“Providential Signs” – Jeremiah 14:1-16

Sunday, August 4th, 2019

Jeremiah 14:1-16

“Providential Signs”

Service Orientation: Do not be deceived. Many lie in the name of God; leading people astray with the allure of health, wealth, and prosperity. But God is a promise keeper to both those who live for him, and those who utterly refuse to.

Memory Verse for the Week: “Watch out for false prophets. They come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ferocious wolves. By their fruit you will recognize them. Do people pick grapes from thornbushes, or figs from thistles?” Matthew 7:15-16

Background Information:

  • Unlike the land of Egypt, whose food supply depended on irrigation from the Nile River, the land of Canaan depended on the rains God sent from heaven (Deut. 11:10-12). If His people obeyed His law, God would send the rains and give them bumper crops (Lev. 26:3—5), but if they disobeyed, the heavens would become like iron and the earth like bronze (Lev. 26:18-20; Deut. 11:13—17; 28:22—24). Over the years, Judah’s sins had brought a series of droughts to the land4 (see Jer. 3:3; 5:24; 12:4; 23:10), and Jeremiah used this painful but timely topic as the basis for a sermon to the people. (Warren Wiersbe, Be Decisive, 82)
  • Jeremiah’s message of judgement does not come out of the drought, nor is it the drought that convinces him of the corruption of the community. He finds in the drought confirmation of what he already believes for other reasons. The drought is a warning sign that ought to have made the people take a long hard look at themselves; and warnings ignored, as Amos 4:6ff. underline, bring tragic consequences. (Robert Davidson, The Daily Bible Study Series: Jeremiah Vol 1, 120)
  • We do not know anything about this drought outside of the oracle, and the chapter does not situate it in time. However, as Jeremiah’s oracles as a whole point to an impending national catastrophe that we know as the Babylonian exile, this drought was probably understood to be a divine anticipation of that judgment. (Tremper Longman III, Understanding the Bible Commentary Series: Jeremiah & Lamentations, 118)
  • During Jeremiah’s time, lack of water was a persistent experience. The weather pattern in the eastern Mediterranean is such that from late spring through mid-fall, there is no rain. Thus, the later fall and winter rains are necessary for the spring planting. Not only was drought a crippling phenomenon, it was a graphic reminder of how dependent life is on forces outside of human control. (J. Andrew Dearman, The NIV Application Commentary: Jeremiah and Lamentations, 155)

The question to be answered is…

What was so wrong with Judah that the Lord would send such catastrophe?  


These catastrophes were a covenant consequence of Judah’s determined disobedience (Lev. 26; Dt. 28). God gave Judah over to what they were ultimately seeking; a green light for sin.

The word of the day is… Turn

What should we take note about regarding Judah’s condition?

  1. Judah was in a time of trouble. (vv. 2-6)

 (Lev. 26; Dt. 28; 2 Chronicles 21; 22; 24; 28; 33; 34:24; Is. 1; 3:1; Jer 1; 2; 3… et. al.)

It’s a serious thing to enter into a covenant relationship with God, because He always keep His word, either to bless or to chasten. If we are the recipients of His love, then we can expect to be the recipients of His chastening if we disobey Him (Prov. 3:11-12). God is always faithful. (Warren W. Wiersbe, Be Decisive, 82)

  1. Judah was hopeless and helpless. (vv. 7-11)

(Jer. 17:9; 30:12; Micah 2:10)

O, how dreadful is the state of that people in reference to whom the Lord says to his ministers, Pray not for them; or, what amounts nearly to a prohibition, withholds from his ministers the spirit of prayer and intercession in behalf of the people! (Adam Clarke Commentary on Jeremiah 14, biblehub.com)

  1. Judah was religious without repentance. (v. 12)

(Job 34:33; Isaiah 30:15; Jer. 5:3; 8:6; Amos 5; Matthew 11:20; Luke 13:3; 2 Cor. 7:10)

