],
[and/so that] we shall prevail against him,
and we shall take our revenge on him.

So, that’s Jeremiah’s lament. The realities that are causing him to despair.

Jeremiah 20 Commentary | Confidence

But the prophet turns to express his confidence in the Lord in Jeremiah 20:11.

11 But the LORD is with me [i.e., to help me] as [a mighty terrible one/a dread champion/an awe-inspiring warrior]:

therefore my persecutors shall [stumble/fail], and they shall not prevail [i.e., over me]:

they shall be [greatly/utterly/thoroughly] [ashamed/disgraced]; for they [shall not prosper/have failed/did not succeed]:

their everlasting [confusion/disgrace] shall never be forgotten.

The Lord promised to be with the prophet to deliver him at least twice so far in this book. And that’s the basis of Jeremiah’s confidence – the Lord’s promised presence.

Jeremiah 20 Commentary | Petition

Now, Jeremiah moves to the petition section of his lament psalm.

12 But, O LORD of hosts,
that [triest/test] the righteous,
and seest the [reins/mind] and the heart,

let me see thy vengeance on them:

for unto thee have I [opened/set forth] my cause.

So, Jeremiah is calling on God to punish those who have persecuted him. Again, he’s not taking his own vengeance. He’s bringing it to the Lord and letting him do what he’s already promised he would do to these people who refuse to repent.

Jeremiah 20 Commentary | Praise

Then Jeremiah gives his praise in Jeremiah 20:13.

13 Sing unto the LORD,
praise ye the LORD:

for he [hath delivered/rescues] the soul of the [poor/needy one/oppressed]
from the hand of evildoers.

Now, we had a series on the first twenty or so psalms. And in that series we discovered the ingredients of a lament psalm. There were five. And we’ve seen all five already in this lament psalm of Jeremiah in Jeremiah 20:7-13.

Jeremiah 20 Commentary | But…Five More Verses

But we’ve got five more verses left. And the content of these verses is probably some of the most depressing material contained in the book of Jeremiah. The prophet really lets us into his heart at this point.

He just got done with his lament psalm ending on a note of praise. He expressed his confidence in God as the dread champion who would defend him and destroy the opposition.

And now, this. What sounds like the deepest depression and bitterness a man could express.

There’s hyperbole at work in what we’re about to read. Now, remember, hyperbole is not exaggeration. It’s not falsehood. What it is, is emotional truth. And that emotional truth might not line-up exactly with factual objective truth. But it’s true on the emotional level.

Let’s read it.

Jeremiah 20 Commentary | Curse the Day

First, he wishes the day of his birth to be cursed.

14 Cursed be the day wherein I was born:

let not the day wherein my mother bare me be blessed.

Then Jeremiah wishes the man who brought the news of his birth to his father to be cursed.

15 Cursed be the man who brought tidings to my father, saying,

A [man child/baby boy] is born unto thee;
making him very [glad/happy].

And he doesn’t stop there. He continues focusing on this man who brought his father the glad news of his birth.

16 And let that man be as the cities which the LORD [overthrew/destroyed],
and [repented/relented/showed mercy] not:

Which is probably a reference to Sodom and Gomorrah.

and [let him/may he] hear [the/an] [cry/outcry/cry of distress] in the morning,
and [the/a] [shouting/shout of alarm/battle cry] at [noontide/noon];

And that’s probably a reference to the coming punishment that God is promising for his rebellious people. That man will probably be among those who suffer at the hands of Babylon.

And at this point I wonder if Jeremiah’s mother or father is alive at this point. But unfortunately, I think the Scripture doesn’t inform us of that.

Jeremiah 20 Commentary | Heavy

And here’s where it gets really heavy. Jeremiah gives the reason that this bearer-of-good-news, this man he’s been talking about so much, why he should be like Sodom and Gomorrah and Judah in their destruction. Why?

17 Because he [slew/killed] me not [from the womb/before birth];
[or/so] that my mother [might/would] have been my grave,
and her womb to be always great with me.

So, as awful as this is, Jeremiah is dabbling with the thought that it would have been better for him if he was aborted before birth. That’s how miserable he was.

Now, again, this is hyperbole. It’s emotional truth. This is how Jeremiah is feeling about his situation. And in this case this emotional truth actually contradicts what Jeremiah himself would really believe about the sanctity of human life.

And this reference to his mother’s womb ties back to Jeremiah 1. Remember God’s statement there? Before I formed you in the – what? – womb, I knew you. God called Jeremiah to be a prophet before he was formed by God in his mother’s womb. And therefore, perhaps Jeremiah is imagining that the only way he could have escaped this hard life of his as a prophet would have been to be aborted before birth.

Jeremiah 20 Commentary | End of Psalm

And so, Jeremiah ends Jeremiah 20 thusly…

18 Wherefore came I forth out of the womb
to [see/look on/experience only] [labour/trouble] and [sorrow/grief],
that my days should be [consumed/spent] [with/in] shame?

Jeremiah 20 Commentary | What’s to Come

And with that we finish this three-chapter section dealing with a Potter, a Pot, and Pashur.

And at this point we enter new territory in the book of Jeremiah. Two main changes are introduced in the next section of this book that we’ll start dealing with next time.

Jeremiah 20 Commentary | Babylon

First, the foreign enemy is finally identified as Babylon. Remember that so far in this book we haven’t seen mention of who exactly this enemy would be. We’ll see in the remaining chapters of this book that the coming army is identified as Babylon.

Jeremiah 20 Commentary | Surrender

Second, so far the Lord has held out the option of repentance to his people as a means by which they won’t have to be destroyed and exiled. But starting in the next section of this book that option apparently doesn’t exist anymore. From now on, the Jews’ only option would be to submit to Babylon. There’s no way that God will let them stay in their land anymore. But the Lord is still gracious and merciful and will allow the Judeans to live if they submit to his authority by submitting to Babylon.

So, that’s what’s to come. We’ll start seeing those new developments next time, Lord-willing.

Jeremiah 19 Commentary

Jeremiah 19 Commentary

Jeremiah 19 Commentary
Explaining the Book of Jeremiah

00:00 / 44:40

Jeremiah 19 Commentary: We’re in the second lesson in a section that consists of Jeremiah 18, 19, and 20.

Jeremiah 18 was about a potter. That chapter described how God was like a potter and that Israel was like the clay in his hands. He could destroy the clay or build it up as he wished. And he would do that to Israel.

Well, Israel didn’t want to hear that message. And they disliked that concept of God’s sovereign dealings with them so much so that they made plans to kill Jeremiah. So, we ended Jeremiah 18 with the prophet letting the people go to God’s judgement. It was almost as if Jeremiah washed his hands of the people for whom he prayed so much previously.

Jeremiah 19 Commentary: The Pot

Well, that brings us to Jeremiah 19. We’ve seen the action centered around a Potter in the previous chapter. Now in this chapter we’ll see the action centered around a Pot.

In the last chapter, the clay was moldable. In this chapter, it’s going to be irreversibly broken.

So, the chapter begins with the Lord responding to Jeremiah’s abandoning of his people to their fate.

KJV Jeremiah 19:1 ¶ Thus saith the LORD,

Jeremiah 19 Commentary: What to Bring

God starts by telling Jeremiah to get or bring several things in the rest of Jeremiah 19:1.

