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Lowell Brueckner

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Reality - Astonishing and Horrible


 Chapter 5


Truth above all virtues

Truth, by its own definition, is the only virtue that cannot be falsified. We rejoice in love and meditate deeply in its significance, grateful when we discover it is near. We know that God is love and His love cannot fail, but it can be counterfeited and, because of its power, it often is misused and misinterpreted. Many have been deceived by false love. The same can be said of any other virtue (joy, peace and justice, to give a very few examples) and we must always be aware of lies and deception from Satan, the master counterfeiter.

 God loves truth, because it cannot be altered and is always steadfastly genuine. Every word of God is true and can be perfectly trusted. The Bible is the embodiment of truth and the Lord has given it to us for absolute, unquestionable authority. “Buy the truth, and sell it not,” the wise king wrote (Pr.23:23), because nothing is more precious to have as a possession. It is to be coveted above all else. Jesus presented Himself before Pilate as the King of Truth denoting that, without exception, everyone who gives top priority to truth, comes to Him: “I have come into the world, that I should bear witness to the truth. Everyone who is of the truth hears My voice” (Jn.18:37). Nicodemus perhaps came fearfully to Christ by night, but his words in John 3:2 indicate that he was on a search for truth and Jesus said to him: “He who does the truth comes to the light, that his deeds may be clearly seen, that they have been done in God” (Jn.3:21). The presence of truth is the trustworthy proof of a work of God.

 I often point to 2 Thessalonians 2:9-12 for consideration, in order to see the value that the Lord places on truth. Please do consider what this passage reveals. A deceiver is coming, who does lying wonders (verse 9). It is never legitimate to see miracles as proof of a genuine ministry. He operates in unrighteous deception and many will perish, because they did not receive the love of the truth. On the other hand, the love of the truth, as Jesus taught, will lead to salvation (verse 10). To those who do not love truth, God Himself will send strong delusion that they should believe the lie (verse 11), as He did to King Ahab in order to destroy him (please study 1 K.22:9-23). Verse 12 is astounding and must form part of our theology as Christians: “That they all may be condemned who did not believe the truth but had pleasure in unrighteousness.” This teaching leads us to see, leaving no room for question, that God values truth above the souls of men. 


 The Jerusalem society was the epitome of hypocrisy and it is in the back of my mind, as I write, that God called Jeremiah from his village into the city of Jerusalem to witness its degenerate state. In chapter 3, we learned that northern Israel was in a frightful state of apostasy and had turned its back on God. They were sent away to captivity in Assyria. However, we also learned that Judah was considered treacherous, in worse condition yet, because she turned to the Lord half-heartedly, and walked in deception. In Jeremiah’s day, two spiritual states were forming in the nation, and by the time of Christ they had crystalized. The Gospels very clearly portrayed the presence of the covetous publicans and the adulterous harlots, but Jesus could see, and therefore uncovered, the hypocrisy of the religious Pharisees, Scribes and Sadducees. They were the treacherous ones, who played the major part in His mockery of a trial and crucifixion.

 God offers forgiveness to the entire city, if one common citizen can be found, who is searching for truth. He will have a healing influence on the population. How many Christians today are sincerely searching for God’s truth with an open heart? How many, who think they have discovered truth, are more concerned for their doctrinal opinions? It can be seen in their attitude, because a love for their own opinion carries pride and low value for a tremendously precious commodity. The truth of God, although God in His goodness reveals it in part to man, always goes beyond his knowledge and leaves much to be still uncovered. This is the case even in natural science, so that those, who love it, should understand how little we know about God’s creation and the vast areas that are still undiscovered. It humbles the honest searcher.

