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God Has Rejected His People - Jeremiah 6

God forsakes the nation of Israel, but His plan has not failed

Jeremiah 6:1-30, 31:33; Romans 9:4-5; Deuteronomy 32:15; Joshua 24:1-13; Job 1:21, 2:10b, 13:15a; 2 Chronicles 33:10-13; Judges 2:7&10; Romans 9:6-18;

Sep 23, 2012 12:00 PM

MP3 audio icon God-Has-Rejected-His-People_09-23-2012.mp3 — MP3 audio, 11894 kB (12180121 bytes)

Turn once again with me to the prophet Jeremiah, chapter 6.

1 Flee for safety, O people of Benjamin, from the midst of Jerusalem!  Blow the trumpet in Tekoa, and raise a signal on Beth-haccherem, for disaster looms out of the north, and great destruction. 2 The lovely and delicately bred I will destroy, the daughter of Zion. 3 Shepherds with their flocks shall come against her; they shall pitch their tents around her; they shall pasture, each in his place. 4 "Prepare war against her; arise, and let us attack at noon!  Woe to us, for the day declines, for the shadows of evening lengthen! 5 Arise, and let us attack by night and destroy her palaces!"

6 For thus says the LORD of hosts: "Cut down her trees; cast up a siege mound against Jerusalem.  This is the city that must be punished; there is nothing but oppression within her. 7 As a well keeps its water fresh, so she keeps fresh her evil; violence and destruction are heard within her; sickness and wounds are ever before me. 8 Be warned, O Jerusalem, lest I turn from you in disgust, lest I make you a desolation, an uninhabited land."

9 Thus says the LORD of hosts: "They shall glean thoroughly as a vine the remnant of Israel; like a grape-gatherer pass your hand again over its branches." 10 To whom shall I speak and give warning, that they may hear?  Behold, their ears are uncircumcised, they cannot listen; behold, the word of the LORD is to them an object of scorn; they take no pleasure in it. 11 Therefore I am full of the wrath of the LORD; I am weary of holding it in.  "Pour it out upon the children in the street, and upon the gatherings of young men, also; both husband and wife shall be taken, the elderly and the very aged. 12 Their houses shall be turned over to others, their fields and wives together, for I will stretch out my hand against the inhabitants of the land," declares the LORD. 13 "For from the least to the greatest of them, everyone is greedy for unjust gain; and from prophet to priest, everyone deals falsely. 14 They have healed the wound of my people lightly, saying, 'Peace, peace,' when there is no peace. 15 Were they ashamed when they committed abomination?  No, they were not at all ashamed; they did not know how to blush.  Therefore they shall fall among those who fall; at the time that I punish them, they shall be overthrown," says the LORD.

16 Thus says the LORD: "Stand by the roads, and look, and ask for the ancient paths, where the good way is; and walk in it, and find rest for your souls. But they said, 'We will not walk in it.' 17 I set watchmen over you, saying, 'Pay attention to the sound of the trumpet!'  But they said, 'We will not pay attention.' 18 Therefore hear, O nations, and know, O congregation, what will happen to them. 19 Hear, O earth; behold, I am bringing disaster upon this people, the fruit of their devices, because they have not paid attention to my words; and as for my law, they have rejected it. 20 What use to me is frankincense that comes from Sheba, or sweet cane from a distant land?  Your burnt offerings are not acceptable, nor your sacrifices pleasing to me. 21 Therefore thus says the LORD: 'Behold, I will lay before this people stumbling blocks against which they shall stumble; fathers and sons together, neighbor and friend shall perish.'"

22 Thus says the LORD: "Behold, a people is coming from the north country, a great nation is stirring from the farthest parts of the earth. 23 They lay hold on bow and javelin; they are cruel and have no mercy; the sound of them is like the roaring sea; they ride on horses, set in array as a man for battle, against you, O daughter of Zion!" 24 We have heard the report of it; our hands fall helpless; anguish has taken hold of us, pain as of a woman in labor. 25 Go not out into the field, nor walk on the road, for the enemy has a sword; terror is on every side. 26 O daughter of my people, put on sackcloth, and roll in ashes; make mourning as for an only son, most bitter lamentation, for suddenly the destroyer will come upon us.

27 "I have made you a tester of metals among my people, that you may know and test their ways. 28 They are all stubbornly rebellious, going about with slanders; they are bronze and iron; all of them act corruptly. 29 The bellows blow fiercely; the lead is consumed by the fire; in vain the refining goes on, for the wicked are not removed. 30 Rejected silver they are called, for the LORD has rejected them." (Jeremiah 6:1-30 ESV)

There is a pattern of behavior which we see in Scripture which is very troubling.  It seems the most spiritually enlightened people of the Old Testament, the Jews, were also the most rebellious.  The one nation in all the earth which God chose to be His own people were also guilty of being the most stubborn and hard-hearted and wicked of all people.

