Sunday, May 29, 2022

“Ask for the Ancient Paths” [Matt's Messages]

“Ask for the Ancient Paths”
Uprooted - The Words of Jeremiah
Lanse Evangelical Free Church
May 29, 2022 :: Jeremiah 6:1-30 

We said last Sunday that chapters 4, 5, and 6 hang together as a unit about the terrible judgment that Jeremiah says is set to be poured out on the southern kingdom of Judah.

Chapter 6 just continues this theme of impending judgment and doom.

And it continues the theme of lament. The sadness of the prophet at the awful message that he has to deliver. Has to. You can hear this in his voice as he continues, even now, to implore his people repent.

And yet they don’t.

I want to read just one verse to you this as we get started. It will be the key verse for this message, and it will sound encouraging at first, but there is a sting in the tail.

Jeremiah chapter 6, verse16, “This is what the LORD says: ‘Stand at the crossroads and look; ask for the ancient paths, ask where the good way is, and walk in it, and you will find rest for your souls. But you said, 'We will not walk in it.'”

Jeremiah 6:16 is a great verse for Graduation Sunday!

When I realized last week that we might land on it on Grad Sunday, I thought, “That’s great! Thank you, Lord! Jeremiah 6:16 is a great verse for the graduates we are celebrating this morning.”

Because you guys are at a crossroads in your own life.

Khandyce, Josh, Katlyn, Jeremiah, and Gretchen, you have not only reached a significant milestone in your life, but this is one of those key moments when it’s really wise to step back and take stock of your life and consider which directions you want to move in. Which “roads” you want to travel down.

Especially because this might be the first time in your life where you really begin to get to choose for yourselves. The options aren’t limited by your parents or your school district. You are launching on your own.

And Jeremiah the prophet (not Jeremiah the graduate! Jeremiah Michaels is going to be really confused today because sometimes I will be talking about him! Jeremiah the prophet) has a great metaphor for taking stock of your life and choosing your life’s direction. It’s the metaphor of the crossroads.

How many churches and ministries have been called “Crossroads” after this verse?!

Listen to it again. We will return to it over and over this morning. Jeremiah 6:16.

“This is what the LORD says [God’s word to us]: ‘Stand at the crossroads and look; ask for the ancient paths, ask where the good way is, and walk in it, and you will find rest for your souls. But you said, 'We will not walk in it.'”

I have three points of application for us to consider today, and they are all one word each, and each word begins with the same letter, the letter “L.” 

The first one is right there in verse 16. It is:

#1. LOOK.

Jeremiah says, “Stand at the crossroads and look...”

Jeremiah is giving Judah yet another chance. He’s telling them that they ought stop and take stock of what direction they are headed in.

Judah was not headed in a good and godly direction and had not been for many decades. And the LORD sent Jeremiah to say, “Stop. Look around. Think about what you’re doing here. Think about where you are going.”

And, of course, that’s good counsel for our graduates and for all of us, as well.

Stop. Look around. Think about where you are going.

Obviously, our grads all have some good plans for their futured. Misty has summarized what they all said in the bulletin for us. But the directions that Jeremiah is talking about here are deeper than just education and vocation. This is talking about a total way of life.

The LORD is inviting Judah to take a good hard look at themselves and see what they are doing with their whole lives.

“Stand at the crossroads and look...”

Really look.

And don’t just try to figure it out on your own. Ask for help. Listen to verse 16 again. Twice he says to ask for roadside assistance.

“Stand at the crossroads and look; ask for the ancient paths, ask where the good way is...”

Do you get the picture in your mind’s eye?

The metaphor is somebody who might be lost. They might have lost their way. They are not sure which way is the right or the best way to go.

And they are now at a crossroads. And they are examining the different directions.

“Hmm. This one looks interesting. Kind of goes off thataway. Okay. Then there’s this one. It goes over there, I can’t see that far. I wonder if that’s the way home? Hmm.” What do you do then?

Some of you guys are like, “I don’t know. I don’t ask for directions.”

Many of us are instinctively reaching for our phones right now. GPS! That’s a way of asking for help.

Judah didn’t have GPS in this metaphor. In this metaphor, they had to stop and ask for some help from another person. And they needed a wise person to offer that help.

Khandyce, Josh, Katlyn, Jeremiah, and Gretchen, do you have wise and godly people in your lives that you can ask for help when you are looking for direction?

Church family, do you? Do you have wise and goldy people in your lives that you can ask for help when you are looking for direction?

“Ask for the ancient paths.”

Now, that does not mean that if it’s “older it’s better.” Sometimes we get to be traditionalists who think that if it’s the way we used to do it that would be the best way. “They don’t do it the way they used to.”
Sometimes the old way is better. Often! Sometimes the new way is better.

This word “ancient” her could be translated “everlasting.” It’s the word “olam.”

So it’s the “everlasting paths.” That means “God’s paths.” The way of “wisdom.” Not just the old ones, but the wise ones. The ancient roadway that God set up for us to walk in the first place.

“Ask for the ancient paths, ask where the good way is...”

It’s not always obvious. Which way is the safe way? Which way is the reliable way? Which way is the straight way?

Does this remind you of anything? My mind immediately goes to the most quoted verse for graduates every May–Proverbs 3:5-6, and with good reason. Say it with me if you know it!

“Trust in the LORD with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways [same word as here] acknowledge him, and he will make your paths straight” (Proverbs 3:5-6 NIV84).

So that’s asking the LORD which path to take and then trusting Him when He gives you the answer.

And that’s point number two. Second “L” word:


Don’t just look. Don’t just ask for that wisdom.

But listen to the wisdom and then follow it.

Actually choose to walk the good path.

“[A]sk for the ancient paths, ask where the good way is, and walk in it...”


“Blessed is the man who does not walk in the counsel of the wicked or stand in the way of sinners or sit in the seat of mockers. But his delight is in the law of the LORD, and on his law he meditates day and night” (Ps. 1:1-2 NIV84).

He listens. And then he listens some more.

He rejects the path of folly and sin. And he chooses the ancient path of wisdom.

Khandyce, Josh, Katlyn, Jeremiah, and Gretchen, today we gave each of you a Bible. I hope we’ve been giving you the wisdom of the Bible for many years! 

My counsel for you today is “Listen” to it. Walk in it.

Sadly, Judah did not. Did you hear the sting in the tail of verse 16?

When I was a young man I loved Jeremiah 16:6, and I memorized it. But I always stopped short of quoting to myself that last fatal part where Jeremiah says to Judah, “But you said, ‘We will not walk in it.’”

They refused! They refused to listen.

Sadly, that’s the theme of chapter 6! They did not listen.

Let’s jump back up to the top of the chapter and see how they refused. Look at verse 1. It starts out a lot like chapter 4 did with a call to run away. Verse 1.

“‘Flee for safety, people of Benjamin! Flee from Jerusalem! Sound the trumpet in Tekoa! Raise the signal over Beth Hakkerem! For disaster looms out of the north, even terrible destruction. [Run away! There is disaster coming. From the north. Just like we saw before. That’s going to turn out to be Babylon. But’s not just Babylon; it’s the LORD Himself. V.2] I will destroy the Daughter of Zion, so beautiful and delicate. [So beloved and yet so wicked.] Shepherds with their flocks will come against her; they will pitch their tents around her, each tending his own portion.’ [She’s surrounded. They speak:] ‘Prepare for battle against her! Arise, let us attack at noon! But, alas, the daylight is fading, and the shadows of evening grow long. So arise, let us attack at night and destroy her fortresses!’ [Either they are so anxious to attack that they will do it whenever they can or they are so ruthless that they are not going to stop–morning, noon, or night. Either way, it’s terrible for Judah. V.6] This is what the LORD Almighty says: ‘Cut down the trees and build siege ramps against Jerusalem. This city must be punished; it is filled with oppression. As a well pours out its water, so she pours out her wickedness. Violence and destruction resound in her; her sickness and wounds are ever before me.

Take warning, O Jerusalem, or I will turn away from you and make your land desolate so no one can live in it.’”

Listen! The LORD is saying that this city is so wicked that He must bring judgment on them or He would be unjust. Their wickedness is like a fresh fountain with fresh evil every day–like school shootings and grocery store shootings every day!

“Violence and destruction resound in her; her sickness and wounds are ever before me.”

But it doesn’t have to be that way. “Take warning, O Jerusalem.”

Even now, the LORD pleads with them to repent. “Return to me.” v.9

“This is what the LORD Almighty says: ‘Let them glean the remnant of Israel as thoroughly as a vine; pass your hand over the branches again, like one gathering grapes.’ [Jeremiah, try to find someone out there who will listen. Try every single one. V.10] To whom can I speak and give warning? Who will listen to me? Their ears are closed so they cannot hear. The word of the LORD is offensive to them; they find no pleasure in it.”

He says, “They’re going ‘Na na na na na. I can’t hear you!’”

They’ve got their fingers in their ears.

