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Lowell Brueckner

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The Irreparably Broken Flask


  Chapter 19

 God’s use of parables

       1.      Thus says the LORD: "Go and get a potter's earthen flask, and take some of the elders of the people and some of the elders of the priests. 

        2.      And go out to the Valley of the Son of Hinnom, which is by the entry of the Potsherd Gate; and proclaim there the words that I will tell you, 

 God gives parables or illustrations to Jeremiah, using them as visual object lessons, to impress upon the people, the judgments that He will bring upon them. They begin in chapter one with an almond branch, followed by a boiling pot. He continues chapter after chapter, with illustration after illustration, in the last chapter using a potter and his clay. Now we have before us an earthen flask, which is broken in verse 10. This kind of delivery of a message is common in the prophets and shows us something of the Lord’s method in teaching.

 I am going to take the time and space to show a very important fact, concerning parables. Jesus answered a devious question concerning paying tribute to Caesar by holding up a denarius and asking about the image on it. He said that because Caesar’s image was on it, the people owed him tribute. In the same way, people owe God their lives, because His image is upon them and they are created for His pleasure: “God created man in His own image; in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them” (Ge.1:27).

 Israel’s heart progressively hardened, generation after generation, so that by the time of the coming of Christ, it had reached a pinnacle of sedition against the Kingdom of God, prompting Him to lay the composite guilt of the ages upon them: “Fill up, then, the measure of your fathers’ guilt… that on you may come all the righteous blood shed on the earth, from the blood of righteous Abel to the blood of Zechariah, son of Berechiah, whom you murdered between the temple and the altar. Assuredly, I say to you, all these things will come upon this generation” (Mt.23:32, 35-36). Then they fell to the lowest possible level of depravation, crucifying their Messiah and bringing an awful curse upon themselves that continued over two millennium: “His blood be on us, and on our children” (Mt.27:25). 


 Isaiah prophesied that truth would be hidden from a hard-hearted generation: “Hear and hear continually, but understand not; and see and see continually, but do not apprehend with your mind. Make the heart of this people fat; and make their ears heavy and shut their eyes, lest they see with their eyes and hear with their ears and turn again and be healed” (Is.6:9-10).

 Jesus therefore said that parables would be taught to the general public as a dark curse and not fulfill their purpose of giving light: “Then the disciples came and said to him, ‘Why do you speak to them in parables?’... This is why I speak to them in parables, because seeing they do not see, and hearing they do not hear, nor do they understand. Indeed in their case the prophecy of Isaiah is fulfilled…” (Mt. 13:10, 13,14; ESV), and He quoted the passage placed in the last paragraph.

 However, He ended His parables by offering, “He who has ears, let him hear(Mt.13:9, 43). Clearly, He was not speaking of physical ears, but of the ability to hear by the Holy Spirit with ears of the heart. Those with that capacity, will be able to receive the Word of God and faith will be born in them: “Faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God" (Ro.10:17). To these, Jesus explained His parables: “When He was alone, those around Him with the twelve asked Him about the parable. And He said to them, ‘To you has been given the secret of the kingdom of God, but for those outside everything is in parables’” (Mk.4:11).

  In our text, God instructs Jeremiah to take an earthen flask and then call elders of the people, that is, leaders of the tribes, and some of the veterans among the priests (1). These formed the Sanhedrin, the body of 70 leaders, from the religious, as well as the secular world. This leadership lasted through the time of Christ and the apostles. So, he has a visual aid and a chosen audience, to whom he is to speak. Next, he must take them to the proper place, to deliver his message. This is the Valley of the Sons of Hinnom near the Potsherd Gate. The audience and the place of delivery is very important. I lay before you one example from the New Testament to illustrate the point: “He went away again beyond the Jordan to the place where John was baptizing… Many came to Him and said, ‘John performed no sign, but all the things that John spoke about this Man were true’” (Jn.10:40,41). Jesus led those, who had followed John’s preaching to the place where he baptized. There the people’s memory would be refreshed, concerning John the Baptist, and they could compare his ministry to that of Christ.


The valley of slaughter

 3.      and say, 'Hear the word of the LORD, O kings of Judah and inhabitants of Jerusalem. Thus says the LORD of hosts, the God of Israel: "Behold, I will bring such a catastrophe on this place, that whoever hears of it, his ears will tingle. 

