Archive for the ‘Jeremiah’ Category

Over the last few months I’ve been very struck by a theme in the New Testament that I don’t think I’ve properly recognised before:

Whoever loves father or mother more than me is not worthy of me, and whoever loves son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me. (Matthew 10:37)

Jesus said to them, “If God were your Father, you would love me (John 8:42)

If anyone loves me, he will keep my word, and my Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our home with him (John 14:23 cf. 14:15)

Jesus said to Simon Peter, “Simon, son of John, do you love me more than these?” (John 21:15 cf. v16, v17)

…what God has prepared for those who love him (1 Cor. 2:9)

If anyone has no love for the Lord, let him be accursed. (1 Cor. 16:22)

Grace be with all who love our Lord Jesus Christ with love incorruptible. (Eph. 6:23)

Though you have not seen him, you love him (1 Peter 1:8)

I hold this against you: you have forsaken the love you had at first (Rev. 2:4)

The most wonderful gospel truth is not that we loved God but that God the Father loved us and gave his Son to be burnt up instead of us (1 John 4:10). And wonderfully, not only the Father, but Jesus himself loved us to death (Gal. 2:20) and loves us still (Rev. 1:5). Jesus loves me this I know…

But there is another, secondary truth which I fear I have downplayed in my concern to lift up the great gospel blessing of God’s love for us. That truth is that there must be a love for the Lord Jesus. Not a love for theology or a love for gospel ministry or a love for what Jesus brings with him, but a love for Jesus himself. This love is not mere emotion – there is an extremely common and tight connection drawn in Scripture between love and obedience – but neither can it be evacuated of feeling and affection. There is in love a desire for the presence of the other and a delight in the presence of the other (SoS 2:3,14; 3:1-2; 5:6-8; Psalm 27:4; 42:1-2). When my love has gone cold then there’s a big problem.

So I’m thinking this year…

How can I increase my love for Christ?


  1. Consider how far you have fallen (Rev. 2:5) – This will involve first looking through the spiritual wedding album, remembering the “devotion of your youth” (Jer. 2:2) and then acknowledging the slide – “followed worthless idols and became worthless” (Jer. 2:5) – the stupid double sin – “forsaken the spring of living water, and have dug cisterns, broken cisterns” (Jer. 2:13) – and the disgusting spiritual adultery of forgetting the Bridegroom, giving lip service and pretend-repentance while really loving and running after others (Jer. 2:20-3:10). I need to recognise the tragedy and outrage of this fallen and debased state. As Richard Sibbes puts it, I need”to be first sensible of spiritual wants and misery. The passover lamb was eaten with sour herbs; so Christ crucified, relisheth best to a soul affected with the bitterness of sin.” (Third Sermon on the Song of Songs).
  2. Repent (Rev. 2:5) – As Peter Mead has shown, repentance is a relational thing – it is a turn from God-hating and, crucially, a turn to God himself. In Jeremiah, amazingly, after horrific spiritual adultery, the LORD Bridegroom says:

    “‘Return, faithless Israel,’ declares the Lord,
        ‘I will frown on you no longer,
    for I am faithful,’ declares the Lord,
        ‘I will not be angry forever.
    Only acknowledge your guilt—
        you have rebelled against the Lord your God,
    you have scattered your favors to foreign gods
        under every spreading tree,
        and have not obeyed me,’” declares the Lord.

    “Return, faithless people,” declares the Lord, “for I am your husband. (Jer. 3:12-14).
    So repentance will mean acknowledging/confessing my guilt and idolatry and adultery and returning to the incredibly forgiving, faithful-to-his-covenant Bridegroom.

