Scriptures

Jeremiah 4

Introduction

This chapter begins with the conclusion of Jeremiah’s address to the Northern Kingdom, Israel. That’s at Jeremiah 4:1-2. Then there is a call for Judah to repent, to return to duty, this being the last hope of her destruction, Jeremiah 4:3-4.

Next, in Jeremiah 4:5-9, we read of the prophesied Babylonian invasion. Then comes the most difficult verse in this chapter, Jeremiah 4:10. In Jeremiah 4:11-18 we have a continued description of the forthcoming invasion. In Jeremiah 4:19-21 we have what you could call a ‘personified’ Judah bewailing her fate. God’s answer and the cause of their misery are related in Jeremiah 4:22, followed by a prophesy of the awful extent of the destruction in Jeremiah 4:23-26.

In Jeremiah 4:27 we have God’s promise that He will not make a ‘complete end’ of Judah. Then, from Jeremiah 4:1631, there follows the magnificent prophecy of the Judgment of Judah, which also suggests the final destruction of Adam’s rebellious race in the Day of Judgment.

We see a plan perfected. God gives a lot of repetition. If you keep on ignoring my warnings I will have to give you a good ‘hiding’. It is going to take two things, but Judah will not listen. Not only is He calling for a return, but He is asking for repentance, reformation. If you love me, you will obey my commandments. You cannot take the promises and not join the service.

‘If you, Israel, will return, then return to me,’ declares the LORD. ‘If you put your detestable idols out of my sight and no longer go astray, and if in a truthful, just and righteous way you swear, ‘As surely as the LORD lives,’ then the nations will invoke blessings by him and in him they will boast.’ Jeremiah 4:1-2

This shows what marvellous things could have happened to Israel if only she had repented and turned back to God. This promise came 100 years after they went into captivity, into Assyria. But even then, God could have achieved wonders through them IF, only IF. they had repented. Of course, it was a vain hope. There is absolutely no evidence that there was any intention on their part of returning to God.

God says, live in truth. You will be guided by the truth. If you live in a truthful, just and righteous way then you will be blessed by me. If you glorify God, praise His name, then you will find glory in all things through Him.

‘This is what the LORD says to the people of Judah and to Jerusalem: ‘Break up your unploughed ground and do not sow among thorns. Circumcise yourselves to the LORD, circumcise your hearts, you people of Judah and inhabitants of Jerusalem, or my wrath will flare up and burn like fire because of the evil you have done—burn with no one to quench it.’ Jeremiah 4:3-4

Here God’s word is directed to Judah, the Southern kingdom, with a call for their true repentance and conversion. This is coupled with a threat of drastic punishment.

‘Circumcise yourselves to the Lord, circumcise your hearts.’ The second part of this extract explains the first part. Circumcision was observed for all Jewish males; but the kind of circumcision that they needed was spiritual, not physical. Circumcision of hearts meant removing from their thoughts, and affections, all of the sinful indulgences to which they were addicted.

Some people have difficulty here, about the part that man plays in his own conversion, repentance and regeneration. They say that this clashes with Deuteronomy 30:6 which says that God circumcises our hearts. The NIV says, ‘The Lord your God will circumcise your hearts’.

But this isn’t a contradiction. Jeremiah 4:4 stresses man’s activity, the passage in Deuteronomy stresses his passivity.

Everything had been neglected. Nothing has been done at all, God says. You do a lot of shouting. Start anew. Concentrate on the inside, not on the outside. Their hearts had to be made right. God doesn’t want mechanical service, He wants feeling behind it. If they did that God would remove His anger from them. Listen to what I say and obey Me. Jesus used to say, ‘Listen’. Have your ears circumcised! Luke 8:18 tells us, ‘therefore consider carefully how you listen. Whoever has will be given more; whoever does not have, even what he thinks he has will be taken from him.’

Regarding the heart, Paul says, ‘circumcision should be a matter of the heart, not of the flesh.’ Romans 2:28ff.

So, they are told to prepare for what is coming. Offer your offspring security. Flee to the fortified cities. Not that it will help you, but try and save yourselves. It isn’t going to do anything for you.

The destroyer will still be coming from the north. He has dealt with the other nations, you are next. The cities will be laid waste. Citizens will cry their hearts out, will be at their breasts. This is because of the fierce anger of God.

