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Lowell Brueckner

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Burdens Over Blessings



Chapter 17

 Engraved sin

 1.      "The sin of Judah is written with a pen of iron; With the point of a diamond it is engraved On the tablet of their heart, And on the horns of your altars,

 2.      While their children remember Their altars and their wooden images By the green trees on the high hills. 

 3.      O My mountain in the field, I will give as plunder your wealth, all your treasures, And your high places of sin within all your borders. 

 4.      And you, even yourself, Shall let go of your heritage which I gave you; And I will cause you to serve your enemies In the land which you do not know; For you have kindled a fire in My anger which shall burn forever." 

 I am impressed that the Holy Spirit uses the example of Israel, in part, to teach the hopeless condition of the entire human race. Israel’s sin is not hidden; the text says it is engraved, as with a pen of iron, as a clear example of man’s depravity. Then it illustrates the condition of human nature, by referring to the mark of a diamond point, the hardest stone in existence, writing upon the deepest center of man´s being, as if it were a tablet. The wicked impression cannot wear away or be erased (1).

 After showing sin´s presence in the innermost being of the Israelite personality, it shows its mark on the focal point of its religion… that is, upon the horns of its altars. In true religion, there were four brass horns, one on each corner of the altar, and they were to be smeared with the blood of the sacrifice. The altar was to reveal the life-source that was slain as a substitute for the sin of the one, who sacrificed.

 However, the idolatrous altars of Judah show only a nation given over to treason against their Creator and God.  Israel’s case seems especially shameful, because it was the divine choice and extremely privileged. However, I am convinced, that if any other nation would have been in their place, they would have failed just as miserably. The failure is due to the extreme depravation and perversity of fallen human nature.

 Their children have been raised in idolatry and are very familiar with false altars and images, as well as with the groves of green trees upon the high places, where the unnatural scenes unfolded (2). God chooses a place like this, a high place, which He calls His mountain, precisely Mount Zion, as a site upon which Judah’s wealth will be plundered (3). The entire nation will be stripped of all their treasures within all their territory. They will be forced to release their hold, upon that, in which they had hoped to secure their future; the great natural resources, with which God had blessed the land.

 They were unwilling to serve under the authority of a good God, so He is sending them out of their Promised Land to serve under cruel enemies in a land that they do not know. They have themselves to blame for gathering the kindling and lighting the fire of God’s anger, burning beyond their expectations and beyond their power to extinguish (4). Man is incapable to control the consequences that sin produced.


 The curse of trusting men

 5.      Thus says the LORD: "Cursed is the man who trusts in man And makes flesh his strength, Whose heart departs from the LORD. 

 6.      For he shall be like a shrub in the desert, And shall not see when good comes, But shall inhabit the parched places in the wilderness, In a salt land which is not inhabited.

 7.      "Blessed is the man who trusts in the LORD, And whose hope is the LORD. 

 8.      For he shall be like a tree planted by the waters, Which spreads out its roots by the river, And will not fear when heat comes; But its leaf will be green, And will not be anxious in the year of drought, Nor will cease from yielding fruit.

 According to biblical standard, to trust in man is not only unwise but, the principle of doing so, will bring a curse upon the one who does it. He places his confidence in flesh and blood, which is equal to his own. A curse is brought upon him, because he cannot put his trust there, without removing his trust from the Lord. The Bible student must be informed that a divided trust is a spiritual impossibility. The Lord is almighty, but He refuses to compete with another for someone’s loyalty. That person must fully and without reservation place all his confidence in God. There is no halfway point, at which the Lord will meet with him. It is all or nothing.  The curse rests in the folly of trading omnipotence for the relative weakness of human ability (5).