Go and [get/buy] a potter’s [earthen bottle/earthenware jar/clay jar],
and take of the [ancients/elders/leaders] of the people,
and of the [ancients/senior/leaders] of the priests;

So, Jeremiah was to get a jar and bring some of the leading people and leading priests.

Jeremiah 19 Commentary: Where to Go

Well, where is he taking them? That’s spelled out in Jeremiah 19:2.

2 And go forth unto the [i.e., part of the] valley of [the son of Hinnom/Ben-hinnom],
which is by the entry of the [east/Postherd] gate,
and proclaim there the words that I shall tell thee,

So, Jeremiah is to go to the Valley of the Son of Hinnom by the Potsherd Gate. This is the place that’s behind the concept of “Gehenna” in the New Testament. It’s the city’s trash dump, located on the southern slope of Jerusalem. Trash would be burned there, which would burn pretty regularly, apparently. This is why the Lord Jesus uses this place as a picture of eternal fire in hell.

The Potsherd Gate was probably a place where the people of Jerusalem would discard old pottery. There was no doubt quite a large amount of shards or fragments of pots in that location, since pottery doesn’t decompose.

But, this is where the prophet is commanded to take some of the leaders of the lay people as well as the priests.

Jeremiah 19 Commentary: What to Say

Well, now, what is Jeremiah to say to them there? Three things in Jeremiah 19:3-9.

Jeremiah 19 Commentary: Disaster Promised

First, in Jeremiah 19:3, God is promising disaster for Judah.

3 And say,

Hear ye the word of the LORD, O kings of Judah, and inhabitants of Jerusalem;

Thus saith the LORD [of hosts/who rules over all], the God of Israel;

Behold, I will bring [evil/calamity/disaster] upon this place, [the/at] which whosoever heareth, his ears shall [tingle/ring].

This tingling- or ringing- or reverberating- or quivering-ear situation has been promised a few other times in Israel’s history. So, let’s consider a few passages where this phrase is found to get a better idea of what it means.

Jeremiah 19 Commentary: 1 Samuel 3:11-14

God had a message for the boy Samuel which would give this affect to all Israel. Let me read 1 Samuel 3:11-14.

KJV 1 Samuel 3:11 And the LORD said to Samuel, Behold, I will do a thing in Israel, at which both the ears of every one that heareth it shall tingle. 12 In that day I will perform against Eli all things which I have spoken concerning his house: when I begin, I will also make an end. 13 For I have told him that I will judge his house for ever for the iniquity which he knoweth; because his sons made themselves vile, and he restrained them not. 14 And therefore I have sworn unto the house of Eli, that the iniquity of Eli’s house shall not be purged with sacrifice nor offering for ever.

So, the tingling ears in 1 Samuel 3 is caused by a message of judgement for sin.

Jeremiah 19 Commentary: 2 Kings 21:10-16

The second and last passage I’ll reference and read is concerning the judgement God promised to send to Israel due to King Manasseh’s grave sin in 2 Kings 21:10-16.

KJV 2 Kings 21:10 ¶ And the LORD spake by his servants the prophets, saying, 11 Because Manasseh king of Judah hath done these abominations, and hath done wickedly above all that the Amorites did, which were before him, and hath made Judah also to sin with his idols: 12 Therefore thus saith the LORD God of Israel, Behold, I am bringing such evil upon Jerusalem and Judah, that whosoever heareth of it, both his ears shall tingle. 13 And I will stretch over Jerusalem the line of Samaria, and the plummet of the house of Ahab: and I will wipe Jerusalem as a man wipeth a dish, wiping it, and turning it upside down. 14 And I will forsake the remnant of mine inheritance, and deliver them into the hand of their enemies; and they shall become a prey and a spoil to all their enemies; 15 Because they have done that which was evil in my sight, and have provoked me to anger, since the day their fathers came forth out of Egypt, even unto this day. 16 ¶ Moreover Manasseh shed innocent blood very much, till he had filled Jerusalem from one end to another; beside his sin wherewith he made Judah to sin, in doing that which was evil in the sight of the LORD.

So, we see from these two additional references in Scripture that the kind of news that would cause ears to tingle always involved coming judgement.

Judgement for Eli and his house for their overlooked sin.

Judgement for all Judah because of Manasseh’s sin and their own.

Jeremiah 19 Commentary: God’s Reasons for Bringing Disaster

And as we’ve seen in those two other passages outside of Jeremiah, the Lord typically gives the reason for sending the judgement. And it’s not different here in Jeremiah where in Jeremiah 19:4-5 the Lord gives his reasons for bringing this promised disaster on his people.

4 Because they have forsaken me,
and have [estranged/made alien/defiled] this place,
and have burned incense in it unto other gods,

whom neither they nor their fathers have known, nor the kings of Judah,

and have filled this place with the blood of [innocents/innocent children];

Can we have a little more specificity regarding the identity of these “innocents”? Whose blood is Jerusalem filling itself with?

5 They have built also [the high places of/places to worship] Baal,
to burn their sons [with/in the] fire for burnt offerings unto Baal,

which I commanded not,
nor spake it,
neither came it into my mind:

Child sacrifice. That’s what God is calling out here.

There is nothing quite so loathsome as a person who is strong taking advantage of someone who is helpless. And maybe the worst outworking of this kind of situation is child abuse.

And I suppose that there are ranges and types of child abuse and that you could probably place each form on a scale of badness and distastefulness and evil. And on such a scale, surely child sacrifice to false gods has to be the worst.

But that’s just what Judah was doing. Sacrificing their own children to gods who didn’t exist.

Let me briefly give a history of child sacrifices in Israel. In particular, we’ll look at where the term “pass through the fire” occurs in this context.

Jeremiah 19 Commentary: God Forbid Child Sacrifice

To begin, God expressly forbids this practice of sacrificing one’s children to false gods by burning them alive. Deuteronomy 18:10 has God as saying, “There shall not be found among you any one that maketh his son or his daughter to pass through the fire, or that useth divination, or an observer of times, or an enchanter, or a witch.” So, when God says in Jeremiah here that he didn’t command this practice or speak it and that it didn’t even come to his mind as something that should be done, this is the start of that. He commanded against this wicked practice.

Jeremiah 19 Commentary: Ahaz Sacrificed Children

Evil King Ahaz of Judah sacrificed his children to demons in this way. 2 Kings 16:3 relates, “But he [Ahaz] walked in the way of the kings of Israel, yea, and made his son to pass through the fire, according to the abominations of the heathen, whom the LORD cast out from before the children of Israel.”

Jeremiah 19 Commentary: Northern Israel Sacrificed Children

Going chronologically through Scripture, right after the mention of Ahaz in Kings the author of that book describes the destruction of the northern kingdom of Israel. And he gives reasons for why God had to exile them. One of those reasons is this kind of child sacrifice that was happening in those days. 2 Kings 17:17 says, “And they [Israel] caused their sons and their daughters to pass through the fire, and used divination and enchantments, and sold themselves to do evil in the sight of the LORD, to provoke him to anger.”

Jeremiah 19 Commentary: Manasseh Sacrificed Children

Now, back to Judah. We saw already that King Ahaz did this abominable practice.

