June 23rd, 2019
Possible Aux. Texts: John 14:1-6
Call to Worship: Psalm 119
Service Orientation: God seeks to guide everyone to find His way of peace, rest, prosperity, health and security. Instead, many of us go our own way and suffer “the fruit of our own schemes” (19).
Bible Memory Verse for the Week: Jesus answered, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me”. — John 14:6
- (v. 16) Three “good ways,” represented by Israel’s history, prophecy and the law, have not been followed by Judah. The catastrophe which will come upon her is thus the fruit of her apostasy. (R.K. Harrison, Tyndale OT Commentaries: Jeremiah, 82)
- (v. 20) Verse 20 assumes that God’s people are still offering incense and sacrifices to God, but apparently, as will be emphasized in the temple sermon of the next chapter, without any real heartfelt worship. After all, if they really did love the Lord, they would demonstrate it by obeying his law. (Tremper Longman III, Understanding the Bible: Jeremiah, Lamentations, 66)
- (v. 20) Strangely enough, when the Lord informs man that his heartless worship is unacceptable, he turns to more of the same as though quantity can substitute for quality. When sin is not forsaken, sacrifices are useless. This does not mean that Jeremiah was against sacrifices per se; he was only against unethical sacrifices. Offerings are worthless when the heart is not right in making them. Incense (v. 20) came from Sheba, southwest of Arabia. Cane or calamus probably came from India and was used in making the holy anointing oil (Ex 30:23). These ingredients of worship were costly because they were brought from a great distance. But they were of no value when they were part of heartless, godless offerings. (Frank E. Gæbelein, Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Jeremiah, 424)
- (v. 24ff) As one of the people, he expresses his emotions and theirs at the report that the enemy was actually attacking. There is no power in the people to resist; they are limp (v. 24). Because “there is terror on every side” (v. 25, a favorite expression of Jeremiah; cf. 20:3 mg., 10; 46:5; 49:29), the people are warned not to go in undefended places, for to do so would mean death. Their trials are likened to the pain of childbirth (v. 24b; cf. 4:31) and the death of an only son (v. 26), leaving no one to carry on the family name (cf. Amos 8:10; Zech 12:10). Among Jews death is always viewed as a calamity; and when an only son dies, it means the end of “immortality” for the parents, and the blow is unbearable. The destroyer will come suddenly on Judah; though they had been repeatedly warned, the people will find themselves unprepared because of their faith in false hopes. (Frank E. Gæbelein, Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Jeremiah, 425)
- (v. 27) The refining process of calling for repentance and announcing judgment has not separated the wicked from the righteous but simply confirmed that the people as a whole are corrupt. These verses provide something of a commentary or definition of the prophetic office. Prophets are raised up by God as refiners. (J. Andrew Dearman, The NIV Application Commentary: Jeremiah, 89)
The question to be answered is . . . What is God asking 6th century BC Judah (as well as us) to do?
Answer: Let God be our guide to shalom. Our way is the way of death and destruction. Seek the Lord.
More than any other time in history, mankind faces a crossroads. One path leads to despair and utter hopelessness. The other, to total extinction. Let us pray we have the wisdom to choose correctly. — Woody Allen
Man is the strangest of all animals. He is the only animal that runs faster when he’s lost his way. —Rollo May (Chuck Swindoll message, Cloudy Days .. . Dark Nights)
The Word for the Day is . . . Guide
The ethical dilemmas we face show that we are at the crossroads. Will we cherish the lives of the innocent, or will we permit abortion on demand? Will we protect the lives of the defenseless, or will we allow involuntary euthanasia? Will we preserve the sanctity of marriage, or will we tolerate no-fault divorce and homosexual unions? Will we love the true and the beautiful, or will we gaze upon images of sex and violence? These are the questions a culture faces at the crossroads. (Philip Graham Ryken, Preaching the Word: Jeremiah, 108)
How is God a guide?:
I- God provides the path to life. (Jer 6:16; see also: The Bible, especially Dt 30:15-20; 32:47; Lk 1:79; the life of Jesus, especially Jn 14:6; Jn 16:13)
The ancient path is the biblical path. The good way is the way marked out in the Scriptures. According to God himself, the problem with the people of Jerusalem was that “they have not listened to my words and have rejected my law” (6:19). In other words, they had made a bad choice back at the crossroads. And the reason they made a bad choice was that they rejected God’s Word. (Philip Graham Ryken, Preaching the Word: Jeremiah, 109)
Sometimes we need to pray
For the Holy Spirit to help,
To get us out of God’s way.
Doing the will of God
Is paramount to our will:
Our Lord always know what’s best.
For the maze of this world,
We have a Divine, grace, and guidance.
— Shirley Marsh June 18th, 2019
When the great evangelical theologian Charles Hodge (1797-1878) was named a full professor at Princeton Seminary in 1872, he testified that he was “not afraid to say that a new idea never originated in this Seminary.” Hodge did not mean that he could not think for himself; he was one of the leading intellects of his day. What he meant was that he wanted to be sound in his theology. He knew that sound theology does not go off in new directions. Hodge was not interested in being an innovator. He wanted to follow the ancient path, the good way. (Philip Graham Ryken, Preaching the Word: Jeremiah, 110-11)
Attack me, I do this myself, but attack me rather than the path I follow and which I point out to anyone who asks me where I think it lies. If I know the way home and am walking along it drunkenly, is it any less the right way because I am staggering from side to side! (Leo Tolstoy as quoted by David Kinnaman, Unchristian, 66)
The more clearly we see the reality of the world, the better equipped we are to deal with the world. The less clearly we see the reality of the world–the more our minds are befuddled by falsehood, misperceptions, and illusions–the less able we will be to determine correct courses of action and make wise decisions. Our view of reality is like a map…If the map is true and accurate, we will generally know where we are, and if we have decided where we want to go, we will generally know how to get there. If the map is false and inaccurate, we generally will be lost. (Dr. Chris Thurman; The Lies We Believe, 167)
II- God provides warning signals when you are off the path. (Jer 6:17; see also: Dt chps 27-30; Ps 1; 19; 119; Ezek 3:17; 33:1-9; Jn 16:4; Acts 2:40; 1 Cor 4:14; 10:11; 2 Cor 13:2; Gal 5:21; 1 Th 5:14; 2 Tm 2:14; Ti 3:10; Heb 12:25; Rv 22:18)
When the psalmist confesses that he has strayed like a lost sheep, the only reason he knows he has gone down the wrong road is that he has not forgotten God’s commands. (Philip Graham Ryken, Preaching the Word: Jeremiah, 110)
The conclusion Harvard scholar Oscar Handlin reached in a remarkable 1996 article called “The Unmarked Way:”
At some point, midway into the twentieth century, Europeans and Americans discovered that they had lost all sense of direction. Formerly, familiar markers along the way had guided their personal and social lives from birth to maturity to death. Now, disoriented, they no longer trusted the guideposts and groped in bewilderment toward an unimagined destination. Wandering in the dark, men and women in all Western societies, stumbling blindly along, strained unavailingly for glimpses of recognizable landmarks. (Oscar Handlin, “The Unmarked Way,” The American Scholar Summer 1996, 74) (Philip Graham Ryken, Preaching the Word: Jeremiah, 107)
III- He ordained for obstacles, pain, anguish and natural consequences to encourage us to seek the path to life. (Jer 6:19, 21-26; see also: see also: Dt chps 27-30; Ps 1; 19; 119; Jn 16:4; Acts 2:40; 1 Cor 4:14; 10:11; 2 Cor 13:2; Gal 5:21; 1 Th 5:14; 2 Tm 2:14; Ti 3:10; Heb 12:25; Rv 22:18)
The people continue to reject God’s “law” (Torah, instruction, v. 19). The fate to befall them is actually the “fruit of their [own] schemes.” (J. Andrew Dearman, The NIV Application Commentary: Jeremiah, 89)
Ritual performances divorced from a proper moral attitude are worthless in God’s sight, a view shared by other pre-exilic prophets (cf. 1 Sm 15:22; Isa 1:11; Mic 6:8, etc.). The obstacles confronting the people are of their own making, and when retribution comes they cannot blame God (cf. Jam 1:13-15). (R.K. Harrison, Tyndale OT Commentaries: Jeremiah, 83)
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)
Somewhere the English apologist Gilbert Keith Chesterton (1874-1936) offered this sound advice for people who are off-track: “When you have lost your way quite hopelessly, the quickest thing is to go back along the road you know to the place from which you started. You may call it reaction, you may call it repetition, you may call it tiresome theory, but it is the quickest way out of the wood.” (Philip Graham Ryken, Preaching the Word: Jeremiah, 115)
“The right direction leads not only to peace but to knowledge. When a man is getting better, he understands more and more clearly the evil that is still left in him. When a man is getting worse, he understands his own badness less and less. A moderately bad man knows he is not very good: a thoroughly bad man thinks he is all right. This is common sense, really. You understand sleep when you are awake, not while you are sleeping…You can understand the nature of drunkenness when you are sober, not when you are drunk. Good people know about both good and evil: bad people do not know about either.” (C. S. Lewis; The Quotable C. S. Lewis 268)
There will be opposition in your life if you are a Christian. If you didn’t meet the Devil today, then you probably are headed in the same direction. — Steve Brown
When the truth is in your way, you are on the wrong road.
