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Lowell Brueckner

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The Wise Man Knows God


 Chapter 9

Oh, that my head were waters, And my eyes a fountain of tears, That I might weep day and night For the slain of the daughter of my people! 


Grief because of sin

 Jeremiah, Moses and Paul, to name three, were intrinsically identified with their people. Their salvation was as vital to these intercessors as their own souls. Compassion is the fountain of intercession; tears are the overflow of compassion. When two Salvation Army ladies wrote General Booth for counsel concerning the hardness of the place and people, with which they were working, General Booth responded with two words: “Try tears!” May this prayer of Jeremiah be ours.

 Constant joy springs from the knowledge of the person and the attributes of God, but in the reality of a sinful world and sometimes, in the condition of the church, it is not possible or right to be happy. In one of his recorded sermons, I heard A. W. Tozer say, “I’m not as happy as I could be; I don’t want to be irresponsibly happy.” A born-again Christian cannot be happy in the presence of sin. In Ecclesiastes 7:6, wise Solomon gives us an example of irresponsible happiness: “For like the crackling of thorns under a pot, so is the laughter of the fool.” I think we have all heard plenty from these crackling thorns.

 In Ecclesiastes 3:4, Solomon said that there is a proper time to weep and in 7:2-4, he also taught that there is spiritual benefit in sorrow: “Better to go to the house of mourning than to go to the house of feasting, for that (meaning death) is the end of all men; and the living take it to heart. Sorrow is better than laughter, for by a sad countenance the heart is made better. The heart of the wise is in the house of mourning, but the heart of fools is in the house of mirth.” Jesus said, “Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted” (Mt.5:4). 


 I am trying to give a little biblical emphasis concerning the propriety of mourning. In verse 1, Jeremiah has taken the proper attitude towards his people. What is he mourning? He is weeping over the consequences of their sin. I hope I am not veering too far off the subject of this chapter, if I take a little space, at this point, to refer to an important incident in the life of King Josiah, a contemporary of Jeremiah, to show the benefit of his sorrow for the sin of his people. Their sin came forcibly to his attention through the discovery of the Book of the Law.

 I hope to shed some light on the vital purpose of the Law in New Testament evangelism. What has been common knowledge in the history of the church, modern Christians have largely ignored. I have referred various times already to this spiritual principle in my comments, but now I want to deal directly and solely with it.

 Before Israel entered the Promised Land, Moses commanded that all future kings should have a copy of the Law in their possession and read daily from it (Dt.17:18-20). Josiah was 26 years old, when the high priest discovered the Book of the Law, during the repairing of the temple. Josiah’s grandfather and father were idolaters, who desecrated the temple and, more importantly, they ignored and despised the Law of God. As he heard for the first time the reading of the Law, Josiah tore his clothes, wept and correctly came to the conclusion, “Great is the wrath of the Lord that is aroused against us.”  A prophetess proclaimed to him, “Because your heart was tender, and you humbled yourself before the Lord… and you tore your clothes and wept before Me, I also have heard you, says the Lord” (It would be of great benefit to you to study the complete story in 2 K.22:8-20).

 We will go to the New Testament doctrine, taught by the apostle Paul, concerning the Law, as it applies to sinners. Writing to his disciple, Timothy, in 1 Timothy 1:8-9, he taught the proper use of the Law: “The law is good if one uses it lawfully, knowing this: that the law is not made for a righteous person, but for the lawless and insubordinate.” He then gives a long list of sinners, who have broken the 10 Commandments. In Romans 3:20, Paul said, “By the law is the knowledge of sin.” He continued in 7:7, “I would not have known sin except through the law.” Not only Paul, but the apostle John taught the same in his first epistle. I quote from the Amplified New Testament (3:4): Everyone who commits (practices) sin is guilty of lawlessness; for (that is what) sin is, lawlessness (the breaking, violating of God’s law by transgression or neglect – being unrestrained and unregulated by His commands and His will).

