Introduction: In Jeremiah 17:9 he says “The heart is deceitful above
all things and beyond cure. Who can understand it?” We have an
incredible ability to deceive ourselves. Those who reject God have an
argument, they have a reason, for their evil behavior. Jeremiah saw
a people engaged in the most bizarre behavior. On the one hand they
claimed to be following God, and on the other hand they rejected God.
Why not just reject God and drop the pretense? Is this something
that we should be worried about, since we claim to follow God? Let’s
dig into our study of the Bible and learn more!

  1. The Excuse

    1. Read Ezekiel 8:9-11. What is in front? (The elders
      performing a ritual that seems to be serving God.)

      1. What is in the back? (Idols and detestable things.)

      2. Ezekiel is given a vision of what is going on during
        Jeremiah’s time. How would you characterize what
        Ezekiel saw? (Hypocrisy. The “front” looks proper,
        but what is going on in back is far from proper.)

    2. Read Ezekiel 8:12. What reasons do the elders have for
      their inconsistent behavior? (Two reasons. First, that God
      somehow does not see what they are doing. Second, that God
      has forsaken them.)

      1. What is the truth? (It is just the opposite. God does
        see them, and God is very upset. Instead of forsaking
        them, He is punishing them in the hope of turning
        things around.)

      2. Put yourself in the sandals of one of these elders.
        Does your view of things fit with the facts? (Yes. If
        you thought that God should defend you no matter what
        you do, the current crisis could be attributed to God
        forsaking you.)

      3. If the elders have a reasonable story, why is God so
        unhappy? (Because they refuse to believe Jeremiah.
        There are two ways to look at this, and if you look
        at it through the warnings of Jeremiah, and the
        instructions in God’s written word, the elders should
        know their view of things is false.)

      4. How about you? When you examine your life, does your
        self-justification depend in part on ignoring the
        warnings of the Bible?

  2. Living the Excuse

    1. Read Jeremiah 37:1-2. Do King Zedekiah and his advisors
      give heed to what God is saying through Jeremiah? (They
      pay no attention to what God says.)

    2. Read Jeremiah 37:3. Why would he ask for prayers?

      1. Do you know people like this? They pay no attention
        to what God says to them, and then they ask for
        prayers when they get in trouble?

        1. Is this good or bad? Should we be relieved that
          the king finally asks for prayers?

        2. Or, is asking for prayer more self-deception?

    3. Read Jeremiah 37:5-8. On what was Zedekiah depending? (He
      thought Egypt would save him. His plan seemed to be
      working. When Egypt marched, Babylon withdrew from its
      siege of Judah.)

    4. Read Jeremiah 37:9-10. Let’s revisit the question about
      praying to God when you have been ignoring Him. Did God
      respond to the prayer request of Zedekiah? (Yes! I think
      prayer is always the right answer. But, notice that God
      does not change. He still has the same message that
      Zedekiah has been rejecting.)

  3. Turn For the Worse

    1. Read Jeremiah 38:2-3. This is Jeremiah’s consistent
      message – give up and stop resisting the Babylonians. How
      would you like his message if you were a leader of Judah?

    2. Read Jeremiah 38:4. I suspect you were thinking the same
      thing. Jeremiah is not encouraging the soldiers and he is
      not boosting the morale of the people. What do you think
      Jeremiah should be doing?

      1. Is there a lesson in this for us when it comes to
        counseling those who refuse to turn from evil? (If we
        are sure we have God’s message, then we need to stick
        to the truth. Jeremiah was not sharing a “welcoming”
        message, what he was saying was destructive to the
        leaders’ plans to resist God.)

    3. Read Jeremiah 38:6. How would you like to be stuck in the
      mud at the bottom of a well? (It would be terrible.)

      1. Should we expect to be “in the mud” when we speak out
        against evil? (If you read Jeremiah 38:7-13 you will
        see that God inspires a leader, Ebed-Melek, to
        intervene to save Jeremiah from starving to death at
        the bottom of the well.)

  4. Last Chance

    1. Read Jeremiah 38:14-15. What do you think about King
      Zedekiah’s request? Is Jeremiah’s response reasonable?
      (The King is clearly conflicted on whether he should
      listen to Jeremiah.)

    2. Read Jeremiah 38:16. Why did the king “secretly” swear
      this oath to Jeremiah?

    3. Read Jeremiah 38:17-18. What does this teach us about God?
      (He is long-suffering. He still gives Zedekiah a way out.
      He still holds out hope.)

  5. Time Over

    1. Read Jeremiah 39:1-2 and Jeremiah 39:4-7. Your sons have
      been killed, and that is the last thing you ever see.
      Imagine what it is like to be King Zedekiah now?

    2. Read Jeremiah 39:8-9. All is lost. Jerusalem has been
      burned and the people are taken captive. How has trusting
      in idols and Egypt worked out for the people of Judah?

      1. Is this a general rule that applies to us, when we
        put our trust in others and in the things we have

    3. Read Jeremiah 39:11-12 and Jeremiah 39:15-18. Recall that
      Ebed-Melek intervened to save Jeremiah from starving at
      the bottom of the well. What is the lesson for those who
      stand up for God when it is not popular? (God looks out
      for those who serve Him.)

  6. Making the Best of It

    1. Tragedy has come to your life and it is all your fault.
      What should you do?

      1. Let’s read the letter that Jeremiah sends to those
        taken to Babylon as captives. Read Jeremiah 29:4-6.
        What is Jeremiah’s advice? (Try to live as normal a
        life as possible. If you have messed up your life,
        things may never be the same, but you should try to
        live a normal life.)

    2. Read Jeremiah 29:7-8. What else should you do with regard
      to those who have brought discipline into your life?
      (God’s people could despise the Babylonians and try to
      undermine them. But, God says that His people should work
      with the Babylonians to make life better for all of them.)

    3. Read Jeremiah 29:10-11. What does this mean for most of
      the people? (That they will die in captivity.)

      1. How is this a message of hope? (Their children will
        return to Judah.)

      2. How would you apply this lesson to your life if you
        have done things that have created a disaster? (Put
        your hope in helping to make a better life for your
        children. Try to make things as normal as you can
        now, so that the future will be better.)

    4. Friend, humans have an incredible ability to deceive
      themselves. Ask God to show you the true nature of your
      heart. If it is too late, and you have already created a
      mess of your life, turn to God, try to make life as normal
      as possible, and work to make a better life for your
      children. Will you commit to that?

  7. Next week: The Covenant.