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Lowell Brueckner

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Righteousness and Salvation



Capital 12

 1. Righteous are You, O LORD, when I plead with You; Yet let me talk with You about Your judgments. Why does the way of the wicked prosper? Why are those happy who deal so treacherously? 

 2.  You have planted them, yes, they have taken root; they grow, yes, they bear fruit. You are near in their mouth but far from their mind. 

The unquestionable righteousness of God

 Righteous are you, O Lord. The heart of Jeremiah, just as Paul’s, had settled the issue of the righteousness of God and does not bring it into question. Even in the difficult circumstances of Romans 9, where Paul discerned a human potential for doubting God’s righteousness, he immediately squelched the matter: “(The children not yet being born, nor having done any good or evil…) it is written, Jacob I have loved, but Esau I have hated… Is there unrighteousness with God? Certainly not!” (Ro.9:11,13,14). “O man, who are you to reply against God?” (Ro.9:20). God is perfectly righteous and we are not. Let’s get that settled, so that we do not bring it into this question. Paul attempts no explanation in bringing the fact of Jacob and Esau’s case into light. He declares truth. That is the premise of the Bible; it is not an explanation, but a declaration. It does not cater to the mind, but to the heart of man. It does not promote intellectualism, but faith… confidence in the Lord and in His word.

 I find rest in the statement quoted above: Righteous are you, O Lord. Since my understanding is limited… actually very small… I will leave matters in the hands of the One, Who is perfectly righteous, takes every consideration into account and views everything from the standpoint of eternity. I will then simply say, “If God had already decided the fate of Jacob and Esau before birth, then it was perfectly righteous, without a flaw in judgment.” I can trust Him and His righteousness. I have little tolerance for human arrogance, my own and anyone else’s, which rises up, thinking that it understands righteousness better than God does. That is an awful demonstration of hubris!


 Jonah, on the other hand, taking nothing away from the great prophet that he was, had an extreme difficulty dealing with the fact that God should forgive Israel’s enemies. By chapter 4 of his book, he had learned that it was unwise to fight against God’s purposes. In obedience, he turned toward Nineveh with the message that the Lord had given him. However, his heart was not in it and he was angered and saddened by the fact that God called off the destruction of the city. He apparently learned some lessons later, before he wrote his book.

 God reasoned with Jonah by the wisdom of His word and by a providential act of the growth and destruction of a simple plant that gave him shade. It was a mighty argument that is well worth our meditation over every detail: “You have had pity on the plant for which you have not labored, nor made it grow… And should I not pity Nineveh, that great city, in which are more than one hundred and twenty thousand persons who cannot discern between their right hand and their left – and much livestock?” (Jon.4:10-11). Many comments could be made over Jonah’s egotistical pity and the Creator’s compassion for an ignorant people and even innocent livestock.  

 It would be worth our consideration to look at the results of Jonah’s message of damnation and judgment. Jonah himself knew that it would be effective and for that very reason opposed God’s mission for him and went in the opposite direction: “Was not this what I said when I was still in my country? Therefore, I fled previously to Tarshish; for I know that You are a gracious and merciful God, slow to anger and abundant in lovingkindness, One who relents from doing harm” (Jon.4:2). The message of doom would produce remorse and repentance in Nineveh. It would stay the hand of God’s judgment and end in mercy. Have men changed or has the Lord changed? No, in spite of the rationale of many of today’s would-be evangelists, God’s method is the same and brings the same results.

 It is not infrequently that the Psalmists struggled with God’s treatment of the wicked, but in Psalm 73, Asaph confesses a serious doubt; in fact, he says that his feet had nearly slipped. He saw how favorably the wicked were passing through life with no pangs in their death. He wondered if his attempts at holiness were in vain. The question became too painful to consider, but then in the atmosphere of God’s sanctuary, light came and he saw clearly the end result. He saw that his questions were foolish and ignorant. He could observe the destruction of the wicked and the glory that was before the righteous.

 Jeremiah was convinced of a righteousness, which was beyond his understanding and he had seen it in his prayerful pleadings. He is not complaining, but dares to reason with God to give him better understanding. How can He explain the prosperity of the wicked and the happiness of the treacherous?

