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Jeremiah Backslid

Feeling shocked and exasperated, unrighteously so, lonely Jeremiah succumbed to worldly sorrow and evil unbelief. As a consequence to this, the wrath of God was statedly upon him! As an aid to help Jeremiah repent and escape the wrath of God, the LORD was gracious to pointedly innumerate his compromises; and, as a result of these events and Jeremiah’s restoration, deep-rooted misunderstandings were directly confronted and hopefully purged once and for all.

My reader, remember, despite that fact that God told Jeremiah, “Pray not for this people for their good” (Jer. 14:11), Jeremiah prayed for their good (Jer. 14:19-22; “Remember that I stood before Thee to speak good for them, and to turn away Thy wrath from them” – Jer. 18:20)! Jeremiah was unprepared to hear the word, “Though Moses and Samuel stood before Me, yet My mind could not be toward this people: cast the out of My sight, and let them go forth” (Jer. 15:1), and, “I am weary with repenting” (Jer. 15:6). Hence, Jeremiah’s steadfast plea was for their salvation (Jer. 14:8-9), which meant: a deliverance from the foreboding sword and famine that God promised (Jer. 14:12-13, 18) and the granting of peace and healing that God refused (Jer. 14:19). Despite Jeremiah’s persistence in prayer to pray for the good (Jer. 14:19-22), God was steadfastly intent upon the performance of evil (Jer. 15:2; “Behold, I frame evil against you” – Jer. 18:11). The misunderstood Prophet, hoping to live-out the intercessory ministries of Moses and Samuel, was sorely disappointed, offended, and confounded.

Jeremiah disagreed with God! Meaning, Jeremiah pitied Jerusalem and bemoaned the people… and God didn’t. As a response to Jeremiah’s misdirected behavior, God spoke directly to the City of Jerusalem and the people therein. Intending to confront the wayward Prophet and correct him, God was unashamedly righteous and forthright to illustrate the utter vanity of Jeremiah’s intercession, saying, “For WHO shall have pity upon thee, O Jerusalem? Or WHO shall bemoan thee? Or WHO shall go aside to ask how thou doest” (Jer. 15:5)? Jeremiah was forbidden to do so. These rhetorical questions were contextually relevant to the imminent backsliding of Jeremiah that was taking place. Hence, after the full declaration of the foregoing judgments were uttered (Jer. 15:1-9), Jeremiah responded in worldly sorrow and rashness, saying:

“Woe is me, my mother, that thou hast borne me a man of strife and a man of contention to the whole earth! I have neither lent on usury, nor men have lent to me on usury; yet every one of them doth curse me.” - Jer. 15:10

The Lord was strongly displeased and angry at this, for Jeremiah had departed from the Lord’s cause. The Lord responded to Jeremiah’s miserable lamentation with judgment against the backslidden Prophet, and for the first time Jeremiah was included in the prophecy of damnation and woe that God sounded in his ears. Being a Prophet, Jeremiah was used to the sudden and unexpected sound of the Word of the LORD dropping upon him from Heaven, but he never thought he would be included in the number of abjects! Fearfully, Jeremiah was made to inherit the portion of the wicked because he mourned the lot of the righteous. Specifically speaking, the LORD was prepared to lead Jeremiah forth with the workers of iniquity that were bound by decree as Captives to Babylon (“As for such as turn aside unto their crooked ways, the LORD shall lead them forth with the workers of iniquity…” – Ps. 125:5). The LORD said, “I will make thee [Jeremiah] to pass with thine enemies into a Land which thou knowest not: for a fire is kindled in Mine anger, which shall burn upon you” (Jer. 15:11-14). God’s wrath was kindled and ready to burn upon Jeremiah! Do you wonder why? Sadly, modern scholarship couldn’t tell you the answer.

