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Jeremiah The Consequences of Choice

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JEREMIAH

AN ANCIENT MAN WITH A MODERN MESSAGE

“The Consequences of Choice”

Jeremiah 17:1-18

 

Oftentimes a hard lesson to learn but a valuable lesson to learn is that each and every choice that we make has consequences.  Hopefully the adults in the room have learned that lesson, and I would say to the young people to learn this lesson through information and not through a bad experience.  The drunk driver didn’t think one more drink would do much harm that is until he climbs behind the wheel and hits another car and kills somebody.  The man or woman, who commits adultery, thinks nobody will get hurt, only to find themselves in divorce court losing their family and many times things they have worked a lifetime to acquire.  Many times the ultimate results of our choices are much more severe than what we anticipated. But not all choices have negative consequences.  There are some choices that we make in life that are right choices and they bring us positive consequences.  In this passage of Scripture we see both, we see the negative consequences of wrong choices and we are taught the positive consequences of right choices.

The people of Judah have made a choice and now they are about to suffer the consequences of the choice that they have made.  Jeremiah has been given by God the assignment to deliver the news that their forsaking of God and their idolatry has brought them disastrous consequences.  The theme of the book of Jeremiah is judgment, and this judgment is a result of wrong choices made by God’s people.  There is much to be learned from this portion of Scripture for us today.

THE SOURCE OF YOUR CHOICES

 

Jeremiah begins by describing the source of the choices that the people of Judah made.  Let me put that another way.  Jeremiah begins by describing the condition of the source of the choices that the people had made. 

“The sin of Judah is written with a pen of iron; with a point of diamond it is engraved on the tablet of their heart, and on the horns of their altars,"
(Jeremiah 17:1ESV)

The source of the choices that you make comes from your heart.  The quality of the choices that you make comes from the condition of your heart. 

What do we mean when we talk about the heart?  Is the Bible referring to the muscle in your chest that pumps your blood?  No, when the Bible speaks of the heart it is speaking of who your are.  The heart in the Bible represents the basis of your character; it includes your mind and your will.  It is out of the heart that your choices are made.  Listen to what Jesus said.

"For from within, out of the heart of man, come evil thoughts, sexual immorality, theft, murder, adultery, coveting, wickedness, deceit, sensuality, envy, slander, pride, foolishness. All these evil things come from within, and they defile a person.”  (Mark 7:21-23ESV)

The choices that we make come from our hearts.  What I want to point out to you is how Jeremiah described the condition of the heart of the people of Judah.  Look at verse 1 again.

“The sin of Judah is written with a pen of iron; with a point of diamond it is engraved on the tablet of their heart, and on the horns of their altars,"
(Jeremiah 17:1ESV)

You tell me what words would you choose to describe the condition of their hearts?  Jeremiah likens their heart to a tablet that is so hard that it has to be engraved with a diamond tipped engravers tool. But noticed what has been engraved on their hearts, their sin!  The picture here is that their sin was so deeply embedded in their hearts there was nothing they could do to remove it.  When something is engraved in stone it is there to stay.  That is what Jeremiah was saying about the sin of Judah it was there to stay.  It had been chiseled into their hearts.  How pervasive was the sin of idolatry in Judah?  Verse two tells us that their idolatry was so pervasive that even the children were involved in it! 

Choices, choices…

Jeremiah describes three lifestyle choices that each and every one of us are confronted with.  We can choose to forsake God, we can choose to trust in ourselves, or we can choose to trust in the Lord. 

Choice #1:  Forsaking God

The choice that the people of Judah made was to forsake God.  They exchanged the worship of the one true living God to worship dead lifeless idols.  What were the consequences of those choices?  God says through Jeremiah that three specific things were going to happen to them because of their choice to forsake God.

Þ    They would suffer the loss of their riches – verse 3

Þ    They would suffer the loss of their houses and land – verse 4

Þ    They would suffer the loss of their freedom – verse 4

Just one simple question, did they derive any benefit when they chose to forsake God?  Only if you think losing your wealth, your house and your freedom is a good thing!  The answer according to the Scriptures is a loud NO!

What was the source of this choice; their hearts.  What led them to make such a disastrous choice; the condition of their hearts.

Choice #2: Trust yourself

The second lifestyle choice that we can make is to trust in ourselves.  Look at verse 5

"Thus says the Lord: “Cursed is the man who trusts in man and makes flesh his strength, whose heart turns away from the Lord." (Jeremiah 17:5ESV)

God is upfront with all those who make this choice, or who are considering making this choice.  If you choose to trust in man, the implication is that if you choose to try and be self-sufficient then God wants you to know that you have brought a curse on yourself.  What does it mean to be cursed?  Literally it means to be harmed.  What is God saying?  All those who choose to trust in themselves are actually bringing harm to themselves. 

If you look at our paper money here in America what words do you see?  “In God We Trust!”  Nothing could be farther from the truth!  We Americans don’t trust in God we trust in our selves!  This has come to be a dominant philosophy in America. 

