Summary: Jeremiah tells the people of Israel that they are in grave danger of God’s judgement because of their infidelity but there is hope if only they would return to God in repentance and faith.
KINGDOM LOST - KINGDOM GAINED
In business life there has to be a financial year-end when there’s stocktaking. That’s what Jeremiah had done for the nation of Israel - and he didn’t like the result. There was more loss than profit. The Old Testament prophets were often quite blunt in announcing the word of the Lord to their people. Jeremiah cried out, "The summer is ended, the harvest is passed, and we are not saved" (8:20). Jeremiah certainly didn’t pull his punches with Israel.
The nation had had a wonderful past but it had all changed. Where I live we often have a beautiful Indian Summer in September - the fine weather goes on and on, then suddenly in the first week in October it’s all over. The gales and the rain come with a vengeance, and any crops that haven’t been harvested are ruined. Jeremiah was talking about one of those moments in time. Israel had been called to be God’s own special people. Jehovah was their real king, the people were his kingdom but something had gone terribly wrong.
The Bible constantly declares God’s Kingship. The psalms are especially rich in this imagery: He "is King for ever and ever" (10:6); He "has established his throne in heaven, and his kingdom rules over all" (103:19). The Kingdom of God was a central theme in the teaching of Jesus. In fact, one could say that the whole of Scripture is the account of God’s kingdom - it’s the story of the Kingdom Lost and the Kingdom Gained. It’s true at the national level but also with the individual people who comprise these nations. First of all then:
THE KINGDOM LOST
Very early on in the history of mankind we read of a rebellion against God’s rule. It was something that a holy God could not tolerate and yet in a mystery that the human mind can’t begin to fathom, rather than destroy the whole of his creation, God determined that salvation would be provided. He hadn’t given up on his creation. But how could that be accomplished? God would have to reveal himself to a lost humanity - and he did.
God so loved the world that he wanted to bring about a restoration of fellowship. His plan of action was to reveal himself to a chosen person, Abraham, a man of faith, and through his family and the nation of Israel into which it grew. But it wasn’t a smooth progression. There were high points when the nation was wonderfully delivered from its enemies, such as the exodus from Egypt, only to be followed by forty years trudging around the wilderness as a result of willful sinning.
History has a nasty habit of repeating itself. The breaking up of the nation followed the golden age of King David and his son Solomon. The cycle of disaster returned in the conquest of the northern kingdom of Israel by the Assyrians and, a century later, for Judah by the Babylonians. God’s own people had turned their backs on their great benefactor. They had persistently ignored his pleading, ridiculed his warnings and abused his blessings. They’d spurned his love and rebelled against his authority. They’d been given God’s Kingdom, but now it was a case of the Kingdom Lost.
On a national level the people of God had plumbed the depths - they were now in a state of hopelessness. The situation is well summed up in the words of Jeremiah, "The summer is ended, the harvest is passed, and we are not saved" (8:20). The nation had been deceived by the evil one into believing that prosperity came from following the surrounding nations in worshipping the fertility gods and engaging in their corrupt practices.
That all took place 2,500 years ago. It’s ancient history - but what about today? The world has moved on; knowledge has increased by leaps and bounds in harnessing the resources of creation. But there’s one thing that hasn’t changed - and that’s the heart of man. C S Lewis put it rather well in an ironic parody of the hymn "Lead us Heavenly Father." His version reads, "Lead us evolution, lead us up the future’s endless stair; / Chop us, change us, prod us, weed us, for stagnation is despair; / Groping, guessing, yet possessing, lead us nobody knows where." That’s a good summary of the Kingdom Lost.
Mankind is still in a state of rebellion against God’s law, as Scripture tells us, "As for you" the apostle Paul wrote to the believers at Ephesus, "you were dead in your trespasses and sins, in which you used to live when you followed the ways of this world" (2:1). Thank God, says the apostle, that your position of the Kingdom Lost is now in the past, but he says, you’re still living in an alien environment with many spiritual dangers ahead. He said of himself that he had to take great care that, at the end of the day, he wasn’t "disqualified for the prize" (1 Cor 9:27) of the Kingdom of God. What are these perils that can trip up the seeker after Christ or even the Christian? There is: