Jeremiah 17: Sin of Judah, Comforting TextsNov 30th, 2011 | By admin | Category: Jeremiah, Verse by Verse --Studies led by Br. Frank Shallieu (Click on Book name)
“The sin of Judah is written with a pen of iron, and with the point of a diamond.” Not only was Judah’s sin deeply engraved in their hearts, but the hearts themselves were hard. Hardness was met with hardness—their hard hearts were engraved with the point of a diamond—indicating that they readily accepted still grosser sins, even though they were already hardened in sin.
What sarcasm! The climax had been reached. The sin concerned their heart condition and the horns of their altars; that is, they had gotten so far from God that the very institutions and morals He had given them as safeguards were being ignored. There was no standard. Israel’s condition parallels the situation today.
Incidentally, for a person to get a point across in a proper way, the general rule, or principle, is to meet strength with strength, and weakness (commiseration, mercy, and compassion) with weakness. The Apostle Paul said, “To the weak became I as weak, that I might gain the weak: I am made all things to all men, that I might by all means save some” (1 Cor. 9:22).
How was the sin of Judah engraved “upon the horns” of their altars? The people embellished their heathen altars with large horns or figures of other gods, making the altars even more obnoxious. Notice that sin was the point of the diamond, the chisel. Depravity was manifested in the ritual and type of worship.
Jer. 17:2 Whilst their children remember their altars and their groves by the green trees upon the high hills.
Much lasciviousness was associated with the worship of the false gods. Immoral acts were committed under the shade of trees and on the ground up on the high hills. This type of sin is common to man, for it is Satan’s greatest tool; that is, it has the greatest appeal to all strata of society. Having been raised in evil, the children knew nothing else. The parents had the greater responsibility.
Comment: Instead of “groves by the green trees,” the NIV has “Asherah poles,” meaning, according to the footnote, “symbols of the goddess Asherah.”
Reply: The shape of the columns was suggestive of reproductive organs of both men and women. Thus the sin that was related to altars was mostly lasciviousness. This strange combination shows the peculiarity of two extremes with man’s fallen flesh. It is like putting one foot on earth and the other foot in heaven. From the standpoint of fallen human nature, mankind has a dual personality. Even if the nominal professed people of God want to do better, the god of this world is more powerful, generally speaking.
Comment: In connection with totem poles and other idols, the JWs object to Christmas trees, but the Scriptures speak of carved trees used for purposes of worship as being an abomination.
Reply: Many years ago, a prominent brother who came from the Society spoke against the observance of the Christmas tree and even gifts but then, at the end of his sermon, said that instead we should give money to the Lord. The talk was not appropriate.
Jer. 17:3 O my mountain in the field, I will give thy substance and all thy treasures to the spoil, and thy high places for sin, throughout all thy borders.
Israel is quite hilly as a country, and most of the people lived in the hills because the Canaanites were down in the lowlands. For hundreds of years, the Israelites had trouble with Philistines, Amorites, Hittites, Hivites, etc., who were in the valleys and lowlands with their chariots. Of course Israel had neither chariots nor horses.
“O my mountain in the field.” In other words, Israel was a hilly country set on a plain, or flat land base. Spiritually speaking, the “mountain” represents Israel in the Kingdom. Although Revelation 8:8 refers to a later date in history, Israel is called a “mountain”—“And the second angel sounded, and as it were a great mountain burning with fire was cast into the sea.”
“I [God] will give thy substance and all thy treasures to the spoil, and thy high places for sin, throughout all thy borders.” All the wealth and goods of Israel would be given to the enemy as a spoil. That which they delighted in would be removed from them because of their sins.
Jer. 17:4 And thou, even thyself, shalt discontinue from thine heritage 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.
Because of their obstinacy and disobedience, the people would be severed from their land and possessions and put in a foreign land. This punishment was a necessary expedient to humble them and make them salvable. The judgment stopped the contagion of sin to the point of incorrigibility. Therefore, when the Jews who went into Diaspora come forth from the grave in the Kingdom, the hardships they endured will be valuable knowledge.
