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Jeremiah Chapter Four, Dead Men Walking

In this study of Jeremiah chapter four, we look at the fact that religion (even reformed religion) brings death.

Jeremiah 4:1 & 2

'If you, Israel, will return, then return to me,' declares the Lord. 'If you put your detestable idols out of my sight and no longer go astray, and if in a truthful, just and righteous way you swear "As surely as the Lord lives," then the nations will invoke blessings by him and in him they will boast.'

In chapter three, the prophet began to remind the people of what had happened to the northern kingdom. He shared the fact that God had called them to repent but they had refused and dug in their heels like a stubborn calf. The phrase "the nations will invoke blessings by him" refers to the fact that God had promised Abraham that God would make him a blessing (see Genesis 12). This is a reminder that Israel was to be a bright shining light in the dark pagan world.

Jeremiah 4:3 & 4

This is what the Lord says to the people of Judah and to Jerusalem: 'Break up your unplowed ground and do not sow among thorns. Circumcise yourself to the Lord, circumcise your hearts, you people of Judah and inhabitants of Jerusalem, or my wrath will flare up and burn like fire because of the evil you have done - burn with no one to quench it.'

Under King Josiah, there was a reformation as he instituted changes to draw people back closer to God. Here, we see that this religious reformation did not begin with a changed heart. The "unplowed ground" speaks of the fact that there was no change of heart and so there could be no repentance. The word circumcise literally means "to cut around" and the people were willing to have their children circumcised but it was not a cutting of the heart. A cutting of the heart is a sorrow at sin and its effects. Without that change of heart, the reformation was simply a tweaking of behavior.

Jeremiah 4:5 & 6

'Announce in Judah and proclaim in Jerusalem and say: "Sound the trumpet throughout the land!" Cry aloud and say: "Gather together! Let us flee to the fortified cities! Raise the signal to go to Zion! Flee for safety without delay! For I am bringing disaster from the north even terrible destruction.'

Now, we see that this reformation of religion without the revival of the heart will bring death. The prophet announces the coming judgment on the kingdom of Judah and tells them that Babylon is going to be the nation that God uses.

Jeremiah 4:7 & 8

'A lion has come out of his lair; a destroyer of nations has set out. He has left his place to lay waste your land. Your towns will lie in ruins without inhabitant. So put on sackcloth, lament and wail, for the fierce anger of the Lord has not turned away from us.'

The prophet informs the people of Judah of the fact that their judgment has already been prepared as Babylon has already left their own land.

Jeremiah 4:9

'"In that day," declares the Lord, "the king and the officials will lose heart, the priests will be horrified, and the prophets will be appalled."'

The leaders of Judah will not be able to do anything in the face of the Babylonians. The priests and prophets will still be stuck in their self-righteous religion. The same thing is going to happen in the last days as Jesus warned in Matthew 7:22. Then, there will be prophets that Jesus tells that He did not even know them.

Jeremiah 4:10

Then I said, 'Alas, Sovereign Lord! How completely you have deceived this people and Jerusalem by saying, "You will have peace," when the sword is at our throats!'

Jeremiah acknowledges the fact that God has allowed the people to be deceived by those who said that there was not going to be a judgment. The same thing is going to happen in the last days as the Anti-christ gets the world to agree to a worthless peace treaty. We might ask ourselves why God would allow this deception. We just have to accept the fact that God knows the hearts of all men and He knows what He is doing.

Jeremiah 4:11 & 12

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

The coming judgment is compared to a wind and not the usual gentle breeze that separated the grain from the chaff. It is made perfectly clear that this judgment is going to fall upon all of the people. We should thank God that He deals with us on an individual basis and we do not get what we as a nation deserve.

Jeremiah 4:13

Look! He advances like the clouds, his chariots come like a whirlwind, his horses are swifter than eagles. Woe to us! We are ruined!

God describes the coming judgment on Judah and Jerusalem at the hands of the Babylonians. They were known for having a fast moving army and being unstoppable.

