Jeremiah 16:2 You shall not take a wife, nor shall you have sons or daughters in this place.

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1 Introduction Jeremiah begins his seventh sermon (16:1-17:27). The judgment of Judea and Jerusalem was certain. Now the Lord reveals to Jeremiah that extraordinary times require an extraordinary life-style. For Jeremiah that will mean a life-style of spiritual separation. He is told not to marry or have children; because Jeremiah will be a sign; a warning to the families of the nation. In this chapter Jeremiah will strike a balance between judgment and hope. The first 13 verses are a reflection on God s call on Jeremiah s life to refrain from marriage and enter a life of celibacy. Jeremiah s call becomes a picture of Judea and Jerusalem s future. This is followed by a promise; the return from exile (vv.14-15). A warning is made that those who try to escape this judgment will be discovered by the fishermen and hunters (vv.16-18). The warning is followed by the hope that Israel s punishment will eventually bring about the conversion of the nations (vv.19-21). Jeremiah is forbidden from entering into the joys of human life and the sorrows of human life. The nation is about to experience judgment. The normal human activities are about to come to an abrupt, tragic halt. Our life-styles tell us something about our relationship with God. Would you characterize your life-style as being righteous or unrighteous? Would you characterize your life as one of access to God and fellowship with God? Prohibitions--What Jeremiah Can t Do (vv.1-9) Don t Marry (vv.1-5) Jeremiah 16:1 The word of the Lord also came to me, saying, Jeremiah 16:2 You shall not take a wife, nor shall you have sons or daughters in this place. Under most circumstances marriage is the norm. The prophet is forbidden the comfort and fellowship of marriage. The message of Jeremiah and his repeated rejection makes him long for human companionship. Jeremiah has an obligation to execute the task of his office. He will not have the privileges or opportunities afforded a husband and father. In the case of Jeremiah, the prohibition against marriage was both a sign to the nation and a blight against his name among the people. Celibacy was abnormal; large families were indicative of God s blessing upon a household. Jeremiah faced life with God as his sole comfort and support (see Nelson s New Illustrated Bible Commentary; p. 903). 1

2 this place is a reference to Judea and Jerusalem. The Lord did not allow Jeremiah to marry or have children because they would die. Jeremiah 16:3 For thus says the Lord concerning the sons and daughters who are born in this place, and concerning their mothers who bore them and their fathers who begot them in this land: Jeremiah 16:4 They shall die gruesome deaths; they shall not be lamented nor shall they be buried, but they shall be like refuse on the face of the earth. They shall be consumed by the sword and by famine, and their corpses shall be meat for the birds of heaven and for the beasts of the earth. Jeremiah will remain childless. It becomes a picture of the bereavement that will come upon this place (see Andrew Blackwood s Commentary on Jeremiah; p. 140). Jeremiah paints a graphic horror. The death toll is gruesome and overwhelming. Again no time to mourn the dead or bury the dead. Don t Mourn (vv.5-7) Jeremiah 16:5 For thus says the Lord: Do not enter the house of mourning, nor go to lament or bemoan them; for I have taken away My peace from this people, says the Lord, lovingkindness and mercies. Jeremiah is told not to grieve. Their doom is God s judgment. Again the word mourning (a shrill sound) is translated in Amos 6:7 revelry. Revelry is the noise you make when the party is going on. The shrill sound can express unrestrained or uninhibited joy or painful emotion! The Lord speaks to Jeremiah and uses three words normally associated with grief; the house of mourning; lament and bemoan. Lament is the shrill sound (mar zeah) made for the dead. This is followed by three words normally associated with God s faithful care; peace, lovingkindness and mercies. Look at the word peace. This is the only foundation for personal or political stability. 2

3 Jeremiah 16:6 Both the great and the small shall die in this land. They shall not be buried; neither shall men lament for them, cut themselves, nor make themselves bald for them. The practice of shaving one s head and cutting oneself in the process of mourning was strictly forbidden by the Law of Moses (see Lev. 19:28; 21:5; Deut. 14:1). These were a part of pagan practices. The people in rebellion against God and God s Word ignored the prohibitions. Jeremiah 16:7 Nor shall men break bread in mourning for them, to comfort them for the dead; nor shall men give them the cup of consolation to drink for their father or their mother. The expression break bread in mourning and the cup of consolation probably refer to the normal expressions of sorrow when families bury their dead. In later Judaism a special cup of wine was given to the chief mourner. The dead are so numerous that it will be impossible to offer normal comfort; normal consolation. In the aftermath of tragedy we can normally absorb the sorrow. At Columbine our community rallied around those families who suffered loss. At 911 our whole nation rallied around the victims. During hurricane Katrina the nation itself was hard pressed to absorb the trauma. But what do you do when almost everyone is dead? Everyone s mother and father dead. Everyone s brother and sister captive. Jeremiah was forbidden the extremes of both sorrow and joy! Why? Because soon both sorrow and joy would be gone. Don t Mingle (vv.8-9) Jeremiah 16:8 Also you shall not go into the house of feasting to sit with them, to eat and drink. Jeremiah has been warned; don t marry; don t mourn; don t mingle. He cannot eat or fellowship with Judah s people. The house of feasting is a reference to the banquet hall; what we might think of as a place large enough to house a wedding reception. Jeremiah is forbidden to participate in all meaningful family celebrations. Jeremiah is forbidden to weep with those who weep; or rejoice with those who rejoice. 3

