Sunday, June 26, 2022

“Like a Scarecrow in a Melon Patch” [Matt's Messages]

“Like a Scarecrow in a Melon Patch”
Uprooted - The Words of Jeremiah
Lanse Evangelical Free Church
June 26, 2022 :: Jeremiah 9:25-10:25 

Last week, we just looked at two verses, verses 23 and 24, which taught us to not boast about ourselves–our smarts, or our strength, or our stuff, but instead, to boast about this–that we know the LORD and know His heart–how He delights in kindness, justice, and righteousness.

Well, sadly, the nation of Judah was not very interested in following that teaching. No, they were tempted, instead, to talk up and trust in everything but the LORD Himself including the temple of the LORD, the Law of the LORD, and even the Circumcision given by the LORD.

Everything but the LORD Himself!

And they were also enamored with the gods of the surrounding nations and tempted to put their faith and their fear in them.

And so, therefore, judgment was coming upon Judah, and the Prophet Jeremiah had been sent to tell them. To warn them. These words in Jeremiah 9 and 10 are meant to be a warning to Judah, warning them about what not to do and showing them the better way that they ought to take.

And you and I can learn from these words for our lives today.


So here’s the question I want to start with this morning. It’s not a trick question, but it might be a little tricky. Here it is:

How powerful are idols?

I-D-O-L-S. How powerful are they? How powerful were the other gods that the nation of Judah was so tempted to worship? What do you think?

They were certainly tempted to worship them, weren’t they? In this section, Jeremiah has only one major command for the people of Judah. I just read it in chapter 10, verse 2, “Do not learn the ways of the nations or be terrified by signs in the sky, though the nations are terrified by them.”

And he’s talking, again, about idolatry. The ways of the nations were the ways that they worshiped other gods than Yahweh. The ways that the nations bowed down to Baal and Ashtoreth and Molech and the Queen of the Heavens. The other nations lived in terror of the gods of the Sun, the Moon, and the Stars. The nations lived in fear of astral deities. They read their horoscopes daily and studied astrology. And they made idols and worshiped them.

And the people of Judah were sorely tempted to be jealous of the nations and want those gods for themselves.  And then, they gave in, time and time again.

So, how powerful are idols?

In chapter 10, Jeremiah uses incredibly funny satire to answer that question. Jeremiah pulls out some sarcasm with an image that will really stick in your mind. He says in verse 5, “Like a scarecrow in a melon patch, their idols cannot speak; they must be carried because they cannot walk. Do not fear them; they can do no harm nor can they do any good.’” Does that answer the question?

You might put it this way: Idols are powerful to birdbrains.

(No offense to birds, of course, and their brains. They are supposed to be that way.)

If this translation is correct, and there is ambiguity in the Hebrew, Jeremiah likens idols to scarecrows in a melon patch. Or some of your translations might say “a cucumber field.” Same difference.

Idols are scarecrows at a fruit farm. 

How powerful is a scarecrow? Well, if you think it’s powerful, it’s kind of powerful. In that sense, it has the power you give it. Scarecrows are powerful to crows. They have the power to scare them.

But it’s all just appearances. When you actually study a scarecrow, you find out that they don’t do anything. Because they don’t have a brain, right?  If they only did.

They don’t have anything. They aren’t alive–unlike the one in the Wizard of Oz or the one in Batman, scarecrows in the real world aren’t very scary if you know the truth about them. V.5 again.

“Like a scarecrow in a melon patch, their idols cannot speak; they must be carried because they cannot walk. Do not fear them; they can do no harm nor can they do any good.’”

I’ve got two simple points of application this morning, and this is number one:


Do not fear others gods than Yahweh. Do not fear idols instead of the LORD.

Now, of course, that is just so basic, so rule number one, right?

In fact, it’s rule number one and rule number two from the Ten Commandments.
"I am the LORD your God, who brought you out of Egypt, out of the land of slavery. You shall have no other gods before me. You shall not make for yourself an idol in the form of anything in heaven above or on the earth beneath or in the waters below. You shall not bow down to them or worship them; for I, the LORD your God, am a jealous God, punishing the children for the sin of the fathers to the third and fourth generation of those who hate me, but showing love to a thousand generations of those who love me and keep my commandments” (Exod. 20:2-6 NIV84).

This is basic stuff. Do not fear idols.

And by "fear" we mainly mean "worship." Do not trust in them, do not bow down to them, do not build your life around them, do not do what they tell you to do.

Do not fear them. This is basic stuff. 

And, yet, the nation of Judah had been continually tempted to do this and repeatedly succumbed to the temptation.

And so Jeremiah and many other Old Testament writers repeatedly took them to task. This disdain for and satire about idols is a regular feature of the Old Testament (see Isaiah 40:19-20, 41:7, Psalm 115 and 135 for some examples).

Idols are something that it is right and good to poke fun at. Because an idol is like a scarecrow in a melon patch.

Let’s back and up and see just how Jeremiah gets to that scathing simile. Back up to chapter 9, verse 25 and 26. The point of these two verses is to lump Judah in with the other nations that they so desperately wanted to be like. But it’s not going to turn out good for them. V.25

“The days are coming,’ declares the LORD, ‘when I will punish all who are circumcised only in the flesh–Egypt, Judah, Edom, Ammon, Moab and all who live in the desert in distant places."

Did you know that some other nations practiced some kind of circumcision? They did. Their circumcision didn’t mean what Israel’s meant. Israel’s meant that they belonged to Yahweh. They were His people.

But they had begun to trust in the outward sign of circumcision just like they had trusted in the temple of the LORD, the temple of the LORD, the temple of the LORD. And Jeremiah says that outward circumcision without inward circumcision is worthless. Did you see how Judah just got lumped in with Egypt? And Edom and Ammon, and Moab?!

You want to be like those guys? Well, I guess you are. V.26, “For all these nations [including Judah!] are really uncircumcised, and even the whole house of Israel is uncircumcised in heart.’”

Why? Because they were worshiping idols from their hearts.

Jeremiah says, “No!” Chapter 10, verse 1 again.

“Hear what the LORD says to you, O house of Israel. This is what the LORD says: ‘Do not learn the ways of the nations or be terrified by signs in the sky, though the nations are terrified by them. [Why?] For the customs of the peoples are worthless...”  

I think that Jeremiah has a least 3 reasons here why Judah should immediately stop and repent of fearing idols.

First off, they are worthless. The Hebrew word there is the word that Ecclesiastes uses to describe the vanity and emptiness of life without God (“hebel”). And it basically means “nothing” or “empty” or “hollow” or even a “vapor.” 

Here’s what Jeremiah thinks of the worth of idols. They are worth about as much as a belch.

And then he gets really satiric and begins to show just how silly idols are. Verse 3.

“...the customs of the peoples are worthless; they cut a tree out of the forest, and a craftsman shapes it with his chisel. They adorn it with silver and gold; they fasten it with hammer and nails so it will not totter.”

You get the picture? To get an idol, you have to do a lot of work. You take your saw out into Blackie and pick out a tree you like and cut it down. Then you get out chisel and take off the bark and shape it into the form of whatever so it looks more human or at least more “godlike.” And then you take your hard earned cash and buy silver and gold to deck it out. And then you have to nail it in place so that the wind doesn’t knock over your idol.

You see just how worthy they are? It’s the worth you give it! If you pour out your sweat and your cash, they are receiving worth from you, but they don’t give any true worth to you.

Because they are not just worthless, they are powerless. V.5 “Like a scarecrow in a melon patch, their idols cannot speak; they must be carried because they cannot walk. Do not fear them; they can do no harm nor can they do any good.’”

That’s double powerlessness. Do not fear idols because they are completely and utterly powerless on their own.

You have to carry them from place to place! You have to pull up the nails and then move that scarecrow to another field if you want it to do anything about the crows.

But don’t, for a minute, be scared of them yourselves. Do not be afraid of the scarecrows in the melon patch. They can’t do a blessed thing. Against you or for you.

Do you believe that?

We all say we do when it’s other gods like Baal and Ashtoreth and Molech.

And I don’t think that any of us here are building physical idols like these in our backyards. If you are, the elders of the church need to have a word with you!

But idolatry is sneaky, isn’t it?

The New Testament says that God’s people are still tempted to fear idols, but they have different names.

Names like “Money.”

You cannot worship both God and Mammon. Covetousness is idolatry.

Or “Pleasure.” Our culture has made an idol out of all kinds of pleasure, especially sexual pleasure. Or “Autonomy.” You can’t tell me what to do!

Or here’s one that really tempts me. I’ve said it before. “Approval.”

I like to be liked.
I love to be loved.
I crave approval.

And I can make it my god. It becomes an idol for me. I find myself fearing it.

What is it for you? What idols are you tempted to fear?

You can tell by how they make you act. When you fear something, it changes how you behave. It shapes your choices. If you find yourself sinning, you are probably trying to serve some idol erected in your heart.

If you find yourself obeying and practicing wisdom, you are probably fearing the LORD. Because the fear of Yahweh is the beginning of wisdom.

When I am worshiping the god of “People’s Approval,” I find myself tempted to not say and do the things I should say or do because I might not get Approval’s blessing.

I fear it. It controls me.

But Jeremiah would say to me. “Do not fear “People’s Approval”, Matt, it can do no harm nor can it do any good.” That’s not where the power lies.

