WARNING: Non-evaporative Water (Jeremiah 6:1–15)

“Thus says the LORD of hosts:
‘They shall glean thoroughly as a vine
the remnant of Israel;
like a grape gatherer pass your hand again
over its branches.’

To whom shall I speak and give warning,
that they may hear?
Behold, their ears are uncircumcised,
they cannot listen;
behold, the word of the LORD is to them an object of scorn;
they take no pleasure in it.
Therefore I am full of the wrath of the LORD;
I am weary of holding it in.

‘Pour it out upon the children in the street,
and upon the gatherings of young men,
also; both husband and wife shall be taken,
the elderly and the very aged (Jeremiah 6:9–11).’ ”

water-1370297-1600x1200.jpgThe word of Yahweh doesn’t fall to the ground to evaporate into nothing. God’s word never falls idle, but accomplishes His purposes. None of His words are written to be forgotten, lost in some book, rotting away along with the perishable paper on which they were recorded. If the rains of grace are not received, they accumulate behind the dam of God’s long-suffering as a flood of wrath.

God here is conforming His messenger to His message. The repeated warnings Jeremiah has given are met with no reception. Because the people scorn the word, he is full of the wrath of Yahweh. God has been pouring His message into Jeremiah, but as it finds no release by Judah’s receiving it in repentance, it builds inside Jeremiah, ready to burst as wrath. God has made Jeremiah a dam with no release. Now, God commands him to pour it out. Rejected warnings accumulate wrath. If God’s words are not received as a rain of grace, they will destroy as flood of wrath.

As someone has said, “the same sun that melts the ice hardens the clay.” Likewise, the same rains that refresh with grace, will wash away the wicked. For some, Christ is the aroma of life unto life, for others, death unto death (2 Corinthians 2:14–16). The word of Christ will either serve to your salvation or your condemnation. It doesn’t evaporate. If the rain of grace is not received with faith and repentance, it will one day burst as a flood of wrath.

Why? (Jeremiah 5:1–19)

“And when your people say, ‘Why has the LORD our God done all these things to us?’ you shall say to them, ‘As you have forsaken me and served foreign gods in your land, so you shall serve foreigners in a land that is not yours’ ” (Jeremiah 5:19).

Names have been referred to as “handles” and though I’m not completely certain of all the etymology involved, I’d bet it is largely because names help us to pick things up. It is peculiar how naming a thing can prove so useful in understanding it. This shouldn’t be mystifying, for naming a thing is as old as Adam, and once named, conversation may ensue. So let me give you a handle by which to pick up this chapter: theodicy. This chapter presents a theodicy, that is, it argues to vindicate the goodness of God. A theodicy answers the questions that begin, “How can God be good if… ?” This particular theodicy is a justification of God’s justice; it demonstrates that God’s justice is just. Now we’re talking huh?

splatter-question-1171359-1599x1948.jpg

The answer given here to the question “Why has the LORD our God done all these things to us?” is not one that is universal but particular. And yet, ultimately, the answer given is the answer, for all suffering is foundationally rooted in sin. The judgment Judah faces here is the one we all deserve.

The real puzzle to turn over in your noodle is not a theodicy, but an anthropodicy. It is not the goodness of God we should question but the goodness of man. We ask “Why do bad things happen to good people?” but we have started with a false premise. The real dilemma is “Why do good things happen to bad people?” B.B. Warfield explains, “Righteous men amid the evils of earth seek a theodicy—they want a justification of God; sinners do not need a theodicy—all too clear to them is the reason of their sufferings—they want a consolation, a justification from God. …we are sinners, and what hope have we save in a God who is gracious rather than merely just?”

So why do good things happen to bad people? We might begin by answering that God is patient, long-suffering, and benevolent, but this answer is not enough. This is a big question and a larger foundation must underly such patience. To see what it is, let’s return to ponder that question we discarded, and see if it might help us now. “Why do bad things happen to good people?” One theologian answered, “That only happened once, and He volunteered.” Peter tells us that “Christ… suffered once for sins, the righteous for the unrighteous, that He might bring us to God” (1 Peter 3:18). The real dilemma of God’s dealing with man was not “How could he judge?”, but “How could he show mercy?” The answer is that grace comes in the Christ who quenched the fury of God’s anger against sin so that we might be declared just.

Sinner, you are not righteous. Shall He not punish (5:7–9)? Do not delude yourself with words of wind, but hear these words of fire against your soul (5:12–14). And yet, know this, there is hope. Instead of expected justice God extends surprising grace. This grace is found in Jesus Christ who was everything we are not—righteous, and was reckoned everything we were—sinful, bearing everything we deserve—the wrath of God.

Repent of your sins, trust in the Lord Jesus Christ, and you shall be saved. Then you will ask, not in agony, but in bliss? “Why has YHWH our God done all these things to us?” “Why has He blessed and loved us so?” And the answer you will love to hear and give again and again for all eternity is this, “Jesus!”

