questioning look August 1 Chronological Bible Study

Timeline. Map. Go to today’s Bible reading (NIV) or alternate versions (use your browser arrow to return): Jeremiah 14–15; 11:9–12:6;
Jeremiah 16–17

When We Shouldn’t Help

This sounds like an odd title, doesn’t it? After all, Christians are supposed to help all people, aren’t they? Most of the time that is true; people will know we are Christians by our love. But should we help those who are wicked? Should we sympathize with them when they turn their backs on God and spurn Him? Should we then mourn with them when they mourn or rejoice when they rejoice? When we help those who are wicked, we may send the wrong message that what they are doing is in some way acceptable when it is not.

Soon upon the death of King Josiah, the subsequent kings and people of Judah returned to their wickedness and idolatry in ways that exceeded even their forefathers. The prophet Jeremiah served as a symbol of God’s judgment upon the nation of Judah. Therefore, they hated him, kept a close eye on him, and even plotted to kill him. In today’s Bible reading, God restricts Jeremiah from doing anything for the people.

In accordance with Gods’ covenant of blessings and curses (Deuteronomy 28:22-25), and perhaps in retribution for putting Jeremiah in stocks and trying to kill him, God tries to get Judah’s attention by sending famine and drought. Amazingly, although the leaders and the people acknowledge their sins, they do not repent but still call on the LORD to save them. They are beyond hope. In fact, God instructs Jeremiah to stop praying for them, for they will not repent. “Then the LORD said to me, ‘Even though Moses and Samuel were to stand before Me, My heart would not be with this people; send them away from My presence and let them go!’” (Jeremiah 15:1, NIV). God is particularly offended by the gross sins instituted by King Manasseh (2Chronicles 33:1-10). When good King Josiah died, Judah returned to idolatry and wickedness. God will not forgive them for it because they will not turn to Him and repent.

“You have rejected me,” declares the LORD. “You keep on backsliding. So I will lay hands on you and destroy you; I can no longer show compassion,” (Jeremiah 15:6, NIV)

Apparently, at this time even Jeremiah is affected by Judah’s sin. According to Jeremiah 15:10-21 he falls into sin and suffers for it. He cries out for deliverance. God answers Jeremiah,

“If you repent, I will restore you that you may serve me; if you utter worthy, not worthless, words, you will be my spokesman. Let this people turn to you, but you must not turn to them,” (Jeremiah 15:19, NIV)

As we minister to others in their sins, we must be careful not to be caught in sin. Perhaps, Jeremiah allowed himself to be influenced by his ungodly environment. Perhaps, for his own protection he softened his words so they would be less judgmental or perhaps his words became boastful and self-righteous. We must humbly but boldly speak the Word of God. The answer for Jeremiah and for Judah is the same - repent and I will restore you.

After he is restored, once again Jeremiah’s life serves as signs and symbols to Judah. Jeremiah is told not to marry and have children in Jerusalem. When the people ask him about it, he tells them it is a symbol of God’s judgment against their children. They will die from disease, famine and sword when Babylon comes to conquer them.

Second, he instructs Jeremiah not to mourn for the people or attend their funerals.

For this is what the LORD says: “Do not enter a house where there is a funeral meal; do not go to mourn or show sympathy, because I have withdrawn my blessing, my love and my pity from this people,” declares the LORD.

“Both high and low will die in this land. They will not be buried or mourned, and no one will cut himself or shave his head for them. No one will offer food to comfort those who mourn for the dead-- not even for a father or a mother-- nor will anyone give them a drink to console them,” (Jeremiah 16:5-6, NIV)

Third, God tells Jeremiah not to attend any joyous celebrations of the people.

“And do not enter a house where there is feasting and sit down to eat and drink. For this is what the LORD Almighty, the God of Israel, says: Before your eyes and in your days I will bring an end to the sounds of joy and gladness and to the voices of bride and bridegroom in this place,” (Jeremiah 16:8-9, NIV).

Why does God not want Jeremiah to mourn or rejoice with the people in their times of sorrow or feasting? It is a sign of the LORD withdrawing Himself from His people; He is going to punish them because of their wickedness. How difficult it is for Jeremiah to not participate and to know judgment is coming; all he can do is watch.

In future days God will be merciful but not now. Now the kings and people of Judah will be gathered in a net as Babylon catches them up and deports them, and the rest will be hunted down and killed. The LORD declares,

“I will repay them double for their wickedness and their sin, because they have defiled my land with the lifeless forms of their vile images and have filled my inheritance with their detestable idols,” (Jeremiah 16:18, NIV).

Judah will have to learn the power and might of God the hard way because sin is engraved into her heart; her behavior will not be changed, and therefore she will be judged.

This is what the LORD says: “Cursed is the one who trusts in man, who depends on flesh for his strength and whose heart turns away from the LORD…. But blessed is the man who trusts in the LORD, whose confidence is in him,” (Jeremiah 17:5,7, NIV).

As one might expect, those who will not help and who will not join in the activities of the wicked are not well-received, and neither is Jeremiah. Therefore, Jeremiah calls out for God’s protection (Jeremiah 15:15-21). Jeremiah, like many of us, complains about his troubles. When God helps him discover the plot against his life, he questioned God’s justice because the wicked are not immediately destroyed. In effect, God tells him to strengthen himself, for if he is weak at a time of relative peace, how will he survive when times get really tough? (Jeremiah 12:5). Sometimes we must bear our difficult circumstances. Fortunately, Jeremiah’s attitude changes. His confidence is again placed in God (Jeremiah 17:14-18). If you face threats, call out to God and let Him be your protection and confidence.

The book of Jeremiah is not chronological, but if the narrative in Jeremiah 17:19-27 follows Jeremiah 14:1- 17:18, it appears God gives Judah one more chance to show Him honor before he destroys them. The seventh day of the week, the Sabbath day, is to be a day of rest and remembrance of all that God has done for them. Will they keep it and avert judgment? Unfortunately, no.

Will we honor God and keep one day a week for a Sabbath? It is good to stop and consider all that God has done for us. It is good to remember the mercy and the grace of God. It is good to consider our ways, repent, and then find favor with Him.

Lessons to Live By

  • “Love your enemies. and pray for those who persecute you,” (Matthew 5:44, NIV)
  • Do not help wicked, hardened people. “Have nothing to do with the fruitless deeds of darkness, but rather expose them,” (Ephesians 5:11, NIV).
  • Do not get caught in sins of self-righteousness. Humbly serve God.
  • Expect some backlash for not aiding wicked, unrepentant people, but put your confidence in God to help you or protect you.
  • Keep a Sabbath to the LORD to rest and remember His good works in your life.

Focus Verse

Jeremiah 17:10 (NIV) “I the LORD search the heart and examine the mind, to reward a man according to his conduct, according to what his deeds deserve.”

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A Look Ahead: Why Does God Allow Evil?

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