The Time Is Coming.

Jeremiah 23-24

"For the time is coming,” says the Lord, “when I will raise up a righteous descendant from King David’s line. He will be a King who rules with wisdom. He will do what is just and right throughout the land. And this will be his name: ‘The Lord Is Our Righteousness.’ In that day Judah will be saved, and Israel will live in safety." ­– Jeremiah 23:5-6 NLT

"Trust me!" Those are words we hear a lot these days. They come from the lips of politicians, investment bankers, insurance salesmen, and even pastors. But the truth is, it's hard to know who to trust any more. Everybody seems to have their own version of the truth – one that tends to benefit them. The same was true in Jeremiah's day. There were all kinds of voices shouting their own version of the truth and trying to get the attention of the people. In fact, it appears Jeremiah had some serious competition. He wasn't the only prophet claiming to have a message from God, but he was the only prophet who was preaching a message of coming judgment. All the rest of them were busy telling the people just what they wanted to hear – that nothing was going to happen. Theirs was a message of hope, not judgment. According to them, God was not going to do any of the things Jeremiah was predicting. They were completely contradicting the words of Jeremiah. "They keep saying to those who despise my word, ‘Don’t worry! The Lord says you will have peace!’ And to those who stubbornly follow their own desires, they say, ‘No harm will come your way!’" (Jeremiah 23:17 NLT). So while Jeremiah was busy calling the people to repentance, they were telling them to relax. Everything was going to be all right. Not exactly the truth, but it was a lot easier on the ears.

These men were deceivers. They were making up everything they had to say and they weren't speaking on behalf of God. He didn't send them. He didn't commission them. God said, "I have not sent these prophets, yet they run around claiming to speak for me. I have given them no message, yet they go on prophesying" (Jeremiah 23:21 NLT). Their words were their own, not God's. They had not received a message from God – in spite of their claims to the contrary. So God warned, "Let these false prophets tell their dreams, but let my true messengers faithfully proclaim my every word. There is a difference between straw and grain!" (Jeremiah 23:28 NLT). Their words had no nourishment. They couldn't feed anyone or sustain life. Only the words of God could do that. These men were false witnesses, spreading lies and giving the people false hope. They were pseudo-shepherds who had no love for the sheep under their care. While they claimed to speak for God, they were really driving people away from God. They were causing them to reject His will for their lives. "By telling these false dreams, they are trying to get my people to forget me" (Jeremiah 23:17 NLT). They didn't like what God had to say, so they simply said what they knew the people wanted to hear.

And false prophets are alive and well today. There are still those who claim to speak on behalf of God, but who are making up their message and telling people what they want to hear – because a message of false hope is a whole lot easier to sell than a message of repentance and heart change. But telling people what they want to hear is dangerous – for the messenger and the hearer. Paul warned Timothy, "You're going to find that there will be times when people will have no stomach for solid teaching, but will fill up on spiritual junk food – catchy opinions that tickle their fancy. They'll turn their backs on truth and chase mirages" (2 Timothy 4:3-4 MSG). And then, just as now, there were those who were more than happy to accommodate the whims of the people by telling them what they wanted to hear. But God wants faithful shepherds. He wants truth tellers. He needs more Jeremiahs.

But here's the good news. There's a day coming when God will provide His own shepherd. He will raise up a righteous ruler who will reign in truth. He will do what is just and right. He will be called, "The Lord is Our Righteousness." And this shepherd will provide salvation for the people of Israel. He will be the Messiah, returning at the end of the ages to restore His people Israel. He will bring a message of hope – at just the right time. He will do away with judgment and destruction once and for all. When He comes, He will bring truth and righteousness. He will restore things back to the way they were intended to be. For all time. No more lies. No more deception. No more false words of hope that fail to deliver. God's Son will return and restore righteousness to the earth. He will bring His people home. He will return the scattered remnant of His people Israel to the land He had promised to Abraham all those years ago. And then Christ will reign over them as David's heir – in righteousness and truth.