 That person is compared to a mindless shrub growing in the uninhabited desert south of the Salt Sea. The shrub is probably the heath, which has neither fruit nor seed and is neither sown nor planted (Jamieson-Faussett-Brown). It is ignorant and ignored, unaware of a better existence. The pity is in the fact that we are learning of a human being, created in the image of God, with the amazing potential that the Creator has instilled in him. However, he has chosen to live far below his God-given rights, unaware of the riches lying within. We can easily observe this ignorance among our fellow man, in his daily, weekly, yearly routine, enslaved by food, shelter and clothing, oblivious to the treasures of the Word of God and the eternal inheritance in the gospel. There is immense sadness in this truth (6).    

 An incomparable blessing lies at the other end of the spectrum, which is the position of the believer, who has deposited his trust entirely in the Lord. He possesses that enviable quality of hope. I need to emphasize that hope in the Lord is godly hope, which knows no earthly equivalent. There is a hope here below that is based on the limited earthly resources, for which this planet’s citizens work and plan. He expresses his hope in things of which he is not altogether sure. He hopes that his dreams will materialize. On the other hand, hope in the Lord is unfailing, absolute and sure. It is as an anchor, cast into eternity, onto which his soul is drawn (7).

 In contrast to the desert shrub is the tree prospering by the waters. David wrote about that man in the first Psalm. We learned that the shrub has neither fruit nor seed, but this tree brings forth its fruit in its season. It has no fear for summer’s heat or the occasional dry year. David said its leaf will not wither; Jeremiah said that it will be green in heat and in drought. The man, represented by the tree, will be fruitful and prosperous in all situations. He is not expecting to enjoy the best of terrestrial blessing, but is planted in an unearthly soil, which knows no imperfections (8).


The depth of heart wickedness

 9.      "The heart is deceitful above all things, And desperately wicked; Who can know it? 

 10.  I, the LORD, search the heart, I test the mind, Even to give every man according to his ways, According to the fruit of his doings. 

 11.  "As a partridge that broods but does not hatch, So is he who gets riches, but not by right; It will leave him in the midst of his days, And at his end he will be a fool." 

 When the Bible speaks of the human heart, it is referring to the governing source of the personality, the very center of his being. It gives a blanket condemnation to the core of fallen man, in conjunction with the full scriptural doctrine concerning the Adamic race. Man is evil and depraved, declares the Bible, without a shred of evidence for any inner goodness and he is absolutely incapable of repair. Any positive opinion is a deception (9).

 It is no wonder that society opts for the goodness of human kind, since the heart of every member is the most deceptive thing in all creation. It is desperately wicked beyond the ability of comprehension. This is God’s truth and therefore it is useless to try to find any other conclusion through any other means. There is only one thing to do with truth and that is to accept it, because it is unchangeable.

 The apostle Paul goes to David to establish New Testament doctrine and this is what he teaches in Romans 3:9-12: 1) A righteous person does not exist… there is no exception. 2) There is no one with godly understanding, in order to comprehend his own state. 3) There in not one human being, who launches a search for God; to the contrary, he runs in the opposite direction, to get as far away from Him as possible. 4) They have all lost their course and purpose for living. They are all unprofitable garbage and, without exception, each one is no good whatsoever. In chapter one, Paul has already proclaimed that man has no excuse for his condition (Ro.1:20).   

 There is nowhere else to look, because only God is capable of true and perfect judgment on the state of His Own creation. He has gone into the wicked heart and uncovered the thoughts of the mind. He will declare a righteous sentence for man’s deeds and for that, which his life has produced (10). Man is a sin factory and that is his one product (10).

 The only wise God gives Jeremiah another illustration of the uselessness of a human being. He brings up the one, who perhaps possesses the financial capability of providing something good from his life. As a hen partridge that sits full-term on infertile eggs, that is the sum that can be expected from a rich man. When man’s heart is deceptive and desperately wicked, how can he produce true riches? Half-way through life, God’s righteousness will uncover his vanity and, arriving at the end of his existence, the foolishness of his life’s goals will turn to ashes. He takes nothing that he has achieved beyond the grave (11).


Shame and honor

 12.  A glorious high throne from the beginning Is the place of our sanctuary.

 13.  O LORD, the hope of Israel, All who forsake You shall be ashamed. "Those who depart from Me Shall be written in the earth, Because they have forsaken the LORD, The fountain of living waters." 