It’s worse than that. Jeremiah says that they literally have “uncircumsised” ears. Their ears are disobedient and refuse to belong to the LORD.

And that rightly and righteously fills the LORD with wrath. And so that fills Jeremiah with wrath. V.11

“But I am full of the wrath of the LORD, and I cannot hold it in. ‘Pour it out on the children in the street and on the young men gathered together; both husband and wife will be caught in it, and the old, those weighed down with years.”

Do you hear the justice and the anger and the anguish of the LORD all mixed together?

Jeremiah is full to the brim with the hot anger of the LORD against their wickedness, and he can’t hold it in any longer, so the prophet prophecies and, the wrath pours out.

And the judgment will reach all.

Some of the commentators I read this week quoted Julia Ward Howe at this point in their comments on this passage. That song that Misty played at the end of the prelude.

“Mine eyes have seen the glory of the coming of the Lord;
He is trampling out the vintage where the grapes of wrath are stored;
He hath loosed the fateful lightning of His terrible swift sword:
His truth is marching on.”

The American Civil War was just a foretaste of that wrath, poured out on the sin of American-style slavery.

As was the terrible sacking of Jerusalem in 586 BC. Just a foretaste of the great wrath to come at the end of the age.

But that foretaste was awful enough. Verse 12 says that Judah will be uprooted.
“Their houses will be turned over to others, together with their fields and their wives, when I stretch out my hand against those who live in the land,’ declares the LORD.”

Why? Why the exile? 

Because they refused to listen. V.13

‘From the least to the greatest, all are greedy for gain; prophets and priests alike, all practice deceit. They dress the wound of my people as though it were not serious. 'Peace, peace,' they say, when there is no peace.”

“Shalom, shalom!” when there is no shalom.

“All is well. All is well.” when all is not well.

But that’s what people want to hear.

It sounds so good.

Khandyce, Josh, Katlyn, Jeremiah, and Gretchen, if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is–unless it’s a true promise from God. And then it’s too good not to be true. Because He’s too good to not be true.

But if He says that there is no peace, there is no peace.

If He says that we need to repent, then we need to repent.

Don’t listen to the false preachers of peace. Don’t listen to the prosperity preachers. Don’t listen to the fakers and the liars and the pretenders and the hucksters and the con artists who just tell you what you want to hear.

That road leads to danger!

And folks like that almost never admit it. V.15

“Are they ashamed of their loathsome conduct? [Peace, peace!] No, they have no shame at all; they do not even know how to blush. So they will fall among the fallen; they will be brought down when I punish them,’ says the LORD.”

Listen! Here’s our key verse again.

“This is what the LORD says: ‘Stand at the crossroads and look; ask for the ancient paths, ask where the good way is, and walk in it, and you will find rest for your souls. But you said, 'We will not walk in it.' I appointed watchmen over you and said, 'Listen to the sound of the trumpet!' But you said, 'We will not listen.'

Therefore hear, O nations; observe, O witnesses, what will happen to them. Hear, O earth: I am bringing disaster on this people, the fruit of their schemes, because they have not listened to my words and have rejected my law. [Do you hear it? Do you hear what happens when you refuse to listen? The people of Judah thought they could get away with it not by repenting but by being really religious. Going to church a lot. Giving a lot. And doing the religious rituals. Like a game. But the LORD will have none of it. V.20] What do I care about incense from Sheba or sweet calamus from a distant land? Your burnt offerings are not acceptable; your sacrifices do not please me.’ Therefore this is what the LORD says: ‘I will put obstacles before this people. Fathers and sons alike will stumble over them; neighbors and friends will perish.’

This is what the LORD says: ‘Look, an army is coming from the land of the north; a great nation is being stirred up from the ends of the earth. [Babylon.] They are armed with bow and spear; they are cruel and show no mercy. They sound like the roaring sea as they ride on their horses; they come like men in battle formation to attack you, O Daughter of Zion.’  We have heard reports about them, and our hands hang limp. Anguish has gripped us, pain like that of a woman in labor. Do not go out to the fields or walk on the roads, for the enemy has a sword, and there is terror on every side.”

That is one of Jeremiah’s famous phrases and signature lines, “terror on every side.”

That’s what comes when you refuse to listen. Terror on every side.

You can hear his anguish even as you know it’s right. V.26

“O my people, put on sackcloth and roll in ashes; mourn with bitter wailing as for an only son, for suddenly the destroyer will come upon us.”

It’s over. It’s over because you didn’t stand at the crossroads and look. You didn’t ask for the ancient paths. You did not ask for the good way.

And when you heard about the right way to go, you didn’t listen.

So the LORD makes Jeremiah a “tester of metals.” Sometimes we call it an “assayer” like they have up at Miracle Mountain Ranch if you go up there tomorrow for the Open House.

The assayer tests the quality of the metal. In the case of the gold rush, it was to see if it was genuine gold. In this case, the metaphor is silver.

The LORD says in this metaphor that the prophet was an assayer of the genuineness of Judah’s repentance. Was it silver quality repentance? Look at verse 27.

“‘I have made you [Jeremiah] a tester of metals and my people the ore, that you may observe and test their ways. [And here’s the report from the assayer’s office:] They are all hardened rebels, going about to slander. They are bronze and iron; they all act corruptly. The bellows blow fiercely to burn away the lead with fire, but the refining goes on in vain; the wicked are not purged out. They are called rejected silver, because the LORD has rejected them.’”

They refused to listen, so the LORD has refused them.

There is no true silver there. There is no true repentance.

They have refused to take the ancient paths.

But you and I still can.

The invitation of verse 16 is still open to you and me today.

So here’s point number three of three:

#3. LIVE.

Stop and look.
Ask and then listen.
And then live it.

Truly live it with the life worth living.

Look one more time at verse 16 and stop this time before the sting at the end:

“This is what the LORD says: ‘Stand at the crossroads and look; ask for the ancient paths, ask where the good way is, and walk in it, and you will find rest for your souls.”

Doesn’t that sound good?

And doesn’t it sound like something you’ve heard Someone else say somewhere else?

I believe that Jesus was intentionally hypertexting back to these words when He said in Matthew 11, “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest” (v.28).

He will give us peace.
He will give us harmony.
He will give us the life that is truly life.

If we follow Him.

Because He Himself is the ancient path!

He Himself is the good way.

Jesus said, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me” (Jn. 14:6).  So that everyone who comes through Him, comes to the Father!

And gets true life.

Isn’t that good news?

Here’s where true life is.

Following Jesus.

Khandyce, Josh, Katlyn, Jeremiah, and Gretchen, follow Jesus!

Lanse Free Church, follow Jesus!

Ask where the ancient paths are.
Ask where the good way ways is.
And walk in it.

And you will find rest for your souls.


Previous Messages in This Series:

01. "The Word of the LORD Came to Me" - Jeremiah 1:1-19
02. "I Bring Charges Against You" - Jeremiah 2:1-3:5
03. "Return to Me" - Jeremiah 3:6-4:4
04. "“Oh My Anguish, My Anguish!” - Jeremiah 4:6-5:31

Sunday, May 22, 2022

“Oh My Anguish, My Anguish!” [Matt's Messages]

“Oh My Anguish, My Anguish!”
Uprooted - The Words of Jeremiah
Lanse Evangelical Free Church
May 22, 2022 :: Jeremiah 4:5-5:31 

Jeremiah chapters 4 through 6 really hang together as one unit of this book, but three chapters seemed like too much for us to bite off and chew in one message, so I thought we’d do chapters 4 and 5 this Sunday and then look at chapter 6 on its own next Sunday with the graduates.

Jeremiah chapters 4, 5, and 6 are all about the judgment that is coming on Judah. 

We saw that judgment was predicted already in chapter 1. In chapter 2, the LORD explained why that judgment was coming as He brought charges of infidelity against His people. And in chapter 3, the LORD invited His people to escape that judgment by repenting. He invited them to repent and return to Him.

Remember that? “Shuv.” He said, “Return to me.

Well, they did not repent, and they continued to not repent, and so Jeremiah continued to warn them about the judgment that was going to be poured out upon them. The boiling pot tilted from the north ready to scorch the rebellious people of Jerusalem and all of Judah.

And that’s what chapters 4, 5, and 6 are all about. 

Have you ever wondered what it would be like to be a true prophet of God?

What it would feel like to be the mouthpiece of the living God?
The spokesman of the living God.
A true prophet.

Someone being given fresh revelation from God to deliver to His people.

I am, thankfully, not a prophet. 
And I am not the son of a prophet.
And I work for a non-profit organization. (Thank you, Walt Kaiser!)

But I do get to regularly represent God and try to faithfully present His words.

I’m trying to do so right here, right now.

I hope you do, as well, in your spheres of influence.

But I wonder what it would be like–not just to teach and preach and share what God has already said in His written Word to the current generation, but–to have God actually put His words fresh and hot right into your mouth?

To be able to see and know the future and be tasked with telling others what it will be. What would that be like?

