Today’s selected reading continues in the Old Testament prophetic book of Jeremiah, and more specifically, begins with the eleventh verse of the thirty-seventh chapter, and continues through to the sixteenth verse of the thirty-eighth chapter. When this particular passage begins, it begins with something unusual taking place within the land of Judah. In the fifth verse of this chapter we discover that Pharaoh’s army had come forth out of Egypt, and when rumor of their departure out of Egypt reached the Chaldeans which besieged Jerusalem, they departed from Jerusalem. When you com to the sixth verse of the same chapter you will find the word of the Lord coming to the prophet Jeremiah concerning the army of Egypt coming out of the land of Egypt, and the apparent departure of the enemy. “Thus saith the Lord, the God of Israel; Thus shall ye say to the king of Judah, that sent you unto me to inquire of me; Behold, Pharaoh’s army, which is come forth to help you, shall return to Egypt into their own land. And the Chaldeans shall come again, and fight against this city, and take it, and burn it with fire. Thus saith the Lord; Deceive not yourselves, saying, The Chaldeans shall surely depart from us: for they shall not depart. For thou ye had smitten the whole army of the Chaldeans that fight against you, and there remained but wounded men among them, yet should they rise up every man in his tent, and burn this city with fire” (Jeremiah 37:6-10). In the fifth verse we find the army of Egypt coming out of the land of Egypt, and the report of their departure causing the Chaldeans to depart from letting siege to Jerusalem. It’s interesting and worth noting that despite the report of the army of Egypt coming forth from the land of Egypt, and the subsequent departure of the Chaldean army from the city of Jerusalem was nothing more than something which would be apparent, but not permanent. There is not a doubt in my mind that when those who dwelt within the city of Jerusalem watched the Chaldeans army abandon their siege of the city, they rejoiced with great joy thinking that their troubles had passed. Undoubtedly, when they witnessed the Chaldeans depart from the city of Jerusalem, those who lived and dwelt within the city believed themselves to be delivered out of the hand of the Chaldeans and their devices and weapons. As I am sitting here right now, I can’t help but think of the devices and weapons the Chaldean army used to lay siege to Jerusalem. I can’t help but consider the various devices they used against the walls of Jerusalem to effectively weaken the integrity and structure of the wall. I can’t help but think of the devices and weapons they used against the gates of the city in order to gain access and entrance into the city. This brings me to an incredible important question that I feel must be addressed—the question of what devices the adversary is using against the walls and gates within your life. The walls were intended to keep enemies and adversaries out, while the gates were prevented to allow those who were invited to enter into the city. WHEN THE GATES ARE SHUT AND THE WALLS ARE SECURED! There is not a doubt in my mind that when the Chaldeans began to raise themselves up against the city of Jerusalem, the city of Jerusalem in turn began operating much like the inhabitants of Jericho did when they heard of what the Lord had done on behalf of the children of Israel, and what the children of Israel had themselves done to their enemies. You will recall that when the sixth chapter of the Old Testament book of Joshua opens, it does so with a powerful description and declaration concerning the city of Jericho being tightly shut up, and there were none that went in, and none that went out. The city of Jericho was tightly shut up for fear of the children of Israel in order to prevent them from entering into the city and doing unto them what they had done to Sihon and Og east of the Jordan River. When the news and report of the children of Israel had reached the city of Jericho—the news that they had crossed over the Jordan River and entered into the land—the inhabitants of Jericho secured the walls, and shut and sealed the gates. The inhabitants of Jericho did anything and everything they could to protect themselves from the children of Israel, and the possibility of them coming against the city, overpowering it, and destroying the inhabitants therein. When we come to the days of Jeremiah the prophet, we do not find the city of Jericho being tightly shut up, but rather the city of Jerusalem being tightly shut up. The city of Jerusalem whose gates were once opened to all those who desired to come up to the house of the Lord and worship before Him in His holy courts was now tightly shut up. There would be none that went in to the city, and there would be none that would go out of the city. Because of the advancing of the Chaldean army, and their subsequent siege to the city of Jerusalem, the walls of the city were secured and the gates were shut and sealed. Those who dwelt within the city had worked incredibly hard to maintain their security within and behind the walls of the city in order that the Chaldean army might not come up and enter into it.
