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Evil and Bitter

 

Thine own wickedness shall correct thee, and thy backslidings shall reprove thee: know therefore and see that it is an evil thing and bitter, that thou hast forsaken the LORD thy God, and that my fear is not in thee, saith the Lord GOD of hosts. (Jer 2:19)

 

Doing an evil thing, can lead to bitterness. The evil thing could be any of a number of things: offending another person, deliberately engaging in wickedness, committing a sin against a holy God. The bitter results could be estrangement from others, punishment from society, sadness in your life – even a catastrophe that Heaven may allow to come upon you.

 

Today, I want us to consider the “Evil and Bitter.” We have as our example, the Children of Israel, and their evil behavior, and the bitter results of their wickedness. We have as our example, the sinfulness of many others who have gone before, and the sad condition of the lives that they lived as a result of their sinfulness. We have as our example the current condition of our country, and of the people of this land – a land currently full of strife, sin, and wicked behavior, and the bitterness that reigns as a result of the sinfulness of this place where we live.

 

Is your life bitter? Do you find yourself questioning the value of your existence? If times seem difficult or bitter for you, I would dare to ask, “Have you been living in sin?” Perhaps, if we will examine our lives, it may be that the evil things that attract our attention; and our current focus on the sinful pleasures of this life; may be the cause for the lack of joy in our lives, and even the displeasure we may feel when it comes to the service of the Lord. Bitterness can be the result of evil – either on our part, or on the part of others. The only true and lasting remedy for bitterness, is to erase the evil and the wickedness out of our lives, and out of the lives of those around us. In other words, if it is a bitter person – that person needs Jesus Christ as their Saviour. If it is a bitter people – that people needs a knowledge of the Lord in their midst. If it is a bitter world – that world needs the grace and mercy of God. Our own wickedness and our inclination to evil will rob us of happiness and peace. 

 

An Evil Thing

 

The first thing that I want us to consider today, is the terrible tragedy, which men often commit, of “Forsaking the Lord” – not serving Him. Remember, our text verse tells us, “… know therefore and see that it is an evil thing and bitter, that thou hast forsaken the LORD thy God…” A people who had known God, and had been acquainted with the Law of God, had, somehow, forsaken that God, and left His Law behind. This is an evil thing! The God Who had saved them had every right to expect their allegiance and obedience! And yet, just like all men, the Children of Israel were inherently wicked, and their evil behavior was made evident in the fact that they had forsaken the Lord God of their salvation.

 

Later on, we read in the Book of Jeremiah,Your iniquities have turned away these things, and your sins have withholden good things from you. For among my people are found wicked men: they lay wait, as he that setteth snares; they set a trap, they catch men. As a cage is full of birds, so are their houses full of deceit: therefore they are become great, and waxen rich. They are waxen fat, they shine: yea, they overpass the deeds of the wicked: they judge not the cause, the cause of the fatherless, yet they prosper; and the right of the needy do they not judge. Shall I not visit for these things? saith the LORD: shall not my soul be avenged on such a nation as this? A wonderful and horrible thing is committed in the land; The prophets prophesy falsely, and the priests bear rule by their means; and my people love to have it so: and what will ye do in the end thereof? (Jer 5:25-31) It seems that many of the Israelites had exchanged their God for the fruits and pleasures of this life. They had exchanged a pursuit of the spiritual, for the pursuit of the mortal and physical. They were successful, in many ways, in achieving physical riches and a measure of peace in the satisfying of their carnal desires. However, their mortal successes had guaranteed their spiritual failures and had brought damnation upon them.

 

It is an evil thing for any nation to reject the God that saves them in favor of a pursuit of earthly riches and pleasure! And yet, this is what the nations and societies of men have done – perhaps none more incredible and awful then the case of the Children of Israel in the past, and the case of our Nation of the United States, today. Mankind owes service to the Creator. Remember now thy Creator in the days of thy youth, while the evil days come not, nor the years draw nigh, when thou shalt say, I have no pleasure in themLet us hear the conclusion of the whole matter: Fear God, and keep his commandments: for this is the whole duty of man. For God shall bring every work into judgment, with every secret thing, whether it be good, or whether it be evil. (Eccl 12:1, 13-14) Men and nations who forget and forsake the Creator, cannot expect to hold favor with God.