 14.  Heal me, O LORD, and I shall be healed; Save me, and I shall be saved, For You are my praise. 

 15.  Indeed they say to me, "Where is the word of the LORD? Let it come now!" 

 16.  As for me, I have not hurried away from being a shepherd who follows You, Nor have I desired the woeful day; You know what came out of my lips; It was right there before You. 

 17.  Do not be a terror to me; You are my hope in the day of doom.

 18.   Let them be ashamed who persecute me, But do not let me be put to shame; Let them be dismayed, But do not let me be dismayed. Bring on them the day of doom, And destroy them with double destruction! 

 We find no future for human kind in himself. Is there then no hope of salvation for this miserable being? Well, we have already seen that the man, who trusts in the Lord finds hope. From before the foundation of the earth, there is an exalted purpose that has been revealed to the Hebrew race… to the Jew first. We have to go to the Hebrew Scripture for answers, which is our reason for delving into this book. There is a glorious throne, where the God of Israel finds a sanctuary among His people (12).

 The ways of mankind are condemned, because they are false, but there is true hope in Israel’s God. Turning away from him, means to walk on the road to shame that we have already seen in the former verses. Biblically, it is an honor to a person to have his name preserved and we have examples of those, whose names would have been forgotten, had not God intervened and given them lasting fame. An outstanding case is that of the woman, who poured the expensive ointment on Jesus and He said (Mt.26:13): “Wherever this gospel is preached in the whole world, what this woman has done will also be told as a memorial to her.” In verse 13, however, we are told that those who depart from the Lord, it would be the same as if their name was written in sand.

 It seems evident in this chapter that man’s ignominy stems from his insistence in taking false ways, instead of turning to the true God. In this verse, God is depicted as the Fountain of living waters. By this figure of speech, the opposite could be shown of a person drinking polluted water far from the source. Man’s dilemma is seen in that he refuses to humble himself and return to his Creator.

 There is so much power in the simple plea of verse 14: Heal me, O Lord, and I shall be healed; Save me, and I shall be saved. There is the answer in a prayer that an innocent child could offer! It’s not complicated! That is the apostle’s argument in Romans 10:6-13. Read it: “Do not say in your heart, ‘Who will ascend into heaven?’… or ‘Who will descend into the abyss?’ But what does it say? “The word is near you, in our mouth and in your heart”… For “Whoever calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved.”

 Come on, my unbelieving friend! Take the plunge! You’ve been struggling in life, looking for answers, trying to make sense out of your existence. You’re trying to fill your life with fun and material things, afraid of sickness and death. Here is the answer for you in a few simple words out of your heart… Heal me… save me! He will do it and you will praise Him for it for the rest of your life.

 Jeremiah was a simple follower and that is what made him a great prophet. The arrogant multitudes challenged him, defying him, jeering, daring, doubting, and questioning (15). No wonder, they did the same with the Christ, when He came: “If you are the Son of God, come down from the cross” (Mt.27:40). They brought an awful curse upon themselves: “His blood be on us and on our children” (Mt.27:25). They rebelliously demanded fulfillment of the word of God and, as in 70 A.D., they got it soon enough (15).

 The value of Jeremiah´s counsel was based on his ability to follow the Lord. He was under authority and therefore he had authority. He only relays the message from God, as he stands in His presence. He finds no personal delight in his dreadful prophecies, but God is his witness that, what comes out of his mouth, has originated in His presence. He is heaven´s ambassador in Judah´s capital (16).

 The absolute terror of the existence of a being, who is called a living soul, needs to be ascertained. He is one, whose conscious life within him, cannot be extinguished. Whether a person is aware of it or not, he exists on this planet on borrowed time. According to Jesus, the destiny of an unbeliever is already determined: “He who does not believe is condemned already.” Eternal doom hangs over his head and that truth should awake stark terror in the core of his being, which absolutely nothing should quell or remove. To be unaware of that reality is to be shrouded in a stupor of deception. There is one hope: “He who believes in Him is not condemned” (Jn.3:18). Jeremiah declares that one source of hope and no other can be found.  You are my hope… adequate for the darkest tomorrow (17).