Remember: False gods never fail to fail.

False gods never deliver on their promises. They are powerless like scarecrows in a melon patch.

Let me give you the third reason that Jeremiah gives Judah to not fear idols before we get to the last point this morning. Jump down to verse 8.

“They [the nations] are all senseless and foolish; they are taught by worthless wooden idols.”

Idols are not just worthless (same word there) and powerless. They are senseless.

And that doesn’t just mean that they don’t have senses, like they can’t see or hear, but they are stupid. They are dumb. Like the scarecrow, they don’t have a brain.

In fact, they are blockheads. They are made of wood, so why would you want to be taught by them?/!

If you are taught by a block of wood, you become a blockhead yourself.

The nations were blockheads. And Judah wanted to be a blockhead, too.

Which is just so foolish when they have a God like Yahweh!

And that’s point number two and last this morning:


Look back up at verse 6. “No one is like you, O LORD; you are great, and your name is mighty in power. Who should not revere you, O King of the nations? This is your due. Among all the wise men of the nations and in all their kingdoms, there is no one like you.”

“How great is our God! ... And will see how great, how great is our God”

The LORD alone should be feared because He is all alone in a class by Himself. The LORD is incomparable! “No one is like you.” 

There is a reason we call idols “false gods.”  It’s because they lie, but also because they are nothing like the real God!

Jeremiah has to pray this to God. He can’t help but break out into praise.

“No one is like you, O LORD; you are great, and your name is mighty in power. Who should not [FEAR] you, O King of the nations? [Everybody ought to.] This is your due. Among all the wise men of the nations and in all their kingdoms, there is no one like you.”

Search the whole world over, and you will not find a god like Yahweh.

He is incomparable. The idols are worthless. He is incomparably valuable. In a class by Himself. 

Secondly, He is powerful.

The idols are powerless. But God is powerful. “Your name is mighty in power.”

Idols have to be made, but the true God is un-made and makes everything else. Look at verse 8 again.

“They are all senseless and foolish; they are taught by worthless wooden idols. Hammered silver is brought from Tarshish and gold from Uphaz. What the craftsman and goldsmith have made is then dressed in blue and purple–all made by skilled workers. [Very impressive, but you have to do all of the work. V.10]

But the LORD is the true God; he is the living God, the eternal King. When he is angry, the earth trembles; the nations cannot endure his wrath.”

“Who made God?”

Sometimes a little kid will ask that question. “Well, if God made everything, then who made God?” And some philosophers think that it’s stumper of a question, too.

But the answer is very simple and mind-blowing–nobody did. Nobody made God. He is the true God, the living God, the eternal King. He always was and always will be. 

Yahweh is everything these idols are not. Judah was taken with them because they were tangible and right there in front of them, and they were jealous of the other nations, and because they believed the lies that came with them.

I mean, who doesn’t want a bright and shiny thing? Silver and gold and blue and purple. Regal! No doubt. Idols are impressive in the moment.

Did ever shop for something and be totally swayed by how shiny it is? “Ooo. Shiny.” The internet is great at this. It makes everything looks awesome. But then you get the product home, and it’s nothing like what you hoped for? That’s what idols are like.

But not the LORD. 

He is not worthless. He is true.
He is not powerless. He is mighty. 

In fact, He made everything that there is. V.11. This verse is in Aramaic in the original. V.11

“‘Tell them this [Judah!]: 'These gods, who did not make the heavens and the earth, will perish from the earth and from under the heavens.' [They are so temporary because they are a part of the creation. But God is the Creator! V.12] 

But God made the earth by his power; he founded the world by his wisdom and stretched out the heavens by his understanding. When he thunders, the waters in the heavens roar; he makes clouds rise from the ends of the earth. He sends lightning with the rain and brings out the wind from his storehouses.”

He is not just powerful. He is ALL powerful! Everything you see came from Him.

And not from Baal. Baal was the supposed storm god. Jeremiah says that Baal doesn’t control the weather. And neither does The LORD controls the weather.

Don’t be “terrified by signs in the sky” (v.2) 

Fear the One who made the sky!

And did you notice how He made it? With wisdom and understanding.

The idols are senseless and foolish, but the LORD is wise. He is no blockhead!

Do you see the contrasts?

Idols are worthless. The LORD is incomparably valuable.
Idols are powerless. The LORD is the powerful Creator of all.
Idols are senseless. The LORD is unimaginably wise.

Idols are scarecrows in a melon patch. The LORD is the Portion of Jacob. Look at verse 14.

“Everyone is senseless and without knowledge; every goldsmith is shamed by his idols. His images are a fraud; they have no breath in them. They are worthless, the objects of mockery; when their judgment comes, they will perish.

He who is the Portion of Jacob is not like these, for he is the Maker of all things, including Israel, the tribe of his inheritance–the LORD Almighty is his name.”
Fear the LORD alone. Mock your idols if that helps you repudiate them, and fear the LORD alone.

I love that title, “The Portion of Jacob.”

[I almost entitled this sermon, “The Portion of Jacob,” but I couldn’t pass up the melon patch.]

The Hebrew word for “portion” (“chelek”) is the idea of an allocation of territory parceled out to someone, often as their precious inheritance.

But Jeremiah says that the LORD did not just give them land. He gave them Himself. He is the “Portion of Jacob,” of Israel. He belongs to them.

That’s amazing language, isn’t it? We tend to think about the second part of the verse, that God’s people belong to Him. Israel is “the tribe of his inheritance.”

And that’s right, too. But the LORD says that He gave Himself, in a special way to His people.

He was their Portion. He was to be their Precious Possession. That’s what it means to fear Him. It means that He is yours, your precious possession. “I am my Beloved’s and He is mine.”

We own Him, so to speak. He is the most valuable thing in our hearts. Our treasure.

Is the LORD your treasure?

Idols cannot be that for you. They cannot give themselves to you in any satisfying way because they, really they aren’t real! They can’t do anything. If they are valuable to you, it’s all in your mind.

But “He who is the Portion of Jacob is not like these, for he is the Maker of all things, including Israel, the tribe of his inheritance–the LORD Almighty is his name.”

Fear the LORD alone. And you will be satisfied forever.

But sadly, Judah would not.

Judah refused to fear the LORD alone and instead continued to fear the gods of nations. They chose to worship the scarecrow in the melon patch. They refused to heed this warning, so the LORD would bring His judgment. V.17

“Gather up your belongings to leave the land, you who live under siege. For this is what the LORD says: ‘At this time I will hurl out those who live in this land; I will bring distress on them so that they may be captured.’”

The LORD was supposed to be their most precious possession, but now they will have to gather up all of their possessions because they are going to be uprooted. They are going to be be “hurled” or “slung” like from a slingshot into exile out of this land. They are going into captivity.

And, boy, is it going to hurt. V.19

“Woe to me because of my injury! My wound is incurable! Yet I said to myself, ‘This is my sickness, and I must endure it.’ [I think that Jeremiah is speaking for Judah and Jerusalem. He is lamenting the pain that is going to come. V.20] My tent is destroyed; all its ropes are snapped. My sons are gone from me and are no more; no one is left now to pitch my tent or to set up my shelter. [Judgment has come because of our failure to fear the LORD alone.] 

The shepherds are senseless and do not inquire of the LORD; so they do not prosper and all their flock is scattered.  Listen! The report is coming–a great commotion from the land of the north [Babylon]! It will make the towns of Judah desolate, a haunt of jackals.” 

It could have all been avoided. But now there is nothing more than lamentations and supplications to be made. V.23

“I know, O LORD, that a man's life is not his own; it is not for man to direct his steps. Correct me, LORD, but only with justice–not in your anger, lest you reduce me to nothing. [I think he’s still speaking for the whole nation and lumping himself in with them. He’s asking for wisdom still and for God’s justice and not full anger. Because He knows that the LORD delights in justice. But he is asking for God’s anger to be poured out on those who are coming to destroy them. V.25.] Pour out your wrath on the nations that do not acknowledge you, on the peoples who do not call on your name. For they have devoured Jacob; they have devoured him completely and destroyed his homeland.”

We will see this theme again and again, as well, as time goes on. Yes, Judah will be judged, and the LORD will use the sinful nations around Judah to do it. But those nations are not safe from God’s judgment either. In time, the LORD will judge them for how they treated Judah–even though He used them to bring justice. That’s another amazing part of His wisdom. And another reason to fear Him.

But did you notice those familiar words in verse 23 that Jeremiah says about what he knows? What does it sound like to you? 

To me, it sounds a lot like Question #1 of the Heidelberg Catechism. I’ll bet those German Christians had been reading Jeremiah 10:23.

“I know, O LORD, that a man's life is not his own; it is not for man to direct his steps.” 

You are not your own.

I do not belong to me.

The life I live is borrowed. I’m just a steward of it.

My life belongs to the Lord.

And if you are a Christian, yours does, too.

We might make some decisions along the way, but the Lord directs our steps.

So back to our original question: How powerful are idols?

They are powerful to birdbrains and blockheads. They have just as much power in our lives as we give them. They were powerful enough to take down the entire nation of Judah and catapult them into exile. But the idols didn’t do that themselves. They are just like scarecrows in a melon patch. Worthless, powerless, and senseless.

Do not fear them! As the apostle John says, “Little children, keep yourselves from idols” (1 John 5:21).

The LORD, on the other hand, is incomparably valuable, incomprehensibly powerful, and incredibly wise. Fear Him alone.

Make the Lord your portion. Trust in Him with your whole heart.

Give Him your whole life. It doesn’t belong to you anyway.

And fear Him alone.


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
05. "Ask for the Ancient Paths" - Jeremiah 6:1-30
06. “This Is the Temple of the LORD, the Temple of the LORD, the Temple of the LORD!” - Jeremiah 7:1-8:3
07. "Is There No Balm in Gilead?" - Jeremiah 8:4-9:22
08. "Boast About This" - Jeremiah 9:23-24

Sunday, June 19, 2022

“Boast About This” [Matt's Messages]

“Boast About This”
Uprooted - The Words of Jeremiah
Lanse Evangelical Free Church
June 19, 2022 :: Jeremiah 9:23-24 

We’re looking today at verses 23 and 24.

They follow a pretty gloomy section of Jeremiah, if you remember last week. Gloomy even for Jeremiah! The patient, Judah, was terminal, and their chart said that it was because they had refused to take the right treatment from the Great Physician. The nation of Judah had refused to repent. They had listened to “quack doctors” that told them that everything was going to be okay and there was “peace, peace” when there was no peace. Their wounds were superficial, nothing to worry about.

But there was something to worry about. Their wounds were deadly. Because Judah refused to repent, they were going to be uprooted and sent into exile. 

Judgment was coming, and it was going to be awful. The verses right before these say that death was going to “climb into their windows” and take out their young people. And the bodies of all were going to pile up behind the Grim Reaper. All because they refused to wise up and repent.

So the two verses for today are not so gloomy. They are a lot like a little burst of light into the darkness. But they still do constitute a warning. There is a warning here of how not to live and solid counsel of how to live instead.

And I think they are perfect for Father’s Day. When I saw how the Lord had landed these two verses for Dad Day, I was like, “That’s awesome!”  Because this is a message that most guys need to hear over and over again. I know that I do. And also because this church family is full of men who live out these words faithfully. And so it’s another chance to encourage the guys to keep on going.

And, of course, this words are true for all of us, men or women, boys and girls.

What do you “talk up” all day long?

What do you talk up, all the live the long day?

I don’t mean just, what do you talk about all day. Some of you have jobs where you talk all day long because it’s your job to do that. You talk about your work and the things of your work, and rightly so.

What I mean is what do you talk about when you aren’t talking about what you HAVE to talk about? What do you talk about when you GET to talk about something?

And more than that, not what do you talk down, but what do you talk up?

What do you boast about?

What do you take pride in? What do you praise when you get a moment to praise? What do you brag on? What are you always “selling,” so to speak?

We all have things that we talk up. We’re wired that way. We all have things that we talk up. They are the things we are the most excited about. The things we exult in. And the things we trust in.

We tend to talk up that which we trust in. Right?

Dads, what do your kids talk up? What are their mouths full of, all day long?

Kids, what do your dads talk up? What are their mouths full of, all day long?

Our mouths give us away. We tend to talk up that which we most trust in.

In these two verses, the LORD, through Jeremiah, tells us what to talk up as much as we possibly can. And also what not to.

I lifted the title for this message from three words in verse 24, “Boast About This.” You’re going to boast about something. We all do. We all have things we are trusting in and excited to talk up.

Sometimes literally. What our mouths are constantly filled with. And sometimes our actions speak even louder than our words. We boast with our deeds and our choices and our whole lives. The question is not whether or not we are going to boast, but what we are going to boast about.

One of the great things about this passage is that Jeremiah had done all of my work for me in providing an outline. Verse 23 is point number one. “Don’t boast about these...” And verse 24 is point number two. “Boast about this....” 

And he’s gone to all of the trouble of having three things under each point. There are 3 in verse 23, and there are 3 in verse 24. Thank you, Jeremiah, for that outline! Or actually, thank you, LORD. Because he says twice–at the beginning and then at the end–that this is a message directly from the LORD.

Verse 23, “This is what the LORD says....”
Verse 24, “...declares the LORD.”

If you were wondering if this was important, now you know. The bookends tell us that this is a message directly from the LORD. You and I better listen up.

So we know what to talk up...and what not to.


Listen again to verse 23. “This is what the LORD says: "Let not the wise man boast of his wisdom or the strong man boast of his strength or the rich man boast of his riches...”

Pretty straightforward, isn’t it? Don’t boast about you.

Ok. So, let me ask you a question about verse 23: Are wisdom, strength, and riches bad things? No, of course not. They can become bad things. And they are awful things to ultimately trust in or boast about. But they are not bad things. They are good things.

Wisdom, or skill in living is a great thing. I don’t think this is 100% talking about the exact same thing as Proverbs is often talking about, the kind of spiritual wisdom that begins with the fear the LORD.

But it is talking about some kind of skill at living. Or we might say, “smartness.” Having smarts is a good thing! It’s a gift from God.

And having strength is a good thing. It, too, is a gift from God. Whatever strength we have, and dads are often known for their strength, if a gift from God, and should be a reason for thanksgiving.

Same thing with riches. Money. Is money the root of all evil? No. The love of money is the root of all kinds of evil. But money itself is good. And it’s great when a dad has some money to loan to his kids or to give to them or to use for their good.

Smarts, strength, and riches are good gifts from a good God. God the Father!

But they make terrible gods themselves.

And we’ve all seen that, right? Have you seen the person that worships their own smarts? “I’m so smart. Did you see what I did there? Did you see what deal I cooked up? Did you see how I outsmarted those other people? Did you catch how great my plan was? I am so wise!” They don’t always say it so crassly, but it’s there.

Or the guy who says, “Check out my strength!” Not just “Look at how much I can bench press,” but “Look at how much clout I have!” “Look what I can do!” “Look how powerful I am.” “I say, ‘Jump,’ and all these people ask, ‘How high?’” People have to say to me, “Yessir.”

And it’s often because of that last category, money. “Money talks!” We say. And if it’s not the size of our bank account, it’s the size of our truck or our house or our book collection or whatever we possess.

Guys are especially prone to this. We feel the need to boast about our savvy, our strength, and our stuff.

And it’s not because we’re so grateful, but because we’re so proud.

As if these things were not gifts of His grace! Don’t boast about you. That’s the point here.

The key word in verse 23 is “HIS.” "Let not the wise man boast of his wisdom or the strong man boast of his strength or the rich man boast of his riches...” You’re not supposed to ignore those things or pretend they don’t exist. 
But you certainly aren’t supposed to trust in them and then boast in them.

How are you doing at that?
If those things were stripped away from you, how would you fare? If you no longer were so smart, so strong, or so rich? How would you be doing?

You see, on the outside, Judah might have looked good. Things might have seemed to be going swimmingly. Plenty of men walking around with skills, strength, and money. But they were headed for disaster because they were trusting in those things which all ultimately let you down.

The LORD, through Jeremiah, says, “Don’t boast in those. They are here today and gone tomorrow. And you didn’t earn them in the first place. They are yours by grace but not by desert. So don’t take credit for them! And don’t trust in them. And so don’t talk them up.”

Instead, “If you feel the need to boast–boast about this...”


Don’t boast about yourself. Boast about the LORD. Look at verse 24.

“‘...but let him who boasts boast about this: that he understands and knows me, that I am the LORD, who exercises kindness, justice and righteousness on earth, for in these I delight,’ declares the LORD.”

Boast about Him. Fill up your mind and your heart with Who God really is and that will come out of your mouth.

This “understanding” and “knowing” in verse 24 is not something that you can become prideful about if you’re doing it right. If you are doing it wrong, it can be like the wisdom of verse 23. People can get proud that they know all about God. I’ve been to Bible School and Seminary (twice!). I know that people can get sinfully proud of their knowledge about God. I have done it myself many times.

But this kind of understanding humbles you. 

And this kind of “knowing” isn’t just “knowing about’” it’s knowing personally. This is relationship language. Remember last week that Jeremiah said that the people of Judah had consistently refused to KNOW THE LORD. They knew lots about Him. They had the temple of the LORD, the temple of the LORD, the temple of the LORD! And they had the Bible. They had the Law of LORD, the law of the LORD, the law of the LORD!

But they weren’t trusting the LORD or truly knowing Him in personal relationship.

They didn’t “get Him.” 

This kind of understanding and knowledge is a deep heart-level “getting” the LORD. “I get Him. I know what He loves and I love it, too. I know Him, and I know His heart.”

Do you know the LORD and know His heart?

That’s something to trust in and talk up! Not how great you are for “getting Him,” but how great He is for being “got.”

“[L]et him who boasts boast about this: that he understands and knows me, that I am the LORD...” “I am Yahweh.”

Those words take us back to Exodus 34, don’t they? When Moses said, “Show me your glory!” And the LORD said, “Whoa, buddy. You don’t know what you’re asking, but here’s a glimpse.” And He put Moses in the cleft of the rock and He passed by, and He said His name. “[Yahweh, Yahweh,] the LORD, the LORD, the compassionate and gracious God, slow to anger, abounding in love and faithfulness, maintaining love to thousands, and forgiving wickedness, rebellion and sin. Yet he does not leave the guilty unpunished; he punishes the children and their children for the sin of the fathers to the third and fourth generation” (Exod. 34:6-7).

That’s Who Yahweh is!