When I consider the siege of Jerusalem which the Chaldean army mounted against the city of Jerusalem, I can’t help but consider the devices and weapons they used against the gates and wall of the city. I can’t help but wonder if they devised specific devices and weapons against the gates and against the walls of the city in order to gain access to the city. What’s more, is that when I read this particular passage of Scripture, and when I consider the Chaldean army departing from Jerusalem upon hearing the report of the Egyptian army coming forth from their land, I can’t help but think of the devices they left behind. As I consider the Chaldean army departing from the city of Jerusalem after setting siege to it, I can’t imagine they would have taken that which they used to lay siege to the city. I would dare say the devices and weapons they used to mount a siege against the city might very well have left behind before the gates and walls of the city. In other words—even though the adversary had departed from the city, the devices and weapons that were used to mount a siege against the city were left behind outside the city. Why? Why would the devices be left behind considering the army had departed from the city based on a report they heard of the Egyptian army coming forth from their land? I would dare say that the devices were left behind because the Chaldeans had every intention of returning to the city of Jerusalem and effectively and essentially completing what they had started. Even though the Chaldean army itself had departed from outside the city, they left their devices behind, for they had every intention, plan, purpose and desire to return and use them again. Is it possible that while it is true the adversary might appear to have departed from our life at this present moment, the devices and weapons he used to mount a siege against us have been left behind for that time when he could return to take them up once again and used them against us. It might appear the adversary has departed from our lives, and that there is absolutely no possibility of his returning, yet the truth of the matter is that the adversary never has any intention of permanently departing from our lives. Although the adversary may have had to give up the siege he has mounted against us, he has left his devices and weapons behind in order that he might take them up once more. The prophet Jeremiah spoke to the inhabitants of Jerusalem, and unto the king and all his nobles and princes, and declared unto them that they dare not believe the lie and the delusion that the Chaldean army would depart from the city never to return again. Jeremiah—according to the word of the Lord—quickly dispelled and destroyed the false notion and belief that the Chaldean army would never return to the city of Jerusalem to finish what they had started.
I wrote not too long ago that we dare not preach the fleeing without and apart from the returning. I wrote concerning the admonishment in Scripture to submit ourselves to the Lord, to resist the devil, and he must flee from us. With that being said—and while it is true that when we resist the devil he must flee from us—I am convinced that we resist the devil believing he will flee from our lives never to return again. There have been countless ministers who have stood behind pulpits in our churches and have proclaimed that when we submit to the Lord and revisit the devil, the devil must flee from us. Such preachers and ministers preach the departure without also preaching the possibility of the return. To illustrate this reality, I turned and directed your attention to the Old Testament book of Second Samuel, and specifically to the tenth chapter of the book, for it was in that chapter that we read of the Syrians fleeing from before Joab, yet despite their fleeing from before Joab, their fleeing was short-lived for they would return and muster themselves to rise up and return once more. While it was true the Syrians fled from before Joab, they fled to regroup and reorganize themselves in order that they might mount a more effective and efficient attack against the children of Israel. It was, however, upon hearing of this second attempt to come against the children of Israel that David king of Israel came forth from Jerusalem with the entire army of Israel with and behind him, and fought against the Syrians. In the initial stage and phase of the Syrians coming against the children of Israel, they came against them having joined forces and aligned themselves with the children of Ammon. It was Joab and Abishai his brother who would engage each of these enemies on two different fronts, in order to defeat and overpower them without and apart from the presence of the king. This causes me to strongly consider that there may be times when we can and will be called to fight battles without and apart from the presence and assistance of the King. Despite the fact that we might be called to fight battles without and apart from the presence and assistance of the King, we will fight these battles side by side with a brother or sister who has come into agreement with us to fight the enemy alongside us on a different front. Although Joab and Abishai fought and engaged the enemy on two distinct and two different fronts, they nonetheless fought sight by side against two distinct enemies who had come up against the people of God. It was these two brothers who secured the initial victory and triumph over the adversary, yet the adversary would retreat, but only to regroup, reform and return stronger, mightier and more in number than before.
