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Aug 20 / Chuck Smith, Jr.

Jeremiah chapters 3-4 08/20/2023



Morning Talk: chuck smith, jr.

If a man divorces his wife
and she goes from him
and becomes another man’s wife,
will he return to her?
Would not that land be greatly polluted?
You have played the whore with many lovers;
and would you return to me?
Lift up your eyes to the bare heights, and see!
Where have you not been ravished?
By the waysides you have sat awaiting lovers
like a nomad in the wilderness.
You have polluted the land
with your vile whoredoms.
Therefore the showers have been withheld,
and the spring rain has not come;
yet you have the forehead of a whore;
you refuse to be ashamed.
Have you not just now called to me,
‘My father, you are the friend of my youth—
will he be angry forever,
will he be indignant to the end?’
Behold, you have spoken,
but you have done all the evil that you could
Jeremiah 3:1-5

Intro: Every year, my dad directed a summer camp in Williams, Arizona

So that was our typical family vacation
– one year, when all the campers were assembled in the chapel,
• Dad began, “There was a murder in the forest last night
◦ he paused to let that sink in
• then holding up a carving knife, he said, “This was the weapon”
◦ and “Here is the victim” – and he showed us a twig from an apple tree
– he explained that once he cut the twig from the tree,
• separated from its supply of sap, it was as good as dead
• he then explained why it was so important for us campers,
◦ to abide in Jesus all year long – not just at summer camp
◦ that was quite the attention getter

God used attention-getters, because Israel had a history of not listening
– the previous chapter began with the early days of their courtship
• now this chapter begins with a message of divorce
◦ he starts with a question, a predicament and its consequences
◦ he isn’t looking for an answer, the question is rhetorical
• then he jumps from his legal and moral question,
◦ to a relational and personal scolding – and it’s harsh
You have played the whore with many lovers
– God says the consequences of their behavior are widespread
• a society that tolerates this behavior would become corrupt
◦ even the land would suffer (Hebrew: erets, land, earth, soil)
– in the 1960’s, Rachel Carson published Silent Spring
• in it, she alerted the world to the detrimental effects on ecology of human actions
◦ I think it’s easier today than any time before the 1960’s, to see the adverse effect of sin on our environment (especially the sin of greed)
• all of God’s creation is one vast system,
◦ we can’t destroy one thing without affecting something else

This point is made in a powerful way in chapter 4
I looked on the earth, and behold, it was without form and void;
and to the heavens, and they had no light.
I looked on the mountains, and behold, they were quaking,
and to all the hills moved to and fro.
I looked, and behold, there was no man,
and all the birds of the air had fled.
I looked, and behold, the fruitful land was a desert,
and all its cities were laid in ruins
before the LORD, before his fierce anger
(Jer. 4:23-26)
– Jeremiah is an eye-witness as he reports, “I looked . . . I looked . . . I looked”
Robert Alter point’s out that Jeremiah is witnessing the devastation of war
• but the language he uses is borrowed from the creation story in Genesis
• in fact, it seems that God is “reversing the very act of creation” (Alter)
◦ if in the beginning the earth was without form and void (Gen. 1:2)
◦ Jeremiah observed the earth returning to its primordial state, without form and void (Jer. 4:23)
– if on first day, “God said, ‘Let there be light,’ and there was light,”
• Jeremiah observed the universe moving backward in time until once again the heavens . . . had no light
• reading these passages, Jim Morrison’s lyrics in “When the Music’s Over” come to mind:
“What have they done to the earth, yeah?
What have they done to our fair sister?
Ravaged and plundered and ripped her and bit her
Stuck her with knives in the side of the dawn and
Tied her with fences and dragged her down.”

Though I’ve emphasized ecology, that is a side issue

The stronger theme is that God views his relationship with Israel as a marriage
– this takes us back to Genesis also, where we’re told,
a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and they shall become one flesh. And the man and his wife were both naked and were not ashamed (Gen. 2:24-25)
• Israel had bonded with God, but later they broke that bond
• turning to the gods of other nations, they violated their relationship with God
– why would God use an analogy like this?
• because everyone who has been committed to a close, loving relationship,
◦ is sensitive to betrayal – we can imagine its anguish
• God wanted his people to FEEL the depth of his love for them
◦ he wanted them to have the experience rather than mere information

It seems like God is saying there’s no way back from this
You have played the whore with many lovers;
and would you return to me?

