Refusing To Return – Jeremiah 8:1-22

 Refusing To Return
Jeremiah 8:1-22


The Book of the Jeremiah is the second of the Major Prophets found in the Word of God, although some Jewish tradition considers it to be the first. Jeremiah’s ministry was as a prophet to Judah in the years just prior to and then during the initial Babylonian captivity. It was Isaiah who warned in advance of the coming captivity while it was Jeremiah who witnessed it. Ezekiel also witnessed the captivity but his perspective was from Babylon, where he was captive. Jeremiah wrote from Judah and witnessed all three of the Babylonian incursions. He saw the bitter destruction of Jerusalem, which at the leading of the Holy Spirit prompted him to write the Book of Lamentations.

Jeremiah began his ministry between sixty and seventy years after Isaiah’s death and preached for almost seventy years. His ministry began in the 13th year of Josiah and continued to the bitter end of Judah. He was a contemporary with Zephaniah, Habakkuk, and Daniel.

Jeremiah’s prophecy deals with the impending Babylonian captivity of Judah. God used him first to announce to the Jews that their captivity would last only 70 years. He foresaw the world-wide exile of the Jewish nation as well as their final regathering. He also prophesied of the coming millennial reign of Christ and God’s judgment on the gentile world.

Matthew Henry summarizes the prophecies of Jeremiah as follows: “The general subject of his prophecies is the idolatry and other sins of the Jews; the judgments by which they were threatened, with references to their future restoration and deliverance, and promises of the Messiah. They are remarkable for plain and faithful reproofs, affectionate corrections, and awful warnings.”

Make no mistake about it folks; God is not finished with the Nation of Israel! They are still His chosen people, they are still the apple of His eye, and if you want to know the next events on God’s timetable, you need look no further than what is happening with the Nation of Israel!

Allow me to say and I firmly believe this that it does not matter what happens with the election in November and who is and who is not the president of the United States. And that is because nowhere in the Word of God will you find that America is a special nation unto God, that America is a chosen nation unto God, and nowhere in the Word of God will you find promises that America will be spared the judgment of God!

I say that to say this, America is not set apart as a special nation in the Word of God, Israel is! And it’s very important for us to remember that because despite the results of November, it is God who is still in control, it is God who is still on the throne, and His timetable will still be fulfilled despite who is in leadership in this country or any other country!

So when it comes to knowing the events of God’s timetable, Israel is the nation that we are to be watching because God still has His hand of protection over them, His people! And if you’re saved here tonight, you’re His people and He has His hand of protection over you as well!

The book of Jeremiah can be summed up simply as a book of warnings to a sinful fallen people that judgment is the certain result of sin yet God is longsuffering, not willing that any should perish!

And folks, that’s really the entire message of the Word of God. Over and over again, we see instances of people sinning and sinning against God yet God always gives the chance of salvation, always the chance to return because of His mercy, love, and grace!

The key verse of the book of Jeremiah can be found in Jeremiah 7:28 and this is one of the thoughts that we’ll be dealing with here tonight, turn there with me; But thou shalt say unto them, 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.

This verse is as true today as it was at the time it was written and it holds true even today because it points to the modern day time in which we live! We live in a day and age where nations and people obey not the Lord, where they don’t want to be corrected, and where they think they’re okay in a sinful lifestyle! And that’s why when the judgment of God does come, they will have no excuse because they have been warned of God’s judgment yet they still have rejected Him, have rejected His truth, and have rejected His mercy!

That brings us to our text and Jeremiah Chapter 8. The message in the gate of the Temple continues on from chapter 7. Again, the focus is upon the spiritually backslidden condition of Judah. Implied also is that the first phase of Babylonian judgment had already taken place.

Here in Jeremiah Chapter 8, I see three striking parallels that are very important for us as Christians to notice and note! The first of which is of course the context in which chapter 8 is written, to who chapter 8 is written, and to who chapter 8 is dealing with and that is sinful Judah, the people of God. And that’s important to note, they are His people, not some lost heathen, they are His people yet they are once again found in a state of being backslidden.

The second parallel that I see is one of what the last days will be like and since we are in the last days what it already is like to a degree. And that is that we have nations and people in this world, both saved and unsaved alike that are completely turning their back on God!

Loving their sin, rejoicing in it, and refusing to return to God! The nation most guilty of this is of course our very own United States of America. You don’t have to look very far to see that this nation is so far off course when it comes to the things of God that there’s just no way to deny it!

The third parallel that I see is that of the coming judgment of God during the tribulation period! When God will just have had enough of all of the sin of this old sinful world, He will have had enough of men rejecting and mocking Him and His truth despite Him giving them all of the chances in the world to repent!

And folks, when God has had enough, this sinful world will be judged! There seems to be a thought process in this world that you can do what you want with no thought of the consequences that are to follow! That’s simply not true; there will be a time when God will judge this world!

And here in Jeremiah Chapter 8 we find the nation of Israel, God’s people once again in a backslidden state and there are some very important things that we want to see from our text here tonight!

Jeremiah 8:1-22

Vs. 1-2 – The Invasion by Babylon

The “that time” here in verse 1 refers to the prophesied invasion of Judah by Babylon at the end of chapter 7. Though Babylon had already made one (possibly two) incursion(s) against Judah, in their final invasion(s), they would exhume grave sites throughout Jerusalem, desecrating the remains of the buried dead.

Now it’s important to note that their graves were not the same as our graves today and that is because of the rocky soil in and around Jerusalem. Graves were often crypts of stone upon the surface or small caves in which bodies were placed. And because of that, it was relatively easy to destroy such tombs.

Verse 2 is a verse of irony. Judah were astrology worshippers. They worshiped pagan idols pertaining to sun and moon gods in Baal.

Jeremiah 7:17-18

II Kings 23:5 – And he put down the idolatrous priests, whom the kings of Judah had ordained to burn incense in the high places in the cities of Judah, and in the places round about Jerusalem; them also that burned incense unto Baal, to the sun, and to the moon, and to the planets, and to all the host of heaven.

Acts 7:41-42 – And they made a calf in those days, and offered sacrifice unto the idol, and rejoiced in the works of their own hands. Then God turned, and gave them up to worship the host of heaven; as it is written in the book of the prophets, O ye house of Israel, have ye offered to me slain beasts and sacrifices by the space of forty years in the wilderness?

The irony of this verse is in the fact that Judah worshipped idols, the sun and the moon, and the stars and now the dead of Jerusalem after their graves are destroyed and are desecrated would be left out before the very same sun and moon to decompose on the surface of the ground like animal waste. Utter desolation and desecration of Jerusalem was foretold.

And this folks is where we start to see the parallel of the coming judgment of God! Yes, God is longsuffering and we’ll see more of that before we close here tonight but there is but so long that God will allow things other than Himself to be worshiped, there is but so long that God will allow sin to run rampant in this sinful old world before he says enough is enough!

Vs. 3 – Death Rather Than Life

The final incursion of Babylon against Judah would be so cruel and terrible that death would seem preferable to living to those that are still alive. And this is where we see the most striking of the parallels to the coming tribulation period. Things will be so bad on this earth during that time that again, death would seem preferable to living to those that are left behind!

Revelation 9:1-6

Here in the first few verses of Revelation chapter 9, we have the fifth trumpet and the sad hopelessness of verse 6 says it all! Men shall seek death but shall not find it, they shall desire to die, yet death shall flee from them! That’s what’s awaiting this old world folks and we must be busy getting the Gospel out so that as many as possible will not have to endure this literal hell on earth! So terrible, that death would seem better than living! Back to Jeremiah chapter 8.

Vs. 4-5 – They Refuse To Return

Verse 4 we find several rhetorical questions. When someone falls down, do they not get up again? When someone realizes he is wrong, will he not make the right corrections? The answers we find in Proverbs 24.

Proverbs 24:16 – For a just man falleth seven times, and riseth up again: but the wicked shall fall into mischief.

And in verse 5 we find Judah’s answers to the questions posed in verse 4 and it’s a sad verse of finality, one of a few in this chapter and one of many in this book, the people of Judah and Jerusalem are in a perpetual backsliding. They maintained their deception and refused to return to their God. Their apostasy seemed perpetual. Though they had fallen, they made no effort to get up again. They were wrong yet they had no interest in making the due corrections. In short, Judah refused to repent.

And it is here we have the parallel to Christians today. Christians who seem to be in a perpetual backsliding. Those who have fallen into sin yet are making no efforts to get up again. Those who are refusing to return to God. Those who know they are wrong yet have no interest in making the due corrections. In short, like Judah, they also refuse to repent!

