June 16th, 2019
Father’s Day – 10:50 Communion
Aux. Text: Rom 1:18-32
Call to Worship: Psalm 81
Service Orientation: God judges and punishes those who no longer respond to His warnings because their wickedness has dulled their sensitivity.
Bible Memory Verse for the Week: Therefore consider carefully how you listen. Whoever has will be given more; whoever does not have, even what he thinks he has will be taken from him.” — Luke 8:18
- (v. 1) The reason the people of Benjamin are mentioned is that geographically Jerusalem belonged to the territory of Benjamin. It was settled by Judeans and Benjamites (cf. 1 Chr 9:3), separated by the Valley of Hinnom. Moreover, Jeremiah was a Benjamite and had strong ties with his own tribesmen. (Frank E. Gæbelein, Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Jeremiah, 419)
- (v. 1) Jeremiah utters a warning to his own tribe, Benjamin, to run for cover away from Jerusalem, for the city will be besieged shortly. The mention of Tekoa is a play on the words “blow” and “Tekoa,” which have the same letters. The suggestion is that the people will be safer in this hilly area twelve miles south of Jerusalem, on the borders of the desert, than in the fortified capital. (R.K. Harrison, Tyndale OT Commentaries: Jeremiah, 79)
- (v. 1) The enemy is pictured as menacing Tekoa, about twelve miles south of Jerusalem. Beth-haccherem, meaning house of the vineyard, was probably a high point, suitable for signaling, about four and a half miles west of Jerusalem. (Howard Tillman Kuist, Layman’s Bible Commentary: Jeremiah, 34)
- (v. 1) Here Jeremiah counsels “the people of Benjamin,” his own fellow-tribesmen (1:1), to flee from Jerusalem. Instead of offering security it is a death-trap. (Robert Davidson, Daily Study Bible Series: Jeremiah, 61)
- (vss. 4-5) Jeremiah next presents a consultation of the enemies of Judah. Their speech reveals haste, impatience, and thirst for destruction. The army will brook no delay in taking the city. (Frank E. Gæbelein, Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Jeremiah, 420)
- (vss. 4-6) In their eagerness to press home the attack, they are prepared to continue military operations after nightfall, not normal military tactics in the ancient world. The trees around the city are felled to make ramps for the battering-rams which will breach the city walls. There can be no escape from God in Jerusalem, because Jerusalem richly deserves coming judgment. (Robert Davidson, Daily Study Bible Series: Jeremiah, 62)
- (v. 3) The advancing foe is described as shepherds with their flocks. The word shepherd often referred to political and military leaders. (Max Anders, Holman OT Commentary: Jeremiah, 65)
- (v. 4) The word translated “prepare” means “to sanctify or consecrate”; the Babylonians considered this war a holy crusade for their gods (see Joel 3:9; Mic 3:5). (Warren Wiersbe, Be Decisive, 44)
- (v. 6) In the verses which follow, the cutting down of trees to assist in the setting up of mounds, from which the battering-rams of assault could be operated to better advantage, is indicated vividly. This was a common practice of the Assyrian and Babylonian expeditions (cf. Dt 20:20; Hab 1:10). (George Arthur Buttrick, Interpreter’s Bible, Vol. 5, 858)
- (v. 8) To be alienated (NIV = turn away) is, literally, to be “pulled out” as of something being pulled out by the roots, or as of someone’s heart being torn or wrenched away. Yahweh’s concern and care for his people is all-pervasive of their well-being; but the effect of the people’s disorientation is such that all the positive benefits of his presence are being violently pulled out or wrenched away. Only desolation can follow. (George Arthur Buttrick, Interpreter’s Bible, Vol. 5, 858-9)
- (v. 10) Well, I have preached, says Jeremiah, and for all the good it has done I might as well have kept my breath to cool my porridge. No one is listening, “their ears are closed,” uncircumcised, says the Hebrew, using a phrase which is found again in Stephen’s speech in Acts 7:51, though in the OT the word uncircumcised is more commonly used metaphorically with the reference to lips (Ex 6:12, 30) or heart (Jer 4:4). (Robert Davidson, Daily Study Bible Series: Jeremiah, 63-4)
- (vss. 11-12) There may be an implied rebuke in these words, as if the Lord were saying to Jeremiah; What do you want to be–a successful preacher? Forget it: I am not asking you to be successful, I am asking you to be faithful. (Robert Davidson, Daily Study Bible Series: Jeremiah, 64)
- (v. 14) There is no one English word (NIV = peace) which can convey the rich meaning of this word shalom. It points to that full, wholesome life under God in which the needs and the rights of all will be respected and met, to that kind of world which we long for in our better moments. But to say “shalom” in the Jerusalem of Jeremiah’s day was to be like a quack doctor mouthing reassuring words as he superficially treats a deadly wound (cf. 4:9-10). False complacency marketed without even a blush; they have become so accustomed to trafficking in evil that they no longer recognize it as evil. That is one of the insidious things about evil. The first lie may trouble your conscience; the second is a little less painful; and so it goes on until there comes a time when the lie is told without batting an eyelid. Having squared their own conscience with prophets and priests can hardly be expected to guard the conscience of the community for which they are responsible. They are doomed to share the fate of those whom they have blatantly misled. (Robert Davidson, Daily Study Bible Series: Jeremiah, 65)
The question to be answered is . . . Why does God judge wickedness and sin so decisively?