And if you know Him?! If you know His heart?!

Dads, this is your number one job as a Christian father. Teach your sons and your daughters who the LORD is and what He loves. 

Jeremiah lists three things: “I am the LORD who exercises: kindness, justice, and righteousness on earth, for in these I delight...”

We don’t have to wonder what the LORD loves! We don’t have wonder what the LORD delights in. He tells us right here.

Judah had been willfully ignoring these three things. They weren’t practicing any of those three things. They weren’t walking in the knowledge of the LORD they supposedly belonged to. They were not doing what the LORD delighted in. Read the first 9 chapters we’ve seen so far.

But it’s no secret! Here is His heart: “...I am the LORD, who exercises kindness, justice and righteousness on earth, for in these I delight, declares the LORD.”

That word “kindness” is the Hebrew word “hesed.” We’ve studied it a lot the last few years, especially in the Psalms. It’s very difficult to translate because it’s so good! “Hesed” means more than just kindness but not less. Sometimes we have “lovingkindness.” Or “loyal love.” 

The idea is more like “grace.” God being loyal and devoted and super generous to those with whom He is in covenant, even when they don’t deserve it.

Remember Psalm 136, “His steadfast love endures forever.” That’s the word. “Hesed.” “Steadfast love.” “Divine Kindness.”

But at very the same time, the LORD is no pushover! Verse 24 says that He exercises “justice.” “Mishpat.”

He never does what is wrong. 

And more than that, He always does what is right. He exercises “righteousness.” “Tsedaqah.”

Right judgment and right authority. And right behavior. Covenant keeping faithfulness. God always keeps His promises.

Aren’t you glad that the LORD is like this? “Kindness, justice, and righteousness.”

Aren’t you glad that LORD delights in these things? “Kindness, justice, and righteousness.”

Aren’t you glad that this is what the LORD does every single day? Every single hour? Every single moment? “Kindness, justice, and righteousness.”

Imagine a world where the LORD is unkind, unjust, unrighteous on earth.

I’m so glad we don’t live in that world! This world is hard enough.

But God is good. 

Dads, teach this to your children diligently. Bring them up to know this LORD, with this heart. And, of course, that means you need to have a heart like this yourself. If this is what the LORD delights in and is doing, then you and I should be delighting in it and doing it, as well.

Dads who are kind.
Dads who are just.
Dads who are righteous.

That’s what we need!

Of those three, I think I have needed to learn the most about justice in the last few years, and I have a long way to go.

“Justice” has just been a word out there, and I haven’t given it enough thought. What does it mean for God to be just? What is biblical justice?

What would a just society look like? Where things were made right.

One day, we will know for certain.

Because we know that this is the LORD’s heart! This is the LORD’s character. He exercises justice, and it is His delight!

I love that word “delight!” Don’t you?

These three things are not just things that God is, but that God is passionate about.

God is not just perfect in these three ways, but He is passionate about them.

He loves kindness.
He loves justice.
He loves righteousness.

By the way, do you see what I’m doing here? I’m talking Him up. I’m boasting about the LORD about His heart. Instead of trying to make you impressed by my intellect, my powers of rhetoric, or my  my vast library of commentaries, I’m trying to point you to the LORD and His very heart. I’m trying to do what this passage tells us to do.

And dads out there, this is your number one job, and I know that you’re doing it.

You are trying to live as an example of kindness, justice, and righteousness and to point your kids to the One Who does it perfectly. Keep it up! 

Boast about Him to your kids. No matter how old they are. Or how old you are.

What a potent mixture of virtues, isn’t it? “Kindness, justice, and righteousness.”

I can imagine being really good at some of those but not all of them all at the same time, right? I mean, we who are dads often err on one end of that or the other. Like being kind and forgiving and gracious and generous on the one side. Or being just and righteous and firm and focused on doing what is right and expecting rightness on the other side. Which end do you gravitate towards?

The people of Judah were counting on the LORD being kind, but they were plugging their ears and hoping that He didn’t really care about justice and righteousness.

But Jeremiah was here to tell them that He is all of that!

He is not a doddering Father whom you can take advantage of. He is a consuming fire!

But He is not just a consuming fire. He is also a fountain of grace. He is a generous Father who delights to forgive.

And we who are Christians know this better than Judah ever could. Than even Jeremiah could!

Because we know about Jesus. We know about Yahweh taking on humanity and living out kindness, justice, and righteousness on earth as one of us.

And we know about the Cross! We know how “hesed, mishpat, and tsedaqah” came together at the Cross to bring us to the LORD Himself.

“Judgment and wrath He poured [out Jesus]
Mercy and grace He gave us at the Cross.
I hope that we have not too easily forgotten
That our God is an Awesome God.” [Rich Mullins, modified]

Boast about Him! Boast about this! Talk this up. That you understand and know Jesus.

The Apostle Paul said, “May I never boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ...” (Galatians 6:14a, NIV84).

He also quoted Jeremiah 9:24 two times to the Corinthians.  1 Corinthians 1:31 and 2 Corinthians 10:13. 

He said to them, “[Y]ou are in Christ Jesus, who has become for us wisdom from God–that is, our righteousness, holiness and redemption. Therefore, as it is written: ‘Let him who boasts boast in the Lord.’” (1 Corinthians 1:31, NIV84).

Boast about Him! Talk that up. That you understand and know Jesus.

Assuming, of course, that you do. If you don’t know Jesus yet, don’t let anything stop you.

He invites you to trust Him and what He did on the Cross–that place where “love [hesed] and faithfulness meet together; righteousness [tsadek] and peace kiss each other.” (In the words of Psalm 85:10, NIV84). Jesus invites you to enter into a life-changing relationship with Him and learn His ways and His heart so that you know Him. So that you “get” Him. So that you trust Him.

And so that you then boast about Him all the live the long day.


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
05. "Ask for the Ancient Paths" - Jeremiah 6:1-30
06. “This Is the Temple of the LORD, the Temple of the LORD, the Temple of the LORD!” - Jeremiah 7:1-8:3

Saturday, June 18, 2022

Happy Husband - 28 Years

For 28 years now, Heather Joy has crowned my head with joy.

"A wife of noble character is her husband's crown, 
but a disgraceful wife is like decay in his bones" 
(Prov. 12:4 NIV84).

(Good thing she crowns my head with joy because there isn't much hair up there!)
Resurrection Sunday 2022 - Photo by Dalton Kristofits

Gentle humor. We're always finding something to chuckle about.

June 18, 1994

Engagement Photos circa 1993

Photo by Donnie Rosie

Photo by Isaac Mitchell.

October 2017

Photo by: Nate Weatherly Photography, Used by Permission

June 2020

October 2020

February 2020

The Happy Husband

Oft, oft, methinks, the while with thee
I breathe, as from the heart, thy dear
And dedicated name, I hear
A promise and a mystery,
A pledge of more than passing life,
Yea, in that very name of wife!

A pulse of love that ne'er can sleep!
A feeling that upbraids the heart
With happiness beyond desert,
That gladness half requests to weep!
Nor bless I not the keener sense
And unalarming turbulence.

Of transient joys, that ask no sting
From jealous fears, or coy denying;
But born beneath Love's brooding wing,
And into tenderness soon dying.
Wheel out their giddy moment, then
Resign the soul to love again;

A more precipitated vein
Of notes that eddy in the flow
Of smoothest song, they come, they go,
And leave their sweeter understrain
Its own sweet self-a love of thee
That seems, yet cannot greater be!

Samuel Taylor Coleridge []

Sunday, June 12, 2022

“Is There No Balm In Gilead?” [Matt's Messages]

“Is There No Balm In Gilead?”
Uprooted - The Words of Jeremiah
Lanse Evangelical Free Church
June 12, 2022 :: Jeremiah 8:4-9:22

As we turn to Jeremiah 8, let me tell you what we’re going to find there.

We’re going to find more tears.

Jeremiah is often called the Weeping Prophet. We saw that, especially, a few weeks ago as he described his belly-busting and heart-pounding anguish over his people’s sins and sufferings.

Well, there are more tears here. And there is more truth. 

Jeremiah doesn’t just mourn. He prophetically speaks the convicting truth about Jerusalem and Judah’s covenant breaking sins.

Last week, we read about just how far down Judah had slidden. They had broken all of the ten commandments, worshiped foreign gods and astral deities–getting their kids into the act with baking cakes for the Queen of Heaven and even sacrificing their kids to appease these false gods.

And at the same time, they had fooled themselves into thinking that they had an ace in the whole, a get-out-of-exile card to keep them from experiencing the LORD’s judgment for their sins. Remember what it was?

But Jeremiah said that the temple would not save them. In fact, the LORD will not save the temple! Judgment is coming if they will not repent.

And they would not repent.

So Jeremiah laments.

Jeremiah mourns.

More truth, more tears.

Even more truth. Even more tears.

“Is there no balm in Gilead?”

What is the answer to that plaintive question?

Of course, to answer that question, you have to understand it first.

The word there is “balm” B-A-L-M. Not bomb, but balm meaning a soothing medicinal ointment. I think it’s short for “balsam.” It means a salve. 

A soothing medicinal ointment. An effective treatment for a bad wound.

The land of Gilead was famous for their healing balms. And it had been famous for them for a long, long time.  Remember a thousand years before Jeremiah was born when young Joseph was sold into slavery to that traveling caravan of Ishmaelites? Genesis chapter 37? 