In the face of clear indications of divine displeasure Judah still refused to repent and be rehabilitated, thereby providing a stark illustration of those lost in sin and alienated from the covenant of promise (cf. Eph. 2:12). Despite warnings from God to the contrary, Jeremiah is so overcome by anguish for his people that he prays for their deliverance. (R.K. Harrison, Jeremiah and Lamentations, 101)

  1. Judah was still liable for the lies. (vv. 13-16)

(Is. 9:15; Jer. 5:31; 23; Ezekiel 13:19)

A true prophet always identified so completely with his people that he stayed with them, regardless of how much they rebelled against God or him personally. Yet a time comes when one must face reality. The false prophets never agreed with this fact but continued to lead the people astray. Jeremiah was rapidly coming to the time when he must accept God’s assessment. The people had gone so far in sin that they had grown incapable of true repentance. Yet he made one final effort on their behalf. (Max Anders, Holman OT Commentary: Jeremiah and Lamentations, 157)


How do we NOT end up like Judah?

 1. Pay attention whenever and however God speaks.

(Ps. 50:1, 7; 81:1 85:8; Is. 1:10; 46:12;  Job 34:2-3; Jer. 6:10; 7; 11:6; 29:11-13)

 People sometimes use “the problem of evil” as an objection against the existence of God. That objection is aimed in the wrong direction. Evil is a problem, but it is not a problem for God. The problem of evil must be placed at the doorstep of humanity. (Phillip Graham Ryken, Preaching the Word: Jeremiah and Lamentations, 248)

  1. If your “faith” is just a routinerepent.

(Prov. 3:5-6; Mat. 6; 1 John 5:4; 1 Cor. 2:5; 2 Cor. 5:7; Heb. 11:1; Ja. 1:26-27)

 In our impatient culture, we want to experience biblical awe without biblical devotion. (Francis Chan, Letters to the Church, 56)

This image of being made clean is at the heart of the biblical concept of repentance. We may be tempted to think of repentance merely in terms of forgiveness, but it is also about cleansing. We are corrupt, and we must be made clean. We may also be tempted to think of repentance as an optional add-on to faith. Justification, after all, is by faith alone. But justification does not exclude repentance. Repentance is not a tangential concept in the Bible; rather, it is central in conversion and justification. (R.C. Sproul, What is Repentance? Crucial Questions Series Book 18, 20)

  1. Discern what you consume.

(Mat. 7:15; 24:24; Mark 13:22; 2 Cor. 11:13; 2 Tim. 4:1-5; 2 Peter 2:1;  )

 “Discernment is not a matter of simply telling the difference between right and wrong; rather it is telling the difference between right and almost right.” – Charles Spurgeon

Worship Point…

True worship can only happen in the context of God’s truth; not our own individual “truth”.

(Ps. 119:160; 154:18; Prov. 12:22; John 4:24 14:6; 8:32; 16:13; 17:17; Eph. 6:14)

In the spirit of Cain, we bring an offering we think He should accept rather than what He actually asked for. (Francis Chan, Letters to the Church, 46)

The message of the false prophets of Israel was one of peace. But their peace was an illusion. They preached peace when there was no peace, or what Luther called a carnal peace. Luther said that when the gospel is preached with passion and with accuracy, it does not bring peace. In fact, our Lord Himself said, “Do not think that I have come to bring peace to the earth. I have not come to bring peace, but a sword” (Matt. 10:34)…if you look at the record of history, the true prophets of Israel contended for the truth, and every time they did, controversy emerged. (R.C. Sproul, What is The Church? Crucial Questions Series Book 17, 18-19)

Gospel Application…

Judah’s neglect and rebellion cost them dearly. Our neglect and rebellion will cost us dearly if we refuse to repent and trust Jesus.

