When a man abuses a woman, the woman can no longer trust the man’s talk of love. When a woman berates a man for his lack of self-control or achievement (another form of abuse), the man no longer trusts the woman. When a person smiles and gives hugs all around the room, then gossips about the ones hugged with slanderous words behind their backs, trust in that person is shattered.
When a loved one steals from us in some form or another, trust is gone. When a coworker takes the credit for what you did, trust is gone. When a boss blames his team for work not assigned but expected to be completed, trust is gone. When attacked in this world and none of our friends or family come to our aid, trust is gone. These examples of our sin nature destroy trust.
Trust is precious and hard to find in others who consistently blame others for their sins and shortcomings. Trust is built over time with truth. Truth of a person’s character is readily seen when a person is pressured in a challenging situation or backed into a corner with seemingly no place to go. Fear of failing compounds this problem. Fear of being found out for who we really are drives us to react in ways that are unbecoming and childish.
As I read Jeremiah this morning, the first words of God to His people leap from the page and stir my heart. “If you want to come back, you must REALLY come back to me.” We are told often to trust God—but can He trust us?
Jeremiah 4, The Message
1-2 “If you want to come back, O Israel,
you must really come back to me.
You must get rid of your stinking sin paraphernalia
and not wander away from me anymore.
Then you can say words like, ‘As God lives . . . ’
and have them mean something true and just and right.
And the godless nations will get caught up in the blessing
and find something in Israel to write home about.”
* * *
3-4 Here’s another Message from God
to the people of Judah and Jerusalem:
“Plow your unplowed fields,
but then don’t plant weeds in the soil!
Yes, circumcise your lives for God’s sake.
Plow your unplowed hearts,
all you people of Judah and Jerusalem.
Prevent fire—the fire of my anger—
for once it starts it can’t be put out.
Your wicked ways
are fuel for the fire.
God’s Sledgehammer Anger
5-8 “Sound the alarm in Judah,
broadcast the news in Jerusalem.
Say, ‘Blow the ram’s horn trumpet through the land!’
Shout out—a bullhorn bellow!—
Run for your lives to the shelters!’
Send up a flare warning Zion:
‘Not a minute to lose! Don’t sit on your hands!’
Disaster’s descending from the north. I set it off!
When it lands, it will shake the foundations.
Invaders have pounced like a lion from its cover,
ready to rip nations to shreds,
Leaving your land in wrack and ruin,
your cities in rubble, abandoned.
Dress in funereal black.
Weep and wail,
For God’s sledgehammer anger
has slammed into us head-on.
9 “When this happens”
“King and princes will lose heart;
priests will be baffled and prophets stand dumbfounded.”
10 Then I said, “Alas, Master God!
You’ve fed lies to this people, this Jerusalem.
You assured them, ‘All is well, don’t worry,’
at the very moment when the sword was at their throats.”
* * *
11-12 At that time, this people, yes, this very Jerusalem,
will be told in plain words:
“The northern hordes are sweeping in
from the desert steppes—
A wind that’s up to no good, a gale-force wind.
I ordered this wind.
my hurricane judgment on my people.”
Your Evil Life Is Piercing Your Heart
13-14 Look at them! Like banks of storm clouds,
racing, tumbling, their chariots a tornado,
Their horses faster than eagles!
Woe to us! We’re done for!
Jerusalem! Scrub the evil from your lives
so you’ll be fit for salvation.
How much longer will you harbor
devious and malignant designs within you?
15-17 What’s this? A messenger from Dan?
Bad news from Ephraim’s hills!
Make the report public.
Broadcast the news to Jerusalem:
“Invaders from far off are
raising war cries against Judah’s towns.
They’re all over her, like a dog on a bone.
And why? Because she rebelled against me.”
18 “It’s the way you’ve lived
that’s brought all this on you.
The bitter taste is from your evil life.
That’s what’s piercing your heart.”
* * *
19-21 I’m doubled up with cramps in my belly—
a poker burns in my gut.
My insides are tearing me up,
never a moment’s peace.