Answer: Sin and wickedness inflict spiritual insensitivity. Once we become deaf to God’s warnings, there is almost no hope of salvation.
The Word for the Day is . . . Judge
What does Jeremiah tell us in 6:1-5 about the judgement of God?:
I- God punishes the wicked. (Jer 6:1-8, 11-13; see also: Ps 1:4-6; 7:9; 11:5-6; 37:10, 20-21, 38; 55:23; 58:9-10; 68:2; 92:7; 94:23; 119:119; 145:20; Prv 11:21; 12:7; 24:19-20; Isa 48:22; 57:21; Rom 2:5; 6:23; Col 3:6; Rv 11:18)
The stern message of destruction is aimed at the five stages of life mentioned here: the children in carefree play (cf. Zc 8:5); the adolescents in their clubs, or groups (cf. 15:17); the married adults; the more senior citizens; and finally those advanced in age. The Judeans will be deprived of all the material things which they have cherished. Property will be transferred violently to new owners, and all the old relationships of life will be changed when Jerusalem collapses before the enemy onslaught. This is the price to be paid for trust in materialism rather than in the living God. The wages of sin have indeed become death (Rom 6:23), for the people have no hope, being without God in the world (cf. Eph 2:12). (R.K. Harrison, Tyndale OT Commentaries: Jeremiah, 81)
God does not willingly abandon His chosen, yet He must remain true to His own nature (2 Tm 2:13). (R.K. Harrison, Tyndale OT Commentaries: Jeremiah, 81)
At this very moment the priests should be in mourning for the sins of the nation (cf. Joel 1:9, 13; 2:17), and then the northern enemy would be removed (cf. Joel 2:20). The serious rupture in the relationship between God and Israel had been doctored superficially by prophetic and priestly nostrums, suggesting that all was well, whereas in reality the symptoms pointed clearly to a serious underlying malaise (cf. 8:11). The most blatant form of spiritual deception is to proclaim peace where none exists, an offense of which religious leaders have been guilty for many centuries. The prophets were condemned in precisely the same language in Ezek 13:10. There can be no peace for the wicked (Isa 48:22; 57:21), for this only comes when the Prince of Peace is crowned in the individual heart. (R.K. Harrison, Tyndale OT Commentaries: Jeremiah, 82)
II- God searches intently for those He can save. (Jer 6:9; see also: Ps 14:2; 37:40; 53:2; Jn 3:16; 2 Pt 2:9; 3:9)
Here is another of Jeremiah’s conversations with the Lord. The Lord begins the conversation in verse 9, ordering Jeremiah to act like the “gleaner” who, after the grapes have been gathered, works his way through the vineyard stripping off any grapes that have been left by the harvesters. Once the gleaner has done his work there should be nothing left. (Robert Davidson, Daily Study Bible Series: Jeremiah, 63)
Not only are they deaf to what God wants to say to them, but they openly laugh at what the prophet is saying–and there is nothing more soul-destroying than trying to tell people something you believe to be of central importance to their lives, only to be met with ridicule. To preach is pointless; but not to preach is tearing me apart, says Jeremiah. I cannot keep this message of the wrath of God bottled up inside me. (Robert Davidson, Daily Study Bible Series: Jeremiah, 64)
III- Wickedness alienates us from God and creates spiritual insensitivity. (Jer 6:10, 14-15; see also: Dt 31:17-18; Ps 5:4; 10:4; Isa 59:2; 64:7; Mic 3:4; Mt 13:1-21; Jn 8:21-47; 9:1-41; 10:3-27; 12:40; Rom 2:8; 8:7; 11:1-8; 2 Cor 4:4; Eph 2:12; 4:18-19; 1 Tm 4:1-2; 2 Tm 4:3-4; Heb 3:13)
It is often a long and laborious process by which conscience is completely seared. This dreadful work usually begins thus: the man’s first carefulness and tenderness departs. The next distressing sign of growing hardness is increasing neglect or laxity of private devotion, without any corresponding shock of the spiritual sensibilities on account of it. Another symptom is the fact that hidings of the Savior’s face do not cause that acute and poignant sorrow that they produced in former times. Still further, when the soul is hardened to this extent, it is probable that sin will no longer cause such grief as it once did. The next step in this ladder, down, down, down to destruction, is that sin thus causing less grief, is indulged in more freely. After this there is still a greater hardening of heart: the man comes to dislike rebukes. He has sinned so long, and yet he has been held in such respect in the Christian church, that if you give half a hint about his sin, he looks at you with a sharp look as if you were insulting him. If this hardening work goes on, the day at last comes to such a man that the Word of God loses all effect upon him. (Charles Spurgeon, Spurgeon Commentary: Hebrews, 78-9)
