By Billie Marie Zal
I’ve never heard a sermon on Jeremiah, who is called “the weeping prophet” because he spoke the Truth. Although he was hated, God’s love within his heart suffered along WITH his persecutors. He was a special man with a special purpose and that purpose was converted during the revival of B.C. 629 under the reign of King Josiah.
The story of this revival is a touching one. The kings of Israel had resorted to idol worship and King Josiah’s own father, Amon, and his grandfather, Manasseh joined in this practice. This Manasseh had even offered a son as a burnt offering on one of many pagan altars the had built throughout Judah. Josiah’s father, Amon, was so wicked that the people of the land finally killed him and appointed Amon’s young son Josiah, who was only eight years old at the time, to take his place.
When King Josiah was about 16, he “began to seek the God of David his father” (2 Chron. 34:3) and later, when he was 20, he condemned idol worship in Judah and began to destroy the so called “high places,” with their idolatrous altars and images. And finally at the age of 26, he financed the restoration of Jerusalem’s temple with money collected from the people at the entrance. Because God’s anointing was upon him, the people responded as they had been commanded to do in the Law.
It was then that Priest Hilkiah discovered the Book of the Law in the long neglected temple area and when Josiah heard the words, he tore his garment because he realized that there would be certain judgment on his people for what they had become.
Josiah began to restore Temple worship and the keeping of the Law, and it was into such a setting that God called and anointed Jeremiah for the difficult and dangerous task ahead: to warn the people of impending judgment, refusing to compromise his message, and thereby suffering throughout his entire life simply because of his unconditional love for his God, Jehovah.
Jeremiah’s life contradicts the notion today that in order to be a worker in God’s church here on earth, you must have credentials such as a degree from some Bible College. God can call anyone whom He knows has an abiding Love for Him, since Jeremiah’s life is living proof of the matter. Jeremiah was only 12 or 13 when God called him to: denounce (or be “against”) the court, the clergy and the nation. Think of what that meant to a youngster! He told God that he was too young to do this but God said something that I have told every one of you who read my messages. God said to him, “Before I formed thee in the womb, I knew thee; and before thou camest forth out of the womb, I sanctified thee, and ordained thee a prophet unto the nations” (Jer. 1:5).
Then the Word of God came unto him: “See, I have this day set thee over the nations and over the Kingdoms, to root out, and to destroy, and to throw down and to build and to plant.
Jeremiah’s course was set. He had God’s call and for the next forty years he would suffer for speaking the Truth.
I don’t see much difference in the practices of the Church today and the idolatrous practices of Judah back then. We live in a difficult age, temptations pouring down upon us on every side. We worship not God, but idols.
The most important idols to the Church today are: money, power, success in whatever we do, and love of the world. In order to keep these idols alive, we must compromise on everything we do, whether God approves by His word or not.
A mother will pray for the day that her little daughter can become a “beauty queen” and begins her education in this area by thrusting her into beauty pageants. I’ve seen children cry and beg NOT to have to “perform,” but “Mama” is unyielding, hoping to live out her own dreams in this little one. By the time the child has grown into her teens, her one desire is to become a “Miss America.”
The Church obviously has not noticed the discrepancies between this kind of attitude and the Bible. I will never forget the lesson that God taught me soon after I was born again.
I answered God’s call much as Jeremiah did, although I was no child when He called me to live entirely by His Word, trusting no one but Himself for all of my needs. I was frightened but I obeyed. For seven long years, my faith in God alone was tested by every conceivable trial. I had given up a beautiful home and a car in order to obey that call and live in a Chicago area suburb.
During that time, a sum of money was given to me to “take a little vacation.” I had no wardrobe (most of my clothes I had accumulated before I was saved were now out of fashion) but I decided to go ahead. I traveled down to Biloxi, Mississippi and stayed a few days at a beautiful hotel there on the sea shore.
I had become a child of God while living in the world and being a great part of it. So I really was not aware in the beginning days on my new life of how important it is to be in the world, but NOT OF IT.
So, I decided to go swimming in the ocean or the big swimming pool adjacent to the hotel. I was so impressed by the luxury, the beauty of the sea, the palm trees and flowers that I had lost my sense of walking a “solitary path.” And I wanted to get a good tan to impress my friends up North that I’d had a good time and would look healthy when I got home.
I had never in my life gotten a sun burn, but when I left the board walk I was beet red. I felt a little silly, too, in my swim suit and jacket. Looking back now, I realize that my swim suit was longer than the dresses that women wear in public today. But God was letting me know that we cannot dress immodestly and please Him. During the night I began to itch and burn. It became so severe that I called the hotel physician and he gave me some salve and some pills to ease the burning.
God had shown me that He is God, and He doesn’t tell us to dress modestly for nothing. I got the point and from that day on, I could never go swimming in the public again. Not unless I wore a bashing suit like my Mama wore with long stockings and bloomers down past her knees and a bathing cap! If I had not wanted God’s will so desperately in every area of my life, He wouldn’t have given me that sun burn. And the lesson was worth the pain.
