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Fourth Quarter 2015 October–December)
COMMENTARY ON JEREMIAH
Week 4: October 17–23
COMMENTARY ON REBUKE AND RETRIBUTION
Following is a combined commentary on the material included in the Bible Study Guide with references as necessary to the supplemental passages included in the E. G. White Notes for the Sabbath School Lessons.
Note: Unless otherwise stated, all biblical quotes are from the English Standard Version (ESV).
This week’s lesson is built on a foundation revealed in Sunday’s lesson: the idea that there are “two ways” exemplified by Jesus’ words in Luke 11:233: “He that is not with me is against me: and he that gathereth not with me scattereth.”
The lesson makes the point that these words declare the “two ways” that demonstrate the reality of the “great controversy theme at it’s most basic level”.
In fact, the simple reality that there are only two spiritual places one can be does ot demonstrate a great controversy theme. Rather, it expresses the reality into which we all are born. Monday’s lesson makes a great point of the imagery in Jeremiah 17:1-4 that describes Judah’s sin as being so deep it is engraved on their hearts. The lesson’s authors lead the reader to ponder the “intense” work of purifying our hearts, and the lesson identifies sin as the law and states that instead of loving God and His law, Judah’s violation of that law is “etched in their hearts”.
This lesson completely misses the fact that every person ever born is hopelessly depraved. Sin etched on the heart is not something developed by sinning; we sin because we are born children of wrath:
And you were dead in the trespasses and sins in which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience—among whom we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind (Ephesians 2:1-3).
No one can please, seek, or find God in their natural state:
What then? Are we Jews any better off?No, not at all. For we have already charged that all, both Jews and Greeks, are under sin, as it is written: “None is righteous, no, not one; no one understands; no one seeks for God. All have turned aside; together they have become worthless; no one does good, not even one.” “Their throat is an open grave; they use their tongues to deceive.” “The venom of asps is under their lips.” “Their mouth is full of curses and bitterness. “Their feet are swift to shed blood; in their paths are ruin and misery, and the way of peace they have not known.” “There is no fear of God before their eyes” (Romans 3:9-18).
The condition of Judah was the end-point of our natural condition. No one can please God unless God calls him:
No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him. And I will raise him up on the last day. It is written in the Prophets, ‘And they will all be taught by God.’ Everyone who has heard and learned from the Father comes to me—(John 6:44-45).
We are unable to seek, find, or respond to the Lord Jesus unless the Father draws us, but when He draws us, our responsibility is to acknowledge Him and honor Him. Romans 1:18-20 describes the way humans become so deeply mired in their own sin and self-indulgence:
For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who by their unrighteousness suppress the truth. For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them. For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse. For although they knew God, they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him, but they became futile in their thinking, and their foolish hearts were darkened. Claiming to be wise, they became fools, and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images resembling mortal man and birds and animals and creeping things (Romans 1:18-23).
Significantly, Paul explains exactly how people become so enmeshed in sin that they completely ignore the God who is REAL. They refuse to acknowledge Him as God when they see the evidence of His eternal nature and divine power. They refuse to submit to His authority, His superior, creative authority that made all things and reveals what can be known about Him. They refuse to give Him thanks. Instead of submitting to His unsearchable power and knowledge which reveals that they themselves are limited and without understanding, the pretend to be wise. They exchange the glory of God for idolatry.
Jeremiah wasn’t sent to unusually wicked men with his warnings of judgment and his promises from God of ultimate restoration and a new covenant (Jer. 31:31-33). Jeremiah was talking to people like we are.
The lesson ends with the point that evil and sin are inexplicable, and we can’t understand tragedy and suffering. We just have to know that we live in a fallen world.
The lesson reveals the hopelessness of a religious system that has suppressed the knowledge of God as He reveals Himself in Scripture. Adventism has suppressed the reality that God sent His own Son to satisfy His wrath against sin by dying on the cross and shedding innocent blood to pay for human sin (Rom. 3:20-27).
Jesus’ blood, His death on the cross, is not just a demonstration of God’s love in some symbolic way. Rather, Jesus’ death was a divine ransom, a redemption of otherwise completely hopelessly lost creatures. Because of Jesus’ death and resurrection, we who are born dead can be made alive and seated NOW with Christ in heavenly places:
But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved—and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, so that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast. For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them (Ephesians 2:4-10).
Jesus’ blood was not a symbol of something. Rather, it is the means by which we draw near to God when we believe that He bore our sins in His body on the cross. Jesus’ death is the eternal sacrifice that opened a new, living way to the Father (Heb. 10:20). We no longer have to bring sacrifices when we approach a holy God; we come recognizing that the Sacrifice has been made eternally, and we submit to God’s righteous requirement that we believe in the Son, that we repent of our innate, inescapable sin that condemns us until we believe (Jn. 3:18).
When we believe in Jesus, we cross at that moment out of death into life and are transferred from the domain of darkness into the kingdom of God’s Beloved Son!
Truly, truly, I say to you, whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life. He does not come into judgment, but has passed from death to life (John 5:24).
He has delivered us from the domain of darkness and transferred us to the kingdom of his beloved Son, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins (Colossians 1:13-14).
The story of Jeremiah is not underscoring the great controversy and demonstrating the awfulness of evil. Rather, the entire book of Jeremiah is a historical and prophetic book demonstrating that God keeps His promises. He told Israel that He would bless them for obedience and curse them for disobedience. Now, in Jeremiah’s prophecies and accounts, we see that God faithfully kept His end of the covenant: He is going to exile them from their land because of their persistent, long-term unbelief.
At the same time, Jeremiah is delivering messages of hope. God will yet restore Israel, and He will deliver them. He will make a new covenant with them, one that is unconditional and not dependent upon their weak promises:
“Behold, the days are coming, declares the LORD, when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and the house of Judah, not like the covenant that I made with their fathers on the day when I took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt, my covenant that they broke, though I was their husband, declares the LORD. For this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, declares the LORD: I will put my law within them, and I will write it on their hearts. And I will be their God, and they shall be my people. And no longer shall each one teach his neighbor and each his brother, saying, ‘Know the LORD,’ for they shall all know me, from the least of them to the greatest, declares the LORD. For I will forgive their iniquity, and I will remember their sin no more (Jeremiah 31:31-34).
God is faithful. What He says, He will do. Moreover, He does more than we expect. In the New Testament, with the fulfillment of Jesus’ perfect sacrifice and resurrection and ascension, we learned that God has ushered believing gentiles into this covenant that He made with Israel. And if God has made us joint heirs with Christ along with believing Jews, we can trust that He will yet do what He promised to do for His people Israel!
Jesus said that the work of God is to believe the One whose He sent (Jn. 6:29). Trust Jesus. Let all distractions, such as sabbaths and diets, go. Jesus alone saves. Jesus alone is enough!