In these chapters of Jeremiah, we see the Lord speaking more forcefully. He is determined to punish Israel for their adultery (idolatry) and stubborn dictates of their hearts and refusing to listen and hear God’s words. Jeremiah has his third crisis of questioning God’s reliability. There are conflicts within, conflicts without.

Jeremiah is told to get a linen sash and wear it as a belt for some days. He is then told to bury it in the rocks. After many days, Jeremiah is told to go and get the sash. It is ruined and good for nothing. The Lord prophesies that this is Israel, whom He bound around His waste to become His people for renown, praise, and glory; but they would not hear.

Hear and give ear: do not be proud, for the Lord has spoken. Jeremiah 13:15

Judah is in a drought and seeks the Lord’s help. The Lord does not accept their prayers, for they have loved to wander. The Lord tells Jeremiah not to pray for the people either. But Jeremiah continues to pray. The Lord says, “Even if Moses and Samuel stood before me My mind would not be favorable toward this people” Jeremiah 15:1 Moses and Samuel were two of the greatest intercessors for Israel. They were unwilling to stop their prayers and allow destruction to take place.

Jeremiah is in a personal crisis. He is feeling the pressure of his ministry and the conflict of strife and the contentions of Israel. He states His consecrations to the Lord but asks the Lord where He is. “Why is my pain perpetual, and my wound incurable, which refuses to be healed? Will You surely be to me like an unreliable stream, as waters that fail? Jeremiah 15:18

God’s response is that Jeremiah must return to the Lord and then He will bring Him back. “If you return, then I will bring you back; you shall stand before Me; If you take out the precious from the vile, you shall be as My mouth. Let them return to you, but you must not return to them.” Jeremiah 15:19. Jeremiah 15:19-21 are powerful verses in the Amplified Version, calling all of us to come out of mistaken tones of distrust and despair and unworthy suspicions’ concerning God’s faithfulness.

Jeremiah is told to not marry or have children, because of the destruction that is coming to Jerusalem, God has taken away His peace, lovingkindness, and mercies. “Why?”, the people ask. “Because your fathers have forsaken Me, says the Lord; they have walked after other gods and have served them and worshipped them, and forsaken Me and not kept My law. And you have done worse than your fathers, for behold each one follows the dictates of his own evil heart.” Jeremiah 16:11, 12

But God is already prophesying Israel’s return to the land, two verses later. The Lord does not want to leave us to the fruit of our ways but has no choice when we insist on our ways. Pride and not humility—Insisting that we are righteous, without regard to our conduct, we are free to do as we will. When we are confident in our self-righteousness, it leaves the Lord with no choice but to give us to the dictates of our own hearts.

“The sin of Judah is written with a pen of iron; with the point of a diamond it is engraved on the tablet of their heart, and on the horns of your altars.” Jeremiah 17:1 The Lord declares the curse of the man who trusts in man and makes flesh his strength, and the blessing of the man who trusts in the Lord and whose hope is the Lord.

“The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked; who can know it? I, the Lord search the heart, I test the mind, even to give every man according to his ways, according to the fruit of his doings.” Jeremiah 17:9, 10

Finally, Jeremiah is told to go to the gate of Jerusalem. In chapter seven, he had been sent to the gate of the Lord’s house. Judgement begins in the house of the Lord, and now continues to the city. God gives Jeremiah a simple word, “Take heed to yourselves, and bear no burden on the Sabbath day, nor bring it in by the gates of Jerusalem.” Jeremiah 17:21

This simple but profound command to enter the Lord’s rest and trust in His provision and keep His sabbath holy, is with promise. “Then shall enter the gate of this city kings and princes sitting on the throne of David, riding in chariots and on horses, they and their princes, accompanied by the men of Judah and the inhabitants of Jerusalem; and this city shall remain forever.” Jeremiah 17:25

Obedience is better than sacrifice. When we obey what the Lord is asking us to observe before Him, then He will change the course of a nation. From judgement to blessing, from destruction to perpetuity, the Lord promises His blessing. Rather than fight with one another over doctrines, beliefs, prophets’ words, or when we will leave in the rapture, God calls us to love of the brethren, maintain repentance and humility in our hearts, and to live before Him and trust Him alone.

What is the Lord saying to America? What is the Lord saying to each of us? A covenant nation will be judged by God regarding its departure from Him and His ways. Like Jeremiah we have to return with our hearts, trust in the Lord, and hope in the Lord.

Who knows what He will do in our simple obedience to His word and His ways?

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