 4.      "Because they have forsaken Me and made this an alien place, because they have burned incense in it to other gods whom neither they, their fathers, nor the kings of Judah have known, and have filled this place with the blood of the innocents 

 5.      (they have also built the high places of Baal, to burn their sons with fire for burnt offerings to Baal, which I did not command or speak, nor did it come into My mind), 

 6.      therefore behold, the days are coming," says the LORD, "that this place shall no more be called Tophet or the Valley of the Son of Hinnom, but the Valley of Slaughter. 


Gehenna, site of human sacrifice of children
At the Lord’s instruction, Jeremiah leads this representative group out to the valley just south of Jerusalem, perhaps through the eastern gate mentioned, Potsherd (2).  It was here that child sacrifices were made to the evil god, Molech, a fit setting for the message that the prophet will deliver. Will sensibility for that great sin and guilt be awakened in this place?

 In the time of Christ, this valley was called Gehenna (or Ge-hinnom). Because of its sordid past and because it served as a garbage pit, which burned continually, Jesus referred to it, using it as an illustration to portray the place of eternal, fiery judgment. He was the original hell-fire preacher, who showed us how the truth of Hell must be graphically illustrated, in order that a deep and lasting impression might be branded into the human conscience. Jesus gravely warned, if a hand, foot, or eye brings us to sin, “cut it off or pluck it out. It is better to enter into life maimed or lame or with one eye, rather than having two hands, feet, or eyes, to be cast into hell fire, that shall never be quenched – where their worm does not die and the fire is not quenched” (Mk.9:43-49).

 Jesus showed the most extreme measures, which must be taken in our lives, in order to deal with sin. He knew, of course, that it would do no good to amputate an arm or a leg, remove an eye, if the evil heart of man remains intact, but the threat of having to do so would bring some sinners to repentance. Indeed, because of sin, some have lost their limbs and eyes. However, because of the condition of his heart, he will continue to sin with one arm, leg, or eye. God used the most extreme measure at the cross to deal with the human heart, which Jeremiah has told us already in chapter 17 “is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked, who can know it?”  Anyone can turn to the cross for deliverance without, necessarily, losing parts of his body. Jesus Christ also told the true story of Lazarus, a poor beggar, who died as a saved believer, and a rich man, who went to Hell (Lk.16:19-31). By the way, he is still being tormented consciously, 2,000 years later, while Lazarus continues to enjoy the blessings of Paradise.

 It was not only a prophet, it was God Himself in the flesh, Who informed us of a holocaust, an unspeakable horror, called in Revelation, The Lake of Fire. Each one of His faithful servants must preach the whole counsel of God, including the frightening consequences of sin. Neglecting to do so is a cruel and guilty omission of the highest magnitude, for which suffering sinners will curse the unfaithful preacher for eternity, because he did not properly inform them.

 Jeremiah stands in the Valley of Hinnom as the Lord’s mouthpiece, preaching catastrophe, which will come upon the high born and the low. When the prophecy is fulfilled and the news is reported, it will continue ringing in the ears of the hearer, as the Word of the Lord, as impossible to be silenced, as the permanent effect upon one, who is struck by lightning (3).

 The sin of altering God’s purposes is announced. Instead of the nation of Israel being the point of friendly encounter with the Lord, it has become an alien place to Him, because His people have abandoned Him. They have insulted the Most High, by turning to other sources for help. These are strange gods from other nations, but the Jews have become so thoroughly deceived, that they are actually worshiping them. As the Spirit produces His fruit in the believer, so the foreign gods sow violence and injustice, to the point of killing innocent babies (4).

 The prophet reiterates what we have already learned through Hebrew history. We have already referred to the sacrifice of infants to Baal, but I advise you to think again of the horror of the practice. Think again, of laying the innocent ones in the inclined hands of the idol, so that they fell off into the flames that were lit at his feet. Are we beyond that in today’s civilization? Consider the practice of unborn babies, already able to feel pain, dismembered and plucked piece by piece from their mothers’ womb. What unimaginable cruelty! What devilishness!

 In contrast, God’s ways are the pinnacle of justice and morality. He is the protector of the innocent,
Who never commends cruelty. It never enters His mind and has no place in His make-up and nature (5). God will rename this valley to fit the practices carried on there… The Valley of Slaughter (6). 


The coming siege

 7.      And I will make void the counsel of Judah and Jerusalem in this place, and I will cause them to fall by the sword before their enemies and by the hands of those who seek their lives; their corpses I will give as meat for the birds of the heaven and for the beasts of the earth. 

 8.      I will make this city desolate and a hissing; everyone who passes by it will be astonished and hiss because of all its plagues. 