Their iniquities had caused them to become “fixed in concrete” (v. 28). Though God had attempted to purify them with severe discipline (v. 29), the work had not been successful. They remained a corrupted people. The last statement in this unit (v. 30) gives the final verdict. Yahweh called them rejected silver because he had rejected them. (Max Anders, Holman OT Commentary: Jeremiah, 67)
Worship Point: Worship the God Who provides the path of life to follow and guides us to that path through His Word, His Spirit and the influence of natural consequences.
Worship divorced from a daily life of commitment to God is no more than a meaningless and dangerous charade, no matter how aesthetically pleasing and impressive it may be; for the God who comes to his people in worship is a God who makes inescapable demands upon them. This the prophets from Amos onwards never allowed the people to forget (see Amos 5:21-24; Isa 1:12-17). A well-filled church can be spiritually meaningless. (Robert Davidson, Daily Study Bible Series: Jeremiah, 67)
Dr. Seamands tells of a Muslim who became a Christian in Africa. “Some of his friends asked him, ‘Why have you become a Christian?’ He answered, ‘Well, its like this. Suppose you were going down the road and suddenly the road forked in two directions, and you didn’t know which way to go, and there at the fork in the road were two men, one dead and one alive—which one would you ask which way to go?'” (Warren Webster, April, 1980, HIS, 13)
Gospel Application: Jesus passed every test. As our Savior He will credit His righteousness to our account and absorb the punishment we deserve through our faith in Him and His work on the cross. He is the Way, the Truth and the Life. (Lk 19:10; Jn 14:1-6)
Jesus Christ is the way. He is the ancient way and the good way. And he is the only way. Jesus is the only way to God, the only way to salvation, and the only way to eternal life. (Philip Graham Ryken, Preaching the Word: Jeremiah, 111)
Those who walk in the ancient path and the good way find rest for their souls, which is exactly what people find when they come to Jesus Christ. He is the ancient, good, restful, and peaceful way. In Christ there is rest for the soul. (Philip Graham Ryken, Preaching the Word: Jeremiah, 111)
Evangelist D.L. Moody is reported to have said something to this effect; “You’ve got to get people lost before you can get them saved.” He was saying that only those who recognize they are lost will turn to the Savior. The Lord Jesus stated the same principle: “For I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners” (Mt 9:13). (Jerry Bridges; Transforming Grace; Living Confidently in God’s Unfailing Love, 92-3)
Spiritual Challenge: God will test and refine you so you can know the state of your soul. (Jer 6:27-30; see also: Ps 66:10; Isa 48:10; Jer 9:7; Dn 11:35; 12:10; Zec 13:9; Mal 3:2-3; 1 Pt 1:7) Remain alert and attentive to know the results. God judges us when we are defiant of His guidance and His loving gift to us.
