A Word to the Saints about a Word for the Saints (Philippians 1:1–2)

“Paul and Timothy, servants of Christ Jesus, To all the saints in Christ Jesus who are at Philippi, with the overseers and deacons: Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ” (Philippians 1:1–2).

When believers read that Paul wrote Philippians to “all the saints” it is critical that they realize that they are all—everyone of them reading the letter—saints. The saints are not an elite task force within the church. Every one of God’s elect children is enlisted with this basic rank. The saints are simply those positionally sanctified, that is, those who have been set apart from this world unto God. The saints then are not a select group within the church, they are the church—the assembly of God, a group distinct from this world.

Paul in his greeting also refers to “overseers,” also known as elders or pastors (cf. Titus 1:5–7). “Overseers” is also a word largely alien to church speak today. Too often we are more adept at speaking Christianese than we are Biblese. The consequences of this I’m afraid are often dire. In the instance of overseers/elders, believers can fail often make the connection to pastors. For instance, they never reason, “The church at Philippi had overseers, plural. Why then does my church have only one?” It’s like a person only knowing “cow” and failing to realize that all this talk about Herefords is talk about cows. When we turn to the word “saint,” the problem hits closer to home. If cows were so cognizant, it would be like a cow failing to realize it was a Hereford.

“Saints” is Paul’s most common way of addressing believers. Over sixty times the New Testament speaks of God’s beloved in this way. When you survey older Christian literature—the early church fathers, the reformers, the puritans, even an author as recent as B.B. Warfield—you’ll find this address quite common. We would do well to recover it. If you think it odd, remember, it wasn’t as if the world addressed their letters in this way. It was a uniquely Christian thing to do. If you avoid using it to be less awkward, well, that is very un-saintly. So be a saint, and refer to those who are saints as saints.

And this gets to why we should be so zealous to use the word, not to make much of us, but to make much of Christ. Outside of Christ we are ain’ts. We ain’t holy. We ain’t good. But in Christ we are righteous. In Christ we are holy. In Christ we are children of God. In Christ we are heirs. In Christ we are partakers of the promises. On and on we could go. Every blessing of salvation we enjoy, we enjoy in Christ. This is why John Murray would write, “Union with Christ is really the central truth of the whole doctrine of salvation.” So can you see why it is that if you are in Christ, you are so set apart from this world. Why it is that you are so saintly? So dearest saints, make much of Jesus by addressing one another not only as “saints,” but also, sometimes go ahead and tease it out further, and address each other  as “saints in Christ Jesus.”

“As for the saints in the land, they are the excellent ones, in whom is all my delight” (Psalm 16:3).

Leaving the Door Cracked Open (Jeremiah 52)

“Zedekiah was twenty-one years old when he became king, and he reigned eleven years in Jerusalem. His mother’s name was Hamutal the daughter of Jeremiah of Libnah. And he did what was evil in the sight of the LORD, according to all that Jehoiakim had done. For because of the anger of the LORD it came to the point in Jerusalem and Judah that he cast them out from his presence. And Zedekiah rebelled against the king of Babylon.

…And in the thirty-seventh year of the exile of Jehoiachin king of Judah, in the twelfth month, on the twenty-fifth day of the month, Evil-merodach king of Babylon, in the year that he began to reign, graciously freed Jehoiachin king of Judah and brought him out of prison. And he spoke kindly to him and gave him a seat above the seats of the kings who were with him in Babylon. So Jehoiachin put off his prison garments. And every day of his life he dined regularly at the king’s table, and for his allowance, a regular allowance was given him by the king, according to his daily needs, until the day of his death, as long as he lived.” —Jeremiah 52:1–3, 31–34

Chapter 52 of Jeremiah is an editorial epilogue, a compiler’s coda, a historical appendix, a postscript. The final words of Jeremiah 51, “Thus far are the words of Jeremiah,” should assure you of the authorship of all that has preceded, but what are we to make of chapter 52? Where did this stuff come from? Most of the material, almost verbatim, is drawn from 2 Kings 24:18–25:21, 27–30.

When Scripture borrows from Scripture, we may be confused, but we shouldn’t be utterly confounded. If you want to know who added this postscript, well, perhaps it was Baruch. But really the best answer is the same as to who wrote 2 Kings. Not that they are necessarily the same person, but the answer is the same. Who wrote this coda? We don’t know.