When we read this passage of Scripture in the Old Testament prophetic book of Jeremiah, we do in fact discover the adversary removing themselves from the city of Jerusalem, yet the prophet Jeremiah understood that the departure of the adversary would only be short-lived. Jeremiah warned the inhabitants of Jerusalem not to get comfortable with the absence of the enemy outside the walls and gates of the city, for the adversary would surely return to the city. What’s more, is that not only would the adversary return once more to the city, but the adversary would pick up exactly where they left off. The adversary mounted a siege against the city of Jerusalem by positioning themselves outside the walls and gates, and despite the fact that they would depart based on a report they heard, they would not be removed indefinitely. Jeremiah knew and understood according to the word of the Lord that the adversary would once more return to the city and would once more mount a siege against it. Jeremiah knew the devices which were originally used against the city to weaken the integrity and structure of the city would be used once more in the very same place. There is not a doubt in my mind that the adversary could very well have done two distinct things outside and against the walls and gates of the city. The adversary could have picked up the devices and weapons they originally used—devices which they left behind when they departed—and mounted a secondary siege and assault against the city. The second is that the adversary undoubtedly didn’t use new devices, nor did the adversary craft new weapons to use against the walls and gates of the city, for the devices and weapons which had been used before could and would still work. It is necessary that we recognize and understand this, for more often than not the adversary doesn’t return against us having crafted and devised new devices and weapons against us. The prophet Isaiah emphatically declared that no weapon formed against us would prosper, and when I read those words, I can’t help but think that the adversary can and very well may use the very same weapon against us which he used before. It may be true that the adversary has for a season retreated from our lives, but it may also very well be true that the adversary can and will return against us and will do so using the very same weapons and devices he originally used. RETREAT WIHOUT THE DEVICES! RETREAT WITHOUT THE WEAPONS! When I consider the reality of the adversary retreating from within our lives, there is a part of me that believes that while it is true the adversary may retreat from our lives—the adversary may leave the devices he originally used against us in the very place he used them at first in order that he might pick them up again and use them once more. I am utterly and completely convinced that we dare not preach the retreat without also preaching the return, for while it is true the adversary must flee in response to our submission unto the Lord and our resistance of him, it is also true the adversary can and may very well return against us as he did originally.
Jeremiah warned the inhabitants of Jerusalem not to grow comfortable in and not to grow comfortable with the absence of the adversary, for the adversary would return against the city. Jeremiah held absolutely no punches and shot it straight with the inhabitants of Jerusalem, for he made them abundantly aware of the fact that the adversary could and would return to the city. The word(s) which Jeremiah proclaimed to the inhabitants of the city might very well be summarized as follows—DO NOT GROW COMFORTABLE IN THE ABSENCE OF THE ADVERSARY! I am convinced there are men and women who have been encouraged by ministers, leaders and preachers alike to seek a life where the enemy and adversary is somehow absent from their lives. I believe there are ministers and preachers who have caused a number of men and women to believe the lie and the delusion that they can live an entire life in and with the absence of the enemy and adversary. There are men and women who have been duped into thinking and believing that they can somehow live their lives free and absent from the presence of the enemy and adversary, yet the true of the adversary is that that simply isn’t the case. If there is one piece of advice I could give men and women in this generation, it would be that we dare not, we cannot, we must not, and we should not get and grow comfortable in and with the absence of the enemy and adversary. There are men and women who may be living in a relative period of reprieve from the presence, devices and attacks of the enemy, yet I do not believe for one minute we were ever created to live a life completely free from the devices, the attacks and the schemes of the adversary. When James wrote admonishing us to submit ourselves therefore to God, and to resist the devil, and he will flee from us, I do not believe for one minute that this resistance was a single, isolated event. There are those who seem to treat this resistance as a single, isolated event within the life of a believer, yet I do not believe for one minute that this is the case. I am convinced that this submission unto to God must be a continual and repeated submission unto God, and this resistance of the devil must be a continual and repeated resisting of the devil. If our resistance to the devil is a continual and repeated act, then I would also dare state that both his coming against us, as well as his fleeing are also continual and repeated. We must not only submit ourselves therefore to God, but must continually submit ourselves therefore to God. We must not only resist the devil, but we must continually resist the devil. For us to continually resist the devil means that the devil continually comes against with all his devices, schemes, weapons, snares, traps, and the like.