“Ye have kindled a fire in mine anger, which shall burn for ever.” Israel had kindled a fire that would “burn for ever,” and God was angry. In both Hebrew and Greek, “forever” is a relatively elastic term. As used here, it means lastingly, enduringly, for an age, that is, for a long purposed period, for an effective duration of time, to accomplish what God intended. In other words, more people will get life as a result of that hard experience than if God had just ignored the situation. If the judgment were “forever” in the sense of being for eternity, either another word would have been added, or the word would have been repeated.
Jer. 17:5 Thus saith the LORD; Cursed be the man that trusteth in man, and maketh flesh his arm, and whose heart departeth from the LORD.
“Cursed be the man that trusteth in man.” We should trust in God more than in man. There are modifying factors, however, for we should not distrust or be suspicious of every human being. For example, a message in harmony with the Word is to be trusted, and human agents are often used by the Lord. But if a man lets his heart depart from Jehovah, then certainly we should not trust that individual’s counsel, advice, or help; rather, we should stay as far away from his influence as possible. The warning is also for man not to make “flesh his arm.”
Since the word “cursed” is so strong, it would have to be evident that the former stalwart’s heart had departed from the Lord. In this context, he supposedly was a Jew, so his conduct would warrant such condemnation. On the one hand, we cannot read the heart in a direct sense, but on the other hand, Jesus said that we can tell a tree by its fruit. If what comes out of the mouth is nothing but abomination, then we know the condition of the heart is not pure, for contaminated water cannot come forth from a pure source. Hence words and deeds can manifest the condition of the heart.
Comment: Judah erred in allying itself with Gentile nations instead of trusting God.
Reply: Yes, in the 22 years under the combined reigns of Jehoiakim and Zedekiah, an alliance was made with Egypt, and a couple of covenants were made, one with Egypt and the other with Babylon. Those are examples of trusting in man. As individuals, false prophets spoke lies in the name of Jehovah, and the majority of those in Judah liked their message. They would have discerned the true message if they had searched the Scriptures.
Jer. 17:6 For he shall be like the heath in the desert, and shall not see when good cometh; but shall inhabit the parched places in the wilderness, in a salt land and not inhabited.
“For he shall be like the heath in the desert, and shall not see when good cometh.” Jeremiah compared trusting in God, which results in a fertile, fruitful condition, with not trusting in God, which results in a barren condition. A “heath” is a dried-up shrub that has no substance and is something like a tumbleweed. Those with the wrong heart attitude do not recognize, or perceive, good when it comes because their heart is so hardened. The heat of the shimmering refraction of light rays can cause what looks like a lake in the distance. One can travel all day— and even day after day—yet the lake appears to be the same distance away because it is a mirage. The opposite experience can also occur. After a person sees a mirage of water, the panorama may then again appear to be only desert. The mirage spurs the traveler on, but a letdown occurs when the lake is seen to be false. Because of the frequency of mirages, desert travelers and caravan leaders depended on camels rather than sight. Camels seem to possess an innate sense of where there is water, even at a great distance.
Jeremiah was saying that those of Judah would not get the blessing of the water they imagined they were seeing but would “inhabit the parched places in the wilderness, in a salt land … not inhabited.” A glass of salt water is the last thing a thirsty person wants. Thus Jeremiah was prophesying of a desolate experience, which is part of the curse of the man who trusts in man and not in God. Extreme deserts like the Sahara have virtually no vegetation except for an occasional oasis. Salt in the soil makes the land arid. For example, Death Valley in this country has no verdure or moisture.
Jer. 17:7 Blessed is the man that trusteth in the LORD, and whose hope the LORD is.
Jer. 17:8 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 in the year of drought, neither shall cease from yielding fruit.
The one who trusts in the Lord is like “a tree planted by the waters”; the tree bears fruit, and its root spreads. Today the wicked seem to flourish, and the righteous are in the desert condition.
Hence verse 8 shows the ultimate condition of the righteous when they get the blessings and the bounty. Human wisdom back there would have rejected these words of Jeremiah. The lesson is that we should not look for present material blessings.