 You and I do not determine what is sin and we dare not bring our opinion concerning sin to an unbeliever. What we think is sin and what he thinks is sin, does not come into the picture. King Josiah saw the sin of Judah through the reading of the Law. We are to point the sinner to the Law of God, show him that he has broken it countless times, and therefore he has a major problem with God. In fact, that problem outweighs all his other problems in life, whether they are drugs, alcohol, crimes against society, mistreatment of his family, etc., etc. He has offended an infinitely holy God and will pay an infinite price for his sin.

 The application of the Law, whether in personal evangelism or from the pulpit, leads to Holy Spirit-conviction of sin which, in turn, leads to repentance. Repentance opens hearts to the truth of the gospel and the cross of Christ. So, as Paul concludes in Galatians 3:24, “The law was our tutor to bring us to Christ.” I hope we all understand, from these few paragraphs, the importance of the Law plays in present-day evangelism.

 Accompanying this preaching, is boldness like Peter’s, in directly accusing the Jews of the death of their Messiah, “Jesus of Nazareth… you have taken by lawless hands, have crucified, and put to death” (Ac.2:23). Jeremiah’s message was accompanied by fury: “I am full of the fury of the Lord. I am weary of holding it in” (6:11), but in verse 1, he states that he is also overcome with grief for his people. This is a necessity in the ministry of the prophet and will also determine the effectiveness of an evangelist.


2.      Oh, that I had in the wilderness—A lodging place for travelers; That I might leave my people, And go from them! For they are all adulterers, An assembly of treacherous men. 

 3.      "And like their bow they have bent their tongues for lies. They are not valiant for the truth on the earth. For they proceed from evil to evil, And they do not know Me," says the LORD. 

 4.      "Everyone take heed to his neighbor, And do not trust any brother; For every brother will utterly supplant, And every neighbor will walk with slanderers. 

 5.      Everyone will deceive his neighbor, And will not speak the truth; They have taught their tongue to speak lies; They weary themselves to commit iniquity. 

 6.      Your dwelling place is in the midst of deceit; Through deceit they refuse to know Me," says the LORD. 

 7.      Therefore thus says the LORD of hosts: "Behold, I will refine them and try them; For how shall I deal with the daughter of My people? 

 8.      Their tongue is an arrow shot out; It speaks deceit; One speaks peaceably to his neighbor with his mouth, But in his heart he lies in wait. 

 9.      Shall I not punish them for these things?" says the LORD. "Shall I not avenge Myself on such a nation as this?" 

 10.  I will take up a weeping and wailing for the mountains, And for the dwelling places of the wilderness a lamentation, Because they are burned up, So that no one can pass through; Nor can men hear the voice of the cattle. Both the birds of the heavens and the beasts have fled; They are gone. 

 11.  "I will make Jerusalem a heap of ruins, a den of jackals. I will make the cities of Judah desolate, without an inhabitant." 

 12.  Who is the wise man who may understand this? And who is he to whom the mouth of the LORD has spoken, that he may declare it? Why does the land perish and burn up like a wilderness, so that no one can pass through? 


A society based on mistrust

 Jeremiah would never have chosen his prophetic office, in fact, he longs to flee from his calling. He desires to get away from it all and go to be by himself. The adultery and treachery of the people are too much for him (2).  He sees a bent bow, as if it were a tongue, trained and ready to release lies. They do not have the moral strength to speak the truth (lying is much easier) and deceitful speech springs from an evil heart. The root problem is that there is no personal relationship with God, so that they lack the divine instruction from the Holy Spirit (3).

 It is a society void of trust one for another, even in the closest relationships. They are accustomed to deceit, wary of being entrapped. Conversations are laced with slander, to discredit their fellows (4). This must have been the relationship that developed over 20 years in an atmosphere of distrust, between Jacob (meaning supplanter) and his uncle, Laban (Ge.31:41-43). They expended mental energy and even physical strength to the point of weariness, in order to gain dishonest advantage over one another. Coming to the end of Judah’s history, truth has no value and, where truth is lacking, there is no solid basis upon which a society can function. This characteristic did not happen overnight, it was the result of intense practice in the “art” of deception (5).

