There is a HUGE difference between religion and relationships. In Leviticus 26:12, God told the Israelites, “I will walk among you; I will be your God, and you will be my people.” That’s a relationship! God created humans in His Own Image so He could have a relationship with us. Unfortunately, we blew it. We had it made and we blew it. The sad thing is we keep blowing it.
As we covered in the last 7 chapters of Jeremiah, God tried and tried, to get the people to stop trying to find religion in fake gods invented by man. They preferred bowing, venerating, praying to and worshiping, worthless pieces of wood, stone, or plaster. Blinded by sin, they rejected and ignored the One True God. These next 2 chapters of Jeremiah are a sad song, as both God and Jeremiah weep at the judgment that fell upon Judah and Jerusalem. Interestingly enough, Jeremiah explains where they went wrong — listening to false teachers and prophets. It’s a lesson we all need to learn. Let’s dig in….
“In that day,” says the Lord, “the enemy will break open the graves of the kings and officials of Judah, and the graves of the priests, prophets, and common people of Jerusalem. 2 They will spread out their bones on the ground before the sun, moon, and stars—the gods my people have loved, served, and worshiped. Their bones will not be gathered up again or buried but will be scattered on the ground like manure. 3 And the people of this evil nation who survive will wish to die rather than live where I will send them. I, the Lord of Heaven’s Armies, have spoken!
Deception by False Prophets
4 “Jeremiah, say to the people, ‘This is what the Lord says:
“‘When people fall down, don’t they get up again?
When they discover they’re on the wrong road, don’t they turn back?
5 Then why do these people stay on their self-destructive path?
Why do the people of Jerusalem refuse to turn back?
They cling tightly to their lies
and will not turn around.
6 I listen to their conversations
and don’t hear a word of truth.
Is anyone sorry for doing wrong?
Does anyone say, “What a terrible thing I have done”?
No! All are running down the path of sin
as swiftly as a horse galloping into battle!
7 Even the stork that flies across the sky
knows the time of her migration,
as do the turtledove, the swallow, and the crane.
They all return at the proper time each year.
But not my people!
They do not know the Lord’s laws.
8 “‘How can you say, “We are wise because we have the word of the Lord,”
when your teachers have twisted it by writing lies?
9 These wise teachers will fall
into the trap of their own foolishness,
for they have rejected the word of the Lord.
Are they so wise after all?
10 I will give their wives to others
and their farms to strangers.
From the least to the greatest,
their lives are ruled by greed.
Yes, even my prophets and priests are like that.
They are all frauds.
11 They offer superficial treatments
for my people’s mortal wound.
They give assurances of peace
when there is no peace.
12 Are they ashamed of these disgusting actions?
Not at all—they don’t even know how to blush!
Therefore, they will lie among the slaughtered.
They will be brought down when I punish them,
says the Lord.
13 I will surely consume them.
There will be no more harvests of figs and grapes.
Their fruit trees will all die.
Whatever I gave them will soon be gone.
I, the Lord, have spoken!’
14 “Then the people will say,
‘Why should we wait here to die?
Come, let’s go to the fortified towns and die there.
For the Lord our God has decreed our destruction
and has given us a cup of poison to drink
because we sinned against the Lord.
15 We hoped for peace, but no peace came.
We hoped for a time of healing, but found only terror.’
16 “The snorting of the enemies’ warhorses can be heard
all the way from the land of Dan in the north!
The neighing of their stallions makes the whole land tremble.
They are coming to devour the land and everything in it—
cities and people alike.
17 I will send these enemy troops among you
like poisonous snakes you cannot charm.
They will bite you, and you will die.
I, the Lord, have spoken!”
Jeremiah Weeps for Sinful Judah
18 My grief is beyond healing;
my heart is broken.
19 Listen to the weeping of my people;
it can be heard all across the land.
“Has the Lord abandoned Jerusalem? (Zion)” the people ask.
“Is her King no longer there?”
“Oh, why have they provoked my anger with their carved idols
and their worthless foreign gods?” says the Lord.
20 “The harvest is finished,
and the summer is gone,” the people cry,
“yet we are not saved!”
21 I hurt with the hurt of my people.Jeremiah 8 NLT (bold emphasis mine)
I mourn and am overcome with grief.
22 Is there no medicine in Gilead?
Is there no physician there?
Why is there no healing
for the wounds of my people?
If only my head were a pool of water
and my eyes a fountain of tears,
I would weep day and night
for all my people who have been slaughtered.
2 Oh, that I could go away and forget my people
and live in a travelers’ shack in the desert.
For they are all adulterers—
a pack of treacherous liars.
Judgment for Disobedience
3 “My people bend their tongues like bows
to shoot out lies.
They refuse to stand up for the truth.
They only go from bad to worse.
They do not know me,”
says the Lord.
4 “Beware of your neighbor!
Don’t even trust your brother!
For brother takes advantage of brother,
and friend slanders friend.
5 They all fool and defraud each other;
no one tells the truth.
With practiced tongues they tell lies;
they wear themselves out with all their sinning.
6 They pile lie upon lie
and utterly refuse to acknowledge me,”
says the Lord.
7 Therefore, this is what the Lord of Heaven’s Armies says:
“See, I will melt them down in a crucible
and test them like metal.
What else can I do with my people?
8 For their tongues shoot lies like poisoned arrows.
They speak friendly words to their neighbors
while scheming in their heart to kill them.
9 Should I not punish them for this?” says the Lord.
“Should I not avenge myself against such a nation?”
