It is very easy to become comfortable with sin and to ignore its consequences. God’s warnings of coming judgment and appeals for repentance through Jeremiah emphasize the Lord’s mercy but also stress how critical it is that we are quick to confess our sin and turn from it.
From Devotion to Disaster
Dr. Harry Ironside pastored a church in Chicago during the early 1900s. As a young man, he was not developing the kind of humility he thought he should have, and he asked an older Christian friend what he should do about it. His friend gave him some rather poor advice. He told him that if he wanted to be humble, he needed to do something humiliating. Like what? Well, he told Ironside to create a sandwich board—that is a large board you wear in the front that is strapped to another board that hangs over your back—and he said, “Write on those boards the message of God’s judgment and the plan of salvation, and then walk through the shopping district in downtown Chicago for an entire day. That will make you humble.”
Well, Ironside followed his friend’s advice, and when he returned to his apartment after a humiliating day of ridicule and laughter, he was exhausted. But as he took off that sandwich board, he found himself thinking, “You know, there’s probably nobody else in Chicago humble enough to do what I just did.”
It only created more pride. Humility is not developed by being humiliated; it is not being jeered at or even thinking poorly of yourself. Humility is when you don’t think of yourself at all. You have simply surrendered to live for God and for others. Humility is the opposite of self-centeredness.
When I think of the prophet Jeremiah, I think of a truly humble man—not because he was humiliated, but because nothing in his life was self-centered. It is as if God told Jeremiah to become a living billboard. His life is a sandwich board, delivering the message of God’s judgment and salvation; and his world is going to do nothing but mock him, jeer him, and ignore him.
Here in Jeremiah chapters 2 through 6, the prophet delivers two messages. The first sermon takes you from Jeremiah chapter 2 all the way through chapter 3 and verse 5; the second sermon goes through the end of chapter 6. The main point of this first sermon is a warning to the nation of Judah. If Jeremiah were wearing a sandwich board, it would read, “The end is near—judgment is coming!”
And here is why: God says in Jeremiah 2:2, “I remember the devotion of your youth, your love as a bride.” The people are pictured as a newly married bride who then becomes unfaithful to God, her groom. God says this:
My people have committed two evils: they have forsaken me, the fountain of living waters, and hewed out cisterns for themselves, broken cisterns that can hold no water. (verse 13)
God’s people had traded the “living water” of God for the mud puddle of false religion. Beloved, religion will never satisfy your spiritual thirst—that comes only through God’s Son, the Lord Jesus, who says, “Let the one who is thirsty come [to Me]; let the one who desires take the water of life without price” (Revelation 22:17).
Jeremiah goes on to describe the foolishness of their idolatry in verse 27, where the leaders of Judah are pictured saying to a tree, “‘You are my father,’ and to a stone, ‘You gave me birth.’” In other words, everything evolved—we are all related somehow to a stone or a tree.
You might think people today are smarter than that. Not really. People believe to this day that they are the result of an explosion of stars out there in the universe. I once heard a scientist say, “You ought to feel good about yourself because you’re the result of an explosion of stars—you are made of stardust.” That is no different than the people of Jeremiah’s day saying to a rock, “You gave me birth.”
Whenever people reject the creator God, they are going to assume their origin came from a rock or a tree or Mother Earth or some star out there. They are even going to say to a “rock,” “You gave me birth.”
Here in chapter 3, the people are described, not just as unfaithful spouses, but as spiritual prostitutes who have polluted the land with their immorality. Verse 5 describes them as doing “all the evil that [they] could.”
Judah should know better; they saw what happened to the ten tribes in the north—the kingdom of Israel. They saw Israel taken into captivity. But that didn’t seem to matter to them.
Now even though Judah has abandoned God, God will not abandon Judah forever. He gives them this promise: “I will give you shepherds after my own heart, who will feed you with knowledge and understanding” (verse 15).
This promise is partially fulfilled in every generation, by the way—even to this day. In fact, this is the verse we have chosen for our seminary—Shepherds Seminary—as we train Bible expositors and pastors and church leaders. We want to be involved in God’s promise to provide shepherds for His people in every nation.
But Jeremiah’s generation wants nothing to do with godly shepherds. And so, Jeremiah walks through the shopping district of Jerusalem, so to speak, with a sandwich board that reads, “The end is near—judgment is coming!”
God speaks through Jeremiah here in verses 6-7 of chapter 4:
“I bring disaster from the north, and great destruction. . . . a destroyer of nations has set out . . . your cities will be ruins without inhabitant.”
Now this destroyer of nations is Babylon, and there is no escaping the Babylonian army. Jeremiah is not smiling or laughing or gloating as he delivers this message of judgment. In verse 19 he says, “My anguish, my anguish! I writhe in pain!” He is weeping. Indeed, he has become known as the “weeping prophet.”
Jeremiah makes it clear why God will arrive in judgment. He boldly lists a number of Judah’s sins here in chapter 5. He says of the people, they do not seek for justice or truth (verse 1); they “swear falsely” (verse 2); and they refuse correction and do not repent (verse 3). Verse 12 says that in their arrogance, they proclaim, “He [God] will do nothing; no disaster will come upon us.”
They are saying, “God is not going to do anything to us. We will not face judgment. God is not going to judge anybody.” Doesn’t that sound like people today? And like the nation of Judah, so many people today are in for a shocking surprise when they finally meet God.
Jeremiah now preaches in chapter 6 about the certainty of Jerusalem’s destruction. There is vivid, poetic language here that gives the details of what is coming. Verse 6 says the Babylonians will cut down trees and build siege ramps against the city of Jerusalem, “the city that must be punished.”
Judgment will fall upon everyone—young and old alike are all guilty (verses 11-13). The Lord says here in verse 19, “They have not paid attention to my words.”
Don’t miss this important point: judgment does not come until God has exhausted every effort to bring them to repentance. He has sent them prophets to warn them; He has waited patiently for centuries for them to respond. But they have misinterpreted His patience as freedom to continue in their sin.
What about you today, my friend? Has God been patient with you? That you are reading this right now is one more evidence of His patience, His invitation, and His warning to you. I am not a prophet, but you can consider me the prophet Jeremiah in your life today. God is warning you again today. The Bible says in Hebrews 9:27, “It is appointed for man to die once, and after that comes judgment.”
You can avoid the judgment of God when you meet Him one day, by accepting the gift of salvation through His Son, the Lord Jesus. The Bible says, “Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved” (Romans 10:13). Call out to Him today—He’s listening. Ask the Lord Jesus to forgive you and save you and become your Shepherd today.
 Donald K. Campbell, Daniel: Decoder of Dreams (Victor, 1977), 22.