 Jesus came from heaven to earth to tell of His Father’s goodness to His enemies, causing the rain to fall and the sun to shine on the just and the unjust. He said that we should be like our heavenly Father, treating our enemies in the same way. We also should be able to see that there is an obvious difference between an evil prosperity and true, eternal prosperity; there is a true happiness and a treacherous happiness.

 Jeremiah wanted better understanding, in order to know how it could be that the righteous Lord planted this people, Israel, permitted them to take root, grow and bear fruit, but now had become so wicked and treacherous. We need to know how we can reckon with this mysterious discrepancy of a perfectly-designed Creation, which carried the possibility of making wrong choices, as we see manifested in the first couple created.

 This is Jeremiah’s question, and although I may not be able to totally solve the extremely difficult problem, I do sense something wonderful in it. They were marvelously and perfectly made, yet constructed with an inherent freedom.  In other words, they were not bound to conduct themselves slavishly, according to the will of their Creator, as mindless puppets, without a personal will. That is what made them human beings, created in the likeness and the image of God. They must serve and worship Him willingly.

 We read what happened to them in Genesis 3, yielding to the supernatural temptation of the clever, evil serpent. They disobeyed their sovereign God, Who by nature should not once be challenged in the slightest manner, and they suffered an infinite, unfathomable fall. The consequences were eternal and were passed down to all their descendants, marring the nature of each one. Without exception, they were conceived in sin, separated from God and hopelessly lost.

 Jeremiah is delving into this awful dilemma. The Lord refers to the situation at the beginning of the book of Isaiah: “I have nourished and brought up children, and they have rebelled against Me; the ox knows its owner and the donkey its master’s crib; but Israel does not know, My people do not consider” (Is.1:2-3). Israel is an example, through the Word of God, of the rebellious state of every person in every nation. Back in Jeremiah 12:2, their treachery is revealed: “You are near in their mouth but far from their mind.”


Opposition to Jeremiah

  3.  But You, O LORD, know me; You have seen me, and You have tested my heart toward You. Pull them out like sheep for the slaughter, and prepare them for the day of slaughter. 

 4. How long will the land mourn, and the herbs of every field wither? The beasts and birds are consumed, for the wickedness of those who dwell there, because they said, "He will not see our final end." 

 5.  "If you have run with the footmen, and they have wearied you, then how can you contend with horses? And if in the land of peace, in which you trusted, they wearied you, then how will you do in the floodplain of the Jordan? 

 6.  For even your brothers, the house of your father, even they have dealt treacherously with you; Yes, they have called a multitude after you. Do not believe them, even though they speak smooth words to you. 

 In this sense, mankind is worse than animals, because they do not know the One, Who brought them into existence and provides for all their needs. Now we come to a situation, which has been remedied by God, at least in the life of Jeremiah. Please allow for a doctrinal comment on Jeremiah’s statement concerning his understanding at the beginning of verse 3: You, O Lord, know me. I draw your attention to two New Testament statements by the apostle Paul: “After you have known God, or rather are known by God…” (Ga.4:9) with 1 Corinthians 8:3: “If anyone loves God, this one is known by Him.” I follow the last statement with one from the apostle John: “In this is love, not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins” (1 Jn.4:10).

Eternal life hangs on a personal knowledge between God and man, and where that knowledge is lacking, there is eternal damnation: “I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness!” (Mt.7:23). Please notice that the Lord does not say, “You never knew Me,” but “I never knew you.” Here it is again: “Assuredly, I say to you, I do not know you” (Mt.25:12). According to Paul’s quotation of the Psalmist, “There is none who understands; there is none who seeks after God” (Ro.3:11), but runs in the opposite direction. Obviously, he is not seeking a relationship with God and is unworthy of ever having that relationship. Therefore, if it is ever to be, it must begin with the Lord and we come into it by His grace. If anyone comes to know God, it is because He has initiated a love relationship with that person. True love for God does not originate in the heart of man, but in the heart of God for man. It is revealed in that matchless declaration in John 3:16: “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believes in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life.”

 It seems to me that biblical testing is consistent with the testing of metals. The definition of this Hebrew word certainly is: to test (especially metals). Testing or refining of gold and silver, for instance, is to separate them from impurities by extreme heat. Devotion to the Lord takes place at the controlling center of the personality… the heart of man. That is also where the testing occurs, driving out all impurities and leaving it, as Jeremiah’s heart, in intimate relationship with God. The false hearts, who speak favorably of the Lord, but their inner beings are far from Him, are destined for slaughter. God actually makes preparation for their destruction, opposite of the preparation of the sincerity of Jeremiah’s heart through testing (3).

