Tuesday, 23 September 2014


JEREMIAH 4:5-31 
v1-5: Truth, Justice and the Jerusalem way!
Have you heard the expression: "Truth, justice and the American way"? Erik Lundegaard of the New York Times tells the story of this expression:
'In the first screen incarnation of Superman, the Max Fleischer cartoons that ran from 1941 to 1943, each episode's preamble informs us not only of the origin and powers of this relatively new creation (Krypton, speeding bullet, etc.), but also the kinds of things he fights for. It's a shorter list than you think. Before World War II, Superman fought "a never-ending battle for truth and justice." Back then, that was enough.
By the time the first live-action Superman hit the screen - Kirk Alyn, in a 1948 serial - the lessons of World War II, particularly in the gas chambers of Europe, were obvious. That's why Pa Kent tells young Clark he must always use his powers "in the interests of truth, tolerance and justice."
It wasn't until Superman came to television in the 1950s that the phrase became codified in the form most of us remember it: "a never-ending battle for truth, justice and the American way."'
Jeremiah was no superman, but he got there first! This chapter is all about truth, justice and the Jerusalem way.
Jeremiah is sent to look for a righteous man so that Jerusalem may be spared. Sound familiar? Remember the story of Abraham, Lot, Sodom and Gomorrah? Genesis 18:22-33.
What does he find? The people say all the right things. They can talk in pious language, but they tell lies.
God has brought a measure of judgement against them - but all to no avail. They have become hardened. They have refused to repent.
Jeremiah thought that maybe things would be different among the better educated, wealthier citizens. They would know the 'way of the Lord' and 'the justice of God'. They were no better.
Social justice is an often heard topic among the 'Christian leaders' of our country (Archbishops, political commentators, etc). Why do you think we here less about issues of justice from evangelical non-conformist?
v6 The lion, the wolf and the leopard. (Sounds a little like CS Lewis. Like him, Jeremiah uses his imagination.)
The people shall be struck down, devastated, and torn in pieces because of their many transgressions and great apostasies.
v7-13 The answer my friend is not blowin in the wind!
v13 The false prophets are just full of wind, not the word.
v7 How can God, in justice, pardon his people? They have forsaken God, who had fed them to the full, and sworn allegiance to idols and committed adultery - spiritual and actual, with idols and their neighbour's wives. The two often go together.
v8 Another animal metaphor - 'well-fed, lusty stallions, each neighing for his neighbour's wife'!
v10 He illustrates Israel and Judah as a vine - Isaiah 5; Jeremiah 2:21
These words can be taken literally as directions to the invaders. Do not miss the note of mercy in the midst of wrath - 'but make not a full end.'
The prophets have spoken falsely assuring the people that the good times are here to stay, no disaster is coming. (Would our leaders tell us if we were heading for another financial crash, especially as we head towards an election, and what has been happening at Tesco?)
How do we do as a nation when it comes to truth and lies? It seems to me that lying is more widespread today than 30 years ago, and more accepted as the norm. Remember Allan Sugar choosing as winner of the Apprentice a contestant who had lied on his CV.
v14-17 Jeremiah a prophet with a mouth filled with fire.
v14 Many people like a fiery preacher, unless they are the wood!
v15 The Barbarians are coming.

