Jeremiah 6:20, John 6:29

How to please God

There is this constant nagging in our minds because of the standards of the world around us that we can somehow merit or earn God’s love. We’ve got to do something! Israel, especially at the time of Christ, had redefined God’s law in such a way that one could believe that they lived up to the standards God has set. Thus, if we set some kind of lower standard, like not being as bad as Ted Bundy or Adolph Hitler, we’ll be approved by God for our behavior. Of course this is what the Israelites did by “rejecting” God’s standards as they stand. We have a tendency to do that too in such a way as to justify ourselves before God. We will always fail at this. God’s standard has always been and always will be absolute perfection.

Another way Israel tried to earn God’s love and feel they deserved His favor was to keep the rituals of the Law. Many of us today still think that church attendance, bible study, ministry to others, or partaking of the sacrament of communion, we can satisfy God’s demands on us and find a sense of peace with God. Israel was doing that in Jeremiah’s day and he spoke for God in 6:20 and said, “What use to me is frankincense that comes from Sheba, or sweet cane from a distant land? Your burnt offerings are not acceptable, nor your sacrifices pleasing to me.” Really! Think about it. What does God want from us that He doesn’t already have? What does He gain with all the sacrifices and offerings we might make to Him? Nothing! The whole universe is His and everything in it! He is not a needy, hungry, or thirsty God that needs to be serviced like many of the local deities in the lands around Israel in Jeremiah’s day.

Jesus was once asked “What must I do to work the works of God.” His answer is recorded in John 6:29. He said, “The work of God is this: to believe in the one He has sent.” As I’ve argued for years, what God wants from all of us, what He wanted from Adam and Eve, is to simply trust Him. He wants us to believe His word and to put no confidence in the flesh. It’s not easy to do! It sounds easy but life’s circumstances and situations come along to challenge our faith in God often. Every one of us will face pain and struggles along the way and it’s not always easy to trust that God has our best interest foremost in mind and will keep His promise to “work all things together for our good.” But that’s exactly what He wants from us! He wants us to trust Him. That’s the only way to please God.

Jeremiah 6:19, Matthew 5:17, 48

Words of Love

I’ve often argued that faith is simply trusting God to have our best interest foremost in mind regardless of our circumstances. If we are saved by “faith alone” as Martin Luther argued, then salvation is channeled through our attitude towards God. One of the most prominent themes in the Bible is God’s love for mankind. This is true in both Testaments. Jeremiah is a profound testimony of that. In Jeremiah 31:3, God explains His disposition towards us. He says, “I have loved you with an everlasting love; Therefore I have drawn you with loving-kindness.” Faith is trusting this to be true. The New Testament attests to this attitude of God toward man often. One of those key verses is Romans 5:8: “God demonstrates His love for us in this; while we were yet sinners Jesus died for us.”

When we neglect this truth about God and fail to trust Him in all the affairs of life, we end up trusting ourselves and our own devices. This will always end in disaster because man is not equipped to manage the world. He cannot choreograph the affairs of the universe because the things that really matter are out of anyone’s personal control. Through Jeremiah, God says, “Hear, O earth; behold, I am bringing disaster upon this people, the fruit of their devices, because they have not paid attention to my words; and as for my law, they have rejected it.” God’s words are always words of love. When we fail to trust that truth, God allows the consequences of our own devices to take effect in our lives.

Notice that last phrase, “as for my law, they have rejected it.” He does not say they have “broken” it, but rejected it. Those are two different things. To reject God’s law is to argue against it. It’s to fail to acknowledge its righteousness and to argue for a different standard to live by.  When we do that, the purpose of the law lies useless at our feet to be trodden on. But when we accept God’s law as the righteous standard for life, we cannot but acknowledge our sinfulness before a perfect God. We cannot but see our need for a Savior. We’ve “all sinned and have fallen short” of God’s standard. We’ve all lied, stolen, and have been impure, even if only in our thoughts. Jesus commanded us in Matthew 5:48 to “Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.” Earlier in Matthew 5:17 Jesus made it clear that He did not come to abolish the law or reject it, but to fulfill it on our behalf. Our only hope for perfection is in Christ. Salvation comes by trusting God’s Love as expressed on Calvary’s cross.

Jeremiah 6:18-19, Isaiah 41:20, Acts 16

Trust God – Fear Nothing!

Jeremiah called the people to pay attention to the voice of God. To hear what God said and to have faith and to trust Him regardless of the situation in which they find themselves. It was a dire one indeed. They were under siege by the Babylonian army and their very lives were being threatened as well as their corporate existence as a nation. God spoke to them through Jeremiah saying in essence, “I’ve got this under control. You can trust me.” But Israel would not listen and instead of trusting God to provide for them they turned to Egypt and other means to defend themselves against the invaders. I’m like that. I’d much rather figure a way out of my circumstances than trust God to manage things for me in the midst of trials and hardships.

