Skip to content
Oct 2 / Chuck Smith, Jr.

Jeremiah chapters 16-17 – 10/01/2023



Welcome and Prayer: Nancy Lopez

Welcome to the RefleXion Community.          The Lord is with you!

A couple of times this week I woke up thinking it was Sunday and I should “get ready for church.”  Even in my morning quiet time, I was thinking, “I need to get ready for church.”  Now, I knew it wasn’t Sunday, and I didn’t hear “go to church,” but “get ready for church.”  Wondering why, I had a thought that God might be wanting me to think about “being church.”  Being church…Chuck says that we’re not a church.  And as Christians, we are the church, if that makes sense. We are not a building or a denomination; we don’t have a bishop, a priest, a presbytery, or a children’s ministry.  Nevertheless, the Greek word Ekklesia is found over 100 times in the New Testament.  “In the Christian sense, the church is an assembly of Christians gathered for worship in a religious meeting, or those anywhere who constitute such a company and are united into one body, the whole body of Christians scattered throughout the earth.”  A body?  Well, a body of a mysterious connection.  What scripture tells us:

When we were called out of darkness – to light, we were given to Jesus, and he is the head of his church, and we are his body.  God has appointed certain people for certain specialties in the body, and we are all needed.  We are a temple of the Holy Spirit.  We are a royal priesthood called to proclaim God’s excellence.  We are a peculiar people, a treasured possession.  They will know us by our love.

One scripture passage blows me away:  Ephesians 3 says that there’s a plan, “a mystery that has been hidden for ages, so that through the church the manifold wisdom of God might now be made known to the rulers and authorities in the heavenly places.” In the heavenly places?   To the angels?  Scottish theologian John Mackay said that “the history of the Christian church becomes a graduate school for angels” (cf. 1 Peter 1:12).  The conduct of the church seems pretty important  if angelic and demonic beings are looking on and God’s intent is to teach them through us.

My primary question though is, if all scripture is written to inspire and lead us to righteousness, then what does an Old Testament prophet like Jeremiah teach us?  Israel was chosen, called out for God’s purposes.  They got off track; God was jealous for them and wooed them back.  I wonder what Jesus thinks of his church.  How did Israel miss their calling?  How are we missing ours?  The plans he has for us in the eternal scheme of things is beyond our comprehension.  Let’s don’t fall short of Jesus’ glorious plan for His church—for us.

Will you pray with me?

O Lord, whose ways are so far beyond our understanding, let us not presume anything, but in all ways depend on You.  You have made us to be a treasure for you, and for the world.  Let the wonder of this truth stir up a deep devotion to You. You are who we want to lead us.  Wherever we are, woo us back to you.  Come and find us and awaken us and remind us of the new covenant of greater glory, to be your special people, a temple for the Holy Spirit.  For the Name of Jesus.  Amen

Morning Talk: chuck smith, jr.

The word of the LORD came to me: “You shall not take a wife, nor shall you have sons or daughters in this place. For thus says the LORD concerning the sons and daughters who are born in this place, and concerning the mothers who bore them and the fathers who fathered them in this land: They shall die of deadly diseases. They shall not be lamented, nor shall they be buried. They shall be as dung on the surface of the ground. They shall perish by the sword and by famine, and their dead bodies shall be food for the birds of the air and for the beasts of the earth Jeremiah 16:1-4

Intro: My senior year in high school, my best friend surprised me

He said, “I don’t think I can justify bringing a child into this world”
– that was something I was still looking forward to enjoying,
• getting married and some day having children
◦ I knew about war and poverty and race riots and assassinations and environmental pollution
• but my outlook was not so bleak as to rule out children
– what God is describing in this passage is just that bleak!
• there was no future for the people of Judah
◦ if they had children now, it would be only for them to die
• God was watching out for Jeremiah,
◦ but he was using Jeremiah’s situation as an illustration