Jeremiah 4:14 & 15

Jerusalem, wash the evil from your heart and be saved. How long will you harbor wicked thoughts? A voice is announcing from Dan, proclaiming disaster from the hills of Ephraim.

Even in the face of this coming judgment, God is calling the people to repent. He urges them to remember what has happened to the northern kingdom.

Jeremiah 4:16 & 17

'Tell this to the nations, proclaim concerning Jerusalem: "A besieging army is coming from a distant land, raising a war cry against the cities of Judah. They surround her like men guarding a field, because she has rebelled against me,"' declares the Lord.

Why would God judge His people? We see the answer here as they are told to tell the nations of this judgment. Israel and Judah were chosen to be God's people and an example to the pagan world. They had turned away from their purpose and so God was going to use this judgment as an example to the nations of the penalty for rejecting the One True God.

Jeremiah 4:18

'Your own conduct and actions have brought this on you. This is your punishment. How bitter it is! How it pierces to the heart!'

The people are reminded that this judgment is a direct result of the choices that they have made. As Creator of the world, God has the authority to say what is right and what is wrong. He gives men the freedom and the choice to follow or to go their own way. With this choice comes responsibility and consequences.

Jeremiah 4:19

Oh, my anguish, my anguish! I writhe in pain. Oh, the agony of my heart! My heart pounds within me, I cannot keep silent. For I have heard the battle cry.

The prophet now shares how bringing this bad news is affecting him. Nobody wants to be the bearer of bad news and this is extremely bad news. Jeremiah loves the people and he loves them enough to tell them the truth even though they did not want to hear it and it is breaking his heart.

Jeremiah 4:20 & 21

Disaster follows disaster; the whole land lies in ruins. In an instant my tents are destroyed, my shelter in a moment. How long must I see the battle standard and hear the sound of the trumpet?

The prophet continues to pour out his heart over the destruction that he sees. As Christians, we should have this same type of burden for those around us that will be facing judgment. We must ask ourselves if our heart aches for those around us as much as Jeremiah's did for his people.

Jeremiah 4:22

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

God describes His people as fools and, in Proverbs 1, we see that Solomon says a fool is one that will not listen to instruction. In a way, God is saying that He tried to warn the people but they would not listen.

Jeremiah 4:23-26

I looked at the earth, and it was formless and empty; and at the heavens, and their light was gone. I looked at the mountains, and they were quaking; all the hills were swaying. I looked, and there were no people; every bird in the sky had flown away. I looked, and the fruitful land was a desert; all its towns lay in ruins before the Lord, before his fierce anger.

The prophet continues to describe the effects of the judgment at the hands of the Babylonians. If you look at Genesis 1, this description is quite similar to the description of things before creation.

Jeremiah 4:27 & 28

This is what the Lord says: 'The whole land will be ruined, though I will not destroy it completely. Therefore the earth will mourn and the heavens above grow dark, because I have spoken and will not relent, I have decided and will not turn back.'

God demonstrates His mercy in the fact that He will not bring about the total destruction that the prophet envisioned. Judgement was inevitable but it was not to be the total destruction that will happen in the last days. Many of the things that Jeremiah described are also described by John in Revelation. Here, God showed mercy but that mercy is not unending for those who reject Jesus Christ.

Jeremiah 4:29

At the sound of horsemen and archers every town takes to flight. Some go into the thickets; some climb up among the rocks. All the towns are deserted; no one lives in them.

This judgment at the hands of Babylon affects everyone as we see that all of the towns are deserted.

Jeremiah 4:30

What are you doing, you devastated one? Why dress yourself in scarlet and put on jewels of gold? Why highlight your eyes with makeup? You adorn yourself in vain. Your lovers despise you; they want to kill you.

Judah is described like a cheating wife getting all made up to attract a man. That is what they had done as they had looked to other nations instead of looking to God.

Jeremiah 4:31

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

The judgment is compared to the pain of childbirth and to the final moments of a woman's life.

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