Sunday, August 28, 2022

“I Can No Longer Show Compassion” [Matt's Messages]

“I Can No Longer Show Compassion”
Uprooted - The Words of Jeremiah
Lanse Evangelical Free Church
August 28, 2022 :: Jeremiah 14:1-15:21 

It must have been really painful to be a faithful prophet like Jeremiah was in the Old Testament.

Last time we studied Jeremiah, a whole month ago, back in July, we said that it must have been really weird to be a prophet like Jeremiah was. To get strange prophetic assignments–like being told buy a flashy bit of clothing and then travel 700 miles roundtrip to bury it and then travel 700 miles roundtrip back again to dig it up and wear it about town–just to make a point about how ruined the people of Judah had become. That must have been weird.

But even worse than weird, it must have been painful to be a faithful prophet in those days. 

We have seen already that Jeremiah was, at times, utterly miserable. Remember, “My anguish! My anguish!”? How he wept over his people’s pain and his people’s sin?

And not just weeping for them, but weeping for himself. Because it was painful to be a faithful prophet, especially at times of national spiritual decline, at those times when the people of God were not acting like the people of God. We also read back in July about how Jeremiah’s own neighbors conspired against him. He often felt attacked and alone. Because he was. 

And in today’s passage, Jeremiah pretty much actually says that he wished he had never been born (15:10)! Did you ever feel like that? Because you were being faithful to your Lord?

I love that we are told that. I hate that Jeremiah had to feel that way, but I love it that the Bible honestly tells it to us. The Bible does not sugarcoat anything. Including how hard it can be to faithfully follow the LORD. Jeremiah gets real and raw with God in this portion of holy Scripture, and we need to hear it.

But he also goes too far.

In this portion of holy Scripture, the prophet Jeremiah goes too far with his words, and the LORD also tells us that He (the LORD) has gone as far as He (the LORD) will go.

Judah has gone too far, Jeremiah goes too far, and the LORD will go no further. The LORD is drawing a line.

It’s quite a provocative piece of holy writing!

I found my title for this message in verse 6 of chapter 15 where the LORD says, quite provocatively, “I can no longer show compassion.”

What a thing for Him to say! The LORD is saying that, in this situation, there is something He cannot do. 

Now, of course, we know that He can do the impossible. No miracle is too difficult for Him. So this must be a self-limitation that arises from His own perfect nature. It would be wrong for Him to show compassion at this point. “I can no longer show compassion.”

But the Hebrew is even more provocative. Because it portrays the LORD as having been worn out and too tired to show this compassion!

Some of your English translations bring that out really well. The Christian Standard Bible says, “I am tired of showing compassion.” The English Standard Version says, “I am weary of relenting.” The old King James said, “I am weary with repenting.” 

The 2011 updated NIV says, “I am tired of holding back.”

Now, of course, we also know that the LORD does not get tired like we do. This is obviously figurative language, but it’s still amazing that LORD would use this volatile language to describe Himself. That He would allow Himself to be portrayed as like a parent Who has reached their limit or like a judge who had reached the end of their patience and had to act in judgment.

There would be no more chances. No more leniency. No more pulling back from delivering the judgment that Judah deserved.

For hundreds of years, the LORD had been patient and longsuffering, giving His people opportunity after opportunity to repent, but they had now reached the point of no return. It would have been wrong for LORD to pull up now. He says in chapter 15, verse 6, “You have rejected me,’ declares the LORD. ‘You keep on backsliding. So I will lay hands on you and destroy you; I can no longer show compassion.’”

That’s really scary to read. It shows how serious sin is, and how serious the LORD is about sin. Doesn’t it?

It’s also really scary in these two chapters because it comes as a response to some prayers that sound really good. Jeremiah prays some really great sounding prayers in chapter 14, and the LORD basically just answers back, “No.”

“No. I’m not going to do that. I’m done. And so is Judah. They are going to be uprooted in the most terrible way.”

Let’s jump back to the beginning of chapter 14, and I’ll show you when I mean. Chapter 14, verse 1.

“This is the word of the LORD to Jeremiah concerning the drought: ‘Judah mourns, her cities languish; they wail for the land, and a cry goes up from Jerusalem. The nobles send their servants for water; they go to the cisterns but find no water. They return with their jars unfilled; dismayed and despairing, they cover their heads. The ground is cracked because there is no rain in the land; the farmers are dismayed and cover their heads. Even the doe in the field deserts her newborn fawn because there is no grass. Wild donkeys stand on the barren heights and pant like jackals; their eyesight fails for lack of pasture.’” 