(1 Sa. 15:23; Pro. 17:11; Ps. 68:6; Hos. 4:6; Mat. 10:28; 25:46; Rom. 5:9; 6:23; Rev. 20:15)

Much of our problem in continuing fellowship with a holy God is that many Christians repent only for what they do, rather than for what they are. (A. W. Tozer, Whatever Happened to Worship, 72)

Religion operates on the principle of “I obey-therefore I am accepted by God.” The basic operating principle of the gospel is “I am accepted by God through the work of Jesus Christ-therefore I obey.”  (Timothy Keller, The Prodigal God, 128)

Spiritual Challenge Questions…

Reflect on these questions in your time with the Lord this week, or discuss with a Christian family member or small group.

  • What, if any, parallels can you draw between Judah, our nation, and/or the Church today?
  • Can you think of a modern example of a false teaching or false prophet? How can you discern good teaching from bad?
  • Is there something in your life that has you wandering from God? What are you going to do about it?

Quotes to note…

“We fear men so much because we fear God so little.” William Gurnall.

The command to believe is central to the Bible. Christianity is founded upon certain nonnegotiable truths, and these truths, once known, are translated into beliefs. The beliefs that anchor our faith are those to which we are most passionately and personally committed, and these are our convictions. We do not believe in belief any more than we have faith in faith. We believe the gospel, and we have faith in Christ. Our beliefs have substance and our faith has an object. (Albert Mohler, The Conviction To Lead, 22)

When God disciplines us, it isn’t enough that we pray and ask for His help; anybody in trouble can do that. We must repent of our sins, judge and confess them, and sincerely seek the face of God. To weep because of the sufferings that sin causes is to show remorse but not repentance. “Rend your heart, and not your garments” (Joel 2:13) was the prophet Joel’s counsel to the Jews during another time of great calamity; and David, when he sought God’s forgiveness, said, “The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit: a broken and a contrite heart, O God, thou wilt not despise” (PS. 51:17). (Warren W. Wiersbe, Be Decisive, 83)

The glory of God should always be the primary motive for prayer. Instead Of asking God to do something for your sake, ask him to do something for his sake. Prayers offered for the sake of God’s glory are powerful prayers. What can be more persuasive to God than the opportunity to magnify his own glory? As F. B. Meyer has argued, “Whenever we so lose ourselves in prayer as to forget personal interest, and to plead for the glory of God, we have reached a vantage ground from which we can win anything from Him.'” (Phillip Graham Ryken, Preaching the Word: Jeremiah and Lamentations, 251-252)

In a few terrible verses the plight of every living thing confronts us, from the highest to the humblest, from the most organized to the most instinctive, for lack of what none of them can command, and what none can do without. On so fine a thread hangs all that we take for granted. Moreover, the word translated drought (1) is plural here, indicating a series of such disasters, each one leaving the survivors less able to face the next. If anything could drive a nation to its knees, this was it — the only question being whether it would be a response of panic or of penitence. (Derek Kidner, The Message of Jeremiah, 66)

In spite of the extensive attention to the warnings of coming judgment in Jeremiah’s prophecies before Jerusalem’s destruction in 587, it must be insisted that the fundamental aim of the entire Book of Jeremiah is to establish a theology of hope. If hope were to be simply on the basis of a few reassuring prophecies or by a return to the traditional and fundamental axioms implicit in Israel’s belief in its divine election, it would be facile and unconvincing. The prophetic dilemma was to find a place for hope in the face of the deep despair experienced by many in Israel and by facing fully and unsentimentally the stark tragedy and grief that the passage of two and a half thousand years has not been able to erase. (R.E. Clements, Interpretation Bible Commentary: Jeremiah, 93-94)

“Discernment is God’s call to intercession, never to faultfinding.”  – Corrie ten Boom


We have such smooth, almost secularized ways of talking people into the kingdom of God that we can no longer find men and women willing to seek God through the crisis of encounter. When we bring them into our churches, they have no idea of what it means to love and worship God because, in the route through which we have brought them, there has been no personal encounter, no personal crisis, no need of repentance—only a Bible verse with a promise of forgiveness. (A.W. Tozer, Whatever Happened to Worship, 118)
Totally without hope one cannot live. To live without hope is to cease to live. Hell is hopelessness. It is no accident that above the entrance to Dante’s hell is the inscription: “Leave behind all hope, you who enter here.” Fyodor Dostoevsky
It’s a terrible thing to speak in the name of the Lord your own opinions, thoughts or ideas. It’s all right to speak your own opinions, thoughts and ideas as your own opinions, thoughts and ideas. Now Paul the apostle was careful to make a distinction. In writing he said, “Now I don’t have a word from the Lord on this, but this is my opinion on this subject.” And that’s good. You can express your opinion. There’s nothing wrong with expressing your opinion. It’s just when you express your opinion in the name of the Lord that it becomes wrong, because then when it doesn’t work out, then you make God to be a liar or God to be made a fool. So there are a lot of people that are speaking in the name of the Lord things that are not really of the Lord, things that aren’t really scriptural. Things that are really anti-scriptural. In fact, much like these prophets. “Everything is going to be great. Everybody is going to prosper. Everybody’s just going to be healed and everybody should be prospering and God wants you all to go out and purchase new Mercedes and you’ll be blessed and prosperous now. Peace, peace, prosperity.” God said, “They’re not prophesying from Me.” For God said, “They that live godly in Christ Jesus shall suffer persecution” (II Timothy 3:12). If any man suffers according to the will of God. These false prophets, some of them are now saying if Jesus only had enough faith He wouldn’t have had to suffer the cross. Oh, what blasphemy. And God will deal with them. (Chuck Smith, Commentary on Jeremiah at https://www.blueletterbible.org/Comm/smith_chuck/c2000_Jer/Jer_011.cfm?a=759001)
“Preaching that costs nothing accomplishes nothing.” 2 The famous British preacher John Henry Jowett made that statement, and it certainly applies to the prophet Jeremiah. Pained by the sins of his people, declaring unpopular messages that majored on judgment, and perplexed by what the Lord was allowing him to suffer, Jeremiah paid a great price to be faithful to his divine calling. If ever an Old Testament servant had to “take up his cross” in order to follow the Lord, it was Jeremiah. (Warren W. Wiersbe, Be Decisive, 81)
Chapter 14: 1—9 is a community lament as the people find themselves in the relentless grip of a drought, vividly described in verses 1—6—the futile search for water, the farmers giving up the unequal struggle, the livestock and the wild animals with the glazed look of death in their eyes. Briefly the people confess their sins and urgently turn to the Lord. Why has he apparently deserted his people; why does he seem to be powerless to do anything to help them? They call upon him to prove once again that they are his people and that he is caringly in their midst (verses 7—9). In the midst of unanswered questions, they have nowhere to go but to God. (Robert Davidson, The Daily Bible Study Series: Jeremiah Vol 1, 119)
14:17—18 / Jeremiah is commanded to speak God’s words. That these are God’s words (contrary to Lundbom, Jeremiah 1—20, p. 712, and others) seem indicated by the reference to Judah as my virgin daughter—my people. This way of referring to Judah is very intimate and rather shocking in light of the fact that the general context contains oracles that emphasize God’s great anger at their sin. The whole oracle is a strong statement of God’s great anguish over the suffering of the people. God reveals the tears that he sheds for them and the wound that they suffer. His people are dying everywhere, both country and city. Also, prophet and priest, those supposed to be particularly close and in service to God, have been exiled. The latter reference may indicate that this oracle comes from the period after 597 B.C. when the early phase of the exile takes place at the time of Jehoiachin. The reference could conceivably be to the time of Zedekiah (586 B.C.). (Tremper Longman III, Understanding the Bible Commentary Series: Jeremiah & Lamentations, 123)