Father, we must speak Your words and not our own. We must be faithful shepherds who are willing to speak truth even when it is not well received. You have a plan and there is a day when Your Son will restore all things. May we wait faithfully for that day. And while we wait, may we be faithful shepherds and true messengers, telling people what Your Word says – even when it is not well received. Amen


A Change of Heart.

Jeremiah 4

Plow up the hard ground of your hearts! Do not waste your good seed among thorns. O people of Judah and Jerusalem, surrender your pride and power. Change your hearts before the Lord. ­– Jeremiah 4:3-4 NLT

The people of Judah needed a change of heart. They needed to return to the Lord in submission and obedience, but their hearts were preventing them from doing so. They stubbornly clung to their own will and did thing their own way. God told them, "if you wanted to return to me, you could. You could throw away your detestable idols and stray away no more" (Jeremiah 4:1 NLT). They could return – if they wanted to. But their return to God would be predicated on their hearts having changed, because that was the source of their problems. Their hearts were hard – like hard-packed, sun-baked soil where only thorns could survive. They were characterized by pride and obsessed with their own power. Self-centeredness and self-sufficiency were destroying them. But until they admitted it and humbled their hearts before God, nothing was going to change – including God's determination to bring destruction onthem.

The only thing preventing them from enjoying the blessings of God again was the stubbornness of their own hearts. In the Hebrew, God somewhat graphically tells them to "circumcise yourselves to the Lord, and take away the foreskin of your heart" (Vs 4). He uses a reference to the rite of circumcision, giving by God to the people of Israel as a sign of their distinctive relationship to Him. It was a physical reminder of their everlasting covenant with God as His chosen people (Genesis 17:9-14). Every Jewish male was to have been circumcised on the eighth day after his birth. But now God was telling them to circumcise their hearts. Removing the foreskins of the heart meant they were to remove the lusts and longings of the heart that were driving them to turn from God and seek after idols. God was looking for heart change and still is. Over in his letter to the Romans, Paul says, "For you are not a true Jew just because you were born of Jewish parents or because you have gone through the ceremony of circumcision. No, a true Jew is one whose heart is right with God. And true circumcision is not merely obeying the letter of the law; rather, it is a change of heart produced by God’s Spirit. And a person with a changed heart seeks praise from God, not from people" (Romans 2:28-29 NLT).

True circumcision is a change of heart produced by God's Spirit. The Jews did not have the benefit of God's indwelling Spirit. Their heart change was complicated by a lack of ability. Their efforts at attempting to keep the Law and love God were hampered by their own flesh. They were sinful human beings trying to live sinless lives. And they were failing. But we have the Holy Spirit. As believers we are filled with the very presence and power of God. We have the capacity to change our hearts and therefore, completely alter our behavior. And God is going to do the same thing for the Jews one day. He has promised it over in the book of Ezekiel. He will one day make it possible for the Jews to do what was once impossible – love and serve Him faithfully. "Then I will sprinkle clean water on you, and you will be clean. Your filth will be washed away, and you will no longer worship idols. And I will give you a new heart, and I will put a new spirit in you. I will take out your stony, stubborn heart and give you a tender, responsive heart" (Ezekiel 36:25-26 NLT). God is one day going to do for the Jews what He has done for every one of us as believers. He is going to replace their hearts of stone with hearts that are tender and responsive toward Him. Because He knows that our hearts, left unchanged, are incapable of loving Him. Only God can change the human heart. Only He can give us the capacity to love and be loved, to serve faithfully, to sacrifice our wills willingly, to obey Him completely, to love others selflessly. God is about permanent heart transformation, not temporary behavior modification. And only He can make it happen.

Father, You have given me a new heart. You have given me a new capacity to love You faithfully and obediently. But because of my sin nature, I still struggle. I still find it easy to give in to my old self and turn away from You. May Your Holy Spirit find my life like well-plowed soil, receptive to His efforts at cultivating holiness in my life. Amen