Do you get the picture?

There’s a drought. Or perhaps a series of droughts. No water anywhere, and it the situation is serious. If Palestine does not get any rain, they are in big trouble, from the least to the greatest. And Jeremiah knows that this is a judgment upon Judah for their sin. The Book of Deuteronomy promised droughts like this if they would persist in their rejection of the LORD. They have broken the covenant, and the LORD is withholding the rain–which is a preview of coming detractions.

Everybody is suffering. And so Jeremiah prays. Jeremiah prays for help, for compassion, for mercy, and this prayer is a model of repentance and supplication. Look at verse 7.

“Although our sins testify against us, O LORD, do something for the sake of your name. For our backsliding is great; we have sinned against you. O Hope of Israel, its Savior in times of distress, why are you like a stranger in the land, like a traveler who stays only a night? Why are you like a man taken by surprise, like a warrior powerless to save? You are among us, O LORD, and we bear your name; do not forsake us!”
Is that a good prayer?

Yeah, that’s a pretty good prayer. It sounds like one of the Psalms.

He gets a little provocative in there saying the LORD is kind of acting like a visitor to the Promised Land or a hapless helpless warrior, but He’s basically saying the opposite. He’s saying, “Don’t be like that. Do something big for us instead.”

“Not that we deserve it.” He recognizes their sin and their backsliding. But he asks God to do something big for the sake of His own name. For His renown.

And the LORD then basically answers this great prayer with a very simple, “No.”

No. Look at verse 10. “This is what the LORD says about this people: ‘They greatly love to wander; they do not restrain their feet. So the LORD does not accept them; he will now remember their wickedness and punish them for their sins.’”

“That was a great prayer there, Jeremiah. And I’m sure you really meant it. 

But the people of Judah are not praying it with you, and they don’t actually mean it if they do mouth the words. I know their hearts. And I know their ways. ‘They greatly love to wander.’

So the drought will stay. 
And the exile will come.
The problem here is not me.
It is them.”

I have three points of application for us all that I want to suggest this morning from these two chapters of God’s Holy Word, and here’s the first one.


Obviously, there comes a time when there is no more time. We don’t know always when that is. We can say that “as long as there is life, there is hope.” We know that the LORD is amazing gracious and astonishingly patient. More than you and I would ever be!

But the Bible also says, “Seek the LORD while he may be found; call on him while he is near” (Isa. 55:6 NIVO). That implies that there will be a time when He won’t be taking your calls.

The Apostle Peter says in chapter 3 of his second letter, “The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. He is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance. But the day of the Lord will come like a thief” (2 Pet. 3:9-10 NIVO).

Don’t put off your repentance until some day down the line. Because that some day might never come. It might be too late. Repent and repent now. And repent for real. Because the LORD not only has a line, but He truly sees what is truly in our hearts. You can’t fool Him with words or rituals. 

You can fool most of the people some of the time, and some of the people all of the time, but you can’t fool Mom, right?

Well, you also can’t fool God.

So don’t play at repentance. That’s what Judah had basically been doing.

And the LORD basically tells Jeremiah to even stop praying for them. V.11

“Then the LORD said to me, ‘Do not pray for the well-being of this people. Although they fast, I will not listen to their cry; though they offer burnt offerings and grain offerings, I will not accept them. Instead, I will destroy them with the sword, famine and plague.’”

They have not really repented, and time is up. It’s just a show. And so Jeremiah was told to stop praying for compassion on his people. That was hard for him to do. In fact, he doesn’t do it. He keeps on advocating for them. He points out that maybe they could be excused because they have had some bad leadership?? Verse 13.

“But I said, ‘Ah, Sovereign LORD, the prophets keep telling them, 'You will not see the sword or suffer famine. Indeed, I will give you lasting peace in this place.'” Is it possible that they could be forgiven or shown leniency because they have been given some bad information? “The other prophets have been much more optimistic(?) than I have....”

And what’s the answer to that? It’s a also a big fat “No.” V.14

“Then the LORD said to me, ‘The prophets are prophesying lies in my name. I have not sent them or appointed them or spoken to them. They are prophesying to you false visions, divinations, idolatries and the delusions of their own minds.”

Yeah, that’s a no.

And it gives us our second point of application:


Repent for real while you still can, and reject the lies that you WANT to believe. It’s pretty easy to reject the lies that you don’t want to believe, right? When you know something is a lie, and it just doesn’t work for your life, it doesn’t fit into your worldview, then it’s relatively easy to throw it out.