Waiting for the Barbarians BY C. P. CAVAFY

What are we waiting for, assembled in the forum?
The barbarians are due here today.
Why isn’t anything going on in the senate?
Why are the senators sitting there without legislating?
Because the barbarians are coming today.
What’s the point of senators making laws now?
Once the barbarians are here, they’ll do the legislating.
Why did our emperor get up so early,
and why is he sitting enthroned at the city’s main gate,
in state, wearing the crown?
Because the barbarians are coming today
and the emperor’s waiting to receive their leader.
He’s even got a scroll to give him,
loaded with titles, with imposing names.
Why have our two consuls and praetors come out today
wearing their embroidered, their scarlet togas?
Why have they put on bracelets with so many amethysts,
rings sparkling with magnificent emeralds?
Why are they carrying elegant canes
beautifully worked in silver and gold?
Because the barbarians are coming today
and things like that dazzle the barbarians.
Why don’t our distinguished orators turn up as usual
to make their speeches, say what they have to say?
Because the barbarians are coming today
and they’re bored by rhetoric and public speaking.
Why this sudden bewilderment, this confusion?
(How serious people’s faces have become.)
Why are the streets and squares emptying so rapidly,
everyone going home lost in thought?
Because night has fallen and the barbarians haven't come.
And some of our men just in from the border say
there are no barbarians any longer.
Now what’s going to happen to us without barbarians?
Those people were a kind of solution.
C. P. Cavafy, "Waiting for the Barbarians" from C.P. Cavafy: Collected Poems. Translated by Edmund Keeley and Philip Sherrard. Translation Copyright © 1975, 1992 by Edmund Keeley and Philip Sherrard.
v16-17 Unlike the Barbarians of the poem, the ones Jeremiah is speaking about are real, and they are coming to eat them up! See Deuteronomy 28v49-52.
v18 Once again the note of mercy remembered in the midst of wrath: "But even in those days...I will not make a full end of you."
v19 Another of those searching questions - WHY?
Answer: Because they have forsaken the Lord and served foreign gods. The punishment will fit the crime. You reap what you sow. They shall go to serve foreigners in the land of those gods.
v20-25 They have no fear of God. The God who made the sea and established it's boundaries. How impressive is the storm tossed sea crashing against the rocky shore.
They have no fear of the Lord of the Harvest, who sends the rain. So he will not send the rain or give the harvest.
v26 Wicked men catch men as a fowler catches birds.
v27b-28 They have no regard for social justice, but get rich at the expense of the very people they should be protecting and caring for.
v29 Again two devastating questions.
v30-31a Appalling and horrible is the ministry of false prophets. (Now coming to our screens on Freeview TV!). The priests follow the directions of the false prophets and that is the way the people want it!
v31b Final question: "but what will you do when the end comes?"
They did not listen to the word of the Lord. Are we listening?

Monday, 8 September 2014


Jeremiah 3:6-4:4 'Return Faithless Israel'
Jeremiah begun his ministry in 627 BC. This message comes from the earlier part of his ministry. A surprise, speaking to the scattered people of Israel. Doing so to catch the ear of Judah for although unlike her sister she has not moved geographically she has gone far away spiritually.
4:4 "Circumcise....your hearts."
Jeremiah warns of the consequences of failing to heed this message and repent:
v4b "lest my wrath go forth like fire..."
Jeremiah follows this with a graphic picture of what it will be like when God's wrath comes:
Augustine was astounded. He saw Bishop Ambrose reading but he heard nothing. Ambrose appeared to be reading silently! Augustine had never seen anyone do this before. Augustine was not five years old, but a grown man. One who himself was an avid reader. He, like everyone else he had known until that day, read out loud.
For the first thousand years after it was written anyone reading the book of Jeremiah would have read it out loud. I want to encourage you to read the bible out loud (perhaps quietly if you live with others) to yourself. I believe that we feel the impact of the words more when we do so. Often it helps our understanding.
Jeremiah is often very dramatic. This better than Shakespeare's Henry V:
Once more unto the breach, dear friends, once more;
Or close the wall up with our English dead.
In peace there's nothing so becomes a man
As modest stillness and humility:
But when the blast of war blows in our ears,
Then imitate the action of the tiger;
Stiffen the sinews, summon up the blood,
Disguise fair nature with hard-favour'd rage;
Then lend the eye a terrible aspect;
Life is about how hard you can get hit and keep moving forward. How much you can take and keep moving forward. That's how winning is done!”Sylvester Stallone, Rocky Balboa
To the people of Jeremiah's day when he preached this it seemed no challenger was in the ring! Assyria had been the undefeated champion for 100 years now seemed seemed like an old man with a zimmer frame who was unable to even climb into the ring. No new challenger had arisen.
Jeremiah's prophecy of invasion, siege and destruction seemed to be without any foundation or reality.
However, it came true forty years later. God is patient. Very patient. But his patience does run out.
'A lion has gone up form his thicket.' -v7a
v5 Action stations, sound the alarm, soldiers to their battle stations, civilians to the shelters.
v6a Unfurl the standard. Remind ourselves who we are and what we are fighting for. Remind the enemy we are ready, come if they dare.
v6b-7 A lion comes from the North. A destroyer of nations. The Babylonians are coming - although no one knew it would be them. Other nations will also hear the lions roar and feel the bite.
v8 Through this lion the wrath of God will go forth like fire (v4), his fierce anger.

