[ I realize this is a long piece but you're a grown-up, right? ]
And the word of the Lord came unto me the second time, saying, What seest thou? And I said, I see a seething pot; and the face thereof is toward the north.
Jeremiah is known as the weeping prophet. There has been a growing sadness in my heart over the past few years. . . I’m not depressed - I’m sad, and there is a difference. Lately, my thoughts keep going back to the ministry to which Jeremiah was called, and my sadness has grown.
Now, more than ever, I understand why Jeremiah wept.
This prophet of God lived at a truly terrible time in history. Not only did he experience the horrors of war, starvation, siege, and captivity, he was called upon to warn the people of it, urging them to repent. For 40 years Jeremiah cried out warning after warning to the people of Judah but they refused to listen to him. We find words in Jeremiah 15 that clearly demonstrate the cause of Jeremiah’s agony:
And if they ask you, ‘Where shall we go?’ tell them, ‘This is what the Lord says: “‘Those destined for death, to death; those for the sword, to the sword; those for starvation, to starvation; those for captivity, to captivity.’
“I will send four kinds of destroyers against them,” declares the Lord, “the sword to kill and the dogs to drag away and the birds and the wild animals to devour and destroy… Who will have pity on you, Jerusalem? ...You have rejected me,” declares the Lord. You keep on backsliding. So I will reach out and destroy you; I am tired of holding back ...I will bring bereavement and destruction on my people, for they have not changed their ways.I will make their widows more numerous than the sand of the sea ...I will put the survivors to the sword before their enemies, declares the Lord. (Jeremiah 15:2-3, 5-9)
Jeremiah laments that he was ever born. Numerous times, he cries out to God, “Why is my pain perpetual, and my wound incurable, which refuses to be healed? Will You be altogether unto me as a liar, and as waters that fail. Jeremiah had spent 40 years telling the people what appearance of “religion.” Their worship was just a show.
He warned Judah of the folly of depending upon their own strength to defend them from their enemies. They were confident - that the government would both meet their needs and defeat their enemies. He warned them of an enemy coming (that seething pot in the north from chapter 1) But, they wouldn’t listen.
Early in Jehoiakim’s reign, Jeremiah delivered his “Temple sermon” (Jeremiah 7:1-15, 26:1-24), The word that came to Jeremiah from the Lord, saying, Stand in the gate of the Lord's house, and proclaim there this word, and say, Hear the word of the Lord, all ye of Judah, that enter in at these gates to worship the Lord. Thus saith the Lord of hosts, the God of Israel, Amend your ways and your doings, and I will cause you to dwell in this place. Trust ye not in lying words, saying, The temple of the Lord, The temple of the Lord, The temple of the Lord, are these. For if ye thoroughly amend your ways and your doings; if ye throughly execute judgment between a man and his neighbor; If you oppress not the stranger, the fatherless, and the widow, and do not shed innocent blood in this place, neither walk after other gods to your hurt: Then will I cause you to dwell in this place, in the land that I gave to your fathers, for ever and ever. Behold, ye trust in lying words, that cannot profit. Will ye steal, murder, and commit adultery, and swear falsely, and burn incense unto Baal, and walk after other gods whom ye know not; And come and stand before me in this house, which is called by my name, and say, We are delivered to do all these abominations?
Is this house, which is called by my name, become a den of robbers in your eyes? Behold, even I have seen it, saith the Lord. But go ye now unto my place which was in Shiloh, where I set my name at the first, and see what I did to it for the wickedness of my people Israel. And now, because ye have done all these works, saith the Lord, and I spake unto you, rising up early and speaking, but ye heard not; and I called you, but ye answered not; Therefore will I do unto this house, which is called by my name, wherein ye trust, and unto the place which I gave to you and to your fathers, as I have done to Shiloh. And I will cast you out of my sight, as I have cast out all your brethren, even the whole seed of Ephraim.
He was denouncing the people for depending on an outward show of religion, while continuing to live with wicked hearts - appearing Godly on the outside, but filled with unrighteousness on the inside. He was telling them that while they appeared to be spiritual –– they were truly carnal.
He predicted that God would destroy the Temple if the people didn’t repent. For this, he was arrested. Jeremiah continually denounced Jehoiakim for his selfishness, materialism, and injustice. Members of Jeremiah’s family turned against him and even plotted to kill him.Over the years, he was whipped and put in the stocks; attacked by a mob, threatened by the king and and ridiculed - Some of Zedekiah’s princes had Jeremiah arrested, beaten, accused of treason, and thrown in jail, and from there he was thrown in a deep empty well. Perhaps worst of all, Jeremiah was alone. He was not allowed to marry and his family abandoned him. The people turned against him and didn’t believe him. His fellow priests laughed at him to scorn, ridiculed and dismissed his prophecies, calling him a kook and a lunatic. He was alone with the knowledge of the horrors coming for Judah.
On September 11, 2001 I stood glued to my television set, as did many of you watching events unfold in New York as giant aircraft rammed into the world trade center. I watched in horror as desperate men and women held hands and leaped from hundreds of stories, choosing rather to die in the fall than to be burned alive. My heart grieved as those giant symbols of American prosperity crumbled into dust. But my greatest grief came as I realized what this truly meant - on a spiritual level. Many saw the smoke and flames, they trembled at the devastation and death - but I trembled for another reason. As I watched that second plane crash into the south tower, the truth of what was happening shot through my heart like an arrow.