I do not believe for a single moment that we should plan on or prepare to get comfortable living in and living with the absence of the adversary. Lest you think this reality and statement is far fetched, I would draw your attention to the Old Testament book of Judges. It’s in this Old Testament book where we discover the incredibly powerful reality that not all adversaries and enemies can be and/or are necessarily driven forth and removed from our lives. “Now these are the nations which the Lord left, to prove Israel by them, even as many of Israel as had not known all the wars of Canaan; only that the generations of the children of Israel might know, to teach them war, ant the least such as before knew nothing thereof; namely, five lords of the Philistines, and all the Canaanites, and the Sidonians, and the Hivites that dwelt in mount Lebanon, from mount Baal-Hermon unto the entering in of Hamath. And they were to prove Israel but them, to know whether they would hearken unto the commandments of the Lord, which He commanded their fathers by the hand of Moses” (Judges 3:1-4). If you turn your attention to the second chapter of the same Old Testament book, you will notice something else that is absolutely and incredibly interesting to consider concerning the presence of the adversary within our lives. “And an angel of the LOrc came up from Gilgal to Bochum, and said, I made you to two up out of Egypt, and have brought you unto the land which I sware unto your fathers; and I said, I will never break my covenant with you. And ye shall make no league with the inhabitants of this land; ye shall throw down their altars: but ye have not obeyed my voice: why have ye done this? Wherefore I also said, I will not drive them out from before you; but they shall be as thorns in your sides, and their gods shall be a snare unto you. And it came to pass, when the angel of the Lord spoke these words unto all the children of Israel, that the people lifted up their voice, and wept. And they called the name of that place Bochum: and they sacrifices there unto the Lord” (Jeremiah 2:1-5). Pay close attention to two distinct phrases within this passage of Scripture—“I will not drive them out from before you” and “these are the nations which the Lord left.” Please don’t miss these two phrases, for the author of the book of Judges not only recorded the Lord’s declaration that He would not drive their enemies and adversaries out from before them, but the author also recorded the Lord speaking of certain nations which He deliberately and intentionally left.
Why? Why would the Lord choose to allow certain adversaries and enemies to remain within the land which belonged to the children of Israel? Why would the Lord not completely drive out all the enemies and adversaries from before them, and within the land that was theirs as an inheritance? If you read the third chapter, you will discover that the Lord left specific nations within the land “TO PROVE ISRAEL BY THEM,” “TO TEACH THEM WAR,” and “TO KNOW WHETHER THEY WOULD HARKEN UNTO THE COMMANDMENTS OF THE LORD.” Did you know there are certain enemies and adversaries the Lord can allow to remain within your life? Did you know that the Lord may not drive out every enemy and adversary from within your life? There may be times when the Lord may very well allow enemies and adversaries to remain within your life to prove you by them, and to teach you war. It is true that David wrote the eighteenth Psalm from a place when the Lord had delivered him out of the hand of all of his enemies and adversaries, yet if you study the history and life of David, you will notice that his entire life was a life of conflict, struggle, battle and warfare. It is true that there came a point in David’s life and during his reign that the Lord would deliver him from all of his enemies and adversaries, yet that didn’t happen immediately, nor did it happen all it once. Did you know that not all the enemies and adversaries of the Son of David have been defeated and put under His feet? Did you know that there are still adversaries and enemies that have not yet been put under the foot—under the full authority, dominion, government, power, strength and might of the Son of God in the earth? I realize this may come as a shock to many, for there are those who think and believe that they can somehow live their life completely free and absent the presence of any and every adversary and enemy. The truth of the matter is that this simply isn’t the case. The Lord never promised that no weapon would ever be formed against you, but that no weapon which was formed against you would prosper. The Lord never promised that the gates of hell would not attempt to come against the Church, but that the gates of hell would not prevail against the Church. I do not believe for a single moment that we dare get comfortable thinking we can live a life completely free from the presence and threat of the adversary and enemy. The prophet Jeremiah instructed and commanded the inhabitants of Jerusalem to not grow comfortable in and with the absence of the Chaldean army outside the walls and gates of the city, for the adversary would most certainly return to come up against the city. Oh that we would recognize and understand that we were never promised a life completely absent and free from the presence, the devices, the schemes, the snares, the traps, the weapons of the enemy and adversary, and we would be incredibly wise to recognize and understand that.