 Because deceit is the ambience, it is bound to affect their religion. It turns to false teaching and idolatry, rejecting the concept of a true and living God, twisting their thoughts and inventing some kind of god, with whom they can continue to live comfortably (6). The answer to that corruption, is an intense, refining heat coming from trials. Biblical trials are purposed, as the refining of precious metals, to drive out impurities. The Lord poses a question… how else can I deal with them? (7), to which the answer has already been determined. In the case of the delicate daughter of my people, the invading Babylonian army will provide the refining fire, as will the resulting captivity in Babylon. Every other alternative has already been tried.

 Jeremiah has spoken of a bent bow and now refers to an arrow shot out. The bent bow is the cause and the arrow is the effect. The state of the heart and the mind decides the speech of the tongue. The heart plans an ambush, drawing its victim by peaceful talk (8). Can a nation exist, if there is no department of justice to deal with these crimes? There must be laws and punishment for the lawbreaker. God cannot wink at criminal action in His kingdom and He must act in judgment upon the nation that He has formed. Shall I not avenge Myself? (9) It means that He will pass sentence for the affronts against His laws. He has already spoken of vengeance in chapter 5:9 and 29. 

 Jeremiah laments also for the countryside that will be set on fire, to the extent that no one can journey through the territory. The country homes and camps will be burnt and no cattle or flocks will graze on the mountainsides. The wild beasts will flee and the birds will fly away (10). Judah’s capital, Jerusalem, and other walled cities, will be so depopulated that jackals will make their dens out of the ruined buildings, no doubt finding plenty of sustenance from the dead domestic animals, if not from human remains.

The prophetic word is not only to warn the Jew of his soon-coming judgment, but is to inform every reader of sure retaliation from God against sin.  Can you see the damage caused by the speakers, who try to handle their listeners with kids gloves? If they are not false prophets, they certainly drink from the same well of indulgence, and leave people to misinterpret present disaster and to be unprepared for judgment to come. These preachers are anything but compassionate and loving.

 Wisdom comes from one source and that source is God Himself. The wise man is the one who has heard from God, who then makes public the thing that he has heard. He can declare the truth, concerning the disaster. Matthew Henry comments: 1. The prophet designs to convince people of the justice of God in it (the destruction of Jerusalem and all Judah), that they had by sin brought it upon themselves and 2. To affect people with the greatness of the desolation that was coming… that by a terrible prospect of it they might be awakened to repentance and reformation. Let the man, who has heard from God, arise to bring about these two purposes (12).


13.  And the LORD said, "Because they have forsaken My law which I set before them, and have not obeyed My voice, nor walked according to it, 

 14.  but they have walked according to the dictates of their own hearts and after the Baals, which their fathers taught them," 

 15.  therefore thus says the LORD of hosts, the God of Israel: "Behold, I will feed them, this people, with wormwood, and give them water of gall to drink. 

 16.  I will scatter them also among the Gentiles, whom neither they nor their fathers have known. And I will send a sword after them until I have consumed them." 

 17.  Thus says the LORD of hosts: "Consider and call for the mourning women, That they may come; And send for skillful wailing women, That they may come. 

 18.  Let them make haste And take up a wailing for us, That our eyes may run with tears, And our eyelids gush with water. 

 19.  For a voice of wailing is heard from Zion: 'How we are plundered! We are greatly ashamed, Because we have forsaken the land, Because we have been cast out of our dwellings.' " 

 20.  Jer 9:20  Yet hear the word of the LORD, O women, And let your ear receive the word of His mouth; Teach your daughters wailing, And everyone her neighbor a lamentation. 

 21.  For death has come through our windows, Has entered our palaces, To kill off the childrenno longer to be outside! And the young menno longer on the streets! 

 22.  Speak, "Thus says the LORD: 'Even the carcasses of men shall fall as refuse on the open field, Like cuttings after the harvester, And no one shall gather them.'