There were more restrictions that God placed on Jeremiah
– he was not to enter a house where people were mourning
• and he was not to enter a house where people were partying
◦ these social engagements were deceptive,
◦ with people behaving as if life was going to go on forever, business as usual
• God uses a poetic expression to emphasize that would not be the case
Behold, I will silence in this place, before your eyes and in your days, the voice of mirth and the voice of gladness, the voice of the bridegroom and the voice of the bride Jeremiah 16:9
– this is the second time we’ve read these words (see Jer. 7:34)
• and they will be repeated in chapter 25
◦ in a study of Jeremiah, they’re worth remembering
◦ it’s like all the meaningful events of life will be shut down
My Meditation: “What is ‘the voice of mirth?’ It is the sound joy and celebration. It is a way of reminding ourselves, and announcing to the world, that life is not all hardship and sorrow. It is the voice of the human spirit rising above the strain and stress of daily oppression.”
• God gave Jeremiah an answer for when his people would ask, “Why?”
And when you tell this people all these words, and they say to you, “Why has the LORD pronounced all this great evil against us? What is our iniquity? What is the sin that we have committed against the LORD our God?” then you shall say to them: “Because your fathers have forsaken me, declares the LORD, and have gone after other gods and have served and worshiped them, and have forsaken me and have not kept my law, and because you have done worse than your fathers, for behold, every one of you follows his stubborn, evil will, refusing to listen to me. Jeremiah 16:10-12
◦ Israel’s time had run out

I admit, God telling Jeremiah not to get married bothers me

From creation we were made for each other and family
– if it is not our right to have a spouse and children, it is at least a strong expectation
• but here, whatever Jeremiah might have wanted did not matter
• God is sparing him tragedy and heartache, yes,
◦ but shouldn’t that have been Jeremiah’s choice to make?
– in scripture, this was the fate of God’s prophets
• their lives belonged completely to God — he could intrude whenever he wanted
◦ he could knowingly throw them into harm’s way
• the prophets went where God sent them, said what they were told to say, did what God told them to do
◦ and many of them paid for it with their lives

I think there are a lot of Christians willing to go where God sends
– but who want to take something of their own with them,
• or want to exercise their freedom of choice at times,
◦ or expect to benefit from it in some way
◦ if not materially, then by achieving hero status or respect from their churches back home
• anyway, we can breathe a sigh of relief–we’re not called to be prophets
◦ or can we?
– in The Cost of Discipleship, Dietrich Bonhoeffer wrote,
“When Christ calls a [person], he bids [them] come and die.”
• Jesus tells us this truth from the start
If anyone would come after me, let them deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me (Mt. 16:24)
◦ Paul reiterated this in 1 Corinthians and Galatians
. . . do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God? You are not your own, for you were bought with a price. So glorify God in your body (1 Cor. 6:19-20)
I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me (Gal. 2:20)
◦ each Christian is a person for whom God is everything
• but we do not live like God is everything to us
◦ I’m reminded of Lot’s compromise with the angel regarding Zoar, “is it not a little one?” (Gen. 19:20)
◦ perhaps we want to hang onto our “little gods,” thinking it’s okay

I don’t believe that the preachers who tell us to give God 100%

Are giving God 100% themselves
– and today I’m not asking whether I can give God everything, perfectly, all the time
• but in my imperfection, can I give myself completely sometimes or in some things?
◦ and do this regularly until it becomes habitual?
– what gets in our way? and how can that be corrected?

(To this point, I haven’t said anything about God’s mercy and grace. I want to mention now so that we don’t feel hopeless over what comes next.)

We have to understand the problem to appreciate the solution
The sin of Judah is written with a pen of iron; with a point of diamond it is engraved on the tablet of their heart, and on the horns of their altars, while their children remember their altars and their Asherim, beside every green tree and on the high hills, on the mountains in the open country Jeremiah 17:1-3