Certainly, Jeremiah’s persistence to intercede is biblical, historical, and admirable, but only to a certain point. Jeremiah had been affectionately bound to the people of Judah, his kinsmen according to the flesh, even though the Lord denounced them as spiritually uncircumcised (Jer. 9:25-26); this is not unusual behavior for a Prophet. As Jeremiah persisted in prayer and intercessory attempts, and to no avail, this was a trial for him; this too is not unusual behavior for a Prophet. However, Jeremiah’s heart was found faulty in that he mourned for the people both righteously and unrighteously – that is, through Spirit-filled intercession to God and through inordinate pity upon or fellowship with the people’s crooked offences. Through worldly sorrow and loneliness, Jeremiah, who was in hiding on account of the manhunt for his arrest (Jer. 36:26), was desirous to gather with the assemblies of hypocrites to mourn with them. This is a stark contrast to Jeremiah’s longstanding integrity before he backslid (in seeking to commend himself to God, Jeremiah said, “I sat not in the assembly of the mockers, nor rejoiced; I sat alone because of Thy hand: for Thou hast filled me with indignation” – Jer. 15:15-18).

Fearfully, though, the Lord spoke into the real-time situation of Jeremiah’s corrupt desire, commanding him, “Enter not into the House of Mourning, neither go to lament nor bemoan them” (Jer. 16:5). Evidently, because of Jeremiah’s loneliness, depression, and ungodly dissatisfaction, he longed to commiserate with those who mourned for the dead (i.e. funerals). In the course of things, naturally speaking, one sin leads to another like unto the first. Lonely Jeremiah, out of fellowship with God, also desired to mingle with the multitude in pursuit of a wife to comfort himself against sorrow. If he did not actually mingle with them in this pursuit, he wanted to. The Lord responded, by saying, “Thou shalt not take thee a wife, neither shalt thou have sons or daughters in this place” (Jer. 16:2), and this meant, in other words, “Thou shalt not also go into the House of Feasting, to sit with them to eat and to drink” (Jer. 16:8-9). Jeremiah was alone and hiding in righteousness, longing for the contrary!

Can you see the contextual evidence for these interpretations, my reader? The aforementioned prophetic rebukes were uttered as a response to Jeremiah’s backsliding, no question about it. From Chapter 14 through Chapter 16, the sequence of events is clear: Jeremiah’s persistent and affectionate desire to pray for the people in righteousness (Jer. 14:8-9, 14:19-15:1), God’s sure declaration of unchangeableness (Jer. 15:1, 5-9), Jeremiah’s unrighteous response of worldly sorrow amidst the hardship of an un-save-able people who persecuted the Prophet while cleaving to inaccessible Covenantal Ideals (Jer. 15:10), God’s judgment upon the backslidden and murmuring Prophet (Jer. 15:11-14), Jeremiah’s commendation of his own integrity before the LORD which he maintained for so long a time, but of late compromised at least in heart (“I sat not in the assembly of the mockers, nor rejoiced; I sat alone because of Thy hand: for Thou hast filled me with indignation” – Jer. 15:15-18), the Lord’s response to Jeremiah’s attempted self-justification commanding him to repent and restore the former conduct of holiness and separation (“take forth the precious from the vile”, “let them return unto thee; but return not thou unto them” – Jer. 15:19-21), and upon the Prophet’s restoration (“thou shalt stand before Me”, “thou shalt be as My mouth” – Jer. 15:19), behold, he was further instructed concerning his compromises of holiness in relationship to the castaway generation among whom he dwelt (as the former paragraph proves, Jeremiah was unrighteously drawn to the hypocritical happiness of marriage ceremonies and the worldly sorrow of funeral ceremonies and processions of mourning – Jer. 16:1-9). [For more information on Jeremiah’s backsliding and restoration with a specific focus on how we must avoid a damnable misapplication of sovereign election, see “Jeremiah”.]

The people were engrossed in deception, as it was before exclaimed by Jeremiah (Jer. 4:9-10) and demonstrated theretofore (Jer. 2:20, 23, 25, 27, 31, 35, 3:4-5, 5:2, 12, 19, 24, 6:16-17, 7:4, 10, 8:6, 8, 11, 15, 12:4, 13:22, 14:13, 15); even so, once again, the people foolishly inquired: “Wherefore hath the LORD pronounced all this great evil against us? Or what is our iniquity? Or what is our sin that we have committed against the LORD our God” (Jer. 16:10)? Oblivion! So many biblical, sound, and irrefutable reasons had been uttered by God and unheard by the people! The Lord was careful to innumerate the reasons the people’s faith was false and their confidence unfounded (Jer. 16:11-17:4), and in the light of the present situation, He characterized the contrast between false faith and true faith in terms of a cursed man (Jer. 17:5-6) and a blessed man (Jer. 17:7-8); and in application to the people of Judah, who couldn’t discern the true essence of their own hearts, the Lord declared: “the heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked: who can know it” (Jer. 17:9)!? But, what the people didn’t know… God did! God knew their hearts and did theretofore judge them (Jer. 17:9-10)! “I the LORD search the heart, I try the reins, even to give every man according to his ways, and according to the fruit of his doings” (Jer. 17:10), and that’s the bottom line! Jeremiah responded to the prophetic interaction with a tender heart (Jer. 17:16-18) as the people chided with him concerning the words spoken, saying, “Where is the word of the LORD? Let it come now” (Jer. 17:15). “Be not a terror unto me: thou art my hope in the evil day”, Jeremiah prayed (Jer. 17:17).

