The Hardened Heart

the heart

Jeremiah 47-49 The soft earth nourishes seeds, yet some seeds fail to germinate even when given all the right conditions. Judas had walked, talked, ate, and enjoyed the fellowship of Jesus and the other eleven disciples, but his seed failed to germinate. Like Judas, the nations of Philistia, Moab, Ammon, Edom, Damascus, and Elam saw God prosper Judah, but their seeds remained hardened. In the end, God dug them up, exposed them to the ravages of King Nebuchadnezzar, and they are no longer.

But wait!! There were some seeds/hearts deep within these kingdoms, seeds, and hearts of potential and restoration.  God promised Moab and Ammon would see their fortunes reversed. The question is, why? What did God see that men cannot? It is the same principle Jesus said: “Blessed are those who have not seen me and yet believe.” (Jn 20:29) So it will be with these nations. We saw them as lost forever, but God sees the heart, and His love will continue to penetrate that hard shell in hopes it will germinate and not continue in the spirit of Judas.  God is not willing any to perish, but all come to repentance. He will continue to send the rains to unlock that hardened heart and soften it.

Our part is not to give up praying for the lost.  Do you know someone that seems to have that Judas’ spirit? Continue to pray for their salvation.

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The Gospel Then and Now

The gospel message

Jeremiah 43-44 Israel had come from captivity to freedom, yet they wished to return to Egypt. What irony and foolishness is this! In 1776 our nation was born out of conflict and bondage to a foreign government. Yet here in 2020, we find some that want us to return to that same bondage. They burn, loot, and say let us turn to socialism even though the evidence is overwhelmingly negative. It seems that men never learn except through hardship.

 Jeremiah 42 is an example of men who refuse to believe their prophet even though his words have come true repeatedly. They have lived through the desecration of their temple and palace. Their leaders are no more, and the Babylonians have set up a provisional government, yet these rebels would have none of it. They seek guidance from God, but when it does not match their ideas, they rebel, kidnap Jeremiah, and force him and Baruch to march to Egypt. What a show of hypocrisy and foolishness!

But, God, in His grace, speaks again to their heart. At the outset, God had said they would not listen, and today it is the same. Yet, like Jeremiah, we must steadfastly keep our eyes on God because He has sent us to tell that gospel message even when men blatantly say, “We will not listen to you!” Remember this:

“the gospel is God’s power for salvation to everyone who believes.” [Rom 1:16] 

Oh the grace and mercy of our God.

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Hypocrisy!

Hypocrisy

Jeremiah 40 to 42 After the siege ended, Nebuchadnezzar had left a small contingent in the land to care for it. They came to Jeremiah, the prophet, seeking God’s counsel about what they should do.  Standing before him, they said: “Please pray to the Lord “your” God that He will tell us where we should go and what we should do. We promise that whatever He says, we will do.” After ten days, Jeremiah emerges from his prayer closet with God’s counsel, which is resoundingly rejected.  Jeremiah’s words and their promise to do whatever he said don’t match what they wanted to hear.  How often do we make promises, but become impatient and decide to do what “we want” not what God says?

Instead of believing Jeremiah, they said: “God did not send you to tell us to stay here.” Out of the mouth, the heart speaketh. Their false piety is nothing more than hypocrisy.  They said, we will not stay here because “our” God said for us to go.  How like Saul when Samuel confronted him and like him, this contingent quickly forgot their promise because it didn’t fit with their plans. Now it is not “your” God but, “our” God and, “our” God said; go to Egypt.

Jeremiah reminded them and he is reminding us:

God would not send confusing messages because He not a God of confusion

Are we wanting God’s permission to do what we have already decided OR do we wait and listen for His voice to say: “You will hear a word spoken behind you, saying, “This is the correct way, walk in it,”  [Is 30:21]

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Ebed who????

BE a hero

Jeremiah 37 -39 Novels and mysteries have cliff hanger episodes to keep us riveted to the plot. Jeremiah’s book is no different, and chapter by chapter, we are privy to the plans of the villains and heroes. The villains don’t believe Jeremiah the prophet, and so plot to keep the cowardly vacillating king, Zedekiah, from surrendering.