Then Ahaz had a son named Hezekiah. He was righteous.

But then Hezekiah bore a son who turned out to be the worst king ever over Judah. His name was Manasseh. In 2 Kings 21:6 we’re told that Manasseh practiced child sacrifice as well.

Jeremiah 19 Commentary: Josiah Stops Child Sacrifice

Manasseh’s son, Josiah, who was a very godly king, put an end to this practice. In fact, he did everything he could to defile this place in the Valley of Ben Hinnom called Topheth where this wicked practice was carried out, so that it would happen no more.

Jeremiah 19 Commentary: Child Sacrifice Continues After Josiah

And yet, despite the good that Josiah did in this regard as well as others, the people returned to this evil practice. That’s what’s indicated here in our text in Jeremiah. Something similar is communicated in the writings of the prophet Ezekiel, who was roughly contemporary with Jeremiah.

The point is that this was a problem for a while with the Jews. It had been more or less prevalent depending on who was ruling Judah. And yet, it was something that these people were drawn to – so much so that even righteous king Josiah couldn’t put a permanent end to the practice. And so, God would need to do that for them.

Jeremiah 19 Commentary: Results of the Coming Disaster

So then, in Jeremiah 19:6-9 the Lord gives the people the certain results of this coming disaster that he’s planning to bring on them. And we’ll see some bitter irony involved in the Lord’s plans.

6 Therefore, behold, the [days/time will soon] come, saith the LORD, that this place shall no more be called Tophet, nor The valley of [the son of/Ben-] Hinnom, but The valley of slaughter.

7 And I will [make void the counsel/thwart the plans] of Judah and Jerusalem in this place;

and I will cause them to fall by the sword before their enemies,
and by the hands of them that seek their lives:

Let me just break-in here and highlight something I think is very relevant for us.

If you’re like me, you look at what’s happening in our nation [reminder: the following was written in 2016…] – the kind of decisions coming down from our judicial branch – our court system, the kind of foreign and domestic policies of our executive branch – our president, the instability and inactivity of our legislative branch – our congress – and if you’re like me, you’re just stupefied. Like, how could these smart people be making such unwise decisions?! How can it be that our Supreme Court has taken it upon itself to redefine the ancient institution of marriage? How can it be that our president seems intent on creating instability all over the world and leaving the door open everywhere for radical Islam – a term which he refuses to use to identify the problem that his policies have helped to flourish? How can it be that both major political parties in this nation are so fractured?

I’ll tell you how. God is dealing with our nation like he dealt with his rebellious nation, Israel, in the Old Testament. He is making “void the counsel of” our country. History repeats itself because the same God is still sovereign and in control of past, present, and future. He hates pride and godlessness. He will humble the proud. And our nation is full of proud people.

We would do well, if we care at all about our country and about our neighbors and our children, we would do well to pray that on a wide scale people in this nation would, as the message of this book keeps hammering home, “Submit to God’s Authority”.

We see in this chapter of the book of Jeremiah that child sacrifice is something that makes the Lord really angry. Folks, we don’t have what would be termed “child sacrifice” in the United States, but what else do you call the murder of 1 million babies every year? No, parents aren’t sacrificing their children to Moloch or some other recognizable false god. But, this practice of abortion is abominable anyway. And it’s the kind of activity that calls for God’s retribution for the blood of innocents.

We could go on. Just call to mind all of the things that God has said in this book that he hates and the kind of activities that he points to as justification for sending a violent middle-eastern entity to Judah to destroy it. Idolatry. Lying. Adultery. Injustice. These are reasons that God sent Babylon to destroy and exile Judah. What stops the Lord from doing the same exact thing to this nation?

Brothers, we need to pray for massive repentance in this nation. Not massive professions. Massive repentance.

Brothers, we ourselves need to be repenting of our sins. We need to be walking with the Lord and being the salt and light that he’s called us to be.

Maybe the Lord will be merciful and answer our prayers and turn our fellow-citizens to himself. And if he doesn’t, this nation is doomed.

Well, the results of Judah’s total lack of repentance and then God’s sending Babylon to destroy them will eventually result in this…

and their carcases will I give to be meat for the fowls of the heaven,
and for the beasts of the earth.

8 And I will make this city desolate,
and an [i.e., object of] hissing;

every one that passeth thereby shall be [astonished/filled with horror] and hiss [i.e., out their scorn] because of all the [plagues/disasters] thereof.

And here’s the bitter irony of God’s punishment.

9 And I will cause them to eat the flesh of their sons and the flesh of their daughters,

and they shall eat every one the flesh of his friend in the siege and [straitness/the distress],
wherewith their enemies, and they that seek their lives, shall [straiten/distress] them.

So, do you see the irony? These people were sacrificing some of their children to false deities. God hated that. And so he would see to it that they would find themselves in the position of having to eat the very flesh of those children – the ones that for whatever reason they hadn’t sacrificed to their false gods.

Now, God of course didn’t want them to eat their children, either. That was not his perfect or his revealed will for them. And yet, when people disobey what God has clearly stated to be his will, their punishment will oftentimes involve more things that are not God’s perfect will.

I want to apply this to the situation in Orlando as graciously and lovingly as I possibly can. And I know this could be controversial, depending on who is listening to what I’m about to say. But I think it should be said.

Last Sunday, a US-born Muslim man in his twenties of Afghan descent named Omar Mateen murdered almost 50 people in a gay night club in Orlando, Florida.

Now, is it God’s will for people to be living a homosexual lifestyle like these individuals at that night club? It is not God’s will. OK, then is it God’s will for someone to murder others like Omar Mateen did? No, it’s not God’s perfect stated will for murder to happen. And yet, and even though no one is righteous in this situation, did God use the murderer Omar Mateen to judge, in a sense, the people in that night club?

Now, I will state that if our church was in Orlando right now, we should be doing everything we could to be reaching out to the people affected by this unjust taking of lives.

And at the same time I won’t deny what I just previously stated. That Omar Mateen was an agent of punishment, not just to the people in that night club, but to our entire nation. He was a sinful man who worshipped a false and bloodthirsty god. Further, there are reports that he himself was a practicing homosexual. And at least one commentator has said that he probably killed himself and so many others so that he could make up for his sin of homosexuality and be guaranteed a place in the Muslim heaven by killing so-called infidels.

And my point with all of this, is that sometimes God uses wicked men and things that are not his perfect will to punish other wicked men.

This very situation is what the prophet Habakkuk struggled with. He heard that God was going to send the Babylonians to destroy Judah. And he almost objected to God’s plan. Because, while Judah was wicked as Habakkuk acknowledged, the Babylonians were even worse!

But, again, God’s options are not limited when he finally determines to punish people for their sins.

Jeremiah 19 Commentary: What to Do

OK, back to the text.

So, with all that we’ve seen so far – the instructions to Jeremiah on what and whom to bring and where to go and what to say, now in Jeremiah 19:10 God gives Jeremiah the action he’s to take. In other word, what Jeremiah is to do.

