The harvest is past, the summer is ended, and we are not saved. — Jeremiah 8:20
An incident from the American Revolutionary War illustrates how great tragedy can result from neglect. Colonel Rahl, the commander of the British garrison in Trenton, New Jersey, had been ordered to construct defense entrenchments around the town but had not troubled to do so. Few precautions were taken, and the cannons intended for the protection of the town were used instead to add pomp and circumstance to parades by the garrison’s soldiers.
On a bitterly cold Christmas night, in spite of rumors that General George Washington was planning an attack, Rahl and his fellow soldiers were relaxing and enjoying the festivities of the holiday. In fact, Rahl was reputedly playing cards with fellow soldiers when a courier brought an urgent message stating that General Washington was crossing the Delaware River. Engrossed in what he was doing, Rahl put the letter in his pocket and did not bother to read it. He neglected an invaluable opportunity to prepare for a confrontation.
Early the next morning, Washington’s troops were discovered to be just a short distance away. Hurriedly, Rahl tried to rally his men to meet the attack, but it was too late. His neglect was his undoing — in the battle, Rahl was mortally wounded, many of his men were killed, and the rest of the regiment was captured. Ignoring the warnings cost the commander his life, his honor, and the life and liberty of his soldiers. The letter telling of the approach of General Washington’s troops was found in his pocket after his death.
Our focus verse is a dire warning against neglect. The Prophet Jeremiah was lamenting Judah’s rejection of the proffered grace of God, and his heart was overcome with grief for the people as he recognized that judgment was inevitable.
Today, we also look around us and see a world dying in sin — and ignoring the warnings God has provided that the end is near and judgment is coming. Do we have the passion for the lost that Jeremiah had? Let us pray that God will allow our hearts to be broken for our lost friends, relatives, neighbors, and associates! The door of mercy is still open, but neglect is deadly. The time is coming when the door will close, the harvest will be past, and the summer will be ended. May God help us to do everything in our power to encourage those whose lives touch ours to make their eternal preparation now, before it is too late!
Jeremiah 8, a part of the third sermon, begins a group of oracles, seemingly not in chronological order, which continued the general theme of God’s indictments against Judah. In verses 4-7, Jeremiah used analogies that were familiar to the people. If one fell, the natural instinct would be to rise up, and if one were to wander off the correct path, he would be inclined to retrace his steps and find the right course. The people of Judah knew the right way, so Jeremiah questioned why they were guilty of “perpetual backsliding,” which in the Hebrew meant “continual turning away.” Jeremiah compared Judah’s going its own way with a horse rushing into battle with no consideration of the danger involved. Migratory birds obey their natural instincts and accomplish what they were created to do, but the people of Judah, who were called to be God’s people, rejected God’s commandments and refused to consider the consequences their choices would bring.
In verses 8-13, God stated that the scribes’ copying of the Law was in vain, and the people were deceived in believing the Mosaic Law would benefit them when they had failed to obey God’s principles. Even though all of Judah was guilty of rejecting God’s words, the false prophets and priests were more accountable because they had appeased the people with false claims of peace. As a result of Judah’s lack of shame and refusal to repent, the people would be consumed and the fruitful land made barren.
In verses 14-17, Jeremiah spoke of the forthcoming enemy attack as though it had already occurred. The people in the countryside declared that they would flee to the fortified cities for protection. The Hebrew word for “silence” actually meant the “silence of death,” and because of Judah’s sin, the walled cities would offer no protection from poisoned water and death. Dan was on the northern border of Judah, and the “snorting of his horses” indicated that the enemy had arrived, and the land and all that was in it would be destroyed. Jeremiah described the nation’s adversaries as “serpents” and “cockatrices,” which could not be charmed, but would bite and devour.
In Jeremiah 8:18-22 and 9:1, Jeremiah’s intense grief over the horrible destiny of his people caused his heart to grow faint. He seemingly looked ahead to the time when the Jews would be in exile and would question why God had not spared them. The answer was that they had provoked God to anger with their idolatry. Gilead was well-known for its healing balm made from the resin of the mastic tree. The predictable answer to both questions of whether there was still a balm in Gilead and a physician was “yes.” Jeremiah then asked why, if a remedy was available, his people were not healed. The answer was that Jeremiah’s people had not sincerely sought the help of God, the true “Physician.” This realization broke Jeremiah’s heart, causing him to weep continually for the fate of his people.
(Hannah’s Bible Outlines - Used by permission per WORDsearch)
II. The pronouncement of judgment against Judah
A. The condemnation of the prophet
3. The third sermon: Distortion of worship
b. The declaration of judgment
(1) The continued hardness of Jerusalem (8:4-7)
(2) The repudiation of God’s Word (8:8-12)
(3) The certainty of destruction (8:13-17)
(4) The sorrow of the prophet (8:18 — 9:1)
Thank God, the door of mercy is still open. Let us determine, with the help of God, to encourage others in every way possible to prepare now for eternity!