REFERENCE SCRIPTURE – Jeremiah 8:4-13,18;9:1
4 “Say to them, ‘This is what the LORD says: “‘When people fall down, do they not get up? When someone turns away, do they not return?
5 Why then have these people turned away? Why does Jerusalem always turn away? They cling to deceit; they refuse to return.
6 I have listened attentively, but they do not say what is right. None of them repent of their wickedness, saying, “What have I done?” Each pursues their own course like a horse charging into battle.
7 Even the stork in the sky knows her appointed seasons, and the dove, the swift and the thrush observe the time of their migration. But my people do not know the requirements of the LORD.
8 “‘How can you say, “We are wise, for we have the law of the LORD,” when actually the lying pen of the scribes has handled it falsely?
9 The wise will be put to shame; they will be dismayed and trapped. Since they have rejected the word of the LORD, what kind of wisdom do they have?
10 Therefore I will give their wives to other men and their fields to new owners. From the least to the greatest, all are greedy for gain; prophets and priests alike, all practice deceit.
11 They dress the wound of my people as though it were not serious. “Peace, peace,” they say, when there is no peace.
12 Are they ashamed of their detestable conduct? No, they have no shame at all; they do not even know how to blush. So they will fall among the fallen; they will be brought down when they are punished, says the LORD.
13 “‘I will take away their harvest, declares the LORD. There will be no grapes on the vine. There will be no figs on the tree, and their leaves will wither. What I have given them will be taken from them.’”
Oh, that my head were a spring of water and my eyes a fountain of tears! I would weep day and night for the slain of my people.
Jeremiah, served God with a broken heart. He was called the weeping prophet because his heart broke over the plight and condition of his people. His heart ached. He was sent to deliver a hard message – a message that required the people to repent, change, and alter their lives. Then, as now, most people don’t respond well to personal messages that require behavioral changes. The typical response is: “Who are you to tell me what to do?” Yet Jeremiah proclaimed this message, and he did it with a tear in his eye.
Jeremiah’s mourning prefigured Jesus. In similar manner Jesus wept over people’s sin. His heart broke “because they were weary and worn out, like sheep without a shepherd” (Matt. 9:36). The ministry of Christ was a tearful ministry Hebrews 5:7 says; “During His earthly life, He offered prayers and appeals with loud cries and tears to the One who was able to save Him from death, and He was heard because of His reverence”. His ministry broke his heart and cost him his life.
Let me inform you what broke Jeremiah’s heart, and Jesus’ heart, and what should break your heart.
I. THE PEOPLE HE LOVED HAD TURNED AWAY FROM THEIR GOD AND REFUSED TO REPENT.
God told Jeremiah to say, “Why have these people turned away? Why is Jerusalem always turning away? They take hold of deceit; they refuse to return” (Jer. 8:5). The people in Jeremiah’s day had turned away from God, and they refused to repent.
They had no desire to return to God, though they had every opportunity to do so. Instead, the people deliberately charged ahead in their sinful practices like a war horse charging into battle, having no idea of the dangers involved.
They should have known better. Jeremiah reminded them that when people fall down, they get up again. If one takes the wrong road, they turn around to get back on the right road. Even birds know when it is time to migrate. People should be as obedient to divine instruction, returning to God when they sin.
One of the great problems in modern Christianity is that we practice confession of sin, but not repentance.
We hold fast to 1 John 1:9, “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness” (1 John 1:9), but fail to heed Jesus’ words in Luke (Luke 5:32), “I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance” (Luke 5:32). We treat repentance like it is a one-time act, at conversion, and confession is all we need after that. Jesus doesn’t want us just to acknowledge our sin, but to turn from our sin. Remember what Jesus said to those he forgave. “Go and sin no more.”
We are like children caught in misbehavior saying, “I’m sorry, I’m sorry,” only to have them repeat the same mistake again. We do the same thing with God, don’t we? How often do you find yourself saying to God, “I’m sorry,” only to repeat the same sin over and over again? To turn from the sin is to cease from doing it.
Repentance is a gift of grace. A repentant person is willing to leave his destructive paths as a slave is willing to leave his galley, or a prisoner his dungeon, or a thief his wares, or a beggar his rags. Repentance sets us free.
II. THE PEOPLE HE LOVED WERE NOT PRACTICING GOD’S WORD.
The roots of Judah’s sin were a failure to repent and the rejection of God’s word. Jeremiah wrote that God says, “They have rejected the word of the Lord” (Jer. 8:9). The people possessed the Word, but did not practice the Word.
It broke Jesus’ heart that the Scribes and Pharisees, the students of the Word, did not practice the Word. They argued and debated the Scriptures but they did not accept and follow its precepts. They had knowledge of the Law but did not apply it.
James reminded us: “. . . humbly receive the implanted word, which is able to save you” (James 1:21). The word ‘receive’ means “to welcome” or “to come on in.” To accept God’s Word, first we must welcome the word into our lives. We must give it our full attention. We must be teachable, yielded, humble, and willing to be changed.