10 ¶ Then shalt thou break the [bottle/jar] in the sight of the men [that go with/who accompany/who have come with] thee,

Jeremiah 19 Commentary: What to Say

And when Jeremiah smashes that clay vessel by the Potsherd Gate where apparently all sorts of pottery had been smashed already, he is to say the following things that God lists in Jeremiah 19:11-13.

11 And shalt say unto them,

Thus saith the LORD [of hosts/who rules over all];

[Even so/Just like Jeremiah has done] will I break this people and this city, as one breaketh a potter’s vessel, that cannot be [made whole again/repaired] [i.e., unlike the unfinished pottery in Jeremiah 18]:

and they shall bury them in Tophet, [till/because/until] there be no place to bury.

12 Thus will I do unto this place, saith the LORD,
and to the inhabitants thereof, and even make this city as Tophet:

13 And the houses of Jerusalem, and the houses of the kings of Judah, shall be defiled [i.e., by dead bodies] as the place of Tophet,

because of all the houses upon whose roofs they have burned incense unto all the host of heaven, and have poured out drink offerings unto other gods.

Jeremiah 19 Commentary: Jeremiah Obeys

And lastly in Jeremiah 19:14-15 we see Jeremiah obeying the Lord’s command.

14 ¶ Then came Jeremiah from Tophet, whither the LORD had sent him to prophesy;

and he stood in the court of the LORD’S house; and said to all the people,

15 Thus saith the LORD [of hosts/who rules over all], the God of Israel;

Behold, I will bring upon this city and upon all her towns all the [evil/calamity/disaster] that I have pronounced against it,

because they have [hardened/stiffened] their necks, that they might not hear my words.

And so there the story leaves off. And we’ll see the rest of it next time when we see how one particular man reacted to that message of judgement.

Jeremiah 19 Commentary: How We’re to be Like Jeremiah

And now, I’d like to discuss something.

I’ve already mentioned in some ways how our nation seems to be like Judah in Jeremiah’s day. And that’s helpful to some extent. But it’s not all that we need to know.

So, further, I actually want to focus in on how we as Christian ought to live in light of what we’re facing in our nation today. And I want to do this by putting up before our faces Jeremiah and his responses and activities and even his emotions.

Jeremiah was not unmoved by his people’s sin and God’s promised judgement of them. And you and I don’t need to be untouched by the plight of this nation and God’s apparent judgement on the US. Grieve with those who are touched by violence and sin. Plead with God for mercy for your family and your neighbors and our dear president and all of our rulers and our future rulers. It’s OK to struggle and wrestle with God. Jeremiah did these things and was not rebuked for doing them.

Now, there’s a way in which you and I could identify and sympathize with our fellow-citizens so much that we start to disagree with God. We could start to doubt God’s goodness. We could transfer our allegiance from God to our fellow sinful creatures. And we must not do that. Jeremiah didn’t. There’s one time so far that he started doubting the reliability of God. And that is the one time I can recall that God pretty directly rebuked him.

Jeremiah faithfully proclaimed God’s message to people he knew would hate it. He was truly on God’s side by-and-large. We need to be on God’s side. We need to proclaim his message of our utter sinfulness. We need to proclaim the worthlessness of trying to please God through formalism and works and false religion. We need to hold out the blessed gospel and the free grace of God to sinners like ourselves. We need to be unapologetic about the fact that you can have your sins forgiven by repenting and trusting Christ.

You and I are a nation of priests, brothers and sisters. We are called to call others to be reconciled to God through the blood of Jesus his Son.

So, may the Lord help us be what we need to be in these dark days. May we ourselves be submitting to God’s authority. And may we be bringing others to that same point of submission.

Jeremiah 18 Commentary

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We’re entering a section that consists of Jeremiah 18, 19, and 20. Previously I’ve given you three nouns that begin with the letter p to help us remember this three-chapter section.

They are:

  1. A Potter (Jeremiah 18)
  2. A Pot (Jeremiah 19)
  3. Passhur (Jeremiah 20)

Jeremiah 18 Commentary | The Potter

In Jeremiah 18 we’ll hear about the Potter.

Basically, what happens in this chapter is this. God tells Jeremiah to go to a potter’s house. So, he goes and he sees the potter making and re-making clay vessels. God then explains why he sent Jeremiah to see that. Then the Lord gives a message to Judah based on the potter’s activity. But Judah doesn’t want to hear it. Actually, they plan once more to kill Jeremiah. And the chapter ends with Jeremiah praying that God would go ahead and carry out the judgement that he’s promised to send to his rebellious people.

So, let’s study Jeremiah 18 and consider the Potter.

Jeremiah 18 Commentary |  Command to Jeremiah

First comes the command from God to Jeremiah to visit the house of a potter in Jeremiah 18:1-2.

Jeremiah 18:1 ¶ The word which came to Jeremiah from the LORD, saying,

2 Arise, and go down to the potter’s house, and there I will cause thee to hear my words.

Jeremiah 18 Commentary |  Jeremiah’s Observation

And as we’ve seen every time that God gives a command, Jeremiah obeys more-or-less immediately.

In addition, in Jeremiah 18:3-4 we’re told what Jeremiah experiences when he obeys the Lord by going to the potter’s house.

3 Then I went down to the potter’s house, and, behold, he [wrought/was making] [a work/something] on the wheels.

Let me explain that phrase “the wheels” at the end of Jeremiah 18:3. Apparently, in Old Testament times people who made pottery would make their vessels on a larger upper wheel that was closer to their hands. And that was connected by maybe a wooden log to a second wheel that was closer to the potter’s feet. So, that’s what Jeremiah means when he refers to “the wheels”. The potter is spinning the clay using his feet on the lower wheel and he’s shaping the clay with his hands on the upper wheel.

OK, so Jeremiah sees the potter working with some clay on his wheel. What happens next?

4 And the vessel that he made of clay was [marred/spoiled] in the hand of the potter: so he made it again [i.e., into] another vessel, as seemed good to the potter to make it.

Alright, so the potter is making something on the wheel with his lump of clay. But then it becomes “marred” or “spoiled”. That word “marred” has been used of Judah several times already in this book, by the way. And that kind of foreshadows what’s to come in this chapter.

Well, now, what happens when the clay becomes “marred”? The potter remakes it however it seems good to him to make it. It’s literally in his hands as to what he does to the marred clay.

Now, of course, God isn’t really concerned that Jeremiah and his hearers go see a pottery demonstration in action. Just like other symbolic actions in this book that Jeremiah’s been exposed to, this pottery demonstration had a message.

So, in Jeremiah 18:5-10 the Lord explains to Israel through Jeremiah what he intended by calling attention to the work of this potter.

5 ¶ Then the word of the LORD came to me, saying,

6 O house of Israel, cannot I do with you as this potter? saith the LORD.

And what is the answer to that question? God asks a question of Israel. Can’t he act toward Israel like the potter acts toward his clay? Well, whatever Israel might answer, God answers in the affirmative.

Behold, as the clay is in the potter’s hand, so are ye in mine hand, O house of Israel.

Now, think about it. How much say does clay have in the hand of a potter? That’s a ridiculous question. And that’s just the point. The clay has no say, no rights, no choice. It’s at the mercy of the potter.

But let’s allow the Lord to shape how we ought to think of his relation to Israel as related to the relation of a potter to his clay.