The far more important question is not who the author is, but what was the author’s intent. C.S. Lewis lamented that the literary criticism of his day took a turn from focusing on the literature to the author. To find out what an author meant, you must read the author, not his book, so they say. The critic acts as a detective tracing the sources of inspiration, or as a psychologist unearthing desires and motives. Lewis demonstrated how, in his case, the critics were almost always wrong. 

So instead of puzzling uselessly over who wrote this epilogue, let’s ask why it was attached? What does the author mean to communicate? What does God mean to say to us? I believe the answer is plain and harmonizes beautifully with the message of Jeremiah—God is good on His word. Or to borrow from Jeremiah chapter 1, God indeed watched over His word to perform it.

So while most of this chapter looks back, to see God’s word of judgment vindicated, it also looks forward, anticipating God’s word of redemption as true. The vessels that have been taken (52:18–19), will one day be restored (27:21-22). The people who were deported (52:28–30), are the good figs that Yahweh will plant in the land (24:4–7). And with Jehoiachin’s release (52:31–34), hope is kindled that indeed a righteous branch will spring up for David (33:14–17). 

As the book of Jeremiah closes, know that God didn’t completely shut the door on His children to leave them in darkness. He left the door cracked. And the Son was shining bright on the other side.

Don’t Miss the Landlord for the Harvesters (Jeremiah 51)

“Thus says the LORD: 
‘Behold, I will stir up the spirit of a destroyer
against Babylon,
against the inhabitants of Leb-kamai,
and I will send to Babylon winnowers,
and they shall winnow her,
and they shall empty her land, 
when they come against her from every side 
on the day of trouble.’ “

—Jeremiah 51:1–2

Dear wheat, do not miss the Landlord for the harvesters. God has grown Babylon into what she is, and now, He sees fit to cut her down. He has grown her so that He might harvest her. She is ripe for wrath. She is a vessel of wrath prepared for destruction. First, Yahweh poured out His wrath on the nations through her (Jeremiah 51:7), but now, He will pour out His wrath on Her (Jeremiah 51:8). The equally wicked Persians harvest, but it is the Holy God who has sent them to do so. He stirs up. He sends. God is sovereign. He uses the Persians’ wickedness to vindicate His holiness. Do not miss the cursing harvesters for the blessed Landlord.

Nations rise and nations fall and this happens by God word.
“Then the LORD put out his hand and touched my mouth. And the LORD said to me, 
‘Behold, I have put my words in your mouth.  
See, I have set you this day over nations and over kingdoms, 
to pluck up and to break down, 
to destroy and to overthrow, 
to build and to plant’ ” (Jeremiah 1:9–10).

Don’t let economies or viruses, missiles or terrorists, elections or conspiracies blind you to this supreme fact—God plants and plucks up nations. We are not privy to our Lord’s secret counsels. We don’t know all the details of His plan, but we do know the end game. The kingdoms of this world will fall and the church will endure. The wicked will be judged and the saints will be delivered. The world is a doomed weed. The kingdom is like a well-tended mustard seed (Matthew 13:31–32).

So do not fear when the reports come in (Jeremiah 51:46). Though we reside in Babylon, Babylon shouldn’t reside in us. Seek her welfare (Jeremiah 29:7), but do not find your own in her. Our hearts should be bound to Jerusalem (Jeremiah 51:5. By God’s word, Babylon will fall. By God’s word, Jerusalem will rise. God speaks and nations are being broken down. God speaks and His holy nation, the church, is being built up. God will speak, and the kingdoms of this world will be plucked. God will speak and the kingdom of heaven will be planted.

This is not a sunken word, this is a word that sinks. God’s word endures. Nations plummet. Babylon was not built as stocky as this word. As Babel rises she totters. This word reaches to the heavens, and still it cannot be toppled. Its mass is such that it crushes kingdoms. Its mass is such that it doesn’t sink in the ocean, it displaces it. This word has sunk Babylon and it will sink her yet again.