I realized in that moment that our nation was under attack. I began to weep. I wept as I watched desperate men and women leap to their deaths, realizing there was no escape from the relentless flames that were raging around them. I wept for those trapped in the flaming inferno with no escape. I wept for the families that were watching in horror, knowing that their loved ones could be dead or dying. But I wept for another reason, for I realized in that instant that the favor this nation had enjoyed for nearly three centuries was gone. I knew in an instant that God had removed a hedge of protection around this nation that for more than 200 years had prevented such things from happening on our shores.
In those early hours of 9/11 the jihadist sent an unmistakable message to America: “We hate America and all that it represents. Whenever and wherever we can, we will strike at the heart of you.” WE GOT THAT MESSAGE, LOUD AND CLEAR. But there was another message that was delivered that day, but not heard by most Americans. It was a message from a holy God Who said, “I will no longer protect you. I have removed my hedge from around you. Your shores are now exposed to the nations who have for so long sought to strike you, but because of Me, they could not.”
God had warned the nation of Israel for many years through many prophets that an enemy from the north would come as God’s instrument to crush them because of their sin. Israel ignored the prophets, even killed the prophets. They were laughed at, scorned, imprisoned, even sawn in half. Israel’s prophets, corrupted by their own self-righteousness, proclaimed a season of wealth and peace was ahead; God would NEVER allow an enemy to destroy them. Why, they were the APPLE OF GOD’S EYE!
Another prophet, EZEKIEL warned the people that their priests, their prophets, and their politicians were like ravening wolves, enriching themselves by defrauding widows, gorging themselves on their own lusts, ruling over the people for their own gain - God even says, “I sought for a man to warn them - but found none.” (Ezekiel 22)
Isaiah warned with passion and wisdom.
Ezekiel sounded the alarm with a shout
Jeremiah wept because of his great sadness
And yet, the people would not listen. Finally, Nebuchadnezzar came and the nation was destroyed.
America is now standing where Israel stood.
Laughing in the face of God.
Resolute in her rebellion.
Wicked to her very core. . . . .
We don't tolerate sin - we CELEBRATE SIN. We celebrate perversion, prefer perversion, we teach perversion to our children. We rejoice at evil and snarl at righteousness. We laugh at the filth of the late night talk show and grind our teeth toward the truth teller. We let criminals roam the streets rioting, looting, burning, and killing and threaten the righteous with prison and law suits, and “cancellation.” We speak of compassion but only for the sinner while compassion is withheld from those who love God. We have removed classic literature from our school libraries and replaced them with pornography and perversion. Instead of protecting the innocence of our children, we gleefully rob them of their innocence and purity, and call it education. We have legalized the murder of the unborn and criminalized the Word of God.
God is watching America –– God is watching. As with Judah there is a seething pot of wrath boiling somewhere and out of that pot the wrath of God will be poured out upon this wicked nation.
Meanwhile, our politicians get richer, our pulpits grow weaker, and our prophets misrepresent the Word of God for their own gain. The poor get poorer, the chains of the oppressed grow heavier, our government grows more powerful while the voice of the church grows weaker, the stains of perversion grows darker and the hope of innocence gets fainter, and the shouts of warning are all but drowned out by the sounds of the worship of mankind.
God is watching America –– God is watching. And as it was with Israel in the day of Jeremiah, a great evil is preparing to break out upon our land, in retribution for our wickedness. Our “best days” are not just ahead.
This message has been simmering in my heart for some time now, but I never want to bring such a message without a clear word of hope! God never forewarns judgment without making provision for hope.
Recently, I watched Sight and Sound Theater’s live performance of Esther on a DVD. Oh, the story of Esther is a story that brings so much hope. . . and for the first time in a long time - I wept - not out of sadness, but in a great wave of hope!
The story of Esther takes place AFTER Nebuchadnezzar destroyed Jerusalem and dragged so many away in captivity. The story of Esther takes place AFTER the judgment of God came and the nation was destroyed.
Even here there is a word of Hope. Even though I believe with all of my heart that a great wave of the wrath of God will inevitably crash upon the shores of this nation and sooner than later –– there is hope!
GOD DESTROYED THE NATION - BUT GOD PRESERVED HIS PEOPLE!
Israel lay in ruins. . . .
God had destroyed her temple
He routed her rulers
He brought to nothing her beloved Jerusalem
He turned her wealth to dust
He pulled down her idols
He brought to shame her foolish pride
He consumed her false prophets
He brought justice upon her wicked rulers
He dealt harshly with her corrupt priesthood. . . .
God destroyed the nation of Israel . . . But He preserved his people.
Jeremiah 29:11 says - For I know the plans I have for you, saith the Lord, thoughts of peace, and not of evil, to give you an expected end. Then shall ye call upon me, and ye shall go and pray unto me, and I will hearken unto you. And ye shall seek me, and find me, when ye shall search for me with all your heart.
When the people in exile were faced with the cruel plans of Haman Esther asked, “Will you spend the next three days fasting and praying for me?” When the people of God sought him, when they searched for Him with all their hearts, they found that God was listening. Today is a day when God’s people need to call upon God, we need to put on, if you will, sackcloth and ashes and seek the Lord with all our hearts. This is not a day to start a little prayer initiative and pray earnestly for a few weeks and then become distracted by more pleasant endeavors
Yes, God is watching, but God is also listening. He is listening for the sound of repentance among His people. He is listening for hearts that are once again burning for Him and His righteousness, and if we will call upon Him He will hear us. Though He may bring judgment among the nation –– HE WILL PRESERVE HIS PEOPLE.