The prophet Jeremiah lived in an age that mirrors our own day. Though separated by some 2,500 years, the parallels are uncanny. As in our day, the time preceding Jeremiah’s enjoyed an abounding proclamation of the Word of God, but, as today, the natural blessings that God bestowed on His people quickly consumed their affections, and God’s people became enamored with mere things at the expense of the truth. All too soon, full-blown apostasy erupted. And rather than repenting, the people reveled in their sin, becoming so hardened in and by it that they lost their ability to be ashamed. Jeremiah expresses it this way: “Were they ashamed because of the abomination they had done? They certainly were not ashamed, and they did not know how to blush” (Jer. 8:12a). The most heinous of sins had ceased to concern them. Surely, it is easy to identify the same climate today. Murder, rape, abortion, infanticide, violence, anarchy, casual sex, adultery, and on and on have become the essence of our culture, a scourge that is worming its way into the real church. God is openly denied, truth is freely rejected, and rebellion of every sort is almost universally applauded and promoted. In such an age, every believer needs to cultivate the spirit of Jeremiah. That spirit is multifaceted, but two characteristics are prominent.
Acknowledgement. We must recognize the sin around us. The time-worn illustration of the frog that was placed in a pot of initially cool water and was cooked before he knew it as the temperature was gradually increased remains one of the best examples of what can easily befall us. At the first outbreak of some sin, we are dismayed and grieved. But as time passes, we can become used to the sin. Soon it becomes the norm, not good in our minds, perhaps, but just part of the present milieu. Not necessarily acceptance, but complacency or resignation replaces outrage and godly sorrow. But Jeremiah did not fall prey to that erosion of fervent righteousness. Jeremiah was under no illusions about the fate of his people. He knew full well that Judah’s sins had provoked God’s inalterable judgment; He knew that God had declared: “I will make Jerusalem a heap of ruins, a haunt of jackals; and I will make the cities of Judah a desolation, without inhabitant” (9:11). But he refused to ignore, compromise with, or become complacent about sin in the culture around him. He rejected “Que Sera, Sera” as his theme song. Every new instance of sin, rather than pounding him senseless, struck him with fresh alarm. He did not stop calling sin “sin.” He did not quit calling sinners to repentance. We must continue to recognize that, though individual sins may seem to fall as lightly as snowflakes, they can quickly turn into destructive blizzards that destroy power lines, foster accidents, and shut down life as we enjoy it.
Association. At the first sign of danger, a turtle pulls its head into its shell and enjoys the security of separation and isolation. Jeremiah disdained that sort of luxury. Without participating in their sin, without even diminishing it in any way, he identified with the sinners around him—for the purpose both of reproving them and interceding on their behalf. “Harvest is past, summer is ended, and we are not saved,” Jeremiah lamented. “For the brokenness of the daughter of my people I am broken; I mourn, dismay has taken hold of me. …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!” (8:20, 21; 9:1). He identified with his nation to such a degree that he could truly sorrow over their sin and intercede though he knew that sure and condign judgment awaited.
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