“And Jeremiah said to Seraiah: ‘When you come to Babylon, see that you read all these words, and say, “O LORD, you have said concerning this place that you will cut it off, so that nothing shall dwell in it, neither man nor beast, and it shall be desolate forever.” When you finish reading this book, tie a stone to it and cast it into the midst of the Euphrates, and say, “Thus shall Babylon sink, to rise no more, because of the disaster that I am bringing upon her, and they shall become exhausted” ’ ” (Jeremiah 51:61–64).

Nerf Darts Versus ICBMs (Jeremiah 50)

“The LORD has opened his armory and brought out the weapons of his wrath, for the Lord God of hosts has a work to do in the land of the Chaldeans.” —Jeremiah 50:25

Can there be any more terrifying thought than Yahweh opening up His armory against you? The apex of man’s military might is the nuclear missile. Sure, man can hurl a missile at 15,000 miles per hour causing 475 kilotons of damage (Hiroshima had 12 kiloton yield). That all sounds impressive, until you consider that God is hurling billions of balls of nuclear fusion at speeds of over 500,000 miles per hour,  each by itself producing every second as much energy as trillions of our missiles.

But sinner, know that He is not only has an armory to dispose of His enemies, He is also a refuge for those who trust in Christ crucified. If you are in Christ, God’s judgment is your salvation. Judgment fell on the Son to save you from your sins and it will fall on the wicked to save his people from sinners.

“Thus says the LORD of hosts: The people of Israel are oppressed, and the people of Judah with them. All who took them captive have held them fast; they refuse to let them go. Their Redeemer is strong; the LORD of hosts is his name. He will surely plead their cause, that he may give rest to the earth, but unrest to the inhabitants of Babylon” (Jeremiah 50:33–34).

Big Promises Stuffed into Little Boxes (Jeremiah 49)

Concerning the Ammonites. 
Thus says the LORD:
 
“Has Israel no sons? 
     Has he no heir? 
Why then has Milcom dispossessed Gad, 
     and his people settled in its cities? 
Therefore, behold, the days are coming, 
     declares the LORD, 
when I will cause the battle cry to be heard 
     against Rabbah of the Ammonites; 
it shall become a desolate mound, 
     and its villages shall be burned with fire; 
then Israel shall dispossess those who dispossessed him, 
     says the LORD.

—Jeremiah 49:1–2

When unpacking the oracles against the nations (Jeremiah 46–51) it is critical to realize that they come vacuum sealed. Though judgment has been delivered to these nations, it hasn’t been fully unpacked. Jesus adds water to all the Old Testament and in Him, it swells substantially. He fulfills them. In Him, they reach their full. In Him, that fullness is filled to the brim. On the day of His return and forever thereafter I’m certain we will be in awe of how much God packed into so small a space. The oracles against the nations are compressed files. Jesus unzips them. In Jesus we will find that each these bytes communicate terabytes of information.

These oracles do come with fences but the fences are temporary. They are not simply meant to contain a judgment, but communicate the judgment. Note how dissolvable these fences are in Jeremiah 25:15–32, which in the Septuagint (an ancient Greek translation of the Old Testament) serve as the conclusion to the oracles against the nations.

“Thus the LORD, the God of Israel, said to me: ‘Take from my hand this cup of the wine of wrath, and make all the nations to whom I send you drink it. They shall drink and stagger and be crazed because of the sword that I am sending among them.’ So I took the cup from the LORD’s hand, and made all the nations to whom the LORD sent me drink it: Jerusalem and the cities of Judah, its kings and officials, to make them a desolation and a waste, a hissing and a curse, as at this day; Pharaoh king of Egypt, his servants, his officials, all his people, and all the mixed tribes among them; all the kings of the land of Uz and all the kings of the land of the Philistines (Ashkelon, Gaza, Ekron, and the remnant of Ashdod); Edom, Moab, and the sons of Ammon; all the kings of Tyre, all the kings of Sidon, and the kings of the coastland across the sea; Dedan, Tema, Buz, and all who cut the corners of their hair; all the kings of Arabia and all the kings of the mixed tribes who dwell in the desert; all the kings of Zimri, all the kings of Elam, and all the kings of Media; all the kings of the north, far and near, one after another, and all the kingdoms of the world that are on the face of the earth. And after them the king of Babylon shall drink. ‘Then you shall say to them, “Thus says the LORD of hosts, the God of Israel: Drink, be drunk and vomit, fall and rise no more, because of the sword that I am sending among you.” And if they refuse to accept the cup from your hand to drink, then you shall say to them, ‘Thus says the LORD of hosts: You must drink! For behold, I begin to work disaster at the city that is called by my name, and shall you go unpunished? You shall not go unpunished, for I am summoning a sword against all the inhabitants of the earth, declares the LORD of hosts.’ You, therefore, shall prophesy against them all these words, and say to them: “The LORD will roar from on high, and from his holy habitation utter his voice; he will roar mightily against his fold, and shout, like those who tread grapes, against all the inhabitants of the earth. The clamor will resound to the ends of the earth, for the LORD has an indictment against the nations; he is entering into judgment with all flesh, and the wicked he will put to the sword, declares the LORD.” Thus says the LORD of hosts: Behold, disaster is going forth from nation to nation, and a great tempest is stirring from the farthest parts of the earth !” (emphases mine).

