Principles of Failure
Tim Temple

Introduction

The action in these closing chapters of Jeremiah moves a little faster than the opening ones and can be covered more rapidly. So for a few more weeks we are going to be looking at what Jeremiah has to say. As we have been going through this book, we have actually been looking at the death of a nation. The primary reason that I felt led to choose this book to study was the fact that there are amazing parallels between our own nation and the nation of Judah. That same thing could be said of many other nations of the world because what Jeremiah records for us are those things that are characteristic of a nation that turns away from God and that loses the blessing of God and loses its place of influence and power in history.

I believe and I have tried to point out the fact that there are many similar signs of approaching death in the United States. Since that is true, we ought to be asking ourselves the question, what is it that God requires for a nation to continue to live? What does God expect of a nation in order to continue His hand of blessing on that nation? What are the qualities that He looks for that permit a nation to survive in the world today? I believe that in the section of the book of Jeremiah that we come to today, there is a strikingly clear answer for us.

Chapters 34-39 of Jeremiah are a series of historical flashbacks. We have mentioned in the last couple of studies that Jeremiah was imprisoned for his preaching, and he was imprisoned in the courtyard of the temple. So it wasn't quite as bad as being behind bars literally, but he couldn't go outside of that prescribed area. In these chapters, as he sits there in the prison, he reflects over the past forty years or so of ministry that he has been doing. The things that we find in these chapters are the record of those reflections of the things that had gone on in his life. They are not in any chronological order, and so if you read through chapters 34-39, sometimes it is confusing because you will be reading about something that happened in this period of time and then you will suddenly be reading about something that happened in a period of time before that. What we want to do today is to try to put these things together and draw from them because they very clearly contain a revelation of what God requires of a nation. That is what we want to think about.

In each chapter we are going to see a failure of the nation of Judah to meet a requirement of God in regard to the life of that nation. We are going to see stories that illustrate these principles from which we can derive the principles.

Nebuchadnezzar's Second Invasion of Judah

Chapter 34 goes back to the time of the invasion of Jerusalem by Nebuchadnezzar. God had been warning Israel that He was going to have to take them into captivity if they didn't return to Him and live by His standards. Finally, the day came when Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon invaded the city of Jerusalem and ultimately took with him a number of captives and the king. King Jehoiakim was taken to Babylon and King Zedekiah, who turned out to be the last king of Judah, was put in place by Nebuchadnezzar as a vassal king. Nebuchadnezzar was going to make two other invasions of Jerusalem before it was over with, over a period of years.

As we come to chapter 34, the Babylonian army is approaching for its second invasion of Jerusalem, and Jeremiah is sent to the king with a message. It is an unwelcome message. It is another prediction of defeat at the hands of Babylon. We are not going to take the time to read that prediction, but apparently, Zedekiah was frightened at the approach of the Babylonians and at Jeremiah's message that they were going to be defeated again. He began looking for ways to please God and to get God's approval, and maybe God would feel more kindly toward him and spare the nation and spare him.

It is a common phenomenon when trouble strikes, people will start going to church again. They will start doing whatever they can think of to placate God and to get Him to feel good about them. They will start tithing or paying their debts or being nicer to their wife and children or all kinds of things that they hope will somehow make God feel more favorable to them. That is what this king tried to do. He tried to placate God. He issued a royal edict that all of the household slaves of Judah should be released from their slavery.

Back in Deuteronomy, chapter 15, there is a law recorded that if a Jewish person had to sell himself into slavery because of debts or whatever it might be, they were allowed to do that. But every seventh year, the slaves were to be released. No Jew was to be in slavery for more than six years. Over the years that law had just been ignored. Nobody had ever released their slaves. In fact, the Sabbath year had just not been observed. It was just too hard to do. They didn't like the idea, so they didn't do it. Because of that, there were people who became permanent slaves—Jewish people who were permanent slaves to other Jewish people. The people had gotten used to having these permanent slaves in their household, but the king evidently felt this upset God, so he issued the edict that the slaves should be released.