7 At [what/one] [instant/moment] I [shall/might] speak concerning a nation, [and/or] concerning a kingdom, to [pluck up/uproot], and to pull down, and to destroy it;

8 If that nation, against whom I have [pronounced/spoken], [turn from their evil/stop doing wrong], I will [repent/relent/cancel] of the evil that I [thought/planned] to do unto them.

OK, so, there are times when God declares judgement against a nation. He did this with Nineveh in the days of Jonah. And what happened with Nineveh during Jonah’s ministry? They repented! Amazingly! What was God’s reaction? Well, we could say – because he says it here – that when that wicked nation repented, so did he. God turned from his plans for destroying them when they turned from their sin which was provoking him to destroy them.

It’s strange to say that God “repents”. And yet, he says it himself. Now, his repentance is of course different than that of sinful men. We need to turn from sin. God never sins and so he never needs to turn from it. But he will, according to his will, turn from his plans to destroy people from time to time.

So, when people turn from their sin, God will often turn from his plans to destroy them.

But there’s another side to that coin. We see that in Jeremiah 18:9-10.

9 And at [what/another] [instant/moment] I [shall/might] speak concerning a nation, [and/or] concerning a kingdom, to [build/build up] and to [plant/establish] it;

10 If it do [evil in my sight/what displeases me], that it obey not my voice, then I will [repent/think better/cancel] of the good, wherewith I said I would [benefit/bless] them.

So, if God promises to bless a nation, but then that nation turns against the Lord, the Lord will turn against that nation.

God, the Divine Potter, is sovereign. He is in total control. He can do what he wants. And he always does what’s just and right and appropriate. Always. No one is ultimately going to be able to question his doings. I mean, they can question, but it won’t do them any good.

And all of this was intended for rebellious Israel – the nation about whom the Lord made some wonderful blessed promises to bless them. But they’d turned from him. And so, now they were in serious danger of having the Lord turn from them.

Jeremiah 18 Commentary |  Message for Judah

The Lord issues a call to repent in Jeremiah 18:11.

11 Now therefore go to, speak to the men of Judah, and to the inhabitants of Jerusalem, saying,

Thus saith the LORD;

Behold, I [frame/am fashioning/am preparing] [evil/calamity/disaster] against you,
and devise a [device/plan] against you:

[return/oh, turn back] ye now every one from his evil way,
and [make/reform/correct] your ways and your doings [good/(blank)].

Jeremiah 18 Commentary | Judah’s Response

What could be more merciful than the Lord offering Judah an opportunity to repent? And yet, they reject the Lord’s gracious offer in Jeremiah 18:12.

12 ¶ [And/But] they [said/will say/just keep saying],

[There is no hope/It’s hopeless!/We don’t care what you say!]: (“There is no hope: no; for I have loved strangers, and after them will I go.” Jeremiah 2:25 – dismissive and rebellious)

but we will [walk after/follow] our own [devices/plans], [We’ll do what we want to do]
and we will every one do the imagination of his evil heart. [We’ll keep behaving wickedly]

So, Judah’s response to God’s gracious and merciful call to repent is stubborn rejection of the offer.

Jeremiah 18 Commentary | God’s Response

And so, God gives a further response to Judah in Jeremiah 18:13-17.

13 Therefore thus saith the LORD;

Ask ye now among the [heathen/nations], who hath heard such things:

the virgin of Israel hath done a [very horrible/most appalling/utterly revolting] thing.

14 [Will/Does] [a man leave the snow of Lebanon/the snow of Lebanon leave] which cometh from the rock of the field?

or shall the cold flowing waters that come from another place [be forsaken/cease to flow]?

OK, the images used in Jeremiah 18:14 can be a little confusing. So, let’s consider them.

Let’s start with snow falling in Lebanon. When snow does fall in Lebanon, it’s typically going to be falling in higher elevations. I think it’s likely that the Lord is thinking of Mount Hermon, which has seasonal winter and spring snow and the peaks of which are covered in snow for most of the year. Well, when that snow falls on rocks in higher elevation, it doesn’t leave those rocks very soon. Naturally, when the snow falls on a rock that’s cold and dry and hard the snow is going to stay there for a while. The snow, of its own volition, is not going to grow feet and carry itself off of the rock.

And yet, it does eventually melt. And that melting snow creates rivers. And those rivers, as is stated in Jeremiah 18:14, aren’t going to be forsaken – they aren’t going to stop flowing. This is a natural occurrence. Both of these realities are natural. It’s just the way things work.

Now, contrast that with the unnatural behavior of Judah in forsaking their God. Nations don’t forsake and change their gods! And yet, that’s just what Judah was doing with their true and living God.

15 [Because/Yet] my people hath forgotten me,
they have burned incense to [vanity/worthless gods],
and they have caused them to stumble [in/from] their ways
from the ancient paths,
to walk in [paths/bypaths],
[in a way not cast up/not on a highway/in roads that are not smooth and level];

And this is the result of their unnatural abandoning of their God and turning to idolatry.

16 To make their land desolate,
and a perpetual hissing;

every one that passeth thereby shall be astonished,
and [wag/shake] his head.

17 I will scatter them as with an east wind before the enemy;

I will shew them [the/my] back, and not the face, in the day of their calamity.

So, again, exile is the punishment for Judah’s rebellion.

In Jeremiah 18:18 the people of Judah plot to slander and ignore Jeremiah.

18 ¶ Then said they,

Come, and let us devise [devices/plans] against Jeremiah;
for the law shall not perish from the priest,
nor counsel from the [wise/sage],
nor the word from the prophet.

And the idea there is if Jeremiah is off the scene, the people will still have their priests and wise men and prophets. Now, almost all of those figures seem to be corrupt and false at this point in the history of Judah. But the people don’t mind that. They don’t mind hearing falsehood from any of these so-called holy men. But what they do mind is hearing the hard truth from Jeremiah. And they’d be happy to be rid of him and to rather heap to themselves false religious leaders who will tickle their ears and give them things they want to hear rather than giving them the truth.

And so, the people continue with their plans. They say…

Come, and let us smite him with the tongue,
and let us not give heed to any of his words.

So the people of Judah plan to, as I said, slander (“smite with the tongue”) and ignore (“let us not give heed to”) Jeremiah.

How discouraging for a prophet of the Lord. Jeremiah’s life work was to communicate to the people on behalf of the Lord. But now he’s understanding that these people to whom he’s been sent are purposing not only to totally ignore him but beyond that to slander him and say things about him that aren’t true.

In Jeremiah’s discouragement, he does what we should all do. Take it to the Lord. And so, we see Jeremiah’s prayer to the Lord in Jeremiah 18:19-23.

19 [i.e., Unlike the Judeans who won’t listen] Give heed to me, O LORD,
and hearken to the voice of them that contend with me.

So, hear both me and them, Lord! Listen to what they just said!

20 Shall evil be [recompensed/repaid] for good?
[for/yet] they have digged a pit for [my soul/me].

So, that’s the evil. They’re seeking to do evil to Jeremiah – digging a pit for his soul. But he’s done only good for them. And here’s the good.

Remember that I stood before thee to speak good for them,
and to turn away thy wrath from them.