 

And, it’s not just that the Jew and the people of Jerusalem had forsaken God. We read that they had also forgotten their fear of God: “…my fear is not in thee, saith the Lord GOD of hosts. (Jer 2:19) You might say, when a person or a people has forsaken their fear of God, that they have lost their “reverence” or even their “respect” for God. The world needs to be reminded, by those of us who still know, that God is worthy of our reverence, our respect, and our fear. When we don’t show Him the fear that He deserves, we make it seem as if we can live our lives without Him, and that we have no need of His blessings or His favors. Even more, a lack of fear and reverence for God, shows the sinfulness and wickedness of men, in that we demonstrate the absurd notion that God is not able or worthy to judge us for our actions. Do not be deceived! God is not ignorant of our sins and our wicked devices! Nor will He fail to hold men accountable.

 

Actually, a belief in God, and a fear and respect for God, is good for all people to demonstrate. In this manner, societies can hold men and women accountable to a certain godly standard; and, in this manner, men’s actions are tempered with a fear of being judged by a God Who is worthy and able to judge all men. When a society is conducted with an absence of this fear of God, then that ungodly people is bound to devolve into a more and more wicked society.

 

I believe that this healthy fear of God is something that men are naturally born with. Of course, our consciences are seared, and as we age we grow further and further from God. But, at the beginning, and even (perhaps) on some level throughout our lives, deep within our souls, we know that there is a God, and there will one day be an account given unto Him. I believe that it goes against human nature to forsake God – to fail to recognize and act upon our inherent need to worship God. Give ear, O ye heavens, and I will speak; and hear, O earth, the words of my mouth. My doctrine shall drop as the rain, my speech shall distil as the dew, as the small rain upon the tender herb, and as the showers upon the grass: Because I will publish the name of the LORD: ascribe ye greatness unto our God. He is the Rock, his work is perfect: for all his ways are judgment: a God of truth and without iniquity, just and right is he. They have corrupted themselves, their spot is not the spot of his children: they are a perverse and crooked generation. Do ye thus requite the LORD, O foolish people and unwise? is not he thy father that hath bought thee? hath he not made thee, and established thee? (Deut 32:1-6)

 

To forsake God, and to lose our fear of Him – at least a public acknowledgement of Him – is not good for the individuals amongst mankind, nor for the societies of men. The restraint that a knowledge and fear of God imposes upon the societies of men, is of great benefit to mankind. Of course, the very societies that ought to turn to the Lord and respect His ways, are the very societies that will forsake Him. In the end, the people that forsakes the Lord will be destroyed and overcome by the very sin and evil which they pursue. And, history will show, that the God that they forsook, was the very salvation that they needed. If there is no fear of the Lord – no reverence for Him, no respect for Him, no terror of His Judgment – the result will be wickedness and utter destruction. Therefore hear, ye nations, and know, O congregation, what is among them. Hear, O earth: behold, I will bring evil upon this people, even the fruit of their thoughts, because they have not hearkened unto my words, nor to my law, but rejected it. (Jer 6:18-19)

 

Bitterness

 

So, the Children of Israel had engaged in wickedness – they had demonstrated an incredible evil, in that they had forsaken the God Who made them and saved them. They had demonstrated great evil in that they showed no fear of the God Who was and is sovereign over all – the God to Whom we must all give an account of our deeds. Well, what was the result of the “Evil Thing” that the Children of Israel had done? Quite simply, the result was bitterness – bitterness and regret in this life, and an eternity of bitterness, pain and suffering in the Lake of Fire, if they did not repent of their wickedness and return to the Lord God as their Saviour.Thine own wickedness shall correct thee, and thy backslidings shall reprove thee: know therefore and see that it is an evil thing and bitter, that thou hast forsaken the LORD thy God, and that my fear is not in thee, saith the Lord GOD of hosts. (Jer 2:19)

 

I want you to know, that no people who has forsaken the Lord can expect good at the Hands of God. I believe that it is preposterous to imagine that any man, woman, or even people or nation, can forsake God, show no fear or reverence for Him, and then hope to find an answer in Him for the troubles that beset them, merely by invoking the Name of the God Whom they once served! Such evil and wicked behavior will result only in bitterness – the Lord will not bless such a person or such a people! They may call upon Him, but He will not hear.