10 I will weep for the mountains
and wail for the wilderness pastures.
For they are desolate and empty of life;
the lowing of cattle is heard no more;
the birds and wild animals have all fled.
11 “I will make Jerusalem into a heap of ruins,” says the Lord.
“It will be a place haunted by jackals.
The towns of Judah will be ghost towns,
with no one living in them.”
12 Who is wise enough to understand all this? Who has been instructed by the Lord and can explain it to others? Why has the land been so ruined that no one dares to travel through it?
13 The Lord replies, “This has happened because my people have abandoned my instructions; they have refused to obey what I said. 14 Instead, they have stubbornly followed their own desires and worshiped the images of Baal, as their ancestors taught them. 15 So now, this is what the Lord of Heaven’s Armies, the God of Israel, says: Look! I will feed them with bitterness and give them poison to drink. 16 I will scatter them around the world, in places they and their ancestors never heard of, and even there I will chase them with the sword until I have destroyed them completely.”
Weeping in Jerusalem
17 This is what the Lord of Heaven’s Armies says:
“Consider all this, and call for the mourners.
Send for the women who mourn at funerals.
18 Quick! Begin your weeping!
Let the tears flow from your eyes.
19 Hear the people of Jerusalem (Zion) crying in despair,
‘We are ruined! We are completely humiliated!
We must leave our land,
because our homes have been torn down.’”
20 Listen, you women, to the words of the Lord;
open your ears to what he has to say.
Teach your daughters to wail;
teach one another how to lament.
21 For death has crept in through our windows
and has entered our mansions.
It has killed off the flower of our youth:
Children no longer play in the streets,
and young men no longer gather in the squares.
22 This is what the Lord says:
“Bodies will be scattered across the fields like clumps of manure,
like bundles of grain after the harvest.
No one will be left to bury them.”
23 This is what the Lord says:
“Don’t let the wise boast in their wisdom,
or the powerful boast in their power,
or the rich boast in their riches.
24 But those who wish to boast
should boast in this alone:
that they truly know me and understand that I am the Lord
who demonstrates unfailing love
and who brings justice and righteousness to the earth,
and that I delight in these things.
I, the Lord, have spoken!
25 “A time is coming,” says the Lord, “when I will punish all those who are circumcised in body but not in spirit— 26 the Egyptians, Edomites, Ammonites, Moabites, the people who live in the desert in remote places, and yes, even the people of Judah. And like all these pagan nations, the people of Israel also have uncircumcised hearts.”Jeremiah 9 NLT (bold emphasis mine)
That last paragraph is interesting. Pastor Sandy Adams comments…
The Jews were proud they were circumcised. They trusted in a one-time operation as a get-out-of-judgment-free card. Yet God promises they’ll be judged with the Gentiles.Sandy Adams
On a Path to Self-Destruction
Usually, when you realize that you’re going in the wrong direction, you pause, then turn around and go the other way. Otherwise, you’ll be so off-course that you may end up in danger. That goes for traveling in an unfamiliar area, as well as the paths we take in life. (Related: Jesus is our GPS)
Why do people stay on self-destructive paths?
I was on a self-destructive path for a long time. (You can check out my story at the bottom.) I was rejecting the truth, God’s instructions, only because it didn’t fit my worldview and my lifestyle.
I didn’t KNOW Jesus. I knew who Jesus was — the Son of God and part of the Holy Trinity. I had “book knowledge” not “heart knowledge”. There’s a HUGE difference. I knew religion — having grown up Catholic. Yet, God seemed so far away. No one guided me. No one encouraged me to read the Bible daily. I had to become a seeker on my own.
Even the Birds Know to go back
The birds mentioned here are migratory birds. Here in America, we call them snowbirds, as well as the people who live in the cold, northern states who winter in the south. They are smart and know when it starts getting cold, it’s time to start heading south to the warmer weather.
Yet, they always return in the spring. That’s what Jeremiah can’t wrap his brain around. How can the people know the truth, still not come back to the One True God?
When we hear lies and false teachings, we need to stand up for the truth!
Verse 8:20 is the saddest verse. Poor Jeremiah knows there’s nothing more to be done. It’s the epitome of hopelessness. We may be feeling that now as we look around the world. Thankfully, we have our Confident Hope in Jesus Christ.
The Balm in Gilead
There’s an old hymn, which I embedded in the bottom. It’s taken from verse 8:22. However, it spins it in a positive light. In Gilead, there’s the storax tree that has a resin, that when made into a balm, has healing qualities. There is a balm in Gilead, to heal the sin-sick soul. That’s Jesus!
All this loss and destruction was so unnecessary. Jesus is the cure for sin. Today is the DAY OF SALVATION! After death, it’s too late!
Stop believing the lies and discover the truth for yourselves. Be like the Bereans…
And the people of Berea were more open-minded than those in Thessalonica, and they listened eagerly to Paul’s message. They searched the Scriptures day after day to see if Paul and Silas were teaching the truth.Acts 17:11 NLT
We can’t be lazy about studying the Bible daily. It is God’s Word and nourishment for our starving and thirsty souls. It is the Bread of Life and the Living Water that Jesus spoke of so often. We have it easily available. We are just lazy. And it’s sad.
You may THINK you are a “Christian”. You may THINK you “KNOW” Jesus, but you probably really don’t.
Jesus didn’t suffer torture and die so we could have religion!
He died so He could have a Relationship with YOU!
Isn’t it about time you had the joy and privilege of KNOWING GOD?! What are you waiting for!
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