When we begin to put God’s Word into practice it will change our hearts. We will see people as Jesus saw people. We will hurt as he hurt over the injustices. We will be sensitive to the disenfranchised, lonely, abused, and neglected. We will cry for the lost and dying without him. We will feel deeply about his passion to reach the world.
III. THE PEOPLE HE LOVED DID NOT REALISE THE URGENCY OF THE HOUR THEY LIVED IN
Jeremiah wrote eloquently, “Harvest has passed, summer has ended, but we have not been saved” (Jer. 8:20).
The harvest and the summer were two different seasons. The former was the time for gathering grain. The latter was the time for gathering fruit. If one of these harvests was a failure, the other was usually a success. If both were unsuccessful, stark tragedy stared the people in the face. The proverb speaks of the tragedy of wasted opportunity. It would be said today, “Time’s up!” “The party’s over.” There comes a time when it is too late.
While I know little of farming, I do understand that the farmer has a brief window when the crops are to be harvested before they rot in the fields. The farmer must harvest before it is too late. A sense of urgency is required to bringing in the harvest.
A similar urgency needs must be felt for the harvest of souls. Of the billions of people in the world, it is estimated that over 30 million worldwide will die without Christ each year. And of the over 300 million people, it is estimated that 41 percent of the people don’t go to church at all. Not at Easter, or at Christmas, or to weddings or funerals. And if they were to die they would go to eternal punishment without knowing the love of Christ.
Jesus’ heart broke over the harvest when he said, “The harvest is abundant, but the workers are few. Therefore, pray to the Lord of the harvest to send out workers into His harvest” (Matt. 9:37-38). He saw the people, saw the clock, and saw the need. His heart broke because time was running out.
The tragedy of our time is that the situation is desperate but the saints are not. We are living in desperate times. And desperate times demand action. We live in a lost and broken world desperate for the good news of Jesus Christ.
As followers of Jesus Christ, we have much work to do and little time to do it. We must give ourselves to it. The times demand urgent action. Remember, the gospel is only good news if it arrives in time.
IV. THE PEOPLE HE LOVED WERE RUNNING HEADLONG INTO DESTRUCTION.
Jeremiah wrote, “I am broken by the brokenness of my dear people. I mourn; horror has taken hold of me” (Jer. 8:21).
Jeremiah mourned over the sins of the people. The people were like his child, injured, barely clinging to life. “I mourn” literally means “I am dark” or “black,” the color of mourning attire. He was dismayed, which described a wrenching fit, literally being convulsed with agony. Jeremiah was like a parent watching a wayward child destroy his life through wrong choices.
Jeremiah saw the people of Judah as his very own children. He saw them venturing down the slippery slope of self-destruction. His pain, his wounded heart, was reminiscent of the pain Jesus took upon himself in Gethsemane. Jesus, too, saw the world – the people whom he created and loved – as his own children. When the shock and the burden of the sins of the people took hold of him his sweat turned to blood. The pain, the hurt, the emotions ran deep. His heart broke excruciatingly because the people he loved were running headlong into destruction.
How often does your heart break for lost friends and the lost world?
V. THE PEOPLE HE LOVED WERE REFUSING THE CURE
“Is there no balm in Gilead?” (Jer. 8:22) was a metaphor that his hearers would have easily understood. Jeremiah was looking to the east, toward the restful town of Gilead. It was located in the mountainous region east of the Jordan River and north of Moab. It was famous for its healing ointment made from the resin of a tree of uncertain identity. Gilead was a symbol of hope. It was a city of cure. It was place of remedy.
Jeremiah was saying that a remedy existed for the people’s wound – repentance – but they had not applied it. A physician could heal their spiritual sickness – the prophet with God’s word – but they refused to consult him.
Do you know any sick people who refuse to take medication or treatment? Do you know any married couples whose marriage is on the rocks, but they refuse to see a counselor? Do you know any employee who could be helped in his or her performance if only they would talk to their supervisor? Do you know any spiritually lost people who know they need to turn to Jesus but refuse to follow him?
Jesus sees more than just one person on a dangerous course. He sees people from every walk of life heading toward the same end. The path of sin does not have a good ending. Despite the well-announced warning of hell ahead people swim on in the swirling current of their sins, unrepentant, with the clock ticking. Time is running out. And, as bizarre as it seems, some perishing people resist rescue. Not everyone wants to be saved from peril. Not everyone wants to abandon the course they are on. Not everyone wants to come to Jesus.
It should break our hearts when we see:
- People who are unrepentant.
- People who don’t practice God’s Word.
- People who don’t realize time is running out.
- People who are self-destructing.
- People who refuse the cure.
Those people break God’s heart.
God uses people with broken hearts.
Will you let your heart be broken by the things that break God’s heart?
May it challenge us to look deep within our own hearts to see what hurts us most.