Faithlife Sermons

13 The Self-Destructive Path

Jeremiah  •  Sermon  •  Submitted
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Jeremiah 8:4-17
Last week we examined Jeremiah’s sermon on the Valley of Slaughter. This week Jeremiah confronts God’s people with three more sins—willful disobedience, deliberate ignorance, and negligent leaders.
So let’s get right to it.

Willful Disobedience

When a person falls down the natural response is to get back up if he can. Toddlers get back up when they fall down. Athletes get back up after they fall. It’s a natural response to try and get back up on your feet as soon as possible.
That’s why Jeremiah is so amazed at the Israelites.
Jeremiah 8:4 NASB95
“You shall say to them, ‘Thus says the Lord, “Do men fall and not get up again? Does one turn away and not repent?
It’s not that the Israelites couldn't get back up again, but that they refused to. They were being willfully disobedient and refusing to repent. Jeremiah continues:
Jeremiah 8:5 NASB95
“Why then has this people, Jerusalem, Turned away in continual apostasy? They hold fast to deceit, They refuse to return.
They know they should repent but they won’t. They know they should come back home to God but they refuse. God has heard all of their excuses and says:
Jeremiah 8:6 NASB95
“I have listened and heard, They have spoken what is not right; No man repented of his wickedness, Saying, ‘What have I done?’ Everyone turned to his course, Like a horse charging into the battle.
War horses have blinders on them so they won’t get scared of all the violence going on around them. God’s people are like wild horses with their blinders on, not thinking about anything except galloping headlong as fast as they can.
God’s people have no self-awareness for where they’ve been or where they’re going. This is why regular self-examination and repentance are so important for professing Christians.
See, the biggest difference between believers in Christ and those who aren’t isn’t the amount of sin (although we should be sinning less and less) it’s that believers are aware of their sins and repent.
Believers keep repenting and getting back up on their feet. Believers fall down in the mud just like everyone else but they aren’t content to stay there. They don’t look around at the mud and say, oh isn’t this nice.
Instead, like the prodigal son, believers, acknowledge their sins, climb out of their pig pens through repentance, and head back home.

Deliberate Ignorance

Willful Disobedience, refusing to repent, is pretty bad but the state of the Israelites was even worse. They were deliberately ignorant.
Jeremiah 8:7 NASB95
“Even the stork in the sky Knows her seasons; And the turtledove and the swift and the thrush Observe the time of their migration; But My people do not know The ordinance of the Lord.
Birds aren’t known for their intelligence that’s why we call people who aren’t very smart birdbrains. Birds have tiny little brains and are known for flying into windows and doing other stupid things. But even birds obey the instructions of their Creator.
They don’t need to be told to head south for the winter nor do they need to be given directions to get back home. They just know.
So, in some ways, birds are smarter than us. God’s people not only refuse to repent but they can be also be deliberately ignorant of God’s requirements.
In Jeremiah’s day God’s people were biblically illiterate and totally fine with staying that way. They didn’t know God’s commands, nor did they care to know. They were deliberately ignorant.
What about us?
We have access to so many resources today that the people in Jeremiah’s day didn’t have. We have both the Old and New Testaments. We don’t just have community copies of the scriptures but multiple personal copies in our own language. We can read the Bible for ourselves.
And we have commentaries, study bibles, and tools for reading the Bible in the original languages if we want to. We even have electronic Bibles that turn the pages for us while we listen.
Yet, despite all of these advantages only one in five evangelicals reads the Bible every day. So that means it is possible that only 4 of you in this room here today read your Bible everyday.
See, we need to wonder if we’re being deliberately ignorant.
The solution isn’t hard. Get a Bible and start reading it. And if you are already reading your Bible, but you find yourself getting distracted easily, then get a pencil and start underlining the key words.
See, it’s not that hard. It’s really that we just don’t want to.
The Bible contains the heart of God. It tells us of the way to salvation. It gives a true history of the world and reveals God purpose for all of Creation. It gives us light on our path. It gives us comfort. It encourages us. It reveals Christ and the Glory of God to us.
So don’t be, in the words of Jeremiah, a birdbrain. Don’t keep living in deliberate ignorance. Get a Bible a read it everyday for the rest of your life, and even more importantly do what it says.

Negligent Leaders

God’s people, of course, are mostly to blame for their own willful disobedience and deliberate ignorance. But their spiritual leaders are held accountable, too.
In Jeremiah’s day what they were doing was downright criminal.
Jeremiah 8:8 NASB95
“How can you say, ‘We are wise, And the law of the Lord is with us’? But behold, the lying pen of the scribes Has made it into a lie.
“The lying pen of the scribes” was being used to distort and twist the Word of God. That should be a crime.
The job of the scribes is to preserve the word of God but they were doing just the opposite while telling everyone “we are wise”.
Trusting in your own wisdom or in someone who goes around telling people how wise he is, is never wise, it’s a sure recipe for disaster.
The Apostle Paul tells pastors—
2 Timothy 2:15 NASB95
Be diligent to present yourself approved to God as a workman who does not need to be ashamed, accurately handling the word of truth.
A leader’s job isn’t to be wise in his own eyes. Instead, he should be pointing people to the word of God.
Instead, we see ministers teaching their congregations that they have to do good works to earn their salvation. We see pastors who teach their congregations that financial blessing and physical well-being are always the will of God for them, and that faith, positive speech, and donations to religious causes will increase one's material wealth.
The problem isn’t with the Bible because God’s word is clear on all of these topics. It’s that pastors are failing to teach their congregations the truth and that individuals are fine with it because they’re hearing what they want to hear.