'..courage shall fail.' -v9
"Whatever happened to the heroes?
                       No more heroes any more." The stranglers!!!
v9 The four groups who lead the people - see 1:18 & 2:26.
v10 Is young Jeremiah being critical of the Lord God? If so for what? How had God deceived the people? Others had prophesied peace, but they were false prophets who had not been sent by the Lord, so how could Jeremiah think the Lord was to blame? The answer may be that Jeremiah is blaming God for allowing false prophets to mislead the people.
Have you never wondered why God allows false religions, and especially 'false Christianity' to thrive and grow (especially if you have friends or loved ones caught up in them)?

3. WE'RE ALL DOOMED - v11-18
'This is your doom..it has reached your very heart.' v18
Dad's army - Corporal Jones - "Don't Panic, don't panic."
Private Frazer - "We're All Doomed" (buy the T shirt!)
v11-12 The wind of judgement will blow.
v13 Wind - more like a whirlwind!
v14 How can a person wash their heart from evil or cleanse their thoughts?
v15-17 Trouble is coming. Dan is the most northern place in what was Israel, and Mount Ephraim is just north of Jerusalem. The enemy are everywhere.
v18 They are going to reap what they have sown.

4. HOW LONG - v19-21
'How long must I see the standard and hear the sound of the trumpet?' v21
'How long O Lord' - the cry of the Psalmist: 6:3; 13:1-2; 35:17; 62:3; 74:10; 79:5; 80:4; 89:45; 90:13; 94:3; 119:84
Jeremiah feels a physical pain brought on by his mental anguish and agony of heart by what he is having to prophesy. These are his people.

'The earth.... was without form or void' - v23
Here is God's response to Jeremiah's cry. God always answers his people's prayers. He does not always give the answer we want!
v22 Man has become a reverse of what he should be, wise in things he should be innocent in and foolish in that which he should be wise.
v23-28 So God will reverse creation. Creation will be undone.
This sounds like a poem. Four times he says: 'I looked...'
Is judgement inevitable? Remember Jonah. But how can they comply with v4 & v14? How can they cleanse themselves of their sin?
They cannot do so, but God can. Grace can triumph, but at this point there is no mention of grace, or is there? Where is there grace in this chapter?

'Woe is me...' v31
v29-31 The picture we saw earlier in chapter 2, the unfaithful wife is brought back.

She does not repent. She tries to seduce the invaders to no effect. She ends up in despair and anguish.

Thursday, 4 September 2014


1. 'Heaven is created for God's glory' What do you understand by 'the glory of God'? Doesn't this make God selfish, self-centred and egotistical? If not, why not?
2. 'Heaven is God's home.'  How does the Psalmist in Psalm 73 use this to help him when his faith almost gave way.
3. Alistair Begg in his forward to John Blanchard's book, 'A Hitch-Hikers Guide To Heaven' writes: "Shortly before his death from cancer on 4th April 2013, Roger Ebert, the celebrated Chicago Sun-Times film critic, expressed the increasingly widespread notion that death ends everything:."Many readers have informed me that it is a tragic and dreary business to go into death without faith. I don't feel that way. I have no desire to live forever. The concept frightens me."
What would you say to someone who says something similar to you?
4. Ted on page 78 talks of seeing heaven, 'on a hospital bed, in the face of a dying believer...in a faithful Christian struggling against difficulties.' Relate one experience where you have seen heaven in someone.
5. 'Here on earth we may all experience heaven daily' - page 79. What does this really mean in practical terms. What is it like to experience heaven?