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Lowell Brueckner

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Can the Heavens give Showers?


   Chapter 14

 The Lord describes a terrible drought

 1.      The word of the LORD that came to Jeremiah concerning the droughts. 

 2.      "Judah mourns, And her gates languish; They mourn for the land, And the cry of Jerusalem has gone up. 

 3.      Their nobles have sent their lads for water; They went to the cisterns and found no water. They returned with their vessels empty; They were ashamed and confounded And covered their heads. 

 4.      Because the ground is parched, For there was no rain in the land, The plowmen were ashamed; They covered their heads. 

 5.      Yes, the deer also gave birth in the field, But left because there was no grass. 

 6.      And the wild donkeys stood in the desolate heights; They sniffed at the wind   

            like jackals; Their eyes failed because there was no grass." 

 There is much that we can learn about prayer, the most important is to know that God is a prayer-answering God, Who glorifies His name by responding to the prayers of His people. One of two ladies, Sarah A Cooke (one of two who spoke to D. L. Moody about the Baptism in the Spirit), was at a Chicago train depot, witnessing to the travelers. She came across a couple on their way to Oberlin, Ohio. Learning that the crippled husband had been a member of Charles Finney´s church in Oberlin, she asked if he could recall, personally, any incidents from the ministry of Finney.

 The man began: “We had been long without rain. All vegetation was drying up; everything looked parched. In the prayer preceding the sermon, on Sabbath, Mr. Finney began to pour out his full heart to God for rain: ‘Lord, the cattle in the fields are lowing for water; there will be no food for them for winter, unless thou sendest rain. The harvest will fail - no food for man - unless Thou sendest rain. The little squirrels in the woods are panting for rain.’ The service proceeded, the text was chosen, and for about half an hour Mr. Finney preached, when the rain began to dash against the windows,” That story was published in a book in 1893. God specializes in answering prayer.


The Bible also tells us of answered prayers, in which the petitioners could wish that they had never been answered. One of them was the prayer for meat in the desert. The Psalm (106:15) records: “He gave them their request, but sent leanness into their soul.” More precisely, “They were not deprived of their craving; but while their food was still in their mouths, the wrath of God came against them, and slew the stoutest of them” (Ps.78:30). Then, we have the request of the people for a king: “They asked for a king; so God gave them Saul the son of Kish, a man of the tribe of Benjamin, for forty years” (Ac.13:21). Hearing Samuel tell of the havoc that would be caused by Saul and, at the same time, seeing a demonstration of the Lord’s anger, the people cried, “We have added to all our sins the evil of asking a king for ourselves” (1 S.12:19).

  In Jeremiah 14, God spoke to Jeremiah during the reign of Jehoakim, He informed Jeremiah, concerning a serious drought and its consequences. Jerusalem’s citizens cried to the Lord and the gates of Jerusalem revealed the lack of commerce, entering or leaving the city (2). The well-to-do sent out their servants for water, who returned with empty vessels, ashamed for the lack of success (3). The ground was parched and hard, so much so, that it could not be plowed (4). The wild animals experienced the scarcity of food. The doe, usually a tender mother, abandons her new-born fawn (5). The wild donkeys, suffocated by the intense heat even in the heights, where they stood looking for grass, scanned the bare hills and valleys (6).


Jeremiah attempts to intercede

 7.      O LORD, though our iniquities testify against us, Do it for Your name's sake; For our backslidings are many, We have sinned against You. 

 8.      O the Hope of Israel, his Savior in time of trouble, Why should You be like a stranger in the land, And like a traveler who turns aside to tarry for a night? 

 9.      Why should You be like a man astonished, Like a mighty one who cannot save? Yet You, O LORD, are in our midst, And we are called by Your name; Do not leave us! 

 Jeremiah turns to intercessory prayer, knowing the cause of the rainless heaven. Israel was informed by Moses, even before they entered the Promised Land: “The land which you go in to possess is not like the land of Egypt… where you… watered it by footbut the land which you cross over to possess, is a land of hills and valleys, which drinks water from the rain of heaven.” The land bordering the Nile River was flat enough to allow for irrigation, but there will be no irrigation in hilly Canaan land, which requires a timely rainfall in order to survive.