Their religious privileges made them unique in the world.  The apostle Paul put it this way in Romans 9:

. . . to them [the Jews] belong the adoption, the glory, the covenants, the giving of the law, the worship, and the promises. 5 To them belong the patriarchs, and from their race, according to the flesh, is the Christ, who is God over all, blessed forever. Amen. (Romans 9:4-5 ESV)

These things belonged to the Jews exclusively.  We read of the multitude of God’s blessings upon this little nation throughout their history.  We read of His promises to Abraham and the miraculous birth of Isaac.  We see the fulfillment of His promises again and again as God raises up a people through an old man and his old wife.  God works incredible signs and wonders on Israel’s behalf, delivering them from slavery in Egypt.  For 40 years God faithfully led them through the desert, finally bringing them into the Promised Land because it was just that: the land which He had promised to give to Abraham and his descendants.

We read how God defeated all the enemies of Israel throughout the land of Canaan.  He granted them a king, David, who led them into victory over their foes and re-conquered the land.  The LORD gave them the riches of all their enemies in order to build a magnificent temple to the one true God.  He gave them Solomon, the wisest king that ever lived.  God caused Israel to be the envy of the world.  

Then we read these prophetic words of Moses: But Jeshurun grew fat, and kicked; you grew fat, stout, and sleek; then he forsook God who made him and scoffed at the Rock of his salvation. (Deuteronomy 32:15 ESV)

The old saying is, “You don’t know what you’ve got until it’s gone.”  God had been to Israel the Rock of their salvation, both spiritually and practically.  Through their obedience in worship, Jehovah was their Savior from sin.  And through their obedience to God’s law He was their Deliverer from all their foes.  When they worshipped and obeyed God as He had commanded, He blessed them on every side and in every way.  

Then, they began to take God’s presence among them, and His blessings upon them for granted.  It reminds me of our own welfare system in this country.  What supposedly began as a work of mercy to help alleviate poverty and misery has now become an inalienable right for poor and underprivileged people to free food, free housing, free medical care, birth control, abortion, and just about anything else you can think of.  What once was a temporary helping hand from a benevolent government for the betterment of the needy has morphed into a permanent fixture which has created a subculture of ingrates who now demand their right to mercy.  Multitudes have been “helped” for so long that they now demand perpetual governmental assistance in every area of life, not realizing this is not how the real world works.

God gave Israel every physical blessing imaginable!  He took it from the people of Canaan because of their dreadful sinfulness, and gave it to His own people.  Listen to Joshua’s words as he recounts the experience of Israel and the blessings of God upon them:

1 Joshua gathered all the tribes of Israel to Shechem and summoned the elders, the heads, the judges, and the officers of Israel.  And they presented themselves before God. 2 And Joshua said to all the people, “Thus says the Lord, the God of Israel, ‘Long ago, your fathers lived beyond the Euphrates, Terah, the father of Abraham and of Nahor; and they served other gods. 3 Then I took your father Abraham from beyond the River and led him through all the land of Canaan, and made his offspring many.  I gave him Isaac. 4 And to Isaac I gave Jacob and Esau. And I gave Esau the hill country of Seir to possess, but Jacob and his children went down to Egypt. 5 And I sent Moses and Aaron, and I plagued Egypt with what I did in the midst of it, and afterward I brought you out.
6 “‘Then I brought your fathers out of Egypt, and you came to the sea.  And the Egyptians pursued your fathers with chariots and horsemen to the Red Sea. 7 And when they cried to the Lord, he put darkness between you and the Egyptians and made the sea come upon them and cover them; and your eyes saw what I did in Egypt. And you lived in the wilderness a long time. 8 Then I brought you to the land of the Amorites, who lived on the other side of the Jordan.  They fought with you, and I gave them into your hand, and you took possession of their land, and I destroyed them before you. 9 Then Balak the son of Zippor, king of Moab, arose and fought against Israel.  And he sent and invited Balaam the son of Beor to curse you, 10 but I would not listen to Balaam.  Indeed, he blessed you.  So I delivered you out of his hand. 11 And you went over the Jordan and came to Jericho, and the leaders of Jericho fought against you, and also the Amorites, the Perizzites, the Canaanites, the Hittites, the Girgashites, the Hivites, and the Jebusites.  And I gave them into your hand. 12 And I sent the hornet before you, which drove them out before you, the two kings of the Amorites; it was not by your sword or by your bow. 13 I gave you a land on which you had not labored and cities that you had not built, and you dwell in them.  You eat the fruit of vineyards and olive orchards that you did not plant.’
(Joshua 24:1-13 ESV)

This is the divine welfare system!  God had promised them, “You do what I tell you and I will give you so many blessings, you won’t be able to count them all!”  The promise of God’s blessings upon Israel for their obedience was repeated on numerous occasions throughout the Bible.  Numerous times we read, “God did this and this and this and this for us.“  But along with every recitation in the Scriptures of the special blessings of God upon His people, there is always one of two things which accompany it:

1.  Either a warning not to stray from God and His law, or
2.  The record of Israel having already strayed from God and His Law.