  3. Behold Christ in the Word – “Do the things you did at first” (Rev. 2:5). What are those first things? Well it could include a lot (probably most of the points below) but the very first thing we did was to look to Christ. “Behold the Lamb of God!” To put it another way, the first thing we did was to hear the word of Christ (Eph. 1:13; 4:22; 5:14 Col. 1:6). To hear is to see (Gal. 3:1). “Show me your face, let me hear your voice; for your voice is sweet, and your face is lovely” (SoS 2:14). I need to search the Scriptures to see the glory of God in the face of Christ (2 Cor. 3:18; 4:6). I need to have that heart burning experience of the Emmaus road disciples as they saw Jesus not physically but in the (OT) Scriptures he opened to them (Luke 24). I need to dwell on awesome portraits of Christ like those in the Book of Revelation. I need to be dazzled by the Scripture pictures of Christ as creator, king, warrior, Holy One, radiance of the glory of God.  Before even considering God’s love towards us, God’s people “first see that God is lovely, and that Christ is excellent and glorious, and their hearts are first captivated with this view” (Jonathan Edwards, Religious Affections).
  4. Savour his love – “your love is more delightful than wine.” (SoS 1:2). As Sibbes puts it, “love draws love” (First Sermon on the Song of Songs). This unconditional love which embraces the prodigal and the prostitute and the leper. This covenant love which unites me with the Son of God so that “My beloved is mine and I am his” (SoS 2:16). This sacrificial love with sweated in the garden and endured the searing pain of Godforsakenness. This love which actually, amazingly, genuinely desires and delights in the object of salvation (SoS 1:15; 4:1-14; 5:2; 7:1,10); which sees us as ‘lovely,’ ‘flawless,’ ‘overwhelming,’ ‘captivating’ (4:7; 5:2; 6:5; 7:5; 8:10) and actually wants to be with us for eternity (John 17:24). To the extent that we experience this extravagantly loving forgiving embrace, to that extent we love Christ (Luke 7:47). And we best come to experience this love corporately – “together with all the saints” (Eph. 3:18).
  5. Savour his name – “Your name is like perfume poured out. No wonder the young women love you!” (SoS 1:3) Notice the logic. The reason for the love is the fragrance of the Name. You know how you feel when the name of your best friend comes up in conversation. “The very naming of a good man casts a sweet savour” (Sibbes, First Sermon). How much more so of Christ. How sweet the name of Jesus sounds… As John Newton, that hymn’s author, explains, the ‘name’ stands for the whole person (Rev. 3:4,5). “The name of Christ includes the whole revelation concerning him, who he is, what he has done – all that we read of his love, his power and his offices make a part of his great and glorious name. The soul that is taught by the Word and Spirit of God to understand a little of these things receives such a sense of love and joy that the very sound of his name is sweeter than music to the ears, sweeter than honey to the taste.” (Newton, Sermon on SoS 1:3) So I would do well to return regularly, as many Scripture authors do, to the great declaration of the Name in Exodus 34:6-7. I would do well to delight in this character of our God as it is unfolded in the stories of Scripture. I would do well to meditate on the great ‘names’ of Christ in the Scriptures – The One Who Sees Me, The Shepherd, The Bridegroom, The Friend of Sinners, The Banquet, The Light of the World, The Life. And I would do well to listen most to the supreme declaration of the Name at the Cross. Newton again: “The precious vessel that contained this precious ointment was broken upon the Cross – the savour of his name, his love, his blood, poured out from every wound [in] his sacred body. See from his head, his hands, his feet, sorrow and love flow mingling down… When we desire a new savour of this ointment, let us turn our eyes, our thoughts to Golgotha. To behold him by faith as he hung bleeding and dying, with outstretched arms inviting our regards and saying, ‘See if any sorrow was like to my sorrow.'”
  6. Sit under Christ-ful preaching – “Everything that bears the name of preaching – if it does not diffuse the knowledge of this good ointment [the fragrance of the name of Christ] – is dry and tedious, unsavoury and unprofitable.” (Newton, Sermon of SoS 1:3). As Sibbes’ says, preachers, as the friend of the Bridegroom (John 3:28), are to “woo for Christ, and open the riches, beauty, honour and all that is lovely in him” (Sibbes, Second Sermon). Often I can’t, on my own, get my heart excited about Christ, but, in the company of God’s people, with a preacher opening the Scriptures and wooing for Christ, jabbing his finger in the Bible and saying “Look at this thing about Jesus; isn’t he amazing?!” – then I get excited about Jesus. And that seems to be the way God wants it to be.
