“The harvest is past, the summer is ended, and we are not saved” (Jer. 8:20).
He is called the weeping prophet. He wept because he lived in a time of national turmoil. The winds of war were blowing. A powerful ruler by the name of Nebuchadnezzar had appeared on the stage of history. Commanding a large ravenous army, Nebuchadnezzar looked for territories to conquer.
His greedy eyes fell upon the city of Jerusalem. There were stories that in the Holy City was a magnificent Temple which stored rich treasures. The stories were accurate, for the church built by Solomon was splendid in all of its glory. There were riches beyond belief for God had blessed the people of the Covenant. “And the house which king Solomon built for the Lord…was…overlaid with gold” (1 Kings 6:2,22).
Nebuchadnezzar was determined to have the gold even if he had to kill every last Jew to get it. To justify his greed Nebuchadnezzar needed an excuse to wage war against Judah. In 597 BC, he found the political rational he was looking for. In 597 BC, open revolt broke out in Judah as King Jehoiakim “turned and rebelled” against Nebuchadnezzar (2 Kings 24:1) by refusing to pay tribute.
At first, Nebuchadnezzar did not intervene in the situation in person. He was willing to leave the suppression of the local revolt to troops from Moab, Ammon, and Syria, strengthened by regular soldiers from the Chaldean army. To everyone’s surprise, the Jews fought more bravely and with greater resistance than anyone had expected. Nebuchadnezzar was concerned, and decided to hurry to Judah to take charge of the situation himself. Gathering a large military army to use as reinforcement, Nebuchadnezzar was on his way when the King of Judah died unexpectedly.
Jehoiakim’s son followed him to the throne. His son’s name was Jehoiachin. He was only 18 years of age when he began to reign. He reigned in Jerusalem three months. Then, his nation was invaded as 2 Kings 24:8-15 records that “Nebuchadnezzar, king of Babylon came against the city, and his servants did besiege it…And he carried away all Jerusalem…And he carried away Jehoiachin to Babylon.”
With the king in captivity, the nation of Judah was in turmoil. A puppet king was placed on the throne by Nebuchadnezzar. His name was Mattaniah but he was renamed Zedekiah by the Chaldean king. The territory of Judah was reduced in size (Jer. 13:19). It seemed that the king of Babylon had everything under control. Nebuchadnezzar thought that Judah was subdued so he returned home. But Nebuchadnezzar under rated the determination of the Jews to protest. Voices were raised denouncing Babylon, and demanding the recovery of all that had been lost (Jer. 28:1-4). The passions of the people were inflamed with patriotism.
Zedekiah proved to be a spineless and vacillating puppet king. He knew that he was supposed to be subject to Babylon yet he was pressured by his own people. The government of the nation was being wrestled from his control by strong Jewish leaders who were trying to make Alliances with bordering vassal states. There was a meeting of the ambassadors from Edom, Moab, and Ammon as well as from the seaports of Tyre and Sidon (Jer. 27:8). King Zedekiah knew about these illegal meetings for they took place in his presence but he was too weak to stop them.
Like a man caught in a revolving door, Zedekiah did not know which way to turn. If he moved to support his people against Babylon, Nebuchadnezzar would come and dethrone him. If he moved to be loyal to Babylon, the people of Judah would despise him. he was the man in middle with no sense of direction until something significant happened.
In 588 BC a new Pharaoh named Apries, ascended the throne. Jeremiah calls him Hophra (588-568 BC). Hophra helped Zedekiah make up his mind to side with the people of Judah who wanted to revolt against Babylon. In the ninth year of his reign, in the tenth month (Dec/Jan), King Zedekiah agreed to revolt against Babylon (2 Kings 25:1).
No sooner had he made his decision than Nebuchadnezzar arrived with a strong army from Babylon. With the speed of lightening the punitive campaign against rebellious Judah was engaged. The Chaldean division of infantry, fast cavalry and charioteers smashed all resistance, and conquered city after city. Except for the capital, Jerusalem, and the frontier fortress of Lachish and Azekah in the south, the whole land was subdued. The citizens of Jerusalem, Lachish, and Azekah were determined to fight to the end (Jer. 34:7).
But the brave Hebrews were no match for the mighty Babylonians who used fire to conquer the people of Lachish and Azekah. Going to the walls of these cities, Nebuchadnezzar’s engineers had the soldiers gather whatever wood they could lay their hands on. The whole area around Lachish was stripped of its forests and thickets for miles around. Olive groves were up rooted for this purpose.
Once the walls of the city were surrounded with wood, the fires were started. Day and night sheets of flame leapt sky high; a ring of fire scorched the wall from top to bottom. The army of Babylon piled on more and more wood until the white hot stones burst and the walls caved in. In this way Lachish fell.
Jerusalem, then, was the last stronghold. The whole weight of the Babylonian war machine could now be diverted against it. Since there was not so much wood around Jerusalem, the besieging army had to use battering rams to punch holes in the walls of the city. It took a long time. For 18 months Jerusalem held out and heroically defended itself (2 Kings 25:2).