‘Announce in Judah and proclaim in Jerusalem and say: ‘Sound the trumpet throughout the land!’ Cry aloud and say: ‘Gather together! Let us flee to the fortified cities!’ Raise the signal to go to Zion! Flee for safety without delay! For I am bringing disaster from the north, even terrible destruction.’ Jeremiah 4:5-6

These verses are a prophecy of the Babylonian destruction of Jerusalem and the captivity of Judah. The terrible judgment against Judah, like many of God’s judgments throughout history, against cities or nations, whose wickedness had reached a point of no return, is also typical of the final overthrow of man in the Final Judgment. This seems to be indicated by the words ‘In that day’ in Jeremiah 4:9.

‘Raise the signal to go to Zion’ some believe that this refers to road signs that should be set up pointing the way to the nearest fortified cities to which the people might flee to safety. We shouldn’t, however, believe that this is true safety.

‘A lion has come out of his lair; a destroyer of nations has set out. He has left his place to lay waste your land. Your towns will lie in ruins without inhabitant. So, put on sackcloth, lament and wail, for the fierce anger of the LORD has not turned away from us.’ Jeremiah 4:7-8

This lion was no ordinary beast, but a destroyer of nations. There is nothing left for Judah, except to weep and wail. This is the penalty of their sins; the savage lions of the Babylonians will destroy them.

‘In that day,’ declares the LORD, ‘the king and the officials will lose heart, the priests will be horrified, and the prophets will be appalled.’ Then I said, ‘Alas, Sovereign LORD! How completely you have deceived this people and Jerusalem by saying, ‘You will have peace,’ when the sword is at our throats!’ At that time this people and Jerusalem will be told, “A scorching wind from the barren heights in the desert blows toward my people, but not to winnow or cleanse; a wind too strong for that comes from me. Now I pronounce my judgments against them.’ Look! He advances like the clouds, his chariots come like a whirlwind, his horses are swifter than eagles. Woe to us! We are ruined!’ Jeremiah 4:9-13

Kings and officials will lose heart, when they see this happening. Priests will be bonafide. How can God do this to us? Is not the Holy Temple God’s? Are we not God’s? God won’t allow His holy temple to be destroyed. He says that we are His people, so He will always look after us.

The prophets were shocked, they were deceitful. They prophesied for gain. What can happen to us, the Lord is ours? But just because God has chosen you doesn’t mean that He will protect you when you turn your back on Him. Jesus himself said, ‘Not everyone who says to me. ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only he who does the will of my Father who is in heaven.’ Matthew 7:21-23

It’s an eternal message, God expected this of man from the day man was created. He will expect if of man until the day the world ends.

I said earlier that Jeremiah 4:10 was the most difficult verse in this chapter. Why? Because of the way that it is written, we find it difficult to believe or to interpret. They believed that everything that happens is actually accomplished by God. Some commentators take this view. Another view is this is really the way that Jeremiah felt about it, because of his discouragement. But we cannot believe that a view like this ever belonged to Jeremiah.

Jeremiah says, ‘What a plan!’ You told me to speak to the people to save them, and you are going to destroy everything? Paul told the Thessalonians that the Israelites perished, and that all people alike will perish because or ‘if they refuse to love the truth and so be saved. 2 Thessalonians 2:9-11

God doesn’t deceive anyone, we deceive ourselves. God permits some things, but He doesn’t like doing so. Back in 2 Thessalonians Paul says that ‘for this reason God sends them a powerful delusion so that they will believe the lie.’

Don’t we do the same today? Doesn’t the majority of the world’s population today believe the lie because they have no trust in God?

These people were condemning themselves. God, time and time again, tried to warn them, but they didn’t heed the warning. Eventually they will be destroyed from the north. Jeremiah 4:11 is another description of the coming of the Babylonians.

It’s like a bank of threatening clouds, a wind, not a helpful wind like the one used for winnowing, i.e., exposing grain to a wind by tossing it in the air so that the wind can separate the grain from the chaff, but a violent and destructive wind.

The swift chariots will descend upon the helpless people, swifter than an eagle attacks its prey. There will be no hope for Judah. She must drink the bitter cup because this came upon her because of her own terrible wickedness.