In verses 5-8, the individual is the same. In one circumstance, he is cursed, and in the other, he is blessed. Thus it is possible for a man to be blessed in a dry land, where everything around him is parched. He will be as a tree whose roots find water and whose leaves luxuriate in spite of the conditions. No matter what circumstance that individual is in, he will survive. He “shall not be careful [overly anxious] in the year of drought, neither shall [he] cease from yielding fruit” because he trusts in the Lord. God was talking about His professed people, the Jews, with two different heart conditions.
Comment: God promised that if the Jews were faithful, He would open the windows of heaven, and they would receive more material blessings than they could contain (Mal. 3:10).
Comment: The First Psalm reads, “Blessed is the man that walketh not in the counsel of the ungodly, nor standeth in the way of sinners, nor sitteth in the seat of the scornful. But his delight is in the law of the LORD; and in his law doth he meditate day and night. And he shall be like a tree planted by the rivers of water, that bringeth forth his fruit in his season; his leaf also shall not wither; and whatsoever he doeth shall prosper. The ungodly are not so: but are like the chaff which the wind driveth away. Therefore the ungodly shall not stand in the judgment, nor sinners in the congregation of the righteous. For the LORD knoweth the way of the righteous: but the way of the ungodly shall perish.”
Jer. 17:9 The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked: who can know it?
Jer. 17:10 I the LORD search the heart, I try the reins, even to give every man according to his ways, and according to the fruit of his doings.
The natural heart of man “is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked.” Why was the rhetorical question then asked, “Who can understand the heart?” Obviously, God understands, but the individual does not know his own heart unless he has the mind of Christ and of God, which enables him to see the wickedness and the desperation. There is a contest, a warfare, between the old man and the new man in Christ. To know the depth of the deceit and the desperation of wickedness that lies in the natural fallen human heart, we must be in close relationship with the Lord because He can search the depths of the heart and the marrow of the bone (Heb. 4:12).
Comment: Psalm 139:23,24 reads, “Search me, O God, and know my heart: try me, and know my thoughts: And see if there be any wicked way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting.”
Reply: That Psalm gives an insight into David’s character because he revealed his innermost desire and heart condition.
Comment: The “reins,” the kidneys, are the governing factor.
Reply: Yes, they represent the will, the intent. God searches the heart and tries the reins. The heart, the seat of affections, is emotional, whereas the reins, the motives, are deeper. Just as the reins are attached to the bridle and bit of the horse’s mouth, so the Christian’s intent is related to his words and conduct. There is a threefold comparison of the mind, the heart, and the will.
As a whole, the heart of Judah was hard like stone (verse 1). Here God said, “I try the reins, even to give every man according to his ways, and according to the fruit of his doings”; that is, He searches each individual’s heart and will punish or reward according to where the affections lie and what motivates him. The one who wants to do the Lord’s will and is earnestly seeking will be assisted in producing good fruit according to his desire. However, if a person’s heart is not akin to the Lord’s ways, bad fruit will be the result.
Jer. 17:11 As the partridge sitteth on eggs, and hatcheth them not; so he that getteth riches, and not by right, shall leave them in the midst of his days, and at his end shall be a fool.
The RSV reads, “Like the partridge that gathers a brood which she did not hatch, so is he who gets riches but not by right; in the midst of his days they will leave him, and at his end he will be a fool.” The NIV has, “Like a partridge that hatches eggs it did not lay is the man who gains riches by unjust means. When his life is half gone, they will desert him, and in the end he will prove to be a fool.” The King James alternate reading is, “As the partridge gathereth young which she hath not brought forth.”
The illustration is of a partridge that sits on unfertilized eggs which do not hatch. Some feel the partridge is a particular type of bird that takes over the nest of other birds and their eggs. The partridge tries to incubate the eggs with the warmth of her body and brings forth the young.
There is that type of bird in nature, but the young forsake the bird that mothers them because they seem to have a genetic recognition that she is a false parent. Some animals successfully nurture the young of another species, and the young accept the “adoptive” mother as their own. However, with this particular kind of bird, the young forsake her.
