Sunday School Lesson
OCT. 06, 2002
ANOTHER STRONG WARNING
Bible Background—JEREMIAH 25-26; 2 CHRONICLES 36
Focal Verses—JEREMIIAH 25:1-7; 26:12-13
Devotional Reading—PROVERBS 4:20-27
1. We will be able to decide to heed GOD’S warnings and walk in obedience
2. We will be able to understand that by doing this we can experience HIS blessings instead of HIS judgments.
“Therefore now amend your ways and your doings, and obey the voice of the LORD your GOD; and the LORD will repent him of the evil that he hath pronounced against you” (Jeremiah 26:13).
This passage from Jeremiah continues the biblical emphasis of the previous lesson. We read how the LORD spoke again through Jeremiah the prophet to all the people living in Judah and Jerusalem in the fourth year of the reign of King Jehoiakim (25:1-2). Although the word of the LORD had come persistently to the people, they had not listened to it (vv.3-4). In this text, the prophet’s declaration has moved from GOD’S warning to divine anger. Because the people refused to listen and turn away from their sin, the LORD was provoked to anger (vv.5-7). So that they would not attribute injustice to GOD, Jeremiah reminded all the officials and all the people that GOD had sent him to warn them (26:12). But even in this moment of divine judgment, Jeremiah told the people again to mend their ways and obey GOD’S commands so that GOD would not bring upon them the judgment HE had pronounced against them (v.13).
What an awesome GOD—the LORD GOD of Israel—must be! How extensive is HIS mercy! How deep is HIS compassion! How many times do we provoke GOD when we anger HIM with our actions and our refusal to repent? Yet, just as HE continued to show mercy to the people of Judah, GOD keeps showing HIS mercy to us. GOD is always hoping that before the judgment we will come to our senses and embrace HIS kindness. Have you responded to the call of GOD to repent? There is still a chance for you. Even in the midst of your punishment, GOD is still waiting for you with mercy.
By way of background, Jeremiah uttered the prophecies recorded in Jeremiah 25:1-13 during the time when Babylonia had gained prominence as the most powerful nation in what is known today as the Middle East. King Josiah, the last of the good kings of Judah, was killed in the battle against the Egyptians in 609 B.C. at the Pass of Megiddo. During his reign, he instituted a major religious reformation in Judah. With his death came the end of Judah’s political independence as a nation and the end of the spiritual and godly leadership that Josiah had provided his country. For a brief period, Egypt held sway over the fortunes of Judah, but at the battle of Carchemish in 605 B.C., the Babylonians defeated the Egyptians and became the superpower of the region. Jeremiah prophesied that if the people of Judah did not change their ways, GOD was going to use Babylon as HIS instrument of judgment to punish the nation for its wickedness. In the Scripture passage for today’s lesson, Jeremiah tries one last time to get the people of Judah to turn away from evil and turn toward GOD.
1. PAST WARNINGS HAVE GONE UNHEEDED (Jeremiah 25:1-4)
Jeremiah has prophesied to the people of Judah for 23 years. Yet his message has gone unheeded. And not only did his own message go unheeded, but the messages of GOD’S other prophets went unheeded as well. Whether it’s Jeremiah or JESUS giving the warning, people who are straying from the pathway of righteousness seem to have difficulty in responding appropriately. A certain bumper sticker reads, “GOD allows U-Turns.” Indeed, HE does. The fact that GOD gives us time and space to reverse course and to go in the right direction with our lives is in itself an act of GOD’S love and grace.
Perhaps part of the difficulty with GOD’S people is that we refuse to really hear what is being said to us and about us in the WORD. Instead, our own ideas about what GOD likes and doesn’t like and what kind of “person” we think GOD is lure us into a false sense of security. Too often, we fail to realize that there is a difference between being a “hearer of the word” and being a “doer of the word” (James 1:22). Sitting in the pew on Sunday does not automatically mean that we live better, more faithful Christian lives.