Then there is the idol of wealth. I’ve lived a long time and I have never seen people lusting for wealth as they do in this twenty first century. I heard the other day that at least forty percent of the public has invested in the Market. Very early on, God gave me passages which indicated that I was not to keep more than was necessary for my daily needs.
I fought with the demon of anxiety. The “what if’s?” came lunging at me, day after day. But I refused to give in to them and never “put my money out to usury,” as the Bible calls it. Once a millionaire friend of mine told me to let him know if he could send help for the ministry. I said that since he asked, I could use $150 for the work. He replied by sending me a paper to sign, showing that I owed him this money and would pay interest on it. I thank God that He kept me from this kind of thinking. I sent the money back and thanked him and nothing else was said. I told him I didn’t believe in charging a Christian interest (it’s in the Bible) and I was an object of his criticism till the day he died. But I loved him and I pitied him, that with as much Christian education as he had, that he could love money so much that it became an idol.
Then there is the idol that the Church has worshipped which is the idol of “success.” I don’t personally believe (and I know God’s Word concerning this) that a Church with thousands of members is a spiritual Body. How could it be? I’ve heard the messages their pastors preach and there is never a word of rebuke, or exhortation. Their messages are just those of “encouragement.” But how can you encourage someone who is living in sin, without compromising God’s Word? You can’t.
It’s like God says, people have prophets (preachers) who lie and flatter and tell them good things. . . Then God adds, “And my people love to have it so.”
Idol worship invariably brings sin to its head, and so we have the sin of pornography which is prevalent not only in the world but in the Church. Christian men and women go to “sex seminars,” and Christian women purchase sex toys, and their husbands sneak into the TV room and watch pornography, even indulging themselves with “phone sex.” And that “Chat Line.” Women begin “chatting” with men on their computers and indulge in emotional adultery even while their husbands are sleeping. It’s a Sodom and Gomorrah, and we as the Church will be judged by our God who despises sexual filth.
We have thrown ourselves into the entertainment world, though warned by many good men who prophesied even as late as the 1960’s that “the Church is making her bed with Hollywood.” And we have. We overlook the filth that is continually presenting itself in our living rooms, and we let our little ones become so desensitized by it that they never know right from wrong. God help us, a decadent Church, which boasts of its huge buildings, wealth beyond anything we could imagine, and all the “fun” that its member can have if they join up.
I don’t know how God can reach the Church today with His Truth and His Light. Maybe we’ve gone too far and here is nothing left but judgment. But if another “Jeremiah” could be found, then perhaps people would at least have a chance to make that choice: whether to follow Christ, or satan.
Jeremiah knew his ministry would be a failure. God told him so, ahead of time, and I often thank him in my heart for having had the courage to stand alone and suffer horrible acts of violence toward himself by the people he loved and warned. He eventually was led off into captivity along with the remnant of all the people of Judah to whom he had prophesied for forty long years.
Jeremiah had nothing of his own. God instructed him never to marry, or have children because of the impending judgments and the horrors which would overtake the people. So Jeremiah suffered not only emotionally but physically. If you take time to read this book, you will be saddened by the terrible things which people did to this faithful prophet.
And so we, too, will suffer, if we stand and speak the Truth of our God. We will be “hated by all men for His Name’s sake.” Jesus Himself said, “if the world hated me, it will hate you.” And His Word is Truth. But we have a choice and we must make it now, before the end of this age as we know it has come to pass. We can leave “self” behind and in spite of trials and afflictions and the hatred of the world, we can overcome. Our reward, then, is to be raptured into Heaven. With this promise in mind and heart, how can we neglect God’s Word and the Truths that we know to be real?
Jeremiah may have lived long, long ago but his advice is timeless. In my favorite commentary, it is written that the prophet raised serious objections to pious behavior devoid of introspection, repentance, and change. Ritual observance, he contended is only as authentic as the inner conviction the worshipper brings to it.
In Jeremiah’s view, the temple (churches today) had degenerated from being a house of prayer into a “den of robbers” (Jer. 7:11) - the phrase Jesus used when He drove out the money changers. Jeremiah questioned the efficacy of sacrifices (pledges in praise-a-thons, tithes, gifts for building funds, etc., etc.) unless they were combined with a willingness to hear and obey the Word of God. And he said rather than entertaining false promises of peace when the world was in flames, it would be better to hear the harsh words of faithful prophets. Rather than merely possessing a book of revealed teaching, it would be better to understand AND obey God.
With this in mind and hear, we must not wait to make that once in a lifetime change and repent of all that we are, and receive God’s cleansing and forgiveness. Week after week, people in great congregations, as shown on TV, run to the altar and cry and beg God to forgive them. The year passes, and once again, the same conference is held, and the usual crowd rushes to the altar, the preacher tells them off, and they go home and repeat their worship of idols.
God still has His remnant on this earth. Here and there, someone lives for the Truth and usually owns nothing, has no bank account, no investment, nothing but enough for daily needs. But when these people speak, listen carefully to them. Receive the truth that has cost them everything. And you will be ready at that day when Jesus Himself draws near, gathers you into His arms, and takes you HOME.
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