Tuesday, 22 July 2014


For this series we are using the title God gave to Jeremiah in Jeremiah 1:3b "I appointed you a prophet to the nations.
The major theme of the book is the word of the Lord. This forms the bookends: Jeremiah 1v3 & 51v64.
4. FIRST WORDS - v11-19
1st Word: The word of the Lord IS the word of the LORD - v11-12
2nd Word: The word of the Lord says INVASION FROM THE NORTH - v13-19.
Family Law Courts are harrowing places. Couples who once shared love now at (legal) war with one another. Where did it all go wrong?
Jeremiah shapes this third message as a scene from a trial. Note the legal language - v9 'I still contend with you' ; v29 'Why do you contend with me?' and v35 'I will bring you to judgement'.
The defendant is Israel: 2v1 Jerusalem the capital, v4 O House of Jacob, and all the clans of the house of Israel. v14 Israel. Not the Northern tribes of the Israel/Judah split for the North had long since fallen, but what was left of the Southern Kingdom, all that was left of the original Israel.
The message moves from v1 'Just Married' to 3v1 'Divorce', and Remarriage 3v4-5?
Jeremiah has to walk the four miles to Jerusalem and preach this message. He may have had to preach it several times at different points in the city so everyone had opportunity of hearing it. What a daunting prospect for a young preacher!
Let's look at his message:
The courtship; the Marriage ceremony with exchange of vows, the honeymoon. She loved him and would go anywhere, even into a wilderness, as long as it was with him.
She promised to be faithful, set apart, only for him. Israel was holy to the LORD.
She was the firstfruits of his harvest. Woe-betide any who tried to steal of her fruits.
How is the theme of firstfruits developed in the NT?
[1] Pentecost means 50th day, it is the day of the firstfruits. Here, these 3,000 are the firstfruits of the harvest of the nations.
[2] 1Co 15:20 But in fact Christ has been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep.
Jeremiah is drawing on Deuteronomy 32:10-14 for this picture of Israel as the new Bride.
It all started so well. Does this remind you of any passage in the NT?
[1] The writer to the Hebrews is speaking at an earlier stage, he is trying to keep the marriage together, to prevent apostasy. Jeremiah speaks as though many have already committed apostasy - see 2:19.
[2] The church at Ephesus shows no outward signs of the danger of apostasy, but inwardly they are 'drinking in the last chance saloon'! See Revelation 2:2-5.
There is no one way of preaching. I try to read a book on preaching every year or two. This year I have been dipping into two books: 'Saving Eutychus' by Gary Millar and Phil Campbell; and Preaching? by Alec Motyer.
You have to take a large pinch of salt with all books on preaching. Invariably they are saying: "Do what I say, not what I do!" Listen to them preach and you will see the difference between the theory and the practice! Perhaps that just shows that it is harder than you may think.
I am grateful to those brave enough to write such books and I have learned, or at least, been reminded of things, that have kept me from being worse than I am!
I have just added a third book on preaching to my list: 'Jeremiah'. We learn by the example of others. Jeremiah was a great preacher.
In this first major sermon we find three things:
[1] He asks Questions. A lot of questions.
[2] He gives illustrations, most are very short.
[3] He quotes what people are saying.
Read through the chapter and note them for yourself.
3. LOOK AT YOU NOW! 2:4-3:5
[1] "What did I do wrong?" asks the Lord - v5
Is this a rhetorical question meaning I've done nothing wrong? Or is it an opportunity for them to state what they thought God had done wrong?
It seems some did contend with God - 2:29; v35; 3:5.
People deny God';s existence until some disaster occurs, then they blame God. We did not deserve this!
[2] Why did no one, not people or priests ask, "Where is the LORD?" v6-8.
I brought you into a plentiful land. What blessings are listed here that God had given to his people.
What blessings he has given to us: Eph 1:3 Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places,
But they defiled it. The leaders were no better. Some see four groups of leaders here: Priests, Government officials, Elders, & Prophets. Leaders who did not lead. They did not know God and did not want to do so.
v4 If you go after worthless things you become like them - worthless!
v8 They went after things that do not profit.
v13 broken cisterns that cannot hold water.
v13 changed their glory for that which does not profit.
(Note the repetition of ideas.)
He will make this point again in v11 ...changed their glory for that which does not profit.
What are we not saying that maybe we should?
[3] When I worked in London there were two rival evening papers: The Evening News and the Evening Standard. They were sold on news stands and the vendors really did shout out the headlines!