 Moses continues: “A land for which the Lord your God cares; the eyes of the Lord your God are always on it…” (Dt.11:10-12). The Israelites must walk in the fear of God, upon Whom they depend constantly, in order that He will grant the needed rain. If they were unfaithful, God would very simply withhold the rain, their crops would fail, and the suffering that we already studied would result. It is happening again and Jeremiah pleads for mercy.

 Our iniquities testify against us is an interesting statement. God’s faithful people testify of the grace of God, but all that is needed to testify of God’s judgment is sin. For the sake of His infinite holiness, the Lord must express His holy hatred for sin. Jeremiah cannot deny it, so he turns to a principle that other Bible intercessors frequently applied… God’s honor. There is no plea whatsoever to make on behalf of the people. They are receiving just recompense for their many rebellions (7).

 Other nations have their idols and superstitions. The Lord is the God of Israel, the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. Jeremiah knows that there is no one else to look to, when the situation is hopeless, He is their only Hope and there is no one else to save, He alone is their Savior (8). He is not a stranger, passing through the land, but a permanent Resident, who inhabited the land even before Israel. He is, in fact, the Owner, as He clearly states in Leviticus 25:23: “The land shall not be sold permanently, for the land is Mine; for you are strangers and sojourners with Me.” They have entered His land, as strangers to be with Him, Who is already resident there. If He will not come to the aid of His people, will He not save the land?

 Then, the prophet appeals to the Lord’s divinity, in that He is omniscient. He does not react in astonishment like a human being, because nothing takes Him by surprise. He is also not like a mighty one, who has lost his strength, and therefore is not able to act. Hp

However, You are more than One, Who is who is simply present among us. We are Your possession and we carry Your name, as a son, carries that of his father. The plea from a faithful prophet is moving, almost pitiful… Do not leave us! (9)


A prayer denied

 10.  Thus says the LORD to this people: "Thus they have loved to wander; They have not restrained their feet. Therefore the LORD does not accept them; He will remember their iniquity now, And punish their sins." 

 11.  Then the LORD said to me, "Do not pray for this people, for their good. 

 12.  When they fast, I will not hear their cry; and when they offer burnt offering and grain offering, I will not accept them. But I will consume them by the sword, by the famine, and by the pestilence." 

 I think, we could not find a better form of prayer to follow, than that which Jeremiah has just offered. Now God responds in verse 10, to give Jeremiah a reason for denying an answer to his prayer. He is actually responding to the inner preference of the people. They do not want His intervention or to walk in His ways; they have loved to wander (10).  

 I suppose that it is belaboring the obvious to state that no one wants to go to hell. The fact is, however, that also unregenerate man does not want to go to heaven! A famous preacher once delivered a message, claiming that sinners would be miserable in heaven. There is nothing there, to which their fallen nature can respond and find pleasure.

 We have considered two forms, in which God responds to prayer: 1) Prayer, in which God will answer and glorify His name. 2) Prayer which God answers, because the people insist on having their way, but it will be detrimental to their well-being. And now we come to a third response from God, beginning in verse 11: Do not pray for this people, for their good. He absolutely refuses to hear prayer on their behalf.

 The time has come for their disciplinary punishment and there is nothing that can deter it (12). Even prayer, the most powerful weapon in the believer’s arsenal, will go unheeded, as will a response to fasting and sacrifices. There is no remedy for their present condition. Please note that I have italicized the word present; the Lord can change that condition. Therefore, it is correct to assume that nothing can change His purpose in bringing them into an awful war, in which their young men, even children and women will be killed. Many will die from hunger, due to lack of food during the siege.

 Nebuchadnezzar will conquer them and lead them into captivity for 70 years. Their young king, Jehoiachin, will be imprisoned in Babylon and their choicest men will be made eunuchs. That awful fate was unavoidable. However, we already have seen a promise that God had established earlier in this book, beginning in chapter 4:27: “The whole land shall be desolate; yet I will not make a full end.” He will not abandon His people forever, but will bring them back to their land.

 In love, God is faithful to His people, not only in keeping them, but also, as a good Father, in giving them discipline. This is what is before us in these prophecies; a discipline that will continue for 70 years. It will not, however, exceed by one day, a successful correction. Anyone of us might venture to say, “That seems like a terribly severe discipline.” Yes, as the writer of Hebrews warned the Jewish Christians, “The Lord will judge His people. It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God” (He.10:30, 31). Then, in chapter 12, he taught them, in detail, of the Lord’s discipline.