Some might interpret this bird as the ostrich, which lays large eggs in the sand and then leaves, forsaking them and letting them incubate and hatch on their own. Thus the ostrich forsakes her young. Whatever kind of bird is being referred to, the result is negative, for the gathering of the young results in fruitlessness. The usurping bird, which wants to acquire the young when she had nothing to do with bearing the eggs, capitalizes on the misfortune of others. Thus, likewise, is the condition of the rich. Normally the rich prosper because they appropriate the possessions of others to themselves; they exploit and take advantage of the guileless, the uninstructed, and the poor. This type of character, if unrepentant and incorrigible, is referred to in Amos 8:5,6 regarding the end of the Kingdom Age. Such individuals will harbor in their hearts the attitude “When will the new moon be gone, that we may sell corn? and the sabbath, that we may set forth wheat, making the ephah small, and the shekel great, and falsifying the balances by deceit? That we may buy the poor for silver, and the needy for a pair of shoes; yea, and sell the refuse of the wheat?”
“So [is] he that getteth riches, and not by right.” Evidently, “partridge” is the correct thought, for the rich who gather wealth through unscrupulous means are like the partridge. They aggrandize, or collect unto themselves, that which is not really theirs. What vanity and foolishness! In the final analysis, the riches are harmful because they are gathered to the neglect of spiritual things. Trusting in wealth now will bring barrenness later, whereas trusting in God now will bring fruit later.
“He that getteth riches … shall leave them in the midst of his days, and at his end shall be a fool.” When a rich man dies, his wealth is left behind. Thus the ultimate result is emptiness and disappointment. To get rich, one must devote a lot of thought and time to conniving, scheming, and planning, but is the time worth the effort if all is lost at the end? Riches are like the mirage in the desert; they disappear.
Through Jeremiah, God was instructing the Jews, for while some of them had a measure of temporal prosperity, the goods would all be lost in 606 BC. Except for a small righteous remnant who were taken captive with just the clothes on their back, the people starved, were slain, or died of disease.
Comment: Jesus said, “For what shall it profit a man, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul?” (Mark 8:36).
Jer. 17:12 A glorious high throne from the beginning is the place of our sanctuary.
Verses 12-14 are an utterance of Jeremiah, who, as a leader of the people of Israel, prayed that others would mend their ways. Back there, as well as now, the “glorious high throne,” the “place of our sanctuary,” is centered in heaven. Emblematically in Jeremiah’s day, the Temple in Jerusalem was the “sanctuary” of the Lord.
God’s throne has been on high “from the beginning,” but what “beginning”? Of course prior to creation, God purposed the plan of the ages, The Christ, etc., but from the standpoint of Israel, the “beginning” was the Tabernacle, which was converted into the Temple. Both structures had a “sanctuary.” Ever since the Israelites were taken out of Egypt—that is, from their beginning as a people coming out of Egypt—God has sustained and upheld them. The “place of our sanctuary” refers to the Church in the spiritual picture and to the Temple in Jerusalem in the natural picture. Both the Church class and the Temple were long premeditated.
Jer. 17:13 O LORD, the hope of Israel, 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.
Jeremiah prayed, “O LORD, the hope of Israel, all that forsake thee shall be ashamed.”
However, the next clause is a change of speaker, for curiously and very interestingly, when Jeremiah was subject to emotional outbursts, the Lord sometimes interjected His thoughts. Just as Moses reasoned with God, and then God interrupted him, so the Lord did this to Jeremiah, sometimes favorably and sometimes reprovingly. The clause “and they that depart from me shall be written in the earth” is one such interruption.
It was unfavorable for Israelites to have their names written in the earth. The names of the unrighteous would disappear as if written in the dust of the earth; that is, they would come to naught, even though they were prominent in the present life. In the future, in years to come, they will be disregarded. There will be no honor roll for them “because they have forsaken the LORD, the fountain of living waters.” They came out of the earth, and they will return to the earth.
In other words, the pronoun “me” is correct in the expression “they that depart from me,” for God was speaking. Jeremiah wrote this book in his old age, recording things that were originally done orally, and in retrospect, he added his own comments from time to time.
Jer. 17:14 Heal me, O LORD, and I shall be healed; save me, and I shall be saved: for thou art my praise.
Verse 14 is a remarkable insight into the character of Jeremiah, for he felt a guilt by association.