In chapter 37, which we will come to in a little while, we find that God sent the Egyptian army; and the Babylonian army which was besieging Jerusalem had gotten distracted by that and left Jerusalem and went toward Egypt to fend off the Egyptians who were coming. As soon as the Babylonian army, the army of Nebuchadnezzar, withdrew from Jerusalem, the king rescinded his order and told them they could keep their slaves after all.

Jeremiah's New Message

So in chapter 34, God sent Jeremiah to the king with a new message which we pick up in verse 15:

Jeremiah 34:

15 And ye were now turned, and had done right in my sight, in proclaiming liberty every man to his neighbour; and ye had made a covenant before me in the house which is called by my name:
16 But ye turned and polluted [defamed] my name, and caused every man his servant, and every man his handmaid, whom he had set at liberty at their pleasure, to return, and brought them into subjection, to be unto you for servants and for handmaids.
17 Therefore thus saith the LORD; Ye have not hearkened unto me, in proclaiming liberty, every one to his brother, and every man to his neighbour: behold, I proclaim a liberty for you, saith the LORD, to the sword, to the pestilence, and to the famine; and I will make you to be removed into all the kingdoms of the earth.

We will stop there with that verse. The most significant phrase in this passage is, “You defamed My name.” That is a very serious charge to make to any Jew and to any Jewish king because they had all been brought up to revere and respect the name of God. In fact, the scribes who copied the Old Testament Scriptures would not even write the name of God without first taking a bath and changing their clothes and shaving and getting all cleaned up just to write the name of Jehovah in the text that they were copying. They never pronounced the name, and when they wrote it, they only wrote it with the four primary Hebrew letters used for the name of God. If they were reading it, they would simply skip over that as if there were a blank there. They had great respect for the name of God, to the extent that today we are not even sure how the name of God was pronounced. For many years Bible scholars said that the closest we could come to it would be Jehovah , and so, if you are more than thirty years old, you have probably always heard it pronounced that way. But that was just a guess because there is no record anywhere, and as they worked those primary letters, it would be like either writing the vowels or the consonants in English. They didn't put in intermediate letters. The more common thinking as more scrolls have been discovered and etc., is that perhaps it was pronounced Yahweh , but nobody really knows for sure. That is because they had such awe and such respect for the name of God.

A Failure to Respect God's Servants

Yet, God charges this king, and He says: “You have profaned My name.” The Hebrew word profaned here means “to wound, to pierce, to deface.” God is saying to Zedekiah, to put it in terms that we deal with in our day, “You have written graffiti all over My name. You have disgraced My name.” What was it that Zedekiah did that offended God so deeply? We read here that he first issued an edict that slaves should be released. Then when the pressure was off, he said the slaves didn't have to be released. We think to ourselves, “How in the world would that deface the name of God? How would that be a blasphemy against God?” The answer is that God was angry with Zedekiah because he had failed to respect the human rights of the slaves that God had so clearly articulated.

This is the first principle of failure. It was a failure to respect God's servants. It was a failure to respect other human beings. God said that it was an act of blasphemy to Him, an act of profaning His name to treat another person, another human being, as less than a human being, to treat another human being as a possession who is simply your servant. He called the nation into account for it. He said, “Because of this, I am going to put you into captivity.”

We need to think about our own national history in this regard. We can see that this is a serious charge that could be easily leveled at us as a nation. How have we treated the various groups who have immigrated here as minorities, to say nothing of the Africans who were brought here as slaves many years ago. I want to quickly say that I am not among those who think that we, the great-great-great-great-great grandchildren of the slave owners somehow need to apologize to the Africans for that. But as a nation, we have that in our history. It is not limited just to the slavery. Think about how we as a nation, even to this day, treat those minorities who come in among us, whose only sin is that they got here after we did. Think about this personally: So many times we look down on those who are from other nations—the Chinese, the Japanese, the Mexicans, the Puerto Ricans. You name it, whatever national group it is, we have such a tendency to look down on them and to discriminate against them and to think less of them.