Well, if the words of Jeremiah are any indication, it could apparently be pretty miserable.

It could apparently be pretty miserable to be a true prophet of the LORD at least in a time of great national decline such as the last 40 years before the exile of the southern kingdom of Judah.

Jeremiah is not called the “Weeping Prophet” for nothing.

It was no fun to be a true prophet in the time of Jeremiah. In fact, it could be downright excruciating.

The title for this message is drawn from the words of Jeremiah in chapter 4, verse 19, “Oh, my anguish, my anguish!”

The Hebrew is literally, “my innards, my innards.”  It’s what you cry out when you have a massive pain in your gut. “My belly, my belly!”

Seven years ago this last week I had my first bout with diverticulitis. I was working on a sermon on Romans 12 one Saturday, and I had this growing pain in my gut. I thought it was a stomach bug because I got a fever to go with it. And I got up on Sunday morning and preached with a fever of 102, and then I was too weak to drive home after church! That was pre-covid, wasn’t it? Imagine coming to church with a fever!

But I thought I was getting over it, and I’d just sleep it off, and then the pain got worse and worse, until I was saying to Heather, “My belly, my belly!” And so we went to the ER, and then I got my first ride in an ambulance, and then started the odyssey of diverticulitis. 

Apparently, sometimes it hurts like that to be a true prophet like Jeremiah.

And I think that teaches us something important about how to live for Jesus in 2022.

Jeremiah, in his anguish, is a model for us for how to live as faithful followers of Jesus Christ in this day and age.

It’s not always easy to live for Christ in America in 2022. It’s not always obvious how to act, what to say, what to say out on social media, what to do in various situations. Especially when you think about what other Christians are saying and doing out in  the world. Out on social media. Out in the public square. Out in the churches. I am often bewildered when I learn what supposed Christians are saying and doing. How do we respond?

Well, one of key ways we can respond is with tears. With lament. With sadness. With agony. With personal pain over the choices that our fellow Christians are making. With tears.

We’re going to read a lot of words today, but I only have two simple points to make from these two chapters. Two things I want to point out over which we should rightly and righteously agonize. And here’s number one.

My anguish:


Jeremiah knows that Judah is in for a world of hurt.

That was clear from the first four verses I read to you, right? V.5 again.
‘Announce in Judah and proclaim in Jerusalem and say: 'Sound the trumpet throughout the land!' Cry aloud and say: 'Gather together! Let us flee to the fortified cities!' Raise the signal to go to Zion! Flee for safety without delay! For I am bringing disaster from the north, even terrible destruction.’”

It’s going to hurt.

Jeremiah says that Judah is going to be attacked and destroyed.

Now, we don’t know when Jeremiah said this. It could have been forty years before it actually occurred. Like if someone predicted an attack on us in Lanse in 1982, and it’s just happening now. But Jeremiah could see it coming very clearly, and he was warning them, not to get ready to fight, but to get ready to flee.

The alarm was going off. This is not a test. Run!

Whom are they supposed to run from?

Well, from Him. The LORD is the One bringing this disaster. And He’s doing it through an invader from the north, whom we will eventually discover is Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon. V.7

“A lion has come out of his lair; a destroyer of nations has set out. He has left his place to lay waste your land. Your towns will lie in ruins without inhabitant.”

How does Jeremiah feel about that? How does he feel about his message? Well, he tells them to cry. V.8

“So put on sackcloth, lament and wail, for the fierce anger of the LORD has not turned away from us. ‘In that day,’ declares the LORD, ‘the king and the officials will lose heart, the priests will be horrified, and the prophets will be appalled.’”

It’s going to be terrible! The wrath of God is coming. And everyone is going to agonize over it.

You know, Jeremiah could just sit back and laugh. I mean, these guys have brought this on themselves, right? Jeremiah could be like, “Hey, pass the popcorn. Let’s watch these guys get what they deserve.”

But that’s not what Jeremiah does. He actually talks back to God about the whole thing. Verse 10.

“Then I said, ‘Ah, Sovereign LORD, how completely you have deceived this people and Jerusalem by saying, 'You will have peace,' when the sword is at our throats.’”

Now, that there is a confusing verse. It’s one of the hardest to interpret. Jeremiah might actually be wrong here. The Bible isn’t wrong. It perfectly captures what Jeremiah said, but Jeremiah might have thought at the time that the prophets of peace were from the Lord. But we know from the rest of his book that the prophets of peace were not true prophets of the LORD. They were false prophets.

And we also know that the LORD does not deceive us, though He does allows us at times to be deceived.

I think it’s more likely that Jeremiah is saying something like that [and the NET Bible actually translates it that way, see the translation notes here]. He is agonizing over the fact that the LORD in his wisdom and justice has allowed false prophets to proliferate in Judah spreading the lie that everything was going to be okay.

Everything was not going to be okay.

I’ll bet that Jeremiah wished that the LORD would just zap those false prophets right then and there!

“You will have peace.”

We’re going to see this again and again in Jeremiah. People saying, “It’s okay. You can live however you want, and it will be okay.”

Which prophets do you think were more popular for 40 years? The prophets of peace and prosperity or sad old Jeremiah, the prophet of doom?

But Jeremiah knows, “the sword is at our throats.”

And not just a sword, but a storm. Verse 11.

“At that time this people and Jerusalem will be told, ‘A scorching wind from the barren heights in the desert blows toward my people, but not to winnow or cleanse; a wind too strong for that comes from me. Now I pronounce my judgments against them.’”

The desert storm of judgment is coming, a sirocco destroying everything in its path.

In verse 13, Jeremiah sees it. He has a vision of the attack. V.13

“Look! He advances like the clouds, his chariots come like a whirlwind, his horses are swifter than eagles. Woe to us! We are ruined! O Jerusalem, wash the evil from your heart and be saved. How long will you harbor wicked thoughts? [Even now, he’s calling them to repent. V.15] A voice is announcing from Dan, proclaiming disaster from the hills of Ephraim. ‘Tell this to the nations, proclaim it to Jerusalem: 'A besieging army is coming from a distant land, raising a war cry against the cities of Judah. They surround her like men guarding a field, because she has rebelled against me,'’ declares the LORD.”

Ephraim and Dan are in the north. The picture in Jeremiah’s mind is an attack that descends and swarms in from the north and decimates Judah in the south so that they say, “Woe to us! We are ruined!”

Why? Why all of this pain? V.18

“‘Your own conduct and actions have brought this upon you. This is your punishment. How bitter it is! How it pierces to the heart!’”

All of this pain is self-inflicted. They deserve this. They have brought this on themselves by their ways and their deeds.

So how does Jeremiah respond to that? With anguish.

No smug satisfaction. 
No prideful laughing at these people getting their comeuppance. 

But with tears.

Just thinking about what is going to happen to his people makes Jeremiah feel completely awful. V.19

“Oh, my anguish, my anguish! I writhe in pain. Oh, the agony of my heart! My heart pounds within me, I cannot keep silent. For I have heard the sound of the trumpet; I have heard the battle cry. Disaster follows disaster; the whole land lies in ruins. In an instant my tents are destroyed, my shelter in a moment. How long must I see the battle standard and hear the sound of the trumpet?”

Do you hear his pain over his people’s pain?

You know, he could just quit caring. That’s a real temptation today when you see your people make foolish choices. When you log on to social media and you see fellow Christians saying foolish things. When you read the news reports and you hear the latest scandals happening in churches. When your friends and family members make foolish choices and the painful consequences start coming down on them.

It’s tempting to say, “Well, they made their bed. They can lie in it. I don’t care any more.”

It’s true. They made their bed.
It’s true. They can lie in it.

But Jeremiah wasn’t able to stop caring.

And I think you and I should be like that, too.

Because I think that Jeremiah’s heart reveals the heart of His God.

“Oh, my anguish, my anguish! I writhe in pain. Oh, the agony of my heart! My heart pounds within me, I cannot keep silent.”

This is the first of several passages in this book that are often called “Jeremiah’s Laments” or “Jeremiah’s Confessions.” Jeremiah just bares his heart to the LORD and pours it out on the page for us to see ourselves.

Not only does his belly hurt, but he’s having a heart attack. The one phrase there in the Hebrew is literally, “O the walls of my heart!” He thinks his heart is going to burst just thinking about what is going to happen to his people. He’s almost in shock, and he wonders long he will have to feel this way.

Then answer is, a long time. He talked this way for 40 years.

And as far as we know he died, after seeing it all actually happen, with these same feelings in his heart.

Anguish at his people’s self-inflicted pain.

Do you think that is pitiful? Are you tempted to shake your head at Jeremiah’s words? Maybe you think he’s being a little over the top? I mean, these people definitely deserve this.

Who does Jeremiah remind you of?

I can’t read this without thinking about Jesus. Remember how He wept over Jerusalem?

The Gospel of Matthew chapter 9 says, “When [Jesus] saw the crowds, he had compassion on them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd” (V.35).