Jeremiah attributed Judah’s suffering to her sin. He called on Yahweh to act on the nation’s behalf. He included himself among those responsible for the crisis. In verse 7, he spoke of our sins and our backsliding. He then spoke with an active verb, saying we have sinned, asking for no mercy because of extenuating circumstances. (Max Anders, Holman OT Commentary: Jeremiah and Lamentations, 154-155)
Calling on God to do something for the sake of your name was a significant statement. It appealed to Yahweh on the basis of what other nations might think of him if he refused to make things right for his people. They would think that God was too weak to restore his people. Furthermore, if he showed mercy to his own people, the nations might be led to see that love is a stronger force than stern justice. (Max Anders, Holman OT Commentary: Jeremiah and Lamentations, 155)
CHAPTER 14 (and perhaps the two chapters that follow) is occasioned by the threatening circumstances of drought. As is typical in the first half of Jeremiah, we have no idea when the prophet utters these prophecies since no king is mentioned, though the reference to a fast in 14:12 may hint at the historical setting. The only other reference to fasting in Jeremiah is in 36:6, 9, which is set during the reign of Jehoiakim—more specifically, the ninth month of the fifth year of his reign (Nov./Dec. 604 B.C.). At this time Nebuchadnezzar’s army was campaigning in the region. This threat may be in the background, though the primary concern of chapter 14 is that of drought. If the context is indeed November or December and the fall rains have not yet come, a fast would be appropriate. In the Mediterranean climate there is no rain during the summer months. But without rain at some point in the fall, drought conditions become severe. (J. Andrew Dearman, The NIV Application Commentary: Jeremiah and Lamentations, 152)
In the New Testament John the seer sees God’s judgments poured out on the land as the seals of the prophetic scroll are broken (Rev. 6). These judgments are depicted as different horsemen, and among them are the sword, famine, and pestilence. John’s vision is very much in the mode of Old Testament prophecy, but it was also intended to instruct the church so that it could see behind the temporal judgments the hand of God moving toward an even larger deliverance. Likewise, Jeremiah’s contemporaries are to see God’s hand moving in judgment, but beyond judgment Jeremiah’s readers should recognize that God moves toward deliverance. (J. Andrew Dearman, The NIV Application Commentary: Jeremiah and Lamentations, 156)
By comparing God to a stranger and to a soldier taken by surprise, Jeremiah called into question two of God’s eternal attributes — omnipresence and omnipotence. By definition, God is all-present and all-powerful. Where is God? God is everywhere. Can God do all things? Yes, God can do all his holy will. God is omnipresent and omnipotent. But a God who drops by every now and then is hardly omnipresent. And if God is powerless to save, then he is not all-powerful. Furthermore, if God is a stranger, then he is not all-present after all. And a God who can be tied up by thugs is far from omnipotent. When Jeremiah saw the mess the World was in, his understanding of God came under attack. Could God really live up to his press clippings? (Phillip Graham Ryken, Preaching the Word: Jeremiah and Lamentations, 247)
Gospel ministers in the contemporary church sometimes wonder the same thing. Divine judgment has become increasingly unpopular. D. P. Walker’s book The Decline of Hell shows how the doctrine of eternal punishment came under attack during the seventeenth century. If Hell was in decline back then, it has all but disappeared since. Liberal theology gave up on the idea at the start of the twentieth century. At the dawn of the twenty-first century, eternal judgment is on its way out in the evangelical church as well. It is not so much that the doctrine of eternal punishment is under attack it is just that the subject never comes up. As John Blanchard expressed it in the title of his book, Whatever Happened to Hell? What indeed? Doctrines that cease to be taught in the church die a long, slow death. (Phillip Graham Ryken, Preaching the Word: Jeremiah and Lamentations, 249)
Keeping prayer fixed on the glory of God helps us to avoid trivial prayers. It is easy to pray to the glory of God when praying for the salvation of neighbors or for the worldwide progress of the gospel. It is much harder to pray to the glory of God when praying about your favorite football team or the pain in your pinkie. If it proves difficult to put God’s glory into the same sentence with a prayer request, then it is time to find something more important to pray about. (Phillip Graham Ryken, Preaching the Word: Jeremiah and Lamentations, 252)


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