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Lowell Brueckner

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When there is no Peace


I will ask you to please open your Bible to Jeremiah 6, so you can follow the text with my expository comments. Thank you!


 Chapter 6


An imminent threat – its cause and its certainty

 Jeremiah lived among the Benjamites in Anathoth, therefore it is probable that he counsels that tribe, concerning a way of escape. It's another warning about the approaching threat of the Babylonian army.   The first king of divided Israel in Jerusalem, you remember, was Rehoboam and he built Tekoa, 12 miles south of Jerusalem on the edge of the Judean desert. It was also the birthplace of the prophet, Amos. Apparently, Judah lit bonfires in high places, in this case in Beth Haccerem (vineyard-house), to signal the place, to which the Benjamites, according to his counsel, are to join as a company, and flee. Beth Haccerem, was near to Tekoa.

 The city-people, especially in biblical times, tended to live a more comfortable and delicate lifestyle and the Bible, therefore, sometimes terms the Jerusalem citizens the daughter or daughters of Zion. They will not be spared in the coming invasion (2). Another analogy is used, calling the invading army shepherds with their flocks, and the text describes a siege, enemy soldiers consuming all the food and water to be found around Jerusalem (3).  The army is anxious to attack and was due to attack earlier, but a little more time was given before judgment fell (4-5).

 They will use the trees around Jerusalem to build their siege mounds against the walls of the city. God is moving the enemy to do its worst, because of the oppression within, the strong against the weak. Unfortunately, it has been too common for those who bear the name of Christ to oppose one another, when there is a common enemy without, waiting to destroy all. This practice must and will be punished, says the Lord (6).

 Prophecy never lacks for illustrations, in order for the hearer or reader to get a better sense of what is to happen. Jeremiah, inspired by the Holy Spirit, gives one after another. He speaks of the wickedness of Jerusalem, specifically violence and plundering, as a continual flow of water, carrying grief to the inhabitants and wounding victims. God takes notice of these conditions (7) and, as is always His way, offers instruction and escape, for those who will take notice. The greatest danger of all is His absence, using the term My soul, that is, His breathing presence, leaving the city to fend for itself. In that state, it will be left without an inhabitant (8). Jerusalem, without the presence of God, is no match for the invading enemy

 The illustration he next applies is that of gleaners, following the reapers in the vineyard. They glean the fruit that the reapers have left, leaving the vine totally bare. The remnant, who escaped the hand of the reapers, will feel another hand in the branches, thoroughly picking every last grape (9). In this verse, the Lord gives it as a command to the gleaners. There will be no sigh of relief or a glimmer of hope for Jerusalem’s citizens during the Babylonian invasion.  None will escape unharmed.


An ineffective present cure vs. the ancient way

 There are no genuine students among the population, who can be instructed and profit to the saving of their souls. The sign of circumcision meant that the Hebrew was separated from the rest of the world to be exclusively a possession of God. Fallen man, in general, is spiritually uncircumcised and it is the condition of all the people around us. That is what Paul taught, when he quoted the Psalmist: “There is none righteous, no, not one; there is none who understands; there is none who seeks after God. They have all turned aside…” (Ro.3:10-12). It is impossible that he can tune his ear to the things of God and believe, in order to be saved. Later, the apostle states: “Faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God” (Ro.10:17). We often hear that by listening to a sermon from the Bible or from reading its pages, faith will come to us. It does not signify that by any means! It means that someone’s uncircumcised ears have been opened by the Spirit of God so that the word can penetrate and bring faith.

 Jerusalem’s populace had uncircumcised ears and could not receive the prophet’s words… and these are supposed to be God’s people! They needed to be transformed and possess a new nature with ears to hear and eyes to see. A church member can listen to sermons and Bible teaching all his life and still have uncircumcised ears, which never appropriate God’s instruction. Instead, he actually resists the word, his nature rejects and takes no delight in it. He only sits among God’s people, because he somehow thinks that his presence there is accredited to his spiritual account (10). He is as lost as a pagan in a jungle, who has never once heard the word, but much more accountable.

 Let every teacher and preacher pay attention to Jeremiah’s attitude. I am full of the fury of the Lord. Not only does he believe in the righteous anger of God, he is a participant in it. If the Lord is angry, then so is His servant! In this age of political correctness, that premise is rejected and deemed improper. It is denied by many, as an attribute of the Lord Himself, and certainly not accepted from a preacher. The fault lies in the general mentality of our day, not in the incensed minister of righteousness. Tell me, how would Jeremiah be received in the 21st Century pulpit?