The lies that are hard to jettison are those that fit our preconceived notions. They are the lies that tell us what we want to hear. They are the lies that soothe us and don’t confront us. They are the lies that make us feel good about ourselves and all of our choices and fit in with the people we want to like us.

What are some of the lies that you want to believe?

Over the last three years I have had some new success in my battle with the sin of gluttony, and it was almost all through rejecting lies that I wanted to believe.

“I need this next bite.”
“I will feel better if I get another plateful.”
“If I don’t eat this, it will go to waste. Better me than the trash-can.”
“I deserve some more.”

It wasn’t walking everywhere that led me to so much success. I was walking before. It was rejecting those lies and others like them. I believed all of those lies, and I wanted to believe all of those lies. For decades! And I’m still having to remind myself three years later.

What are the lies you want to believe?

Not, what lies are other people, “those people,” believing? What lies are you tempted to believe? 

The people of Judah should have known better. They should have recognized false prophecy for what it was. The false prophets will be even more accountable for what they taught, but the people are not off the hook just because they believed something they already wanted to. V.15

“Therefore, this is what the LORD says about the prophets who are prophesying in my name: I did not send them, yet they are saying, 'No sword or famine will touch this land.' Those same prophets will perish by sword and famine. And the people they are prophesying to will be thrown out into the streets of Jerusalem because of the famine and sword. There will be no one to bury them or their wives, their sons or their daughters. I will pour out on them the calamity they deserve.”

Reject those lies. They LORD does not send lies for you to believe!

And lies are deadly. Reject them.

Now, don’t get the wrong idea. Just because the LORD has obviously reached His righteous limit, it does not mean that He takes any delight in saying, “No” to His people and their cries for mercy.

What He is about to do is grievous to Him. V.17

“‘Speak this word to them: ‘'Let my eyes overflow with tears night and day without ceasing; for my virgin daughter–my people–has suffered a grievous wound, a crushing blow. If I go into the country, I see those slain by the sword; if I go into the city, I see the ravages of famine. Both prophet and priest have gone to a land they know not.'”

They are uprooted. This is no fun for Jeremiah, and no fun for the LORD. He cares, but He has no other option. This is what is right.

And still, Jeremiah intercedes for them. Even though he was told not to, he tries again. He prays on behalf of Judah once more. V.19

“Have you rejected Judah completely? Do you despise Zion? Why have you afflicted us so that we cannot be healed? We hoped for peace but no good has come, for a time of healing but there is only terror. O LORD, we acknowledge our wickedness and the guilt of our fathers; we have indeed sinned against you. For the sake of your name do not despise us; do not dishonor your glorious throne. Remember your covenant with us and do not break it. Do any of the worthless idols of the nations bring rain? Do the skies themselves send down showers? No, it is you, O LORD our God. Therefore our hope is in you, for you are the one who does all this.”

Oh, man, that’s a good prayer, isn’t it?!

He hits all of the right notes. Repentance. Covenant. God’s glory. The emptiness of idols, like scarecrows in a melon patch. “They don’t bring the rain! Baal, the storm-god, is no god. You, Yahweh are our only hope!” Please?

Here’s the LORD’s answer. Chapter 15, verse 1.

“Then the LORD said to me: ‘Even if Moses and Samuel were to stand before me, my heart would not go out to this people. Send them away from my presence! Let them go!  And if they ask you, 'Where shall we go?' tell them, 'This is what the LORD says: ‘ 'Those destined for death, to death; those for the sword, to the sword; those for starvation, to starvation; those for captivity, to captivity.' ‘I will send four kinds of destroyers against them,’ declares the LORD, ‘the sword to kill and the dogs to drag away and the birds of the air and the beasts of the earth to devour and destroy. I will make them abhorrent to all the kingdoms of the earth because of what Manasseh son of Hezekiah king of Judah did in Jerusalem.”

I think that’s a “No.”

Judah has gone too far, and the LORD has said He will go no further. Judah is going to go into exile.

The LORD lists four kinds of destroyers that He is sending. And these four show up a few more times in Jeremiah and in Ezekiel, and then (interestingly) in the Book of Revelation at the end of your Bible (see chp 6).

Death, sword, starvation, captivity.
Death, sword, starvation, captivity.

Because Judah has gone too far.

It’s interesting how he juxtaposes the various notable leaders of Israel here, isn’t it?