While the fences are up, this “all the earth” language is an understandable use of hyperbole, not to exaggerate but to communicate. Still, can’t you also see that these fences will one day come down such that the hyperbole will then be an understatement? When Jesus baptizes the world in the fire of judgment these fences will dissolve. Even so, we look to the past fences to get some idea of the shape of the future. By this, the future doesn’t become hazy, but clear.

For instance, Ammon is indicted for possessing the land Yahweh allotted to Israel. Despite appearances, His people are not without an heir. Though the northern tribes, including Gad, were largely assimilated and absorbed but he alien cultures to which they were driven by Assyria long before this prophecy, this land is not up for grabs. This same indictment is brought against all these nations (cf. Jeremiah 10:25; 12:10–14). So in the judgment of the nations a promise of salvation is being made to God’s people. They will dispossess those who dispossessed them. But who are these heirs? I’m simply going to leave you with some New Testament unpacking and I think you can begin to see all that was tied up in these Old Testament prophecies.

“Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth” (Matthew 5:5).

“For the promise to Abraham and his offspring that he would be heir of the world did not come through the law but through the righteousness of faith” (Romans 4:13).

“The Spirit himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, then heirs—heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ, provided we suffer with him in order that we may also be glorified with him” (Romans 8:16–17).

“For you had compassion on those in prison, and you joyfully accepted the plundering of your property, since you knew that you yourselves had a better possession and an abiding one. Therefore do not throw away your confidence, which has a great reward” (Hebrews 10:34–35).

“Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! According to his great mercy, he has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you, who by God’s power are being guarded through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time” (1 Peter 1:3–5).

See? Big promises. Little boxes.

Gathered Dust No Sign of Being Well Aged (Jeremiah 47–48)

“Moab has been at ease from his youth
     and has settled on his dregs;
he has not been emptied from vessel to vessel,
     nor has he gone into exile;
     so his taste remains in him,
     and his scent is not changed.

Therefore, behold, the days are coming, declares the LORD, when I shall send to him pourers who will pour him, and empty his vessels and break his jars in pieces. Then Moab shall be ashamed of Chemosh, as the house of Israel was ashamed of Bethel, their confidence.” —Jeremiah 48:11–13

Though man is dust, sometimes he gets to thinking the dust covers a rare and expensive vintage under it all. But just because the wine has aged doesn’t mean it’s aged well. It may have settled on the lees so long that it’s turned bad.

Moab was a dusty bottle of wine forgotten in the cellar. She has long enjoyed peace, but she hasn’t aged well. She’s settled on the dregs of her boasting and become ripe, not for consumption, but destruction. She’s never been mixed up; she’s never been poured from one vessel to another, going into exile as Israel did and she’s the worse for it. Whereas Israel was smack dab in the middle of a major trade route, Moab was just off the beaten path, a plateau to the east to the dead sea. But God is sending pourers. She will be poured, her vessels emptied, and smashed.