Vs. 6-7 – No Repentance

Again we see confirmation from who I believe is the Lord here in verse 6, as it is only the Lord who knows the heart; but there was not the slightest hint of repentance throughout all of Judah. They were enduring invasions that were terrible and cruel and still despite it all, refused to repent! And again, we see yet another parallel of the coming tribulation and judgment of God!

Revelation 9:20-21

Up to this point here in Revelation chapter 9 we have seen six of the seven trumpets as well as the seven seals and we have men that still refuse to repent and turn to God! How sad that God could reign down judgment and people still shake their fist at a holy and mighty God! And that’s what Judah is doing here in Jeremiah chapter 8.

Judah was running headlong into sin as a horse into battle all the while God was waiting and listening for someone, anyone to ask “what have we done!” Waiting and listening for them to turn back to Himself but yet sadly, they did not.

And folks, the same is true for the Christian that is backslidden today, for the Christian that seems to be running headlong into sin like that horse into a battle. God is waiting, ready to forgive if only they would repent and come back to Him.

Isaiah 30:18 – And therefore will the Lord wait, that he may be gracious unto you, and therefore will he be exalted, that he may have mercy upon you: for the Lord is a God of judgment: blessed are all they that wait for him.

II Peter 3:9 – The Lord is not slack concerning his promise, as some men count slackness; but is longsuffering to us-ward, not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance.

I John 1:9 – If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.

Verse 7 shows us the illustration of various species of birds. They instinctively know when to migrate. But God’s people, Judah, were oblivious to the impending judgment of God against them. The same is true even today; people are going along oblivious to the impending judgment of God against this sinful old world!

Vs. 8-9 – Wise with the Law?

The people of Judah and Jerusalem here in verse 8 were hiding behind their religion as some even do today and because of that thought themselves to be wise yet God harshly and to the point asks them how they can say that while living in a state of sin!

God points out because of their sin that the giving of the Law of God to Israel and Judah seemed to be in vain. It seemed that the scribes who had copied and preserved the Word of God had done so in vain. Judah had utterly disregarded it. Though they professed pride in being the custodians of the Law, they ignored it and disregarded its precepts.

And though they professed themselves to be wise, the nation of Judah had become fools. Their professed wisdom was about to blow up in their faces. The days were soon coming when they would be taken captive and the reason? They had rejected the Word of the Lord! Some wisdom!

And many today profess to be wise, profess to know the law of God but that’s all it is, a head knowledge! But folks, without the heart knowledge, you can know all the Bible you want, have all the religion you want, but until you accept the Lord Jesus Christ as your Saviour, the Bible likens you to a fool! And without Christ, that’s what we are, fools headed for Hell!

Vs. 10-11 – No Peace

Verse 10 we see that sin was the norm, not the exception. Even the spiritual and religious leaders of the land were utterly corrupt. And verse 11 shows just how bad things had gotten. In the midst of such degeneracy and apostasy, the preachers of the day kept on preaching for peace. Folks, Babylon had already invaded Judah once and remained a looming threat.

Yet, the preachers of the day just kept on preaching peace, peace, when there was no peace! War was on the horizon. God’s judgment was at hand. But the apostate religious leaders of the day proclaimed peace. And in so doing, they merely placed a band-aid on the cancer of the sin of the nation.

And folks little has changed since the time Jeremiah was written. From Osteen to Warren to Schuller and a host of other false your best life now, purpose driven teachers, the word of the hour is peace, peace when there is no peace! Sadly what it seems we have more of is more preachers simply putting a band-aid on sin instead of proclaiming thus saith the Lord! Folks, the watchword of the hour needs to be salvation and the news of a returning Christ to this sinful old world to pronounce judgment upon it!

Vs. 12-13 – A Coming Judgment

Here in verse 12, we see that the preachers of the day had claimed everything would turn out all right. Peace would prevail. There was no cause to be alarmed. Yet, God again and to the point asked, were they ashamed of such false teachings? Were they ashamed of the sin of the land?

And guess what? They weren’t! In fact, their deception was so blatant that they didn’t even blush! They weren’t even the least bit embarrassed! And because of that God told how they would be at the forefront of the fall of Judah. They would not escape God’s judgment!

And you can mark this down as well folks, all of these false teachers out there; they too will not escape God’s judgment! They will be held accountable for their false teachings and leading people astray!

After dealing with the religious leaders, God turns His attention to Judah and their judgment proclaiming that Judah and Jerusalem would be consumed for their sin. The primary crops around Jerusalem were vineyard and fig orchards. When the judgment of God fell via the Babylonians, the crops of the area would be stripped by the invaders and whatever crops were stored away in barns would be taken as well. Judah faced complete desolation; certain and complete economic destruction.