Zedekiah vacillates between keeping Jeremiah safe and yielding to the villains—even after hearing Jeremiah tell him the best option.  In the middle of this, Jeremiah’s fateful mistake leads to him being caught and hidden in a covered muddy cistern. While the villains are busy slapping each other on the back for getting rid of Jeremiah, Ebed Melech, a court servant, is busy convincing Zedekiah to let him free Jeremiah out of the cistern.  Zedekiah for once wisely listens and allows Ebed to free Jeremiah.

Ebed Melech is the courageous man of the hour.

Through this entire chapter, we have God’s eyes to see who would be true to Him. It turns out that it wasn’t an Israelite but a courageous Ethiopian who becomes Jeremiah’s savior.  In his humility, he never asks for a reward but God saw and spared him when the Babylonians took Jerusalem.

You never know when God will use you to be the person of the hour, but this one thing you can be certain of:

God rewards humility, faithfulness, and courage.

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Jeremiah 33 “The Word of the Lord…”

Call unto God

Jeremiah 33 In times of quiet, our hearts are more open to the “word of the Lord,” because the distractions are minimized. Jeremiah was shut up in the court of the guard, but walls or circumstances do not bind the Lord’s word. It is still true today. God is anywhere you are. You may be confined to a bed due to illness, or you may be restricted to a prison cell, or you may be confined due to the corona-virus restrictions. God knows where you are, and if your heart is prepared to hear Him, He will come to you, and He will give you eyes to see, ears to hear, and a heart to understand.

The Lord came to Jeremiah, and He comes to His children today: call to me, and I will answer you and tell you great and hidden things that you have not known. “God can do anything He wishes. There’s no prayer too hard for God to answer, no problem too big to solve, no person too lost to save, no promise too difficult to keep. Nothing lies outside the reach of prayer except that which lies outside the will of God.” [Adrian Rogers]

Have you heard the voice of the Lord in your quiet time? 

What needs do you have that need prayer? May I pray for you this day?

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God’s Love

God loves

Jeremiah 31, “I Love you! God!”

Long ago a hymn writer penned these words to those who need a fresh look at God:

“O Soul are you weary and troubled? No light in the darkness you see? There’s light for a look at the Savior and life more abundant and free. Turn your eyes upon Jesus, look full in his wonderful face, and the things of earth will grow strangely dim in the light of His glory and grace.”

Truly “God loves with an everlasting love, and that is why He has been and always will be faithful.” [Jer 31:3] Perhaps you, like the exiles in Babylon, need to hear those words. Maybe that is why Jeremiah wrote this letter to them and adds this postscript: “Sweeter words cannot be said than I love you! Greater is the phrase, I have always loved you and I always will.” 

Centuries later, John wrote: “For this is the way God loved the world: He gave his one and only Son so that everyone who believes in him will not perish but have eternal life.” [John 3:16] And later still, God’s Son Jesus said Greater love has no one than this that one lay down his life for his friends. [Joh 15:13].

Today ponder those thoughts, sing that hymn, and know this truth:

“God loves you, and God loves me!”  

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Snail Mail

Snail ,mail

Jeremiah 29 Do you miss home; the familiar sounds and smells? Do you often reminisce about that time? Put yourself in the shoes of those taken by Nebuchadnezzar to Babylon. You are longing to return to your homeland, but it seems like there is no hope; the days drag on and on and on. You are trying to discern from the news what is really happening. Whose words are true?  One the one hand, you hear the exiled priests saying, “Don’t worry, it will end soon! Our wealth will be returned to the Temple, and our kings will rise again.” On other days you hear:  get busy; build houses, have big families. And to add to that you hear: PRAY FOR BABYLON AND THE BABYLONIANS!

PRAY for the Babylonians who took me captive?  Are you kidding me?

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Whose words are right? Because God knows they need assurance, He empowers Jeremiah to pen a letter to them:

Dear Exiles, know this; God loves you. He has put you here so you will not have to experience the calamity in Jerusalem. Don’t listen to the false reports of returning; God has not sent those who spout those words. Instead, remain faithful. Live and be productive. When 70yrs has passed, God will send you back to rebuild His city!