As a result she will be ashamed of Chemosh as Israel was ashamed of Bethel. When the kingdom of Israel was split under the reign of Solomon’s son Rehoboam, Jeroboam, who then became king of Israel, erected a golden calf and an altar in Bethel for fear that his people would return to Jerusalem to worship Yahweh and thus defect to Judah (1 Kings 12:25–33). He also built a calf in Dan and dedicated both saying, “Behold your gods, O Israel, who brought you up out of the land of Egypt,” (2 Kings 12:28). Although these gods did serve to prevent the mass of Israel from going to Judah, more so they were the cause of their being obliterated by the Assyrians. These gods delivered Israel neither from Egypt nor from Assyria. In the same way, Chemosh will prove impotent against the human hands that the sovereign Lord sends against Moab.

The dust will be blown off. There will be shouting, but it won’t be because the wine is so good. They will be poured out only to drink to the full of the wine of God’s wrath.

“Make him drunk, because he magnified himself against the Lord, so that Moab shall wallow in his vomit, and he too shall be held in derision…

Gladness and joy have been taken away
     from the fruitful land of Moab;
I have made the wine cease from the winepresses;
     no one treads them with shouts of joy;
     the shouting is not the shout of joy.
 —Jeremiah 48:26, 33

Know that present insulation doesn’t mean immunization. In the west we have long lived off the last fumes of the Protestant Reformation. The accrued blessings we have enjoyed because of past faithfulness should not be misread by any as sign of God’s favor with us or as a guarantee of future blessing. Present insulation from judgment is no indication of future immunization.

If you don’t enjoy God’s goodness in Christ, unto His glory, you will enjoy His goodness only for a time and His wrath forevermore. Judgment is certain and the only sure refuge is the split rock of Christ crucified for sinners and risen for their life. Anything else that you now boast in will one day be your shame. 

Swollen Rivers Subside (Jeremiah 46:1–28)

"About Egypt. Concerning the army of Pharaoh Neco, king of Egypt, which was by the river Euphrates at Carchemish and which Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon defeated in the fourth year of Jehoiakim the son of Josiah, king of Judah...

Who is this, rising like the Nile, 
     like rivers whose waters surge? 
Egypt rises like the Nile, 
     like rivers whose waters surge. 
He said, 'I will rise, I will cover the earth, 
     I will destroy cities and their inhabitants.'"

—Jeremiah 46:2, 7–8

With Assyria on the wane, Babylon waxes strong while Egypt enjoys something of a resurgence. Pridefully, Egypt swells like her Nile, ambitious to flood the lands around her. Assyria had acted as a buffer between Egypt and Babylon; so it is no surprise that Egypt heads north to aid Assyria. It was en route to do so that Pharaoh Neco was intercepted by King Josiah. Eventually Neco sets up his base at Carchemish. The two rising world powers of the age are set to clash. The Battle of Carchemish would prove a critical turning point in history.

The Nile’s resurgence proves to be due to nothing other than a flash flood. The waters will subside as quickly as they rose. All human glory, even that of nations, of superpowers, all of it fades. Their flow of glory can never surpass the ebb caused by God’s judgment. The nations can never rise so far as to mitigate their fall. It is futile for them to spread miles in hopes of keeping even a few inches. There can be no advance of human glory.

Humanity should remain humble before the Holy one, and this includes collected humanity as well. The Tower of Babel was not preserved despite man’s unified strength. The greatest judgements fall where pride is concentrated. Man’s collected power doesn’t dampen the blow; it intensifies it. So hear the Lord’s admonition in Jeremiah 9:23–26 afresh:

“Thus says the LORD: ‘Let not the wise man boast in his wisdom, let not the mighty man boast in his might, let not the rich man boast in his riches, but let him who boasts boast in this, that he understands and knows me, that I am the LORD who practices steadfast love, justice, and righteousness in the earth. For in these things I delight, declares the LORD.” “Behold, the days are coming, declares the LORD, when I will punish all those who are circumcised merely in the flesh— Egypt, Judah, Edom, the sons of Ammon, Moab, and all who dwell in the desert who cut the corners of their hair, for all these nations are uncircumcised, and all the house of Israel are uncircumcised in heart’” (emphasis mine).

