Many thanks to a reader who contacted me and pointed out this scripture passage. As she suggested, it gives us some excellent insights into the nature of evil – especially in the visible church – and how the Lord deals with evildoers. Not surprisingly, His ways of handling the wicked who claim to be His people are rather different than what we are so often taught by professing Christians.
Here it is:
Jer 9:1-9 Oh that my head were waters, and my eyes a fountain of tears, that I might weep day and night for the slain of the daughter of my people! (2) Oh that I had in the desert a travelers’ lodging place, that I might leave my people and go away from them! For they are all adulterers, a company of treacherous men.
(3) They bend their tongue like a bow; falsehood and not truth has grown strong in the land; for they proceed from evil to evil, and they do not know me, declares the LORD. (4) Let everyone beware of his neighbor, and put no trust in any brother, for every brother is a deceiver, and every neighbor goes about as a slanderer. (5) Everyone deceives his neighbor, and no one speaks the truth; they have taught their tongue to speak lies; they weary themselves committing iniquity. (6) Heaping oppression upon oppression, and deceit upon deceit, they refuse to know me, declares the LORD.
(7) Therefore thus says the LORD of hosts: “Behold, I will refine them and test them, for what else can I do, because of my people? (8) Their tongue is a deadly arrow; it speaks deceitfully; with his mouth each speaks peace to his neighbor, but in his heart he plans an ambush for him. (9) Shall I not punish them for these things? declares the LORD, and shall I not avenge myself on a nation such as this?
What we have here are not just generic wicked people. No. These evil ones are people who call themselves the covenant people of God, in the Old Testament era. They are “church members” of that day you might say. The covenant they were under however was not one written on their hearts as is the New Covenant, but one written on tablets of stone. These are unconverted people, but they are Israelites – outwardly circumcised – recipients of great privilege, as Paul says:
Rom 9:4-5 They are Israelites, and to them belong the adoption, the glory, the covenants, the giving of the law, the worship, and the promises. (5) To them belong the patriarchs, and from their race, according to the flesh, is the Christ, who is God over all, blessed forever. Amen.
It would take several studies to draw out everything that is in this scripture, but here at least are the major points which, if we are wise, we will take careful heed of:
- Jeremiah is weeping. Not for the wicked, but for the “slain of the daughter of my people.” His focus in on the victims of the evil that has come upon his fellow countrymen.
- He wants to get away from these evildoers, even though they are his countrymen. He would rather live in a shack in the wilderness than have to continue in their presence.
- And, I suppose, most significantly, Jeremiah confesses the sinfulness of sin and the wickedness of these people. They are all adulterers, treacherous men, liars.
- And he says, they are not Christians! They do not know me, declares the Lord. In fact, he says “they refuse to know me.”
- Jeremiah’s advice? Let everyone beware of his neighbor and put no trust in any “brother,” for every brother is a deceiver.
- Of the wicked man’s “saintly” disguise, Jeremiah warns us – Their tongue…speaks deceitfully; with his mouth each speaks peace to his neighbor, but in his heart he plans an ambush for him.
- And finally, the Lord says of these wicked ones, “Shall I not punish them for these things? Shall I not avenge myself on a nation such as this?”
Think about this carefully. Hold Jeremiah’s words here, which are the Lord’s words, up against what we are typically being told today by “christian” pastors, church members, counselors, and so on. Quite the contrast, is there not? Where, for example, in Jeremiah’s words do you see him setting out to “fix and rehabilitate” these evil ones? Where to you hear him telling us that down deep in the heart of even these covenant traitors there is some spark of good to be found? Where does the prophet tell us that we must love these treacherous people because the Lord loves and forgives them? Nowhere. Nada. You aren’t going to find such things here.
You see many of the evil man’s tactics here. If you have known a “christian” domestic abuser, you have seen these things in him. I have seen it repeatedly in spiritual abusers who have crept into the church. Listen to it again-
Jer 9:8 Their tongue is a deadly arrow; it speaks deceitfully; with his mouth each speaks peace to his neighbor, but in his heart he plans an ambush for him.
If we are going to be wise about evil, then we MUST face up to the fact that there are indeed wicked people parading as Christians who will look us right in the eye and warmly speak “peace” to us, while at the very same time behind those apparent friendly eyes, they are planning an ambush for us. I am absolutely confounded by the number of people who claim to believe God’s Word but who consistently refuse to believe this. “We must believe the best about him.” Really? Where, in this passage from Jeremiah for instance, do you find such a universal thing taught to us? Does the Lord rebuke Jeremiah for describing these evildoers’ utter depravity? No way! Jeremiah in fact is speaking God’s own Words!!
Consider the bondage that you will remain in if you falter in confessing these things to be true? How many people continue to be enslaved to evildoers simply because they refuse to believe that anyone could actually be guilty of such duplicity? The Lord says here that not only do such people exist, they are very, very common. Especially in church pews!
This is why Jesus warns us not to make our discernment on the words of a person only. He tells us to look at the fruits of their lives. I will close with an example for you:
I knew a lady once who grew up in a pastor’s home. She seemed to live and breath the Christian faith. She worked and worked tirelessly in “ministry” and could look at you with great warmness and apparent affection. Everyone praised her as just the greatest example of a Christian.
But she was mean. Very, very, mean.
If she perceived that you were not bending to her will, look out. What was really going on inside of her? Exactly what Jeremiah speaks of here. She was, in order to use people for the promotion of her own self-glory, speaking “peace” to them. Flattering them. But it was all a sham. As soon as she was finished with them and they were of no more use to her “program,” the were discarded. And the quickest way to see through all of this disguise was to spot the signs of a loveless, mean, sharp-tongued heart that quite consistently evidenced itself.
Even to this day if I were to tell the masses of people who praised her that she was really not serving the Lord and from all evidences did not even know the Lord, they would angrily protest! “How dare you say such a thing!”
But it is true. And the sooner we come to recognize that evil craftily disguises itself in such ways, the sooner we will get free of it.