The God of the nations, the God who created all men in His image, says, “When you do that, you profane My name. You make light of the fact that I love all of My creatures. I have created all men to have fellowship with Me. I sent My Son to die for all the nations of the world.” Jesus talked several times about the fact that the way He looks at whether or not we are what we should be spiritually is not based on how we treat our friends and the people that we like. One of the ways that He judges our level of spirituality is how we treat the waiter at our table or the clerk in the store or the yard man or the person who throws the newspaper—those people who really just are part of the scenery somehow, who are in a place of service to us and a place that we don't really relate to personally on a friendship kind of level. Certainly we should love our friends and plenty of Scripture tells us that, but God says that it is not your friends who are tests of your relationship with God; it is how you respect those whom you don't know, those who are in the place of service to you or even those whom you don't like for some reason.

It is a very sobering fact. God requires that individuals and nations respect the human rights of all human beings. It is good, even though it may only be surface talk—we have no way of knowing—that the United States gives at least lip-service to the human rights of individuals; but as you know, one of the real issues before our congress now and before the leaders of our nation is that fear that we seem to have as a nation of hurting our business relationships with some nations by insisting that they release prisoners who are just there for political reasons or for humanitarian reasons. It is a significant thing that God holds nations accountable for the way they treat those who are in the minority, for those whose human rights are being violated. When there is a violation of that, God takes it into account. That is the lesson, I believe, of chapter 34.

Complete Failure to Obey God's Standards

In chapter 35, there is another principle brought before us. Here we have the interesting little story of the Rechabites, a tribe of people who were somewhat related to Israel by marriage. They were descendants of Jethro, who was the father-in-law of Moses. They weren't total strangers to the Israelites. Some three hundred years before Jeremiah's time, one of the leaders of the Rechabites had commanded them not to drink wine and not to build houses and not to plant crops, but to be nomads and live in tents all their lives. The sons obeyed their father's commands. For almost three hundred years, the tribe had followed these instructions. When Nebuchadnezzar invaded Judah, the Rechabites who lived out in the deserts and the fields were very vulnerable to Nebuchadnezzar's army, so they came into Jerusalem for refuge. In this chapter, Jeremiah is sent to the Rechabites by God and the chapter opens with God's command to Jeremiah to go to the Rechabites and to bring them into the temple and to offer them wine to drink. Jeremiah did that, and they refused to drink it, as God knew they would. Then God sent Jeremiah to the people of Judah with the words that begin with verse 12 of chapter 35:

Jeremiah 35:

12 Then came the word of the LORD unto Jeremiah, saying,
13 Thus saith the LORD of hosts, the God of Israel; Go and tell the men of Judah and the inhabitants of Jerusalem, Will ye not receive instruction to hearken to my words? saith the LORD.
14 The words of Jonadab the son of Rechab, that he commanded his sons not to drink wine, are performed; for unto this day they drink none, but obey their father's commandment: notwithstanding I have spoken unto you, rising early and speaking; but ye hearkened not unto me.
15 I have sent also unto you all my servants the prophets, rising up early and sending them, saying, Return ye now every man from his evil way, and amend your doings, and go not after other gods to serve them, and ye shall dwell in the land which I have given to you and to your fathers: but ye have not inclined your ear, nor hearkened unto me.
16 Because the sons of Jonadab the son of Rechab have performed the commandment of their father, which he commanded them; but this people hath not hearkened unto me:

Think carefully here. It would be very easy, and people in the past have misread this passage to say that God was commending these Rechabites for not drinking wine. That has nothing to do with the question of whether or not we should drink wine. It really is an illustration of the bigger principle that comes out in verse 16. These Rechabites were commended by God because they obeyed their father, but the real point of the passage is not so much that they were keeping their father's command as it was that the citizens of Judah were not keeping the command of the living God. These people were obeying a man who had been dead for three hundred years, but here was the living God, demonstrating His life among them by sending the prophets to them, and the citizens of Judah and Israel before them would not obey the living God like these people had been obeying a dead man for three hundred years.

I think the point of that is this: Many times, with many people, the power of human tradition is much more important than the revelation and instructions of the living God. The Rechabites were still being obedient to their father's request three hundred years after he made it, but God says, “I am among you as a living God. I speak to you through My prophets, and I am not paid any attention to whatsoever.”