 Perfect justice is portrayed in its secular halls as a blindfolded lady. She is unconscious of racial bias or political prejudice. She is oblivious to fame and financial gain and her one love and aim is… justice! That perfection can only be perfectly found in the Fountain of justice, God Himself. Peter expressed it before Gentiles, who were hungry for truth: “In truth I perceive that God shows no partiality. But in every nation who ever fears Him and works righteousness is accepted by Him” (Ac.10:34-35). What Jeremiah was looking for in verse 1, God brought before Peter’s eyes in the Roman centurion’s home. Moses declared in the Law: “The great God, mighty and awesome, who shows no partiality nor takes a bribe. He administers justice for the fatherless and the widow, and loves the stranger, giving him food and clothing” (Dt.10:17).

 Dead religion, sadly, is external and can go no deeper than the lips. The coastal Mexicans in the area, where we lived near the Pacific Ocean, understood this condition, offering their axiom,  del pico para afuera… from the lips outwardly. Surely they swear falsely (2). I believe I can say, with biblical certainty, that God is looking for truth-loving people, above all else. Those, who are hardened against truth, when they are smitten, do not see the hand of God in the stroke. When they are devoured, they can’t recognize His punishment. They have made their faces harder than rock and they will not repent (3). Their heart is permanently untreatable.

 Biblical metaphors and definitions

 Understand poverty and foolishness, not according to society’s view, but by biblical definition: The people are poor and foolish, because they do not know the way of the Lord. This is why they do not recognize His dealings, of which I wrote in the last paragraph. The cause behind hardness of heart is an ignorance of the ways of God (4). I cannot emphasize enough that our ways are not His ways and natural man knows nothing of them (Is.55:8). Every effort to rein them in is broken by man’s lust for independence.

The evaluation of the spiritual stature of personalities also is only truthfully known in the eyes of God: Great men… have known the way of the Lord. Unlike society in general, they recognize the judgment of their God (5). Let’s see this in the teaching of the writer of Hebrews: “If you are without chastening, of which all have become partakers, then you are illegitimate and not sons” (He.12:8). He wants his readers to be “great men” who are aware of the Lord’s chastening, that is, His judgment.

 As idolatry is referred to as spiritual fornication, also literal fornication is an idolatrous practice. The metaphors, which might be understood as pertaining to the coming of Nebuchadnezzar with his army, of a lion, wolf and leopard, might also be literal. The people, whose sin has increased and separated them from God, need to beware of savage animals, when they wander out-of-doors at night (6). My Indian friends did not humor me, when I told them that I wanted to see a leopard in the wild. They told me that “a leopard literally watches over a town”, and when someone dies, his family has to protect his corpse against a raiding leopard with a keen sense of smell. “We’ll take you to a zoo,” they told me. My host, whose mission is the mountain people, far into the interior of India, told how a leopard leaped over him, while lying in a hammock outside in the cool of the night. In an Indian airline magazine, I read that man-eating tigers still roamed and were feared in certain areas of the country.

 How can people be pardoned, who continue to live in idolatry? It was so prominent in Old Testament times, and I believe that I have learned that it continues to be prominent today. I accept various definitions that others have given for this sin. It has been described by some as: 1) Anything that takes the place of God. 2) Anything which we fear, instead of fearing God alone. The third definition, I find to be very common: 3) An unbiblical concept formed in our minds, which we attribute to God, with which we are comfortable and find convenient.

 In verse 7 and 8, the adultery is literal, as well as a metaphor, for idolatry. Children raised in easier times, are less responsive to discipline, and therefore, as adults, they continue to give place to their passions. They have assembled themselves by troops in the harlots’ houses and they were like well-fed lusty stallions; every one neighed after his neighbor’s wife. God hates every sexual sin, particularly adultery. God takes very good care of His people, but Judah abused its healthy situation. Morally, mankind finds it harder to handle prosperity, and lives closer to God under hard times, including seasons of opposition and persecution.