He says that even if Moses or Samuel were asking for this leniency, He wouldn’t grant it. Those two were famous for their intercession! Read Exodus 32 for Moses or 1 Samuel 7 for Samuel. 

So it’s not Jeremiah’s fault. It’s not that Jeremiah has down it all wrong. Even if Israel’s greatest intercessors were arguing the case, Judah would still be going down.

And it’s because they followed bad, thumbs-down kings, like Manasseh.

Josiah’s grandpa. He led Judah down to the bottom. Idolatry. Fortune-tellers. Mediums. He set up an Asherah pole in the temple. He sacrificed his own son in the fire. 2 Kings 21 says that he led Judah to sin worse than the Canaanites that had the land before them!

If Yahweh did not bring judgment now, He would be unjust Himself. So there will be no pity. Verse 5.

“‘Who will have pity on you, O Jerusalem? Who will mourn for you? Who will stop to ask how you are? [No one.] You have rejected me,’ declares the LORD. ‘You keep on backsliding. So I will lay hands on you and destroy you; I can no longer show compassion. I will winnow them with a winnowing fork at the city gates of the land. I will bring bereavement and destruction on my people, for they have not changed their ways. I will make their widows more numerous than the sand of the sea. At midday I will bring a destroyer against the mothers of their young men; suddenly I will bring down on them anguish and terror. The mother of seven will grow faint and breathe her last. Her sun will set while it is still day; she will be disgraced and humiliated. I will put the survivors to the sword before their enemies,’ declares the LORD.”

Now, we know that the LORD will continue to show compassion to the people of Israel even in the exile. And that He has good plans for His people even in captivity (see chapter 29!). And that He’s doing things with the remnant, the spiritual Israel within Israel, all of the time. There’s more to this story than we read in these verses.

But we also see that the LORD’s justice is perfect.
And His timing is perfect.
And His patience does have an end.

And that makes me think about the Cross.

Because, obviously, there comes a time when the LORD must pour out His wrath on the guilty. Sin is serious. There comes a time when the dam breaks, and rightly so.

Judah must go into exile.
Jerusalem must be destroyed.

And history will repeat itself. Remember what the LORD Jesus said in Matthew 23?

“O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, you who kill the prophets and stone those sent to you, how often I have longed to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, but you were not willing. Look, your house is left to you desolate” (Matt. 23:37-38 NIVO).

Even though the LORD exercises the greatest of patience and longing for their repentance, if there is no repentance, there will be judgment.  There comes a time when the LORD must pour out His wrath on the guilty.

But! What if the Lord Himself steps in front of His own wrath? What if He absorbs in the Person of His Son, the condemnation that you and I deserve? What if someone greater than Moses or Samuel stood before the LORD and not only pleaded our case, but pleaded it with the precious blood of the Lamb? Like we talked about last week!

What if when the LORD says, “I can no longer show compassion,” He still showed  compassion by pouring out His justice on His One and Only Son?

“For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life” (Jn. 3:16 NIVO).

Have you repented of your sins and put your faith in Jesus Christ and what He did for you on the Cross?  If not, I invite you to do so right here and right now. Don’t just pretend. Don’t just mouth the words or do it for show. The Lord knows your heart. But come to Him. Rejecting the devil’s lies, and put your trust in Him and Him alone. 

And you will be saved.

Now, we’re just about done, but we’re not done yet. I told you at the beginning of this message, that Jeremiah goes too far.

Judah went too far, and they are going to exile. The LORD says that He won’t go any further. He is tired of showing compassion.

What is this about Jeremiah going too far?

Look with me at verse 10 of chapter 15.

“Alas, my mother, that you gave me birth, a man with whom the whole land strives and contends! I have neither lent nor borrowed, yet everyone curses me.”

These are Jeremiah’s words. And he’s basically saying that it’s really painful to be a faithful prophet in Judah right now.

He just about wishes that he had never been born. He doesn’t owe anybody money, and nobody owes him money, and yet everybody seems to hate him.

The LORD tells Him that He loves him. V.11 “The LORD said, ‘Surely I will deliver you for a good purpose; surely I will make your enemies plead with you in times of disaster and times of distress. Can a man break iron–  iron from the north–or bronze? [“Remember, Jeremiah, I told you that I was going to make you like a fortified city.” (See chapter 1 again!) And then (this is a little hard to follow), He switches gears in verses 13 and 14 to remind Judah once again of what is coming for them.] Your wealth and your treasures I will give as plunder, without charge, because of all your sins throughout your country. I will enslave you to your enemies in a land you do not know, for my anger will kindle a fire that will burn against you.’”