Do you know where they had just come from? Across the Jordan River in a little place called “Gilead,” and guess what was loaded up on their camels? You got it! Genesis says that they were piled high with “spices, balm, and myrrh.”

Gilead was famous for its healing balms.

So, this is actually a rhetorical question that anticipates a positive answer.

What is the answer? “Is there no balm in Gilead?”

Yes, there is a balm in Gilead! Of course there is. There is always is. There always has been.

We would say, “Is the Pope Catholic?”
“Is water wet?”
“Do birds fly?”
“Is the sky blue?”

“Is there no balm in Gilead?” Of course, there is! That’s where balms come from–the best ones!

So that leads to the next rhetorical question in verse 22.

“Is there no physician there?” That also expects a positive answer.

Yes, there is a physician there. Of course. It’s well known. Yes, there’s a doctor in the house!

So last searching question of verse 22, “Why then is there no healing for the wound of my people?”

Do you see what Jeremiah is going for? What he’s getting at?

There’s a metaphor here. Jeremiah is saying that the people of Judah are in a world of pain. Their national sin and suffering are likened to a painful wound.

And Jeremiah feels it deeply himself. Verse 21 says, “Since my people are crushed, I am crushed; I mourn and horror grips me.”

Jeremiah feels complete solidarity with his beloved Judah. Their pain is his pain. Their wound is his wound. The CSB translates it “I am broken by the brokenness of my dear people.”

We are in trouble! We are wounded.

So, is there no remedy?
Is there no effective treatment?
Is there nothing that can be done?
Is there no doctor who knows what He is doing?

Has God not provided a way out of this pain?!

I think that’s what Jeremiah means when says, “Is there no balm in Gilead? Is there no physician there? [I think there is!] Why then is there no healing for the wound of my people?”

That’s the bigger question.

And Jeremiah has been answering it all along in this book.

I thought it might be good to envision this message as kind of like a patient’s chart at the hospital. And think about what it might say in answer to that last question. “Why is there no healing for this wound?”

We’re at the LORD’s wound clinic, and Judah is the patient in the bed. What does the patient’s chart say about why they are not getting better?

What’s the truth about that? And why so many tears?

I’ve got three basic answers for that chart. Here’s the first one:


It’s not that there isn’t the right medicine.
It’s not that there isn’t the right doctor.

The patient is refusing to take the right treatment.

Let’s back up and see how we got to this point. Look at verse 4. That’s where we left off last week. Jeremiah chapter 8, verse 4.

The LORD is putting more words in Jeremiah’s mouth about why judgment is coming on the nation of Judah. Verse 4.

“‘Say to them, 'This is what the LORD says: 'When men fall down, do they not get up? When a man turns away, does he not return?’”

What’s the answer to those questions? Most of the time, right?

That’s the normal thing to happen. You fall, you pick yourself up. When you go on a trip, you come back from the trip. V.5

“Why then have these people turned away? Why does Jerusalem always turn away? They cling to deceit; they refuse to return.”

We’re not just talking about falling down, are we? We’re talking “falling down!”

Can anybody guess what Hebrew word is being used here again and again? Six times in verses 4 through 6?

It’s “shuv.” Remember, “shuv?” Turn or return? 

Jerusalem always turns away and doesn’t turn back.

The LORD wants them to return to Him. He’s been listening to see if they would. V.6

“I have listened attentively, but they do not say what is right. No one repents of his wickedness, saying, ‘What have I done?’ Each pursues his own course like a horse charging into battle.”

Do you get a sense of what the treatment is for what ails them?

It’s repentance! It’s turning from their sin, from their idols, and to the LORD.

But these patients are not interested in that treatment. Not in the slightest.

“No one repents of his wickedness.”

“Nobody stops and says, ‘What have I done?’”

It’s like the crossroads message a couple of weeks ago. Nobody stops at the crossroads and looks. Nobody wonders if they are off track. They just barrel along!

Now, is that dumb or is that dumb?

Jeremiah says that even the birds know better. Verse 7.

“Even the stork in the sky knows her appointed seasons, and the dove, the swift and the thrush observe the time of their migration. But my people do not know the requirements of the LORD.”

It’s unnatural.
It’s illogical.
It’s irrational.
It’s un-sensible.

And it is not at all unusual.

The patient refuses the right treatment.

Judah stubbornly refused to repent.

How about you and me?

We talked about this last week. Are we really willing to really change? It’s easy to see it when Judah does it, ad it’s fairly easy to see it in other people. But it’s harder to recognize sometimes in ourselves.

What is the Lord speaking to you about these days? What changes does He desire for your heart and life? Last week, I suggested that we all pray and ask the Holy Spirit to put His finger on something in our heart and life that needs to change and then to offer it up to Him. Did you do that? What did you discover?

If you can’t think of anything in your heart and life that needs to change, I suggest that you start there. I seriously doubt that you have arrived and that your heart perfectly maps onto Jesus’ heart.

What needs to change?

And are you really willing to do it?

The good news is that there is good medicine for what ails us.

The question is, will we take it?

There is an effective balm in Gilead, but you have take it.

It’s called repentance.

Of course, it doesn’t help in the slightest if you are surrounded by bad doctors who are giving you bad advice.

That’s point number two on this patient’s chart.


Quack doctors have lied to the patient about their condition. Look at verse 8.

“'How can you say, ‘We are wise, for we have the law of the LORD,’ when actually the lying pen of the scribes has handled it falsely?’”

We’ve seen this a time or two already. Judah’s spiritual leaders had been leading them astray. They had been telling the people that they were actually wise when they were actually being foolish.

They were bad theologians. They were bad doctors of the soul.

They were twisting the Scriptures to make them say what they certainly did not mean and did not say.

But what they wanted them to say.

“We are wise, for we have the law of the LORD.”

We have our Bibles!
We have the Torah.
Just like we have the Temple of the LORD, the Temple of the LORD, the Temple of the LORD! And the sacrifices in it.

We have the Torah!

Never mind that we ignore it.
Never mind that we disobey it.
Never mind that we twist it to say what it does not say.

You see how these are bad doctors for your soul?

This is a major problem in our day, as well. People who claim to believe the Bible but actually twist its message to say what our itching ears want to hear.

And it comes from all directions. Don’t just think today about how those people over there twist the Bible to say what they want it to say, think today about how you are tempted to do it.

Their sins might seems like bright shining lights to you in the text and stand out in 50 point font, but your temptations are just shades of grey and in 10 point font.

We are all tempted circle around us voices that tell us that we’re okay.

That’s one of the biggest problems with social media. They call it the echo chamber. If you like a certain kind of thing over and over again, the algorithms out there will feed you more of the same. They’ll feed you more examples of those people doing it wrong, and more examples of other people telling you that you’re doing it right. 

Even if the Bible says you are not. There’s always a smiling preacher out there to tell you that it’s not so bad.

Go ahead and give into your sinful desire.
Or go ahead and give in to your hate.
It’s okay. “For we have the law of the LORD!”

The LORD of the Law will not let this go on forever. Verse 9.

“The wise will be put to shame; they will be dismayed and trapped. Since they have rejected the word of the LORD, what kind of wisdom do they have? [So judgment is coming.] Therefore I will give their wives to other men and their fields to new owners. [They will be uprooted.] 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.”

They bad doctors, aren’t they? Jeremiah sees it every day. The patient has come into the wound clinic, and there are signs of gangrene. But the patient doesn’t want to hear that. And the doctors want to get to paid. They are “prophets for profits!”

“Oh, that doesn’t look too bad. You’ll be fine. Everything will be okay. Everything will be okay.”

But everything will not be okay.

Maybe the best application of this whole passage today is to just say to the Lord, “Give it to me straight, doctor. I can take it. Tell me the truth about my condition. Because I know there is a balm in Gilead. I know that there is a physician there.”

But these quack doctors are shameless. V.12

“Are they ashamed of their loathsome conduct? No, they have no shame at all; they do not even know how to blush [They’re on television hawking their false diagnosis and false prognosis! “Peace, peace!”]. So they [the leaders] will fall among the fallen; they will be brought down when they are punished, says the LORD. 'I will take away their harvest, declares the LORD. There will be no grapes on the vine. There will be no figs on the tree, and their leaves will wither. What I have given them will be taken from them.' [The revocation of God’s good gifts. V.14 ]

‘Why are we sitting here? Gather together! Let us flee to the fortified cities and perish there! For the LORD our God has doomed us to perish and given us poisoned water to drink, because we have sinned against him.”

Now, what’s going on here? I think that this is Jerusalem speaking here. Judah speaking.

And I think I detect another twist in the plot. Another note for the patient’s chart.

I think the patient has begun to blame the good doctor. Do you see that? Do you hear that, too? Look at verse 15.

“We hoped for peace but no good has come, for a time of healing but there was only terror. The snorting of the enemy's horses is heard from Dan; at the neighing of their stallions the whole land trembles. They have come to devour the land and everything in it, the city and all who live there.’”

It kind of seems to me that they are blaming God for their predicament.

“We had hoped for peace. Some of our doctors had told us that it would be fine. And this doctor who is in charge, well, he got angry at us and took away our harvest and set our enemies on us. How are we supposed to heal when that’s going on? We are not healed. And whose fault is that, I mean, really?”