With all of that being said, let us understand that even when the enemy comes rearmed and regrouped, he stills comes and still stands to be defeated.
As I continue reading this particular passage of Scripture, I can’t help but see something else that is truly unique and worth noting. When you come to the eleventh verse you will notice that the army of the Chaldeans was broken up from Jerusalem for fear of Pharaoh’s army. In the verse immediately following and proceeding this, you will read of Jeremiah going forth out of Jerusalem to go into the land of Benjamin to separate himself thence in the midst of the people. When Jeremiah had made it to and reached the gate of Benjamin, a captain of the ward was there, and this captain took Jeremiah the prophet, saying, Thou fallest away to the Chaldeans. Then said Jeremiah, It is false; I fall not away to the Chaldeans. But he hearkened not to him: so Irish took Jeremiah, and brought him to the princes. Wherefore the princes were wroth with Jeremiah, and smote him, and put him in prison in the house of Jonathan the scribe: for they had made that the prison” (Jeremiah 37:13-15). I am convinced what we read in this passage is absolutely and incredibly necessary, for in the absence and departure of the enemy, Jeremiah sought to separate himself in the midst of the people. In the absence and departure of the enemy and adversary, Jeremiah believed it to be a perfect time and opportunity to separate himself in the midst of his people. What’s so interesting and worth noting is that it was in this process of separating himself in the midst of the people that Jeremiah’s actions and intentions were misunderstood and misconstrued. When Jeremiah came to the gate of Benjamin, he was accused of defecting to the Chaldeans and joining himself with the enemy and adversary of the people of God. Here was Jeremiah merely attempting to separate himself in the midst of his people, and this attempt to separate himself was perceived as an attempt to join himself to the enemy. Oh dear brother and sister, please don’t miss the significance and importance of what is taking place here, for there are men and women who are in this very place right now. There are men and women who right now are in a place when they are attempting to separate themselves in the midst of the people, and yet those around them believe and perceive their motives and intentions to be false. There are those who believe such actions to actually be an attempt to defect unto the enemy and adversary, and perhaps even a deliberate joining oneself to the enemy and adversary. It’s almost like what you witness in the Star Wars movies and the joining oneself to the Dark Side and abandoning the force.
Are you in this place right now within your life? Have you found yourself in this very place within your life? In the absence and presence of the enemy within your life—perhaps as you are experiencing a temporary reprieve and respite from the presence of the enemy—you have sought to separate yourself in the midst of the people. Perhaps you have even attempted to separate yourself unto the Lord more fully and completely. I do not for one minute believe that this reality is far fetched or out of place, for I believe with all my heart there are men and women who right now are making every attempt to separate themselves more fully and more completely unto the Lord. There are men and women who right now are living in a place when the enemy and adversary seems to be removed from their lives, and they are choosing to take this time to separate themselves unto and before the Lord. Perhaps this separation requires them to separate themselves from certain individuals, from certain places, and maybe even certain individuals, and yet those who witness perceive and experience this separation believe them to have impure motives. Their intentions are perceived as being such that they are abandoning the Lord and are distancing themselves from the Lord and His people. There are those who are being perceived as drawing back and shrinking back in fear, rebellion, doubt and disobedience before the Lord. As a result, these individuals are being struck continually and repeatedly by others—perhaps not with physical hands, but with words, stares, and the like. I believe there are men and women among us within the Church who are being ostracized—not because they are guilty of doing anything wrong, but because what they are doing is being misunderstood and misconstrued by those around them. Jeremiah chose to come out of Jerusalem and separate himself in the land of Benjamin, and his actions were perceived as being a defecting to the enemy. As a result of this misunderstanding and misperceptions, Jeremiah was not only struck, but he was also put in prison—put in a prison where he was completely and totally separated from others. It’s worth noting that Jeremiah was put in this prison—not only because the princes were wroth with him, but because they were attempting to prevent him from defecting to the Babylonians. OH that we would pay careful and close attention to this passage, for there are countless men and women who are in this very place right now. There are men and women who find themselves in this place right now, and what they are attempting to do is nothing more than separate themselves unto the Lord in the midst of the people.
