Jeremiah records yet another message from the Lord, this time focusing on the consequences of idolatry.
Jeremiah Chapter 16
Lessons from the text
God Spares His Saints
God gave Jeremiah an interesting command. He told him not to marry or to have children. While this may seem like God is withholding a pleasure from Jeremiah, the truth is that if Jeremiah had disobeyed God and built a family, that he would have had to suffer watching them die.
Sometimes, God withholds things from His people not to take away a pleasure but to spare them from a sorrow that would come about if they had that thing in their lives. God knows what is best for us. If He says no, then He has a very sound reason for declining the request.
What you pray for may be something good. It may even be something with which God has blessed others around you. Yet, if it is not good for you, then God will not allow it in your life, and rebelling against His answer in pursuing it anyway can lead to grave consequences.
What would have happen if Jeremiah had taken a wife? When the Babylonians came, he most would have watched his wife taken from him or killed before his eyes. If he had any kids, he would have also had to live apart from them, either through deportation or death. Therefore, what may appear to be a sacrifice you make at God's request may actually be God sparing you from events to come.
Verse by Verse Commentary
1-4 God commands Jeremiah to remain unwed and childless. The reason for this command is simple: God is sparing Jeremiah from another decree God has made. Since all the sons, daughters, mothers, and fathers will die a grievous death, if Jeremiah never builds a family he will not be counted among this number. If Jeremiah disobeys God's command, then he will have to watch his wife and children suffer the wrath of God.
5 Once God has removed His lovingkindness and mercy from someone, it does no good to mourn over them in the sense of missing them. Obviously, one is still grieved that they died in their sins, but one does not want to be found lamenting over things which God despises and rejects. The appropriate phrase is love the sinner, not the sin. Mourn that the person is lost to righteousness, but do not mourn what that person did on the earth.
6-7 God now addresses the ritual mournings of the false religious that Israel has adopted. Grief is often displayed in such religions by inflicting physical harm on the mourner. Such is meant to draw the attention of the god to the internal suffering of the person. This assumes that the god cannot see the heart or, worse, does not care until physical pain is inflicted. The Lord, however, knows what is in man’s heart and mind (Jer. 17:10). He has no need of physical displays to attract His attention to one’s needs. One is to pray to Him in one’s grief, not cut up one’s arm.
8 God gives Jeremiah a command to abstain from dining in the house of idolatry. The “house of feasting” refers to a feast made to a god and, since the people are far from the true God, the feast in no ways honors Him. God wants His people to be separate from the “feasts” of the world.
9 Since the people have chosen to find their pleasure in things which are ungodly, God will remove all cause for joy from before them. The point is that nothing outside of God is profitable.
10-12 God prophesies that the people will respond to Jeremiah’s sermon in arrogance by belittling the warning of destruction on the grounds that they are innocent. God instructs Jeremiah to tell them plainly that they have forsaken Him for idols, thus violating God’s first commandment (Exo. 20:3). Worse, the people have forsaken all gods to do as their imagination devises, creating their own form of living that does not conform to any established lifestyle. In other words, their passions are unbridled.
13 In response to the unchecked rebellion of the people, God will remove them from the land and force them to do what they have said they wish to do: serve other gods. The irony is that they will have no choice, turning their desire into a burden. Sin often looks enticing and easy, but the consequences are oppressing, binding, and not at all to the liking of the one who chooses to pursue sin.
14-16 Up to this point, God has been famous among the nations for delivering the Jews from Egypt. After the captivity is completed, however, God will be known for delivering the Jews from out of various nations. He will send fishers, or His servants, to go retrieve all the Jews from all the nations of the earth. This is reminiscent of Isaiah’s visions and points to the future event of the complete restoration of the nation of Israel which will occur when God comes back to reign from Jerusalem (Isa. 60:9, 66:20).
17-18 Readdressing the issue of verses 6,7, God declares that He knows the condition of the people and that what they do is not hid from Him. Just as they need not draw attention to themselves in their time of grief, so, too, is God already aware of their sins and evil intentions. Because they have defiled themselves and their land, God will exact judgment. When this judgment is complete, then He will gather them back to their homes.
19-21 Jeremiah, seeing this future of which God has spoken, prophesies that the Gentiles will forsake their religions, calling their gods vain and unprofitable, coming to know God from all over the earth. God, too, will reach out to the Gentiles to declare His name. This is rightly understood to be the sharing of the Gospel that radically changed the world, causing people all over the world to come to a saving knowledge of God and to cast aside all the doctrines and traditions of their fathers as lies. Seeing the mighty works of God, one can recognize that all other gods are the creation of man instead of a living being.
Thank you for your faithfulness in studying God’s word.
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