Well, the LORD knows whose fault it is, and He’s doing something about it. V.17

“See, I will send venomous snakes among you, vipers that cannot be charmed, and they will bite you,’ declares the LORD.”

Judgment is on the way. And it will not be the LORD’s fault.

He never stops confronting them in their sin.

And at the same time, He never stops caring for them either! Look at verse 18.

“O my Comforter in sorrow, my heart is faint within me. [I think that’s Jeremiah speaking. He’s really feeling all of the heaviness of this situation. V.19] Listen to the cry of my people from a land far away: ‘Is the LORD not in Zion? Is her King no longer there?’”

Now, that could very well be Jeremiah prophetically hearing the cries of the exiled people of Judah down the line. They are in “a land far away” and in pain.

But I tend to hear them almost blaming God for their predicament now. “Is the LORD not in Zion? Is her King no longer there?”

How come this is happening to us? Has the LORD abdicated His throne? He said that He would save us. Why isn’t He showing up?

Here’s how I put number three on the patient’s chart:


He has listened to the bad doctors (who told him what he wanted to hear), and refused to listen to the best doctor (who told him what he didn’t want to hear).

And now he’s saying, “I wish that doctor would have done more. I kind of feel like he dropped us.”

And at the very same time (save verse!), the LORD is exasperated with them. Verse 19.

“Why have they provoked me to anger with their images, with their worthless foreign idols?”

Why don’t they take their medicine?

And then back to the patients. Verse 20.

“The harvest is past, the summer has ended, and we are not saved.”

Looks like it’s too late. Looks like Yahweh has failed. Looks like He’s not coming. All is lost.

Have you ever done this one? Blamed God for your own problems? Like Adam in the Garden, “It’s the woman you gave me, Lord!”

“How could you let this happen to me?” That, right there, is the height of arrogance. Blaming the doctor when you didn’t take His medicine.

But, oh, the consequences! 

Jeremiah feels this all the way down to the bottom of his soul. V.21 again.

“Since my people are crushed, I am crushed; I mourn, and horror grips me. [That’s the only right response to something like this. Horror and mourning and lament. Because all of resources are there just waiting to be used.] Is there no balm in Gilead? [Yes, there is!] Is there no physician there? [Yes, the Great Physician!] Why then is there no healing for the wound of my people? [It’s not the Physician’s fault. And it’s not prophet’s fault either. And yet he weeps over it. Chapter 9.] Oh, that my head were a spring of water and my eyes a fountain of tears! I would weep day and night for the slain of my people.”

What a picture that is?!

He wishes his head was a spring of water and his eyes were a water fountain. His eye sockets were spouts and water just pouring out of them.

He’s saying that there isn’t enough water in his head for all of the appropriate tears for this tragedy! If they won’t repent, then the only right thing to do is to cry and to cry some more.

Note that. That’s important. We’ve see that before and we’ll see it again. We are tempted to either stop caring or stop confronting. But Jeremiah will not do either. He will not stop caring. He will continue to cry. He will wish he had more water in his head so he could cry more tears!

He will not harden his heart against his beloved people and become callous and uncaring. And say, “Well, they made their bed. They can lie it.”

And at the very same time, he will not fall into the ditch on the other side and say, “I guess it’s not all that bad.” He continues to confront. 

In fact, it’s more complex than that. Sometimes he cares so much, he wishes that he could get away because it hurts too much. Look at verse 2.

“Oh, that I had in the desert a lodging place for travelers, so that I might leave my people and go away from them; for they are all adulterers, a crowd of unfaithful people. [Sometimes it feels like too much. Have you ever felt like that? Judah has fallen so far. They have become a society of liars. Verse 3.] They make ready their tongue like a bow, to shoot lies; it is not by truth that they triumph in the land. They go from one sin to another; they do not acknowledge me,’ declares the LORD. [That’s important. He’ll say it again in verse 6. But first more about how deceptive they have become. Verse 4.] Beware of your friends; do not trust your brothers. For every brother is a deceiver, and every friend a slanderer. Friend deceives friend, and no one speaks the truth. They have taught their tongues to lie; they weary themselves with sinning. You live in the midst of deception; in their deceit they refuse to acknowledge me,’ declares the LORD.”
Doesn’t that sound like our society today? So much spin, so much disinformation, so much fraud, so many lies. It’s hard to know whom to trust. 

And you and I should be different from that. We should stand out as people of truth in a day of lies. How are you doing at that? Did you tell the truth this week? Is there anyone you need to talk to about your lies?

Dishonesty is, apparently, contagious. 

But there is an antidote! It’s called, “knowing the LORD.”

We’re going to talk more about that, Lord-willing, next week. To know the LORD (or here in verse 3 and verse 6 to “acknowledge” Him) is more than just to know about the LORD.

It’s to know Him personally. To trust Him fully. To be in relationship with Him. It’s what our church is all about–a life-changing relationship with Jesus Christ.

It’s what Jesus died on the cross for us to enjoy. Jesus said, “Now this is eternal life: that they know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom you have sent” (John 17:3).

Do you know Him? Are you walking with Him?

Judah refused to know the LORD. They were too tied up with their lies. And so the LORD was going to bring judgment. Verse 7.

“Therefore this is what the LORD Almighty says: ‘See, I will refine and test them, for what else can I do because of the sin of my people? Their tongue is a deadly arrow; it speaks with deceit. With his mouth each speaks cordially to his neighbor, but in his heart he sets a trap for him. 

Should I not punish them for this?’ declares the LORD. ‘Should I not avenge myself on such a nation as this?’ [Yes, of course, you should. It is only just! But doesn’t mean that it feels good. In fact, it feels terrible. It makes Jeremiah like weeping. Verse 10.]

I will weep and wail for the mountains and take up a lament concerning the desert pastures. They are desolate and untraveled, and the lowing of cattle is not heard. The birds of the air have fled and the animals are gone. ‘I will make Jerusalem a heap of ruins, a haunt of jackals; and I will lay waste the towns of Judah so no one can live there.’ 

What man is wise enough to understand this? Who has been instructed by the LORD and can explain it? Why has the land been ruined and laid waste like a desert that no one can cross? [If there is a balm in Gilead, if there is a physician in the land, why then is there no healing for the wound of my people? Here’s why. The patient has rejected the treatment and the Great Physician himself. V.13]

The LORD said, ‘It is because they have forsaken my law, which I set before them; they have not obeyed me or followed my law. Instead, they have followed the stubbornness of their hearts; they have followed the Baals, as their fathers taught them.’

Therefore, this is what the LORD Almighty, the God of Israel, says: ‘See, I will make this people eat bitter food and drink poisoned water. I will scatter them among nations that neither they nor their fathers have known, and I will pursue them with the sword until I have destroyed them.’ [They will be uprooted.]

This is what the LORD Almighty says: ‘Consider now! Call for the wailing women to come; send for the most skillful of them. [You’re going to need professional mourners ther ewillbe so much to lament.] Let them come quickly and wail over us till our eyes overflow with tears and water streams from our eyelids. The sound of wailing is heard from Zion: 'How ruined we are! How great is our shame! We must leave our land because our houses are in ruins.' 

Now, O women, hear the word of the LORD; open your ears to the words of his mouth. Teach your daughters how to wail; teach one another a lament. Death has climbed in through our windows and has entered our fortresses; it has cut off the children from the streets and the young men from the public squares. Say, ‘This is what the LORD declares: 'The dead bodies of men will lie like refuse on the open field, like cut grain behind the reaper, with no one to gather them” (Jeremiah 9:7-22).

"I’m sorry, but this patient is terminal. They listened to the wrong doctors, the ones that told them what they wanted to hear. They did not listen to the right doctor who prescribed repentance and truly knowing Him. And they refused to take their medicine. 

And so the only right thing to now is weep.
And weep some more.
And weep some more."

But you and I can still learn from Judah’s errors.

We don’t have to be bad patients in the care of the Great Physician. We can listen when He says that we have a serious wound that needs to be treated right away. And we can take the effective medicine that He offers. We can live lives of repentance and truth and knowing Him.

Because there is a balm in Gilead.

The old African-American spiritual has it right. I listened to Mahalia Jackson sing this song over and over again this week as I prepared this message. In the song, it’s not a question.

It’s an answer:

“There is a balm in Gilead
To make the wounded whole;
There is a balm in Gilead
To heal the sin-sick soul.”

It’s Jesus!

“You can tell the love of Jesus, and say, ‘He died for all.’”


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
05. "Ask for the Ancient Paths" - Jeremiah 6:1-30
06. “This Is the Temple of the LORD, the Temple of the LORD, the Temple of the LORD!” - Jeremiah 7:1-8:3

Sunday, June 05, 2022

“This Is the Temple of the LORD, the Temple of the LORD, the Temple of the LORD!” [Matt's Messages]

“This Is the Temple of the LORD, 
the Temple of the LORD, 
the Temple of the LORD!”
Uprooted - The Words of Jeremiah
Lanse Evangelical Free Church
June 5, 2022 :: Jeremiah 7:1-8:3 

Last week, we looked at chapter 6 in which the LORD, through Jeremiah, told His people to stop and ask for directions. To take stock of the wrong ways in which they were traveling and ask, instead, for the ancient paths, the everlasting paths, to ask what was the good way and then to walk in it and “find rest for their souls.”