  7. Partake in the Lord’s Supper – This is the other main, regular means of grace alongside the ministry of the Word, whereby I feed on Christ in my heart by faith with thanksgiving. This is where I’m reassured (as I recently read in a reformed confession I think) that as surely as the bread is pressed into my hand, so Christ has been given to me; as surely as I am receiving the wine, so surely Christ’s blood was shed for me and atones for all my sins. As Carl Trueman (if I remember rightly) describes it, just as in our marriage we live together and have a continual love relationship with our spouse but we still make special ‘dates’ where we can meet together and express our love for one another and grow in our love for one another and be reassured of our love for one another, so the Lord’s Supper is the time and place Christ has ordained as our ‘date’ where he promises to specially meet with us and reassure us of his love and inflame our love.
  8. Sing of Christ – As many have noticed through the ages, music and song have a special ability to express and inflame the affections. It is notable that the Song of Songs is… well a song! One of the best things for my soul is to be in the congregation of God’s people as we sing to one another and sing to God true words about Jesus. Let’s make the most of the songs that have been written down the ages and more recently that do what the Song of Songs does – address either ‘the friends’ or the Bridegroom and tell of His goodness. How sweet the name, When I survey, I stand amazed, There’s not a friend, Soon and very soon, Sovereign Grace, Emu
  9. Praise Christ – “We rejoice and delight in you; we praise your love more than wine.” (SoS 1:4) As C.S. Lewis would say, the latter (the praising) completes and increases the former (the rejoicing and delighting). As the beloved enumerates the specific, superlative, wonderful attributes of the Bridegroom (SoS 5:10-16) – her joy and love is increased. This works not only in prayer-praise and in song-praise but also in witnessing-praise to unbelievers. Have you ever had that joy of sharing with someone how wonderful Jesus is and as you do that you start thinking, Yes – this really is true – Jesus really is wonderful! Even if the other person wasn’t helped, I go away with a deeper appreciation of the good things I have in Christ (Philemon 6).
  10. Accept suffering as a means of refining love for Christ – God is sovereignly working to perfect us and the older authors (like Cranmer, Sibbes and Newton) recognise that much of that will be through the painful pruning of difficult circumstances. Through suffering he will work to loosen our grip on and weaken our affections for the passing things of this world that we might reach more for and rejoice more in Christ. What is required of us is an acceptance – a patient endurance (2 Cor. 1:6; Heb. 12:7) rather than an impatient rejection; a trust that this is a means of God inflaming my love for Christ.
  11. Be around people who love Jesus – I find this one of the most helpful ones. You’ll have noticed how the corporate, churchly dimension intersects almost all of the points so far. We grow in love for Christ among others who love Christ. As in the old illustration of a coal placed in the fire with glowing coals – the warmth and burning of others stirs me up to glow. To change the metaphor, the Proverbs speak of one man sharpening another. Often we think of this in terms of critical thinking but it is also true of love for Christ. Sibbes talks of “that which hinders the sharpness of the [spiritual appetite], that dull and flat the edge of it… and take away the savour and desire of heavenly things.” The evil and cold banality of the world and the company of those who have no interest in Christ dampens our love for Christ like a wet blanket. On the other hand the “company… of such as ‘labour for that blessed food that endures to life eternal’ provokes” us to a sharper appetite and greater feasting on Christ. I need this every day (Heb. 3:13) and especially need to make use of the Sabbath pattern to meet with God’s people and delight in him together.
  12. Pray – Perhaps this should be the first point. We need the Spirit of Conviction that we would see how far we have fallen. We need God himself to grant us repentance (Acts 3:26; 11:18). Otherwise, like the people in Jeremiah’s day we will not repent, we cannot repent (Jer. 13:23). We need the Spirit to remove the veil and open our eyes to the glory of God in the face of Christ in the pages of Scripture (2 Cor. 3-4). We need to pray that God would enlarge our hearts, give us new desires and new taste buds to crave and enjoy Christ. Sibbes notes from SoS 4:16 that unless the Spirit of God blows on us we do not even want to pray for more of Christ. So let us pray desperate prayers for greater love for Christ – come to his Word and come to church praying for our love to be inflames – knowing that even that desire to pray is a gracious gift and token of his love.

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Thanks to Ken Mbugua for a great time in the book of Jeremiah #RTB2015

Jer1: Preaching 1.not about preacher; 2.needs preachers; 3.not end in itself; 4.work of faithfulness not creativity; 5.not popular #RTB2015

Jer23v9-40: God hates false prophets; not just a warning to THEM OUT THERE but also to us – 1 Tim 4v16 #RTB2015

Jer 23v1-8: false prophets will not prevail 1.God will judge 2.God will raise up faithful shepherds 3.God will raise up The Shepherd #RTB2015

Jer36: if don’t preach with God’s desire (1tim2v4) we are mishandling the Scriptures #RTB2015

Jer50: God says to enemies: “I will turn your wisdom 2 foolishness, your courage 2 cowardice, I will make you utterly worthless in every way

< because you dared 2 come up against the LORD of hosts, because you worship dung pellets instead of me, because of your PRIDE.” #RTB2015

Jer50: Will never cherish our salvation without marvelling at the destruction we deserved #RTB2015

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True word for tough times

Jeremiah has got a bit of a bad reputation – of being long (52 chapters), convoluted (not in chronological order) and depressing (‘Jeremiah’ in the dictionary is ‘a dismal prophet, a denouncer of the times’). But I’m really starting to get into Jeremiah, helped by Dale Ralph Davis’ great little book (a collection of sermons) True Word for Tough Times.

Here are some thoughts, largely taken from DRD:

  1. The Word of God is the big theme. The first chapter is key in introducing the theme and particularly 3 aspects that will be carried throughout the book:
    1. The-Word-of-the-Lord as a person who interacts with Jeremiah (‘the Word of the LORD came to me saying’, ‘put out his hand and touched my mouth’);
    2. the Word in Jeremiah’s mouth intended to destroy (66% emphasis) and then bring hope (“Verse 10 is the key verse of the prophecy of Jeremiah. As you study the prophecy you will see those last six verbs coming up again and again” (DRD));
    3. the violent resistance of the people of God to the Word of God (v19) – you see it again and again, most clearly in the incidents in ch. 26 (Jeremiah almost lynched) and 36 (the scroll cut up and thrown in the fire) but basically all the way through.
  2. The marriage relationship of Yahweh and his people, as in Isaiah, Ezekiel and Hosea, is prominent – the marriage covenant, the jilted lover (e.g. Jer. 2:32; 31:32). DRD: “’They have forsaken me.’ That is what Yahweh dwells on. That is what drives him to white heat.”
  3. There is plenty of judgement. Relentless terrible judgement. And even the prophet himself is rebuked (15:19). This is not a softie god. This is a strange and holy God. DRD: “You do not always meet the therapeutic Jesus; you do not always meet the psychological Jesus who coos to you… You do not always meet a Jesus made in your own mould. Sometime you meet the one who says to you, ‘Repent… and I will restore you.’”
  4. There is also a strong theme of the inability of man to change himself. The people are clearly shown the ‘ancient paths’ (Jer. 6:16a – a well-worn preaching text) but they refuse to go down them (Jer. 6:16b). They are like a leopard that can’t change its spots (Jer. 13:23) – they can’t do good any more than a pig can fly. The problem is a terminally ill heart (Jer. 17:9) so deceitful it can even convince itself that it is good, is repentant, is listening to God, when in fact it is resisting the Word (Jer. 42:5-6; 43:2-4). The message of Jeremiah is that left to ourselves we will not, we cannot repent. What we need is to be destroyed and rebuilt (Jer. 1:10), a new covenant of sovereign grace (note the 7-fold “I will” in Jer. 31:31-34), God giving us a new heart with His handwriting on it.
  5. Kings are crucial. All the way through Jeremiah, from beginning (Jer. 1:1-3) to end (52:31-34) the fate of God’s people rises and falls (especially falls) through the king. Jer. 21-23 is particularly important in seemingly extinguishing of hope in the Davidic line while at the same time holding out the promise of a new Davidic Branch with a wonderful name (Jer. 23:6).
  6. Jeremiah himself “is a very Christ-like prophet” (DRD) – esp. in his persecution (e.g. ch. 26) and in his decision to take the hard road (ch. 40).
  7. Also Jeremiah is in some ways a pattern of the Christian life, not in his unique prophetic role but in the sense that his experience of God, his conversations with God (ch. 1, 12, 15), his intimacy with God, seems to pre-empt the New Covenant experience of chapter 31. It’s as if Jeremiah has got there first – he has been given a privileged foretaste of what one day all God’s people will experience (which seems to be what is happening with some of the other prophets – e.g. Moses (Num. 11:29), Jonah’s great commission, Ezekiel (cf. Ezek. 2:2 with ch. 36-37)). And what is this New Covenant life like? Joy and tears, comfort in affliction, “balancing on a paradox of delight and distress” (DRD).
  8. And Jeremiah is in some ways a pattern of the preacher of the gospel – not in terms receiving direct revelation from the hand of the LORD but in terms of having to faithfully pass on a man-humbling message in season and out of season, not compromising even when everyone hates the message, not swayed when every other preacher is preaching the opposite. Jeremiah gives a vivid picture of the emotional realities of such work: “it does not take long in the ministry to go from doxology to despair, from ecstasy to exhaustion, from confidence to cursing, from exulting in God to wishing you were dead” (DRD commenting on Jer. 20:13-14). This could be qualified in that you would expect ministry this side of the Cross to have more joy and fruit (cf. Jer. 26 and Acts 3) but still it’s a needed reminder that many will reject and resist the Word of God, gospel ministry will often mean looking like death warmed up (2 Cor. 4:7-18) and particularly in some places and times where a society is flat out resisting the truth, post-Christian, running headlong into lies and evil, maybe then ministry will look quite a lot like Jeremiah’s – faithful but largely fruitless.

And something on structure:

Some scholars have given up on finding any real structure in Jeremiah. Others have devised incredibly complex multi-layered chiastic structures that look rather improbable (here is a more reasonable and possible chiastic suggestion). The following is largely based on DRD:

Section 1: The calling & complaints of Jeremiah
a) Ch. 1 – Introduction – the Word of the LORD
b) Ch. 2-10 – the Word in Jeremiah’s mouth – a sample of his preaching – destruction
c) Ch. 11-20 – the problems, conflicts, trials and complaints of Jeremiah

Section 2: Faithlessness, faithfulness, hope in a New King & his New Covenant
a) Ch. 21-29 – the shadow of impending destruction from Babylon
b) Ch. 30-35 – “building and planting” – consolation and hope

Section 3: Resisting the Word of the LORD – Baruch, Jeremiah & Zedekiah, a remnant preserved
a) Ch. 36-39 – events before the capture of Jerusalem – ending in the promise to Ebed-melech, the faithful Ethiopian contrasted with the faithless King Zedekiah
b) Ch. 40-45 – events after the capture of Jerusalem – ending with the promise to Baruch, representing the faithful remnant contrasted with the treacherous, hypocritical, defiant majority

Section 4: 10 ‘plagues’
a) Ch. 46-51 – first 9 plagues – the Word of the LORD against the nations
b) Ch. 52 – 10th plague – destruction of Jerusalem and a glimmer of hope

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