Copied from the sermon notes of Pastor Don Elmore
October 2, 2021
During this time there was a terrific revival of religion. The reform that the ruler of the land launched cleaned up the country and made the truth of God known and the worship of God popular. Who could fail to be pleased that the Scripture was once again known and preached?
The most popular preacher of this time was a man of prominence. When you saw him at the head of the flourishing religious establishment, you could not help feeling better. His enthusiasms were electric. When he stretched out his arm in blessing, everyone, from the least to the greatest, knew that they were included. Everyone loved to hear him preach. He was positive, affirmative, and confident. He had the ability to draw out the best from everything. He was able to search the Scriptures and find texts that made the darkest days bright. But his messages were far from being accurate.
Living is difficult. There is so much that can go wrong. We lay out plans carefully and things still go badly. We try to get ahead, but unaccountably something interferes, and we end up flat on out faces. Accidents. Weather. Death. Sickness. Job loss. War. Inflation. Murphy’s Law. Arguments. Disagreements. Bad grades. Misinterpretations. Boredom. Vaccine mandates.
During this time there are some men and women who make it all seem better. There is a tone in their voices that dispels gloom. They have a smile that is infectious. They say that everything is going to be all right, and we believe them.
And now a few questions:
- What nation was this?
- Who was the ruler of the nation at that time?
- Who was the popular preacher?
If you are not sure what the correct answers are, I’ll give you another set of clues.
The nation had just suffered over a half-century of the worst rule in their nation’s history. They had a man who presided over a totally corrupt government.
The ruler encouraged a pagan worship that involved whole communities in sexual orgies. He installed cult prostitutes at shrines throughout the countryside. He imported wizards and sorcerers who enslaved the people in superstition and manipulated them with their magic. The man could not do enough evil.
There seemed to be no end to his barbarous cruelties. His capacity for inventing new forms of evil seemed bottomless. His appetite for the sordid was insatiable. He even had his own son murdered in a terrible ritual of witchcraft and burned him as an offering.
The countryside swarmed with magicians and prostitutes. Idols shaped like beasts and monsters defiled the places of worship. Lust and greed were deified. Murders were commonplace. Thievery was rampant. Prostitution was common. Corruption was a way of life.
Now, back to are previous questions, with one more added:
- Does anyone know what nation this was?
- Who was the ruler of the nation at that time?
- Who was the popular preacher?
- Who was the evilest ruler of the nation that immediately preceded this time?
The answers are:
- The nation was the Kingdom of Judah.
- The king was King Josiah.
- The popular preacher was Pashur, who was the chief overseer of the Temple.
- The evilest ruler of the nation was King Manasseh, who ruled for 55 years.
Jeremiah 7:28: “But thou shalt say unto them [Kingdom of Judah], This is a nation that obeyeth NOT the voice of the LORD their God, nor receiveth correction: truth is perished, and is cut off from their mouth.”
WHAT ABOUT NOW?
I am sure that most of the people in this room know what has happened in the United States in the last century. Some of you are too young to know what the country was like in your grandparent’s days. But a lot has changed.
- In schools, if you misbehaved, you received a swat or two from the teacher with a wooden paddle. That was disallowed sometime in the late 60’s.
- In some schools, like the one I taught in, the superintendent of schools gave a prayer to Almighty God before the home football games. He asked, in the name of Jesus Christ, that there would be no serious injuries and that good sportsmanship would be displayed on both sides. That is against the law now.
- In the nation, there were laws in most states against racial dating and marriage. That was outlawed by the Supreme Court in 1967.
- In the nation, abortion was illegal. It was performed, but it was against the law and was basically done underground. This was changed by the Supreme Court in 1973.
- In the nation, there was no rock & roll music until the late 1950’s. It hit the nation and captivated the youth. There were a few churches who said it was the “devil’s” music.
- In the nation, sodomy was hidden in the closet. Now, they have not only escaped the closet, they are demanding that they be treated as being equal and receiving all the benefits that everyone else gets.
- In the nation, there use to be a procedure where you asked the father before you dated a girl, not just if you had his permission to marry her. Now, the girl has her own phone; arranges her own dates and marries whomever she wants.
- There used to be a time where you didn’t even have to lock your home or your automobiles. But in many places that would be now disastrous and against the law.
- There was a time where franchised restaurants and motels were few and far between. Now they are commonplace.
- There was a time when I taught math in junior and senior high that there were no adding machines; no computers; no ipods; no individual “Dick Tracy” phones available. Now technology has created a whole new world.
