June 15, 2021
"If you return, Israel – this is the Lord’s declaration – if you return to Me, if you remove your detestable idols from My presence and do not waver..."
“If you return, Israel – this is the Lord’s declaration – if you return to Me, if you remove your detestable idols from My presence and do not waver, if you swear, as the Lord lives, in truth, in justice and in righteousness, then the nations will be blessed by Him and will pride themselves in Him. For this is what the Lord says to the men of Judah and Jerusalem: Break up the unplowed ground; do not sow among thorns. Circumcise yourselves to the Lord; remove the foreskin of your hearts, men of Judah and residents of Jerusalem. Otherwise, My wrath will break out like fire and burn with no one to extinguish it because of your evil deeds.” Jeremiah 4:1-4
Today’s chapter begins with a solemn call to repentance, but quickly moves to an arresting prediction of judgment. Judah’s repentance must not be superficial; it must be sincere. “Break up the unplowed ground; do not sow among thorns.”
It is a matter of fact that people do not surrender their lives to Jesus out of convenience. Rather, they surrender out of desperation. Salvation is not an arbitrary decision. Nobody says, “I could go fishing today, or maybe I’ll follow Jesus.” Consider my salvation story. I grew up around Christians and heard the gospel hundreds of times, but never responded. I felt I was doing just fine on my own and didn’t see where I needed to change anything. But the Lord allowed difficult circumstances in my life, which “plowed my ground”, so to speak. My unresponsive, rebellious spirit was broken, and that season of broken desperation created the perfect “soil condition” for new seed. Before God’s “plowing”, my heart was full of deep-rooted cynical thorns. He prepared good ground for the good seed of His gospel, the perfect conditions from which to choose Him.
This is exactly what God is doing with Judah and Jerusalem in today’s chapter. He is commanding them to look past their outward religious appearance (or what’s left of it) and focus on the internal: their hearts. It is possible for one to go through the motions of religion: learn to speak, act and serve in the manner of a true believer, yet to do so without having surrendered their heart to Jesus. As pertains to being a follower of Jesus, the “heart of the matter” is a matter of the heart. A true believer is, first, one inwardly. Their inward transformation motivates good works. The non-believer may do good works, but eventually, their core motivation will be exposed to be selfishly motivated, to be seen as righteous by men, as opposed to pleasing the Lord.
Judah was beyond trying to appear righteous; they were openly idolatrous. They had abandoned God’s command for their lives to be consumed with His Word.
“These words that I am giving you today are to be in your heart. Repeat them to your children. Talk about them when you sit in your house and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up.” Deuteronomy 6:6-7
The over-arching lesson today is that God is holy. He will righteously judge sin - even among His children - and He commands our hearts be separate, undivided and completely devoted to Him. “Echad” (One) as He is Echad. Deut 6:1-5; John 17:21