I think a man’s life before God can deteriorate in stages. As he passes through those stages, his options narrow. Suppose there is a man who regularly abuses alcohol and drives his car after he’s done it. His friends have warned him; they have even hidden his car keys. One by one he has alienated his friends as he gets angry with them for trying to save his life. Then one day a prophet shows up at his house with a message from God.
If you will repent of your drunkenness—if you will check yourself into treatment and get this under control—you can keep your job, your home, your family. If you don’t, you are going to lose everything. That would be a turning point in a man’s life. Two roads lie in front of him. One leads to a good life; the other…not so good.
Now suppose the man doesn’t listen; he drives drunk and hurts himself badly. After emergency surgery he has lost a leg and and his job. The prophet comes back again.
If you will repent of your drinking—if you will just check into a clinic and get dried out—you can still have a life. You may have lost your job and your leg, but you can still have a life. But suppose he still doesn’t listen. This time he kills a man and goes to prison for manslaughter. Once again the prophet comes to him.
You have lost everything except your life. Repent now and you can save that.
Does this sound far-fetched to you? Our question here is: How does God think? How does he operate? Would God ever do anything like this? During different stages in our lives, we have the opportunity to turn things around if we will just do it—if we will just listen. And if we won’t, those opportunities may later be closed off to us.
Well, for a long time, a prophet named Jeremiah had been getting messages from God for the Kingdom of Judah. At first the message was,
Repent and do the right thing and you can live and flourish in this place. There was a good king reigning at that time, but the people were corrupt in ways I don’t even like to talk about. Jeremiah preached for a long time to these people, but nothing changed. One day, a different king found himself in trouble with the king of Babylon, and he sent a priest named Pashur to Jeremiah with a question.