There are men and women who are being struck and smitten by those around them because their attempt to separate themselves in the midst of those around them is being perceived as abandoning the Lord and defecting to the enemy. There are those who are being mistreated simply because their attempt to separate themselves more fully and completely unto the Lord is being misunderstood and misperceived by those around them. As a result—those around them rise up and strike them, and not only strike them, but also cast them into a prison. There are those among us in this generation who have been cast into prisons of despair, prisons of loneliness, prisons of isolation, prisons of bitterness and offense, and all this because their actions and intentions of separating themselves unto the Lord in the midst of the people is being misunderstood. Jeremiah took the retreat and absence of the enemy as an opportunity to separate himself in the midst of his people, and to do so in the midst of the land of Benjamin, yet he was prevented from doing so by those who witnessed him attempting to do so. Oh, I do believe with all my heart that there are men and women who right now are being struck and cast into prisons—simply because their attempt to separate themselves, and even consecrate themselves before the Lord is being misunderstood by others. Did you know that separation and consecration unto and before the Lord can look and appear to some as a willful and deliberate abandonment of the Lord? Did you know that it is possible to be pouring your heart out before the Lord and be perceived as being drunk by the priest of the Lord> I am finding myself asking the Spirit of the Lord to grant great grace and mercy to those who have been struck and confined to a prison—not of their making—by others who have misunderstood their actions and intentions. I am finding myself asking the Spirit of the Lord to grant great courage and boldness to those who are considering separating themselves more fully and completely unto the Lord of hosts. There are times when our consecration and separation unto the Lord may very well appear to those who aren’t spiritual as deserting and defecting, and as a result, we are immediately ostracized and alienated by those around us. Please mark these words and mark them well, for there are a great number of men and women who are in this very place right now. There are men and women who right now are being completely isolated, alienated and ostracized by those around them because their separation and consecration unto the Lord looks, sounds and even appears to those around them as a deliberate and willful abandonment of the Lord. Jeremiah merely sought to separate himself in the midst of his people, and his actions were perceived by those before him as a defecting to the enemy.
It’s necessary and imperative that we recognize and understand that consecration and separation unto the Lord may look like and appear to be a deliberate and willful turning away from the Lord. There are times when we desire to separate ourselves in the midst of those around us from certain things, places and people, and those around us take it as our turning against and turning our backs against the Lord. Such experiences can, should be and are only discerned by those who are truly spiritual before the Lord, for they are able to discern and recognize what is taking place. This isn’t to say that we need the validation or approval of others when we attempt to move forward with such an experience. What I am speaking of and suggesting is that we dare not be afraid to separate ourselves more fully and completely unto the Lord—despite and regardless of how it may look or what it may sound like to those around us. Our separation unto the Lord may look like and appear to others as a separation from those around us, yet the truth of the matter is that that simply isn’t the case. Oh that we would recognize and understand those times within our lives when we are called to this place of separation within and in the midst of our people, and that we would be willing to do so—despite what those around us may think about us. What is the Lord calling you to do right now? What has the Lord spoken to your heart? You might very well be experiencing a reprieve from the onslaught of the enemy, and in this place of peace you seek to shut yourself in and quiet yourself before the Lord. Never allow what others may think or what others may say influence and persuade you from separating yourself unto the Lord and from consecrating yourself more fully and completely unto Him. Let us this day be willing to separate ourselves unto and separate ourselves before the Lord—even if it may be misunderstood and misperceived by those around us. Let us possess the courage, the boldness and the willingness to pour out our hearts before the Lord—even if it means we may be perceived as being drunk. Have we forgotten that on the Day of Pentecost they supposed all those who were present in the Upper Room to be drunk? Oh that we would be willing to be misunderstood by those around us as we move forward and go all the way with the Lord our God. Oh that we would be willing to be perceived in a completely diffident light by those around us, yet knowing full well that we are moving forward and passionately pursuing the Lord our God.