God takes aim at two critical locations: their hearts and their altars
– we can think of the altars as the heart of the nation
• the key feature of writing the instruments is that their markings are permanent
◦ what’s been engraved is not going to be erased or written over
◦ this permanence of their sins are contrasted with the fate of the people
LORD, you are Israel’s hope;
all who [forsake] you will be put to shame.
They will disappear like names written in the dust,
because they have [forsaken] you, the LORD,
the [fountain] of living water (Jer. 17:13, GNB)
• the heart is the central hub of the body
the altar is the central hub of their connection with God (in worship)
◦ our hearts will always be at an one altar or another,
◦ and there will always be an altar in our hearts
– to “remember” (v. 2) is to be conscious of something–an image or event
• experiences of childhood leave strong and lasting impressions
◦ our lives are shaped by those memories
◦ our parents’ beliefs, commitments, and values
• what their children will remember is not exodus or commandments of God
◦ but their parents’ devotion to pagan gods

God’s message: “You can’t fix this, because your heart is the problem”
The heart is deceitful above all things,
and desperately sick
who can understand it?
“I the LORD search the heart
and test the mind,
to giver every man according to his ways,
according to the fruit of his deeds
Jeremiah 17:9-10
We can’t look at a person’s outward appearance and know if their heart is healthy
• we have to look inside – there are instruments to do that
• but no one can see into the mental or spiritual heart of another
◦ this is a domain that only God can search
◦ this is where God wants us to allow him to do his work
(Later on, when God introduces the new covenant, he will again make mention of writing something in the hearts of his people, only then it will be something righteous and good.)

Can I find a time and place where God is everything to me?

I’m going to read verses 21-22 from The Message Bible
“This is God’s Message. Be careful, if you care about your lives, not to desecrate the Sabbath by turning it into just another workday, lugging stuff here and there. Don’t use the Sabbath to do business as usual. Keep the Sabbath day holy, as I commanded your ancestors. . . . Quit desecrating the Sabbath by busily going about your own work.”
– I read through The Message Bible in 2006, and this passage took hold of me
• the word Sabbath does not mean seventh day or Saturday
• it was applied to the seventh day, because that’s the day when God rested after the six days of creation
◦ Sabbath is a time when normal activities are suspended
Observe the Sabbath day and keep it holy . . . . the seventh day is a Sabbath to the LORD your God. On it you shall not do any work, you or your son or your daughter or your male servant or your female servant, or your ox or your donkey or any of your livestock, or the sojourner who is within your gates, that your male servant and your female servant may rest as well (De. 5:12-14)
– it’s not the kind of rest and relaxation that we experience on vacation or when taking a nap
• in the book of Hebrews, the meaning of Sabbath is expanded
◦ it becomes a state of resting with God in the work he has done in our lives
◦ it’s an open space of peacefulness all the time — so we can experience it anytime
• the risk for us is that if it’s not on our calendar, we’ll never get around to keeping it
◦ we need to schedule a regular Sabbath rest and stick to it until it becomes our automatic response to God

The best way I know of keeping Sabbath is in contemplative prayer
– instead of us doing all the talking, we sit in stillness to listen
• it is a moment that we totally surrender to God
◦ this is how The Message spoke to me where it says we are to stop lugging stuff around
◦ the Sabbath space is sacred, but sometimes I lug some of my outside concerns into it
• we cannot allow our normal, daily concerns to intrude
◦ it can’t be business as usual, whether stressful or enjoyable
◦ in contemplative prayer we observe an hour, half-hour, or fifteen minutes of reverence
– whether we know it or not, or feel it or not, God is present
• and through his Spirit he is ministering to us
• in that moment of surrender, we’re everything he wants us to be

Conclusion: One more important thought: Trust is crucial

Thus says the LORD:
“Cursed is the man who trusts in man
and makes flesh his strength,
whose heart turns away from the LORD
Blessed is the man who trusts in the LORD,
whose trust is the LORD
Jeremiah 17:5 & 7
Once you’ve made a habit of resting in God’s presence,
it comes back to you spontaneously, sometimes when most needed
With a slow deep breath you become able to quickly clear your mind and find peace
Whatever was going on within you–worry, anger, frustration, nervousness–
was not going to solve the problem facing you
So to relax into a space where God is everything,
is to find the freedom of his closeness and fellowship
This is a wonderful benefit of prayerful resting in God,
not only is he there when you need him,
but he accepts you as you are–then and there

Leave a comment