Tuesday, 25 November 2014


JEREMIAH 7:1 v 8:3
Jeremiah 8:5 Why then has this people turned away in perpetual backsliding?
v8 “How can you say, ‘We are wise, and the law of the LORD is with us’?
v14 Why do we sit still?
Name me a Greek philosopher?
Name me a book he wrote?
"By all means marry; if you get a good wife you'll be happy. If you get a bad one you'll become a philosopher. Socrates (469-399 BC)
"Once made equal to man, woman becomes his superior."
"The unexamined life is not worth living."
"True knowledge exists in knowing that you know nothing."
Most of what we know about Socrates comes from books that his pupil Plato wrote.
Socrates was born in Athens in 470 BC. He was a soldier in the Peloponnesian War (431-404 BC). Athens v Sparta and Sparta won which was very bad for Athens.
He made no charge for his teaching. He earned his living when not a soldier as a stone cutter. He would go to the market place and engage people in conversations, asking probing questions. He saw his role of a teacher as being that like a midwife whose task was to assist at the birth of wisdom in those he taught through dialogue.
There is a way of teaching named after him: the 'Socratic method'. By asking probing questions you seek to show someone if their thinking has a sound basis, or if they are using faulty logic; what assumptions they are making; what may they have neglected to consider; what the implications of what they are saying.
Eventually the authorities considered that he asked too many questions when he begun questioning the use of the death penalty. He was accused of corrupting the cities young men and sentenced to death. A penalty carried out, to the great sorrow of his pupils, when he drunk the cup of hemlock - a poisonous plant.
Jeremiah lived before Socrates. His ministry started in 627 BC and continued until after 586 BC. Jeremiah used questions to challenge the people of his day, to show them their sin and foolishness, to them teach God's word.
He was not the first to do so. Asking questions can be used for good or evil purposes - see Genesis 3v1; 3v8-13.
Jeremiah 8v4-17 uses questions to probe the people.
We generally think of people asking of God the question Why. Here God asks people that question - v5a.
He sets up this questions by asking two questions to get people thinking - v4. The natural thing when you fall is to get up, and when you go away to return. So why haven't the people got up and returned to the Lord?
Backsliding is turning away from the Lord. It is 'going backwards'! It is translated in 2v19 as 'apostasy' and 5v6 as 'apostasies' and in 3v6, 'faithless' in 3v6,8,11,12&22.
Their perpetual backsliding is stubborn and wilful - v5b
No one asks themselves the right question: "What have I done" -v6a
Everyone is like a War Horse plunging into battle - v6b - read War Horse page 51ff.
v7: The stork, turtledove, swallow and crane know what time they should return - but the Lord's people do not know.
Christopher Wright asks at what point is a society so committed to it's immoral path that it passes the point of no return? He then wonders if we already have. Will we ever see the law on same sex marriages changed? Will the National lottery ever be consigned to the dustbin? Will the abortion laws ever be changed to greatly reduce, even stop, the loss of life? What of immorality, drunkenness, swearing, lying, etc that are so common in our society? You have to be over 45-50 to remember a time when it was not so bad.
Richard Sibbes- 'The Returning Backslider' page 257
Do you remember the Children's TV program 'How'? 'How' was originally devised as a show for adults returning from the pub. A trial program was shown late one evening. Then it was thought it might work better as a show for children. It run for 17 years. Each item begun with the word, "How".
Once again we find Jeremiah got their first! - v8a
v8b The scribes lie!
Today we are fed a diet of lies by films, novels and songs. Sin, all sin, brings pain, the pleasure is short lived and far less than living with the of the Lord, keeping Jesus' commandments.
v9 If you reject the word of the Lord then you have no wisdom.
If you only go to church once, you get 35 minutes of teaching from the Bible in the sermon, 4 or 5 hymns and songs that teach, 1 or 2 bible readings. How many hours of lies do we fill our lives with each week?
Immorality brings pain; killing in war, glamorised by video games, brings deep psychological problems, Joe suffered even as he was dying.
Greed is not good. It brings judgement - v10ab
People prefer lies to the truth and the false prophets and priests are ever ready to oblige - v10c-11
How different is the real message of peace - Romans 5v1-2 Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. Through him we have also obtained access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and we rejoice in hope of the glory of God.
They knew no shame - v12
v13 Does this put you in mind of anything?
Jesus parable - Luke 13v1-9; Mark 11v13-25;
Why do we do nothing - v14a
We are doomed to die - v14b God has given his people a cup of hemlock!
Jeremiah was a very eloquent preacher - v15. The writer to the Hebrews was a little more blunt - Heb 10:31 It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God.
The enemies war horses are coming - v16
Snakes shall bite you - v17!
This sort of preaching would be considered too much by many, perhaps even most ,congregations today!
Simply saying, none of us are perfect, doesn't really cut it today. This no longer cuts to the heart and brings conviction. We must let our preachers be more like Jeremiah for we are preaching to a sin hardened generation. As Nelson saw no ships because he held up his telescope to his blind eye, so people see no sin in themselves for they are spiritually blind.
Dr Martyn Lloyd-Jones used the Socratic method in chairing ministers fraternals. It became popular about 20 years ago among Christian Unions and then into churches. We went through 1 Peter in this way. It can be helpful. Jesus sometimes used it. It is no substitution for teaching.
The Socratic method held Science back as people tried to 'discover' things through thinking alone. It was only when experimentation begun that science really leaped forward.
Asking the right questions is the key. The questions we need to ask people are not necessarily the questions they may want to ask us. however, their questions may help us learn how they are thinking which will help us tell them the gospel in a way that will speak to them.
A Question for Christmas: Have you ever been to a birthday party to which the person whose birthday you are celebrating was not invited? 
Can you think of any others? 

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