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 Vol. 6, No. 8 

August 2004


~ Page 8 ~

A Burning Fire in My Bones

By Johnny Ramsey

[Gospel Minutes. 1 March 2002: 1-3.]

"And if I say, I will not make mention of him, nor speak any more in his name, then there is in my heart as it were a burning fire shut up in my bones, and I am weary with forbearing, and I cannot contain" (Jeremiah 20:9). In the Book of Jeremiah, we read of a boiling pot, a fiery prophet and the fierceness of God's wrath against Judah. The boiling caldron represented the teeming horde of Babylon, sent by Jehovah as a judgment upon the iniquity of his people. The stalwart prophet was Jeremiah, whose lips had been touched by the Lord and thus Jeremiah had to tear down the false standards of a disobedient and gainsaying Judah.

Judah Was a Gad-About Bride

Those who should have wept were instead giddy with their reveling over the altars in the groves. The summer of their discontent had blended into the autumn of defeat, and the gates of Babylon beckoned to that reprobate generation. Soon would they sing the Lord's song in a strange land (Psalm 137:4) to the tempo of a heart that had been broken and contrite far too late to avail for Judah's deliverance from captivity.

Judah had turned from the Great Physician to search in vain for balm in Gilead. No wonder that Jeremiah's tears flowed like a waterfall. His lamenting over the city of God had just about reached its piercing crescendo when the vile Jehoiakim ascended the throne. False prophets, evil priests and heartless kings had paved the way to spiritual oblivion for the host of Zion. The tragedy of this dilemma was, as the prophet said, "my people love to have it so"  (Jeremiah 5:31). No wonder that inspiration records these graphic words that so vividly typify the decline of Judah: "this is the nation that hath not hearkened to the voice of Jehovah their God, nor received instruction: truth is perished, and is cut off from their mouth"(Jeremiah 7:28).

Truly, God's backslidden people were "strong in the land, but not for truth" (Jeremiah 9:3). The southern kingdom had been snared in the same trap of folly that had clasped the northern kingdom (Israel) to its bosom. The people of Judah had rejected the counsel of Jehovah to err exceedingly in the way of their own misguided ambitions. Only utter ruin at the hand of Nebuchadnezzar could be the result of the bitter dregs of their sins.

Jeremiah Called on Judah to Change

Can we visualize the sadness of God's great servant, Jeremiah? How devastating was the echo of the trite refrain: "The temple of the Lord, the temple of the Lord, the temple of the Lord are these."Their trust in a building -- instead of the Builder -- was nauseating to the servant of the Lord. His clarion call to spiritual perception went unheeded by the masses who had made lies their refuge. It is a strange thing that God put these words of stern rebuke in the mouth of the prophet? "But they hearkened not, nor inclined their ear, but walked in their own counsels and in the stubbornness of their evil heart, and went backward, and not forward" (Jeremiah 7:24).

Perhaps the saddest verse in the entire Book of Jeremiah is this: "Thus saith Jehovah, Stand ye in the way and see, and ask for the old paths, where is the good way; and walk therein, and ye shall find rest for your souls; but they said, We will not walk therein" (Jeremiah 6:16). Because of this wicked rebellious attitude, Jeremiah was told not to pray for them. Unless and until the sinful nation returned to the spiritual plateau which God demands, they were to remain in jeopardy in the bondage of iniquity. The anguish in the soul of the prophet is best seen in the haunting refrain of Lamentations 2:12 and 5:7, "Is it nothing to you, all ye that pass by? ...Our fathers sinned, and are not; and we have borne their iniquities."

The wickedness of Judah's falseness caused Jehovah's enemies to blaspheme. The wailing prophet speaks: "All that pass by clap their hands at thee; they hiss and wag their head at the daughter of Jerusalem, saying, is this the city that men called the perfection of beauty, the joy of the whole earth?" (Lamentations 2:15). God had given to his unfaithful bride a writing of divorcement and "the law was no more; her prophets also find no vision from the Lord." Indeed, under Jehovah's shadow they had gone to live among the heathen" (Lamentations 4:20).

The Prophet's Warning Goes Unheeded

Neither the idols of their hearts, the altars in the groves, the constellations in the heavens, the beauty and glory of the Temple nor the expected military might of the Egyptians had stayed the cruel hand of bondage. Judah had sown to the wind and had verily reaped the whirlwind (Hosea 8:7). The crying need of the day was set forth in Lamentations 3:40, "Let us search and try our ways, and turn again to Jehovah."

The great spirit of the prophet Jeremiah was heavy with the weight of Judah's neglect and pride. When they should have been clothed in sackcloth and ashes, they, instead, were enamored by the fleeting glimpse of material gain and earthly prominence. While false prophets shouted, "Peace, peace,"pandemonium was about to break loose. The worst possible calamity, according to the messengers of popularity, would be a two-year probation in Babylon. But Jeremiah knew better, and his words boiled over into the unpopular sentiments of Jeremiah 10:10, "But Jehovah is the true God; he is the living God, and an everlasting King: at his wrath the earth trembleth, and the nations are not able to abide his indignation."

Jeremiah Was Scriptural, Not Negative

It would be a mistake, however, to suggest that "the weeping prophet" of Anathoth was always negative, morose and without loving sentiment. His emotions ran the gamut of Judah's sinfulness and Jehovah's holiness and beauty. In one of the richest scenes of the entire oracle, we read, "But let him that glorieth glory in this, that he hath understanding, and knoweth me, that I am Jehovah who exerciseth loving-kindness, justice, and righteousness, in the earth: for in these things I delight, saith Jehovah"(Jeremiah 9:24).

In spite of these marvelous, majestic themes, Judah was bound for captivity and the dearly beloved of the Father was given into the hands of her enemies. This sad day came as a result of rebellion, rejection and remorse. That Judah was responsible for the bed in which she now lay is graphically seen in Bible language: "But if they will not obey, I will utterly pluck up and destroy that nation, saith Jehovah"(Jeremiah 12:17).

Jeremiah's Fire Finally Broke Through

The boiling pot of God's wrath and the burning fire within Jeremiah's bones had not been able to stem the tide of Judah's apostasy. The sin and shame of Judah had but added fuel to the embers. The southern kingdom had come to the crossroads of decision and had gleefully followed the birds of pray into seventy years of tears under the weeping willows of Babylon. They would have a long time to recall the booming words of the sad and rejected prophet: "Hear ye, and give ear; be not proud: for the LORD hath spoken. Give glory to the LORD your God, before he cause darkness, and before your feet stumble upon the dark mountains, and, while ye look for light, he turn it into the shadow of death, and make it gross darkness. But if ye will not hear it, my soul shall weep in secret places for your pride; and mine eye shall weep sore, and run down with tears, because the LORD's flock is carried away captive"(Jeremiah 13:15-17.

I have no doubt that, finally, in that wretched, foreign land of bondage, God's burning fire broke their hardened hearts and they shared the tears of Jeremiah. That little spark of a contrite remnant would one day kindle, by the grace of God, a fire of shining radiance -- the coming to sinful men of the Lamb of God whose covenant of love would be emblazoned upon the hearts of men!

The boiling cauldron finally overflowed into redemptions sweet song. We can only hope that Jeremiah was able to see, from the portals of glory, the fruition of his work. Thank God for men like him!Image

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