Poetic Justice (Jeremiah 4:5–31)

Declare in Judah, and proclaim in Jerusalem, and say,

“Blow the trumpet through the land;
cry aloud and say,

‘Assemble, and let us go
into the fortified cities!’
Raise a standard toward Zion,
flee for safety, stay not,
for I bring disaster from the north,
and great destruction.
A lion has gone up from his thicket,
a destroyer of nations has set out;
he has gone out from his place
to make your land a waste;
your cities will be ruins
without inhabitant.
For this put on sackcloth,
lament and wail,
for the fierce anger of the LORD
has not turned back from us” (Jeremiah 4:5–8)

Jeremiah 4:5–31 is certainly poetry, but it isn’t love poetry. This isn’t even like the poetry of scorned love that has preceded. Now the theme is judgment. Here is verse that would make Poe wince, or so it should, for this is no fiction. The terrors here are real.

God commands his people (the verbs of 3:5 are plural) to tell the themselves to tell themselves (nope, no stuttering) that disaster is coming out of the north. Judah is to flee to Jerusalem, the fortified city. 

God’s intent isn’t that there is any hope of withstanding the siege, he simply means to tell them to get ready. If Judah puts on armor instead of sackcloth she has missed the point (4:8). God isn’t warning them as an ally, but as their enemy. He is telling his people to get ready for Him. God uses no stealth. He broadcasts His blow knowing there is no possible way it can be blocked.

When the Babylonians draw their bows, God has drawn the Babylonians. He has sharpened His arrows. He is soon to let them fly. 

More than Judah needs to be saved from the Babylonians, she needs to be saved from God. The fear of Yahweh is the beginning of all wisdom, for it is folly to fear the mosquito when the lion is bearing down on you. It is folly to fear the sword and not the warrior who wields it.

God’s justice is poetic. The judgment of man will rhyme perfectly with His sin. The lovers Judah turned to, are now her murderers. Our sin is against an infinitely holy God; it is with an infinitely holy God that we will have to deal. 

The only possible refuge from God is God. Know that His salvation is as poetic as His judgment. At the cross God made judgment and salvation to rhyme as His Son bore judgment for the salvation of sinners.

Wrath and Redemption for Renown (Exodus 9:13–35)

If the Exodus is simply about redemption, then God is terribly inefficient. The point isn’t simply redemption, but renown. God could’ve taken Pharaoh out with one punch, but He reserves His strength for ten blows, so that He might more fully display his power.

For by now I could have put out my hand and struck you and your people with pestilence, and you would have been cut off from the earth. But for this purpose I have raised you up, to show you my power, so that my name may be proclaimed in all the earth (Exodus 9:15–16).

In a boxing match if some no-name opponent is knocked out with one blow, the crowd might think it was owing more to the weakness of the loser than the strength of the winner. But if some unknown boxer waits patiently for the “greatest” to climb to the pinnacle of his career, and then, having challenged him, slowly defeats him, one punch each round, while never suffering a blow himself, then his supremacy is fully demonstrated.

God raised Pharaoh up for this purpose. This is why Pharaoh exists. You can’t soften the meaning.

For the Scripture says to Pharaoh, ‘For this very purpose I have raised you up, that I might show my power in you, and that my name might be proclaimed in all the earth.’ So then he has mercy on whomever he wills, and he hardens whomever he wills. You will say to me then, ‘Why does he still find fault? For who can resist his will?’ But who are you, O man, to answer back to God? Will what is molded say to its molder, ‘Why have you made me like this?’ Has the potter no right over the clay, to make out of the same lump one vessel for honorable use and another for dishonorable use? What if God, desiring to show his wrath and to make known his power, has endured with much patience vessels of wrath prepared for destruction, in order to make known the riches of his glory for vessels of mercy, which he has prepared beforehand for glory (Romans 9:17–23).

God’s redemption is for renown. God’s wrath is for renown. God purposes to be glorified in all: vessels of mercy and vessels of wrath. But, the supreme way God intends for His glory to be communicated is in redemption. Wrath falls  “in order to make known the riches of his glory for vessels of mercy.”

It is a proper and excellent thing for infinite glory to shine forth; and for the same reason, it is proper that the shining forth of God’s glory should be complete; that is, that all parts of his glory should shine forth, that every beauty should be proportionably effulgent, that the beholder may have a proper notion of God. It is not proper that one glory should be exceedingly manifested, and another not at all; for then the effulgence would not answer the reality. For the same reason it is not proper that one should be manifested exceedingly, and another but very little. It is highly proper that the effulgent glory of God should answer his real excellency; that the splendour should be answerable to the real and essential glory, for the same reason that it is proper and excellent for God to glorify himself at all.

