Jeremiah 4           Back to Bible Studies

In this chapter, the LORD speaks to His people reminding them that they have forgotten fundamental things and, in the process, forgotten that the LORD is to be feared.  Fearing God is a vital part of our relationship with Him.

In verse 2, we read, “if you will return… you will swear, ‘As the LORD lives,’ in truth, in justice and in righteousness…”  In Deut 6:13 we find that the LORD had commanded His people to swear by His name.  In Gen 24:2-4, and Gen 25:33-34, we read of men who understood the significance of a sworn oath – not something that was done lightly, without understanding of the consequences of breaking that oath.  To swear, “As the LORD lives,” should have been taken in utmost sincerity by His people, but instead we read that they swore falsely, unjustly, and without righteousness.   Incidentally, the Hebrew for ‘swear’ is ‘shaba’, meaning ’be complete’ and shares the same root as the Hebrew for ‘seven’.

In verses 3 and 4, the LORD pleads with His people to break up the well-established hardness existing in them and to “circumcise [them]selves to the LORD.”  The Hebrew for “circumcise” is ‘muwl’ meaning ‘cut off’.  In Genesis 17:1-14, we read the account where God commands circumcision: God “establish[es] My covenant between Me and you [Abraham].”  Abraham’s part in this covenant-making was circumcision, a sign of the covenant and Abraham’s faith (Romans 4:11).  In verse 14, we read that if someone were to refuse circumcision  he was to be cut off from his people (because he refused to be identified as one who was part of that covenant).  In OT times, when a covenant was made, an animal was divided in two and the covenant-makers passed through the pieces to symbolise their pledge to be faithful to that covenant.  To break a covenant oath was to call death upon oneself (ie suffer the same fate as the divided animal).  Thus, in Hebrew, a covenant was “cut” not “made”.  So, circumcision was to serve as a sign that the person was “cut off” or separated to God.  In verse 4, the LORD pleads with His people to be “cut off” to Him and to “remove the foreskins of your heart”, to cast aside anything and everything sinful for it destroys the possibility to be right with God as Abraham was.

In verse 22, God describes His people as “foolish” among other things.  The Hebrew for ‘foolish’ is ‘eviyl’ meaning ‘to be perverse’.  The dictionary definition of ‘perverse’ is: “wilfully doing what is wrong/unreasonable.”  Does this line up with the Lord’s definition?  We look to several scriptures and find the following about the foolish:
1.    He despises wisdom (Prov 1:7, 10:8, 15:5).
2.    He scoffs at guilt (ie if he is conscience-striken, he disregards it) (Prov 14:9).
3.    He is wrathful (Prov 27:3).
4.    He is quarrelsome/obstinate (Prov 20:3).
5.    He is right in his own eyes/he is his own authority (Prov 12:15, Psalm 14:1)
6.    He is blind to ultimate consequences (Prov 7:23).
7.    He is licentious (prone to disregard laws of morality) (Prov 7:22-23)
8.    He has no discernment (Prov 7:7).
9.    He has a proud tongue (Prov 14:3, “rod”=”small shoot”).
10.    From Jeremiah 3, the people refuse to be ashamed (v 3, 9) and in Jer 6:15 and 8:12, we read that they had forgotten how to blush.  The Hebrew here is ‘kalam’ or ‘to be wounded’.  This is used figuratively here to imply to be pricked or pierced.  The Greek equivalent is ‘to pain the mind sharply’ and is used in Acts 2:37.  

We read Romans 3:10-18, a passage containing several OT passages and reading it, the above “qualities” definitely come to mind.  We can easily see that foolishness goes hand in hand with wickedness.  And how can we fall so low?  By having “no fear of God before [our] eyes.”   

Consider for a moment what it means to respect someone.  What does true respect look like?  Where does it spring from?  If you respect someone, how does that affect your relationship with Him/her?  Why?  Don’t we dread displeasing those we respect?

In Exodus 20 Moses speaks to the people as they tremble at the lightning flashes and the smoking mountain.  He says in verse 20, “Do not be afraid [of those things]; for God has come in order to test you, and in order that the fear of Him may remain with you, so that you may not sin.”

Of course, we might be tempted to conclude that a fear of God is no longer relevant in this “age of grace”, but that is not the case at all.  Let us spend time in the New Testament looking at passages regarding fear:

1.    Luke 5:26 – results in God being glorified
2.    Luke 7:16 – same
3.    Acts 9:31 –a quality of an early church
4.    Acts 19:17 –Lord Jesus’ name magnified
5.    1 Corinthians 2:1-5 – how Paul taught
6.    2 Corinthians 7:1 – way to “perfect holiness”
7.    2 Corinthians 5:10-11 – fear persuades us to share Christ for we will be held to account for what we have done, good or bad
8.    Ephesians 5:21 – fear of Christ is Spirit-given
9.    Ephesians 6:5 – “be obedient… with fear… as to Christ”
10.    Philippians 2:12 – how we must “work out our salvation”
11.    1 Peter 3:15 – share the reason for “the hope in you… with fear”
12.    Hebrews 12:18-29 – we must live life in reverent fear of Him, or we will get it wrong

Also, the account about Ananias, Acts 5:1-11 – if only they had feared God!

What about those passages that indicate that we should have no fear?  
1.    Hebrews 2:14-15:  Here, ‘fear’ refers to the ‘fear of death’.
2.    1 John 4: 16-18:  Here, ‘fear’ refers to the ‘fear of judgement resulting in eternal punishment’.
Of course, as God’s children we do not suffer a fear of death or eternal punishment.

To conclude, [reverent] fear is a gift from God.  Without it, we remain in our fallen and corrupt state.  With fear, there is true sonship.  With fear comes true peace, the peace of assurance that we are free from death and judgement. But even more importantly: Are His people standing in fear of Him?  Only then can we hope to bring glory to His name.  To fear Him is to understand -- in some small way -- His holiness.