Philip Ryken writes in his commentary on Jeremiah “To understand the way Americans think, the author to read is Ralph Waldo Emerson.  Emerson’s philosophy is summarized in the title of one of his essays: “Self-Reliance”.  In the essay, Emerson tells his readers to be completely self-reliant.  He tells them not to care for the poor, love their families, or listen to preachers.  “Insist on yourself,” he writes, “never imitate”.  Whoso would be a man must be a nonconformist.”  “Nothing is as last sacred but the integrity of your own mind.”  Nothing can bring you peace but yourself.”    

Everything that he tells us to do, directly contradicts what the God has told us to do in the Scriptures.  At this point I would ask like Jack Nicholson did as the Joker in the original Batman movie “Who you gonna trust” the flawed and sinful thinking of Emerson or the perfect, flawless wisdom of God? 

God paints a picture to show what the one is like who makes the choice to turn away from the Lord and to trust in themselves. 

First of all God says if you choose to trust in yourself rather than trusting in me you will be like a little shrub all alone in the desert.  Your roots won’t have anything other than shifting sand to try and draw moisture and nourishment from.  God sums up the situation by saying, you won’t see any good come your way!  If you make the choice to follow in the Sinatra’s footsteps and do it your way apart from God you will eventually find yourself all alone, with next to nothing to sustain you in the heat of the day and the frost at night. 

Second if you choose to trust in yourself rather than trusting in God you be like a man wandering in the wilderness.  What is this condition of the wilderness?  It is dry and arid and hot and humid and parched!  It lacks the most important thing that you need to keep you alive and that is water! 

The picture couldn’t be any clearer to people who understood the absolute necessity of water for survival.  What has God likened Himself to?  In 2:13 God describes Himself as the “fountain of living waters” and here in 17:13 He describes Himself exactly the same way as the “fountain of living waters”.

Choice number one you can forsake God and lose everything you have

Choice number two you can trust yourself and lack everything you need

Choice #3: You can trust in the Lord

“Blessed is the man who trusts in the Lord, whose trust is the Lord. He is like a tree planted by water, that sends out its roots by the stream, and does not fear when heat comes, for its leaves remain green, and is not anxious in the year of drought, for it does not cease to bear fruit.” (Jeremiah 17:7-8ESV)

Could the contrast be any more black and white than the contrast between those who trust in themselves and those who trust in the Lord? 

The man who trusts in himself is cursed.  The man who trusts in the Lord is blessed.

The man who trusts in himself is like a shrub in the desert. The man who trusts in the Lord is like a tree planted by the waters.  The man who trusts in himself wanders in a parched wilderness. The man who trusts in the Lord continually bears fruit! 

If you notice a similarity with Psalm 1 you should because it says the same thing. 

If you trust in the Lord you are blessed, what is it to be blessed?  It’s the opposite of being cursed; it is to be found in a favored position with the Lord.  

If you trust in the Lord you are like a strong vibrant tree that continually produces fruit.  You aren’t like the shrub in the desert, you have life, you have life that comes from God and can never be taken away from you.  When the heat comes into your life you won’t wither, you won’t shrivel!  Why?  Because you are connected to the constant supply of life giving water!  As one commentator said “The tree by the river will be in full bloom when the bush in the desert dies.”

Christian this truth is a source of great encouragement to you, because all Christians experience times of spiritual drought and spiritual dryness.  The Bible seems to hold no truth for you, your prayers seem to go unanswered and you wonder if they were even heard.  That besetting sin seems to be tightening its grip on you.  During those times what are you going to do? Unfortunately many people quit doing the things they know they should do, they quit reading their Bibles, they quit praying, they quit going to church, or they quit fellowshipping with their brothers and sisters in Christ.  You know what they are doing when they make those choices?  They now are the ones guilty of leaving the fountain of living waters.  Remember this; you must have water to live!  Your Heavenly Father and your Savior are the living water that you need, don’t forsake them.  Remember your roots have been sunk deep into the soil and those roots will naturally seek out water to survive.  Remember the dry periods will come but they are a natural part of the growth process.  Listen to what I believe are comforting words from the Scottish Preacher Thomas Boston, he wrote

A tree, that has life and nourishment, grows to its perfection, yet it is not always growing; it grows not in the winter.  Christians also have their winters, wherein the influences of grace, necessary for their growth cease…What then will become of the soul?  Why, there is still one sure ground of hope.  The saint’s faith is not as the hypocrite’s like a pipe laid short of the fountain, whereby there can be no conveyance: it still remains a bond of union between Christ and the soul; and therefore, because Christ lives, the believer shall live also…In the worst of times, the saints have a principle of growth in them…Therefore, after decays, they revive again: namely, when the winter is over, and the Sun of righteousness returns to them with his warm influences.” 

This tree planted by the waters is a picture of the believer who is living next to Christ.  Jesus Christ is our source of living water.  If you need this water and you want this water, if you want life Jesus Christ offers it to you.  Jesus said in John 7

"If anyone thirsts, let him come to me and drink. Whoever believes in me, as the Scripture has said, ‘Out of his heart will flow rivers of living water. "
(John 7:37-38ESV)

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