False prophecies of deliverance abound in Jeremiah’s day

 13.  Then I said, "Ah, Lord GOD! Behold, the prophets say to them, 'You shall not see the sword, nor shall you have famine, but I will give you assured peace in this place.'

 14.  And the LORD said to me, "The prophets prophesy lies in My name. I have not sent them, commanded them, nor spoken to them; they prophesy to you a false vision, divination, a worthless thing, and the deceit of their heart. 

 15.  Therefore thus says the LORD concerning the prophets who prophesy in My name, whom I did not send, and who say, 'Sword and famine shall not be in this land'—'By sword and famine those prophets shall be consumed! 

 16.  And the people to whom they prophesy shall be cast out in the streets of Jerusalem because of the famine and the sword; they will have no one to bury them—them nor their wives, their sons nor their daughters—for I will pour their wickedness on them.' 

 I have personally heard or learned of a good deal of false prophecy in this century, as well as in the last. In some cases, they are readily discerned to be spurious. Others take more time and are only discovered after grievous damage has been done in people’s lives. Later still, judgment falls upon the prophet and comes to the knowledge of the church. Sadly, some still cling to the veracity of their words, in spite of the open exposure of the prophet’s errors. The gullibility of many Christians is appalling, often due to the low standards that they expect from leadership. Apparently, false prophets abounded in Israel in Jeremiah’s time, because there were plenty who were prone to follow them.

 Paul gives three purposes for the prophetic ministry: edification, exhortation and comfort. All three were abundantly evident through Jeremiah. We have already observed them and will continue to do so, as we continue through the book. Of the three, exhortation is the one that would be the most difficult for the public to accept. A false prophet then, looking for acceptance among men, would find it to be the easiest to avoid. So, he would resort to more comfortable predictions.

 Read the words of the majority of prophets, of whom Jeremiah speaks: No sword, no famine, assured peace (13). Who would not have found those messages appealing? It would not be difficult to find an audience for those positive assertions. There was only one problem… they weren’t true! So, the comfort they brought was false; the edification was a flimsy wall. The good feelings that they produced would someday be dashed into disastrously disillusioned pieces.

 The truth, concerning these prophets, is not determined by the prophets themselves. It is not decided democratically, by the will of the people. We have become accustomed in modern times to each individual choosing his own way and then finding confirmation through popularity. The Bible proves the way of man to be erroneous. God alone declares to Jeremiah the true situation.

The prophets have appeared on the scene without divine vocation or sending. They are not under His mandate, nor have they heard His voice therefore, their message is unreliable, and is, in fact, a deception. The father of lies is active in them, for they have learned their art through divination. False revelation is proceeding from deceived hearts, and time will prove it to be valueless (14).

The Judge of all the earth pronounces righteous sentence against them, in accordance with the error of their message. They declared that Judah will suffer no war or famine, but that will be their end, overtaken by the very things, which they affirmed would not happen. Divine justice makes them victims of their own errors, falling into the trap that they have set (15).  

 Their positive message proves to be a disaster, for the massive multitude of their followers will be unprepared for the war and famine, which was destined to come. The Lord reveals the slaughter of entire families, so that the dead will have no kind loved ones to bury them. The message needed, which should have been prominent in the ears of the people, was repentance, so that they would turn from their wicked ways. The word of comfort only established them in their ungodly way and, as we have already read, was unprofitable (16). The recompense of their wickedness fell on them.


The true message, bathed in tears

 17.  "Therefore you shall say this word to them: 'Let my eyes flow with tears night and day, And let them not cease; For the virgin daughter of my people Has been broken with a mighty stroke, with a very severe blow. 

 18.  If I go out to the field, Then behold, those slain with the sword! And if I enter the city, Then behold, those sick from famine! Yes, both prophet and priest go about in a land they do not know.'

 19.  Have You utterly rejected Judah? Has Your soul loathed Zion? Why have You stricken us so that there is no healing for us? We looked for peace, but there was no good; And for the time of healing, and there was trouble. 