So here is the second principle of the failure of a nation. It was a complete failure to obey God's standards. They did not respect God's servants; now secondly, they did not obey God's standards. This power of tradition, this power of obeying what men have told us to do is a very significant problem even in our day. Certainly we need to obey the laws that our forefathers have given us. We need to obey the wisdom that men have been able to accumulate. But if we have to make a choice, we must always choose the clear teaching of the Word of God above the traditions that men have established.

That power of tradition we can see on a national level on the political scene, politicians who are afraid to make a move unless they can find some precedent for it and tie it in with some leader of their party or someone who went before them in Congress or whatever it may be. They look around for a precedent. They try to find some basis on which to make their decisions rather than simply deciding what is right and what is wrong. So it is something for us to be concerned about in our nation.

In the same way, the church is often controlled by tradition, and many times in churches, decisions are made because “that is just the way we have always done it in the church, and we are not going to change that.” There is nothing wrong when the time of decision-making comes, for the leaders of the church, the elders or whatever they may be called, to sit down and think through again, why are we doing this? Sometimes they will discover that the way they have been doing it is still the way they want to continue to do it. What I am talking about is that thoughtless acceptance of something as the right way to do things because that is just the way it has always been done.

Many times in churches with that kind of thinking, a basis in Scripture cannot be found for the way you have always been doing it. “It is just the way we have done it, and we are not going to change it.” That is the power of man's tradition. If you think about it, tradition was the most constant, the most persistent, the most dogmatic, the most satanic opposition that the Lord Jesus encountered while He was on earth. It was the basis from which the Pharisees attacked Him every time they could. Their whole message was, “We haven't done it this way before. You are invading our traditions.” Jesus answered them, “It is better to obey God than the traditions of men. You are substituting the traditions of men for the commandments of God.”

Tradition can be, if misused, a very powerful force in human life. And this chapter in Jeremiah reveals that God requires of a nation or of a church or of individuals constant attention to the Word of God. Our basis for doing what we do and not doing what we don't do should not be the traditions of men unless those traditions can be shown to have been based on the Word of God, and our continuing to do them is not because they are traditions but because that continues to be the teaching of the Word of God. We need to be very careful in our own lives and in our corporate life as a church and as a nation.

Failure to Recognize God's Sovereignty

In chapter 36 there is a third revelation of what God requires of a nation. In fact, here we have the story of how this book of Jeremiah came to be written. Chapter 36 takes us all the way back to the fourth year of Jehoiakim, the son of Josiah. It would have been about the midpoint of Jeremiah's ministry. Remember, I said these chapters are not in chronological order. God told Jeremiah to write down all the things that He had been saying. He had been giving oral messages to the people, but now God commanded him to write them down. He called his secretary, Baruch, and dictated the messages to him.

Since Jeremiah was a prisoner, he wasn't able to do it himself and so he sent Baruch to read this writing in the temple. One of the princes of Judah heard this reading of the scroll, the reading of the messages of Jeremiah, and he told the other princes what he had heard. They got together and sent for Baruch and asked for him to read it to them again. The account says that when they heard it, they literally trembled in fear because of what God had said. They said to each other, “We have got to report this to the king.” We pick up the story at verse 20 of chapter 36. I have just summarized what took place before this. We read:

Jeremiah 36:

20 And they went in to the king into the court, but they laid up the roll in the chamber of Elishama the scribe, and told all the words in the ears of the king.
21 So the king sent Jehudi to fetch the roll: and he took it out of Elishama the scribe's chamber. And Jehudi read it in the ears of the king, and in the ears of all the princes which stood beside the king.
22 Now the king sat in the winterhouse in the ninth month: and there was a fire on the hearth burning before him.
23 And it came to pass, that when Jehudi had read three or four leaves, he cut it with the penknife, and cast it into the fire that was on the hearth, until all the roll was consumed in the fire that was on the hearth.
24 Yet they were not afraid, nor rent their garments, neither the king, nor any of his servants that heard all these words.
25 Nevertheless Elnathan and Delaiah and Gemariah had made intercession to the king that he would not burn the roll: but he would not hear them.
26 But the king commanded Jerahmeel the son of Hammelech, and Seraiah the son of Azriel, and Shelemiah the son of Abdeel, to take Baruch the scribe and Jeremiah the prophet: but the LORD hid them.