Thus it is necessary, that God’s awful majesty, his authority and dreadful greatness, justice, and holiness, should be manifested. But this could not be, unless sin and punishment had been decreed; so that the shining forth of God’s glory would be very imperfect, both because these parts of divine glory would not shine forth as the others do, and also the glory of his goodness, love, and holiness would be faint without them; nay, they could scarcely shine forth at all. If it were not right that God should decree and permit and punish sin, there could be no manifestation of God’s holiness in hatred of sin, or in showing any preference, in his providence, of godliness before it. There would be no manifestation of God’s grace or true goodness, if there was no sin to be pardoned, no misery to be saved from.

How much happiness soever he bestowed, his goodness would not be so much prized and admired, and the sense of it not so great, as we have elsewhere shown. We little consider how much the sense of good is heightened by the sense of evil, both moral and natural. And as it is necessary that there should be evil, because the display of the glory of God could not but be imperfect and incomplete without it, so evil is necessary, in order to the highest happiness of the creature, and the completeness of that communication of God, for which he made the world; because the creature’s happiness consists in the knowledge of God, and sense of his love. And if the knowledge of him be imperfect, the happiness of the creature must be proportionably imperfect; and the happiness of the creature would be imperfect upon another account also; for, as we have said, the sense of good is comparatively dull and flat, without the knowledge of evil. —Jonathan Edwards

Curse No More. Kiss, and Be Cursed No More (Psalm 2)

“Serve the Lord with fear, and rejoice with trembling.

Kiss the Son, lest he be angry, and you perish in the way, for his wrath is quickly kindled.

Blessed are all who take refuge in him.” —Psalm 2:11–12

When one bows before Yahweh’s Anointed it mustn’t be to conceal a grimace. Reluctant obedience doesn’t qualify as “rejoicing with trembling.” We must kiss the Son, but it must not be with the kiss of Judas. The kiss called for is the kiss of the woman in Luke 7.

“One of the Pharisees asked him to eat with him, and he went into the Pharisee’s house and reclined at the table. And behold, a woman of the city, who was a sinner, when she learned that he was reclining at table in the Pharisee’s house, brought an alabaster flask of ointment, and standing behind him at his feet, weeping, she began to wet his feet with her tears and wiped them with the hair of her head and kissed his feet and anointed them with the ointment. Now when the Pharisee who had invited him saw this, he said to himself, ‘If this man were a prophet, he would have known who and what sort of woman this is who is touching him, for she is a sinner.’ And Jesus answering said to him, ‘Simon, I have something to say to you.’ And he answered, ‘Say it, Teacher.’ ‘A certain moneylender had two debtors. One owed five hundred denarii, and the other fifty. When they could not pay, he cancelled the debt of both. Now which of them will love him more?’ Simon answered, ‘The one, I suppose, for whom he cancelled the larger debt.’ And he said to him, ‘You have judged rightly.’ Then turning toward the woman he said to Simon, ‘Do you see this woman? I entered your house; you gave me no water for my feet, but she has wet my feet with her tears and wiped them with her hair. You gave me no kiss, but from the time I came in she has not ceased to kiss my feet. You did not anoint my head with oil, but she has anointed my feet with ointment. Therefore I tell you, her sins, which are many, are forgiven—for she loved much. But he who is forgiven little, loves little.’ And he said to her, ‘Your sins are forgiven.’ Then those who were at table with him began to say among themselves, ‘Who is this, who even forgives sins?’ And he said to the woman, ‘Your faith has saved you; go in peace.’ ” —Luke 7:36–50

This psalm calls for the wisdom of submission in light of the wrath of God’s Anointed. If, in light of that threatened wrath, you find the kiss hard to offer, ask yourself, where do you suppose one would kiss a king as a sign of submission? Likely his hands or his feet. Now, look at the hands and feet of God’s Anointed. They are pierced hands and pierced feet. The wrath the king threatens, He has borne. Jesus dishes out nothing that he hasn’t taken. The reason there is a refuge in Jesus is because He bears the storm we should be caught up in.

Sin is against the Triune God who is infinitely worthy. The astounding thing isn’t that we insurrectionists, we traitors, we rebels against the highest, most perfect, and lovely of Kings are to face wrath. The astounding thing is that the Father—who infinitely loves His Son above all, the Son we have hated—would give His Son to bear our punishment so that we might love the Son as He does. The astounding thing is that the Son—who has eternally loved His Father perfectly—would die for us sinners who have so blasphemed the Father, that we might see the Father as He does and glorify Him. The astounding thing is that the Holy Spirit—who perfectly loves the Father and Son—would come into our rebellious hearts, make them new, and fill them with love for the Father and the Son.

If you see how big your sins are, and how wondrous the Ruler’s promise of refuge to the repentant is, your kisses will be profuse, and you will hear, “Your sins are forgiven.”