 20.  We acknowledge, O LORD, our wickedness And the iniquity of our fathers, For we have sinned against You. 

 21.  Do not abhor us, for Your name's sake; Do not disgrace the throne of Your glory. Remember, do not break Your covenant with us. 

 22.  Are there any among the idols of the nations that can cause rain? Or can the heavens give showers? Are You not He, O LORD our God? Therefore we will wait for You, Since You have made all these. 

 Now, we learn the message, which stems from the Lord, preached, not only in words, but with tears. The prophet expresses the heart of God, which calls for an unceasing lamentation. This is compassion; these are words of love! Notice the poignant expression: the virgin daughter of my people. There is no pleasure in this prophesy, because there is no pleasure in God’s heart. He is grieved. I recall the words of my father after punishing us, words that his children found hard to believe: “This hurts me more than it hurts you”… it was absolute truth. The hand of the Lord came down mightily, delivering a severe blow (17). Is this word applicable in our day, after hundreds of thousands have died from covid around the world, and Ukraine is being ravaged and thousands of women and children die or are maimed and millions flee for their lives.

 What the false prophets assured would not happen, is happening. There is nowhere to hide. The sword of the enemy has found those, who ran from the city to find relief in the country. A famine engulfs those in the city, due to the siege, which cuts off all food supplies. Can we also presume that the medicine of those times was cut off as well, and disease ran rampant throughout the city of Jerusalem? Jesus taught of the “blind leaders of the blind”, who wsnder aimlessly until both fall in the ditch (Mt.15:14). The same kind of leadership existed in Jeremiah’s time, when the eyes of the prophet and priest scan a land, unfamiliar to them, as they are led away into captivity (18).  

 The interceding prophet cries again to his Lord, feeling the hopelessness of the people. Utter rejection expresses the sense of eternal loss; loathing, God’s total disdain towards them. The evidence for that mentality is that there seems to be no remedy for their situation. The lack of spiritual peace is now accompanied by a fearful national turmoil. They are confronted with an incurably fatal destiny (19).

 Jeremiah resorts to the only possible solution, which is to acknowledge guilt. True intercession must include that recognition. Daniel went in that direction, when he prayed for the end of Israel’s captivity in Babylon: “I prayed to the Lord my God and made confession… we have sinned and committed iniquity, we have done wickedly and rebelled…” (Dn.9:4,5). This is where we start, if we intend for God to hear our prayer (20).

 Ah, he pleads that the loathing from God, which he feels, would not be the case. We return to the lessons concerning prayer, taught in the first part of the chapter, and we learn from biblical examples. We see another vital ingredient to profitable intercession, which is, to pray sincerely in favor of the glory of God… for Your name’s sake. The next sentence would almost seem senseless to utter in prayer: Do not disgrace the throne of thy glory. That seems to be prayer against that, which is an impossibility, meaning that the Lord would any way besmudge his pure throne. However, sincere intercession, exposes the misgivings in the deepest recesses of the heart. (21).

Jeremiah renounces faith in idols, which can provide no relief. That is the first question in this verse, but the second curious question might take us by surprise: Can the heavens give showers? Natural man would respond, “If the heavens cannot give showers, then what other source is there for rain.” It teaches a great spiritual principle and reality. It is not the heavens that give rain… it is God! We need not look for clouds or resort to the predictions of the experts. God is the one source of precipitation and we must look only to Him.

Let this be the main truth to learn from the chapter. Let us cast ourselves totally on the mercy of God. Let us be committed to wait on the Lord. “They that wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings as eagles; they shall run, and not be weary; and they shall walk, and not faint” (Is.40:31). We must learn patience, because there are no magic buttons to push, which will give us immediate response in this Christian walk. We wait, as long as we are able, and then we wait some more, receiving supernatural endurance.

 It is worth every effort put forth, for the answer will bring supernatural provisions. Sarah and Abraham lost patience and produced a son by natural means, which brought no glory to God. He learned that, “to him who does not work but believes on Him…” (Ro.4:5) is the person, who will receive heavenly help. Abraham “was strengthened in faith, giving glory to God” (Ro.4:20). God bypasses those, who are naturally strong, the vigorous young men will eventually grow weary and even fall. The spiritual principle is unmistakable; if we want to walk in the supernatural ways of God, running with ever renewable strength, running without tiring, and then, flying like eagles, we need to wait for God to work.  




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