The ram’s horn trumpet blast rings in my ears,
the signal for all-out war.
Disaster hard on the heels of disaster,
the whole country in ruins!
In one stroke my home is destroyed,
the walls flattened in the blink of an eye.
How long do I have to look at the warning flares,
listen to the siren of danger?
Experts at Evil
22 “What fools my people are!
They have no idea who I am.
A company of half-wits,
dopes and donkeys all!
Experts at evil
but klutzes at good.”
23-26 I looked at the earth—
it was back to pre-Genesis chaos and emptiness.
I looked at the skies,
and not a star to be seen.
I looked at the mountains—
they were trembling like aspen leaves,
And all the hills
rocking back and forth in the wind.
I looked—what’s this! Not a man or woman in sight,
and not a bird to be seen in the skies.
I looked—this can’t be! Every garden and orchard shriveled up.
All the towns were ghost towns.
And all this because of God,
because of the blazing anger of God.
27-28 Yes, this is God’s Word on the matter:
“The whole country will be laid waste—
still it won’t be the end of the world.
The earth will mourn
and the skies lament
Because I’ve given my word and won’t take it back.
I’ve decided and won’t change my mind.”
You’re Not Going to Seduce Anyone
29 Someone shouts, “Horsemen and archers!”
and everybody runs for cover.
They hide in ditches,
they climb into caves.
The cities are emptied,
not a person left anywhere.
30-31 And you, what do you think you’re up to?
Dressing up in party clothes,
Decking yourselves out in jewelry,
putting on lipstick and rouge and mascara!
Your primping goes for nothing.
You’re not going to seduce anyone. They’re out to kill you!
And what’s that I hear? The cry of a woman in labor,
the screams of a mother giving birth to her firstborn.
It’s the cry of Daughter Zion, gasping for breath,
reaching out for help:
“Help, oh help me! I’m dying!
The killers are on me!”
WHAT DO WE LEARN—HOW DO WE RESPOND?
The prophet doesn’t clean up the message with euphemisms so that it is easier to hear, digest and swallow. Nope, no sugar coating the words of God who is angry. Why is God so angry? Is it because of their foolish behaviors? Behaviors are only symptoms of a much deeper problem. God is angry because of His deep, abiding love for people who have turned their backs on Him.
Let’s camp on this thought. God loves us, really loves us. God loves us with a love we cannot wrap our heads around because it is higher thinking. God’s compassion and love for His people is unchanging and forever. Their sin behaviors break His heart because of this higher thinking love. He would rather bless His beloved people with all He has to offer which is beyond their wildest dreams or imaginations! But they have turned their backs on what is best for them.
As parents, have you ever said, “I’m doing this for your own good because I love you?” (And we wanted them to “love us less” at that point?) God’s love goes beyond this thinking! He has so much to give and we turn away?
God allows punishment from other nations to get their attention. “Come back to me and really mean it so I can bless you again” is the real message of meaning. God can be trusted. When we trust in ourselves, we fall into sin. God cannot and will not be where sin resides. God is the opposite of sin. God is angry because of all His people are missing out on that He wants to give! God can be trusted. Can we?
“You must get rid of your stinking sin paraphernalia and not wander away from me anymore”, for what you are doing leads to death and destruction which is the opposite of what I want to give you. In other words, don’t mess with me, says God. He has so much more to give…God can be trusted. Can we be trusted?
We must examine our own hearts by “plowing up the soil” to see what is growing—weeds of sin or the character traits of God?
“If you want to come back, you must really come back to me.” –God
Your love goes beyond our thinking no matter how hard we try to imagine it. Your love sent your Son to die for our sins. Your love redeemed us and set us free from the punishment that should have been ours to receive. Your love is a gift that keeps on giving. Your love can be trusted. I trust in you, dear Jesus. I trust God, our Father. I trust Your Holy Spirit to lead me to your love and all that is good for me and causes my love to grow. All for you. All to give you honor and praise. I’ve plowed my heart and I see I need more of you and less of me.
In Jesus Name, Amen