It was quite a contentious act of defiance when King Jehoaikim just brazenly cut this scroll into pieces and threw it in the fireplace. He burned it up in the fire. Because of that, God condemned him. Later in the chapter, Jeremiah was sent to the king with the message that he was going to die and his body would be thrown outside the palace and be eaten by the dogs. Then Jeremiah was told to write the words again. Look at verse 32:

Jeremiah 36:

32 Then took Jeremiah another roll, and gave it to Baruch the scribe, the son of Neriah; who wrote therein from the mouth of Jeremiah all the words of the book which Jehoiakim king of Judah had burned in the fire: and there were added besides unto them many like words.

You see, instead of eliminating the Scripture as he wanted to do, King Jehoiakim had just added to it. The new scroll included everything that he had burned up in the fire, plus some other messages from Jeremiah. What had happened was that the new scroll formed the basic text for what we have as our book of Jeremiah today. That is always the way God works. Down through the years there have been periods of history and in various parts of the world where the Word of God has been made illegal, where it has been tried to be shut out, where it has been destroyed or tried to be destroyed, and all through the centuries those attempts to destroy the Word of God have only resulted in strengthening the Word of God, in spreading the Word of God because it is alive and powerful and it cannot be destroyed. Here is one of those early examples, early attempts to do that.

The point that this chapter makes is that judgment came against this king, not just because he burned the Word of God—it was because of that—but also because of that heart attitude that caused him to do it. This is given to us in one gripping sentence in verse 24:

Jeremiah 36:

24 Yet they were not afraid, nor rent their garments, neither the king, nor any of his servants that heard all these words.

You see, these men had lost the fear of God. They weren't afraid of what God might do. When a nation or an individual loses the fear of God, they are on their way to destruction. This was one of the several reasons that God judged and defeated the nation of Judah. This was a failure to recognize God's sovereignty. That is the third principle of failure, a failure to recognize God's sovereignty. The fear of God that the Scripture talks so much about is based on the sovereignty of God.

The reason we fear God is that He has the power to control our lives and to guide our lives and to tell us what we can do and what we cannot do. God has demonstrated that that is a loving sovereignty, but nonetheless, it is a sovereignty of God. When individuals or when nations lose their fear of God, when individuals or nations fail to recognize the sovereignty of God, it is the beginning of the end for that nation or for that individual. Over and over again, God specifies that He is sovereign over nations. There are several specific statements of that in the Word of God and many illustrations of it like we have here. History has verified that God always accomplishes what He says He is going to do. Ultimately, He rules in the affairs of men.

Napoleon, when he was at the height of his career, when he was the Emperor of France, was asked by someone if God was on the side of France. Napoleon cynically replied that God was on the side that had the heaviest artillery. Then came the battle of Waterloo where Napoleon was humiliatingly defeated. His armies were routed and he lost his empire at the battle of Waterloo and he went into exile. Years later, when he was in exile on the Island of St. Helena, he was humbled, and someone asked him the same concept, and Napoleon said, “Many proposes, but God disposes.” He learned his lesson the hard way, that God is sovereign over the affairs of nations.

That is the lesson that we learned from the decline and the fall of Judah and many other nations. God is able to work His sovereign will, regardless of what powerful men and leaders of nations may think. In fact, Psalm 2 says that God laughs at those national leaders as they with such fanfare and with such pomp and ceremony move their armies around and make declarations and those kinds of things. But back behind that is the fact the Proverbs, chapter 9, verse 10, very clearly says:

Proverbs 9:

10 The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom: and the knowledge of the holy is understanding.

Any nation that attempts to squelch the Word of God, to defy the Word of God, certainly to do away with the Word of God, is a nation that is in danger. All I need to do is mention to you the rulings and the laws about the public use of the Word of God in our nation to let you see how sobering that is.