 All of nature suffers, because of the wickedness of man. Paul teaches that fact in Romans 8:22: “For we know that the whole creation groans and labors with birth pangs together until now.” The land, the vegetation, the beasts and birds have suffered the judgment of the sins of the inhabitants. They endure the lack of rain, the herbs withering and birds and animals consumed by hunger and thirst. Meanwhile, a natural-minded, unbelieving people avoid repentance by denying the truth of a supernatural prophetic ministry, concerning the judgment to come (4).   

 Now, the Lord replies to Jeremiah’s complaint concerning his mistreatment by the people. The persecution of the men of Anathoth (the footmen), will be followed by the things he will suffer from the citizens of Jerusalem (the horsemen). God’s messengers must endure the present difficulties, because they will surely lead to greater ones. Nothing less is in store for the church. From the onset of Christianity, Christ warned of tribulation and hatred from the world All signs point to a modern persecution, which should be considered normal, according to Scripture. Get ready for spiritual horsemen and overflowing rivers of opposition (5).

 Prepare for treacherous dealings, even from your families, who will go to lengths to turn the surrounding society against you. Treachery means deception, so watch for hypocritical, smooth words. Remember, if your siblings are not born-again, they are natural liars, incapable of honesty from the heart (6). Can we expect less than the treatment that Christ received?  “It is enough for a disciple that he be like his teacher, and a servant like his master. If they have called the master of the house Beelzebub, how much more will they call those of his household!” (Mt.10:25). God points to His own example, having to forsake the people that He has raised up in love, the dearly beloved of My soul.


Plundering God’s heritage

 7.  "I have forsaken My house, I have left My heritage; I have given the dearly beloved of My soul into the hand of her enemies. 

 8.  My heritage is to Me like a lion in the forest; It cries out against Me; Therefore I have hated it. 

 9.  My heritage is to Me like a speckled vulture; The vultures all around are against her. Come, assemble all the beasts of the field, bring them to devour! 

 10.  "Many rulers have destroyed My vineyard, they have trodden My portion underfoot; They have made My pleasant portion a desolate wilderness. 

 11.  They have made it desolate; Desolate, it mourns to Me; The whole land is made desolate, because no one takes it to heart. 

 12.  The plunderers have come on all the desolate heights in the wilderness, for the sword of the LORD shall devour from one end of the land to the other end of the land; No flesh shall have peace. 

 13.  They have sown wheat but reaped thorns; They have put themselves to pain but do not profit. But be ashamed of your harvest because of the fierce anger of the LORD." 

 There is a word that Jesus spoke in the Gospels that we try desperately to avoid. The word is hate: “If anyone comes to Me and does not hate his father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters, yes, and his own life also, he cannot be my disciple” (Lk.14:26). Do you remember how Pilgrim, in John Bunyan’s book, left his wife and children behind in the City of Destruction, enroute to the Celestial City? Do not be guilty of changing Bible vocabulary just because it is uncomfortable. In verse 7, because God has been angrily rejected by those He loves from the depths of His being, He will turn them over to their enemies in biblical hatred. They are roaring against Him like a lion, rather than bleating like submissive sheep, who need His guidance and protection (8).

 The word differs from our usage only in that it is not speaking of hateful emotions, but a way of treating people, which they resent. I personally know of parents, retorting angrily to their children, who were leaving for the mission field: “You hate us! You are taking our grandchildren away from us!” They used the right word in the biblical sense. A Jewish boy thought his mother hated his family, because she expressed her faith in Christ to them. Her husband divorced her as a result and the family separated. Hatred also refers to your treatment of yourself. I knew a missionary, whose eyesight was ruined by translating the Bible into a native tongue, with only a kerosene for light. Others, commonly, have been exposed to jungle disease, unhealthy conditions and yes, persecution, which has, in some cases, ended their lives.

 Have you ever seen how an entire herd of animals or a flock of birds will bite or peck on one, which is different? The people of God should always be different. That is the example given in verse 9 and it is spiritual principle, taught by Christ: “If you were of the world, the world would love its own. Yet, because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, therefore the world hates you” (Jn.15:19).