Verses 1 and 2 give the precise period in the history of Judah when Jeremiah delivered the oracle to the people. Important events in the history of Israel/Judah are usually marked and dated by the period when the kings reigned. Specifying the time period tends to authenticate the historical accuracy of the event. “The word…came to Jeremiah concerning all the people of Judah” during the fourth year of the reign of Jehoiakim, the son of Josiah.
Jeremiah begins this section of his message by reminding the people how long he has been warning them and accuses them of stubbornness. From the thirteenth year of the reign of Josiah until “this day” was a total of 23 years. Josiah reigned for 31 years, which means that Jeremiah prophesied for 18 or 19 years during his reign, then during the reign of Jehoahaz, and now four years in the reign of Jehoiakim. For all of these years, Jeremiah contends, he has been speaking to them from the LORD.
2. GOD IS ANGRY WITH HIS PEOPLE (VV.5-7)
In our age, it is unpopular to talk about GOD being angry. We find comfort in the love of GOD and sometimes dismiss the idea of an angry GOD as an outdated Old Testament concept. In fact, GOD, who does not change, is a GOD of love who can and does become angry with HIS people when they are unfaithful to HIM. GOD’S reproof for sin, and call for obedience, is an act of love, just as loving Parents discipline their disobedient children. The failure to discipline when a child is disobedient is not a mark of love, but of apathy and unconcern. Likewise, GOD’S willingness to discipline us is a mark of our son-ship (Hebrews 12:6-7).
The actions of the Judeans that had angered GOD can be put into two basic categories: idolatry and unrighteous living. The first leads to the second. As soon as Josiah died, the people of Judah returned to their old ways. They offered incense to Baal, and the women kneaded dough to make cakes for the queen of heaven. The first commandment says, “Thou shalt have no other gods before me” (Exodus 20:3). By worshipping the works of their hands—gods that they had created—the people of Judah had provoked GOD to anger. Whenever our focus of worship moves away from GOD, we’re headed for trouble. When the Judeans exchanged the worship of the true GOD for the worship of Baal, they ceased to live out the ethical dimensions of their covenantal relationship with GOD. They began to live unrighteous lives. Lying, stealing, murder, and adultery became the order of the day (Jeremiah 7:9). Yet GOD’S people consoled themselves with the fact that they went to the temple (Jeremiah 7:4). While the WORD clearly tells us to forsake not the assembling of ourselves together, GOD won’t let us use our attendance at church as a cover up for a lifestyle that is not Christian.
3. ANOTHER STRONG WARNING AND CALL TO OBEDIENCE (26:12-13)
Jeremiah 26:12—13 is part of a sermon that Jeremiah preached in the court of the temple (beginning with verse 1). He makes it clear that this is a message the LORD has given to him. Announcing that his message is intended for this house and this city, he addresses the priests and prophets (the house) and the political leaders (the city). GOD is calling on the religious leaders and well-to-do citizens of Judah—as well as the common man—to turn from their wicked ways. To avoid GOD’S judgment, they will have to demonstrate their sincerity by showing real change. At this point, Jeremiah is saying there is still time: “You can still avoid disaster if you just change.” GOD did this very thing with the city of Nineveh. HE had intended to destroy the city because of its wickedness. But after Jonah preached to the people, the Bible says, “GOD saw their works, that they turned from their evil ways; and GOD repented of the evil, that he had said that he would do unto them; and he did it not” (Jonah 3:10).
There is no substitute for obedience in the Christian life. It is what GOD requires of us. Our failure to heed the warnings that GOD gives us through HIS preachers and teachers or directly from his WORD usually brings heartaches and difficulties that we could otherwise avoid.
Warning labels, signs, and messages abound in our society. Yet many people ignore them without thinking of the consequences. Take inventory of your life and identify those areas in which you need to “amend your ways and doings.” Ask GOD to forgive you for your disobedience. Ask the HOLY SPIRIT to help you turn away from sin and turn to GOD.
Rev. Chris Lowe, Sr., DD
Email Dr. Lowe
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