4 Jeremiah 16:9 For thus says the Lord of hosts, the God of Israel: Behold, I will cause to cease from this place, before your eyes and in your days, the voice of mirth and the voice of gladness, the voice of the bridegroom and the voice of the bride. The normal expressions of both grief and joy are gone. The loneliness of Jeremiah will be experienced by all. No one is left untouched by the judgment. Do you believe you are called to live a life of spiritual separation? The Lord Jesus died for our sin and rose from the dead. We are given both power and permission to live righteously and obey the commandments of Jesus. We are not not to live our lives in selfishness and wickedness. We are not to break God s commandments. We are to refuse the invitations and seductions of Satan and our flesh and this world. Genuine believers are to be separated from all sinful and evil associations. Permissions and Proclamations; What Jeremiah Can Do (vv.10-18) Jeremiah 16:10 And it shall be, when you show this people all these words, and they say to you, Why has the Lord pronounced all this great disaster against us? Or what is our iniquity? Or what is our sin that we have committed against the Lord our God? What can Jeremiah do? He can explain to them God s Word. The explanation includes the reasons for the coming judgment. Jeremiah is given a both a description of their sin--and the depths of their sin. The questions reveal a shocking disregard for God s Word. The people of Judah and Jerusalem missed their very purpose for existence. The people of Israel were chosen to know and love and serve God; to reveal His character and declare His goodness. The people existed to know and glorify and reveal God s goodness and gracious character. Jeremiah 16:11 then you shall say to them, Because your fathers have forsaken Me, says the Lord; they have walked after other gods and have served them and worshiped them, and have forsaken Me and not kept My law. The people had abandoned and forsaken God. The people had embraced idolatry. The people had abandoned and forsaken the Law; the Commandments; the Covenants. 4

5 Jeremiah 16:12 And you have done worse than your fathers, for behold, each one follows the dictates of his own evil heart, so that no one listens to Me. The people were guilty of persistent rebellion....no one listens to Me. Deuteronomy 6:4 Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one! Jeremiah 16:13 Therefore I will cast you out of this land into a land that you do not know, neither you nor your fathers; and there you shall serve other gods day and night, where I will not show you favor. The word cast carries the idea of throwing or hurling. It is God who hurls them from the land and into exile. Clearly the people of Judea and Jerusalem were aware that Babylon existed. But now the people would reside in Babylon. The people would soon call Babylon home. One Bible teacher writes; there you can serve other gods all the time. In the life of Israel; presence in the land, large families, freedom and prosperity were the blessings and benefits of obedience. Jeremiah 16:14 Therefore behold, the days are coming, says the Lord, that it shall no more be said, The Lord lives who brought up the children of Israel from the land of Egypt, Jeremiah 16:15 but, The Lord lives who brought up the children of Israel from the land of the north and from all the lands where He had driven them. For I will bring them back into their land which I gave to their fathers. Jeremiah has the privilege of explaining God s Word and encouraging God s people. One day God will regather and resettle God s people in God s land. The Lord promises a time of a future restoration which will exceed the glorious deliverance from Egypt (23:7-8). Jeremiah 16:16 Behold, I will send for many fishermen, says the Lord, and they shall fish them; and afterward I will send for many hunters, and they shall hunt them from every mountain and every hill, and out of the holes of the rocks. 5

6 The fishermen and hunters refer to the future Babylonian army which will beat the bushes for those who have tried to escape the catastrophe. The hunting and fishing metaphor is also used in Ezekiel 12:13 and Amos 4:2. The army is on a search and capture or search and destroy mission. The army of Babylon becomes agents of justice. Jeremiah 16:17 For My eyes are on all their ways; they are not hidden from My face, nor is their iniquity hidden from My eyes. Jeremiah 16:18 And first I will repay double for their iniquity and their sin, because they have defiled My land; they have filled My inheritance with the carcasses of their detestable and abominable idols. The consequences of idolatry are severe. Idolatry has brought judgment. In what way did the people defile the land? By establishing cultic worship centers which Jeremiah refers to as the carcasses of their detestable and abominable idols. This is a reference either to the idols--or the sacrifices offered to the idols--or both. The word defile means to be made unclean; it can speak of moral uncleanness, physical uncleanness and spiritual uncleanness. Idolatry contaminates everything and everyone. Jeremiah 16:19 O Lord, my strength and my fortress, My refuge in the day of affliction, The Gentiles shall come to You From the ends of the earth and say, Surely our fathers have inherited lies, Worthlessness and unprofitable things. Now Jeremiah proclaims a message of hope. He refers to the Lord as the source of strength; a fortress and a refuge. Strength and fortress are words that are related to one another in the Hebrew language (uzi uma uzi; and the term refuge is the place of safety in the middle of danger. Jeremiah knew the only safe place in the storm is with the Lord. 6

7 Jeremiah prays. Jeremiah predicts the nations will come to the Lord; and voices the Psalm they will sing. Jeremiah 16:20 Will a man make gods for himself, Which are not gods? Indeed--will human beings fabricate gods which are not gods? Jeremiah 16:21 Therefore behold, I will this once cause them to know, I will cause them to know My hand and My might; And they shall know that My name is the Lord. In this passage the term this once seems to indicate a specific disaster--the Babylonian invasion and destruction--a specific disaster designed to be an effective teaching tool. The message of the collected oracles of chapter 16 is the revelation of the will and work of God. He will personally cause cause the people to know Him and thus enter into an intimate relationship with Him. To know His name is to understand His nature and His ways (see New Illustrated Bible Commentary; p.905). Conclusion For many Christians life seems to be an endless series of things you can do and things you can t do. Jeremiah was called to live a life-style of spiritual separation. Jeremiah was called to deliver a message of both explanation and encouragement. Jeremiah was called to preach the message of God. It was bound to arouse and convict the people; either to respond and repent or react in defiance of the Lord. What will happen if Jeremiah continues to preach the truth about sin and righteousness and judgment? 7

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