What are sheep like without a shepherd? Well, they are out of control, for one thing. They go in all kinds of directions and get into all kinds of trouble. Self-inflicted pain.

And what did Jesus feel when He saw that? Did He say to the disciples, “Get a load of this one!” Share that outrageous thing. “I can’t believe they are doing that. Stupid dummies!”

No. Matthew says that Jesus had compassion on them and the Greek word there means...a pain in the gut.

“Oh my anguish, my anguish.”

I have a rule for myself on social media: “No outrage and no shaming.” I don’t always do it perfectly, but that’s my general rule. “No outrage. No shaming.”

Not because people don’t do outrageous things, even fellow Christians.
Not because people don’t do shameful things, even fellow Christians.
But because there is plenty of outrage and shame out there to go around.

There aren’t enough tears.

That doesn’t mean we don’t need truth. If there is one thing that Jeremiah has to share it is the truth. He has to call it like it is. Look at verse 22.

“‘My people are fools; they do not know me. They are senseless children; they have no understanding. They are skilled in doing evil; they know not how to do good.’”

That’s the truth. And it is shameful. 

I’m not saying there isn’t a place for shame. But he does not gloat. He does not look down his nose at them. He laments their willful ignorance and their skill at sinning. And he laments what is surely going to happen to them because of it. V.23 He has  another vision.

“I looked at the earth, and it was formless and empty; and at the heavens, and their light was gone. [It’s like creation was being undone. Creation was being uncreated. v.24] I looked at the mountains, and they were quaking; all the hills were swaying. I looked, and there were no people; every bird in the sky had flown away. I looked, and the fruitful land was a desert; all its towns lay in ruins before the LORD, before his fierce anger. This is what the LORD says: ‘The whole land will be ruined, though I will not destroy it completely.  Therefore the earth will mourn and the heavens above grow dark, because I have spoken and will not relent, I have decided and will not turn back.’  At the sound of horsemen and archers every town takes to flight. Some go into the thickets; some climb up among the rocks. All the towns are deserted; no one lives in them.”

It’s a picture of utter destruction.

Though notice in verse 27 how even this terrible judgment is tempered with God’s mercy. “...though I will not destroy it completely.” He says that 3 times in today’s passage. He always has a remnant. Until the final judgment–of which this is a foretaste–He always stirs in some mercy just because of Who He is.

But He makes no excuses for them. And He does not pretend that everything is okay.

Instead, He calls it like it is, just with anguish. Verse 30.

“What are you doing, O devastated one? Why dress yourself in scarlet and put on jewels of gold? Why shade your eyes with paint? You adorn yourself in vain. Your lovers despise you; they seek your life.”

Do you hear his anguish here? This is the second and last point for this morning.

Jeremiah doesn’t just have anguish over His people’s pain. His anguish is also over their sin, as well.

My anguish:


You can hear it in his voice: “What are you doing, O devastated one?”

This is shocking. This is senseless. This stubborn. This shameful.

What is Judah doing? The invaders are attacking, and what is she doing? 

She’s dolling herself up for false gods and foreign nations!

“Ooh, Babylon is coming over? I better get ready.

Instead of repenting and returning to the LORD, she is thinking that if she just does more of what she has been doing, she’ll get out of the consequences once again.

But Jeremiah sees through all of that. He says that the seduction act will not work this time around. Her lovers have used her up and are going to kill her this time. V.31

“I hear a cry as of a woman in labor, a groan as of one bearing her first child–the cry of the Daughter of Zion gasping for breath, stretching out her hands and saying, ‘Alas! I am fainting; my life is given over to murderers.’”

Do you know someone who is caught in self-destructive sin?

How do you respond to that?

Do you just shake your head and turn away?
Do you just wash your hands of it and thank God that you’re not like that?

Or do you make excuses for them?  “Oh well, maybe it’s not so bad.”
Or even celebrate their sin with them?

Jeremiah sees it, calls a spade a spade, a sin a sin.

And he weeps.

“Oh my anguish, my anguish.”

The emphasis in chapter 5 is on the rightness and righteousness of God’s coming judgment. 

The LORD keeps asking these indicting questions, these damning questions, that bring home just how just the LORD’s justice is. But there is no smugness in it at all. No schadenfreude.

If anything, the LORD almost wants to be wrong about His justice. He almost seems to want to find a way out of bringing this justice on them.

There’s no wimpyness here. He is not going to wimp out.

But He isn’t gleeful in His judgment, either. He is in anguish.

Listen. Chapter 5, verse 1. Yahweh gives Jeremiah a challenge.

“‘Go up and down the streets of Jerusalem, look around and consider, search through her squares. If you can find but one person who deals honestly and seeks the truth, I will forgive this city. [This might be poetic hyperbole, but the standard here is 10X lower than was for the city of Sodom in Genesis 18. “If you can find one righteous man, I’ll forgive the whole city!” But you know how that’s going to end. V.2] Although they say, 'As surely as the LORD lives,' still they are swearing falsely.’

[Jeremiah agrees.] O LORD, do not your eyes look for truth? You struck them, but they felt no pain; you crushed them, but they refused correction. They made their faces harder than stone and refused to repent. [They refused to “shuv.” That’s who we’ve got here in Jerusalem today.]

[But maybe shouldn’t just look among the people. We should look to their leaders. V.4] I thought, ‘These are only the poor; they are foolish, for they do not know the way of the LORD, the requirements of their God. So I will go to the leaders and speak to them; surely they know the way of the LORD, the requirements of their God.’ But with one accord they too had broken off the yoke and torn off the bonds.”

Or, in other words, “There is no one righteous, not even one; there is no one who understands, no one who seeks God. They have all have turned away, they have together become worthless; there is no one who does good, not even one....all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God...” (Romans 3:10-12, 23).

And so the justice of God is coming. V.6

“Therefore a lion from the forest will attack them, a wolf from the desert will ravage them, a leopard will lie in wait near their towns to tear to pieces any who venture out, for their rebellion is great and their backslidings many [their many “shuvs” in the wrong directions]. 

‘Why should I forgive you? Your children have forsaken me and sworn by gods that are not gods. [I was a good husband.] I supplied all their needs, yet they committed adultery and thronged to the houses of prostitutes. They are well-fed, lusty stallions, each neighing for another man's wife.

Should I not punish them for this?’ declares the LORD. ‘Should I not avenge myself on such a nation as this? 

‘Go through her vineyards and ravage them, but do not destroy them completely. Strip off her branches, for these people do not belong to the LORD. The house of Israel and the house of Judah have been utterly unfaithful to me,’ declares the LORD.

They have lied about the LORD; they said, ‘He will do nothing! No harm will come to us; we will never see sword or famine. The prophets are but wind and the word is not in them; so let what they say be done to them.’”

You hear the play on words there? The don’t have the breath of the LORD. They don’t have the Spirit. They just have the wind. These false prophets are windbags.

But Jeremiah is a true prophet. Verse 14.

“Therefore this is what the LORD God Almighty says: ‘Because the people have spoken these words, I will make my words in your mouth a fire and these people the wood it consumes.”

Apparently, this what it feels like to be a true prophet of God!

You have a fire burning in your mouth.

That doesn’t sound pleasant to me. It sounds urgent! But it sounds painful.

Jeremiah’s mouth was full of fire, and the words that came from it were judgment words that uprooted and tore down and destroyed and overthrew the nation (1:10).

The people were the firewood that the fire burned up. Verse 15. 

“O house of Israel,’ declares the LORD, ‘I am bringing a distant nation against you–an ancient and enduring nation, a people whose language you do not know, whose speech you do not understand. Their quivers are like an open grave; all of them are mighty warriors. They will devour your harvests and food, devour your sons and daughters; they will devour your flocks and herds, devour your vines and fig trees. With the sword they will destroy the fortified cities in which you trust. [And you deserve it.]

‘Yet even in those days,’ declares the LORD, ‘I will not destroy you completely. 

And when the people ask, 'Why has the LORD our God done all this to us?' you will tell them, 'As you have forsaken me and served foreign gods in your own land, so now you will serve foreigners in a land not your own.' [Exile.]

‘Announce this to the house of Jacob and proclaim it in Judah: Hear this, you foolish and senseless people, who have eyes but do not see, who have ears but do not hear: Should you not fear me?’ declares the LORD. ‘Should you not tremble in my presence? [Do you  hear His anguish?  What’s the answer to those questions? Should they not fear the Creator? Of course, they should! V.22] I made the sand a boundary for the sea, an everlasting barrier it cannot cross. The waves may roll, but they cannot prevail; they may roar, but they cannot cross it. 

But these people have stubborn and rebellious hearts; they have turned aside and gone away. They do not say to themselves, 'Let us fear the LORD our God, who gives autumn and spring rains in season, who assures us of the regular weeks of harvest.' Your wrongdoings have kept these away; your sins have deprived you of good. ‘Among my people are wicked men who lie in wait like men who snare birds and like those who set traps to catch men. Like cages full of birds, their houses are full of deceit; they have become rich and powerful and have grown fat and sleek. Their evil deeds have no limit; they do not plead the case of the fatherless to win it, they do not defend the rights of the poor.

Should I not punish them for this?’ declares the LORD. ‘Should I not avenge myself on such a nation as this?

‘A horrible and shocking thing has happened in the land: The prophets prophesy lies, the priests rule by their own authority, and my people love it this way. But what will you do in the end?”

Do you hear the anguish in his voice?

Jeremiah’s voice. And behind and above that, the voice of the LORD?

Anguish over His people’s sin.

Notice again that He calls the sin what it is, but He does not relish doing it.

Many (most?) of the people I see out there that seem to regard themselves as “prophetic” seem to me to relish the downfall of those they are preaching against. And their followers are like, “Yeah! Stick it to them!”

That’s not prophetic. Prophetic is calling sin “sin” but with anguish in your heart. Hoping and willing and praying for genuine repentance on the part of your opponents. Holding out the invitation to return to the LORD. And be forgiven!

A fire in the mouth but agony in the heart.

No, “I told you so.” No, “You heard it here first. Like and share. Tell your friends.”

Instead it is belly-busting anguish over their pain and heart-pounding anguish over their sin. And a heartfelt desire for them to be forgiven.

Jeremiah asks, “What will you do in the end?”

Sadly, we know the answer for Judah.  They did not repent, and in the end, they got all that was coming to them (tempered with mercy). But we also know that the LORD extends forgiveness to all who will repent and come to Him. 

And we know that there was another search for a righteous person that was successful. Remember Revelation chapter 5?

Where they searched high and low for someone who was worthy to open the seals and bring about the forgiveness of sins and make all of the promises come true?

They searched, not just Jerusalem, but heaven and earth and under the earth.

And John the Revelator wept because nobody was found that was worthy.

Then John was told, you don’t have to anguish over this!

“See, the Lion of the tribe of Judah, the Root of David, has triumphed. He is able to open the scroll and its seven seals.” (V.5).  And John looked and there was...the Lamb that was slain now standing at the center of the throne.

God has made a way to forgive sinners.

“Why should I forgive you?” the LORD asks?

Because of the anguish of Jesus.

He was forsaken by God because we had forsaken God.

And in His death, He has made it right again.

“The Lord is my salvation!” 


Previous Messages in This Series:

01. "The Word of the LORD Came to Me" - Jeremiah 1:1-19
02. "I Bring Charges Against You" - Jeremiah 2:1-3:5

Sunday, May 15, 2022

“Return to Me” [Matt's Messages]

“Return to Me”
Uprooted - The Words of Jeremiah
Lanse Evangelical Free Church
May 15, 2022 :: Jeremiah 3:6-4:4

I’ve taken the title for this message from the first verse of chapter 4 where the LORD says through Jeremiah to the people of God, “Return to Me.”

 “Return to Me.”

It’s an invitation and a glorious one, and it’s the theme of this passage of Jeremiah.

In fact, at least four times, the LORD (Yahweh) invites His people to return to Him in this passage.

Which is quite remarkable because of what we heard last time in chapter 2 and the first part of chapter 3. Last time, the LORD was bringing a charge against His people. Remember this? 

They had sinned. They had fallen into idolatry which was spiritual adultery. He went so far as to call it spiritual harlotry, spiritual whoredom. They had forsaken the LORD and turned to other gods! Remember that?

We saw that it was shocking, stupid, and shameful. And it was the reason that the boiling pot of judgment was going to be poured out upon Judah.

So, here is the LORD’s next word on that: After He charges them with covenant breaking sin, He invites them to return to Him. “Return to Me.”

That gives us a glimpse of His heart, does it not?

The Hebrew word for “return” is “shuv.” It means to “turn” or “return” or “repent” or “come back.”

Jeremiah actually uses a form of “shuv” at least 15 times in this short section of the Scriptures. The most times it shows up in concentration in the whole Bible. So, if we’re going to learn about repentance, this is probably a really good place to do it!

What comes to your mind when I say the word, “Repentance?” If you are like me, you probably don’t say, “Yippee! That sounds like fun!” “I just love to repent! It’s like a party word! Whoo! ‘Repent!’”

No, we tend to think of the word as a “downer.” Maybe a harsh word. A finger-pointing word. “Repent!”

A painful word. And there’s a good reason for that. Repentance can be painful. We will see that it requires painful honesty and real change.

But here, repentance is a sweet invitation. 

It’s not a downer.
It’s not annoying. 
It’s not stifling.
It’s life-giving!

Because of the last part of our title, right? “ Me.”

It’s an invitation, not just to turn back from sin, but to turn to fellowship with the Lord. And there is nothing greater!  

So let’s back up to chapter 3, verse 6 and see how we get there.

Before we jump in, I’m going to ask you a tricky question. Are you ready? It’s kind of a tricky question! So maybe think about it a little bit before you answer.

In the Old Testament, which of the two kingdoms (North and South, Israel and Judah, which of the two kingdoms) was more wicked?

To answer that, think back once again to the Books of Kings (which we studied together in 2016 and 2017). In 1 Kings, there used to be one kingdom under David and then Solomon.

But then in 1 Kings chapter 12, it was split into two. North and South. Israel and Judah. And we did the thumbs up and the thumbs down for their kings.

How many “thumbs up” kings did the Northern Kingdom of Israel have? Big fat zero!

Did the Southern Kingdom have any “thumbs up” kings? Yes, it did! Kings like Hezekiah and this one right here in verse 6, Josiah. 

And this prophecy that we’re going to look at today was originally given during the reign of thumbs-up King Josiah somewhere between 627BC and 609BC, so it comes early in Jeremiah’s ministry.

Here’s the tricky question again: Which of the two kingdoms (North or South, Israel or Judah, which of the two kingdoms) was more wicked in the Old Testament?

The answer may surprise you.

Now, one more thing to note before we read: Remember that the Northern Kingdom had been sent into exile in 721BC. And Jeremiah chapter 3 comes somewhere between 627BC and 609BC. How much later is that? Around a hundred years, right? Between 94 and 112 years. About 100. Now, listen to the question that Yahweh asks Jeremiah. Chapter 3, verse 6.

“During the reign of King Josiah, the LORD said to me, ‘Have you seen what faithless Israel has done? She has gone up on every high hill and under every spreading tree and has committed adultery there.” 

Do you get the picture? The LORD starts a conversation–it’s really more of a monologue–with Jeremiah. Jeremiah doesn’t really get to answer.

But the LORD asks him a question, “Have you seen what faithless Israel has done?” 

That word translated “faithless” is a form of “shuv.”  It’s like, “Have you seen what that “turned-away” people of Israel has done?” The Old King James has “backsliding Israel.”

“Jeremiah, have you seen what that treacherous shuved Northern Kingdom has done?” What’s the answer to that one? “Well, no, not directly.” There hasn’t been a Northern Kingdom for a hundred years! It’s like saying, "Have you seen what President Warren Harding did?” Harding was president in 1922, one hundred years ago. None of us in this room were born then.

But Jeremiah certainly knew the story. He knew that the people of the Northern Kingdom were unfaithful to the LORD. They had prostituted themselves with other gods. They had shuved away. Now, listen to verse 7. It’s a doozey!

“I thought that after she had done all this she [Israel] would return to me [shuv to me] but she did not, and her unfaithful sister Judah saw it.”

Two things there. First, it almost sounds like the LORD thought He had made a mistake. “I thought this would happen, but then it didn’t! What a miscalculation on my part.” 

It’s shocking language to get across His point. Remember, the LORD is picturing Himself like a jealous jilted husband. In the metaphor, the husband is married two wives, two sisters. (Which is not something that the LORD recommends, but it happened in this story when the Kingdom split into two.)

And in the metaphor, one of the wives, one of the sisters goes rogue and starts sleeping around.

And second thing, the other sister saw it. Who is that in this story? That’s Judah. That’s the southern kingdom that Josiah is king over and Jeremiah is prophesying to.

Judah saw how Israel acted...and did not learn anything from it. V.8

“I gave faithless Israel her certificate of divorce and sent her away because of all her adulteries [off into exile at the hands of the Assyrians]. Yet I saw that her unfaithful sister Judah had no fear; she also went out and committed adultery. Because Israel's immorality mattered so little to her, she defiled the land and committed adultery with stone and wood. In spite of all this, her unfaithful sister Judah did not return to me with all her heart, but only in pretense,’ declares the LORD.”

So you see what happened? The prophet Ezekiel has as similar prophecy (though more graphic) in Ezekiel chapter 16.

The second sister, saw what happened to the first sister, and she didn’t think much of it. “In spite of all this, her unfaithful sister Judah did not return to me [shuv] with all her heart, but only in pretense,’ declares the LORD.”

Only in falsehood. Only a fake repentance. Only a pretend return.

