Learning from Jeremiah 7-12
7:1-8:3 - ‘Stop believing these deceitful words, “We are safe! This is the temple of the Lord, the temple of the Lord, the temple of the Lord!”’ (4). For many, the place of worship has become more important than the Person we worship. They talk a lot about ‘the Church’ - but they never speak of Christ! They love to see ‘the Church’ looking good - but they’re not so concerned about what ‘the Lord sees’ when He ‘looks at the heart’ (1 Samuel 16:7)! Their talk is so self-centred - ‘I love my Church. I never miss my Church. I always support my Church’. There is a great deal of ‘I’ in this kind of talk - but Christ is conspicuous by His absence! ‘Look at what I have done for my Church’ - ‘Stop believing these deceitful words’. Let Christ take the place of ‘I’: ‘It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me’ (Galatians 2:20).
8:4-22 - ‘Wise people are put to shame, confused, trapped. They have rejected the Word of the Lord. They don’t really have any wisdom’ (9). Some people think they’re smart. They’re wise in their own eyes. They ‘know it all’ - so they think! They’ve an answer for everything - except the most important question, the question of salvation: ‘What must I do to be saved?’. They know so much - yet they know so little that really matters! ‘The harvest is past, the summer is ended, and we are not saved’ (20) - Some people think they’re smart. They’re getting on in the world. They’ve no time for God. They’re too busy enjoying all the pleasures of this world. When this world is ‘past’ and its pleasures have ‘ended’, where will we be? - ‘What good will it do you if you gain the whole world - and lose eternal life?’ (Matthew 16:22).
9:1-26 - Jeremiah speaks of those who are ‘circumcised only in the flesh’. They remain ‘uncircumcised in the heart’ (25-26). Paul tells us that ‘not all who are descended from Israel are Israel’. Salvation is not a matter of outward conformity to religious rituals. What we need is ‘circumcision of the heart, by the Spirit’ (Romans 9:6; 2:28-29). Jesus put it this way: ‘You must be born again’ (John 3:7). Many people have been ‘brought up in the Church’, but they’ve never opened their hearts to Christ. They’ve heard the Word of God preached many times, but they haven’t been born again through the power of ‘the Spirit of the living God’ (2 Corinthians 3:3). Our religious rituals mean nothing if, in our hearts, we remain unconverted: ‘Neither circumcision nor uncircumcision means anything; what counts is a new creation’ (Galatians 6:15).
10:1-25 - ‘The Lord is the true God; He is the living God, the eternal King’ (10). Can there ever be anything more important than worshipping the Lord? We know the answer as soon as we ask the question! Very often, our lives gives a very different answer. We have taken our eyes off the Lord. We have forgotten that He is the true and living God. We sing the words, ‘O Lord, Thou art my God and King... Each day I rise, I will Thee bless...’ - but they have a hollow ring about them! Here’s a prayer to help you to make a real commitment of your life to the Lord: ‘Teach me to live, day by day, in Your presence, Lord... Teach me to praise, day by day, in Your Spirit, Lord... Teach me to love, day by day, in Your power, Lord... Teach me to give, day by day, from my wealth, O Lord...’ (Church Hymnary, 346; Mission Praise, 627).
11:1-23 - God speaks His Word to us. He calls us to obedience. He says to us, ‘Obey My voice’. Sadly, however, the story of our life is often summed up in the words: ‘They did not listen or pay attention. They did not obey’ (7-8). God’s Word is not just ‘something to think about. When God calls us to obedience, we’re not to say, ‘I’ll think about that later’. ‘Now’ is the time for obedience to God’s Word: ‘Obey now the voice of the Lord’ (38:20). We must not put this off until tomorrow. God is looking for our obedience today: ‘Today, when you hear His voice, do not harden your hearts’ (Hebrews 4:7). To those who were deeply involved in religious ritual - ‘burnt offerings and sacrifices’ - , God said this, ‘To obey is better than sacrifice’ (1 Samuel 15:22). Obedience involves our whole life - not just ‘never missing a service’!
12:1-17 - ‘“If any nation does not listen, I will completely uproot and destroy it”, declares the Lord’ (17). We must not look out to the world and say, ‘That’s what’s happening “out there”’. We must look into our own hearts. We must ask, ‘What’s happening “in here”?’. We are to pray, ‘Search me, O God, and know my heart’ (Psalm 139:23). When the searchlight of God’s Word begins to shine on our lives, it becomes clear that ‘all is not as it seems’: ‘They speak well of You with their lips, but their hearts are far from You’ (2). Our situation seems hopeless. We cannot change ourselves: ‘Can the Ethiopian change his skin or the leopard his spots? Neither can you do good who are accustomed to doing evil’ (13:23). There is a Word of hope. We can be changed by the Lord: ‘I will give you a new heart’ (Ezekiel 36:26).