Jeremiah 17


This is simply saying that God knows the heart. The heart that is astray, verse 5ff, is cursed. It trusts in itself and its own strength. It is blind and does not prosper. But the heart that is directed to the Lord is blessed, you keep the covenant you are blessed, if you don’t you are cursed.

It is God who sustains us if we trust in Him. It is the heart of the wise. It Is at peace and is also very productive. But these people will know that their hearts are wicked, and God will make them suffer. So, God gives them two options, submission or shame.

At the very beginning of our studies, I said that this book was not in chronological order. Because of this, there have been many attempts to date this chapter, and they have been unsatisfactory. However, verse 15 shows us that this chapter was written before the Babylonian conquest, ‘let it be fulfilled now.’

There doesn’t seem to be any pattern to this chapter, just a collection of important items by Jeremiah.

‘Judah’s sin is engraved with an iron tool, inscribed with a flint point, on the tablets of their hearts and on the horns of their altars. Even their children remember their altars and Asherah poles beside the spreading trees and on the high hills. My mountain in the land and your wealth and all your treasures I will give away as plunder, together with your high places, because of sin throughout your country. Through your own fault you will lose the inheritance I gave you. I will enslave you to your enemies in a land you do not know, for you have kindled my anger, and it will burn forever.’ Jeremiah 17:1-4

What is written upon the heart cannot be wiped out. We may wander away from the message of God, but His words are written on the heart, and we keep coming back to them. Here we read that Judah’s sin was engraved on their hearts and God will punish them.

The meaning of this section is pretty clear, in the last chapter, Jeremiah 16, and in verse 10, the people demanded to know, ‘What wrong have we committed against the Lord.’ God answered their questions then, and He does so again here. Their heartless wickedness proved it. They had no excuse. They could plead with Him that they had done nothing wrong that deserved any kind of punishment, but God said, oh yes you have.

‘This is what the LORD says: ‘Cursed is the one who trusts in man, who draws strength from mere flesh and whose heart turns away from the LORD. That person will be like a bush in the wastelands; they will not see prosperity when it comes. They will dwell in the parched places of the desert, in a salt land where no one lives. ‘But blessed is the one who trusts in the LORD, whose confidence is in him. They will be like a tree planted by the water that sends out its roots by the stream. It does not fear when heat comes; its leaves are always green. It has no worries in a year of drought and never fails to bear fruit.’ Jeremiah 17:5-8

There is a beautiful contrast here between the wicked man and the righteous man, which is applicable to all generations, but this is a special message of warning to Judah.

‘The heart is deceitful above all things and beyond cure. Who can understand it? ‘I the LORD search the heart and examine the mind, to reward each person according to their conduct, according to what their deeds deserve.’ Like a partridge that hatches eggs it did not lay are those who gain riches by unjust means. When their lives are half gone, their riches will desert them, and in the end, they will prove to be fools.’ Jeremiah 17:9-11

The question that arises here is, if a righteous man who serves God has a better life than the unrighteous man, why do men not trust in God? I suppose the answer is because man’s deceitful heart doesn’t allow him to see things that are straightforward.

The mention of a partridge sitting on eggs that she didn’t lay is interesting. There is an old proverb that says that it is not true that a partridge could hatch eggs that she had not laid. Whether or not that is true, Jeremiah used this as an illustration here.

There is no need to charge Jeremiah with believing the saying, not only that, the species of the bird mentioned here is not clear, so there may have been some kind of bird, unknown to us, to which this old saying was true. The message is, however, clear. Riches that are acquired unlawfully are an unsafe possession.

‘A glorious throne, exalted from the beginning, is the place of our sanctuary. LORD, you are the hope of Israel; all who forsake you will be put to shame. Those who turn away from you will be written in the dust because they have forsaken the LORD, the spring of living water.’ Jeremiah 17:12-13

These verses show Jeremiah’s trust in God and his confidence in God’s justice.