 Because of the certain consequences, he must speak and warn. The anointing of the Spirit upon him demands that he speak. Silence is guilt! I am weary of holding it in. Judgment will fall upon children, youth, husbands and wives. The old men must be warned, before they have fulfilled their time upon earth (11). Everything they own is exposed to the conqueror of their nation… their fields and even their wives are under threat. No one is exempted (12).

 The reality of judgment is even more severe in the present day; for this reason, Jesus spoke more of hell than He did of heaven. The writer of Hebrews warned, “If the word spoken through angels proved steadfast, and every transgression and disobedience received a just reward, how shall we escape if we neglect so great a salvation… Anyone who has rejected Moses’ law dies without mercy on the testimony of two or three witnesses. Of how much worse punishment, do you suppose, will he be thought worthy who has trampled the Son of God underfoot…” (He.2:2-3 and 10:28-29).

 The Lord declares everyone guilty, from the most lowly to the chief rulers. Egotistical covetousness is a common trait among them all. Can a true messenger from the Lord minister to that evil tendency, by adding to it a doctrine of financial prosperity? I have often stated that such a position is a ministry to fallen nature and not to the new creation in Christ Jesus. Jeremiah did not omit the prophet and priest, and neither should we leave out those, who stand behind a pulpit and deal falsely (13).

 There are two verses in this chapter that are particularly powerful and worthy of our complete attention. Verse 14 is one of them and I will quote it here: They have also healed the hurt of My people slightly, saying, ‘Peace, peace!’ when there is no peace. What does it mean to heal slightly? Peace with God is a gift offered to the penitent and obtained for the believer through the sacrifice of Christ. An alternate word is reconciliation, and it means a healing of the relationship with the Creator, the absence of which is caused entirely by man’s sin. Reconciliation between God and man was a tremendously costly accomplishment gained by the cross.

 In modern times, false prophets and false priests offer peace without the cross. The immense problem of sin is treated as a trifle, applying a bandaid, as it were, to a cancerous sore. Verse 15 declares that it is a peace without shame for their sin; that is, without conviction of sin, brought on by the Holy Spirit, to bring the sinner to repentance, forsaking his past lifestyle. It often is accompanied by loss of sleep and appetite, driving him to the cross for pardon and relief. David confessed, “My sorrow is continually before me. For I will declare my iniquity; I will be in anguish over my sin” (Ps.38:17-18).

 Salvation is often offered these days as a neatly wrapped present, given to the seeker without condition. The “evangelist” guarantees a wonderful plan, a help in fulfilling personal goals, even realizing the fondest dreams. It implies no grief over the multitude of offenses against the infinite holiness of God and no consequences because of His wrath. Some years back, we called this, rather poorly I suppose, greasy grace, easy believism, or a ‘light’ gospel. It continues to be preached, often without challenge today. Jeremiah, however, exposes the error of proposing God’s acceptance, without shame on the part of the offender, and declares that there is no peace. The Lord’s punishment is still imminent.

 The second immensely important Scripture, particularly applicable in correcting a modern misconception, is verse 16, which I will also quote: Thus says the Lord: “Stand in the ways and see, and ask for the old paths, where the good way is, and walk in it; then you will find rest for your souls.” But they said, ‘We will not walk in it.” Modern mentality rejects this premise, but please note that it is offered by the Lord. The one, who calls attention to Christianity, as it was manifested in the past, is deemed ‘old-fashioned, living in the past, etc.’ Christians today are so involved in present activities and ‘successes’, that they have no time for a study of Church history and its earth-shaking revivals. Critics taunted Leonard Ravenhill for speaking about the former glories of a better church and of a more powerful past demonstration of the Christian walk, to which he replied, “I speak of true Christianity, wherever I find it, in the present or in the past!”

 According to the Lord, and it is His pleasure that we seek, there is, not only room for a longing for the good, old paths, but He commands that we do so. Was that not the aim of Joshua, when he placed twelve stones on the banks of the Jordan, through which God’s people passed on dry ground? “When your children ask their fathers in time to come, saying, ‘What are these stones?’ Then you shall let your children know, saying, ‘Israel crossed over this Jordan on dry land’… that all the peoples of the earth may know the hand of the Lord, that it is mighty, that you may fear the Lord your God forever” (Jos.4:21-24).

