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Lesson 4: Rebuke and Retribution *

Introduction: How would you compare to the people to whom Jeremiah was giving his warnings? When you think about what God is saying to you through the Bible and the inspired words of others, do you take those "course corrections" seriously, or do you simply do what you want? Can you trust your judgment? Can you trust yourself to make good decisions when it comes to changes you should make? Let's dive into our study of the Bible and see what we can learn that will make us more open to the leading of the Holy Spirit!

  1. A Question of Trust

    1. Read Jeremiah 17:5. When it says trusting in man is a curse, does that include trusting in yourself?

      1. Notice the word "and," in the phrase "and whose heart turns away from the Lord." Must we fit both conditions; trusting in humans and turning away from God?

        1. Can we trust both? (Read Proverbs 3:5. If we really understand God's place in our life, we realize that our understanding is pretty poor.)

    2. Read Jeremiah 17:6. Why is this true? Is it because God causes difficulties when a person trusts himself? Or, is it because trusting in yourself is simply the wrong strategy?

    3. Read Jeremiah 17:7-8. Notice the three related words "confidence" ("whose confidence is in him"), "fear" ("does not fear when heat comes") and "worries" ("has no worries ... in drought"). What is the message about worrying? (If you depend on yourself you should worry. If you trust God, you can leave worry behind.)

      1. Let's discuss this a minute. Does this mean that things will always work out the way you want? (It means that we should trust God whatever the outcome. If we believe that God loves us, and that He has our best interests at heart, then we can trust Him.)

      2. Read Deuteronomy 3:23-26. This is Moses' report about God's decision that he could not enter the promised land. Do you think that Moses thought God had his best interests in mind when God told him to be quiet about his plea to enter the promised land? (If Moses did, he is light years ahead of me in his faith. However, remember that Jude 9 reveals that God took Moses to the heavenly promised land instead. God gave him a much greater gift. God did have Moses' best interests in mind.)

    4. Read Jeremiah 17:9. What kind of confidence can we have in our assessment that we trust God and do not depend on our self? (We need to be suspicious of our self-assessment.)

    5. Read Jeremiah 17:10. If we cannot have confidence in our own judgment, is there any way we can tell whether we trust God? (Consider how your life is going. God rewards our faithfulness. However, we need only look at the story of Job and Hebrews 11:35-39 to know that "how things are going" is not a completely reliable guide.)

    6. Read John 3:19-21. What other barrier do we face in following God's word? (We love evil. Not only is our judgment unreliable, but it is influenced by the fact that we love to do evil and we do not want our "deeds ... exposed.")

      1. What is the cure for this? (By the power of the Holy Spirit to live by the truth. That means a life lived in "the light.")

    7. Read Jeremiah 17:11. Will those who trust in themself and who do evil always find that they do not "see prosperity when it comes?" ( Jeremiah 17:6)? (This tells us that the evil person can do well for a while. In the end, however, things go badly.)

  2. Warning

    1. Read Jeremiah 17:1. Why do you write your name on something? (To show others that you own it.)

      1. What do you think it means to have your sin labeled? (Likely the same thing, it shows that you own it. You have take possession of it. Or, more likely, it has taken possession of your heart.)

    2. Read 2 Corinthians 3:3. What should be our goal? (To have God's "letter" to the world written on our hearts. That not only shows that we belong to Him, but it is reflected in how we act.)

    3. Read Jeremiah 17:2. What is the point here - that the children have good memories? (The commentaries are in disagreement on what this means. However, based on the way the NIV translates this, it appears that God's people trained their children to worship idols rather than the true God. This evil training stuck with the children.)

    4. Read Jeremiah 17:3-4. What results from turning away from God and teaching your children to do the same? (You lose the inheritance that God would otherwise give you. You become enslaved to others.)

  3. Prophet Alert!

    1. Read Jeremiah 11:18-19. How serious is the opposition to Jeremiah? (They plotted to kill him.)

      1. From time to time I hear of spouses who kill (or try to kill) their spouse. The obvious question is, "Why not get a divorce instead?" In Jeremiah's case, why not just decide to ignore him, rather than to try to kill him?

    2. Read Jeremiah 11:20. What is your opinion of Jeremiah's prayer?

      1. Read Luke 11:2-4. I know Jesus had not yet shared His model prayer when Jeremiah sent this prayer, but consider the contrast. Is it appropriate to say, "I forgive," and "God show your vengeance on my enemies?"

    3. Read Jeremiah 11:21-23. We no longer have to speculate on God's attitude about this. What does God say He will do? (He will show vengeance ("I will punish them." "I will bring disaster on [them].")

      1. How would you reconcile this to the model prayer suggested by Jesus? (Read Romans 12:19-21. Vengeance is God's alone.)

    4. Look again at Jeremiah 11:23. Where do the men live who plot to kill Jeremiah? (Anathoth.)

      1. Read Jeremiah 1:1. Notice that Jeremiah's home town is Anathoth. What does this add to your opinion about this situation? (Read Luke 4:24. I'm sure this plot was very painful for Jeremiah to contemplate. People he knows want to kill him.)

  4. Jeremiah's Attitude

    1. Read Jeremiah 12:1. Jeremiah has just brought "a case before" God - the case about the plot against him. God told Jeremiah that He will punish them. Do you think that Jeremiah is still speaking about the same case, the same situation?

      1. What is Jeremiah's concern about the justice of God? (The wicked prosper, they live well.)

      2. Re-read Jeremiah 17:10. Recall that I thought this showed a way to reveal God's judgment about your life? Do we, like Jeremiah, have to remind God that those who follow Him should do well, and those who do not follow Him should not do well?

    2. Read Jeremiah 12:2. Do these people witness about God? Do they talk about God? (Yes! But, Jeremiah says that what they say does not reflect their true attitude.)

    3. Read Jeremiah 12:3. Tell me what you think about Jeremiah's heart?

      1. Did God choose wisely when He chose Jeremiah to warn the people about coming judgment?

    4. Read Jeremiah 12:4. Is Jeremiah a judgmental kind of guy who presumes to lecture God on justice? (The last line reveals that Jeremiah is concerned about how this looks to others. The others think that God does not care, He is not watching.)

    5. Let's skip a few verses and read Jeremiah 12:14-17 for God's response. How is God's attitude different than the attitude of Jeremiah? (You find compassion in God's response. He tells Jeremiah that He will execute judgment, but God says that He looks forward to a time when He can show compassion to His people.)

    6. Friend, have you considered your life? Do you place your trust in God? Is your relationship with God all words and no actions? Do you lack compassion when it comes to those who do evil? Why not ask the Holy Spirit right now to help your attitude be more trusting and more compassionate?

  5. Next week: More Woes for the Prophet.
* Copr. 2015, Bruce N. Cameron, J.D. All scripture references are to the New International Version (NIV), copr. 1973, 1978, 1984 International Bible Society, unless otherwise noted. Quotations from the NIV are used by permission of Zondervan Bible Publishers. Suggested answers are found within parentheses. The lesson assumes the teacher uses a blackboard or some other visual aid.

© 2021 Bruce N. Cameron, J.D.
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