We hear him saying, they can’t “return”
– it would be wrong, it would be outrageous, a scandal for him to return to them or they to him
• but as we read on, their return is the main theme!
• beginning in verse 6, God tells a story of two sisters
Meshuba (faithless or unfaithful) Israel and Bawgode (treacherous or deceitful) Judah
◦ the story is allegorical, but there’s nothing subtle about its meaning
– Israel went into exile years prior to Judah’s exile – God says,
And I thought, “After she has done all this she will return to me,” but she did not return [so] I had sent her away with a decree of divorce (vv. 7-8)
• Judah witnessed this, but still took the same path
– Israel was unfaithful and Judah was treacherous
• but after all they had done against him and after the divorce, God cries,
“Return, faithless Israel,
declares the LORD.
I will not look on you in anger,
for I am merciful,
declares the LORD (v. 12)
Return, O faithless children, declares the LORD (v. 14)
Return, O faithless sons; I will heal your faithlessness (v. 22)
• “return” is the key word in the entire book of Jeremiah’s prophecies

God is willing to do the unthinkable

At first, God’s message is:
The only reasonable response is divorce. No one in their right mind would take this person back.
– but then he says, I will take you back, if you just return to me
– we need to know, no matter how far we slip away from God,
• we are never stuck – there’s always a way back
◦ we learn this from Jesus’ story of the prodigal son
• the turning point in the story was when he came to his senses
◦ he did not even need to finish his apology to his father
◦ he did not need to become a slave for the rest of his life
– we can begin our return with a simple prayer, “I’m back”
• when we do return, what do we see in God’s eyes?
I will not look at you in anger (v. 12)

One of my main objectives in taking you on this journey through Jeremiah
– is that we come to feel, in the deepest part of our being, God’s crazy love for us
– every day, every hour, he provides a way back

God is willing give us directions regarding how to return
If you return, O Israel,
declares the LORD,
to me you should return.
If you remove your detestable things from my presence,
and do not waver,
and if you swear, “As the LORD lives,”
in truth, in justice, and in righteousness,
then nations shall bless themselves in him,
and in him they shall glory
(Jer. 4:1-4)

First, he reminds us we are coming back to him! (not to church, or religion, or doctrine)
• we can make use of the other instructions here too, and discern how to apply them to ourselves
• but there’s something else I want to emphasize

Begin here: Lift up your eyes to the bare heights, and see! (Jer. 3:3)

The evidence of their prostitution was in plain view
– it’s an odd quirk of human habit, that we stop seeing things
• we notice a wall or door that needs painting, but go our way and forget
◦ after awhile, we stop seeing it
◦ it fades into the background of our everyday landscape
• we can become blind to our bad habits too
– God has many ways of getting us to see ourselves
• Jesus made a joke about us trying to help someone get a small particle out of their eye,
◦ while we have a log in our own eye
• we think we can see their speck, but we don’t see our own 2X4
◦ the things we fail to see in ourselves go uncorrected
◦ it’s too easy for me to trick myself, as Judah did
Yet . . . Judah did not return to me with her whole heart, but in pretense, declares the LORD (Jer. 3:10)
– every morning and every night I try to wake myself up
• I don’t want to be lost in my habitual thoughts and feelings
◦ I want to get behind them to the “me” that thinks and feels
◦ I am not my thoughts or feelings – they can be the “log” that blinds me
• I am the aware self – and this is where I connect with Jesus
We do not have to sit in silent meditation. Just watch what you are doing in the present moment. Watch yourself read as you read, writing as you write, walking as you walk. If you feel cold, bring yourself to that part of you that is aware of the coldness, but is itself not cold.

Conclusion: I want to share with you a prayer of Karl Rahner’s

“When I receive You I accept my everyday just as it is. I do not need to have lofty feelings in my heart to recount to You. I can lay my everyday before You just as it is, for I receive it from You Yourself, the everyday and its inward light, the everyday and its meaning, the everyday and the power to endure it, the sheer familiarity of it which becomes the hiddenness of Your eternal life.”

If we know what God wants, we can give that to him
So what does God want?
I said,
How I would set you among my sons,
and give you a pleasant land . . . .
And I thought you would call me,
My Father, and would not turn from following me (3:19)

God wants us to return his love
This is doable!

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