 9.      And I will cause them to eat the flesh of their sons and the flesh of their daughters, and everyone shall eat the flesh of his friend in the siege and in the desperation with which their enemies and those who seek their lives shall drive them to despair." ' 

 If a person will carefully and honestly study human behavior, he will understand completely, the need for God to take drastic action to deter it. He commanded it in the case of the seven evil nations in Canaan, and also concerning the Amalekite, the Moabite and the Ammonite. God’s reaction to the evil deeds of humanity explains the suffering and trouble in the world and makes a case for the fires of Hell.

 All common-sense counsel would disappear in Jerusalem. God made it clear to the nation in Jeremiah’s day that Jerusalem would fall into the hands of its enemies. Bodies will not have a decent burial and there would not even be time or concern for mass graves. The corpses would lie on the open countryside, food for carrion birds and beasts (7).

 Its desolation will be the cause for contempt among the nations, manifested by the Mideastern practice of hissing. Later, in the time of Esther, the Jew was defamed and her relative and guardian, Mordecai, advised her not to claim her race and ancestry. Haman persuaded the king to exterminate them. God Himself did not enter His name in the book of Esther (8).

 Can you think of anything worse than seeing a people resort to cannibalism because of hunger? This was the result of the ancient tactic of warfare called a siege. Today a boycott is a limited form of siege, but the Babylonian siege would cut food and drink totally from Jerusalem. It was understandably effective, breaking the spirit of the captive people in a way that is impossible to describe (9). They would fall into utter hopelessness.


The flask is irreparably broken

 10.  "Then you shall break the flask in the sight of the men who go with you, 

 11.  and say to them, 'Thus says the LORD of hosts: "Even so I will break this people and this city, as one breaks a potter's vessel, which cannot be made whole again; and they shall bury them in Tophet till there is no place to bury. 

 12.  Thus I will do to this place," says the LORD, "and to its inhabitants, and make this city like Tophet. 

 13.  And the houses of Jerusalem and the houses of the kings of Judah shall be defiled like the place of Tophet, because of all the houses on whose roofs they have burned incense to all the host of heaven, and poured out drink offerings to other gods." ' " 

 14.  Then Jeremiah came from Tophet, where the LORD had sent him to prophesy; and he stood in the court of the Lord's house and said to all the people, 

 15.  "Thus says the LORD of hosts, the God of Israel: 'Behold, I will bring on this city and on all her towns all the doom that I have pronounced against it, because they have stiffened their necks that they might not hear My words.'”

 Now came the time for Jeremiah to break the flask before the representatives (10), followed by its message. There is no remedy for the flask; the damage is irreparable. I had no idea of the lesson behind the little poem of Humpty-Dumpty, when I learned it as a child. The nursery rhyme was obviously penned to make an ominous point. He may have been an egg, put his fall was not more devastating than Jeremiah’s flask. See the hopeless dilemma portrayed by its fall…

 All the king’s horses and all the king’s men

Couldn’t put Humpty together again.

 It was this exact message that Jeremiah brought to the elders of Israel in the Valley of the Son of Hinnom. Jerusalem and its population, in fact, all of Judea, would be irreparably broken (11). But, my friend, it is not only the condition of the Hebrew nation; they are representative of the entire human race, which not an army of experts can fix. Though countless individuals and governments make the effort to improve mankind’s condition, they cannot succeed. The world falls from one level of debauchery to another. Man has fallen from God into utter depravity, which cannot be fixed. In Israel, his graveyard will be an open field, named here Tophet, where the bodies will lie outside of Jerusalem, rotting under the sun (12).

 Nobility will end in Jerusalem and there will be no social distinctions or classes. Dignity will vanish and general gloom and destruction will prevail, as God answers in judgment against the idolatry of his people. The high-ranking Jew, such as those who accompanied Jeremiah outside Jerusalem, who so easily resorted to burning incense and to pouring drink offerings to foreign gods on the rooftop of his beautiful home, will experience utter ruin (13). Will the leaders take heed and repent in response to Jeremiah’s impassioned prophecy? Some may, but generally, his message was rejected. Ah, the words of the prophet, no matter how skillfully and passionately spoken, they cannot do justice to the horrors that will take place upon their actual fulfillment. 

 Jeremiah went back into Jerusalem, stood in the court of the temple and spoke to the general public, for the benefit of any individual, who might fear the Lord, pay attention and repent (14). To them, as well, he speaks the unfailing word of God. The people are as guilty as the ruler and the priest and are incapable of turning their heads in another direction. They are stiffly rebellious and deaf to the admonition of the Lord (15).









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