But He also sadly said that they refused to listen. They said, “We will not.”

And so judgment is coming on Judah.

By now you have might have sensed a theme in Words of Jeremiah.

Judgment is coming.

Jeremiah was told to say it again and again for 40 years.

Judgment is coming.

If Judah will not repent, then judgment is coming.

If Judah will reject the LORD, the LORD will reject them.

Judgment is coming. They are going to be “Uprooted.”

Believe it or not, chapter 7 has the exact same message.

Judgment is coming. The LORD is warning them and inviting them to repent.

And lamenting the fact that they will not repent.

And along the way, He not only explains more fully than ever why the judgment is coming but also how Judah could escape it.

And from those instructions, we can learn much about how to live for the Lord Jesus Christ today in 2022.

I’m pretty sure that this is the longest title that I have ever slapped onto a Sunday sermon in the last 24 years.

It’s 17 words. It’s a direct quote from verse 4, “This Is the Temple of the Lord, the Temple of the Lord, the Temple of the Lord!” 

Man, that sounds good, doesn’t it? It sounds so confident. So strong. So declarative. And it builds. “This is the temple of the LORD, the temple of the LORD, the temple of the LORD!”

There is only one problem. The LORD, through Jeremiah, says that these are “deceptive words.”

Listen the whole of verse 4: “Do not trust in deceptive words and say, ‘This is the temple of the LORD, the temple of the LORD, the temple of the LORD!’

Don’t say that. Don’t believe that. Don’t chant that. Don’t make this your slogan. And whatever you do, do not trust these words: “This is the temple of the LORD, the temple of the LORD, the temple of the LORD!”

This is going going to take some thinking, isn’t it?

What do you think might be deceptive about these words? Why are they deceitful? Why are they are, in words of the King James, “lying words?” “Trust ye not in lying words saying ‘the temple of the LORD, the temple of the LORD, the temple of the LORD are these.”

What’s so bad about these words? Was the temple bad? Was Solomon’s temple bad?

No! It was wonderful, and the LORD had blessed it with His own presence. He had put His own Name on it. He said, “This is MY house!” Remember when we read about its construction in 1 Kings? Glorious! Gold everywhere. And God’s holy presence filled it at its dedication (see 1 Kings 6-8). 

The LORD loved that thing. He called it His own house. His earthly headquarters.

So maybe it’s the repetition? Is it bad to repeat something three times? Does that make it deceptive?

What about, “Holy, holy, holy is the LORD God Almighty.” No, it can’t be just the repetition. What do you think it might be?

It must not be the words themselves all by themselves but how they were using the words. Let’s back up and see how Jeremiah gets to verse 4. Look up at verse 1.

“This is the word that came to Jeremiah from the LORD: ‘Stand at the gate of the LORD's house and there proclaim this message: ‘'Hear the word of the LORD, all you people of Judah who come through these gates to worship the LORD. This is what the LORD Almighty, the God of Israel, says: Reform your ways and your actions, and I will let you live in this place. Do not trust in deceptive words and say, ‘This is the temple of the LORD, the temple of the LORD, the temple of the LORD!’”

It helps to get some of the context, doesn’t it?

The LORD has sent Jeremiah out with another message in his mouth, and this time he’s supposed to deliver it at the gate of the temple itself.

We’re not sure when this was. Remember, Jeremiah is not presented in chronological order. He jumps around between the reigns of Josiah, Jehoiakim, and Zedekiah (1:1-3).

It’s likely that this one came during the reign of Jehoiakim. We think that because of what we’re eventually going to read in chapter 26. You might want to look at it this afternoon. It’s a time when Jeremiah was supposed to prophesy in the temple during the reign of Jehoiakim, and he gets in a boatload of trouble for it! 

It’s quite possible that this is exactly was what he said that day!

But even if we don’t know for sure when this was, we know for sure where this was. He was at the doors of the temple itself, and prophesying to the people who were streaming in for worship.

These folks were very religious. There were lots of people “coming to church,” so to speak. Big crowds. 

And Jeremiah is at the door, and he’s saying, “Repent!” 

“This is what the LORD Almighty, the God of Israel, says: Reform your ways and your actions, and I will let you live in this place.”

Here’s the deal. It’s been the deal for Israel ever since Deuteronomy. If they love the LORD and keep the covenant, they get to stay in the land of blessing. If they forsake the LORD and break the covenant, they go into the curse of exile. That’s the deal.

They don’t deserve the blessings either way. It’s all of grace, but they don’t get the blessings if they forsake the LORD. 

And they have forsaken the LORD.

But, catch this, they aren’t worried about it!

Because they think they have an ace in the hole.

They think they have a “get out of exile card.” 

They’ve got the temple.

They think that Jeremiah is out to lunch. He’s going on and on about all of this “repentance stuff,” but it’s really no big deal. Because they’ve got the temple.

Yahweh is not going to let anything bad happen to His temple. He loves this place. Look at it. “This is the temple of the LORD, the temple of the LORD, the temple of the LORD!”

“Don’t worry about holiness. We have the temple. And more than that, we have what goes on inside of the temple–the sacrifices. Don’t worry your pretty little head. We’re good. We’re safe. We’ll be fine. We’ll be okay. ‘Peace, peace!’ All is well.”

“This is the temple of the LORD, the temple of the LORD, the temple of the LORD!”

Do you see how those words can be deceptive? How those words have lulled them into a false sense of security? 

Yes, this is the temple of the LORD, but it doesn’t work that way.

It’s not a good luck charm. 
It’s not a magic talisman or totem.
It’s not a inviolable object that the LORD is sure to protect at all costs.

So you might want to retire that mantra.
You might want to find yourself another slogan.
You might want to reconsider your superstitions and re-check what exactly you are trusting in.

Because these are deceptive words: “This is the temple of the LORD, the temple of the LORD, the temple of the LORD!”

This morning, I have two questions for us to ask ourselves to apply this passage to our lives. Two questions to pray about all day long and ask the LORD to help us to answer truthfully for ours lives today. Here’s the first one:


What are you and I tempted to put our trust in that is actually deceiving us?

It probably sounds good.

This phrase sounds good. It’s very reassuring. We love to be reassured.

And it’s a slogan based on something good and true. But something can be good and true and misused so that it becomes a dangerous thing to trust in.

What might you and I be tempted to misplace our trust in?

Well, how about going to church? That would actually be a pretty close parallel.

“I go to church. I go to church. I go to church! I’m good.”

Or maybe it’s a certain church, “I go to Lanse Free Church, I go to Lanse Free Church, I go to Lanse Free Church! We’re EFCA. We’re safe.”

“I do my devotions. I do my devotions. I do my devotions! I’m fine.”

“I’m baptized. I’m baptized. I’m baptized!”

“I have the right theology. I have the right theology. I have the right theology!”

Or this thing down here, “This is the Table of the Lord. The Table of the Lord. The Table of the Lord!”

Yours might not be any of those. It might be something completely different.

Whatever your temptation might be, it’ll be something good that the Lord has given us, but we begin to put our trust in it instead of in Him.

It could even be our conversion experience. “Well, I prayed a prayer when I was younger. I prayed a prayer when I was younger. I prayed a sinner’s prayer when I was younger! So I don’t have repent now. I don’t have to live for Jesus now."

Do you see how deceptive those words can be?

What are you tempted to put your trust in that is actually deceiving you?

What do you want to be true so that you’re hiding behind it?

What are the conmen false teachers selling you these days, and you’re tempted to buy it?

What is for you, “the temple of the LORD, the temple of the LORD, the temple of the LORD!”?

Jeremiah says that the LORD will have none of that. He cuts right through it. Verse 5.

“If you really change your ways and your actions and deal with each other justly, if you do not oppress the alien [that is the resident foreigner], the fatherless or the widow and do not shed innocent blood in this place, and if you do not follow other gods to your own harm, then I will let you live in this place, in the land I gave your forefathers for ever and ever.”

But it’s gotta be real! Judah needed to get real. They needed to enact justice. They needed to enact compassion. They needed to care for the most vulnerable people in the land.  And they needed to put away their idols. Or they were going to be sent away. 

Yes, the LORD had given them this land for ever and ever, but He had also told them that they were going to be exiled from it if they weren’t faithful to Him.

And look! They weren’t faithful to Him. Verse 8. “But look, you are trusting in deceptive words that are worthless [“The temple of the LORD!”]. 'Will you steal and murder, commit adultery and perjury, burn incense to Baal and follow other gods you have not known [that’s like breaking half of the Ten Commandments], and then come and stand before me in this house, which bears my Name, and say, ‘We are safe’–safe to do all these detestable things? Has this house, which bears my Name, become a den of robbers to you? But I have been watching! declares the LORD.”

He sees what’s going on, and He is rightly indignant about it.

Yes, this is the temple of the LORD. And they ought to be shaking in their boots that they have acted this way in it!

It’s a lot like that question that the Apostle Paul asks in Romans chapter 6. When he has explained how amazing grace is and then brings up the common but nonsensical question, “What shall we say, then? Shall we go on sinning so that grace may increase? By no means!” (Rom. 6:1-2a NIVO).

We have grace! Lots of grace. Every time we sin, we experience more grace. So let’s sin some more so that we get even more grace!

We have the temple of the LORD and the sacrifices inside of it, so we’re safe to do all of these detestable things.