- When I went to elementary school, each student in the class had to donate 10 cents to buy a large bottle of ink. From this large bottle the ink was dispensed into smaller bottles that we filled up our ink pens with. There were no ball-point pens available. Now there is.
- It used to be that Sunday morning was the most segregated time in the United States. The churches were either white or colored. There was very little integration. But that has now changed.
- The military became integrated. Professional sports teams became integrated. College sports teams became integrated. High School sports teams became integrated. All schools, elementary, middle and senior highs, and colleges became integrated.
- Professional baseball became integrated in 1947. Professional football became integrated in 1946. Alabama football became integrated in 1971. Jim Crow law’s, after 100 years, became cancelled.
- Etc., Etc., Etc.
MORE IMPORTANT THAN WEDDINGS
Weddings are important. They are beautiful and impressive. They are emotional and sometimes expensive. We weep and laugh at weddings. We take care to be at the right place at the right time and to say the right words. Where people stand is important. The way people dress is significant. Every detail – the flowers, the rings, the best man and the matron of honor is memorable. At the same time, weddings are easy. And there are always a few things that go wrong, and they become something that is remember till the time that the participates die.
But marriages are complex and difficult. In marriage we work out in every detail of life the promises and commitments spoken at the wedding. In marriage we develop the long and rich life of faithful love that the wedding announces. The event of the wedding without the life of marriage doesn’t amount to much. If there are no continuing tenderness, no attentive listening, no inventive giving, no creative blessing, and no forgiving, the marriage is useless.
WHAT PROPHET DID GOD RAISE UP AT THIS TIME?
God’s covenant people were in disarray. Three-fourths of them were already carried away in captivity because they refused to keep the commands of their God. The House of Israel had already been taken captive and divorced by their God and they were now doing the following:
- They ate the foods that their creator said was harmful for them to eat;
- They no longer were circumcised;
- They no longer had the king from the right family;
- They no longer had the priests from the right tribe;
- They no longer went to the Temple that was just built, they built new ones that they wanted;
- They no longer kept the laws that their God had only given to them.
And now the unthinkable had happened. The kingdom of Judah had become worse than the Canaanite nations that they had replaced.
2Kings 21:9: “But they hearkened not: and [King] Manasseh seduced them to do more evil than did the [Canaanite] nations whom the LORD destroyedbefore the children of Israel.”
What did the king of Judah do? He seduced his people to do “more evil” than the nations that their LORD God destroyed! The nation of Judah was worse than the nations of the devil; the enemy of the LORD God!
What a horrible thought! The Kingdom of Judah, part of the people of God, was worse than the people of the devil. What does that mean? It means that they acted socially, politically, medically, economically, religiously, etc. in a way that was not the way that God said to act. They acted the opposite way.
For example, some charged usury towards their brother. Some murdered their brother. Some stole from their brother. Some slandered their brother. Some married alien women. Some had relationships with prostitutes. Some ate foods that were created to collect garbage off the ocean floor and earth. Some were corrupt in business, politics and religion. Some listened to popular preachers but heard the wrong message.
But in the last decade of King Manasseh’s 55-year reign, Jeremiah, the prophet, was born. This was the evil world in which Jeremiah learned to walk and talk and play. No worse environment in which to raise a child can be imagined. It was a slum society.
Fifty-five years of such misrule brought the faith close to oblivion. Some old people remembered prophetic oracles and acts of true worship. Rumors of holiness were no doubt whispered about. Hidden pockets of faithful people maintained a fugitive existence. Then King Manasseh died.
His son Amon succeeded him. The people watched to see if things would change. Would life get better. It didn’t. The evil continued. But the people had their stomachs full. They had reached the breaking point and could take no more. King Amon was assassinated. His eight-year-old son, King Josiah, was put on the throne.
And then God worked a series of miracles. The nation changed. It began when the young king requested that handymen would go into the Temple and begin to make repairs. The Temple was practically unusable. While working on the repairs, they found a manuscript that had been lost in the basement, read it, and thought that the king should read it to. He did. It was the Book of the Law or Deuteronomy that they had found. When the nation decided to keep the laws that were found in this writing, the nation reversed its trend.
- King Manasseh’s reign was like an unwed relationship.
- King Josiah’s reform was like a wedding.
- Jeremiahs concern was with a marriage.