Israel’s neighbors are against them and will use any opportunity to fight them. “Shepherds”, representing Babylonians, are bringing their “sheep” to feed in the vineyards, trampling them, leaving them barren, which speaks again of Israel’s desolation. Notice the words of God, calling His possession My pleasant portion (10). Their ruin is brought about through neglect, a product of indifference, instead of serious repentance and prayer (11). All Israel will be plundered from city to country, from plain to highland. Every peaceful setting will be shattered and the normal life will cease, because the sword of the Lord will slice through the land (12). The writer of Hebrews warned the Jewish Christians: “It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God” (He.10:31). However, in their case, the plundering of their earthly goods was received with joy, because of their expectation of a heavenly reward: “You… joyfully accepted the plundering of your goods, knowing that you have a better and an enduring possession for yourselves in heaven” (He.10:34).

The fruitful land of Israel will bring its farmers’ shame, because of the poor crops. No harvest will bring satisfaction. Weeds will grow in place of wheat and the efforts put into the fields will be fruitless. God’s anger is behind it all and the cause of His anger is Israel’s unfaithfulness and idolatry. It is immensely sad, when the light that God has placed in the world to give guidance to ignorant pagans, is snuffed out. Its people continue to walk in darkness and the pride of the earth has become an embarrassment, instead of an example of blessing. The word and ways of God are not preached or lived. It is the result of a disobedient people, upon whom the hand of God has been removed.

An offer to evil neighbors

 14.  Thus says the LORD: "Against all My evil neighbors who touch the inheritance which I have caused My people Israel to inherit—behold, I will pluck them out of their land and pluck out the house of Judah from among them. 

 15.  Then it shall be, after I have plucked them out, that I will return and have compassion on them and bring them back, everyone to his heritage and everyone to his land. 

 16  And it shall be, if they will learn carefully the ways of My people, to swear by My name, 'As the LORD lives,' as they taught My people to swear by Baal, then they shall be established in the midst of My people. 

 17.  But if they do not obey, I will utterly pluck up and destroy that nation," says the LORD. 

 God pronounces judgment on the neighboring nations that we mentioned previously. They are taking the opportunity to trounce on Israel, while she is down. They have always been uncomfortable with Israel’s nonconformity, despising their independent ways, and jealous of every success of the Jews.  

 They were angry in the days of Nehemiah and wrote to the King of Persia: “You will find in the book of the records and know that this city is a rebellious city, harmful to kings and provinces, and that they have incited sedition within the city in former times” (Ezra 4:15). Haman, a noble in the court of Persia, was an Amalekite, traditional enemies of the Jews, who reported to King Ahasuerus: “There is a certain people scattered and dispersed among the people in all the provinces of your kingdom; their laws are different from all other people’s, and they do not keep the king’s laws” (Est.3:8).

The Lord gives His word to these evil nations that He will remove them from their lands.  He tells them that, while it is true that He will punish Israel, afterwards, in compassion He will restore them to their land. The nations had haughtily taught Israel to turn from Jehovah and swear by Baal, but now, He opens His heart to them and Jeremiah, through his book, relays the word for future generations to see. He offers them to repent and turn to the Jews in humility, to be taught their ways and learn to swear as Israel swears, “as the Lord lives.” If they would do that, they would be established around His people (16). This is the God of salvation, who takes no pleasure in the death of the wicked, but shows them the way to return to their Maker.

  On the other hand, if they refuse His kind offer, He would bring about their utter destruction and they would be annihilated forever (17). God opens the door to salvation from Genesis to Revelation. Throughout the Old Testament, He welcomed the strangers to dwell among His people to learn their ways. In the New Testament, He grafted us in to the cultured olive tree, bringing salvation to the entire world through His apostles and evangelists.

 Coming to the end of time, the Lord continues to hold the door open through times of extreme tribulation. Then, through the Millennial reign of Christ, salvation is provided through the Messianic Jew and the King of kings and Lord of Lords, reigning personally in Jerusalem. The very last chapter of His word gives this generous invitation: “The Spirit and the bride say, ‘Come!’ And let him who hears say, ‘Come!’ And let him who thirsts come, whoever desires, let him take the water of life freely” (Rv.22:17).




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