 There are two ways to follow in this life. There is a way, which properly leads to infamy and shame and there is an equally proper walk, which brings honor.  The latter is the way of spiritual and mental sanity, with sound reason and a love for truth and peace, crowned with a desire for good for our fellow man. The former is illogical and twisted, scornful, violent, and hurtful. We have just seen that Jeremiah is following the Good Shepherd, has no desire to see harm fall on his people, but is one, who loves the truth of the word of God.  It is not unjust for these two roads to arrive at their pre-determined destinations. One rightfully ends in shame, but it would be absolutely wrong for a godly man, like the prophet, to come to disgrace. He can walk in complete confidence, with no need to be fearful of the future, while the ungodly will be destroyed by multiplied calamities (18).


Opting for our ways over God’s

 19.  Thus the LORD said to me: "Go and stand in the gate of the children of the people, by which the kings of Judah come in and by which they go out, and in all the gates of Jerusalem; 

 20.  and say to them, 'Hear the word of the LORD, you kings of Judah, and all Judah, and all the inhabitants of Jerusalem, who enter by these gates. 

 21.  Thus says the LORD: "Take heed to yourselves, and bear no burden on the Sabbath day, nor bring it in by the gates of Jerusalem; 

 22.  nor carry a burden out of your houses on the Sabbath day, nor do any work, but hallow the Sabbath day, as I commanded your fathers. 

 23.  But they did not obey nor incline their ear, but made their neck stiff, that they might not hear nor receive instruction. 

 24.  "And it shall be, if you heed Me carefully," says the LORD, "to bring no burden through the gates of this city on the Sabbath day, but hallow the Sabbath day, to do no work in it, 

 25.  then shall enter the gates of this city kings and princes sitting on the throne of David, riding in chariots and on horses, they and their princes, accompanied by the men of Judah and the inhabitants of Jerusalem; and this city shall remain forever. 

 26.  And they shall come from the cities of Judah and from the places around Jerusalem, from the land of Benjamin and from the lowland, from the mountains and from the South, bringing burnt offerings and sacrifices, grain offerings and incense, bringing sacrifices of praise to the house of the LORD. 

 27.  "But if you will not heed Me to hallow the Sabbath day, such as not carrying a burden when entering the gates of Jerusalem on the Sabbath day, then I will kindle a fire in its gates, and it shall devour the palaces of Jerusalem, and it shall not be quenched." ' " 

 Jeremiah receives an order to stand in the gates of commerce in Jerusalem. The elite enter and leave by the gates, where their dignity can be best recognized, while the common people find the most practical, convenient entrances.   Both need to hear the word of the Lord and so Jeremiah goes from one to another until he has visited them all (19).

 The priorities of the people will be seen, as they come in and go out, carrying on with the business of life. There will be those, whose minds are set on buying and selling, focusing on what they will eat and what they will wear. They are thinking about an upcoming marriage in their family, or the material that they will need for the new building that they have begun to construct (20).

 Others have very strong religious values and they conscientiously look for ways to promote their religious interests, particularly careful not to disgrace their personal choice of values. They are very critical of ideas and ways, which don´t line up with their doctrinal views. We will have to look at these instructions, regarding the Sabbath, in the light of the many teachings and practices of Jesus, which were right at the heart of Christian living.

 His teaching answered the Jews’ question, “What shall we do, that we may work the works of God?” (Jn.6:28). It brought the Kingdom of God into its proper place, over the cares of life’s necessities and pleasures, and the deceitfulness of riches. Where man’s priority is earthly gain, the spiritual lives are totally unproductive. It warned against not using the things of God as a means to a selfish end. God is observing, as the people go through Jerusalem’s gates, particularly on the Sabbath days.