Being in the midst of an evil generation, he could see the corruption, and he concluded, “I am one of them—a Jew, an Israelite—and I do not find anything sufficiently commendable in myself to guarantee where I stand with thee, O LORD.” This prayer for deliverance in the coming trouble was like a confession, and the prophet wanted to be healed. He questioned whether he was worthy to escape the trouble, yet he was probably exemplary in his walk under those conditions. He did not ask to be relieved of persecution but just to live. We, too, hope to be delivered (to escape the coming trouble and get spiritual life), but we must also expect persecution.
During a certain period of the Apostle Paul’s ministry, he was in a similar frame of mind. Thus this type of feeling is commendable. Jeremiah was not so high-minded or aloof that he thought he was God’s favorite and the others were less favored.
Comment: Like Jeremiah, Christians also pray, “Thou [God] art my praise.”
Jer. 17:15 Behold, they say unto me, Where is the word of the LORD? let it come now.
In recalling how the people had mocked and criticized him, Jeremiah sarcastically asked, “Where is the word of the LORD? let it come now.” The people did not believe that Jeremiah’s woeful predictions were accurate because they had not yet materialized. Moreover, he was a loner, and the false prophets, who considerably outnumbered him, contemporaneously prophesied peace in Jehovah’s name. They said that Nebuchadnezzar would start to come down but would turn back. In fact, when Nebuchadnezzar came down a number of years earlier and Judah was not taken at that time, the people thought Jeremiah was a false prophet. But the king of Babylon came several times and would yet come again. Meanwhile, the people thought the imminent threat had evaporated for good, as it did with Sennacherib, for example.
Jeremiah was a different prophet in many ways, for much of his prophecies revealed his own thinking. He could not help interjecting thoughts because he was so emotionally involved in the message.
Jer. 17:16 As for me, I have not hastened from being a pastor to follow thee: neither have I desired the woeful day; thou knowest: that which came out of my lips was right before thee.
Jeremiah was saying to God, “When I heard what you wanted me to say to this people, I did not decline the office but obediently performed.” Then he added, “Neither have I desired the woeful day; thou knowest: that which came out of my lips was right before thee.” While he did not desire the destruction of Jerusalem and the Temple, the famine, etc., he faithfully gave the message as God had instructed him to do.
The NIV uses the word “shepherd” instead of “pastor”: “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.” The predictions of doom did not originate with Jeremiah, nor did he desire them—but, as stated elsewhere, he saw the need for them.
Jer. 17:17 Be not a terror unto me: thou art my hope in the day of evil.
In the midst of a corrupt people, Jeremiah prayed to God for his personal salvation. He reasoned, “I declared your message to the nation as faithfully as I could. Give me courage and strength of character so that I do not succumb to the tauntings, criticisms, and persecutions incurred because of proclaiming your message.”
Comment: Jeremiah somewhat frequently needed reinforcement from the Lord.
Reply: A person who is emotional by nature needs continual encouragement in one way or another. Being of that tender disposition, Jeremiah needed frequent strengthening and shoring up lest depression engulf him. As we read the Book of Jeremiah, we glean tidbits of information on how the people treated him and the types of persecution to which he was subjected. When we add them up, we see that he had quite an experience.
Verse 17 can also be interpreted to mean that Jeremiah wished to be protected in the coming trouble, and he was protected—marvelously so. Being astute, he knew that the people would turn on him when the trouble was upon them and he urged submission to the enemy.
Jer. 17:18 Let them be confounded 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, and destroy them with double destruction.
Jeremiah asked that he not be confounded or dismayed. He was not that confident of his own strength and immunity, for even though he was used mightily by the Lord, he knew he needed help from above. Previously he did not want trouble to come on the people, but gradually he saw the need for it. Now he asked for the trouble to come on those who were steeped in evil and particularly on those who were opposing him. They needed judgment.
We, too, should continually ask for God’s strength in the days ahead. We cannot be faithful unto death in our own strength. Our attitude should be like that of Jeremiah.