And what in all this is the role of the prophet? He is to act as an assayer (v. 27), a refiner who tests the purity of precious metal. In the refining process silver ore is placed in a crucible along with lead. Heated to a certain temperature the lead oxidizes and carries off any alloy impurities from the silver. Try to refine my people, says the Lord to Jeremiah, and you will find it an impossible task. They are corrupt through and through, as impure as reject silver or dross, fit for nothing but to be thrown on the slag heap. (Robert Davidson, Daily Study Bible Series: Jeremiah, 69)
God is not an arsonist; He’s a refiner. It was shown to Jeremiah that it was his function to act as an assayer among God’s people. In refining silver, lead was used as an oxidizing agent to carry off the dross. Jeremiah, however, was made to see that the people were so corrupt and stubborn that his assaying work among them was futile. By a play on words the meaning of his early messages is summarized. God’s people were like “refuse silver,” and so the Lord “refused” them. (Howard Tillman Kuist, Layman’s Bible Commentary: Jeremiah, 35)
In ancient times refiners would heat the metal until it became liquid and then skim off the impurities, the dross. The refiner knew the metal was purified when the molten liquid mirrored back his own reflection. So it is with the Spirit’s work in our lives. He melts our hearts, skims away the dross, allows us to cool into Christ’s likeness, and then turns up the heat again. (R. Kent Hughes, Preaching the Word: Luke, Vol. 1, 119-20)
If you’re headed in the wrong direction, God encourages U-turns.
“Don’t ask the Lord to guide your footsteps if you are not willing to move your feet.”
In the trials God may prove us
Just to bring us forth more bright;
He can never cease to love us—
We are precious in His sight.
The refiner is never very far from the mouth of the furnace when his gold is in the fire.
Your life will always move in the direction of the dominant images you allow to reside in your mind. (Jentezen Franklin, The Spirit of Python, 60)
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)
Many Christians assume they can have Christ and the world at the same time. They want to mix the bronze of the devil and the iron of the world in with the pure silver of Christ. They think they can walk down the ancient path and the new highway at the same time. They end up mixing a little greed, pride, immorality, gluttony, idleness, worry, bitterness, and selfishness in with faith, hope, and love.
But all those little impurities add up. Derek Kidner gives this final lab report on Jeremiah’s testing of metals: “It emerges that the people of Judah are not, so to speak, precious metal marred by some impurities, but base metal from which nothing of worth can be extracted.” (Derek Kidner, The Message of Jeremiah, 47) (Philip Graham Ryken, Preaching the Word: Jeremiah, 116)
To Keep – To Toss
God wants to keep
Some parts of me and to toss
Out the other parts.
Why would He do this?
Because it’s necessary,
If I am to grow.
Like pruning a plant,
So it can produce fine fruit,
The plant’s less burdened.
A sharp knife cuts through
To remove the un-needed
Dead wood, that sucks strength.
Likewise, we’re refined
Of the un-necessary,
So we may produce.
Is most uncomfortable,
Can hurt, in and out…
All kinds of stuff
Whether things, emotional,
Or habits, are weights.
They keep us tied down
From truly serving our God.
LIVE! Just toss “stuff” out.
— Molly A. Marsh 31 August 2010 8:10 AM
So that no one may think God has not given the people every chance, he is willing to have them tested for any merit or worth that may be in them (v. 27). Therefore he informs Jeremiah that he is to act as a tester and assayer of the moral worth of Judah. Using a superlative, Jeremiah evaluates them as the rebellious of the rebellious, i.e., “hardened rebels” (v. 28). They are entirely of inferior metal–bronze and iron, not silver and gold (Ezek 22:18-22). And though the refining process is thoroughly carried out (v. 29), there is no valuable residue to reward the labors of the refiner. In antiquity lead was put with silver in a crucible; when heated, the lead, acting as a flux, oxidized and carried off the alloy. But here the ore is so impure that the alloys are not removed. The labors of Jeremiah are in vain. As refuse silver, they are rejected by the Lord (v. 30). There is a play on words: rejected silver, they are rejected of the Lord. Three truths emerge from the passage: (1) the nation rejected God; (2) God has rejected the nation; and (3) men count the nation as refuse. So judgment is inevitable. (Frank E. Gæbelein, Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Jeremiah, 425-6)
James warned double-minded people to purify their hearts (Jam 4:8). Failure to find the wholeness to which Jesus invited people results from trying to face in two directions at once, from trying to gain the benefits of conflicting loyalties. That is double-mindedness. It conjures up a picture of straddling the fence.