 He was searching for a heartfelt joy in doing His will, that springs from a transformed nature. Isaiah expressed it very well: "If you turn away… from doing your pleasure on My holy day, and call the Sabbath a delight, the holy day of the LORD honorable, and shall honor Him, not doing your own ways, nor finding your own pleasure, nor speaking your own words, then you shall delight yourself in the Lord” (Is.58:13,14).

The writer of Hebrews wrote: "He who has entered His rest has himself also ceased from his works..." (He.4:10).  Are you longing from the heart to bring glory to His name? Is it your joy and reason for existence, or is the question, ‘How much can I partake of the world’s offers and still be considered one of God’s people’? Why are you people carrying that burden of self-satisfaction through the gates of God’s city (21)? What is the burden of selfish ambition that you are taking out of your houses (22)? Why are you speaking your own words, doing things man’s way, and not bringing forth the anointed words and works of the Holy Spirit? Because the Jews accused Jesus of breaking the Sabbath, He answered that He was not doing His own works: “My Father has been working until now, and I have been working” (Jn.5:17).

 How often did God accuse His people of a stiff neck, because of selfish ways and desires (23). They would not bend their head or bow their knee. In Hebrews 4:7, the writer quoted the Psalmist (95:7,8), warning: "Today, if you will hear His voice: Do not harden your hearts." Can there be any doubt that God’s ways are best?: “As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are My ways higher than your ways, and my thoughts than your thoughts” (Is.55:9). However, a stiff neck is developed because, “My thoughts are not your thoughts, nor are your ways My ways” (Is.55:8) and God insists, “Let the wicked forsake his way, and the unrighteous man his thoughts” (Is.55:7).


No, the Jews of Jeremiah’s day opted for their ways, carrying their own personal burdens through the streets of the Holy City on the Sabbath, rather than giving the day over for the glory of God. By their actions, they were saying, ‘We’re not interested in seeing David’s promises fulfilled. We’re not looking for kings, princes, chariots, and horses in our streets. We don’t want an influx of Jews from the places around Jerusalem, from Benjamin, from the lowland, from the mountains, from the South, all coming to worship God, bringing sacrifices of praise to the house of the Lord (25,26).’


‘We want to do our thing, our way, dragging our burdens week after week throughout the city, instead of experiencing the eternal purposes of God for this city… the Millennial Reign, followed by the New Jerusalem.’  In so doing, in the gates of Jerusalem, the Babylonians would light a fire and burn the entire city, breaking down the walls and destroying the temple (27).


 God offers a glorious fulfillment of His superior, supernatural ways among us, if we leave our ways behind and yield to His instruction. Peter declared it in the streets of Jerusalem: “Repent therefore and be converted… so that times of refreshing may come from the presence of the Lord” (Ac.3:19) Do we have a deep longing within us for spiritual revival? Does our heart beat with any of the rhythm that moved Paul? “If all prophesy, and an unbeliever or an uninformed person comes in, he is convinced by all, he is convicted by all. And thus the secrets of his heart are revealed; and so, falling down on his face, he will worship God and report that God is truly among you(1 Co.14:24,25).

It must have been a wonderful thing to watch the bread and fish multiply until 5,000 men were fed, plus women and children. Something greater happened, when three thousand came on the day of Pentecost from far and near and responded as they heard 120 speaking “the wonderful works of God” (Ac.2:11). I read in chapter 4 of Acts that people heard the word of the apostles and believed, numbering 5,000 men, the same number that Jesus fed, certainly accompanied by women and children.

 I wonder if the 21st Century Church doesn’t possess the same stiff neck as Israel. ‘We’ll do things our way, thank you very much, relying on our eloquence and abilities. We have ways and means for our own success. We’ll invent doctrines to excuse our lack of spiritual power and the absence of God’s glory among us. We don’t need the gifts of the Spirit these days and we have all, but done away with a spiritual downpour. We have our own baggage to tote through the aisles and platforms of our churches.’





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