The Sad Results

What were the results? What happens when God’s ministers fail to teach the basic message of salvation and individuals go along with it?
Jeremiah 8:10 NASB95
“Therefore I will give their wives to others, Their fields to new owners; Because from the least even to the greatest Everyone is greedy for gain; From the prophet even to the priest Everyone practices deceit.
In other words, God’s blessings are removed and the whole culture becomes deceitful.
The people follow the example of their leaders. They become greedy for gain, just like their leaders. Everyone starts to distort the truth.
Televangelists that preach the false prosperity gospel raise a flock that embraces the lie God wants you to prosper and if you aren’t prospering then something is spiritually wrong with you.
Popular pastors that preach everyone has the ability to claim God’s healing raise a flock that believes it is never God’s will for you to be sick and if you are then something is spiritually wrong with you.
Jeremiah says it like this:
Jeremiah 8:11 NASB95
“They heal the brokenness of the daughter of My people superficially, Saying, ‘Peace, peace,’ But there is no peace.
These false teachers spoke in soothing words offering “peace” or hope but it was a false hope. There was no peace because their is never peace when your hope is based upon a distortion of the truth.
The people needed to get out of the pig pen. They needed to repent. But these self-proclaimed “wise men” told them everything is fine, and oh please pass me another mud pie.
In other words, they didn’t take God seriously. The watered down God’s holiness and they watered down their sinfulness. They watered down the word of God and ended up with a kinder, gentler, friendly version of God but one that wasn’t God at all.
In his book God in the Wasteland David Wells writes about the “weightlessness” of God in the contemporary church:
It is one of the defining marks of Our Time that God is now weightless … he has become unimportant. He rests upon the world so inconsequentially as not to be noticeable.… Those who assure the pollsters of their belief in God’s existence may nonetheless consider him less interesting than television, his commands less authoritative than their appetites for affluence and influence, his judgment no more awe-inspiring than the evening news, and his truth less compelling than the advertisers’ sweet fog of flattery and lies. That is weightlessness. —David Wells, God in the Wasteland
It’s significant that the Hebrew word for Glory literally means “weight” or “heaviness.” We live in a world where God is a light-weight and that’s what many of us prefer Him to be.
Because when we make light of God’s holiness, we can also make light of sin. We may feel better about ourselves but it’s like saying “Peace, peace, but there is no peace.”
When God’s ministers don’t uphold the glory of God in their teaching they ought to be ashamed of themselves but in Israel’s case they had no shame.
Jeremiah 8:12 NASB95
“Were they ashamed because of the abomination they had done? They certainly were not ashamed, And they did not know how to blush; Therefore they shall fall among those who fall; At the time of their punishment they shall be brought down,” Says the Lord.
The have no shame. The rest of the passage goes on to describe what happens when people rebel against God and refuse to come back home.
Jeremiah 8:13 NASB95
“I will surely snatch them away,” declares the Lord; “There will be no grapes on the vine And no figs on the fig tree, And the leaf will wither; And what I have given them will pass away.” ’ ”
God snatches them away to punish them. Other translations read “I will consume them” or “I will bring them to an end.” In other words God removes his blessing and lets his people experience the natural consequences of their actions.
Jeremiah 8:14 NASB95
Why are we sitting still? Assemble yourselves, and let us go into the fortified cities And let us perish there, Because the Lord our God has doomed us And given us poisoned water to drink, For we have sinned against the Lord.
There’s no help coming because God, himself, is bringing about their destruction.
Jeremiah 8:15 NASB95
We waited for peace, but no good came; For a time of healing, but behold, terror!
There’s no one to rescue them. The meaning of the word translated “healing” isn’t so much about physical healing, or good health, but about social healing.
In other words, there is no escape from the tensions between people. Part of God’s curse is that society becomes terribly fragmented and entrenched in self-serving opinions all because of pride and a refusal to repent.
But it worse than just a breakdown of society. All the while invading armies are approaching from the north.
Jeremiah 8:16 NASB95
From Dan is heard the snorting of his horses; At the sound of the neighing of his stallions The whole land quakes; For they come and devour the land and its fullness, The city and its inhabitants.
These words are describing a day of judgement. There has been judgement in the past but there will also be judgment in the future. And it’s not too much of a stretch to imagine people once again refusing to repent.
People will say, “My pastor warned me about Hell, but I didn’t really believe him.” Or “I know I’m not perfect but I thought God would accept me because I’m not as bad as those other guys.”
Many, even professing Christians, in the end will be surprised by God’s judgement even though they’ve been warned.
Here’s Jeremiah’s final warning in this section:
Jeremiah 8:17 NASB95
“For behold, I am sending serpents against you, Adders, for which there is no charm, And they will bite you,” declares the Lord.
I think snakes are amazing but I don’t like being around them much. They’re kind of creepy. And I think most people feel this way because of what happened in Genesis 3 with the serpent and Adam and Eve.
Satan struck at them and inflicted a deadly bite. And Genesis 3:15 says Satan is continually striking at the heels of humanity inflicting pain and suffering that leads to death.

The Antidote

Sin, which is naturally present within us all, leads to death, every time, unless we have an antidote.
In the days of Moses, snakes were sent by God to punish his people for their sins.
Numbers 21:6 NASB95
The Lord sent fiery serpents among the people and they bit the people, so that many people of Israel died.
They people acknowledged their sinfulness and went to Moses to ask what they should do. Moses went to God on behalf of the people and God told him to “Make a fiery serpent and set it on a pole, and everyone who is bitten, when he sees it, shall live.”
Jesus is our antidote. He is our substitute for sin. In the words of Jesus himself:
John 3:14–17 NASB95
“As Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of Man be lifted up; so that whoever believes will in Him have eternal life. “For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life. “For God did not send the Son into the world to judge the world, but that the world might be saved through Him.
There is no stopping God’s coming judgment but anyone who looks, who trusts, in Christ shall not perish, but have eternal life.
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