It was a great achievement to repudiate Manasseh and establish the people in covenant with their God; but it was a lifelong career to embrace God’s love and walk in his ways. The average righteous person hated King Manasseh’s reign; they celebrated Josiah’s reform; but they ignored Jeremiahs’ preaching. It is Jeremiah’s lifelong achievement that the soggy religious mush of the masses never dulled his perceptions nor muted his insistent witness.
THE UNITED STATES TODAY
As the world watched in dismay, the fall of Kabul painted a vivid picture of the crumbling of the United States of America. The US military, bent on going “woke” with transgenderism and gays in the military, is utterly unable to protect its own personnel overseas, and has been impotent in protecting the US southern border from a relentless invasion of illegals that are pouring into the country.
As Biden’s rigged regime is ending, so is the United States of America as a “united” nation. With outrageous levels of fiat currency money printing, the collapse of the rule of law, blatantly rigged elections, government-enforced censorship of conservative views, trying to deceive the population to take a coronavirus “vaccine”, media-fomented racial animosity, left-wing efforts to defund the police, integrated churches that are teaching a racial reconciliation message, racist CRT indoctrination in the schools and even a CDC director “doctor” who cannot admit that only women can get pregnant, the once great United States of America has fallen into a pathetic, laughable state of self-mockery and collapse.
The United States is following the bad example of what happened to Judah that is given to us in the Bible. Most of its citizens live trivial lives and then engage in evil acts in order to establish significance for themselves. Assassins, hijackers and mass murderers attempt the gigantic leap from obscurity to fame by killing a prominent person or shooting a room full of innocent people in a mass murder attempt. Often, they are successful. The mass media report their words and display their actions. Writers vie with one another in analyzing their motives and providing psychological profiles on them. No other culture has been as eager to reward either nonsense of wickedness.
If, on the on other hand, we look around for what it means to be a mature, whole, blessed Christian person, we don’t find much. These people are around, but it is hard to find them. No journalist interviews them. No talk show features them. They are not admired; they are called evil names. They are not looked up to, they are said to be people who should be avoided. Who is a real Christian man or a real Christian woman anyway?
When we do turn to Scriptures for help in this matter, we are apt to be surprised. One of the first things that strikes us about the men and women in Scripture is that were disappointingly nonheroic. We do not find splendid moral examples. We do not find impeccably virtuous models. That always come as a shock to newcomers to Scriptures:
- Abraham lied,
- Isaac love Esau more than he loved Jacob,
- Jacob cheated,
- Ten of Joseph’s brothers were jealous,
- Moses committed murder,
- David committed fornication and murder,
- Solomon had alien and strange wives,
- Peter blasphemed,
- Elijah attempted suicide,
- Jeremiah complained,
The Scriptures teach us that the great, significant figures in the life of faith were fashioned from the same clay as the rest of us. We find that Scripture is sparing in the information that it gives on people while it is lavish in what it tells us about God. It refuses to encourage us to hero worship. It will not pander to our adolescent desire to join a fan club. Why? Because fan clubs encourage secondhand living. Through pictures and memorabilia, autographs and tourist visits, we associate with someone whose life is (we think) more exciting and glamorous than our own. We find diversion from our own humdrum existence by riding on the coattail of someone exotic.
We do it because we are convinced that we are plain and ordinary. The town or city that we live in, the neighborhood we grew up in, the friends we are stuck with, the families or marriages that we have – all seem undramatic. We see no way to be significant in such settings, with such associations, so we surround ourselves with evidence of someone who is. We stock our fantasies with images of a person who is living more adventurously than we are. And we have enterprising people around who provide us (for a fee, of course) with the material to fuel the fires of the vicarious living. There is something sad and pitiful about the whole business. But, it flourishes, nonetheless.
Scripture, however, doesn’t play that game. Something very different takes place in the life of faith: each person discovers all the elements of a unique and original adventure. We are prevented from following in another’s footsteps and are called to an incomparable association with Christ. The Bible makes it clear that every time that there is a story of faith, it is completely original. God’s creative genius is endless. He never is fatigued and unable to maintain the rigors of creativity. Each life is a fresh canvas on which he uses lines and colors, shades and lights, textures and proportion that he has never used before.
AN INCIDENT IN JEREMIAH’S LIFE
Jeremiah’s task was to challenge the lies and speak the truth. Why do we so easily swallow the lies? Why do we find it so difficult to accept the truth? Here are three examples:
- Was it the Arabs who concocted 911 or was it the Unites States “deep state” in coordination with the Israeli Mossad that pulled off the 911 plane crashes into the two twin towers and the Pentagon and the empty hole in the ground in Pennsylvania?