Sin is never a single act committed in isolation. Sin is dynamic and progressive. It is remarkably generative. Sin yields more and more sin. It is a plague that spreads. Finally, the whole society–its beliefs, customs, dispositions, values, and traditions–are corrupt. (Max Anders, Holman OT Commentary: Jeremiah, 67)
Yahweh placed the blame where it belonged–on the greedy laity and the professional religionists. The latter refused to address the issues of the day, ignoring the people’s spiritual need. The people had developed seared consciences. Nothing embarrassed them. They had lost the capacity to be contrite or to feel guilty. Such people could look forward to nothing but desolation and doom. (Max Anders, Holman OT Commentary: Jeremiah, 66)
Notice very carefully that sin has a hardening power over the heart. How does that come about? Partly through our familiarity with sin. We may look at hateful sin till we love it. Familiarity with sin makes the conscience dull and at length deadens sensibility.
Security in wrongdoing leads also to this kind of hardening. A man has been dishonest; he is found out, and he suffers for it. I could almost thank God, for now he may cease from his evil course. But one of the greatest curses that can happen to a man is for him to do wrong with impunity. He will do it again, and again, and again, and he will proceed from bad to worse. (Charles Spurgeon, Spurgeon Commentary: Hebrews, 70)
It is not difficult to say what it is that hardens the hearts. The seed sown by the wayside could not enter the soil, because it had been trodden down by the passers-by. When the world, with its business and its interests, has at all times a free passage, the heart loses its tenderness. When we trust too much to the intellect in religion, and very great care is not taken to take each word as from God into the heart, into its life and love, the heart gets closed to the living voice of God. The mind is satisfied with beautiful thoughts and pleasant feelings; but the heart does not hear God. When we are secretly content with our religion, our sound doctrine and Christian life, unconsciously but surely the heart gets hardened. When our life does not seek to keep pace with our knowledge, and we have more pleasure in hearing and knowing than obeying and doing, we utterly lose the meekness to which the promise is given, and, amidst all the pleasing forms of godliness, the heart is too hard to discern the voice of the Spirit. More than all, when unbelief, that walks by sight, and looks at itself and all around in the light of this world, is allowed to have its way, and the soul does not seek in childlike faith to live in the invisible, as revealed in the word, the heart gets so hardened that God’s word never enters. (Andrew Murray, The Holiest of All, 116-7)
This phrase “the deceitfulness of sin” [he continues] ought to be understood in a much wider sense, so that the term includes even one’s own righteousness and wisdom. For more than anything else one’s own righteousness and wisdom deceive one and work against faith in Christ, since we love the flesh and the sensations of the flesh and also riches and possessions, but we love nothing more ardently than our own feelings, judgment, purpose, and will, especially when they seem to be good. For the same reason Christ said, when he healed the paralytic at the Pool of Bethesda, that it was impossible for such people to be able to believe: “How can you believe who receive glory from one another?” (Jn 5:44). Why are they not able to believe? Because the “deceitfulness of sin”, that is, the love of their own righteousness, blinds them and hardens their heart. Yet at the same time they think it a good thing to glory in their own righteousness and be pleased with it, though that indeed is the very worst of all vices, the extreme antithesis of faith. Faith rejoices and glories in the righteousness of God alone, that is, in Christ himself. (Philip Edgcumbe Hughes, A Commentary on the Epistle to the Hebrews, 149)