 

Through the prophet Jeremiah, the Lord God let the People of Judah know that their way was become bitter, and they could not count on the goodness and the blessings of God, because of the wicked and evil ways of the Nation of Judah and the City of Jerusalem. The people would receive no good at God’s Hands. Instead, they would find that there is bitterness in an ignorance or a denial of God. Thy way and thy doings have procured these things unto thee; this is thy wickedness, because it is bitter, because it reacheth unto thine heart. (Jer 4:18) Their way was become bitter. The joy and pleasures of this life that they had found in the pursuit of earthly riches and wicked idolatry, were only very fleeting, and all that was left was bitterness. The joys of carnal pleasure that they had hoped would last their lifetimes, were now taken away, and the Lord would grant them only bitterness, as a result of their evil and wicked behavior.

 

Though these things were true in the case of the City of Jerusalem, in reality, these things are true in the life of every person, and in the lives of every people, society, or nation. This simple truth will always, eventually, be fulfilled: Sin and wickedness will ultimately lead to destruction and ruin. There is no lasting peace for the wicked. But the wicked are like the troubled sea, when it cannot rest, whose waters cast up mire and dirt. There is no peace, saith my God, to the wicked. (Isa 57:20-21) They may attain to some level of success in their pursuit of wickedness and the “Evil Thing.” But, that joy is only carnal, and that pleasure is only for a season. They may find that the judgment of God will come upon them in this life – He may allow terrible retribution to be poured out upon them. However, even if they live long lives on this earth; and even if they have success and prosperity in this life, so that the righteous may wonder at God’s longsuffering upon the wicked; still, in the end, they will find bitterness in the eternal judgments of God.

 

However, let me deal with the condition of our world today. It seems that the wholehearted pursuit of the “Evil Thing” has brought tragedy and ruin upon the nations and the societies that exist in this world, in our day and age. I would dare to say that we are, even now, reaping the bitter rewards of evil, wickedness, and the open glorification of sin in our world today. In today’s wicked world, there is a lot of animosity. People cannot get along peaceably with one another. Politeness and civility seem to be vanishing, right before our eyes. Is it any wonder? Should we find it amazing that a people that is devoid of a knowledge and a fear of God; a people who is loath to endorse good, but always ready to promote evil; that such a people would lack even the simplest compassions and kindnesses?

 

We are reaping the bitter results of our evil and wicked ways! It seems that our world lacks even the most basic elements of human love and kindness. The children rebel against their parents. Marriage, as an institution, holds very little value in the eyes of our societies, and the lust that men and women have for each other has replaced the sincere and genuine love which ought to be present in the lives of husbands and wives. Sadly, even the love of mothers for their children is vanishing before our eyes. Bitterness reigns supreme! The members of our society go about expecting the government or the public institutions to supply them with their every need or want; and, if things don’t go according to their selfish desires, their lives are full of bitterness, anger, and even hatred towards those whom they suppose have deprived them of their desires.

 

In the United States of America, there is a lot of rage, but very little kindness. There is a lot of anger, but hardly no gentleness. There is a lot of hatred, but a nearly total lack of love towards one another. We are, today, a bitter people, without a God to serve. This is the inevitable result of the nearly universal and deliberate intent of removing God – especially the Name of Jesus Christ – from our societies, from our families, and from the minds and hearts of our children.

 

Still, men will seek joy and peace in this life, but they will not find an enduring source, without the Lord Jesus Christ. Men will seek to satisfy their desires and fulfill their earthly pleasures, but they will not find any eternal and lasting satisfaction, except they repent, and turn to Jesus Christ as their Saviour and their chiefest Pleasure.Now the works of the flesh are manifest, which are these; Adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lasciviousness, Idolatry, witchcraft, hatred, variance, emulations, wrath, strife, seditions, heresies, Envyings, murders, drunkenness, revellings, and such like: of the which I tell you before, as I have also told you in time past, that they which do such things shall not inherit the kingdom of God. But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, Meekness, temperance: against such there is no law. And they that are Christ's have crucified the flesh with the affections and lusts. If we live in the Spirit, let us also walk in the Spirit. Let us not be desirous of vain glory, provoking one another, envying one another. (Gal 5:19-26) The love of the physical things, can be an impediment to the love of the spiritual. An absolute and focused pursuit of the physical pleasured and joys, will certainly prevent any spiritual joy, and will bring a person into Hell. Of course, when the Lord Jesus Christ comes to us in the Person of the Holy Spirit, our desires are changed, and our focus is now on the spiritual realm. This is the obstacle which the world of men cannot overcome, and the aspect of our hope and joy in this life, which they cannot comprehend. In the Spirit of God, we can taste and see greater pleasures than any that this world can provide! In the Lord Jesus Christ, we can find the grace and the faith to live in a wicked world, all the while enjoying the fruits of the Spirit of God.