- Is the COVID 19 vaccinations and boosters safe or are they harmful?
- Who are the covenant people of God? Is it the Christ-hating Jews or another race of people?
Jeremiah wanted his people to practice adoration of God, instead of mincing around the temple preening themselves before the mirrors of self-admiration. So, he arranged for a conference with some of the leaders of Jerusalem. He took them three or four hundred yards south of the temple to the Valley of Hinnom at the site of Topheth. Child sacrifice had been carried out there and still was being done in secret. It was the garbage dump of the city. The place stank.
Jeremiah had a pottery water jug under his arm. He spoke his concerns to the leaders. He told them that God had immense love and holy purposes for them. He said what he had said so many times, that a reform is useless if it does not change people’s lives. It is no good polishing up the brass in the temple if the quality of people’s lives is left unattended in their poverty. It is no good obeying the letter of the commands written in Deuteronomy if the spirit of love that permeates Deuteronomy is ignored.
Truth is inward. We must experience within ourselves that which we profess. Truth is social. We must share with others what we profess. Statistics are a farce. Popularity is a smoke screen. All that matters is God.
Standing with these leaders in this place of dreadful reminders, Jeremiah accused them of going along with a religion that assured them of success in whatever they undertook. At the same time, they were abandoning the God who called them to live in love and faith. He accused them of taking their religion from the world around them, making a religious ritual out of the gratification of lust, and handing out religious formulas for financial prosperity. When he finished his short speech, Jeremiah broke the pottery decanter by throwing it to the ground:
Jeremiah 19:11: “Thus says the LORD of hosts: so will I break this people and this city, as one breaks a potter’s vessel, so that it can never be mended.”
What happened next? Word traveled fast. By the time Jeremiah got back to the temple area the city was buzzing. Pashur, the most popular preacher of the era, oversaw maintaining the successful operation; not chaos. Jeremiah, therefore, was an enemy. Pashur arrested him and put him in the stocks on the north side of the temple area.
Jeremiah was humiliated, but not intimidated. He spoke as sharply as ever to Pashur. Putting Jeremiah in the stocks confined him, but it did not silence him. He yelled at Pashur when he released him out of the stocks.
Jeremiah 20:3, 4 and 6:
3) “And it came to pass on the morrow, that Pashur brought forth Jeremiah out of the stocks. Then said Jeremiah unto him, The LORD hath not called thy name Pashur, but Magor-missabib.
4) For thus saith the LORD, Behold, I will make thee a terror to thyself, and to all thy friends: and they shall fall by the sword of their enemies. And thine eyes shall behold it: and I will give all Judah into the hand of the king of Babylon, and he shall carry them captive into Babylon, and shall slay them with the sword.
6) And thou, Pashur, and all that dwell in thine house shall go into captivity; and thou shalt come to Babylon, and there thou shalt die, and shalt be buried there, thou, and all thy friends, to whom thou hast prophesied lies.”
Life is difficult. Are we going to quit at the first wave of opposition? Are we going to retreat when we find that there is more to life than finding three meals a day and a dry place to sleep at night? Are we going to run home the minute we find that the mass of men and women are more interested in keeping their feet warm than in living at risk to the glory of God? Are we going to succumb to taking the vaccine to keep our jobs? Are we going to live cautiously or courageously? Are we going to look to ourselves for our survival or are we going to rely upon the God of Israel?
Jeremiah, at first, refused God’s request for him to be a prophet. He spent 23 years preaching with little result. Jeremiah had to learn something. We must learn the same lessons too. When Jeremiah was pondering the answer to the question, “Why does the way of the wicked proper?” this was part of his God’s answer.
Jeremiah 12:5a: “If you have raced with men of foot, and they have wearied you, how will you compete with horses?”
Are we ready to quit at the first sign of difficulty? If we are fatigued by the run-of-the-mill crowd of apathetic mediocrities, what will we do when the real race starts; the race with the swift and determined horses of excellence. What is it you really want? Do you want to shuffle along with this crowd, or run with the horse?
Jeremiah decided, “I’ll run with the horses.”
So, what a life he had. He eventually wound up taking the king’s daughters; one to Spain and the other to Ireland, where they both married royalty of their people. And it is in Ireland where Jeremiah is buried. And very few Christians even know it. But God does. For Jeremiah ran with the horses. What will we do?
Blessed be the LORD God of Israel.