Insights into Evil from Jeremiah 9:1-9 – Look out!

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.

 

We Must Understand What Reviling is and What the Reviler Looks Like

Luk 6:22 “Blessed are you when people hate you and when they exclude you and revile you and spurn your name as evil, on account of the Son of Man!

1Co 5:11 But now I am writing to you not to associate with anyone who bears the name of brother if he is guilty of sexual immorality or greed, or is an idolater, reviler, drunkard, or swindler–not even to eat with such a one.

1Co 6:9-11 Or do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: neither the sexually immoral, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor men who practice homosexuality, (10) nor thieves, nor the greedy, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God. (11) And such were some of you. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God.

I have written several times before about this matter of the reviler, but it is so important of a subject that it bears repeating quite often. A reviler is a person who villifies others. That is, the reviler accuses others and makes them the villain. Villification is to accuse and slander and charge someone with evil, but very typically the word is used in the context of false accusations. And that is what we have in Scripture. A reviler is a person who assaults others with his tongue, who makes false accusations, who guilts and shames his targeted victim.

Now first of all notice carefully from the above verses that a reviler is not a Christian. Nope. Not. The thing is impossible. Some Christians used to be revilers, but once they were washed clean by faith in Christ they revile no more.

Notice also that the worst revilers in Scripture – such as the Pharisees – were quite religious. They claimed to be the people of God. And so it is today. Revilers hide in the visible church, disguised by a facade of saintliness. They are quite deceptive and intentionally do their share of what we call “crazy-making.”

Let me give you some examples.

Bob is a reviler. He is also a church leader. A Bible study teacher. He is viewed by most everyone as a very zealous and “holy” Christian. And yet there is something about Bob that is evident to at least a few of his fellow church members. Bob can be smiling and very helpful, a real servant you know. He can participate with you in an interesting theological discussion. But then, in some unexpected way and time, Bob blasts you. He might say things like this:

  • You should not have bought your new house. It is too far away from the church building and you have no accountability.
  • You were not patient enough with that man who verbally attacked you. You need to show him GRACE! for pete’s sake. (the caps indicate a virtual shouting volume by Bob)
  • You are not being kind enough to so and so.
  • I know what you are thinking about doing and I think it is wrong.
  • I remember when you….

And on and on we could go. You get the idea. Bob is a reviler. Revilers accuse. Revilers make other people (never themselves) the villain. Why does the reviler revile? Because like all abusers he craves power and control over his targeted subjects. He lusts to be numero uno and wants to be seen and praised by others for his zeal. And he likes to keep you off guard so that you are easier to control. After all, if you don’t realize Bob is a reviler by his very nature, if you think he is a genuine Christian who happens to be a bit difficult at times, then you are not going to be able to expose Bob for what he really is.

Revilers keep us down. They load us up with shame and false guilt. They make us believe that we are the problem and that we really just don’t measure up to Bob’s level of sanctity. Therefore, the Lord commands us to be wise, to know a reviler when we see them, and put them out from among us, having nothing to do with them.

Otherwise, I can assure you, you will continue to keep getting in the traumatic train wreck the “Bobs” around us love to cause, and there will never be true peace in our lives or in our church if we keep Bob around.

The Wicked Blame Everyone but Themselves

Mal 1:6-7 “A son honors his father, and a servant his master. If then I am a father, where is my honor? And if I am a master, where is my fear? says the LORD of hosts to you, O priests, who despise my name. But you say, ‘How have we despised your name?’ (7) By offering polluted food upon my altar. But you say, ‘How have we polluted you?’ By saying that the LORD’s table may be despised.

If you have dealt with thoroughly evil people – domestic abusers, sociopaths, rank hypocrites who claim to be Christians but do not know the Lord – then you know that they never accept blame for their sins. They always blame others – particularly their victims.

You see this very thing here in Malachi. The wicked are such deceivers that they even deceive themselves, entering into contention with God! “How have we despised your name?” “How have we polluted you?” Here is another example:

Mal 2:13-14 And this second thing you do. You cover the LORD’s altar with tears, with weeping and groaning because he no longer regards the offering or accepts it with favor from your hand. (14) But you say, “Why does he not?” Because the LORD was witness between you and the wife of your youth, to whom you have been faithless, though she is your companion and your wife by covenant.

And still another:

Pro 30:20 This is the way of an adulteress: she eats and wipes her mouth and says, “I have done no wrong.”

Over and over and over we see this pattern, and if we are going to be wise in regard to evil then we had better thoroughly understand that this is how the wicked operate. Accusing. Blaming. Guilting. Everyone but themselves.

Here is an evil man who habitually, deceptively, and horribly abuses his wife. Oh, he claims to be a Christian and people at church think he is just the most saintly fellow around. So when his wickedness percolates to the surface – perhaps when his victim comes forward and asks for help – very few want to believe her. And even if, over the course of time, the evidence piles up so that the hypocrite is obviously exposed for what he is, what happens inevitably is that those who have to deal with him end up being the ones primarily blamed.

  • They weren’t gracious enough
  • They didn’t forgive him
  • They didn’t handle things as we think they should have
  • They told the whole church and should have kept it confidential
  • Etc, etc, etc

Here you are, perhaps a church elder or a counselor or a pastor or perhaps just the victim’s friend. This evil abuse comes to the surface. It has to be dealt with. Now, unless you are a phony yourself, or a coward, you hunger and thirst for righteousness. Justice must be done. And so you act. Well guess what? The abuser and his allies will now move their sights to YOU! Count on it. The thing is certain.

This shifts blame, you see, off the truly guilty one and puts the focus on others. We see it in the news every single day. An evil criminal is out doing his evil – perhaps even murdering people – and the police catch him. What happens? Soon loud outcries are pouring out of people against the police. Everyone seems to have short term amnesia, forgetting the fact that – “hey, this all started with the criminal! The police didn’t create the situation. They just had to deal with it.”

And so it is when we confront the wicked who are oppressing victims. It happens in the local church all the time (at least in churches where evil is truly exposed and dealt with as the Lord commands). Pretty soon the focus shifts from the wicked man to the victims and to those who did not ask to have to deal with the situation but who are charged with doing so. Now they are being blamed and the real culprit loves it.

There are many people who hate me. Why? Because as a pastor myself and our elders had to deal with evildoers. They didn’t like how we dealt with them. Which is to say, by the way, they didn’t liked that we DID deal with them! Soon, people started listening to their outcries. “They didn’t handle this right. They should have…they should not have…they were too harsh…” and on and on.

But the reality is…what? The evildoer is the one who started the whole thing with his wickedness.

Do righteousness and you will have nothing to fear. Walk in evil and you have no complaint about how you are dealt with.

Rom 13:3-4 For rulers are not a terror to good conduct, but to bad. Would you have no fear of the one who is in authority? Then do what is good, and you will receive his approval, (4) for he is God’s servant for your good. But if you do wrong, be afraid, for he does not bear the sword in vain. For he is the servant of God, an avenger who carries out God’s wrath on the wrongdoer.