- Stanley Jones says that people’s spiritual failures result form being inwardly divided. In The Christ of the Mount (p. 200), he lists nine expressions of human dividedness that Jesus pointed out:
(1) You do your beautiful religious acts with divided motives–you give to God, but also “to be seen of men” (6:1-4).
(2) You pray in two directions–to be heard of God and to be overheard of people (6:5-15).
(3) You fast with divided purpose–you do it before God and yet you hope that people will give you credit for being abstemious (6:16-18).
(4) You try to lay up treasure in two directions–upon earth and in heaven (6:19-21).
(5) You see in two directions–your outlook is divided (6:22-23).
(6) You are trying to be loyal in two directions–trying to serve God and mammon(6:24).
(7) You are anxious in two directions–toward what you shall eat and drink and be clothed with, and also toward the kingdom of God (6:25-34).
(8) You are criticizing in two directions–toward your sister or brother with rather heavy emphasis and toward yourself rather lightly (7:1-5).
(9) You are giving yourself–giving yourself to God and also giving that holy thing called personality to the dogs of appetite and the swine of desire (7:6). (Jason Martin, The Sermon on the Mount, 130)
Spiritual Challenge Questions:
- What is the “Ancient Path”?
- Our culture tends to have an allergy against the “ancient paths” simply because they are ancient and out of touch. What criteria can we use to fight against this allergy? How can we know the “Ancient Path” is trustworthy?
- Who or what are the appointed watchmen of our day? What warning are they giving us?
- The “autopilot” illustration is significant. What does it take for us to change our “autopilot”? Can we ever override the “Autopilot” once it has been installed? What needs to take place to make sure it stays in place?
So What?: Your immediate and eternal destiny will be determined by your willingness to go God’s way.
Are the people guilty? Yes! Do they deserve this punishment? Yes! In fact, God called the Gentiles and the earth to bear witness that He had done all He could to spare them this judgment (Jer 6:18-19). They would not walk on His path, and they would not listen to His prophets. Nevertheless, they continued to bring Him their hypocritical worship! (See Isa 1:11-14; Amos 5:21; Mic 6:6-8.) God gave them the right way, but they rejected it. There could be no escape. (Warren Wiersbe, Be Decisive, 45)
When God turned on the furnace, it would reveal the people as rejected silver, nothing but dross to be thrown away. He wasn’t purifying them; He was punishing them. They weren’t being refined; they were being rejected. They were too cheap to preserve. (Warren Wiersbe, Be Decisive, 45)
My friend Andy Stanley reminds us that we don’t end up where we hope to end up. Our lives ultimately end up wherever our path is headed right now. So we have to be diligent about who and what we align ourselves with. Because whatever (or whomever) we saddle up with is going to determine where we arrive months and years from now.
Who are you linking your life to? Who helps you decide what you spend, where you go, what you watch, what ranks at the top of your to-do list?
To walk with Christ is to imitate him. To imitate Christ is to live with ultimate purpose. (Louie Giglio, Goliath Must Fall: Winning the Battle Against Your Giants, 124-5)
Sometimes in Christian circles we’re given false choices: the Bible or the Spirit, conservative or charismatic, Word-driven or Spirit-led. They constitute a false dichotomy, but let’s explore them a little. All analogies break down at some point, but try this one: the Bible can be likened to a road map, and the Holy Spirit can be likened to a tour guide. The guide knows the map (indeed wrote it!) and follows the map, and so I need to pay close attention to him. I can kid myself that I can get around fine by knowing the road map, but actually I need the tour guide to direct, reveal and empower me to get where I need to go and do what I need to do. The Pharisees ultimately made the mistake of seeing knowledge of the Word as an end in itself, rather than leading them to an encounter with the person of Jesus through the Spirit of God. (Simon Guillebaud, Choose Life, 365 Readings for Radical Disciples, 9/23)
Amazing grace! How sweet the sound,
That saved a wretch like me!
I once was lost, but now am found;
Was blind, but now I see.