Jer. 17:19 Thus said the LORD unto me; Go and stand in the gate of the children of the people, whereby the kings of Judah come in, and by the which they go out, and in all the gates of Jerusalem;
Jer. 17:20 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:
Jeremiah was instructed to stand in a city gate—specifically, the Benjamin Gate—and deliver a message. The gate was composed of a large arch, under which were two smaller arches with a gate for each and an island in between. One gate was an entrance, and the other was an exit.
Jeremiah was to go first to the gate used by the nobility, the upper echelon of Judah, and give a message. Then he was to circle around to the other gates so that all of the people would hear.
Comment: Judges sat in the gates, so the people were accustomed to going there for instruction and to get help with a grievance, for example.
Reply: Yes. Jeremiah was instructed to take advantage of this pulpit, as it were, and to use it to speak to the people.
The proclamation began, “Hear the word of the LORD, ye kings of Judah, and all inhabitants of Judah and Jerusalem, who enter by these gates” (paraphrase). Jeremiah would have raised his voice as loudly and as distinctly as possible to get the ear of the people. Probably he chose the moment in the flow of traffic that was most propitious for making this announcement.
Comment: Just as Jeremiah was instructed to stand in the gate and give his message, so we should look for ways of getting the most exposure for witnessing.
Jer. 17:21 Thus saith the LORD; Take heed to yourselves, and bear no burden on the Sabbath day, nor bring it in by the gates of Jerusalem;
Jer. 17:22 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.
Jer. 17:23 But they obeyed not, neither inclined their ear, but made their neck stiff, that they might not hear, nor receive instruction.
The message, a “thus saith the LORD,” continued: “Take heed to yourselves, and bear no burden on the sabbath day, nor bring it in by the gates of Jerusalem; either carry forth a burden out of your houses … , neither do ye any work, but hallow ye the sabbath day, as I commanded your fathers.”
At this juncture of history, about 16 years before the destruction of Jerusalem, what was so important about calling attention to the violation of the sabbath? The burdens the people were bearing were mostly merchandise, whereas one of the Ten Commandments was to keep the sabbath day holy (Exod. 20:8). For the people to set aside burdens one day a week to be instructed from God’s Word was a reasonable commandment. The erosion of the sabbath day opened the floodgate to all kinds of malpractices. The sabbath was a mood-setting day in which the people were to rest and listen to instruction from God’s Word.
To be an Ancient Worthy required persecution and hard experiences. To be just one of the people required obeying simple laws, such as honoring the sabbath and keeping it holy, but greed kept them from simple obedience. Jeremiah gave the people a practical message with a test of obedience, but being stiff-necked, they disobeyed.
Some of the city gates were also gates to the Temple precincts. Of course those who sold goods wanted to set up their wares where the traffic was greatest, so from their standpoint, Jerusalem was the most desirable city on the sabbath day. Thus they took advantage of that which was supposed to kept holy. Shortly before his crucifixion, Jesus not only overthrew the tables of the money changers but also forbade women carrying water to take a shortcut through the Temple precincts. They got water from the Pool of Siloam on the south, and instead of going around the outside of the city, they crossed in front of the worshipping congregation. This was a distracting influence, to say the least.
Jer. 17:24 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;
Jer. 17:25 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.
Many of Jeremiah’s prophecies were dire predictions of impending doom because of the people’s failure to heed the warnings that God uttered through his mouth. Now the message was the opposite, and it was a way out. The other messages were, “Because of your sins, such and such will happen,” but here was a simple command. As a test of their faith and trust in God, the people were told to properly observe the sabbath and not bring burdens through the city gates on the sabbath day. If they obeyed, Jerusalem would be preserved forever. Also, by implication, the Temple would not be destroyed, and God would remove the threat of the king of Babylon. In addition, if the people had obeyed and kept the sabbath holy, they would have had continuous kings until Messiah and no captivities. The word “kings” (plural) indicates a continuity of the preservation of Jerusalem—an abiding and enduring security—if the people hallowed the sabbath. In other words, if they had obeyed this simple test given to them through Jeremiah, they would have prospered greatly and had peace. However, God knew the people would disobey, for they had already hardened their hearts toward His instructions.
The test given to Adam in the Garden of Eden was also simple. God said to him, “You may freely eat of all the trees in the garden but not of one particular tree, the tree of the knowledge of good and evil.” Many who read the account in Genesis think that God’s punishment was harsh, but in reality, it was a simple command of obedience.