I’m very much like the Philippian Jailer (Acts 16) who found himself in a dire situation when the earthquake released the prisoners with whom he had been entrusted. He knows he was in big trouble and that his very life might be in danger as he would be responsible for any escaped prisoners. He cries out to Paul, “what must I DO to be saved.” I always think there is something I must do! But Paul made it clear when he told the jailer to “believe in the Lord Jesus Christ, and you will be saved.” What must I do? Trust God and His provision for us in Christ. But Israel would not listen and Jeremiah records their response to God’s call in Jeremiah 6:18; “We will not pay attention.” Like us, the Israelites were so focused on doing things for themselves that they lost sight of the fact that there is a God who oversees all the affairs of man and who loves us and has our best interest foremost in mind. Israel, much like me, took matters into their own hands.

Whenever we do that there are consequences. When we trust ourselves instead of the one who has complete control we take a world upon our shoulders that is impossible for us to hold up. We always fail at this because we weren’t designed to carry the weight of the world. Jeremiah tells the Israelites and us what happens when we try to do that. In Jeremiah 6:18-19 he says, “Therefore hear, O nations, and know, O congregation, what will happen to them.  Hear, O earth; behold, I am bringing disaster upon this people, the fruit of their devices, because they have not paid attention to my words.” When I try to manipulate the world around me to fit my own designs, it is always a disaster! Isaiah spoke to the Northern Kingdom before they fell. In Isaiah 41:20 he says, “So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God.  I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand

Jeremiah 6:17, John 5:24-26, 1 Cor 15:22

Life Giving Faith

The “ancient path” that Jeremiah refers to in 6:16 is the path of faith: trusting God and believing His Word. God simply wants people to trust Him. It began in the Garden of Eden when God, because He loved them and wanted only the best for them, explained that if they ate from that tree it would result in death coming into the world. He wanted them to trust Him on this. In God’s instructions for life to us, He is not keeping good things from us either, but instructing us on how to live healthy and happy lives. It’s all about believing God’s Word and trusting Him. But Adam & Eve chose not to pay attention to God and trust Him. Thus, death came into the world.

To understand verse 17 of Jeremiah chapter 6, one has to recognize that in Scripture the trumpet blast was the “voice” of God (See Exodus 19, Hebrews 16, Revelation 1:10, 4:1).  Jeremiah is calling the Israelites and you and me to pay attention to God. Listen to what He has to say and trust Him to have our best interest foremost in mind. God is not interested in perfect people, but in anyone who will trust him and believe His word. But, like Adam & Eve, the Israelites were not interested. Jeremiah writes, “I set watchmen over you, saying, ‘Pay attention to the sound of the trumpet!’ But they said, ‘We will not pay attention.’”

It’s no different today! God is not interested in perfect people. Check out Abraham, David, Peter and Paul. He simply wants us to pay attention and listen to his voice (The trumpet blast) and trust His promises. While speaking to those who hated Him because He made Himself “equal to God,” Jesus said in John 5:24-26, “Truly, truly, I tell you; whoever hears my word and believes Him who sent me has eternal life and will not come under judgment. Indeed, he has crossed over from death to life. Truly, truly, I tell you, the hour is coming and has now come when the dead will hear the voice of the Son of God, and those who hear will live.” This is what Paul meant in 1 Corinthians 15:22, “For as in Adam all die, so also in Christ shall all be made alive.”

Jeremiah 6:16, Hebrews 11, Matthew 11:28

Rest for your soul

Through Jeremiah the Prophet, God calls the people to stop all their religious observations and efforts and consider their history as God’s people. Adam and Eve did not cover themselves. Well, they tried to, but God had to discard their leafy clothing and provide for them from the skin of the lamb. God would give them what they needed.  Abraham was not a perfect individual, but he trusted God. David was not perfect by any means but he was a man after God’s own heart. He trusted God. As a matter of fact if you read Hebrews chapter 11 you’ll see how all the ancient characters were commended not for their works but for their faith. In Jeremiah 6:16, he tries to get the people to consider this truth and to fall in line with that reality. He writes, “Thus says the LORD: Stand by the roads, and look, and ask for the ancient paths, where the good way is; and walk in it, and find rest for your souls. But they said, We will not walk in it.”

I’m a firm believer in salvation by Grace through faith alone. None of my works contribute anything to my salvation nor to my sanctification. They are distractions to my faith.  They get in the way. It’s by believing in God and trusting Jesus and His words that bring my salvation and helps me grow in faith and thereby enabling me to make better life choices. Many people will argue that this is “Easy Believism.”  When everything in our nature wants to contribute to our own salvation and sanctification there is nothing easy about trusting solely in Christ Jesus! It’s the most difficult thing to do and involves a daily battle. I want to work, I do not want to trust! But the call is to trust!

Jesus is quoting Jeremiah 6:16 in Matthew 11:28. He says, “Come to me all you who are weary and burned out on religion and I’ll give you rest. Take my yoke upon you for I am humble and gentle and my yoke is light and easy and you will find… (pay attention here!) REST FOR YOUR SOULS!” Jesus’ yoke is light and easy because he did all the work. He’s accomplished the impossible for each of us. We are to simply believe that and trust Him. The only true “rest for your soul” is to go all in on Jesus.

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