Jeremiah’s was a very difficult situation. He had watched the spiritual situation in his country deteriorate further and further. As a prophet of the Lord, he had to declare what was revealed to him about future judgement against his people. No wonder he wished ‘that my head were waters, and mine eyes a fountain of tears, that I might weep day and night for the slain of the daughter of my people!’ (Jer. 9:1).
Most people might disregard what they saw as Jeremiah’s overly-dismal view of the future. No doubt they told themselves that it could not be as bad as he said. But Jeremiah was not giving out his own ideas; he was speaking on behalf of God. And God’s word can never be broken. So, when the appointed time came, the Chaldeans waged a successful campaign against Judah and Jerusalem. Most disturbing of all for Jeremiah was the burning of the temple, so that public worship was no longer possible. So he mourned: ‘How doth the city sit solitary, that was full of people!’ (Lam. 1:1).
God had threatened punishment, but the people had gone on in their sins, notably their idolatry and Sabbath breaking. And events had come about just as God had warned the people through Moses: ‘If ye will not hearken unto me, and will not do all these commandments . . . I will make your cities waste, and bring your sanctuaries unto desolation, and I will not smell the savour of your sweet odours. And I will bring the land into desolation . . . I will scatter you among the heathen’ (Lev. 26:14,31-33). This was fulfilled to the letter: the land was left desolate; the people were sent into captivity; the temple was destroyed; sacrifices were no longer offered.
We too live in a time of spiritual desolation. Like Israel, Britain had a rich religious heritage. Most communities heard, in one age or another, the pure preaching of the gospel. The nation recognised the authority of true religion; the people generally accepted the existence of God and their duty to obey his commandments. Now much has changed. In many areas, famine is raging; however, it is ‘not a famine of bread, nor a thirst for water, but of hearing the words of the Lord’ (Amos 8:11). People are unlikely to lack food and water; they are relatively prosperous – at least compared with previous generations – but the pure gospel is not proclaimed within easy reach of where they live. There may be plenty churches in such an area, even in these days when so many have closed down; but whatever church they might turn into, there is no prospect of them being warned to flee from the wrath to come or to lay hold of eternal life.
Christianity remains the national religion, but its exclusive claims are no longer respected. Multi-faith worship is the order of the day on any national occasion. No one seems concerned if Christianity is mocked, yet great care is expected to avoid followers of a false religion, or those with no religion, having their feelings hurt by hearing biblical truth. All this is symptomatic of a spurious doctrine of equality. One religion is held to be as valid – or invalid – as another, for this generation has largely lost sight of the ideas of truth and falsity in religion, just as they have lost sight of the idea that God has revealed himself clearly and without error in the Bible.
Because it has lost sight of the authority of God speaking in Scripture, the nation no longer submits to the authority of the Ten Commandments. Though the Christian Sabbath is the Lord’s Day, very few feel any responsibility to keep it. The Seventh Commandment seems to be almost as much forgotten as the Fourth; when there is no sense of God’s authority, adultery is not viewed as a sin. And such is the influence of the homosexual lobby that every effort is made to prevent the suggestion being heard that this unnatural practice is sinful before God. Here is another example of spurious equality, promoted by government and the education system.
A particularly serious feature of our situation is the relative absence of the Holy Spirit. Even where the Word of God is proclaimed, little fruit follows; few sinners are being gathered into the kingdom of God. That, above all, is what should concern the people of God today.
Yet, in his desperately-sad situation, Jeremiah did not despair. In spite of the desolations which had befallen Jerusalem, he could encourage himself with the thought: ‘Thou, O Lord, remainest for ever, thy throne from generation to generation’ (Lam. 5:19). In spite of all that had happened, God still reigned. Remaining the same for ever, he would always be in control of events, however disturbing they might be to those who, like Jeremiah, were utterly loyal to the true God.
We may not be able to understand God’s purposes in leaving his church in its present weak state, and allowing false religion, secularism and unbelief to become as strong as they are, but we may take refuge in the fact that all God’s acts are rooted in infinite wisdom. We may also look back on the history of the past and conclude that God is visiting us in judgement because of the unbelief and spiritual rebellion of several generations. Both church and people have, in various ways, thrown off God’s authority and followed their own ideas, and this generation is even more anxious to think their own thoughts without reference to God and his revelation. And the fact that God is leaving this generation to its unbelief is further evidence that we are under God’s judgement; he is leaving us to go even further along the broad way that leads to everlasting destruction.
Yet the fact that God remains on the throne – that he still rules – should encourage us to cry to him to work among us as a nation, and throughout the whole world, to gather multitudes into his kingdom, for Christ’s sake. After Isaiah had declared how the Messiah was to suffer as a substitute for sinners, he went on to point to the reward which would be his: ‘He shall divide the spoil with the strong’ (Isa. 53:12). He would emerge as conqueror; the spoils of battle must be his, no matter how strong the enemy. ‘A great general,’ says Matthew Henry, ‘when he has driven the enemy out of the field, takes the plunder of it for himself and his army.’ So ‘Christ comes at his glory by conquest. He has set upon the strong man armed, dispossessed him and divided the spoil. He has vanquished principalities and powers, sin and Satan, death and hell, the world and the flesh; these are the strong that he has disarmed and taken the spoil of.’
As we survey the spiritual desolation of our time, we must remember that Christ, the exalted King, sits on the throne of glory. In God’s inscrutable providence, he is allowing his enemies, with Satan at their head, to have considerable success. But when the last will come to the last, when we will look back on the whole course of history at the end of time, we will be in no doubt that Christ’s victory was absolutely clear-cut.
Even today, when King Jesus acts, according to the divine purpose, to bring a particular sinner to himself, neither Satan or any human power can effectvely resist. The attempt may be made; the sinner may be strongly tempted to go back and follow the world or false religion or sheer unbelief. But Christ’s authority is such that no sinner can continue to resist when he works savingly, by the Holy Spirit, in that soul. Whenever it will be God’s purpose to gather large numbers of people into his kingdom, Satan will be powerless to resist. Then there will be a biblical equality in Britain and elsewhere; there will be proper respect for all the Commandments, including the Fourth and the Seventh; pure speech and chaste behaviour will be widespread.
Jeremiah prayed: ‘Remember, O Lord, what is come upon us’ (Lam. 5:1), and God heard him. May we ‘give him no rest, till he establish, and till he make Jerusalem a praise in the earth’ (Isa. 62:7) – until he draws multitudes into his kingdom and establishes it throughout the world. Then God will be obviously glorified; it will be clear he is on his throne and always has been.
Kenneth D. Macleod is pastor of the Free Presbyterian Church in Leverburgh on the Isle of Harris. He is the editor of The Free Presbyterian Magazine, from the February 2011 issue of which the above editorial has been taken with permission.
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