Pray Not For These People|
What does this mean?
Q. I was shocked to see several passages where God tells Jeremiah not to pray for the Israelites anymore (Jeremiah 7:16&11:14). Does that mean God gives up on certain people and we shouldn't pray for them anymore? How do we know when He reaches that point? (T.M.)
Great observation and question! Let's look at the texts first, and then check out some comparative scriptures in the New Testament. Then we need to decide if God calls us not to pray for some people.
Jeremiah 7:16 says, "Pray no more for these people, Jeremiah. Do not weep or pray for them, and don't beg me to help them, for I will not listen to you."
Jeremiah 11:14 says, "Pray no more for these people, Jeremiah. Do not weep or pray for them, for I will not listen to them when they cry out to me in distress."
These texts are particularly troubling because Old Testament prophets often interceded for rebellious people. Here God was telling Jeremiah to cease any intercession for the children of God. That was a shocking declaration.
What did they do wrong?
Safety In The Temple?
In the beginning of chapter 7 God notes that the people felt they were safe from troubles because the Temple was there. They superstitiously believed that if they lived close to the Temple they were safe from all harm.
All Image&No Substance
We think or assume that none of us would ever do that. But, would we?
Some of us act as if our taking communion, going to church every Sunday, singing praise songs, and acting like super little Christians will make us favored with God and safe from any problems. This is a world of all image and no substance, a religion without personal commitment to God, a type of "cheap grace" where no one picks up his cross and follows Christ.
In verse 5 the Lord warns them,
"I will be merciful only if you stop your evil thoughts and deeds and start treating each other with justice, only if you stop exploiting foreigners, orphans, and widows, only if you stop your murdering, and only if you stop harming yourselves by worshiping idols" (Jer. 7:5-6).
No Safety in Wrongdoing
Then the Lord scolds them for thinking they are safe from harm by being near the holy Temple. He says,
"Do you really think you can steal, murder, commit adultery, lie, and burn incense to Baal and all those other new gods of yours, and then come here and stand before me in my Temple and chant, 'We are safe!' - only to go right back to all those evils again?" (Jer. 7:9-10, NLT).
A Den of Thieves
Next, we find a passage quoted by Jesus in the New Testament in Matthew 21:13 and Luke 19:46.
"Don't you yourselves admit that this Temple, which bears my name, has become a den of thieves? (Jer. 7:11, NLT).
Queen of Heaven - the Last Straw!
Finally, Jeremiah points out how God's children are spending their days working to gather wood, build fires, knead dough, and make cakes to the Queen of Heaven - the ultimate insult of pure idolatry.
(Before you think we could never do that, consider how many of us work most of our days to fund million dollar mansions and to buy useless, expensive furniture for our homes while neglecting the poor)!
The Queen of Heaven was Ishtar, the Mesopotamian goddess of love and fertility. In fact, archaeologists have even found a papyrus from the 5th century B.C. in Egypt verifying this evil worship of the Queen of Heaven among gods honored by a Jewish community living in Hermopolis, Egypt.
Therefore, God withdraws His protection upon the children of Israel and declares He will bring calamity upon them. He warns that they will pray to these idols and burn incense. But, disaster will strike and these false gods will not save them.
"I, the LORD of Heaven's Armies, who planted this olive tree (Israel), have ordered it destroyed. For the people of Israel and Judah have done evil, arousing my anger by burning incense to Baal" (Jer. 11:17, NLT).
Israel is now ready for destruction.
New Testament - Christians suffer Wrath or Abandonment?
Do we see anything comparable to this in the New Testament? Can the church be abandoned by God's wrath as He abandoned the Israelites to destruction?
Pastor John MacArthur notes five kinds of God's wrath. Briefly, they are:
1. Eternal wrath - or hell.
2. Eschatological wrath - Day of the Lord.
3. Cataclysmic wrath - like Sodom&Gomorrah, Katrina, earthquakes.
4. Consequential wrath - sowing&reaping (like AIDS).
5. The wrath of abandonment - removing evil restraint&protection.
The most graphic revelation of God's holy wrath and hatred against sin was when He poured out divine judgment on His Son on the cross. Those who have accepted Jesus' atonement for their sins are freed from God's wrath and eternal punishment for sin. We have been justified by faith.
We Don't Get Off "Scott Free"
However, this does not mean that Christians get off "scott free" for their misbehavior. While all true believers go to heaven, they may suffer loss of rewards at the Judgment Seat of Christ.
Christian's Judgment Seat
2 Corinthians 5:10 clearly says…"we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each may be repaid for what he has done in the body, whether good or bad."
1 Corinthians 3:14 continues this thought: "If anyone's work that he has built survives (through the fire) he will receive a reward. If anyone's work is burned up, it will be lost, but he will be saved - yet it will be like an escape through fire" (HCSB).
The Apostle John warns that we could lose a part of our reward if we are not diligent to persevere in faith:
"Watch yourselves, so that you may not lose what we have worked for, but may win a full reward" (2 John 1:8).
Furthermore, John warns us that we can be ashamed when He comes for us:
"Little children, abide in Him, so that when He appears, we may have confidence and not shrink from Him in shame at His coming" (1 John 2:28).
Furthermore, the apostle Paul lists four sins in 1 Corinthians 10:6-10 which may result in disqualification of a believer either now on earth or later at the judgment seat. To be "benched" means the same thing as to be disqualified. To be benched might mean loss of authority, respect of family and friends, the loss of meaning and purpose for life, or to be disciplined from difficult times. Paul points to the experiences of God's children in the wilderness during the Exodus for this example.
Weak, Sick or Dead
Sinning Christians may suffer early death from severe illness: "For he who eats and drinks, eats and drinks judgment to himself if he does not judge the body rightly. For this reason many among you are weak and sick, and a number sleep" (meaning "died") - 1 Cor. 11:31).
This is a shocking revelation to many Christians - we don't want to face this possibility. But, not wanting to believe it does not make it so!
Delivered to Satan
It can mean someone is given over to destruction by Satan so that his soul is saved from eternal death: "I have decided to deliver such a one to Satan for the destruction of his flesh, so that his spirit may be saved in the day of the Lord Jesus" (1 Cor. 5:5). This is "excommunication" from the church in the worst way!
It can result in a fruitless ministry and disqualification - such as happens to leaders who practice immorality and are disqualified from service. Paul warned, "I buffet my body and make it my slave, lest possibly after I have preached to others, I myself should be disqualified" (1 Cor. 9:27).
4 Sins Resulting in Disqualification
Paul mentions four sins that we (Christians) are warned against in 1 Corinthians 10:6-10. These were sins committed by Israelites in the Exodus Wilderness:
Idolatry - which means anyone or anything that competes with the Lord for our hearts and minds and our trust. This could be a fat 401k, a business, or a fancy house.
Sexual Immorality - which may include infidelity, pornography, or seductive and inappropriate ways of dress or acting out. This is serious and results in disqualification here and now, or loss of reward at the judgment seat of Christ (c.f. Num. 25,&1 Cor. 9:24-27).
Trying the Lord - which encompasses disrespect and distrust for God's sovereignty over our lives and His ways of teaching or disciplining us.
Grumbling - which shows our ingratitude for God's provisions in our lives.
With so many Christians in our country losing expensive homes they couldn't pay for to begin with, and who are losing their jobs, we have to seriously question our manner of "trying the Lord," "grumbling" over our conditions, and our possible "idolatry" in a world focused on excessive consumerism. We may be suffering the effects of that today.
Symptoms of God's Wrath of Abandonment
Finally, when unbelieving men repeatedly reject God there is a point in time when He rejects them in return. This is called the "wrath of abandonment." Once God has given people over to this wrath they can no longer think straight. Their minds become darkened and debased and they believe silly, incredible things. This happens when they consistently and deliberately suppress the truth about God's existence no matter how strong the evidence proving God exists.