And this is totally accurate. Remember that the Lord actually had to turn away Jeremiah several times already. Jeremiah was praying for the Lord to not punish these very people. And it was the Lord who had to tell him to stop. Jeremiah has truly loved these people – the very ones who are seeking to at least ignore him, and to slander him, and even to kill him. Jeremiah has done good for his people. And that good has been repaid to him with evil.

And so, Jeremiah in his own heart as it were delivers them over to the Lord’s previously-stated punishment.

21 Therefore deliver up their children to [the famine/starvation],
and pour out their blood by the [force/power] of the sword;

and let their wives be bereaved of their children,
and be widows;

and let their men be put to death;
let their young men be slain by the sword in battle.

22 Let a cry be heard from their houses,
when thou shalt bring a troop suddenly upon them:

for they have digged a pit to take me,
and hid snares for my feet.

So, in other words, I think that instead of interceding for these people anymore, Jeremiah is actually now handing them over to the fate that God has already proclaimed against them.

It’s like, if I’m putting in all this effort to try to turn away God’s wrath against them and they’re going to repay me by trying to kill me, then Lord let fall on them the judgement that I’ve been trying to prevent.

23 Yet, LORD, thou knowest all their [counsel/plots] against me to slay me:

forgive not their iniquity,
neither blot out their sin from thy sight,

but let them be overthrown before thee;

deal thus with them in the time of thine anger.

Now, I’m not at all prepared to say that Jeremiah’s prayer is inappropriate.

Because really he’s first of all bringing his frustration to the Lord. He’s not venting on the people. He’s not seeking his own vengeance. He’s putting it in the Lord’s hands.

And secondly, Jeremiah is praying for the Lord to do only what the Lord has said that he would do. He’s praying God’s will to be done.

Jeremiah 18 Commentary | Jeremiah vs. Jesus

And so, I’m not going to indicate that Jeremiah was wrong.

I’d like to highlight the differences between Jeremiah as an adequate – even faithful – human intercessor and our Lord Jesus Christ as the perfect intercessor.


Jesus Christ

Ministered under the Old Covenant Inaugurated and now ministers under the New Covenant
People broke it People can’t break it
People needed to repent and wouldn’t People in it have repented
Human only Human and divine (he intercedes according to the will of God)
Intercession limited by himself, his people, and the Lord’s desires Intercession unhindered by himself (being divine as well as human), his people (who have all repented and who cannot break their covenant with God), or the Lord’s desires (since he and the father are one)
Result: destruction Result: eternal salvation
People’s reaction: animosity People’s reaction: the love of Christ constrains me…

The author of Hebrews tells us that we have a faithful high priest in Jesus Christ. And part of his being a high priest is his interceding for his people. Hebrews tells us that Jesus Christ ever lives to make intercession for us. And because that’s the case, he is able to save us to the end.

With Jeremiah, God himself was set on destroying his so-called people. They had broken the Old Covenant and at some point the intercession of a frail human like Jeremiah wasn’t going to get the Lord’s attention. It wasn’t going to change his mind. Only repentance on the part of his people could turn the Lord from his wrath and planned destruction of his people.

But, brothers and sisters, in the New Covenant, we first of all have a perfect intercessor who is both human and divine. He is able to bridge the gap between holy God and sinful man.

But in addition to that, the Lord has not destined us for wrath but for salvation. Related to that, we have a covenant which cannot be broken. All those the Father gives to his Son cannot be taken out of the Son’s hand. We will never perish. We are sheep who hear his voice and we follow the Shepherd.

By the very nature of the New Covenant, we’ve entered into it through repentance and faith – but don’t miss the repentance. That was key in Jeremiah’s day. If the people would only repent, God would turn from his judgement of them. But they wouldn’t repent! The only way you can enter into the New Covenant is through repentance. So, we are by nature repenters.

So, my fellow New Covenant saints, you have a perfect intercessor who will not cease praying for you. And because of that, you are secure in his love. He brought a better covenant which is unbreakable. Rejoice in this.

And let me ask – does this knowledge that you’re secure make you more or less likely to love Christ and to obey him? Really, if you’re thinking right, knowing that you are eternally secure won’t make you love the Lord less. It won’t make you desire to serve him less and to live for his glory less. The love of Christ constrains you to live for him and not for yourself.

May the Lord help us to do just that.

Jeremiah 17 Commentary

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Today we come to the second chapter in the section we started last time. This section consists of Jeremiah 16 and 17. We covered Jeremiah 16 last time. And so now today we’ll study Jeremiah 17.

I see the big theme of this chapter as trusting the Lord. So, to summarize this chapter you could give it the title “Trust the Lord”. It’s very simple. You see this theme many places in the Scripture. And you see it here in this chapter as well.

The Lord exposes Judah’s nearly-irreversible sin in Jeremiah 17:1-4.

Jeremiah 17 Commentary | Hard Hearts Indelibly Etched with Sin

Jeremiah 17:1 ¶ The sin of Judah is [written/engraved] with a [pen/stylus/chisel] of iron,
and with the point of a diamond:

it is graven upon the [table/tablet] of their heart, [i.e., hearts hard as stone]
and upon the horns of your altars;

Now, let’s try to catch the significance of what the Lord just said here. Judah’s sin is engraved as it were with a chisel of iron and a diamond point. And that chiseling is pictured as being done upon tablets.

So, what is the Lord drawing our minds to when he mentions chiseling words on tablets? What event do you think he’s alluding to in the Old Testament? What else in Israel’s history was written on stone tablets?

The Ten Commandments. God wrote them on two stone tablets. But when the people sinned with Aaron’s golden calf, Moses smashed those tablets. But God had him write them once more after the sin had been dealt with.

So, the point is that God is wanting to bring back to Judah’s remembrance this event of the writing of his Law on these tablets of stone.

And he does that in order to really set before them the total impropriety of what they’re doing. It’s the Law that should be written on tablets. And yet, in the tablets that picturesquely represent the hearts of the people of Judah, it’s not God’s Law that’s written there. It’s sin. And that sin is written so indelibly, it’s as if it’s written with diamond and iron upon stone.

That metaphor says something about the people’s hearts, doesn’t it? Their hearts are like tablets of stone. They have stony and hard hearts.

Now, view the promise of the New Covenant in Jeremiah 33 in light of this passage.

Judah’s heart is hard. Very hard, in the time of Jeremiah. But a future time is coming when God will give them new hearts under the New Covenant.

Sin is currently written on those hard hearts of theirs, but under the New Covenant God’s own Law will be written on their hearts.

Well, we’ll hear more about that in Jeremiah 33. But right now, Judah’s sin is practically irreversible.

Jeremiah 17 Commentary | Generational Sin

And part of what makes it that way is the fact that they pass down their sin from generation to generation, as the Lord makes clear in Jeremiah 17:2.

2 [i.e., the hardness of Judah’s heart increases…] Whilst their children remember their altars and their [groves/Asherim/sacred polls dedicated to the goddess Asherah] by the green trees upon the high hills.

And it seems that what God is communicating here is that the indelible nature of Judah’s sin is only furthered by the fact that they not only commit idolatry themselves but that they actually teach their children to commit idolatry. That’s what the reference to the altars and groves means – idolatrous and pagan practices.