The nation of Israel constantly strayed from God in spite of the blessings they received from His hand.  Their infrequent times of national faithfulness were always brief, and their faithfulness was always less than pure.  Israel never followed the Lord for very long.  Their history as we read it in the Old Testament is one of constantly forsaking the Lord, constantly worshiping other gods, and constantly being punished for it.

Here is a spiritual principle which we might glean from all of this: God could not buy the love of His people Israel with stuff. In spite of all the outward abundance of God’s kindnesses towards His people, in spite of His delivering them from Egypt and giving them a land that flowed with milk and honey, those external blessings never changed the hearts of His people.  

Job is the ultimate example of what the nation of Israel should have been.  Job loved God for who He is.  He did not love God for the blessings He bestowed.  Israel should have had a heart like that.  When all the worldly blessings which the Lord had granted to Job were instantly taken away, Job’s response is a display the kind of heart for God which national Israel NEVER had:

And he said, “Naked I came from my mother's womb, and naked shall I return.  The Lord gave, and the Lord has taken away; blessed be the name of the Lord.” (Job 1:21 ESV))
Shall we receive good from God, and shall we not receive evil?” (Job 2:10b ESV)
“Though he slay me, yet will I trust in him.” (Job 13:15a)

Job is a man who truly loves God for who He is, and not for the stuff He gives.  That is a heart which only God can create in a man.  Because the consistent witness of Scripture is that the most spiritually privileged nation in the history of the world consistently broke their covenants with God, rejected His Law, ignored His commandments, refused to serve Him, and chased after any other so-called gods available.  As a nation, Israel never had a true heart for God.  The blessings of God did not win their hearts.

But secondly, neither did the threats of God provoke them to repentance and love for Him. Ever since Adam, God has stated in very clear terms the consequences for disobedience.  He told Adam that sin would bring death.  He told Israel to obey Him or else suffer the withholding or the removal of all His blessings.  Repeatedly, He taught them that the nations were at His disposal as tools for the punishment of His people and He would use them as such if they wandered from Him and served other gods.  But the threat of woe did not hinder their sinfulness.

Promises of blessing did not create true worshipers.  The threat of disaster did not prevent their idolatry.  And thirdly, the actual punishments of God did not change their hearts. The book of Judges reveals the incurable nature of the hearts of the people of Israel.  In that book, the people repeatedly turn from God for idols, they are punished by God, they temporarily return to God, and almost immediately they forsake Him once again.  Punishment for sins committed did not change the hearts of the people of Israel.

Let’s say it like this: External influences of wealth or poverty, of blessing and cursing alone do not provoke internal changes of heart, even when those external influences are wrought by God.  Is that not the point the history of Israel makes for us very clearly?  Promises of weal, threats of woe, nor the rod to the backs of God’s people ever produced a nation that loved and served Him except very temporarily.

However, we do see that God sometimes changes the hearts of individuals by bringing disaster upon them.  Like Jonah and Nebuchadnezzar.  Those men were brought to their senses (Jonah less so than Neb.) by the catastrophes they experienced.  Even the evil king Manasseh was awakened from the gross wickedness he loved because of what the punishment the Lord brought to bear upon him:

10 The Lord spoke to Manasseh and to his people, but they paid no attention. 11 Therefore the Lord brought upon them the commanders of the army of the king of Assyria, who captured Manasseh with hooks and bound him with chains of bronze and brought him to Babylon. 12 And when he was in distress, he entreated the favor of the Lord his God and humbled himself greatly before the God of his fathers. 13 He prayed to him, and God was moved by his entreaty and heard his plea and brought him again to Jerusalem into his kingdom.  Then Manasseh knew that the Lord was God. (2 Chronicles 33:10-13 ESV)

On one occasion, the entire nation of Assyria repented at the word of the LORD through Jonah.  This was a remarkable exception in Scripture.  But Assyria’s national spiritual revival was short lived, and within a generation, their trust in Jehovah disappeared just as it had with the nation of Israel:

7 And the people served the Lord all the days of Joshua, and all the days of the elders who outlived Joshua, who had seen all the great work that the Lord had done for Israel. 10 And all that generation also were gathered to their fathers. And there arose another generation after them who did not know the Lord or the work that he had done for Israel. (Judges 2:7&10 ESV)

In all of this we see just how desperate we are as the sons of Adam.  Even the most privileged people who have ever lived could not find it in their hearts to love God.  In fact, Jeremiah tells us in chapter 6, the word of the LORD is to them an object of scorn; they take no pleasure in it.  

