Jeremiah 3:6-5:31


What’s in Your Heart?

As we begin our reading today God is using the 10 tribes of Israel, who have now been scattered among the Assyrian empire, as an example to Judah. The 10 tribes of Israel never had a godly king. Jeroboam, their first king, made golden calves to represent God and for the people to worship. This set the people up to embrace idolatry. King Ahab and his wife Jezebel introduced Baal worship to the nation. Ahab was not from the dynasty of Jeroboam. He was from a dynasty that gained power by assassination.

Judah had the temple where the people could worship. They also had several godly kings including the current king, Josiah. Jehoshaphat was the king of Judah at the time Ahab was king of Israel. He was a godly king but allowed his son to marry the daughter of Ahab. He also hung around with Ahab and was nearly killed in battle when he allied Judah with Israel in a war against Syria. Ahab was killed in the battle but the damage was done. Jehoshaphat attempted to influence Israel but ended up being influenced by Ahab and Israel. His son’s wife brought Baal worship and idolatry to Judah, thus Israel had a negative influence on Judah. Both nations were unrighteous in their actions, but in verse 11 God says Israel was more righteous than Judah whom He calls treacherous.

Israel was taken by Assyria and the people of Israel relocated throughout the Assyrian empire nearly 100 years earlier. God tells Jeremiah to turn toward the place where the people were scattered and call them to “return.”

There is a contrast here that is striking! Israel never had a godly king. They were greatly hindered from going to Jerusalem to worship and, yes, they were unrighteous, but they were also being broken and a time was coming where they will return and be reunited with Judah becoming one nation again.

Judah had the temple where they were free to go and worship. At this time they also had a godly king who was trying to bring reform. Josiah was restoring the temple and told the people to return. The people were returning but not in their heart. Their going to the temple was deceptive. They walked through the gate but their hearts and minds were far away from God. In fact, their hearts were hardened against Him. In just a few years they too will be taken to Babylon where they will be broken just like Israel.

There are several things we need to learn from these events.

First, it is obvious that true faith in God comes from the heart. These two nations clearly illustrate what Jesus said in Luke 17:21, and what Paul said in 1 Corinthians 19-20. The kingdom of God is within the heart of the true believer. The true believer’s body is the temple of the Holy Spirit. We have been redeemed and God has paid a great price for our redemption.

Second, we used to be called a Christian nation. This statement is open for interpretation. We are a nation with Christian people, but the whole nation is not Christian. This is the mistake Judah made. They thought they were all God’s people because they had the temple and were descendants of Abraham. Because of this thinking they were deceptive. They were deceiving themselves and perhaps other people, but not God. The problem was that they believed the lie, and in so doing, they had put their faith in a lie. We in the United States may well be guilty of doing the same thing. At one time we had a Judeo- Christian ethic. This does not mean we were a nation of Christians and Jews but it does mean Christians and Jews had an influence on the culture. Coming from that point of view it is easy to see that we no longer have that type of influence. In fact, it appears that the culture is having a detrimental influence on believers.

This brings me to a third thing we need to learn. The true Kingdom of God flows from God, through the temple, to the world. The Greek word Paul used to describe our body being the temple means the Most Holy place in the temple, or the Holy of Holies. This room contained the Ark of the Covenant which contained the Law, a jar of Manna, and Aaron’s rod that had budded. On top of the ark was the mercy seat. The Law represents God’s Word. The manna represents God’s provision.  Aaron’s staff represents God’s power. The mercy seat represents where the forgiveness of sins was received and the basis of that forgiveness was found in the Law, the provision, and the power of God. Next to the Most Holy place was the Holy place. Here the priests could enter and minister. The Law of God was represented by the loaves of bread that were set up there, one loaf of bread for each tribe, also, the lamp and additionally, the altar of incense. The bread represents the ministry of the Word of God. The lamp represents the illumination or ministry of the Holy Spirit, and the incense represents the prayers of the priests that reach God in Heaven. It is clear that the priests were to minister to the world the things they had received from God.  

1 Peter 2:9&10 says, “But you are a CHOSEN RACE, A royal PRIESTHOOD, A HOLY NATION, A PEOPLE FOR GOD’S OWN POSSESSION, that you may proclaim the excellences of Him who has called you out of darkness into His marvelous light; for you once were NOT A PEOPLE OF GOD; you had NOT RECEIVED MERCY, but now you have RECEIVED MERCY.” NASB

The true Christian has given his heart to be the throne room of God and everything he says and does should flow from the throne of God to the world in which he lives. Our faith is to be a witness of God’s grace, mercy, and love. We are to be a light to the dark world in which we live.

I fear that if we allow the darkness of the world; the unbelief of the world, to govern our lives, that we will become just like Israel and Judah. God will allow that darkness to enslave us until we are broken of our stubborn rebellion and pride.

As I look around the Church today I fear there are people who are blatantly living in sin and seem to be proud of it. Are we in danger of judgment? The pattern in the scriptures is that judgment begins with God’s people.

God said in Jeremiah 3:11 that Israel was more righteous than Judah but He still called Israel “faithless.”

Do you know where your faith is? Faith shows what is really in the heart.

Pastor Dave