Hear this admonition and resolve as Paul did to boast in nothing but “the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by which the world has been crucified to [you], and [you] to the world. For neither circumcision counts for anything, nor uncircumcision, but a new creation” (Galatians 6:14–15). And having been crucified to the world, rejoice, even when you see superpowers fall. Even when it seems as though the world is being flipped upside down, rejoice knowing that it is being prepared to be flipped right-side up in Jesus. Remember, you are a citizen of heaven. When all the nations of this earth are manifestly put under Jesus feet, then heaven will come down, all things will be made new, and the citizens of the kingdom will humbly serve their Lord with joy forevermore.

God Always Has the Everlasting Word (Jeremiah 44–45)

“This shall be the sign to you, declares the LORD, that I will punish you in this place, in order that you may know that my words will surely stand against you for harm…” —Jeremiah 44:29

With the forty-fourth chapter of Jeremiah, you come to the prophet’s last recorded words to the Judeans. Chapters 46–51, known as the “oracles against the nations,” are from an earlier date, actually the same date as chapter 45, the fourth year of Jehoiakim. In Jeremiah 25:13, Yahweh says, “I will bring upon that land all the words that I have uttered against it, everything written in this book, which Jeremiah prophesied against all the nations” (emphasis mine). Chapters 46–51are this book as the opening verses (46:1–2) make clear. Beyond these, we only have chapter 52, which is a kind of a postscript. As far as recorded revelation is concerned, this is Jeremiah’s last sermon.

Jeremiah’s long and faithful ministry is drawing to a close. He’s now preaching in a new location, but it seems as though he’s dusting off all his old sermons, marking out “Jerusalem” and inserting “Egypt.” Deal is, he’s still preaching to the same church. Jeremiah isn’t finishing lazy, recycling old material. The people of God are repeating the same old sins.

Jeremiah ends where he began, rebuking their idolatry and warning of judgment. Further, Jeremiah’s ministry ends where it all began. The people of God, redeemed out of Egypt, are now rejected in Egypt. This time, instead of leaving Egypt blessed, they return cursed. In Egypt, the people began, being delivered by judgment. Now, back in Egypt, they will end, being destroyed by judgment. They have returned back to the beginning for the end.

The remnant refuses to heed this word, saying they will keep their vows to the queen of heaven. God then vows that they will no longer make vows in His name, for they are and will be cut off. What this last word boils down to is a contest of who will have the last word. The Judeans resolve to keep their vows to the queen of heaven. Yahweh resolves to judge their idolatry. Whose word will stand? Jeremiah’s last words were everlasting words, for they were the words of the everlasting God. God doesn’t simply have the last Word, His is always the everlasting Word. His word, both of judgment and grace, will forever stand.

Failing the Hearing Test (Jeremiah 42–43)

“The LORD has said to you, O remnant of Judah, ‘Do not go to Egypt.’ Know for a certainty that I have warned you this day that you have gone astray at the cost of your lives. For you sent me to the LORD your God, saying, ‘Pray for us to the LORD our God, and whatever the LORD our God says, declare to us and we will do it.’ And I have this day declared it to you, but you have not obeyed the voice of the LORD your God in anything that he sent me to tell you. Now therefore know for a certainty that you shall die by the sword, by famine, and by pestilence in the place where you desire to go to live.” —Jeremiah 49:19–22

With the fall of Jerusalem in chapter 39 of Jeremiah, you’re left asking “What’s next?” Chapters 40–41 begin to answer that question and chapters 42–42 begin to tell you why behind the what. What’s next is judgment and why is their failure to listen. Roughly a decade before the city fell, Yahweh told Jeremiah that the people who would remain in the land would be like very bad figs, whereas those taken into exile would be regarded as very good figs. Here you see how bad the bad figs are. But you can’t initially see it from the outside. This is the kind of produce that passes the eye and nose test only for you to cut into it at home and find things rotten to the core. God puts pressure on His people, and once squeezed, the rottenness comes out.

Expecting reprisal from Babylon for Ishmael’s murder of Gedaliah and the Chaldean soldiers, the remnant plans to seek refuge in Egypt. But before they do so they pull over to ask for directions. It will become clear that they have no intention to heed any directions, they just want to be seen as they humble type who asks for them. They can’t imagine anything other than a green light for Egypt, so it’s therefore safe to ask. They’re like the child who only asks when their certain they’ll receive a yes. This gives them the appearance of being submissive. If such a child expects a “no” then he’ll try and play ignorant and innocent after the fact. But the remnant will soon learn they’re not so cute and God is not so naive.