16 Thus says the LORD: "Stand by the roads, and look, and ask for the ancient paths, where the good way is; and walk in it, and find rest for your souls. But they said, 'We will not walk in it.' 17 . . . 'Pay attention to the sound of the trumpet!'  But they said, 'We will not pay attention.'

So God speaks to Jeremiah at the end of the chapter and tells him,

27 "I have made you a tester of metals among my people, that you may know and test their ways. 28 They are all stubbornly rebellious, going about with slanders; they are bronze and iron; all of them act corruptly. 29 The bellows blow fiercely; the lead is consumed by the fire; in vain the refining goes on, for the wicked are not removed. 30 Rejected silver they are called, for the LORD has rejected them."

The nation whom God calls His own He now rejects.  There is no worse fate that could befall a nation than this: that God rejects them.  Happy is the nation whose God is the LORD, but woe to the nation who rejects the LORD their God.  Woe to the nation whose motto, “In God We Trust”, is only a motto, a quaint saying that no longer describes the people whose motto it is.  In fact, “In God We Trust” is more mockery than motto.  “We will NOT walk in the good way!  We will NOT pay attention!”  Woe to the nation whose god is not the LORD.  Woe to the nation whom the LORD rejects.

Does it not appear from all of this that God’s attempt to raise up a nation of worshipers from Abraham’s descendants was a failure?  There was the occasional national faithfulness, but it seems it was always on the heels of having been trounced by their enemies because God was angry over their sinfulness.  Why was God not more successful in creating a nation to love and serve and worship Him?  And when God sends them their Messiah, instead of rejoicing in Him, they crucify Him.  They even say, “Let His death be upon us and upon our children!  We’ll take responsibility for His crucifixion!”  

How could God’s own people, His chosen people, the apple of His eye, have turned out so badly?  And even to this day, it would be difficult to find a nation whose people are more antagonistic toward Jesus Christ than the nation of Israel.  They absolutely reject Christ as the Messiah.  How could God have failed so badly in creating a nation that would love and serve Him?

6 But it is not as though the word of God has failed.  For not all who are descended from Israel belong to Israel, 7 and not all are children of Abraham because they are his offspring, but “Through Isaac shall your offspring be named.” 8 This means that it is not the children of the flesh who are the children of God, but the children of the promise are counted as offspring. 9 For this is what the promise said: “About this time next year I will return, and Sarah shall have a son.” 10 And not only so, but also when Rebekah had conceived children by one man, our forefather Isaac, 11 though they were not yet born and had done nothing either good or bad—in order that God's purpose of election might continue, not because of works but because of him who calls—12 she was told, “The older will serve the younger.” 13 As it is written, “Jacob I loved, but Esau I hated.”

14 What shall we say then?  Is there injustice on God's part?  By no means! 15 For he says to Moses, “I will have mercy on whom I have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I have compassion.” 16 So then it depends not on human will or exertion, but on God, who has mercy. 17 For the Scripture says to Pharaoh, “For this very purpose I have raised you up, that I might show my power in you, and that my name might be proclaimed in all the earth.” 18 So then he has mercy on whomever he wills, and he hardens whomever he wills. (Romans 9:6-18 ESV)

The word of God has not failed.  God’s purposes have not been stymied by Israel’s stubborn insurrections.  Rather, God has done exactly as He said.  He has raised up a nation that does indeed love Him, a people that does love and serve Him, a people whom He has called to Himself, upon whom He has shown His mercy, and in whom He has worked His miracle of grace:

33 For this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, declares the Lord: I will put my law within them, and I will write it on their hearts.  And I will be their God, and they shall be my people. (Jeremiah 31:33 ESV)

It is the heart that must be changed.  And it is God that must change it.  That’s the way it has always been.  Israel, as a nation, never had a heart for God.  But there has always been those few upon whom the Lord showered His saving mercy, whose hearts belonged to Him.  It depends not on human will or exertion, but on God, who has mercy.

The one thing that the Old Testament proves again and again and again is this: Men are not naturally lovers of God.  We are all naturally unable to love God.  We need, above all else, the mercy of God.



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