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questioning look August 1 Chronological Bible Study

Timeline. Map. Go to today’s Bible reading: Jeremiah 14,15; 11:9-12:6;
16,17

When You 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? It depends on their behavior and circumstances. 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 in many ways 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 reading, God restricted Jeremiah in many ways that served as signs and symbols of his judgment on Judah.

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 tried to get Judah’s attention by sending famine and drought. Amazingly, though the leaders and the people acknowledged their sins, they did not repent but still called on the LORD to save them. They were beyond hope. In fact, God instructed Jeremiah to stop praying for them, for they would 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 was 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 would not forgive them for that because they would 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 was affected by Judah’s sin. According to Jeremiah 15:10-21 he fell into sin and suffered for it. He cried out for deliverance. God told 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 was the same: repent and I will restore you.

After he was restored, once again Jeremiah’s life served as signs and symbols to Judah. Jeremiah was told not to marry and have children in Jerusalem. When the people asked about it, he told them it was a symbol of God’s judgment against their children. They would die from disease, famine and sword when Babylon came to conquer them.

Second, he told 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 told 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 did God not want Jeremiah to mourn or rejoice with the people in their times of sorrow or feasting? It was a sign of God withdrawing himself from his people; he was going to punish them because of their wickedness. How difficult it must have been for Jeremiah to not participate and to know judgment was coming; all he could do was watch.

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

“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 would have to learn the power and might of God the hard way because sin was engraved into her heart; her behavior would not be changed, and therefore she would 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 was Jeremiah. Therefore, Jeremiah called out for God’s protection (Jeremiah 15:15-21). Jeremiah, like many of us, complained about his troubles. When God helped him discover the plot against his life, he questioned God’s justice because the wicked were not immediately destroyed. In effect, God told him to strengthen himself, for if he was weak at a time of relative peace, how would he survive when times got really tough? (Jeremiah 12:5). Sometimes we must bear our difficult circumstances. Fortunately, Jeremiah’s attitude changed. His confidence was again 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 that God gave Judah one more chance to show him honor before he destroyed them. The seventh day of the week, the Sabbath day, was to be a day of rest and remembrance of all that God had done for them. Would 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 God.

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.

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

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