Wormwood and waters of gall

 I have endeavored to show the relationship between the Law and sin; how sin is defined and uncovered by the Law and here we see God declaring judgment, because His people have forsaken His Law. Ignorance is no excuse; He has put it among them and they have ignored it, disobeyed it and did not conform to it in their way of life (13). Those, who have experienced new birth, have this law written upon their hearts. I understand this to be a law of nature to them… the new nature in Christ Jesus.

 Here is the alternative that mankind, around the globe, has chosen. He has ignored the Law of God and has designed a law, according to his own fallen nature. This has led him into idolatry. How does self-government end in idolatry? To begin with, as verse 13 declares, he mutinously rejects God Himself and His voice is not heard. Only from His voice can he receive wisdom (as stated in verse 12), therefore he has become a fool. He goes to others, who are like himself, and they join in governing according to their own understanding, that is, according to the carnal mind, rejecting what they cannot grasp intellectually. These things are passed down from father to son. Truth is spiritual reality and natural men cannot grasp it, and for that reason, they scoff at the Bible, at Christianity, the cross of Christ and His resurrection. They create things that they can understand and control and those things, which take many forms, are idols.

Wormwood, taken in small doses, was medicine, but if taken in larger doses, destroyed the mind (15) In Revelation 8:11, the waters are embittered by a star called Wormwood, resulting in the death of many, and here, accompanying wormwood, is water of gall.  A commentator, Albert Barnes, notices that the verb of verse 15 is in the present tense, while the following verbs of verse 16 are future. He says the “herb is probably the poppy… the water of gall, would be opium.”   Moses warned of a root, within man, that produces gall and wormwood (Dt.29:18). They would reject the curse, that is the judgment of God, and bless themselves saying, “I shall have peace, even though I follow the dictates of my heart” (Dt.29:19).  See the similar terminology, as in the prophecy of Jeremiah 6:14 and 8:11: “Peace, peace, when there is no peace, and here in verse 14, the dictates of their own hearts. God is not in this peace, but it is a deception of the human heart. It is joined by the doctrine of the Baals, which Paul would call, the doctrine of demons (1 T.4:1). Spiritual wormwood destroys the mind, resulting in total lunacy.  

 Because they reject the true God, they are turned over to the heathen and their gods (16). God would follow some of them with the sword, though not all, because He has promised not to make a full end. Notice similar New Testament judgments by Paul in 1 Corinthians 5:5 and 1 Timothy 1:20. These have not prospered in the atmosphere and teaching of the church, therefore they have to learn the hard way… by coming under the government of darkness. These are meant to be corrective measures: In the first instance, “that the spirit may be saved” and in the second, “That they may learn not to blaspheme.”

 The judgment is sure to happen and the Lord instructs them now to call for the skillful wailing women, trained in their profession, to be employed to mourn for the death, which is coming (17). Judgment is near, for this reason they are to come quickly, to help the people release their grief through tears. Notice the graphic language: Our eyelids gush with water (18).

 Prophecy is spiritual reality, which is audible, and the prophet can hear the wailing from Zion. He can distinguish the words: How we are plundered! We are greatly ashamed… cast out of our dwellings (19). It is coming from Zion, the heart and center of Judah. Peter said, “For the time has come for judgment to begin at the house of God; and if it begins with us first, what will be the end of those who do not obey the gospel of God?” (1 P.4:17). The apostle is describing the suffering of Christians (1 P.4:16) God’s people, in the which, they are to submit in trust to their faithful Creator. The Christian may not be suffering for sins that he has committed, but God is working progressively in his life, to bring out the very best qualities of the new nature, and this can only be done through suffering. Remember, gold can only be refined through intense heat (1 P.1:7), and through trials, golden faith is freed from all impurities.

 We have learned in this book of the hope that there is in His judgments, because God will not make a full end, and He is instructing those who will listen, to prepare. They are to learn the “art” of mourning. The skillful mourners are to teach their daughters and neighbors a lamentation (20).  The delicate daughter of Jerusalem must be hardened to the imminent war, because children and young men will die. It is not something that happens to others anymore, but it will enter their homes. It will not come through accidents, as children play, or as the young men roam through the streets. Although the inhabitants do not open the doors, death will come through the windows and the most powerful among them will not escape (21).