The antitype of Judah’s opportunity to repent was when God gave the nominal systems “space to repent” (Rev. 2:21). Had they repented, the 144,000 would have come from the systems. Arius, Waldo, Wycliffe, and Luther were all from the nominal systems, at least at one time.
Our habit of thought has a lot to do with our character and how we respond to situations. If we keep our conscience tender, we become more responsive in doing the Lord’s will. The words of the hymn “Earnest Watchfulness” are as follows:
I want a principle within, of jealous, godly fear;
A sensibility of sin, a pain to feel it near;
I want the first approach to feel of pride or fond desire;
To catch the wand’ring of my will, and quench the kindling fire.
Verse 1 of this chapter said that the sin of Judah was engraved on a stony heart. The sin was dug in deeply, whereas the Lord’s word should enter and penetrate a fleshly heart without the need for a chiseling instrument.
Comment: From a practical point of view, if the people’s focus had been on the Lord instead of on their merchandise, they would have prospered temporally. Jesus expressed the principle in Matthew 6:33, “Seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you.”
Jer. 17:26 And they 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.
Jeremiah used topographical designations to describe the four points of the compass. If the people would hearken and obey God’s commandment, the great concourse to Jerusalem from the whole surrounding area would result in material prosperity. The people would come to Jerusalem for the feasts, “bringing burnt offerings, and sacrifices, and meat [cereal] offerings, and incense, and bringing sacrifices of praise, unto the house of the LORD.” They would praise God for the daily benefits received. Incidentally, a condition of thankfulness is an area of our Christian walk where we can all improve.
Jer. 17:27 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.
To heed the advice of Jeremiah with regard to the sabbath would bring security from on high.
To ignore the advice would bring the destruction of the city and the “palaces” (the Temple and the residences of the king and other nobility). The gates of Jerusalem would be burned because an enemy customarily intruded upon the point of least resistance; that is, to burn the gates of the city was easier than breaking down the wall.
In verses 24-27, God threw down the gauntlet, as it were, and called the people’s bluff, but they were only nominally His. By this method, their disobedience manifested the true situation, for they rejected Jeremiah and believed the false prophets. A thinking Jew today should get the point, for the sabbath is still profaned. God gave a practical lesson here that all could grasp.
Comment: Jeremiah 39:8 tells how the city was defeated in fulfillment of verse 27: “And the Chaldeans burned the king’s house, and the houses of the people, with fire, and brake down the walls of Jerusalem.”
Reply: After the enemy became resident in the city, a work crew systematically broke down the walls by removing the stones.
Q: What did Jesus mean when he said in Mark 2:27, “The sabbath was made for man, and not man for the sabbath”?
A: Not only were the benefits of the sabbath spiritual in that the people heard and meditated on the Word of God and were spiritually nourished, but also there were practical benefits in that the people and the animals rested. The sabbath was helpful to family life too because during the other six days, family members were often separated by long hours of labor. Along another line, even metals are benefited by the sabbath, for when steel and other elements get fatigued, they are subject to fracture.
Comment: Agriculturally speaking, fields that rest periodically are more productive.
Comment: Even though Christians are not under the Law, they benefit by the spirit of the Law. Sunday should be a day for worship and meditation on the Lord as a family.
The initial step of turning to serve the Lord is remarkable. At the top of the Grand Gallery in the Great Pyramid is the Giant Step, which is before the Antechamber leading to the King’s Chamber. Prior to consecration, the old creature may decline further understanding because of a Satanic influence and the realization that with knowledge comes responsibility. Such individuals do not properly evaluate or see the rewards of the Christian life, which are tenfold greater: peace of mind, knowing what God is doing, etc. The world sees the Christian life as a casket draped in the black sealskins of the Tabernacle, but inside are gold, enlightenment, and treasures of divine knowledge and blessings. At the step of turning aside is where the Adversary wants us to wait and think things over. If we delay too long, the fowl of the air come and pluck up the seed by the wayside (Matt. 13:3,4). But those who receive the seed into good and honest hearts bring forth fruit and are wonderfully blessed.