Despite starvation, the people held out. They had a desperate hope that their new political alliances with Egypt would bring relief. But their hopes were betrayed. The Egyptian army did not come to help (Jer. 37:7). The harvest ended, the summer passed, but the people were not saved.
Jeremiah was taken into exile. King Zedekiah was captured. Enraged by his duplicity, Nebuchadnezzar had Zedekiah’s children slaughtered while he watched, and then his own eyes were punched out (2 Kings 25:7). Jerusalem was allowed to be plundered. The royal palace and Temple were set on fire. The city walls and fortifications were razed to the ground. The order was given to execute Nebuchad-Adan, the captain of the guard of Jerusalem (2 Kings 25:8).
By the power of God, Jeremiah foretold all these things would happen. Jeremiah had predicted step by step the process, for the word of the Lord came to the prophet. “Behold…saith the Lord…I will make the cities of Judah a desolation without an inhabitant.” And he did.
When we ask why all of this happened, the Divine answer is that the people of the covenant had provoked God to anger with their graven images and with strange vanities (Jer. 8:19). In their sinning, the people of Judah had become just like the other nations of the world. They had been seduced by the religions of Canaan. Little by little the culture of the Canaanites appealed to the people of the covenant because the religion of the Canaanites advocated sexual freedom, and beyond that sexual licentiousness.
In Canaan, people were openly shameless. Mother-goddesses were, for example, branded as “holy whores.” Brothels were the temples of worship. This total sexual freedom and wholesale abandonment to pleasure was in stark contrast to the restrictions of the LORD Jehovah. The Hebrew doctrine taught that God made one man for one woman. Marriage was to be permanent. There was to be no sexual contact outside of marriage. There was to be no sexual contact except between married spouses. The Jews knew all about the law of the Lord, and longed for the freedom they thought was in the Canaanite religion.
According to their religion, in the name of love, liberty, and personal happiness, the god El and the goddess Asherah encouraged sexual freedom. Nothing was obscene.
Homosexuality was simply a lifestyle of choice.
Polygamy was practical.
Wife swapping was freely suggested.
Bestiality was experimental.
Necrophilia was normal.
Pedophiles were just introducing the young people into the
Mysteries of life.
No one was right and no one was wrong in the religion of Canaan. And no one was punished. Only in the Hebrew religion were there strange vanities, according to the Canaanites.
With the passing of time a majority of Jews decided that they saw nothing wrong with the religion of the Canaanites. What they did not discover until it was too late is what no one discovers until they are fully committed to a lifestyle of licentiousness. What people discovered is that there is a dark and dangerous side to sexual abandonment that manifests itself in two ways.
First, there is the loss of the freedom of the will. The word we use for the loss of freedom is addiction. There is an addictive side to sexual liberation. The chains of lust hold the heart fast so that people who grow weary of wrong doing discover they are helpless to be different. Many a Hebrew man, and many a Hebrew woman who wanted to return to the Lord Jehovah and keep the Ten Commandments found they had no ability. Sin was now the master. Lust was now the mistress, and they would not let go.
The second discovery the Jews made who had given themselves to the seductive religions of Canaan was how vicious and mean the lifestyle of the libertine became. Sexual freedom was portrayed as gentle, tender, and fun, for such intimate relationships should be. But sexual bondage is just an avenue for the horrors of hell to flow through. One by one new spiritual masters appear to transform the personality.
domination and violence
begins to be manifested in the person once known for
toleration and kindness.
The violent and brutal nature of the gods of Canaan is well documented. There is for example, the Baal Epic of Ugarit which depicts the goddess Anath which encourages a bloodbath. It is impossible to understand the wrath of God against the people of His covenant, until there is an understanding just how low they had allowed themselves to be bought thereby provoking the Lord to anger.
Sin was followed by sin until judgment came as God used Nebuchadnezzar to discipline His people. Suddenly, the nation awoke in alarm and realized,
the harvest was past,
the summer was ended,
and they were not saved.
Many years ago, another nation which had 1,000 years of Christianity in its history, was seduced by a false religion. The year was 1917. The nation was Russia. The false religion was Communism.
In 1989, the people of the U.S.S.R. awoke from their ideological slumber and realized what had happened after 72 years of deceit. They had been promised sexual enlightenment and personal freedom. They were given spiritual darkness and physical bondage. The hearts of the damned ruled. Then one day, the people awoke and some of them cried out in alarm, “Is there no balm in Gilead?” The gracious answer is “Yes!” Certainly, there is. God is always able help and to heal. There is sufficiency in Christ to redress all grievances. The heart that will turn to Jesus for salvation, and then for sanctification, will find new hope and new life.
Turn to Christ and find salvation in time, and for all eternity, or, it shall be said, “The harvest is past, the summer is ended, and we are not saved” (Jer. 8:20).