Vs. 14 – Awakened!

As the impending judgment of God became apparent, some in Judah woke up to the fact that the day of reckoning was at hand. Some therefore decided to take refuge in the fortified cities of the land. Some realized they had sinned against their God and that He had already judged them in the earlier Babylonian invasion(s).

And again, we have a parallel here to the time of tribulation as there will be those that despite being left behind will trust Christ as their Saviour during the tribulation period turning from their sin and to God! They will be awakened out of their spiritual apathy!

Vs. 15-16 – Still No Peace

Again here we see the affects of the false teachings of the preachers of that day! They had predicted peace and because of that many in Judah had looked for that peace, but things only got worse. They had been told that their land would be healed, but in fact there was great trouble.

Verse 16 we see the final approach of the Babylonian armies, marching from Dan into Judah. The final onslaught against Judah still ahead. And again, some in Judah would finally wake up to the fact that God was dealing with them and their sin.

Vs. 17-19 – The Final Invasion, No Comfort

Verse 17 we see the final onslaught by Babylon against Jerusalem. The judgment of God is at hand and it’s at this point Jeremiah sought to find some encouragement in the midst of the impending destruction but could find none. His heart sank within him as he hears the cries for God!

As the threat of invasion and destruction by Babylon neared reality, many would hide behind their religion wondering was not the Shekinah glory of God in the Temple at Jerusalem? Wondering was not God’s anointed king upon the throne of David? Wondering were they not the remnant of Israel? Wondering how could God allow His heritage to be destroyed? They didn’t understand the judgment of God. So, God answers them direct and to the point; why have they provoked me to anger with their graven images, and with strange vanities?

A chief reason for the impending destruction of Judah was their adulterous love affair with idolatry. Other things that were given the place that God rightfully deserved. And the same is true today. Many are giving things the place that God deserves in their life. Many are turning their back on God, refusing to return to Him.

Vs. 20-22 – Harvest Is Past, Yet Hope Remains

Finally here this evening, we see yet another sad verse of finality and that is verse 20. The harvest is past, summer is ended, and we are not saved. Judah had not repented and therefore they would not be delivered.

Their chance, their opportunity was over. And because of that Jeremiah mourned at what was about to come to pass, the judgment of God on his people!

But that’s where the challenge for us as Christians comes in and that is the fact that the chance for the lost in our world today, their opportunity still remains to hear the wonderful Gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ. A chance still remains for one more soul to be saved if only someone would go and tell them!

Like Jeremiah, what’s needed is people who will see the need of the lost and like Jeremiah mourn over them for they know what awaits them, the judgment of a holy and righteous God if they don’t turn to Him for Salvation!

Verse 22 in closing is the hope for both the lost person and the backslidden Christian; remember Jeremiah chapter 8 is dealing with God’s people who are backslidden. In context, Gilead, the land east of Jordan, was famous for its healing, medicinal salves. Physicians were known to practice there. Jeremiah asked knowing the answer if there was not healing and help in Gilead?

Why couldn’t the national and spiritual health of Judah be affected? But he knew why. Yet nevertheless, he still lamented for his people. But this verse, this balm in Gilead is also a picture of the blood of Christ which can heal the sin-sick heart, and folks He is the great Physician who is all-sufficient for any case, however difficult!


For the lost person, there is a balm in Gilead that can heal their sin-sick heart if they would only believe. But as Christians, we must get the burden like Jeremiah and go to them and proclaim the wonderful life changing news, that Jesus saves!

For the Christian that is hurting, there is a balm in Gilead that can heal the deepest of hurts if you would only take your burden to the Lord, take it to Him in prayer, and leave it there!

For the backslidden Christian, there is a balm in Gilead that can forgive you if you would only come back to God!

Yes, God’s judgment is coming and it’s coming soon but until it does, there is a balm in Gilead and until He returns, hope remains!

All that’s needed is Christians with a burden for the lost and Christians that will return to God when they are hurting, when they backslide, or when they fall out of fellowship!

Folks, we serve a wonderful, awesome, loving, caring, and merciful God. The challenge and encouragement here tonight is this; there’s a balm in Gilead so return to God, staying close as you do, grabbing a burden for the lost, and witnessing to His honor and His glory!

But whatever you do, don’t be like Judah who refused to return and suffered God’s judgment because of it! Simply return!

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