Highlights from Jeremiah 17-24
As we are trying to study this book in the span of just 12 weeks, we are only covering main themes, highlights, etc.
One of the most hopeful, and yet offensive chapters. In this chapter God does not leave any room for doubt–our hearts are desperately wicked, and we fool ourselves to think we could have been born otherwise. A quick look inward will only confirm what you read here in Jeremiah 17. We have, or have had, and may continue in, what some call “pet sins”. Ugh. A sin you nurture and devote yourself to. You are a slave to that sin without admitting it. The Spirit would have you think more correctly, with an iron stylus tipped with diamond, your sin is engraved on your cold stoney tablet of a heart.
Did you listen to Solomon’s wisdom, and write God’s hesed and truth on your heart (Prov. 3)? No, you engraved your beloved sins, that have mastered you. The altar is the heart of the worship rituals, all of which should as shadows point us to Christ the reality; yet their altars were filled with false worship. And in so fastly clinging to the altar in false worship, God charges that His people have “let go of their inheritance.”
Pause a moment to praise the LORD that that He never lets go of those who are His, though we often let of Him. He is faithful, and nothing can separate us from His love, or from His Sovereign grasp on us. We are kept by His Power! Amen.
Chapter 17 continues to remind readers that God knows our hearts and we ought not to lie about what sort of man we are. Though our hearts deceive us (we’re all ok, just do you, be true to yourself, whatever you feel must be right, we are all entitled to our own opinions, etc), in the end–if we trust our hearts rather than trusting in YHWH we show ourselves to be fools.
Yet, redemption is possible, for with God all things are possible. His name, “The Hope of Israel” reveals that in Him we do hope, in Him we are not put to shame.
Fast forward to find our hope in Jeremiah 24. Jeremiah finishes with the figs that he mentioned many chapters earlier–the good figs are those who go into exile. To them He says “I will set My eyes on them for good, I will bring them again to this land, I will build them up and not overthrow them, and I will plant them and not overthrow them…”
“I will give them a heart to know Me, for I am the LORD; and they will be My people, and I will be their God, for they will return to Me with their whole heart.”Jeremiah 24:7
Our hearts are wicked, but He cleanses, He gives a new heart. We do not need to try harder, we just need to look to YHWH, the One True God.
Chapter 18 gives us the beautiful picture of God as potter, currently at work. He is the potter who is molding the clay. The clay cannot watch His work and demand answers as to why He could have done such a thing. Yet, don’t we demand that He reveal all?
And don’t we also question why anything bad thing could happen? “Why does it always have to be me?” “why do bad things happen to good people?” (Romans 3, there are none righteous, remember?)
Too often, believers and unbelievers alike, attempt to read circumstances and end up completely fooled about both circumstances and God’s character. Despite the tendency, God continually calls to His people, offering reconciliation, drawing them back to the ancient paths.
“My people have forgotten Me”
This is at the heart of the problem. We see enough to know God exists, but we do not incline our ears to listen and learn, we forget what we hear, we are quick to look away. Yet (verse 11) He calls again and again to repent, to turn from the stubbornness of our evil hearts. The response of Jeremiah’s original audience? Refusal, and another plot to kill Jeremiah.
The next few chapters have a lot to say about shame. Remember, this was written to a culture very unlike our own. We steer clear of shame, and believe no one should be ashamed for any thought, word, or deed. We are so individualistic in our American Christianity that we actually believe God would never use shame or tolerate shame. We believe our community should never address issues of shame, it is after all none of their business.
Yet–He declares often that His enemies will be put to shame–and in other passages He uses shame to teach His people to delight in what is good and pure and righteous rather than delighting in that which is contrary to His glory. Look for how often this word, shame, appears in the rest of this book.
Yet–we are brought into the Body of Christ; when He saves us, it is our introduction into a community. We cannot be His and not belong to His Kingdom. We cannot be His and expect our community to “mind their own business.” We belong to one another, and issues of shame ought to be addressed with grace, and can bring us into fuller fellowship with God and one another. Our shame should help us look to the cross, lay down the sin and walk once again with our God, in His ancient paths.
Jeremiah’s lament in chapter 20 closes in classic imprecatory style. Though we empathize with Jeremiah’s feelings, we now live in a time when God would have us pray for enemies, bless our enemies, love our enemies in word and deed. So in our own angst, cry out honestly to God, but ask Jesus to lead you in wanting reconciliation, and leaving the vengeance up to Him. We ought to (see chapter 22) weep for the unrepentant.
Knowing, Really Knowing
To know Him, this is eternal life! (John 17:3). Knowing Him will manifest in your thoughts, words, and deeds. You will be fruitful if you know Him. You will love what He loves, and actively care for those loves. Do you care about justice, righteousness, and plead for the cause of the afflicted? (22:15-16)
How many right now care about “justice” but at the same time despise words like “righteousness”? Do your social justice heroes love God’s righteousness, and seek as Paul does (Philippians 3), or are they meshing together a justice and righteousness of their own? Much like the Israelites, the surrounding cultures, and every generation really…
As you close this study, take note of how often God addresses their true guilt, of not obeying His voice. Has it been your practice, to set aside time to soak in His Word? Or do you settle for a verse here and there, a famous influencer’s paraphrase of a verse, or worse yet, a look inward and seeking after a word other than His Word? Now is the time, listen, incline your ear, beloved!!! Seek Him where He is to be found, where He reveals Himself.