"Extra, Extra, Nation Changes it's gods"!
No paper seller ever made such a cry from Cyprus to Kedar.
Nations didn't even change their worthless gods! Football fans stick with their club through thick and thin. (Or should we in Bristol say thin and thinner!) But Israel had changed 'their glory' for something worthless. (God is his people's glory.)
Two charges: (1) Forsaken God, 'the fountain of living waters'
(2) Made useless, broken cisterns, to drink from!
We in the rainy West fail to realise the 'politics of water' in the Middle East. This is especially true in Israel. Jeremiah's illustration would be especially powerful in exposing their folly in exchanging an ever flowing fountain for a broken cistern.
What is your broken cistern? Where do you go for comfort, or for help, when you do not go to the Lord? You missed your bible reading & prayer - what for? That's your broken cistern!
[4] They have brought disaster upon themselves by forsaking the Lord. Assyria and Egypt had both attacked them v14-19. The Lion was the symbol of Assyria. Memphis and Tahpanhes were Egyptian cities - (nothing to do with Elvis Presley.)
Despite this they were considering entering into an alliance with Egypt and Assyria. They feared man more than they feared God.
Who is this young preacher think he is that he knows more about foreign policy that the King and his advisor?
Robin Cook argued for an ethical foreign policy. It did not last long! Jeremiah is arguing for a theological foreign policy.
At this time Josiah was King. He was a godly king, seeking to lead a reformation - 2 Kings 23:21-27, but it was not reaching the hearts of the people.
[5] "Condemned out of your own mouth" - that's what the Policeman said as I protested my innocence to his charge that I was speeding by telling him that I was only doing 65 mph. (I was on a dual carriageway at the time - and believed that the limit was 70 mph.)
Jeremiah uses the people's words in which they protest their innocence to expose their guilt.He quotes them seven times: v20,23,25,27a,27b,31&35.
[1] v20-22: God set them free. They claimed they were no one's slaves - yet they were enslaved to their idols.
John 5:31-37
They cannot wash away their guilt.
[2] v23-24: They protest their innocence - I am not unclean, I have not gone after the Baals. Yet, the evidence of their animal like lust for idols is there in the valleys, the altars of Baal, for all to see.
[3] v25-26: Now they claim they cannot help themselves. They, especially the leaders, will be shamed like a thief caught red handed.
[4] v27a: They speak to trees and stones, turning their back on God. (Compare with New Age worship today.)
[5] v27b-28: In times of trouble they call for help. Idolatry is nation wide. Let your idols save you!
[6] v29-32: The people are glad to have given God up. I met a lady who said just that to me. She is far happier now that she has stopped believing in God. She was a friend of the late Bishop Mervyn Stockwood.
God had disciplined them to no effect - v30.
[7] v33-37 You say I am innocent, yet even wicked women learn from them! They ill treat the poor, shedding innocent blood of those who were not trying to steal from them. God will judge them.
4. DIVORCE! 3:1-5
Josiah's reforms were in progress. The people were returning to the Lord, or so it seemed. The book of the Law had been found (Deuteronomy). However the law possessed a problem.
The law permitted divorce, but not remarriage if there has been a marriage in between - Deuteronomy 24:1-4. Israel had left the LORD for other gods. How could Israel now return to the Lord?
They say the right things - v4 My father.... Yet they have done all the evil they could.

Is the law going to have the final word or has grace something to say?

Tuesday, 1 July 2014


1. What might we ask God to do for us through these weeks we shall be spending reading, meditating, discussing and praying about 'Heaven'?
2. The book was published 13 years ago. Do you think that attitudes towards heaven have changed since then in: (a) the world; and (b) the church.
3. How did you think of heaven when you were a child?
4. Has anyone read John Milton's poems: Paradise Lost and Paradise Regained? What are our current cultural reference points to images of heaven? (Where do people get their ideas of heaven from: What books; films; music; art; TV programmes and any thing else?)
5. On pages 65-67 he gives six reasons why Christians may neglect the subject of heaven. Can you think of any more reasons? Which of all the reasons do find exert the greatest influence (temptation) on you so that you do not think of heaven more?
6. How do you tell someone who is not a Christian and yet thinks they are going to heaven that this may not be the case? How can we use heaven as an 'evangelistic weapon' (see page 68) in our conversations with unbelievers?