I have four points of application this morning that all relate to repentance; that all describe what it means to truly return to the LORD, and here’s the first one:


Judah faked some repentance, but you can’t fool the LORD.

He knows our hearts. He knows that Judah saw how Israel had run around behind His back and had been severely punished for it. And how Judah just didn’t really seem to care.

“Oh, that? No biggie.”

Perhaps she was frightened temporarily by what she saw Israel get, and so she cleaned up her act a little bit, but it sure didn’t stick.

Perhaps He’s describing the reforms under Josiah! Josiah went through the nation taking down altars to foreign gods. Josiah read the Book of the Law that had been found in the temple, and started to make changes across the southern kingdom. But it was apparently only “skin deep.” Because look what Judah has gotten herself into!

Can you guess the answer now to the tricky question? V.11

“The LORD said to me, ‘Faithless Israel is more righteous than unfaithful Judah.”

In the end, the southern kingdom was more wicked than the northern one. Why? Because they had the example of the northern one and ignored it! And just pretended to change.

How about you? Is your repentance real? Repentance is not just something we do at the beginning of the Christian life. It is also something we do (or should do!) every time we are freshly confronted with our sinfulness.

Martin Luther famously said that the Christian life is “a race of repentance.”

Have you learned from how anyone else is running? Do you look at the negative examples of the people around you, and take a clue? “Oh, when they fell into that sin, this was the consequence. I should take note of that.” Or do we just say, “Look at those dummies! They got caught!” “I’m glad I don’t do that.”

Get real. He knows. He can see. You can’t fool Him.

Now, this next verse is amazing. It’s the first of the four invitations, and look whom He is inviting! V.12. He says to Jeremiah, “Go, proclaim this message toward the north: ‘'Return, faithless Israel,' declares the LORD, 'I will frown on you no longer, for I am merciful,' declares the LORD, 'I will not be angry forever.”

Isn’t that something?! In verse 12, the LORD invites the northern kingdom which is scattered in exile to return to Him! “Return, faithless Israel.” 

Remember, “faithless” comes from “shuv” as well. In Hebrew this is, “Shuva, Meshuva!” "Turn back, O Turned Away!” “I know I sent you away, but you are still invited to return.”

Doesn’t this just reveal His heart?!

“'I will frown on you no longer, for I am merciful,' declares the LORD, 'I will not be angry forever.”

The word for “merciful” is “hasid” from “hesedthat word that means loving-kindness or loyal-love.

They have been faithless, but He is faithful. And if they repent, He will not be angry forever.

“Return to me.”

If you are listening to this message, then it is not too late for you to repent. It’s not too late. Some people think that they are too far gone. I talked to somebody this week who was afraid that he might be too far gone for God’s mercy.

But listen to His heart! “'I will frown on you no longer, for I am merciful,' declares the LORD, 'I will not be angry forever.” And how much more is that true on this side of the Cross? Where the just wrath of God was satisfied by the sacrifice of His Son?!

“Return to Me. It’s not too late. I will not be angry forever. Return to Me.”

But here’s the condition. V.13

“Only acknowledge your guilt–you have rebelled against the LORD your God, you have scattered your favors to foreign gods under every spreading tree, and have not obeyed me,'’ declares the LORD.”

You’ve got to get real. You must acknowledge your guilt. You must take a good honest look at your heart and confess what is really there.

And, yes, sometimes, that’s hard to do. Israel hated to admit to their pervasive idolatry. And we hate to admit when we have been chasing counterfeit gods, as well.

But you can’t truly come to Him unless you get real about what is keeping you away.

What is keeping you away? 

Get real. The Lord knows anyway. You can’t fool Him.

In verse 14, the LORD issues the second invitation, and He tells them why they ought to take Him on it. Look at this! Verse 14.

“‘Return, faithless people,’ declares the LORD, ‘for I am your husband. I will choose you–  one from a town and two from a clan–and bring you to Zion. Then I will give you shepherds after my own heart, who will lead you with knowledge and understanding.”

Wait a second! I thought that He divorced her? 

Remember how the chapter started by asking if a husband should take a back a wife who married another man? That was against the Law of Moses. But Israel didn’t marry another man. She had just played the field. She had just “scattered her favors” which is worse, right...?

But Yahweh says that they are not divorced. Not really. Not ultimately. Not, at least, for those who repent and return.

Same picture. Same deal.

And the LORD says that He is going to bring them back as a remnant, one or two at time, all the way to Zion, and He’s going to give them better kings this time.

Shepherds after His own heart (like David at his best) who will lead them with knowledge and understanding.  

He says that this going to happen. When? Well, I’ve got bad news, and I’ve got good news. 

The bad news is that it won’t be for a long long time. Remember, Jeremiah is a prophecy of a tragedy. 40 years in the making. Israel has been in exile 100 years by now, and they are only come back in little tiny scattered amounts. Hardly enough to speak of in the whole rest of the Bible

But the good news is that when the Messiah comes in all of His fullness, all of these promises will be fully fulfilled, will truly come true. 

And you can tell that He’s talking about the Messiah’s Kingdom because He starts to use phrases like, “In those days.” Look at verse 16.

“In those days, when your numbers have increased greatly in the land,’ declares the LORD, ‘men will no longer say, 'The ark of the covenant of the LORD.' It will never enter their minds or be remembered; it will not be missed, nor will another one be made. At that time they will call Jerusalem The Throne of the LORD, and all nations will gather in Jerusalem to honor the name of the LORD. No longer will they follow the stubbornness of their evil hearts. In those days the house of Judah will join the house of Israel, and together they will come from a northern land to the land I gave your forefathers as an inheritance.”

Do you hear how He kicked it into another register?

You can tell that He’s looking down the corridor of time and prophesying what it will be like when the Kingdom truly comes.

It will be, in word, blessed!


To return to the LORD, you have to first get real, but then, get ready to be really blessed. When God’s people truly repent, they find that they get truly blessed. At least, when the Kingdom comes.

Then there will be (v.15), a shepherd after [God’s] own heart.

And His name will be Jesus! Jesus is the Best Shepherd, and He will lead us with knowledge and understanding (read John 10).

In those days, God’s people will have grown and grown and grown. Blessing!

And they will no longer say, “The ark of the covenant of the LORD.”

That’s a little strange, isn’t it? Why is that a good thing? Why would it be good for them to forget the Ark of the Covenant? 

I said to my family last night that I should have named this sermon, “Forgetters of the Lost Ark.”  

Why won’t there be Ark of the Covenant in the Kingdom? Because it won’t be necessary! It would be irrelevant. 

What did the Ark stand for? What was in it? The Law was in it, right? Where will the Law be in Kingdom? It will be in our hearts, right? That’s the New Covenant fulfilled! We won’t need the golden chest. The Law will be in our chests!

And the Ark served as the symbolic footstool of the Yahweh. It stood for His presence. Well, verse 17 says that they will call Jerusalem, “The Throne of Yahweh.” The whole city will be the throne! Not just right there in the Holy of Holies.

We cannot fathom the blessing that Jeremiah is writing about here, the blessing of repentance.

Imagine the unity! V.18 says that the nation will be reunited. Israel and Judah together again in the Land.

And verse 17 says it’s even better than that. Gentiles are going to come. “All nations will gather in Jerusalem.” The New Testament says that Gentiles get grafted into the people of God. Not just Israel and Judah, but Israel, and Judah and people from “every tribe and language and people and nation” (Rev. 5:9)–even Pennsylvanians!

And here’s how good it gets...there will be no more sin. Verse 17 again. “No longer will they follow the stubbornness of their evil hearts.” I don’t know about you, but I can’t wait to be sinless. I am so tired of living with my own sinful desires.

This is a picture of the total blessedness that is promised to all who will truly repent.

To all who will truly answer the invitation of the LORD to “Return to Me.”

The LORD wants to bless them, but, sadly, they do not yet really want that blessing. V.19

“‘I myself said, ‘'How gladly would I treat you like sons and give you a desirable land, the most beautiful inheritance of any nation.' I thought you would call me 'Father' and not turn [shuv] away from following me. But like a woman unfaithful to her husband, so you have been unfaithful to me, O house of Israel,’ declares the LORD.”

Again, the LORD is pictured as shaking His head at a miscalculation He made. “I thought you (Israel) would be like sons to me, and I would give you the Promised Land. All of that Abrahamic Promised Land. You could call me, ‘Dad.’”

But (switching figures of speech again), “You have been unfaithful to me.” Causing me grief.  

And so you have experienced grief. Verse 21.

“A cry is heard on the barren heights, the weeping and pleading of the people of Israel, because they have perverted their ways and have forgotten the LORD their God.”

Now, some scholars think that right here is a moment of repentance by the people of Israel. And that might be right. I think the Israel here is probably standing for all of Israel (Northern and Southern kingdom), probably more Judah at this point. 

Perhaps they are weeping and wailing because Josiah has torn down their sacred altars to foreign gods at all of the high places around the nation. And this is a little taste of repentance. That’s possible.