Lulled into complacency, the people lost all sense of shame for their abominable deeds (v. 15). Insensitive to wrong, they were so hardened in sin that their hearts were no longer open to the message of truth. As for those who misled them, they were to share the fate of the nation they duped. (Frank E. Gæbelein, Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Jeremiah, 422)
To whom could he speak, or give warning? The people were so far gone in the induration of their wills and hearts that they could no longer heed the word even if it were spoken. Just as they were uncircumcised of heart (4:4), so also were they uncircumcised of ear. (George Arthur Buttrick, Interpreter’s Bible, Vol. 5, 859)
Hard hearts can be the result of disobedience, rebellion, lack of trust, neglect of worship, refusal to submit, and ungratefulness for what God has done for us. Rather than rebelling, we must endure. We must seek maturity, not taking Christ, his work, or his kindness for granted. (Bruce Barton, Life Application Bible Commentary: Hebrews,39)
Oppression, wickedness, violence, destruction, and sickness well up, as it were, from within, and the sickness of the people is ever before me. The sickness is a sickness of the soul, resulting from its alienation of itself from God; and the violence is the indescribably succession of interweaving hostilities which souls so conditioned work perpetually upon one another. (George Arthur Buttrick, Interpreter’s Bible, Vol. 5, 858)
Sin is a hard heart and a stiff neck. Sin is blindness and deafness. It is both the overstepping of a line and the failure to reach it–both transgression and shortcoming. Sin is a beast crouching at the door. In sin, people attack or evade or neglect their divine calling. These and other images suggest deviance: even when it is familiar, sin is never normal. Sin is disruption of created harmony and then resistance to divine restoration of that harmony. Above all, sin disrupts and resists the vital human relation to God, and it does all this disrupting and resisting in a number of intertwined ways. (Cornelius Plantinga, Jr., Not the Way It’s Supposed to Be, 5)
The great enemy of the Word of God is anything outside the Word of God…the word of Satan, the word of demons, the word of man. And we are living in very dangerous seasons concocted by seducing spirits and hypocritical liars propagated by false teachers. And here’s what makes them successful…look at verses 3 and 4 (2 Tim 4:1-4). “The time will come, and it does, it cycles through all of church history, when they will not endure sound doctrine.” People don’t want to hear sound doctrine. “Sound” means healthy, whole, wholesome. They don’t want wholesome teaching. They don’t want the sound, solid Word. They just want to have their ears tickled. That’s all they want. They’re driven by the sensual, not the cognitive. They’re not interested in truth. They’re not interested in theology. All they want is ear-tickling sensations. That’s what they want. They refuse to hear the great truth that saves and the great truth that sanctifies. And according to chapter 2 verse 16, they would rather hear worldly empty chatter that produces ungodliness and spreads like gangrene. (John MacArthur, www.gty.org/Resources/Sermons/80-180_5-Reasons-to-Preach-the-Word, 6)
What causes hardening of the heart? The deceitfulness of sin (3:13) seduces us away from taking pleasure in the goodness of God to finding pleasures outside of God’s will. Lack of gratitude for God’s grace makes us callous and indifferent. Doubt and fear can make us lax and unresponsive to God’s leadership. Any time we close our minds to the word of God and shut out the influence of his Holy Spirit, we are in danger of hardening our hearts. Look for signs of hardening, and turn back to God. Ask him to keep you “soft” and receptive. (Bruce Barton, Life Application Bible Commentary: Hebrews,40)
People are experts in hearing what they want to hear so they can believe what they want to believe so they can do what they want to do. (Leadership Magazine)
Worship Point: Worship the God Who cares deeply that we be sensitive to the truth that can set us free from the prison of the fallen world in which we live.