Failure to Accept Authorized Spokesmen

In chapters 37-38, which actually should form one chapter, we find another thing God requires of nations. The story is the persecution of Jeremiah. It is set early in the reign of Zedekiah, the last king, during that same period of time that the Babylonians withdrew for a little while and went down to meet the armies of Egypt which we talked about in the beginning of our message. Verses 11-15 give us an incident concerning Jeremiah that happened in that brief period of time. Look at chapter 37, verse 11:

Jeremiah 37:

11 And it came to pass, that when the army of the Chaldeans was broken up from Jerusalem for fear of Pharaoh's army,
12 Then Jeremiah went forth out of Jerusalem to go into the land of Benjamin, to separate himself thence in the midst of the people.
13 And when he was in the gate of Benjamin, a captain of the ward was there, whose name was Irijah, the son of Shelemiah, the son of Hananiah; and he took Jeremiah the prophet, saying, Thou fallest away to the Chaldeans.
14 Then said Jeremiah, It is false; I fall not away to the Chaldeans. But he hearkened not to him: so Irijah took Jeremiah, and brought him to the princes.
15 Wherefore the princes were wroth with Jeremiah, and smote him, and put him in prison in the house of Jonathan the scribe: for they had made that the prison.

Here is the account of how Jeremiah first became a prisoner. Chapter 38 goes on to tell us that the princes were so angry with all of the prophecies about the failure of Judah that he had been doing that in verse 4 of chapter 38, the story continues:

Jeremiah 38:

4 Therefore the princes said unto the king, We beseech thee, let this man be put to death: for thus he weakeneth the hands of the men of war that remain in this city, and the hands of all the people, in speaking such words unto them: for this man seeketh not the welfare of this people, but the hurt.
5 Then Zedekiah the king said, Behold, he is in your hand: for the king is not he that can do any thing against you.
6 Then took they Jeremiah, and cast him into the dungeon of Malchiah the son of Hammelech, that was in the court of the prison: and they let down Jeremiah with cords. And in the dungeon there was no water, but mire: so Jeremiah sunk in the mire.

There he was in the bottom of a well, in the muck and the mud and the mire, in the smelly, dark cistern with no food and no water. He was left there to die, and he himself thought he was going to die, but God had not forgotten his prophet. Verses 9-13 tell about how a humble slave in the palace of the king took ropes and pulled Jeremiah out of the well. Then Jeremiah spent the rest of his time in the court of the guard until Jerusalem was taken over by Nebuchadnezzar.

Let's think for a minute about what this story reveals about what God expects of a nation. What it reveals is that God requires that a nation listen to the authorized spokesman of God. Zedekiah and the princes of Judah had a failure to hear God's spokesman. That is another of the reasons that they failed as a nation. They did not listen to the Word of God and to those who were ordained by God to bring His Word to the nation. You know, a lot of times God identifies Himself with His people. You remember on the road to Damascus when Saul was blinded by that light and was faced for the first time with Jesus Christ, and he said, “Lord, who are You?” Jesus Christ, speaking to Saul directly, said, “I am Jesus Whom you are persecuting.”

The chapters before that tell us of how Saul had been persecuting Christians, but Jesus said, “You are persecuting Me.” God continues to say that when His representatives are rejected and persecuted and imprisoned and harassed in various ways, God takes it personally. There are many other illustrations of that. You are familiar with many instances like that. Jesus, toward the close of His time on earth, sat on the hillside looking out over Jerusalem and He said: “Oh, Jerusalem, Jerusalem, you have stoned the prophets and killed those whom I have sent to you. How often would I have gathered you as a hen gathers her chicks and you would not. Therefore, your house is left unto you desolate.”

Listen, God holds accountable a nation that rejects the authorized voice of his spokesman in their midst. A nation that rejects the teaching of the Word of God and the counsel by means of the Word of God to government leaders and to the people as a whole, that is a principle of failure in a nation.

In the opening words of chapter 39 is a very brief account of the actual overthrow of the city of Jerusalem. More details are given in II Kings, chapter 25, and in the last chapter of Jeremiah, but this is just a summary. Here are some of the saddest words in all the Word of God. Notice in Jeremiah, chapter 39, beginning with verse 1:

Jeremiah 39:

1 In the ninth year of Zedekiah king of Judah, in the tenth month, came Nebuchadrezzar king of Babylon and all his army against Jerusalem, and they besieged it.
2 And in the eleventh year of Zedekiah, in the fourth month, the ninth day of the month, the city was broken up.
3 And all the princes of the king of Babylon came in, and sat in the middle gate, even Nergalsharezer, Samgarnebo, Sarsechim, Rabsaris, Nergalsharezer, Rabmag, with all the residue of the princes of the king of Babylon.
4 And it came to pass, that when Zedekiah the king of Judah saw them, and all the men of war, then they fled, and went forth out of the city by night, by the way of the king's garden, by the gate betwixt the two walls: and he went out the way of the plain.
5 But the Chaldeans' army pursued after them, and overtook Zedekiah in the plains of Jericho: and when they had taken him, they brought him up to Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon to Riblah in the land of Hamath, where he gave judgment upon him.
6 Then the king of Babylon slew the sons of Zedekiah in Riblah before his eyes: also the king of Babylon slew all the nobles of Judah.
7 Moreover he put out Zedekiah's eyes, and bound him with chains, to carry him to Babylon.
8 And the Chaldeans burned the king's house, and the houses of the people, with fire, and brake down the walls of Jerusalem.

In the further details that are given in the last chapter of Jeremiah, we are told that they also burned the temple of God. The long delayed hour of judgment had finally come. The city was taken, the women were ravished, the temple was burned, the king's eyes were put out. As you read through this passage, you see a kind of poetic justice which is always characteristic of God's judgment. The city that refused to hear God, ultimately, God refused to help. He granted them their own desires. In other words, “If you don't want to have anything to do with Me, then in your hour of need, I will have nothing to do with you,” God said. The temple that allowed the burning of incense to idols was itself burned. The king who refused to see God's truth in God's gracious bringing of it to him in person, had his eyes put out. He refused to look at God's truth; his own eyes were put out. The people who insisted on holding slaves captive were sent into captivity.

You know, this is always the way God works. Someone has said, and I have repeated it often, that the wages of sin is more sin. Someone else has said, “Be very careful what you ask for because God may just give it to you.” These people of Israel didn't ask for it in prayer, but they asked for it in the way they lived. God gave them exactly what they wanted—the abandonment of God. They wanted nothing to do with God, so ultimately God had nothing to do with them. They wanted at all costs to have their own slaves and their own privileges, and so God allowed them to become slaves themselves. God will finally let you have your way if you insist on it long enough and loud enough. He will let you have your way, but He will let you have it to the fullest extent possible, far beyond anything that you would have wanted to have.

Failure to Recognize the Coming Judgment of God

The last principle of failure that we see in this section is that a nation must never forget that ultimately the judgment of God will come. The old saying is true, “The mills of God grind slowly, but they grind exceeding small.” Sooner or later, the day of accountability comes. Sooner or later, if there is not repentance, the judgment of God falls, and the hand of judgment and the hand of doom rests on any nation that deliberately refuses to do and to hear the will of God. No political manipulation can forestall it, can hold it off. No partial compromise will satisfy. Ultimately, there must be that bending of the heart, even as a nation, to the will of God, to the sovereignty of God.

Conclusion

There is only one attitude that will keep that judgment from coming on our beloved nation, I firmly believe. The Word of God has spelled it out for us very clearly: “If My people who are called by My name will humble themselves and pray and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from Heaven and will answer their prayer.” There needs to be genuine humiliation before God, acknowledgment of guilt, willingness to recognize that we have lost our right to exist as a nation already, and a cry to God that He will heal us and change us and forgive us and heal our land.

We have violated, as a nation and to some extent probably personally, all of the principles that led to the failure of Judah. It is only because of the grace of God that our nation has not been judged by God yet. I think if you are honest with the Word of God, and if you are familiar enough with the history of our nation, particularly for the last thirty to fifty years, you will have to agree with that. We are at the mercy of God for the continuation of our nation.

And yet, it is not too late because God has the ability to restore the years that the locusts have eaten. God has the ability to bring an individual or a nation back to a place of spiritual power, a place of influence, a place of ministry, and, with a nation, perhaps, even leadership in the affairs of the world. But if we, as a nation, continue to ignore God, we will go down into the dust of history like hundreds of other prominent, powerful kingdoms and nations have done all through the years. We need to pray a prayer based on the words—not the prayer, but the words—of Rudyard Kipling, who said, “Lord of hosts, be with us yet, lest we forget, lest we forget.”


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