‘Jerusalem, wash the evil from your heart and be saved. How long will you harbour wicked thoughts? A voice is announcing from Dan, proclaiming disaster from the hills of Ephraim. ‘Tell this to the nations, proclaim concerning Jerusalem: ‘A besieging army is coming from a distant land, raising a war cry against the cities of Judah. They surround her like men guarding a field, because she has rebelled against me,’ declares the LORD. ‘Your own conduct and actions have brought this on you. This is your punishment. How bitter it is! How it pierces to the heart!’ Jeremiah 4:14-18

Wash your evil hearts. Get rid of your wicked thoughts. Outward things that can be seen can appear to be more detestable. But we cannot see the heart. Get rid of your evil thoughts. Sometimes we condemn young Christians because they still smoke.

We condemn them because we can see them doing something we think they shouldn’t do. Look at your own heart. And consider God. God is patient; look how patient He has been with the Israelites. We should strive to have patience like God. To help the young Christian, lift him up.

How long will these things go on? Judah can do nothing of itself. We today can do nothing without Jesus, but we still have to do our part. God is always ready to forgive and forget, but they had to do their part, repent and turn back to Him. The besieging army is coming. Man, today hasn’t changed, hasn’t learnt anything from the past.

‘Oh, my anguish, my anguish! I writhe in pain. Oh, the agony of my heart! My heart pounds within me, I cannot keep silent. For I have heard the sound of the trumpet; I have heard the battle cry. Disaster follows disaster; the whole land lies in ruins. In an instant my tents are destroyed, my shelter in a moment. How long must I see the battle standard and hear the sound of the trumpet? ‘My people are fools; they do not know me. They are senseless children; they have no understanding. They are skilled in doing evil; they know not how to do good.’ I looked at the earth, and it was formless and empty; and at the heavens, and their light was gone. I looked at the mountains, and they were quaking; all the hills were swaying. I looked, and there were no people; every bird in the sky had flown away. I looked, and the fruitful land was a desert; all its towns lay in ruins before the LORD, before his fierce anger. This is what the LORD says: ‘The whole land will be ruined, though I will not destroy it completely. Therefore, the earth will mourn, and the heavens above grow dark, because I have spoken and will not relent, I have decided and will not turn back.’ At the sound of horsemen and archers every town takes to flight. Some go into the thickets; some climb up among the rocks. All the towns are deserted; no one lives in them. What are you doing, you devastated one? Why dress yourself in scarlet and put on jewels of gold? Why highlight your eyes with makeup? You adorn yourself in vain. Your lovers despise you; they want to kill you. I hear a cry as of a woman in labour, a groan as of one bearing her first child—the cry of Daughter Zion gasping for breath, stretching out her hands and saying, ‘Alas! I am fainting; my life is given over to murderers.’ Jeremiah 4:19-31

Results. This is Jeremiah’s reaction after the warning. ‘My anguish, my anguish!’ I can’t keep silent. I hear the trumpet, the warning. Being of the priestly family he knows how God feels. The sound of war will always stir a person’s heart. He sees the shame of God’s people. No-one understands. They are all foolish. They have no knowledge of God.

The Hebrew words for the land becoming desolate are the same words as in Genesis, ‘without form’. It’s going to be as though nothing existed. True, the sick and lame were left by Nebuchadnezzar in Jerusalem, but they couldn’t do anything.

Jeremiah 4:27 is of great interest, here is the promise of God that He will NOT make a full end of Judah. This isn’t so for Nineveh. God promised to make ‘an end of Nineveh’, Nahum 1:8, and that is what He did. When Alexander the Great encamped his army near the ancient ruins of Nineveh, he didn’t even know that a city had ever been there! It was absolutely necessary that Jeremiah should have mentioned this hope in this verse, that Judah would not be completely destroyed.

As you know, Isaiah preceded Jeremiah and he had named one of his sons Shear-Jashub, which means, ‘a remnant will return’, Isaiah 7:3 and Isaiah 10:21. Why is this important? God would at last fulfil all of the glorious promises to the patriarchs. And it would have been criminal to have left it out of this context in which we find it.

God’s mind is made up. The people’s mind is made up. But because the mind of the people conflicts with the mind of God, someone is going to suffer. And it’s not going to be God. Only God can win. Judah is weak and sick. Things are a real mess. Through her behaviour, in courting lovers, Judah became tainted.

‘I hear a cry’. It’s a cry of agony. A tragic picture of the pitiful end of a nation. We see the sorrowful emotions of a tearful Jeremiah. This is similar to the deep emotion experienced by Jesus when He wept for His city.

Go To Jeremiah 5

 

DAILY BIBLE VERSE

"We all, like sheep, have gone astray, each of us has turned to his own way; and the LORD has laid on him the iniquity of us all."

Isaiah 53:6

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