Text: Jeremiah 9:23-26
23This is what the LORD says: The wise person should not boast in his wisdom;
the strong should not boast in his strength;
the wealthy should not boast in his wealth.
24But the one who boasts should boast in this: that he understands and knows me-
that I am the LORD, showing faithful love,
justice, and righteousness on the earth,for I delight in these things.
This is the LORD’s declaration.
25Look, the days are coming – this is the LORD’s declaration – when I will punish all the circumcised yet uncircumcised: 26Egypt, Judah, Edom, the Ammonites, Moab, and all the inhabitants of the desert who clip the hair on their temples. All these nations are uncircumcised, and the whole house of Israel is uncircumcised in heart.
Let’s pray… Heavenly Father, we thank You for Your Word and Your Spirit. As we look into Your Word today, and we heed the prompting of the Spirit, we as that You would transform us to become more like Christ so that we may reveal Him wherever You send us. In Christ’s name, I pray. Amen.
- During this season, it seems like the Lord has been directing me to the book of Jeremiah over and over again and, even though I was originally looking at some other passages, the Lord led me back to this book and, specifically, to this passage. So I am trusting in the Lord that whoever it is who needs to hear from Him will hear this message.
- Jeremiah was a prophet. You know what a prophet is, right? A prophet is one sent by God to comfort the afflicted and to afflict the comfortable. Jeremiah raised by God to prophesy just before and after Jerusalem fell. The books of Jeremiah and Lamentations are accredited to him. He talks about a lot of sad things in these books and so many call him “the weeping prophet”. But one book I read said he was the “Dirty Harry” of the OT. For those of you who don’t know who “Dirty Harry” is, please ask your parents or grandparents. He had a very tough job to do because what the Lord would give him to prophesy would bring him against his own king and leaders. One example is that he tell the Jews to go into exile in Babylon because this was God’s judgement on them. Imagine if you had to go tell your leaders that God wanted them to surrender. It was not an easy job.
- Verses 23-26 are part of v17-26, which are a trio of prophecies that Jeremiah delivered to the inhabitants of Jerusalem. These are also examples of the serious word God gave through Jeremiah. In v17-21, he tells the professional mourners to prepare because there would be Jews who died when the Babylonians attacked Jerusalem. Among those dead would be children. Then in v22, Jeremiah describes what Jerusalem will look like when the Babylonians are done – dead bodies lying everywhere without anyone to tend to them.
- It is very likely that the king and his nobles would not have believed Jeremiah. Especially since his own “prophets” had probably “prophesied” that God would deliver Judah from the Babylonians. This brings us to v23. In it, he gives a threefold warning against pride.
- The one who is wise should not boast or be proud because of his wisdom.
- The one who is strong (physically) should not boast or be proud because of his strength
- The one who is rich (financially) should not boast or be proud because of his wealth
- He goes on to say in v24 that, if they really wanted to boast, the Jews should boast that they “understand and know” God. In Hebrew, those 2 words “understand and know” carry with them the sense of experiencing something. So the Jews should boast that they were made intelligent and gained understanding by seeing God move in their nation.
- God goes on to list what it is they should know about Him.
- That He is the Lord. There is no other god.
- That He shows faithful love to Israel. This “faithful love” is chesed which is also translated elsewhere as “steadfast love” or “lovingkindness”. This is a word that God reserves for His people. In the OT, God’s faithful love was reserved for Israel and God showed it over and over again – treating them with kindness even when they didn’t behave themselves. The faithful love that God had for Israel was because of His covenant with them through Abraham. No other nation at the time could claim to have the faithful love of God.
- That He shows justice. God upholds His law and standards. He was not fickle-minded
- That He shows righteousness. God always did what was right.
- That He did all these because they pleased Him.
- Why does Jeremiah say all that? In v25, we see the answer. God’s judgement was coming. But He was not going to judge the nations. His judgement would be on the “circumcised yet uncircumcised”. “The who?” How could someone be both circumcised AND uncircumcised?
- In v26, Jeremiah elaborates. He says there are did not follow the law of the Lord – those from Egypt, Edom and the rest mentioned there…and Judah too! The rest of these nations were not circumcised in the flesh. The mention of the “clipping the hair of their temples” shows that they did not follow God’s law (Lev 19:27) but how could Judah be included? Because they, like their cousins Israel were uncircumcised in their hearts. As a result both Israel and Judah would face judgement.