 Human corpses, cut like grain, will fall in the open fields. Again friends, how graphic are the inspired words of the Holy Spirit in the mouth of the prophet! They are not a thing of beauty, but are meant to penetrate to the heart. Men will be like cuttings after the harvester, and no one shall gather them (22). We have heard, haven’t we, of the graves of unknown soldiers, who have never been identified. The Jews know it, not only through the Babylonian massacre, but throughout their history. Countless people died in Hitler’s gas chambers and were burnt in his ovens, never identified, though their relatives searched diligently for them.

23.  Thus says the LORD: "Let not the wise man glory in his wisdom, Let not the mighty man glory in his might, Nor let the rich man glory in his riches; 

 24.  But let him who glories glory in this, That he understands and knows Me, That I am the LORD, exercising lovingkindness, judgment, and righteousness in the earth. For in these I delight," says the LORD. 

 25.  "Behold, the days are coming," says the LORD, "that I will punish all who are circumcised with the uncircumcised— 

 26.  Egypt, Judah, Edom, the people of Ammon, Moab, and all who are in the farthest corners, who dwell in the wilderness. For all these nations are uncircumcised, and all the house of Israel are uncircumcised in the heart." 


Glory in the Lord

 Now, as we come to the end of the chapter, the Lord teaches the willing heart unending spiritual principles, which relate to all people in every circumstance. This is the heart of the chapter, giving us blessings that we can yearn for and experience. First, we have a negative command, as is so often the case in scriptural instruction… Let not. We must learn to let go of something, which we hold in our hands, in order to grasp that, which God offers.

The highly intelligent must stop boasting and trusting in his mental strength. The athlete, the weightlifter, the one with physical power, must stop bragging and depending on his strength. The rich man, who is trusting in money to take him through life, must give up his pride and confidence in uncertain riches. Paul taught Timothy: “Command those who are rich in this present age not to be haughty, nor to trust in uncertain riches but in the living God…” (1 T.6:17). “Stop it!” God orders and He says it for our own good, for all this will fail in the time of extreme trial.

 A while back, someone was relating to me, accounts of different people that had come to him, whom he was able to help. Finally, I offered just one sentence: “If we haven’t brought people to a personal knowledge and trust in God, all our efforts are for nothing!” There is only one true reason to boast, and this is our earnest longing and one goal: Let him who glories glory in this, that he understands and knows Me, that I am the Lord, exercising lovingkindness, judgment and righteousness in the earth. For in these I delight,” says the Lord (24).

 This knowledge gives sense to all the suffering and calamity poured out upon the earth. The sovereign Lord, who stands behind it all, is full of lovingkindness and righteous judgment. He forewarns the people through prophecy, he sends forth his preachers in the midst of His judgments, mercifully calling upon the lost to repent and take refuge in Him. On the other hand, regardless of any virtue and kindness that any human being can achieve, here is the divine declaration that will decide his destiny for eternity: “Then I (Jesus) will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness” (Mt.7:23).

 In his high-priestly prayer to the Father, Jesus said, “This is life eternal, that they may know You, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom You have sent,” (Jn.17:3). To know God is to delve into the source of all wisdom, to find supernatural strength in every battle, and to obtain adequate supply, in time of need, as well as hope for eternity. “According as it is written, He that glories, let him glory in the Lord” (1 Co.1:31 and 2 Co.10:17). Dependence on human kind, in general, is a curse and interdependence among believers is limited. The only dependance without limitations is to personally trust in God.

 The prophecy extends beyond the soon-coming Babylonian invasion to the end of time, when God will punish the Jew and the Non-Jew (25). Let the reader take warning, if not for himself, for his loved ones, family, and friends: The Lord is revealing that there is a coming judgment. In verse 26, he names a few nations; we could add Europe, Asia, the Americas, Australia, all who are in the farthest corners. Jesus taught in John’s gospel, chapter 3, verse 18, “He who does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God.” The uncircumcised Gentile is condemned and the Jew, because he is uncircumcised in heart, is condemned.





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