And then Jeremiah speaks again. About how hard it all is. Verse 15.

“You understand, O LORD; remember me and care for me. Avenge me on my persecutors. You are long-suffering–do not take me away; think of how I suffer reproach for your sake. When your words came, I ate them; they were my joy and my heart's delight, for I bear your name, O LORD God Almighty.

I never sat in the company of revelers, never made merry with them; I sat alone because your hand was on me and you had filled me with indignation.

Why is my pain unending and my wound grievous and incurable? Will you be to me like a deceptive brook, like a spring that fails?”

Do you feel his pain?

He’s tired of feeling alone.
He’s tired of feeling attacked.
He’s tired of feeling like he’s done all the right things, but it just keeps on hurting.

Can you relate to that?

This is where Jeremiah goes too far.

He doesn’t go too far by being real with the LORD.

It’s not that the LORD doesn’t want to hear Jeremiah’s heart.
It’s not the fact that he laments.
It’s not the fact that he is raw in prayer.
It’s not even the fact that he asks for justice and vengeance instead of mercy and forgiveness for his enemies–though Jesus would say that that would be even better.

It’s not that.
It’s that Jeremiah basically says that the LORD is disappointing him. That the LORD is letting Jeremiah down. Jeremiah is throwing a pity party for himself, and basically accuse the LORD of  being undependable. Listen to V. 18 again.

“Will you be to me like a deceptive brook, like a spring that fails?”

You say you’re going to do this, but then you don’t come through. You say that you’re the living water, but then you come up dry! That’s going too far.

Now, if that’s how you feel, tell the LORD.  Be real with Him. He knows how you feel anyway, but repent of those feelings.

And resist the urge to quit.

That’s the third and last point this morning:


Listen to what the LORD says back to Jeremiah. He basically rebukes him. Jeremiah has been real with the LORD, now the LORD is real with him. V.19

“Therefore this is what the LORD says: ‘If you repent [he’s talking to Jeremiah], I will restore you that you may serve me; if you utter worthy, not worthless, words, you will be my spokesman. Let this people turn to you, but you must not turn to them.”

Isn’t that interesting?

The LORD has told Judah that he can no longer show them compassion. He is tired of relenting because they have not repented.

But He also tells Jeremiah that he will show compassion to him if he repents. It’s not too late for Jeremiah. He has not reached that point of no return. He’s just having a bad day.

He still needs to repent of these unfaithful words, and to not give up or give in.

“Let this people turn to you, but you must not turn to them.”

“Don’t budge. I know it’s hard. I know you feel attacked and alone. I know it feels like you’ve got unending pain and a wound that is grievous and incurable. But don’t let that deter you from your mission. Don’t stop being a broken record about the broken covenant.

Don’t let yourself turn into one of those false prophets that just tells everybody what they want to hear! 

Don’t start peddling lies. Or simply shut up.

Keep on speaking the truth even when it hurts.

Do you need to hear that this morning? I’m guessing that everybody heading back to school probably needs to be encouraged on some level to resist the urge to quit on our mission of speaking the truth in love and not capitulating to the spirit of the age. And conforming to the many lies that surround us even among those who call themselves Christians.

To not throw pity parties for ourselves about how hard it is. As faithful Christians we need to swim upstream. Being in the world but not of it. And that’s going to be, at times, very painful.

But the Lord is not a deceptive brook. He is a stream of living water that will refresh us.

He forgives us when we fail.
He restores us.
He rescues us.
And He re-commissions us to go back out there and stay faithful.

Listen to the last two verses. They will probably sound familiar. Verses 20 and 21.

“I will make you a wall to this people, a fortified wall of bronze; they will fight against you but will not overcome you, for I am with you to rescue and save you,’ declares the LORD.  ‘I will save you from the hands of the wicked and redeem you from the grasp of the cruel.’”

It’s pretty much exactly what the LORD said to Jeremiah in chapter 1 when He sent Jeremiah to be His prophet to Judah in the first place.

Do not budge. Resist the urge to quit. You will be a wall, a fortified wall of bronze. And I will see to it that this wall, you, do not fall. So don’t give up or give in.


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
09. "Like a Scarecrow in a Melon Patch" - Jeremiah 9:25-10:25
10. "Conspiracy" - Jeremiah 11:1-12:17
11. "“My People For My Renown” - Jeremiah 13:1-27