Hiding behind Religion

KEY VERSE: “This is a nation that obeyeth not the voice of the LORD their God, nor receiveth correction: truth is perished and is cut off from their mouth.” —Jeremiah 7:28


THIS scripture is an excerpt from a stirring sermon delivered by Jeremiah at the gate of the Temple in Jerusalem in about the year 609 B.C. Gathered there were people believing they had refuge in the protective arms of God, but the prophet rebuked this mistaken notion, telling them that God would not protect them from the fruits of their sin and injustice. “Will ye steal, murder, commit adultery and swear falsely, and burn incense unto Baal … and come and stand before me in this house which is called by my name … and say we are delivered?” (Jer. 7:9,10) Then he invites them to visit Shiloh where the Tabernacle no longer existed, and prophesies that, in like manner, the Temple would also cease to be.

One of the sins of God’s typical people was their inclination to place confidence in the messages of false prophets, or diviners rather than in the words of the Lord that were sent to them through his true and holy prophets. They refused to heed the messages of Jeremiah, preferring to believe those who told them that the nation was in no danger, those who prophesied, “Peace, peace.” (Jer. 6:14; 8:11) Now calamity was about to come upon the nation, and the Lord, through Jeremiah, took occasion to warn them again of the evil results of allowing themselves to be influenced by false prophets.

The tone of this whole message is that of God’s solicitude for the peace and prosperity of his people. They had sinned but he still loved them, and he wanted them to return to him and serve him with their whole heart. God is not vindictive, but merciful and kind, and ever ready to forgive and bless his people when they come to him in the spirit of true repentance and ask for his mercy. “Amend your ways and your doings and I will cause you to dwell in this place.”—Jer. 7:3

This scripturally reassured fact is quite generally recognized by Christians, and to some extent at least, all the professed followers of Jesus endeavor to emulate that divine principle of mercy enunciated by Jesus when he told Peter that he should forgive those who sinned against him, not seven times only, but seventy times seven. Yes, Jesus believed in giving a person many chances, not merely a “second chance”!

But a strange and unscriptural philosophy has developed throughout the centuries to the effect that while God can keep forgiving a person over and over again while he remains alive, the moment of death automatically puts an end to any further exercise of divine mercy. This is a human limitation which has been placed upon God’s love and mercy, a limitation suggested by the poet when he wrote:

“Men make God’s love too narrow
     By false limits of their own;
 And they magnify his vengeance
     With a zeal He will not own.”

There is no scriptural authority for supposing that death is the dividing line between divine mercy and divine wrath. This is purely a human measuring line. The scriptural fact is that God has promised to awaken the dead and extend his mercy toward them under conditions favorable to their acceptance of the Redeemer and their obedience to divine law. The matter that determines whether or not God will continue to extend his mercy toward an individual is the degree of knowledge against which he sins.

An important lesson of this prophecy is that God’s justice and wisdom establishes a limit to the exercise of his love and mercy, for the good of his people. This was exemplified in his dealings with Israel. He caused their Temple to be torn down and the people to be taken captive into Babylon. But he further wrote through the prophet of his desire that during the period of their captivity they prepare themselves for their return to their own land. This captivity had come to the nation as a punishment for its sins, yet through the prophet, God explained to them that he had caused it for their good, and not because he was spiteful toward them.—Jer. 29:10,11

In Jeremiah 31:3 we have a beautiful statement of God’s abiding love for his people, Israel. It is described as an everlasting, or age-lasting love.

Dawn Bible Students Association
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