‘Heal me, LORD, and I will be healed; save me and I will be saved, for you are the one I praise. They keep saying to me, ‘Where is the word of the LORD? Let it now be fulfilled!’ I have not run away from being your shepherd; you know I have not desired the day of despair. What passes my lips is open before you. Do not be a terror to me; you are my refuge in the day of disaster. Let my persecutors be put to shame, but keep me from shame; let them be terrified, but keep me from terror. Bring on them the day of disaster; destroy them with double destruction.’ Jeremiah 17:14-18

The idea in this section is that Jeremiah is not going to abandon his prophetic ministry just because the people didn’t believe it, and persecuted him. Instead, he prayed for grace to continue, to hold up against the opposition until the truth of God’s words was fulfilled.

‘Where is the word of the Lord? Let it now be fulfilled?’ I don’t know the Hebrew language, but I am told that the idea here, in Hebrew, is of sniggering, laughing at God’s word. They are laughing at this doomsday prophet. But God is fixing to wipe the smile from their faces. Let it come, the people say, God will have the last laugh.

There is a statement of respect and reliance on God by the prophet in verses 16-18. Again, verse 16 is considered to be a bad translation. Versions vary. The Hebrew thought is that they have laughed at your word, but I haven’t, Lord. I haven’t stopped feeding the people with Your words. Jeremiah relied on God for his message and protection.

In God’s eyes, Jeremiah was successful, even though he never had one convert. He spoke God’s word regardless of what others thought. Sometimes we fail to understand that our responsibility is to tell the message and that our responsibility ends there. We cannot force people to become Christians.

‘This is what the LORD said to me: ‘Go and stand at the Gate of the People, through which the kings of Judah go in and out; stand also at all the other gates of Jerusalem. Say to them, ‘Hear the word of the LORD, you kings of Judah and all people of Judah and everyone living in Jerusalem who come through these gates. This is what the LORD says: Be careful not to carry a load on the Sabbath day or bring it through the gates of Jerusalem. Do not bring a load out of your houses or do any work on the Sabbath, but keep the Sabbath day holy, as I commanded your ancestors. Yet they did not listen or pay attention; they were stiff-necked and would not listen or respond to discipline. But if you are careful to obey me, declares the LORD, and bring no load through the gates of this city on the Sabbath, but keep the Sabbath day holy by not doing any work on it, then kings who sit on David’s throne will come through the gates of this city with their officials. They and their officials will come riding in chariots and on horses, accompanied by the men of Judah and those living in Jerusalem, and this city will be inhabited forever. People will come from the towns of Judah and the villages around Jerusalem, from the territory of Benjamin and the western foothills, from the hill country and the Negev, bringing burnt offerings and sacrifices, grain offerings and incense, and bringing thank offerings to the house of the LORD. But if you do not obey me to keep the Sabbath day holy by not carrying any load as you come through the gates of Jerusalem on the Sabbath day, then I will kindle an unquenchable fire in the gates of Jerusalem that will consume her fortresses.’ Jeremiah 17:19-27

Here we have Instructions concerning the Sabbath. Basically, God is saying, keep it holy or else! The people were so intent on personal wealth and gain that they weren’t keeping this day holy. There have been some differences of opinion as to which of the gates is referred to as ‘the gate of the people.’ But it seems that the passage doesn’t refer to any specific gate, Jeremiah was to stand at the entrance and preach, wherever the people happened to be.

It seemed that the people who lived in the fields around Jeremiah, who worked in them during the week, decided that the best time to bring their produce into the city was on a Sabbath. So, the people within the city would bring out their goods and materials, from their houses, and exchange them for the countryside produce. This was against the express commandment of God in the Law of Moses.

There is an amazing promise in this section. If only Judah had obeyed the word of God and had turned back to God with all of their hearts, He would have, even at this late stage, turned aside all of these dangers. He would have established Judah forever. But His people stubbornly refused to do so.

Due to their continued rejection and their persistence in worshipping idols, God would destroy them. He would destroy Judah. He would destroy their temple.

Their sin lay at their own back door. They had received warning after warning. But they rejected the messages of God, the messages delivered through Jeremiah.

Go To Jeremiah 18