This remnant isn’t seeking the word of Yahweh, but a word from Yahweh. This is why they speak piously but listen wickedly. They speak well hoping to get the answer they want, ergo, they are prepped to listen rebelliously should they hearing anything otherwise. To speak well is nothing if we do not hear well. Hard ears reveal the wickedness of a smooth tongue. The people sing pretty but their heart isn’t in it, and in this instance, the beat is more important than the words. They’ve got the right lyrics, but God listens for the beat of their heart, and it’s way off.

What’s next is judgment. The why is their failure to listen. The present trial is to make plain who they are so that when God trashes the figs, everyone understands His justice in doing so—they were bad, really bad. The only kind of ripe they were was ripe for destruction. This world is headed for judgment and salvation and the test laid before us everyday as to which destination we will find is a simple hearing test.

“Thus says the LORD: ‘As the new wine is found in the cluster, and they say, “Do not destroy it, for there is a blessing in it,” so I will do for my servants’ sake, and not destroy them all. I will bring forth offspring from Jacob, and from Judah possessors of my mountains; my chosen shall possess it, and my servants shall dwell there. Sharon shall become a pasture for flocks, and the Valley of Achor a place for herds to lie down, for my people who have sought me. But you who forsake the LORD, who forget my holy mountain, who set a table for Fortune and fill cups of mixed wine for Destiny, I will destine you to the sword, and all of you shall bow down to the slaughter, because, when I called, you did not answer; when I spoke, you did not listen, but you did what was evil in my eyes and chose what I did not delight in’ ” (Isaiah 68:8–12, emphasis mine).

Don’t. Run. (Jeremiah 39:1–18)

“You shall not escape from his hand but shall surely be captured and delivered into his hand. You shall see the king of Babylon eye to eye and speak with him face to face. And you shall go to Babylon.” —Jeremiah 34:3

“When Zedekiah king of Judah and all the soldiers saw them, they fled, going out of the city at night by way of the king’s garden through the gate between the two walls; and they went toward the Arabah. But the army of the Chaldeans pursued them and overtook Zedekiah in the plains of Jericho. And when they had taken him, they brought him up to Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon, at Riblah, in the land of Hamath; and he passed sentence on him. The king of Babylon slaughtered the sons of Zedekiah at Riblah before his eyes, and the king of Babylon slaughtered all the nobles of Judah. He put out the eyes of Zedekiah and bound him in chains to take him to Babylon.” —Jeremiah 39:4–7

In adventure thrillers, especially those involving dinosaurs, there’s always that companion, who, when the composed expert whispers “Don’t. Run.”, they inevitably run. The Lion of the Tribe of Judah told Zedekiah that should he run, though his teeth would not slay him, his claws would maim him. Despite Babylon coming, as Yahweh had said, despite Babylon returning, as Yahweh had said, despite the walls being breached, as Yahweh had said, still the king runs. God has promised A, B, C, and D. Now, though A, B, and C have come to pass, Zedekiah still things he can out run D.  

Don’t. Run. You cannot sin smartly, but sin always smarts. When we sin swiftly, we must remember we live on a globe. Run from God’s throne and you’ll come right back to it exhausted, with a heavier burden of guilt, and filthy with sin. Yahweh is both omnipresent and omnipotent. Wherever you may run, you’re running in a circle. Anywhere you go, there He is and there He is with all power. Neither is stealth an option. He is omniscient. He knows. You cannot sneak by him. Earthly lions sleep some twenty hours a day, but the Lion of heaven is never even drowsy. Tiptoeing is no more effective than running.

If you are thinking that his anger must somehow be satiated because he has swallowed kingdoms whole, you are mistaken. When God pours out His wrath on a people over there, don’t think a person might escape it over here. Only the blood of Christ can placate His just wrath. The boiling pot of God’s holy judgment hangs over the heads of sinners (Jeremiah 1:13–15; Ephesians 2:3). The pot may be slow in tipping, but once it does, you cannot outrun it. Every sin will be judged. Your only hope is that one big enough and gracious enough would stand between you and the flow and bear it Himself in your place. Don’t. Run. Bow before the crucified and risen Christ.