My read, however, is that they are probably crying their eyes out because they are mad that their gods gotten taken away. They are protesting the reforms of Josiah.

And the LORD is trying show them the way back. Verse 22. Third invitation. V.22

“‘Return, faithless people; I will cure you of backsliding.’”

That’s “‘Return [shuv], faithless [shuv] people; I will cure you of [shuv] backsliding.’”

He’s really giving them the “shuv,” isn’t He? 

I think He’s telling them that they need to take this seriously.


I think that Yahweh is putting the words out there that they need to say if they are going to truly repent. It’s like a script. So far, they haven’t been willing to say all of this.

This is what they should say. Verse 22.

‘Yes, we will come to you, for you are the LORD our God. Surely the idolatrous commotion on the hills and mountains is a deception; surely in the LORD our God is the salvation of Israel [and no one else!]. From our youth shameful gods have consumed the fruits of our fathers' labor–their flocks and herds, their sons and daughters. Let us lie down in our shame, and let our disgrace cover us. We have sinned against the LORD our God, both we and our fathers; from our youth till this day we have not obeyed the LORD our God.’”

That’s what they ought to say!

Notice the repetition of His name.

Yahweh Our God.
The LORD Our God.
The LORD Our God.
The LORD Our God.

We have been sinning against the LORD Our God!
What a terrible deal we have struck.
What a price we have paid.

These shameful gods have consumed the fruits of our father’s labor–their flocks and herds, their sons and daughters.

I think that hints at the unthinkable reality of child sacrifice.

Sin is shocking, and stupid, and shameful. And we must take it seriously. 

But we don’t have to stay stuck in it! The LORD invites us to repent. Chapter 4, verse 1.

“‘If you will return, O Israel, return to me,’ declares the LORD. ‘If you put your detestable idols out of my sight and no longer go astray, and if in a truthful, just and righteous way you swear, 'As surely as the LORD lives,' then the nations will be blessed by him and in him they will glory.’”

Do you see how seriously the LORD says that we must take this?

Repentance is not a slight thing.

It requires us to make real change. Israel had to put away their detestable idols and chart a new and straight course.

And look at those 3 words, “truthful, just, and righteous.” Those are not playing around. Those are not just playacting. They are not fake or skin deep. This goes down into the heart. Repentance is a heart issue. V.3

“This is what the LORD says to the men of Judah and to Jerusalem: ‘Break up your unplowed ground and do not sow among thorns.”

Get down deep. Repentance has to go below the surface. And break up the hard ground of our stony hearts.

Did everybody see the roto-tilling job that Jon and his dad did out on the Ark Park yesterday? It looks really nice. There will be a lot more soft landings now that they have tilled up that hard ground. Thank you, Jon and Shane! The LORD wants us to do that to our hearts.

In verse 4, He uses another cutting word than plow. He uses the word “circumcise” which emphasized the cutting away of flesh to symbolize the cutting away of sin and the marking of someone as belonging the LORD. V.4

“Circumcise yourselves to the LORD [not physically, that was already true fo the Jewish men], circumcise your hearts, you men of Judah and people of Jerusalem, or my wrath will break out and burn like fire because of the evil you have done–burn with no one to quench it.”

His message is: get serious or get seriously burnt. At the heart level. Consecrate yourselves. Dedicate yourselves. Turn away from the idols or else.

Sadly, we know how this story ends. We know what they did with these words. They did not heed them.

Remember, Jeremiah a prophecy of a tragedy. We got that the first three verses. 

Next time, we’ll see what is coming to Judah because they will not answer this invitation.

And yet He holds it out to them, because it reveals His heart. And it reveals His heart to us today.

He is saying to you and me, “Return to me.”

“Return to me.”

Shuv.” “Come.”

Remember, the emphasis is on Him here.

“Return to me.”

#4. GET GOD.

If you and I repent, we don’t just get blessing. We get the Fount of every blessing!

“‘If you will return, O Israel, return to me,’ declares the LORD.” 

And verse 2, “Then the nations (not just Israel, not just Judah, but you me and me, as well, the nations) will be blessed BY HIM and IN HIM they will glory.

If we repent, we get God.

And there is nothing greater.


Previous Messages in This Series:

01. "The Word of the LORD Came to Me" - Jeremiah 1:1-19

Sunday, May 08, 2022

“Do Not Forsake Your Mother’s Teaching” [Matt's Messages]

“Do Not Forsake Your Mother’s Teaching”
Lanse Evangelical Free Church
May 8, 2022 :: Proverbs 1:8-9

The title of this messages comes right out of the last phrase of verse 8 where Solomon says to his royal son, “ not forsake your mother's teaching.”

That’s the whole message for today. It’s in the Proverbs, so it’s short and sweet and to the point, and it’s meant to be meditated upon, chewed on, mulled over.

“ not forsake your mother's teaching.”

And there was, all of a sudden, a whole lot of elbows in the ribs and knowing looks passed around this room!

“Are you listening to this? I hope so, son. I sure hope so, daughter.”

Verses 8 and 9 are the opening salvo of the opening appeal in the first major section of the Book of Proverbs. The book began with a short explanation of its purpose. Look at verse 2:

This book is “...for attaining wisdom and discipline; for understanding words of insight; for acquiring a disciplined and prudent life, doing what is right and just and fair; for giving prudence to the simple, knowledge and discretion to the young–let the wise listen and add to their learning, and let the discerning get guidance–for understanding proverbs and parables, the sayings and riddles of the wise.”

The point of this book of Proverbs to its original readers was to help young people especially (and anybody else who wants to be wise) to gain and grow in true wisdom. 

And after that opening section, there are like 10 different appeals in the next 9 chapters from all of the authors (the main one of whom was King Solomon) for the reader (who is pictured as a royal prince) to choose wisdom over foolishness.

The path of wisdom is the right path, and it is the path of blessing.

And here’s where it all begins. The starting line of that path. Verse 7. 

“The fear of the LORD is the beginning of knowledge, but fools despise wisdom and discipline.”

And so in our verse 8, the King appeals to his son to choose that wisdom and to stay with it. And he pictures that wisdom as coming through Dad and Mom.

Yes, Dad is in this passage, too. And he will show up again and again in the Proverbs talking to his son this way. Proverbs was written primarily by men for young men, and then it was given to all of us.

But we are not going to focus this morning on “Listen, my son, to your father’s instruction...” [Maybe I’ll preach this same message again in a month on Father’s Day.] No, instead, we going to focus on the parallel idea, “ not forsake your mother’s teaching.”

That is God’s word to all children who want to be wise.

“ not forsake your mother’s teaching.”

And that’s regardless of your age.

If your mother 70 years ago taught you the Lord’s wisdom, this is God’s Word to you today: “Do not forsake your mother’s teaching.”

I have just two points of application for this morning’s message. One from verse 8 and one from verse 9, and they are both very simple. 


And don’t stop walking!

“Do not forsake your mother’s teaching.”

Now, yes, this assumes that your mother taught you or is teaching you wisdom.

So, we could address the Moms today and encourage all of the Moms to be teachers of your children. Teach them the fear of the LORD.

But we just did that in March with the message, “Impress Them On Your Children.” Do you remember that? In Deuteronomy 6? How parents are to be the resident theologians in their homes and pass on the faith to the next generation.

Moms, you might want to go back and review that message if you are looking for some teaching on being a disciple-making Mom this weekend. You can do it! 

But this passage is not addressed to the Moms. This passage is addressed to the kids–especially the sons, though the son stands for all of us who are the children of a wise mom who has taught us the fear of the LORD.

Notice that verse 8 begins with the word, “Listen.” It’s the same word as Deuteronomy 6, “Shema!” “Listen up!” “Hear this, my son!”  He’s flicking the lights on and off. He’s pulled the power cord on the wireless router. I have a friend who when he wants his family’s attention, he turns off the wireless router, and his kids all come of out their rooms. 

Solomon is getting his young son’s attention, and once he does, he is telling him to take to heart his parents’ instruction. Their homeschooling in the fear of the LORD.

And he wants his son to stick with it.

“Do not forsake your mother’s teaching.”

Don’t just let it go in one ear and out the other.
Don’t just nod your head and then turn away.

Don’t walk away from the wisdom of your Mom. Walk in it. And don’t stop.

Now, some of you do not or did not have a wise mom. It is very possible that a number of you in this room did not have that particular blessing. Perhaps your Mom was not a believer or died when you were young. Or she had some wisdom, but her life was marked more by folly.

Don’t worry; this passage is for you, as well.

Because the wisdom that this Mom is sharing here is in this book. You don’t have to have a Mom to teach it to you, though she should, and it is a blessing if she has.

But it’s not like this teaching can only come through your biological Mom.

If you didn’t have a wise Mom or don’t have a wise Mom, I encourage you to find one and adopt her. This church is full of women who can serve as a spiritual Mom to you. Go after their wisdom. Even if you have one already, it doesn’t hurt to have more. The family of God has plenty of spiritual aunts and grandmas to teach the next generation the fear of the LORD.