Now, because we’re all sinners and born that way, if we are raised in a neutral environment, we’ll go wrong. Even children raised in a godly environment can go astray. But when children are raised and taught to turn from God and commit idolatry? What hope does such a child have of ever being influenced toward the Lord? Not much.

Jeremiah 17 Commentary | Exile for Sin

And so, because of the irreversible nature of Judah’s sin that’s only made more permanent by generational unfaithfulness, God tells Judah that he’s going to need to send them out of the land he gave to them in Jeremiah 17:3-4.

3 O my mountain in the field, [i.e., Jerusalem?]

I will give thy [substance/wealth] and all thy treasures [to the/for] [spoil/booty/plunder],
and thy high places [i.e., as the price] for sin, throughout all thy borders.

4 And thou, even thyself, shalt [discontinue/let go] [from/of] thine [heritage/inheritance] that I gave thee;

and I will cause thee to serve thine enemies in the land which thou knowest not:

for ye have kindled a fire in mine anger, which shall burn for ever.

Now, take note of the mention of the fire that will burn forever. We’ll see something that parallels that at the end of this chapter and really ties the whole chapter together.

In Jeremiah 17:5-8 the Lord issues a curse for those who don’t trust in him and a blessing for those who do.

Jeremiah 17 Commentary | Curse for Trusting in Man

First, the curse in Jeremiah 17:5-6.

5 Thus saith the LORD;

Cursed be the man that trusteth in man,
and maketh flesh his [arm/strength],
and whose heart departeth from the LORD.

6 For he shall be like the [heath/bush] in the desert,
and shall not see when [good/prosperity] cometh;

but shall inhabit the [parched places/stony wastes] in the wilderness,
in a salt land and not inhabited.

OK, so turning from God and then trusting instead in human strength and wisdom receives a curse from the Lord. It always has and it always will.

And the poetic description of the bush in Jeremiah 17:6 declares to us that even when things are going well as a result of trusting in human strength and wisdom – and sometimes that happens, right? Sometimes turning from God actually works!

Well, even when that happens, you’ll be like a bush, yes. But a bush in the desert. Where there’s no rain ever! Rain might fall elsewhere – but you’re not going to see and profit from it. You’ll be like that bush in a salty, arid, dry environment. Not growing and healthy and strong. Weak and spindly and suffering.

Jeremiah 17 Commentary | Blessing for Trusting the Lord

But there’s a more excellent way! God will bless you if you drop your trust in human strength and wisdom and instead trust in him, according to Jeremiah 17:7-8.

7 Blessed is the man that trusteth in the LORD,
and whose [hope/confidence] the LORD is.

8 For he shall be as a tree planted by the waters,
and that spreadeth out her roots by the river,
and shall not see when heat cometh,
but her leaf shall be green;
and shall not be [careful/anxious] in the year of drought,
neither shall cease from yielding fruit.

You will get everything you need if you truly trust in the Lord… Is there any doubt about that?

You’ll be like a tree that has ample access to life-giving nourishment. You will be well-provided for in every area that the Lord knows you need. You’ll be fruitful.

Now, let’s not let our American prosperity color this passage in a way that would leave you saying “Hey, this ain’t happenin’ for me!

Of course, this passage for Jeremiah and the Jews living under the Old Covenant would have meant that trusting in the Lord instead of turning to depend on man’s strength and wisdom would yield physical and material blessings in their lives.

But we as New Testament Christians are not given those same earthly promises. Nevertheless, trusting the Lord will yield blessings in your life.

Folks, if you know Christ, you have perspectives that lost people simply don’t have. And those perspectives can really make the difference between life and death for you. You know the limits of material things and you can instead find lasting joy in the Lord. You are protected from a great amount of harm and damage by trusting God instead of deceitful and weak and – at best — mortal man. You are blessed if you trust God. You will only experience pain and sorrow if you turn from him.

At this point we get to one of the most well-known passages in the book of Jeremiah – Jeremiah 17:9.

9 The [heart/human mind] is deceitful [above/more than] [all/any] things,
and [desperately/incurably] [wicked/sick/bad]:

who can [know/understand] it?

10 I the LORD search the [heart/mind],
I [try/test/examine] the [reins/mind/hearts],

even to give every man according to his ways,
and according to the [fruit/results] of his doings.

We know what this passage means. Man’s heart is so evil. It’s beyond curing or even understanding!

But what does this mean in the context of this passage? Why does God mention this here?

I think the Lord is looking back as it were at Jeremiah 17:5 and the reference to the man whose heart departs from the Lord. It’s that very heart that departs from God and is cursed that is so wicked and deceitful and beyond a cure and beyond understanding.

Except, the wicked hearts of men don’t escape God’s scrutinizing gaze. God can see into man’s inner motives and thoughts and he will render a just verdict in every case.

In Jeremiah’s day this verdict was invasion and exile for the unrepentant sin of the people.

Jeremiah 17:11 highlights a category of sin that Judah was committing and which God will now rebuke – the unjust acquisition and hoarding of riches.

11 As the partridge sitteth on eggs, and hatcheth them not;

so he that [getteth/gathers] riches, and [not by right/unjustly], shall leave them in the midst of his days,

and at his end shall be a fool.

So, the Lord points to a situation in which a bird sits on eggs but doesn’t hatch them. And that strikes us as strange. Why would a bird sit on eggs but not ultimately hatch them? I mean, that’s the point of a bird sitting on eggs – so that they would hatch. Right? Right.

So then, let’s compare that to the person gathering riches unjustly. And the comparison is this: nothing good will come of that kind of endeavor.

The bird sits on the eggs but doesn’t get any ultimate benefit from them because she doesn’t hatch them. Likewise, a person who gets wealth in an unrighteous way will not ultimately benefit from them. God will see to it that that’s the case. He will even today, but in Jeremiah’s day God would make sure that these people in Judah who were gaining wealth unrighteously would meet their end and have their wealth taken from them by Babylon. Jeremiah 17:3 already told these people that their wealth would be given away as a result of their sinning against the Lord. That would be true of everyone in that day, but especially of the one who unjustly got his wealth.

In Jeremiah 17:12-18 we hear from Jeremiah himself.

Jeremiah 17 Commentary | Praising God’s Character

He starts by praising the Lord in Jeremiah 17:12.

12 A glorious high throne from the beginning is the place of our sanctuary.

Well, what is this “place of our sanctuary” that Jeremiah speaks of? He identifies it in Jeremiah 17:13.

13 O LORD, the hope of Israel,

The Lord is all that Israel could have and should have placed their confidence in. And yet, through this chapter and even the entire book we’ve seen so far that Israel was placing confidence any- and everywhere but in the Lord. In this chapter, we’ve already seen God pronouncing curses on them for doing this very thing.

Jeremiah 17 Commentary | Praising God’s Justice

And Jeremiah confirms that curse for people who don’t trust the Lord in the rest of Jeremiah 17:13.

all that forsake thee shall be ashamed,
and they that depart from me shall be written in the earth,

because they have forsaken the LORD,
the fountain of living waters.

But Jeremiah himself hasn’t forsaken the Lord. He hasn’t trusted in man. He trusts in God.

And so you’d think that he’d receive nothing but the blessings promised to those who trust in the Lord, like we saw earlier in this chapter.