The Lord has “plans to prosper you, not to harm you; plans to give you a future filled with hope.”

Lovingly, Jeremiah

PS This God’s plan if you will accept it. Remember, you are a child of the Highest God.  Don’t forget who you are and don’t forget whose you are.

God has a plan for you in 2020 if you will accept it. He loves you and He has put you right where you are to do His work. Even though it is hard, God is asking;

Will you accept My plan for you even if you don’t understand it?

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Principle: Remove the Rotten Figs!

Are you a good fig or rotten?

Jeremiah 24 God showed Jeremiah a vision of two baskets of figs to reveal His plan. First, King Nebuchadnezzar rounded up and carted off the most favored craftsmen, the young and wise students. Surely those taken were the worst of the worst or the rotten figs, and the ones left behind were the best of the best—the good figs, right? How often we draw the wrong conclusion. God removed the best “figs,” Ezekiel, Daniel, and the Three Hebrews, to a place of protection—Babylon.  He knew what Nebuchadnezzar would do, so He removed His good figs far from the calamity. Those left behind thought they were undoubtedly the best of the best, but God sent Jeremiah to say to those left in Jerusalem; you are the rotten figs.

Romans 8:28 reminds us that “Truly all things do work together for good to those who love God.” In Babylon, the “good fig’s” faith grew and their desire to acknowledge God as Lord. He used that time to prepare Nehemiah to return and rebuild the wall and Ezra to return to teach in Jerusalem.  What about the rotten figs? Just like we would toss rotten figs to the garbage heap, God would banish them. God allowed foreigners to scatter them around the globe, or they died there—all because of disobedience and no love for God.

It’s easy to look and draw conclusions. Take a moment and ask, which fig am I? Will I edify or ruin the barrel? 

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Do NOT Mock God!

God holds leaders accountable

Jeremiah 21-23 Jeremiah was called by God to speak to not just the people of the land of Israel, but especially to the rulers. King Josiah had been an example of a God-fearing king, but his sons were not so. They knew what was right to do but failed to do it. God sent Jeremiah to the palace to speak to the king and remind him of his responsibility, but like many, they turned aside from what was right and did what was abominable.

Because they did not follow Josiah’s example or listen to the prophet Micah’s wise counsel to humble themselves, promote justice, and be faithful, God would send a conquering nation to discipline them. When all of this took place the news would spread. 

“People from other nations will pass by this city. They will ask one another, “Why has the Lord done such a thing to this great city?” The answer will come back, “It is because they broke their covenant with the Lord their God and worshiped and served other gods.”

Even nonbelievers know and understand the ways of God EVEN if they choose not to do them. Paul wrote many years later: “Do not be deceived, God is not mocked; for whatever a man sows this he will also reap.”

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“God’s Message is like a Fire”

God's message

Jeremiah 20 Today instead of street-corner preachers, we have live-streamed preachers that tell us all is well IF we send in money to keep that program on the air or buy their books. The years may be different, but people still need to hear what Jeremiah’s placard said: “Repent now!” 

The people laughed at Jeremiah’s placard because they didn’t want to hear Jeremiah and his prophecy.  Even the priest Pashur made fun of Jeremiah and had him flogged and put in stocks to become the laughingstock of all passersby. Yes, it was just another “Alexander/Jeremiah terrible, no good, very bad day” for Jeremiah.

As the moon and stars appear, Jeremiah had a tough talk with God.

“I told you I don’t know how to speak; I am too young! Look at where I am!

I AM QUITTING!

Sometimes in the quiet of the evening hours and being alone with our thoughts, we begin like Jeremiah to whine and then to reflect. Our hearts begin to soften, and we tell God; your message is like a fire burning within me. It is locked inside of me, and it burns in my heart and soul. Even though I am so tired, I will continue to warn them.

Can you relate to Jeremiah? He wanted to quit but he couldn’t. He heard himself saying why don’t you hang it up; life would be so much easier. But God’s message was like a fire in his heart?

Is it in yours?

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