Jeremiah 17 Devotional
by Pastor Mark Hudson
God enters into a covenant relationship with His people. For some theologians, this is such a central theme,; they call their theology covenant theology. While I believe in infant baptism, I prefer to use the term covenant baptism. The covenant is bilateral or conditional. In other words, God keeps His covenant promise on the condition that we listen, obey, and place our faith in Him. The Israelites were told they were given this land but could be removed from it for disobedience.
So, when Israel sins, there are dire consequences. In v. 1 God will not forget the sins (pen of iron) and Israel will not forget (engraved on the tablet of their heart). God says, if you will not serve me, “you [will] serve your enemies in a land that you do not know” v. 4. If you think God takes sin as lightly as we do, v. 4 says, “. . . . for in my anger a fire kindled that shall burn forever.” Neither God’s weightiness (His glory) nor sins’ tragic consequences ought to rest lightly on us.
Jeremiah 17:5-8 is reminiscent or Psalm 1. The prophet employs wisdom literary forms to awaken his audience. One of the more well-known verses in Jeremiah is next. This verse, v. 9, ought to give us pause. Our heart deceives ourselves. Our heart tells us our sins are small but our spouse, our co-worker, or elder’s sins are much worse and inexcusable. But we must admit, we can’t see our own heart let alone someone else’s. But God can. God sees and understands every motive. “I the Lord search the heart and mind, to give every man according to his ways, according to the fruit of his deeds.” So that is good news if you are striving to please God but awful news if are faking it. Take these words to heart.
When one is reading a dialogue in the Bible, it is hard to know who is talking and who is talking to whom. We can be fairly certain that v. 14 is Jeremiah talking. This is the simplest yet profound confession. “Heal me, O Lord, and I shall be healed; save me, and I shall be saved . . . .” That is a prayer you can use and hope you can cling to as well as offer to others.
Then in 19ff God charges Jeremiah to keep speaking and tell the people His Words. These words are for the Kings and every citizens of Jerusalem. The message of obedience concerns the Sabbath but is that just one example of the obedience God expects. God repeats His will to listen and obey. Yet, once again this people “did not listen or incline their ear, but stiffened their neck, that they might not hear and receive instruction” v. 23. They not only do not hear but they have stiffened their necks (resolved not to hear God’s Word) with the end result of not hearing or receiving instruction. So it is not that they can’t hear (unable); they will not hear (unwilling).
The Lord offers them a choice: they can listen and reap positive blessings from God (vs. 24-26) or they can not listen, not keep the Sabbath, and “then I will kindle a fire in its gates, and it shall devour the palaces of Jerusalem and shall not be quenched” v. 26. Fire is often used in judgment (Jer. 4:4; 11:16; 15:14, 17:4, etc.). How terrible to think that our sins will kindle a fire of God’s wrath that will not be quenched. How wonderful to think that our Lord Jesus bore the full brunt of God’s wrath so we can experience the full measure of His grace.
Yes, God does judge but only after repeated warnings, pleadings, and offers of grace. Think about the many times you have heard God’s warnings through a parent, a friend, a pastor. Then consider how often you have stiffened your neck because you did not want to hear from God. I wish this was only a theoretical topic for me. But, sadly, I have resisted God’s warnings. Those warnigns are due to His overwhelming grace for us. He wants the best for us. He longs to bless us, love us, and provide for us.
Remember His warnings are for our good. He loves us more than a parent could ever love us. His warnings are calls for us to repent and love Him as we ought. Though we will never love Him on earth as we ought or as He deserves, we must keep watch over our hearts, preach the gospel to ourselves and ask God for the grace to love and serve Him as we ought.
More love to Thee, O Christ. More love to Thee. This must be the call of God on our lives. Then as we love God, we love others properly. Loving God and others is the greatest commandment. We can never urge one another to love too often. Our love should be constantly examined and tested by us so we purge selfish or self-centered love from our hearts. Keep striving and keep depending on His Spirit to love God. Love him with your mind. Love him with soul. Love with your strength. Love Him with your soul. This is one of the things we hope others say about us, “He/she loved God. That was evident.”