Jeremiah 17 Commentary | Petition for Deliverance

But what we’re actually going to see in Jeremiah 17:14-18 is that Jeremiah was experiencing problems. Why? Well, precisely because he trusted the Lord! And his fellow-citizens who didn’t… were persecuting him.

14 [Heal/Grant relief from suffering] me, O LORD, and I shall be healed;

[save/rescue from persecution] me, and I shall be saved:

for thou art my praise.

Jeremiah 17 Commentary | Lamenting Persecutors’ Mocking

Well, why does Jeremiah need healing? What does he need to be saved from?

His persecutors, according to Jeremiah 17:15.

15 Behold, they [i.e., those persecutors] say unto me,

Where is the [word/promised threatenings] of the LORD?
let it come now.

These persecutors are mocking Jeremiah. All the threats that God has made through Jeremiah hadn’t happened at that point yet. And so, currently Jeremiah is looking foolish. He’s even looking like a false prophet! And as a result, the people are emboldened in their sinning against God’s express will.

Jeremiah 17 Commentary | Confidence in Personal Uprightness

Then in Jeremiah 17:16, the prophet calls the Lord’s attention to the fact that he’s been trying his best both to love God and to love his neighbors.

16 As for me, I have not hastened from being a [pastor/shepherd] to follow thee:

neither have I desired the woeful day [i.e., the day when Babylon would come and destroy Judah, just like the Lord had been promising];

thou knowest: that which came out of my lips was right before thee.

So, Jeremiah has been following the Lord’s commands and desires. At the same time, he isn’t looking forward to the destruction of his whole nation – though actually that destruction is well-deserved and long-delayed. But Jeremiah is trying his best to love both God and neighbor. To give the people God’s word and threats and to – at the same time – not desire their destruction.

Jeremiah 17 Commentary | Petition for Mercy

So, in light of these things, Jeremiah implores the Lord to have mercy on him in Jeremiah 17:17.

17 Be not a terror unto me:
thou art my hope in the day of [evil/disaster/trouble].

This is interesting, because Jeremiah knows that God will be with him and deliver him. God has made several verbal promises to him of this very nature. And yet, it’s not inappropriate to continually pray to the Lord for him to do something that he’s promised to do – especially when that promise seems long-delayed.

Jeremiah 17 Commentary | Petition for Justice & Deliverance

Well, even though Jeremiah has declared that he hasn’t desired for God to bring his promised punishment to his people any earlier than is absolutely necessary, we do see the prophet in Jeremiah 17:18 asking the Lord to judge those who are mocking God’s words and persecuting Jeremiah. He also asks once more for deliverance in the coming day of destruction that will indeed come to Judah even though it’s delayed.

18 Let them be [confounded/ashamed/disgraced] that persecute me,
but let not me be confounded:

let them be dismayed,
but let not me be dismayed:

bring upon them the day of [evil/disaster],
and destroy them with [double/twofold/deserved] destruction.

At this point we enter into the last section of this chapter, in Jeremiah 17:19-27. It almost seems totally unrelated to the rest of the chapter. But I think it’s best to take it with the rest of Jeremiah 17 because of how it ends. We’ll see that in a little while.

The message of this section is pretty basic: Keep the Sabbath!

Jeremiah 17 Commentary | Sabbath Command Reiterated

First we have the reiteration of the command to keep the Sabbath in Jeremiah 17:19-23

19 ¶ Thus said the LORD unto me [i.e., Jeremiah];

Go and stand in the [gate of the children of the people/People’s Gate],
whereby the kings of Judah come in,
and by the which they go out,
[and/then] in all the gates of Jerusalem;

20 And say unto them,

Hear ye the word of the LORD,
ye kings of Judah,
and all Judah,
and all the inhabitants of Jerusalem, that enter in by these gates:

21 Thus saith the LORD;

Take heed to yourselves,
and [bear no burden/carry any load] on the sabbath day,
nor bring it in [by/through] the gates of Jerusalem;

22 Neither carry forth a burden out of your houses on the sabbath day,
neither do ye any work,

but hallow ye the sabbath day,
as I commanded your fathers.

23 [But/Yet] they obeyed not,
neither inclined their ear,

but made their neck stiff,
that they might not hear,
nor [receive/take] [instruction/correction].

So, that’s the command. Keep the Sabbath. Don’t carry loads of goods to buy or sell on the day we know as Saturday – the 7th day of the week. Don’t do any work on that day. That was the Lord’s command in the Old Covenant to the people whom he brought into that covenant.

We in the New Covenant aren’t commanded to keep the Sabbath. We are commanded to not forsake our assembling. We’re encouraged through example to do that assembling in particular on the first day of the week when Jesus Christ our Lord rose from the dead. I just want to make clear the distinction here between Old and New Covenant expectations and demands.

OK, so Jeremiah is given the Sabbath command to reiterate to the people. This gives us the idea that the people were not hallowing the Sabbath, which should come as little surprise in such a lawless society as was pre-exilic Judah.

So, any time God gives a command, there are really only two options that people can take. They can do it. Or they can neglect doing it.

Jeremiah 17 Commentary | Continuation for Keeping Sabbath

Jeremiah 17:24-26 gives Judah a promise if they do keep the Sabbath.

24 ¶ And it shall come to pass, if ye diligently hearken unto me, saith the LORD, to bring in no burden through the gates of this city on the sabbath day, but hallow the sabbath day, to do no work therein;

25 Then shall there enter into the gates of this city kings and princes sitting upon the throne of David, riding in chariots and on horses, they, and their princes, the men of Judah, and the inhabitants of Jerusalem: and this city shall remain for ever.

26 And [they/people] shall come from the cities of Judah, and from the places about Jerusalem, and from the land of Benjamin, and from the plain, and from the mountains, and from the south, bringing burnt offerings, and sacrifices, and meat offerings, and incense, and bringing sacrifices of praise, unto the house of the LORD.

In other words, if the people of Judah would trust God – there’s that emphasis again that we’ve seen a few times in this chapter – if they just trust God to provide for them as they hallow the Sabbath day, well then God will delay his sending Babylon against them. They can remain a city and a nation. Kings can come and go. Nothing needs to change – IF THEY REPENT and do right!

Jeremiah 17 Commentary | Exile for Breaking the Sabbath

But if the people don’t listen to the Lord to hallow the Sabbath, Jeremiah 17:27 gives the result.

27 But if ye will not hearken unto me to hallow the sabbath day, and not to bear a burden, even entering in at the gates of Jerusalem on the sabbath day; then will I kindle a fire in the gates thereof, and it shall devour the palaces of Jerusalem, and it shall not be quenched.

Remember Jeremiah 17:4? The Lord said there “ye have kindled a fire in mine anger, which shall burn for ever”? That was speaking of Judah’s sin. It kindled a fire as it were of God’s anger that wouldn’t be quenched. And here at the end of the chapter – pulling the whole chapter together – is this warning that God himself would kindle a fire in the gates of Jerusalem to destroy them. And that fire – just like the one caused by Judah’s sin – wouldn’t be quenched forever.

Jeremiah 17 Commentary | Summary

So, that’s Jeremiah 17. Trust the Lord.