The point is to get that wisdom and then to not lose it.

“Do not forsake your mother’s teaching.”

I don’t think there is a greater heartache for a Christian mother than for her children to walk away from the faith. All of those years of a Christian Mom not just feeding and clothing their kids and nursing them when they’re sick and driving them to all of their things and helping them with their schoolwork and paying their bills and cleaning them and cleaning after and cleaning after them and cleaning after them, not just doing all of that but all of the time those Moms have put into teaching–by both word and example–the Christian faith to their kids.

And then the kids turn their back on it? That is top-level painful for Christians Moms.

But that’s not why Solomon says we ought to stick with it.

This verse does not say, “Please do not disappoint your Mom” even though it would.

This is not about pleasing your Mom, but about what is right and good and (perhaps surprisingly) what is good for you. Look at verse 9.

“They [Mom’s teachings] will be a garland to grace your head and a chain to adorn your neck.”

Here’s point two of two:


Walk in the wisdom of your mom and keep walking in the wisdom of your mom, and you will be wearing the wisdom of your Mom.

Her wisdom will be a garland to grace your head and a chain to adorn your neck.

Who wouldn’t want that?

Maybe that doesn’t sound so awesome to guys at first. But think about it.

A garland on your head would be like some kind of a wreath or a headdress of honor.

So, guys in our culture may not know what a garland is, but we do like hats.

And we like hats that show that we have status.

Crowns, for example, everybody still likes a crown.

Or the white hardhat that says that you are the boss.

And this chain around your neck? That is a status symbol, too. That is not like a prison chain. Some translations have “pendants,” that sounds too much like Pandora jewelry to me.

It is bling, though. Many guys today wear chains. Think like Mr. T!

Or the jersey of your favorite team. The jersey at the signing ceremony. Showing off what team they have just joined.

The wrestler that puts on that big belt. Holds it above his head.

10 years ago this month, I graduated with my doctorate from Westminster Theological Seminary. When you get one of those, you have to step in front of the faculty and kind of kneel and they put this stole or “hood” over you head ,and then it hangs around your neck, and it says, “Your are Dr. Mitchell now.” It is an honor.

Like the at Olympics when they place that gold medal around their necks. And they take a bite out of it show that it’s real. It’s a real honor.

I think this in verse 9 is an honor. A garland, a chain.

If you walk in the wisdom your Mom is trying to teach you, you will be blessed!

You will be rewarded. You will be recognized as wise. You will experience favor.

Your Mom’s teaching will become swag for you. Doesn’t that sound good?!

Now, why does he have to tell you that? 

It’s because it’s not obvious, right? Is everybody who walks in wisdom honored for walking in wisdom? Not right away.

Look at the Lord Jesus Christ! He was Wisdom itself. Wisdom incarnate, and not only was He not recognized for it, but He was crucified for it. The garland on his head was twisted together with thorns.

So, this blessing is not a prosperity gospel blessing. This honor is not always immediate or obvious. But it is nevertheless quite real.

If you keep walking in the wisdom of your Mom, you will wear the wisdom of your Mom. Her wisdom will be a garland to grace your head and a chain to adorn your neck.

It will be a prize all by itself. Obvious to all who have eyes to see it and forever.

Jesus is now crowned with many crowns.

Turn with me to chapter 6? Verse 20?

This phrase, “Do not forsake your mother’s teaching” appears a second time there in the book of Proverbs. I want you to look at it and see how it takes this one step further. Look at verse 20.

“My son, keep your father's commands and do not forsake your mother's teaching [same exact words in Hebrew]. Bind them upon your heart forever; fasten them around your neck.”

See how that’s similar?

But the emphasis here is not the honor of that decorative chain. That’s there, but it’s more than that.

Here it’s keep that teaching close to your heart. Not letting it go.

Like if you have a key that you want to keep safe, you wear it on a chain around your neck inside your shirt.

That word “bind” is the word we saw in Deuteronomy 6 for what the Israelite parents were told to do with God’s Word and their children. “Tie them as symbols on [their] hands and bind them on [their] foreheads.” Don’t let it go!

Why? What will it do? V.22

“When you walk, they will guide you; when you sleep, they will watch over you; when you awake, they will speak to you. For these commands are a lamp, this teaching is a light, and the corrections of discipline are the way to life...”

Doesn’t that sound good? And doesn’t that sound familiar? It’s like what the parents were taught in Deuteronomy 6. “Impress [God’s words] on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up.”

This is saying that if you and I take Mom’s wise teachings to heart, they will guide you through all of life!

Doesn’t that sound good? Why would we walk away from that?

Why would we turn off the lamp, the light, and get off the path to life?

Well, fools do despise wisdom and discipline.

That’s why we need to be reminded, “Do not forsake your mother’s teaching.”

Do not step off the wise path.

So, I want to do something a little different at this point in the message. I’d like your help. I’d like to hear from you.

Would you share with us something that your Christian Mom either taught you about the Lord or is teaching you about the Lord?

We have two microphones. There is one right here and one going around.

Either put up your hand or go to the mic. I’d love it if we heard from 10 or 15 you today.

This is for any disciple here, no matter how old or how young.

Last time, I said that I might put the kids on the spot and ask them what their Mom has been teaching them.

Well, today, we’re all on the spot. Would love to especially hear from some guys. What has your Mom taught you about the Lord?


I could say a lot of things, but the one that came to mind yesterday was how my Mom taught me in many different ways about the value and valor of strong Christian women.

Christianity is not just a masculine thing. It’s not boys’ club. It’s not just about dudes.

One little way she did that was by emphasizing all of the Bible stories about women. Where women are the heroes, the heroines.

Mom was the only female in our family. We had Dad and my brother and me and then Mom. And when we went on long trips in the car, we would fill the time with lots of things, but one of them was a Bible trivia game, where we were supposed to guess what each other was thinking. “I am thinking of a Bible character whose name begins with...” And if it was J it could be Jesus or Joseph or John or whatever.

And Mom was a little predictable. She often started with “D.” I’m thinking of a Bible character whose name began with “D.” And it wasn’t David. It was Deborah or it was Dorcas. And she did R for Ruth and E for Esther and M for Mary. 

And so from a young age, I knew that the Bible was a book for strong females of faith.

And look at this amazing thing in this book that a woman is called to do!

She is called to teach the faith to the next generation!

If she is called “Mom,” she is called to raise up royalty in wisdom!

Think about that. If this is Solomon’s son, that means that he is a prince who may one day be a king whose job it will be to rule with wisdom and justice and faithfulness.

Where will he learn that? At his mother’s knee.

Moms, I can’t help but point it out, you are called to raise up royalty in wisdom, justice, and faithfulness–sons and daughters, not just of Israel’s monarch, but sons and daughters of the Living God!

That’s how important it is for you to teach your children the fear of the LORD.

But again, this passage is not written to Moms. It’s written to us kids.

And it tells us to walk in that wisdom and to not forsake it.

By the way, what is the warning of wisdom that is emphasized in Proverbs 1 and Proverbs 6?

After both of the initial calls to “not forsake your mother’s teaching,” and a description of the beauty and benefits of that teaching, there are two examples of that teaching in action.

In Proverbs 1, the parents warn their son to not take up with a gang. And in Proverbs 6, the parents warn their son to not take up with a loose woman.

One commentator I read this week pointed out that these were common temptations of young men: easy money and easy sex.

Money gained not by hard work and prudence but by violence and theft.

Sex gained not by marriage and faithful commitment, but by stolen pleasure.

The wise mother warns her son against those things and warns about the inevitable consequences of those foolish choices.

This afternoon, read chapter 1 all the way through. And read chapter 6 from verse 20 to verse 35. There is only trouble for those who take those paths. Death is at the end of those paths!

“Fools despise wisdom and discipline.”

Moms, thank you for teaching us the fear of the LORD. Keep it up!

We need it! We are, by nature, foolish, and we need your wisdom to speak into our lives–to show us the way to go and to warn us against the other way.

And all of us, let’s walk in the wisdom of our moms and keep walking in that wisdom. So that we begin to be marked by it. Visibly! People can see it in our lives.

All our Moms are fallen and fallible. None of them are perfect. 

So their teaching will not be perfect either.

Where their teaching was wrong, we need to discard and depart from it.

This is not saying that we need to unthinkingly follow Mom wherever she leads even into error or foolishness. No.

But it saying that God has given us wise Moms for a reason.

They have been given to us to teach us the fear of the LORD.

And to the degree that they do that, we need to hold on for dear life to their instruction.

Because that’s where life is!

“Bind them upon your heart forever; fasten them around your neck [for safe keeping]. When you walk, they will guide you; when you sleep, they will watch over you; when you awake, they will speak to you. For these commands are a lamp, this teaching is a light, and the corrections of discipline are the way to life..."

Walk in the wisdom of your Mom.
And wear the wisdom of your Mom.

“Do not forsake your mother’s teaching.”