We need to remind ourselves that throughout the Bible, not least in the Psalms, God’s coming judgment is a good thing, something to be celebrated, longed for, yearned over. It causes people to shout for joy and the trees of the field to clap their hands. In a world of systematic injustice, bullying, violence, arrogance, and oppression, the thought that there might come a day when the wicked are firmly put in their place and the poor and weak are given their due is the best news there can be. Faced with a world in rebellion, a world full of exploitation and wickedness, a good God must be a God of judgment. (N. T. Wright, Surprised by Hope, 137)
We are in a war between dullness and astonishment. The most critical issue facing Christians is not abortion, pornography, the disintegration of the family, moral absolutes, MTV, drugs, racism, sexuality or school prayer. The critical issue is dullness. We have lost our astonishment. The good news is no longer good news, it is okay news. Christianity is no longer life-changing, it is life-enhancing. Jesus doesn’t change people into wide-eyed radicals anymore; he changes them into “nice people.” If Christianity is simply about being nice, I’m not interested.
What happened to radical Christianity, the un-nice brand of Christianity that turned the world upside down? What happened to the kind of Christians who were filled with passion and gratitude and who every day were unable to get over the grace of God? I’m ready for a Christianity that “ruins” my life, that captures my heart and makes me uncomfortable. I want to be filled with an astonishment which is so captivating that I am considered wild and unpredictable and . . . well. . . dangerous. I want a faith that is considered “dangerous” by our predictable and monotonous culture. –Robert Capon (Simon Guillebaud, Choose Life, 365 Readings for Radical Disciples, 2/18)
Gospel Application: We will never enjoy the spiritual sensitivity God designed and desires for us to have unless or until the Spirit of God is resident in our hearts and minds. The Spirit comes through faith in Jesus. (Jn 8:21-47; 1 Cor 2:14; 11:31-32; 2 Cor 3:14; 1 Jn 4:5-6)
The natural man does not receive the things of the Spirit. Among the things of the Spirit to which the natural man is most averse is God’s estimate of sin, which is difficult even for a Christian to accept and appreciate. This is why believers are to exhort each other daily, “lest any of you be hardened through the deceitfulness of sin” (Heb 3:13). Now if sin can deceive a believer, how much more deceitful is it to an unbeliever? If a man with 20-20 vision cannot discern an object at which he is gazing, how shall one born blind see it? Because of the deceitful nature of sin, the unregenerate world cannot comprehend. (Donald Grey Barnhouse, God’s Freedom, 27)
There is a common misunderstanding of the meaning of divine assistance in Judaism. Admittedly, the hope for it is an integral part of the religious consciousness. Yet we usually restrict it to the practical realm, as if God were expected to assist us in our material but not in our spiritual endeavors. The truth is that for all our aspirations we remain spiritually blind unless we are assisted. (Abraham Joshua Heschel, God in Search of Man, 128)
If you do not believe in a God of wrath, but only in a god of love; then what did it cost for your god of love to really love you? When you understand the wrath of God, you better understand the love of God because you understand what God was willing to do for you because of Your Sin. —Tim Keller
Spiritual Challenge: Ask yourself: Do I hear God’s warnings? Do I heed them? Do I care to hear them? What can I do to better hear God’s voice?