 God’s righteous cause in judgment

 A righteous God must inflict punishment for sin. No worthwhile judge can turn criminals loose in society and those, who violate God’s law, are criminals. What does He avenge? He avenges the abuse of His law (9). Therefore, He gives permission to Israel’s enemies to destroy… with a limitation. Already, we have noted the clause and we will acknowledge it again… but do not make a complete end. The Chaldeans, who have the Lord’s permission to scale Jerusalem’s wall, must also obey the limitation that He has given. Again, He speaks figuratively, when He says that they are only to remove wild branches that have grown outside the purpose of God, and they are not to touch His original, unending will (10).

 Jeremiah shows, as his book unfolds, that the leaders rejected his prophecies, unwilling to believe that they came from God. Their rejection of the word from God proved the falsity of their religion. He called their deceived condition, treachery against Him. Jesus spoke to the Jews of His day of their similar condition, “If God were your Father, you would love me, for I proceeded forth and came from God…” (11). The truth is too painful for Judah, involving sword and famine, therefore they rather believe a lie, saying It is not He (12).  God’s word, speaking in the prophets, is wind to them, because they do not have the condition of heart that would respond to the spoken word. Again, we turn to Christ, who clearly voiced the emptiness inside his audience: “You do not have His word abiding in you, because whom He sent, Him you do not believe” (Jn.5:38). The Jews of Jeremiah’s day had the same inner void (13).

 Daniel records concerning Nebuchadnezzar, “While the word was still in the king’s mouth, a voice fell from heaven,” and turned his pride into judgment (Dn.4:31). Similarly, God pronounced judgment upon the Jews, because you speak this word, and their words would transform into fire that would consume them (14). He reveals to them, the nature of the devouring fire, of which He speaks. A mighty, ancient nation will come upon them from afar, with a power that they cannot now conceive, whose speech they have not learned. They are naturally superior, proud of their history, culture and military might, such as Judah had never known in the past (15). Matthew Henry comments on the Babylonian quiver like an open tomb: “Their arrows shall fly so thick, hit so sure, and wound so deep, that they shall be reckoned to breathe nothing but death and slaughter”. There is no weakness in their ranks (16).

 They will take the harvest fruit and the prepared food of all the labor that the Jews put forth throughout the year. That, which they intended for their children, would be devoured by the enemy army. The select breeding and growth of their flocks and herds will become, in a short time, the possession of the Chaldeans, along with their vines and fig trees. The defenses that Judah built for their peace of mind, will quickly be torn down (17). Ah, but the merciful Holy Spirit inspires the prophet to write again, I will not make a complete end of you. In the middle of judgment, He remembers mercy and repeats these words, that those who receive His word might find comfort (18).

 The Lord’s answer to their question, “Why does the Lord our God do all these things to us,” carries simple, common-sense logic. Because they turned away from Him, the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, to serve foreign gods, so God will expatriate them from His land, to serve the alien people, who invented those gods (19). When they turned from God, they turned from sound reason to foolishness. Please let me interject that modern-day society can only be described as insane, inverting all the true meaning of life into perversion, from their government to their religion. They have turned good to evil. Abortion is good, they say, and homosexuality is normal. Those who oppose it, are intolerant, biased and narrow-minded, lacking compassion! God help us, we seem to be living in Sodom and Gomorrah, no matter where in the world that might be!

 Sightless eyes and deaf ears

 The principle of sightless, spiritual eyes, which God commands Jeremiah to declare, is preached throughout the Bible. Even as we preach or write in these days, we need to keep it in mind: No matter how simply we try to present truth, those who do not have spiritual ears and eyes cannot grasp it. We waste time and effort, attempting to stoop to their level (21). We wish for them that they could see and hear, but the more they hear, the more condemnation is heaped upon them. Isaiah wrote, “The word of the Lord was to them, ‘Precept upon precept, precept upon precept, line upon line, line upon line, here a little, there a little’, that they might go and fall backward, and be broken and snared and caught” (Is.28:13). The principle does not weaken in the New Testament. Peter said, “It would have been better for them not to have known the way of righteousness, than having known it, to turn from the holy commandment delivered to them,” (2 P.2:21). When they choose a book, its teaching is wrong and harmful. When they give a Bible lesson, it is full of errors.