 The book of Acts is taken by many today as a transitional period between the life of Christ and the completion of the Bible canon. I believe that it is a model for the church of all ages. An elderly man from the Brethren persuasion came to me after I preached and said, “I have been reading the book of Acts and I realize how far the church has strayed from its original state.” That’s the reaction that a study of Acts should bring. It is to be pored over by hungry believers, tired of the methods of men, who covet a pure moving of the Spirit of God. The old, Southern Baptist preacher, Vance Havner, said something like this: “Water is old-fashioned, but without it we soon die of thirst; air is old-fashioned, but we cannot live but a few minutes without it.” In fact, all the basic essentials of life are old, and so is the gospel, both essential for salvation and old, preached from the very beginning of time.

 “Ask for the old paths, where the good way is,” the Lord commands and that is the way, in which all the saints have walked and proven to be genuine. “New doctrine is false doctrine,” said John Wesley. A little later in this book, we will hear the Lord’s voice again saying, “My people… have caused themselves to stumble in their ways, from the ancient paths, to walk in pathways and not on a highway” (Ch.18:15). The new pathways are the unproven trails, derived from a personal perception of Christianity, the preferences of leaders, given over to programs and extra-biblical notions. They will not seriously study history, to see what brought the glory of God upon His people, or learn from it, so as not to repeat its mistakes.  


The people’s ultimate rejection

However, the old ways are not, and never will be, the popular way. We will not walk in it, the people say and, when they are warned of coming disaster with the clarion tones of a trumpet blast, they object: We will not listen (17). I heard one lady say, as she exited a meeting-hall after a particularly passionate message, “I don’t like to be yelled at.” I doubt that she would have tolerated the youthful voice of the prophet Jeremiah.


Reluctantly, we must go on to a message, delivered to the entire earth; through the Bible, it goes out still today. Only a verse later, beginning in verse 18, we learn an historical lesson, concerning the Lord’s severe dealings with Israel. The congregation are the ones, who hear the call of God to congregate around His word. We are called to fear the calamities, the product of the Hebrew mentality, which they are not willing to leave behind, in order to hear the words of their patriarchs’ God and laws of their Creator (19).

 Even in the Old Testament with its types and symbols, God never tolerates religion that does not come from the heart. It does not matter to Him that the finest incense is imported from Sheba to offer at His altar. The sweet cane, required as an ingredient in the holy anointed oil, is not the primary essence that pleases Him. The entire sacramental system is deficient and rejected, if its fountain is not from the heart of men and women (20).

 God places stumbling blocks in the way of young and old, friends and family, that cause the superficial religious to fall and perish (21). A prophetic trumpet sounds again, warning of the invasion from Babylon. The empire has extended to parts of the earth, distant and little known to Israel. They must take this threat seriously and consider it a warning from the Lord (22). They have superior armament and their character is unforgiving… merciless. Israel has never before heard the might of their battle cry by multitudes of soldiers and cavalry. And Zion is their target, the heart of Jerusalem, and cannot be ignored (23).

The news of this mighty empire, which has just been described, has gone before them and the informed of Judah has never heard a more tragic report. Pain and anguish come with the news, the hands go helplessly limp, as the reality sinks into the conscious mind. They soon will experience the actual attack (24). Life can never be the same and its simple pleasures can never more be enjoyed. They must accept restrictions, not even venture into the fields outside of the city. Members of a vanguard may already be hiding and there is nowhere to go without fear (25).

 The outward, proper expression of the present danger is the covering of sackcloth and ashes. This is the time for the most desperate mourning and bitter lamentation, as the Hebrew proverbs proclaims, mourning as for an only son. No other attitude is acceptable (26).  The attack could take place at any time.

 The prophet Jeremiah has the correct assessment from the Lord and he is the one chosen to deliver it to the nation. In the powerful Kingdom of God, it is not the noblemen, king or princes, who convey His message. It was not so in Jeremiah’s time and it was not so in the onset of the New Testament. The angels delivered the “tidings of great joy” to shepherds, keeping their flocks by night. The voice of the Lord is heard through the mouth of His prophets, this one chosen when he was very young. He has His guarantee of protection, as he faithfully proclaims His word (27).

 An assayer is a refiner of silver and gold and the prophetic office exists to purify God’s people. However if his efforts are resisted and the impurities remain, then the final verses of the chapter describe them. The people remain stubborn, truth-resisting rebels. The alloys of bronze and iron remain corrupted and unrefined (28). Although the assayer turns up the heat until the lead falls into the fire, the unwelcome elements remain (29) and the Lord rejects the final result. It is rejected silver, still full of impurities (30).



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