If you are relying on a preacher to be fed, I fear for you. Listening to a sermon is second-hand knowledge. It is learning based on someone else’s words or experiences. A sermon is no replacement for first-hand knowledge. You’ve got to see it and hear it and experience it for yourself. It’s not enough to hear the truth. You have to own it. Or more accurately, it has to own you. Honestly, I’d rather have people hear one word from the Lord than a thousand of my sermons. And that happens when you open your Bible and start reading. (Mark Batterson as quoted by Simon Guillebaud, Choose Life, 365 Readings for Radical Disciples, 11/10)
[I] Distraction. ‘That ye may attend upon the Lord without distraction.’ I Cor 7:35. It is said of Bernard, that when he came to the church-door, he would say, “stay here all my earthly thoughts.’ So should we say to ourselves, when we are at the door of God’s house, ‘Stay here all my worldly cares and wandering cogitations; I am now going to hear what the Lord will say to me.’ Distraction hinders devotion. (Thomas Watson, The Ten Commandments, 107)
As a Christian, it would be a grave mistake to come to Jesus and say, “Let me hear what you have to say, and then I’ll decide whether or not I like it.” If you approach Jesus this way, you will never truly hear what he has to say. You have to say yes to the words of Jesus before you even hear them. (David Platt, Radical, 20)
Whenever you hear God’s truth, God’s Word, you will go either in the direction you are moved, or you will just wait. If you wait, you will find that the next time you hear the truth, it will not move you quite as much. The next time, it will move you less, and the time will come when that truth will not move you at all. —A. W. Tozer (Simon Guillebaud, Choose Life, 365 Readings for Radical Disciples, 6/26)
Today when I hear the words “spiritual disciplines,” I feel joy. I’ve discovered that spiritual disciplines are not about trying to be more spiritual, or grasping for God to get something from Him. Instead, I like to think of spiritual disciplines as a way of allowing God to grasp me. They help me create space in my life to be attentive to the life within, so I can hear His voice. (Michael John Cusick, Surfing for God, 142)
God brings us to the wilderness that we might hear His voice. Therefore, do not fear or despise the wildernesses of your life, and don’t despise His removing of the distractions. Rather embrace it. Draw closer to Him. And listen to what He is saying. Seek to hear His voice, and you will hear Him. For the wilderness in your life is not just a wilderness. It is holy ground. (Jonathan Cahn, The Book of Mysteries, Day 8)
People are able to hear only what they are ready to hear. God speaks to each of us in a personal way, taking into consideration our strength, wisdom, and preparation. (Rabbi Lawrence Kushner, Jewish Spirituality: A Brief Introduction for Christians, 43)
There is a tension underlying false discernment, an anxiety that pressures the mind to make a judgment. True discernment emerges out of a tranquil and pure heart, one that is almost surprised by the wisdom and grace in the voice of Christ. Remember, our thoughts will always be colored by the attitudes of our hearts. Jesus said, “The mouth speaks out of that which fills the heart” (Mt 12:34). He also said, “Out of the heart of men, proceed the evil thoughts” (Mk 7:21). Again He said, “the pure in heart…shall see God” (Mt 5:8). From the heart the mouth speaks, the eyes see, and the mind thinks. In fact, Prv 4:23 (NKJV) tells us to diligently guard our hearts for “out of [the heart] spring the issues of life.”
Life, as we perceive it, is based upon the condition of our heart. This is very important because the gifts of the Spirit must pass through our hearts before they are presented to the world around us. In other words, if our hearts are not right, the gifts will not be right either.
When the heart has unrest it cannot hear from God. Therefore, we must learn to mistrust our judgment when our heart is bitter, angry, ambitious or harboring strife for any reason. The Scriptures tell us to “let the peace of Christ rule [act as arbiter] in [our] hearts” (Col 3:15). To hear clearly from God, we must first have peace. (Francis Frangipane, The Three Battlegrounds, 81-2)
Spiritual Challenge Questions:
- Do you sense God’s presence in your life? Is there any outstanding, unrepented of sin that is preventing you from enjoying the kind of intimate relationship with God He desires to have with you?
- How involved are you in the spiritual disciplines? Are you even familiar with them?
- How does this text better allow us to have grace and patience with our unbelieving family members, co-workers, neighbors and roommates? How does their not having the Spirit of God operative in their lives change how they can relate to us?
So What?: There is nothing as pathetic as someone who is insensitive to the very things that are causing him to be enslaved to destruction. Faith in Jesus restores sensitivity to the warnings of God.
And can the liberties of a nation be thought secure when we have removed their only firm basis, a conviction in the minds of the people that these liberties are of the gift of God? That they are not to be violated but with His wrath? Indeed I tremble for my country when I reflect that God is just; that His justice cannot sleep forever. —Thomas Jefferson