The Symptoms Listed:
Men can reach the point of sinning where God abandons them to His wrath. In the process they become "foolish" or stupid - they can no longer think or reason clearly.
Romans 1:21 says…"their thinking became nonsense, and their senseless minds were darkened. Claiming to be wise, they became fools and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images resembling mortal man, birds, four-footed animals, and reptiles" (HCSB).
Another symptom of God's wrath of abandonment is that He gives unbelieving, foolish men over to homosexuality. Missler points out that this is a stunning revelation because God uses homosexuality as a "result" of sin - not a cause. Even women, who normally have strong instincts to raise and protect children, resort to lesbianism because they have been "given over" to their own dishonorable passions.
"For even their females exchanged natural sexual intercourse for what is unnatural" (Romans 1:26).
"The males in the same way also left natural sexual intercourse with females and were inflamed in their lust for one another" (Ro. 1:27).
3. Penalties for Immorality:
The second half of verse 27 plainly says, "Males committed shameless acts with males and received in their own persons the appropriate penalty for their perversion."
We don't need to go into great detail regarding AIDS or sexually transmitted diseases. It is self-evident.
God gives over atheistic men to have a useless, worthless mind. It is a sad, tragic state of affairs. Gone are the dreams to inspire men, to change a hopeless world and to perform worthwhile tasks while one is still alive. Instead, God says that
…"because they did not think it worthwhile to have God in their knowledge, God delivered them over to a worthless mind to do what is morally wrong…" (Romans 1:28-32, HCSB).
5. Good Shunned and Evil Exalted:
Romans 1:32 says that "although they know full well God's just sentence - that those who practice such things deserve to die - they not only do them, but even applaud others who practice them."
Many of us are aware, for example, that there are parents who applaud their drug-addicted or murderous kids but hate their Christian children. This is the environment where foot-washing basins for terrorists are provided in airports and yet a display of the Ten Commandments is removed from the courtroom. Everything is backward.
The prophet Isaiah appropriately gave an impassioned plea for this backward state:
"Woe to those who call evil good
and good evil,
who substitute darkness
and light for darkness,
who substitute bitter for sweet
and sweet for bitter."
(Isaiah 5:20, HCSB)
Should we "pray for these people anymore" when God has clearly delivered them to destruction? Does God tell us not to pray for certain people anymore?
It's a good question. But, we don't find any instance in the New Testament where Christians are commanded to quit praying for believers or unbelievers no matter who they are or what they have done.
God Lives in Eternity
Furthermore, God is beyond our space-time continuum. There is no past, present or future with Him. He is beyond our limited dimensional thinking of height, depth, width and one-half dimension of time (we can't go backwards in time yet). Isaiah 57:15 notes,
"For thus says the One who is high and
who inhabits eternity…" (ESV)
Only God inhabits eternity. Therefore, because of God's complete sovereignty over our lives we are told to be anxious for nothing and to pray for everything! (Philippians 4:6). We must continue to do so - to pray - until He tells us to do otherwise.
Benware, Paul. 2002. The believer's payday. Chattanooga, TN: AMG.
Emilio. Abandoned by God's wrath. Available from: www.remnantreport.com. Article in Biblical Worldview section.
—-What can Christians lose during judgment. Available from: www.remnantreport.com. Article in Heaven&Hell section.
MacArthur, John. Delivered to satan. (Tapes, part 1 and part 2. #54-9 and 54-10). Grace to You Ministries. Available from: www.gty.org.
—-When God abandons a nation. 2007. (Tapes. Romans 1:18-32. CD #80-314). Grace to You Ministries. Available from: www.gty.org.
Authors Ken Emilio holds an M.A. in Biblical Studies from Louisiana Baptist University and a V.O.M. Certificate in Persecuted Church Ministries from Oklahoma Wesleyan University. Valorie received the M.A. in History from UCLA focusing upon early church history. They believe they are just a "vapor" that appears for a little while and they must make the most of days remaining (Jas 4:14; Eph 5:15).