Following the narrative, can you see what was happening to Jeremiah? The Prophet was coming into agreement with God! Jeremiah was finally learning the righteousness and benevolence of Gods’ perspective, when He said, “Pray not for this people for their good” (Jer. 14:11). In other words, Jeremiah was seeing the goodness of the command, “Pray not for this people for their good” (Jer. 14:11). How? As Jeremiah was becoming more and more acquainted with the wickedness of the people, the seeming wickedness of the Lord’s judgment disappeared. In other words, as Jeremiah was becoming more and more acquainted with the evil of the people, the judgments of the Lord appeared increasingly good. You see? Because Jeremiah was unacquainted with the wickedness of the people, he underestimated it. He was unrighteously optimistic towards the impenitent multitudes, and abruptly offended; Jeremiah didn’t see what God saw. However, it was becoming more and more clear to Jeremiah that if good was done to this evil people, then they would never become good! But, if evil was done to this evil people, lo, and behold, an elect remnant would become good! Jeremiah was certainly in the beginning stages of realizing this; this is true, and little does he know that God will pivot in a new direction from this point onward (for the whole duration of Jeremiah’s latter ministry!). Up to this point in time, the redemptive purpose of the Great Tribulation had been largely unexplained. Coming this far into Jeremiah’s ministry (approx. 25 years), only minute prophetic references were made concerning God sparing a remnant. Finally, Jeremiah was realizing how otherwise un-save-able his generation actually was except they be made pass through the Great Tribulation, and thus prayed for evil, saying:

Let them be confounded that persecute me, but let not me be confounded: let them be dismayed, but let not me be dismayed: bring upon them the day of evil, and destroy them with double destructionJer. 17:18 (see also Proverbs 16:4-5).

All the horrific detail that formerly offended Jeremiah now dawned upon him in the sovereign and glorious design that it was authored by God to be, a redemptive purpose! My reader, can you see how Jeremiah 15:2-3 is a redemptive purpose? Jeremiah was beginning to. My reader, if you are uncomfortable with Jeremiah’s prayer I assure you that you are not comprehending what Jeremiah was beginning to realize. He was realizing the goodness of God in the Great Tribulation (Jer. 15:2-3), how that it is neither unnecessary nor uncalled for but, rather, it’s the people’s only hope!

Graciously, this purpose of redemption via a remnant will be prophetically expounded and enlarged upon with great detail from this point onward in Jeremiah’s Ministry, so brace yourself. Our steep ascent up this dangerous slope will perch us aloft for an unforgettable sight: The Majesty of the LORD in the fires of the Great Tribulation! You know, the very thing that the wicked do refuse to see or acknowledge (Isa. 26:10)! Yes, my reader, a remnant shall understand it (Dan. 12:10)! A remnant shall behold it! Amidst untold desolation and unspeakable suffering to come (Isa. 24:1-12), “When thus it shall be in the midst of the Land among the people…” (Isa. 24:13), a remnant shall understand God’s purpose of redemption in embracing tribulation and, consequentially, they will sing for The Majesty of the Lord amidst the fires of the Great Tribulation!

They [a remnant] shall lift up their voice, they shall sing for the Majesty of the LORD, they shall cry aloud from the sea. Wherefore glorify ye the LORD in the fires, even the name of the LORD God of Israel in the isles of the sea. From the uttermost part of the earth have we heard songs, even glory to the righteous. – Isa. 24:13-16

Do you want to be with this mysterious multitude, dear reader? “These are they which came out of Great Tribulation”, the Apostle John said (Rev. 7:14)! It is therefore expedient that you and I understand the Majesty of the LORD in the Great Tribulation, my reader, and that we understand it well.