- So what does all this have to do with us today? First of all, let us remember that God does not change. He is still the only true God and He still extends His faithful love to those who are in covenant with Him. And He still desires justice and righteousness everywhere. In the last 2 weeks, there have been multiple shootings that occured in the US. What do you think when you hear about such things? What about here in Singapore? Or here in Geylang? For the last 2 years there has been no gambling, prostitution or even the sale of illegal cigarettes because of the pandemic. Now it seems like it’s going to start again. What do you think of? Is God closing one eye and saying that justice and righteousness don’t matter? Of course not! God does not change. He was, is and will be a God of justice and righteousness. That is His nature. He is a just God and He is a righteous God. He is also a merciful and loving God but He extends His mercy and love so that we too can obtain righteousness and then live it out.
- Secondly, there is a warning for us. We could be “circumcised yet uncircumcised”. We could be “circumcised in the flesh” but not “circumcised in the heart”. Romans 2:26-29 says this: “26 So, if a man who is uncircumcised keeps the precepts of the law, will not his uncircumcision be regarded as circumcision? 27 Then he who is physically uncircumcised but keeps the law will condemn you who have the written code and circumcision but break the law. 28 For no one is a Jew who is merely one outwardly, nor is circumcision outward and physical. 29 But a Jew is one inwardly, and circumcision is a matter of the heart, by the Spirit, not by the letter. His praise is not from man but from God.” The circumcision of the flesh was the sign that separated God’s people – the Jews – from the rest. Those that were circumcised in the flesh had the outward sign of being the people of God but many of them did not obey the word of God. That means they were not really the people of God on the inside. This is what Paul is saying in Romans. A true Jew is one whose heart is circumcised i.e. separated from the things of this world and separated for God.
- I do not say this lightly because I know I am not immune to such things. Some of us here are circumcised in the flesh – that means, on the outside, we look like good, churchgoing Christians but we are not circumcised in the heart, meaning on the inside. We may believe Jesus is our Saviour but don’t really believe that He is Lord. Other than on Sunday, we don’t act or talk like Jesus Christ is Lord. You know yourself, brother or sister. You may be trusting in your own wisdom to get through life or even to do what God has instructed you to do. You may be thinking that you are healthy and strong and can handle any attack the enemy throws at you. Or you may think that money is the answer to a successful and trouble-free life or even the way to have a successful “Christian ministry”. In 2 Tim 3:5, Paul warns against having a form of godliness but not believing in the power of God that is available to us when we live godly lives.
- Dear brothers and sisters, this is deception. Consider this. it doesn’t take much to fool you. A mask not much thicker than a piece of paper is sufficient to deceive you. Similarly, the mask of outward religion that we may wear is enough to fool ourselves that our spiritual health is good. I believe I am here today to say to you, “Beloved of the Lord, take off your masks. Don’t have the outward show of following Christ without the inward transformation because of the Spirit’s work.
- This is crucial because we are living in the last days. The separation between those who follow Christ and those who don’t will become clearer. Please be found as one of those who follows the Lord from the inside out.
I know this all sounds very serious and heavy. But there is good news. Like He did in Jeremiah’s day, the Lord always welcomes His people to turn away from their sin and return to Him. And, if I may, I would like to ask everyone to close your eyes where you are and just commune with the Lord for a while. If there is any area of your life that you’ve not surrendered to the Lord; if you know you have been trying to behave like a Christian but not really trusting in His faithful love, the Lord is calling to you today to turn and return to Him. If you truly repent, you will be restored. That is His promise to you made possible because of the cross. Let’s pray… Heavenly Father, thank You for Your Word to us. Thank You for showing us how easy it is to be great pretenders – being religious on the outside but not surrendered to You on the inside. Even as the day of Christ’s return approaches, You are calling us to turn and return to that place of wholehearted devotion to You. And so, Lord, we repent of our self-reliance. We repent for pretending to follow You but denying Your power. We desire, to truly be Christ-followers. May our hearts be circumcised by Your Holy Spirit so that we would be consecrated for Your purposes. We thank You for restoring us and also ask for the Spirit to enable us to walk close and walk right with You. I pray this in Jesus’ name. Amen!