No. That’s not how it works.

Does verse 11 sound familiar to you? “Den of robbers?" Who used that phrase in the New Testament?

Yep. The Lord Jesus Himself quoted Jeremiah 7:11. And He meant there that they were literally stealing in the temple! Here, the point is that they were using the temple as a kind of hideout. 

“We’ll do what we want, and then we’ll hide in the temple and nobody will be able to get to us. Not even God. We’re safe in here. He would never do anything against His earthly home.”

Well, I wouldn’t count on that if I were you. Look at verse 12.

“Go now to the place in Shiloh where I first made a dwelling for my Name, and see what I did to it because of the wickedness of my people Israel. While you were doing all these things, declares the LORD, I spoke to you again and again, but you did not listen; I called you, but you did not answer. Therefore, what I did to Shiloh I will now do to the house that bears my Name, the temple you trust in, the place I gave to you and your fathers.”

What did He do in Shiloh? What was that all about? Shiloh was the first place where the tabernacle was located. It was actually in the North. That’s where the LORD’s first house was! But now the LORD’s house was no longer there (read Psalm 78:60-64).

Now Shiloh is a ghost-town. 

You think that LORD won’t abandon the Temple? He’s done it before. Don’t hide behind “the temple of the LORD, the temple of the LORD, the temple of the LORD!” When the LORD of the Temple is calling you, and you refuse to pick up. You keep swiping left. And so this is what’s going to happen. V.15

“I will thrust you from my presence, just as I did all your brothers, the people of Ephraim.'”

They are going to be uprooted. They are going to go into exile. 

And Jeremiah isn’t allowed to ask for anything different. Listen to these shocking words. Verse 16.

“So do not pray [He’s talking to Jeremiah] for this people nor offer any plea or petition for them; do not plead with me, for I will not listen to you.”

That’s scary, isn’t it? The prophet is not allowed to pray for his people?

I’m thankful that the Lord never says that to us in the New Testament!

At this moment, the LORD is saying that it’s too late, the verdict is in, there will not be any more clemency. They have passed the point of no return.

I wonder if He actually means that Jeremiah can’t pray that the LORD will go easy on them–not that he can’t pray that they repent and get restored, just that he can’t pray for more time, more patience, more leniency without their repentance.

Because it would be absolutely unjust if He did that. Just look! Verse 17.

“Do you not see what they are doing in the towns of Judah and in the streets of Jerusalem? The children gather wood, the fathers light the fire, and the women knead the dough and make cakes of bread for the Queen of Heaven. They pour out drink offerings to other gods to provoke me to anger.”

Do you get the picture? This is where Judah has gotten to. The whole Israelite family is involved in false worship. They are doing family ministry, but it doesn’t look at all like faithfulness to Yahweh.

The whole family is making little worship cakes in the kitchen for the goddess Ishtar of Babylon, also known as Anet or Ashtoreth or Astarte. Probably the planet Venus being worshiped as the goddess of war, of love, and of fertility.

“And, boy, are these little Queenie cakes good!”

They are either in the form of a woman or a star. And it’s something “the whole family does together!”

"And you want to pray that I go easy on them? I don’t think so. They are provoking me to wrath, and it’s hurting them, too." Verse 19.

“But am I the one they are provoking? declares the LORD. Are they not rather harming themselves, to their own shame? 'Therefore this is what the Sovereign LORD says: My anger and my wrath will be poured out on this place, on man and beast, on the trees of the field and on the fruit of the ground, and it will burn and not be quenched.”

“And you all want to say, ‘This is the temple of the LORD, the temple of the LORD, the temple of the LORD!' ? I don’t think so.”

“You want to keep bringing your sacrifices and pretending that that makes everything okay. Well, go ahead. Be my guest. In fact, tuck in. Eat the sacrifices yourself for as much good as it will do you!” Look at verse 21.

“'This is what the LORD Almighty, the God of Israel, says: Go ahead, add your burnt offerings to your other sacrifices and eat the meat yourselves! [You might as well–even though that was totally against the Law of Moses!] For when I brought your forefathers out of Egypt and spoke to them, I did not just give them commands about burnt offerings and sacrifices, but I gave them this command: Obey me, and I will be your God and you will be my people. Walk in all the ways I command you, that it may go well with you.”

Ask for the ancient paths. Ask what the good way is and walk in it, and you will find rest for your souls. “A life-changing relationship with Jesus Christ.”

Don’t just trust in the temple and the sacrifices in the temple. Repent of your sins and walk with the LORD. If you don’t, you are making a mockery of the temple and the sacrifices in the temple.

Here’s the second and last application question for you and me today. Number two.


It’s not good enough to just mouth a religious slogan.

The LORD wants our hearts.

Are we really willing to change?

Remember what He said back in verse 5. “If you really change your ways and your actions and deal with each other justly, if you do not oppress the [immigrant], the fatherless or the widow and do not shed innocent blood in this place, and if you do not follow other gods to your own harm, then I will let you live in this place, in the land I gave your forefathers for ever and ever” (vv.5-7).

But it’s gotta be real! Not just going through the motions. Or trusting in the slogans.

I love our slogan here, “The main thing is to keep the main thing the main thing. And the main thing is the gospel.” 

“The main thing is to keep the main thing the main thing.”

But woe to us if that is just words!

If we don’t actually keep the main thing the main thing.

If we say, “Holy Spirit. Holy Spirit. Holy Spirit!”

And go around living un-holy spiritual lives?

It’s gotta be real. Not perfect. Far from perfect! But genuine. Authentic. From the heart.

Are we really willing to change?

Judah was not willing to change. Verse 24.

“But they did not listen or pay attention; instead, they followed the stubborn inclinations of their evil hearts. They went backward and not forward. From the time your forefathers left Egypt until now, day after day, again and again I sent you my servants the prophets. [From the Exodus to the end of 2 Kings! You can’t say I didn’t warn you!] But they did not listen to me or pay attention. They were stiff-necked and did more evil than their forefathers.'

[These are religious people! These are people streaming into church. They are headed into the Temple. But as they do, they have their hands over their ears. V.27] ‘When you tell them all this, they will not listen to you; when you call to them, they will not answer. Therefore say to them, 'This is the nation that has not obeyed the LORD its God or responded to correction. Truth has perished; it has vanished from their lips. [Mourn for them.] Cut off your hair and throw it away; take up a lament on the barren heights, for the LORD has rejected and abandoned this generation that is under his wrath."

Here’s how bad they’ve gotten. V.30

'The people of Judah have done evil in my eyes, declares the LORD. They have set up their detestable idols in the house that bears my Name and have defiled it. [In ‘the Temple of the LORD, the Temple of the LORD, the Temple of the LORD!–they have set up idols to gods that are not the LORD! Of course, He’s going clean that temple out and have it torn down! Worse even than that, verse 31.] 

They have built the high places of Topheth in the Valley of Ben Hinnom to burn their sons and daughters in the fire–something I did not command, nor did it enter my mind. [This is unthinkable. To incinerate your own children in the name of worship? To sacrifice them to Molech?! Manasseh did this child sacrifice. And Josiah stopped it. But apparently it was back in the time of Jehoiakim. And it was an abomination to the LORD and bringing His hot anger. Verse 32.] 

“So beware, the days are coming, declares the LORD, when people will no longer call it Topheth [Shameful Fireplace] or the Valley of Ben Hinnom, but the Valley of Slaughter, for they will bury the dead in Topheth until there is no more room. [A cemetery for the guilty. The whole city will die and the bodies will pile up.] Then the carcasses of this people will become food for the birds of the air and the beasts of the earth, and there will be no one to frighten them away. I will bring an end to the sounds of joy and gladness and to the voices of bride and bridegroom in the towns of Judah and the streets of Jerusalem, for the land will become desolate. [There will be no more weddings. Just funerals. And more funerals. Until there is no one left to conduct the funerals. And then the enemy will dig up the graves! Chapter 8.] At that time, declares the LORD, the bones of the kings and officials of Judah, the bones of the priests and prophets, and the bones of the people of Jerusalem will be removed from their graves. They will be exposed to the sun and the moon and all the stars of the heavens, which they have loved and served and which they have followed and consulted and worshiped. [Laying there under the Queen of Heaven, the useless, powerless, helpless Queen of Heaven. What good is she now?!] They will not be gathered up or buried, but will be like refuse lying on the ground. Wherever I banish them, all the survivors of this evil nation will prefer death to life, declares the LORD Almighty.'”

No more joy. Just gloom.

No more dignity. Just insult. Just shame.

And the people who survive the sacking of Jerusalem and the tearing down of their temple will wish they were dead.

So don’t say to yourselves, “Don’t worry! This is the temple of the LORD, the temple of the LORD, the temple of the LORD!”

Not for long.
Not for long.
Get real.
Not for long.

Judah was not willing to really change.

What about you and me?

Are we just pretending?
Are we just going through the motions?
Do we talk a good fight, but there is no reality underneath?

I don’t mean, “Do you have your act together?” Because I’m sure you don’t. I know I don’t.

But I do mean, “Are you hiding behind a religious veneer? Are you trusting in a good thing that cannot save you? Are you acting like you have a “get out of exile card” that excuses your unrepentant sin?

Or are you real before the Lord and really willing to change?

To allow Him by His grace and for His glory to make you like His Son?

Those are not deceptive words. 


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