 They fear circumstances, they fear the day in which we live, they fear and honor men, they fear sickness, old age, but they do not fear the only One, Whom they should fear. In verse 22, the Lord presents the reasons, why He is to be feared. He is the Creator and the governor of the tempestuous sea. Jesus challenged His disciples in their boat in a storm, “Why are you so fearful?” When He spoke calm to Galilee’s waters, they learned to fear Him: “They feared exceedingly, and said to one another, ‘Who can this be, that even the wind and the sea obey Him!’” (Mk.4:40-41).

Spiritual blindness and deafness are not due to anything, to which we should be tolerant; it is caused by defiance, revolt and rebellion against God (23). It never enters their mind to converse about the wisdom of fearing God. They fear the weather, but give no place to the one who governs the atmosphere and arranges the seasons (24). Behind their mentality is sin, the cause of all evil in the world. I had never heard a politician say before, that sin was the reason for a country’s weakness, until I read an article by the Vice President of the U. S., Mike Pence, who claimed that adultery produced divorce, which, in turn, forced children to be raised in a broken home, which increased the likeliness that they would be involved in crime, which, then, weakened the fabric of society.  No truer words were ever spoken, than those of verse 25: Your sins have withheld good from you.

 The increased number of criminals found in the society, of which Mike Pence wrote, were found among the Jews in Jeremiah’s time. I mentioned previously that God took Jeremiah from his village into Jerusalem’s streets, so that he could witness it. They put no value upon human life; they riot and pillage, they are the dregs of civilization, who have no intention or motivation for a good cause. Give them the slightest reason and they will be in the streets to trap, tear down and injure (26).

 The next illustration is a cage full of birds and the name of the species is deceit. Even the home is filled with deceit, chirping in every room, from kitchen to bed chamber (27). It is not due to poverty, that is, a poor, uneducated population, who know no better. It is the elite, fat and well-groomed, worse than the criminals, as Judah is already depicted, as worse than Israel. They are self-centered, not to be bothered with justice for the less fortunate. They go right on in their self-service, bettering their status in the world (28). John, the apostle, wrote, “All that is in the world – the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life – is not of the Father but is of the world” (1 Jn.2:16). In fact, God is the enemy of that lifestyle and He hates it, James tells us (Jm.4:4).  

 God puts forth the question that our generation needs to consider and to give answer. Is it right for God to judge such a state of affairs? Is He right for avenging His holiness, His good and righteous nature? An arrogant people make themselves the judge and attempt to put God on the defensive. Somehow, they think they can get away with such madness. No, no, He will avenge Himself and every knee will bow, every tongue will confess the lordship of Jesus Christ. Remember that this attitude in Judah came just before God’s judgment fell upon them. We have no better proof of the end times than that of the spiritual state of the people. They are haughtily ripe for judgment (29).

 Things are no better today, than they were in Jeremiah’s time. God’s people must line up with Him in His assessment of the situation. It is hard to be optimistic about the world’s future, when God says things are astonishing and horrible (30).  In God’s eyes, the worst of the worst, the astonishing and the horrible, are the false prophets and the self-sufficient priests. What makes the situation seem hopeless is that the common people want it to be this way. They are happy enough with things as they are. “What will it all come to?” God asks. (31). I quote Matthew Henry again: “Nothing can be expected from you but a deluge of sin, so nothing can be expected from God but a deluge of wrath.”

 Speaking politically for a moment, it seems to me that in a democracy, the electorate is to be blamed for the ones that are holding office. I only want to end with a few statements, asserting that false prophets abound in the 21st Century, around the world. The self-sufficiency of man is manifested, in one way, by the doctrine of cessation of spiritual gifts. Arrogant man thinks that he can handle Christ’s bride without supernatural help from above. The miracle experience of new birth seems to be undermined by an assumption of adoption, and a second experience of enduement with Holy Spirit-power is not among the popular preaching and teachings in these times. If ever it should be, it is now.



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