 

However, in the case of those who will indulge only in the works of the flesh, the Scriptures teach us that there will be no final happiness for such a person or such a people. There will be no enduring joy in the lives of a people who reject the Lord God. There will be no peace and there will be no lasting prosperity. Sure, men may succeed in their wicked ways for a while; but, just like every nation who has gone before – the Children of Israel, the countless other mighty nations and kingdoms – destruction will eventually find those who forsake the God Who has made them. Ultimately, there is only bitterness for those who rush headlong to do evil. They will suffer personally; or, if they are preserved, and allowed to live out their lives, their posterity or their nation and people will suffer in their place. I will heap mischiefs upon them; I will spend mine arrows upon them. They shall be burnt with hunger, and devoured with burning heat, and with bitter destruction: I will also send the teeth of beasts upon them, with the poison of serpents of the dust. The sword without, and terror within, shall destroy both the young man and the virgin, the suckling also with the man of gray hairs. (Deut 32:23-25) In fact, there will be no need for the Lord God to actively intervene in the case of a wicked nation, in order to bring judgment upon that place. All that He need do, is remove His restraining Hand, and the minions of the devil, and the powers of Hell, will be more than happy to bring sorrow, strife, destruction, and misery upon such a people. Don’t make the mistake of imagining that the Devil is on the side of those that do evil, because he desires their prosperity, happiness, and success! No, the devil will be more than happy to destroy any nation or any people – really, any individual – as he finds opportunity to do so. The very sin and Satan that many follow after, and pursue so diligently, will, many times, end up being the source and the means of their sorrow and bitterness in this life.

 

There is a paradox that exists in the lives of the peoples of this earth. We are prone to pursue evil, and the result is bitterness. We are prone to pursue evil, and yet, in the end, it is the evil that will destroy us. We can say that it is God punishing the people, but the simple truth is that the evil we pursue will rise up and strike us down. This is true on a personal level. And this is true on a national (or even worldwide) level. Yea, thou shalt go forth from him, and thine hands upon thine head: for the LORD hath rejected thy confidences, and thou shalt not prosper in them. (Jer 2:37) Many will trust in their own wicked ways, and in the powers of Hell which they serve. But, in the end, they are led captive at the will of evil men and spiritual wickedness, and they will find only bitterness and destruction.

 

Men will do the “Evil Thing” and pursue it. Men will engage in wickedness and follow after it. And then, when the evil is brought close, and when the wickedness has infiltrated our lives and the core of our societies – then, the powers of the devil and of Hell will bring us to our knees, and will utterly destroy us!And I will turn your feasts into mourning, and all your songs into lamentation; and I will bring up sackcloth upon all loins, and baldness upon every head; and I will make it as the mourning of an only son, and the end thereof as a bitter day. (Amos 8:10)

 

Many nations and people have forsaken God, and gone after evil and wickedness. There will be no widespread happiness among such a people, as the idolatrous Nation of Judah in the time of Jeremiah. Instead, we, the peoples of this world, need the Lord God – the very God that the societies of men have constantly sought to destroy and remove from our lives. We need Him as personal and national Saviour and God.Happy is that people, that is in such a case: yea, happy is that people, whose God is the LORD. (Ps 144:15)

 

Men spend their time and their efforts – sometimes their entire lives – seeking to deny God, forsake His Law, and erase the fear of God from their consciences. And yet, in the end, they will find that the evil that they pursue is also their destruction, and without the God that they have forsaken, there is no hope for their salvation, and there is no rescue from the clutches of Hell, and there is no remedy for their spiritual sickness and their eternal death! The Scriptures teach us that the people of this earth will be defenseless before the strength of evil – without God there is no strength to resist evil, nor is there any desire to do that which is right.

 

What a bitterness! What a bitter conclusion to the lives of wicked men! And yet, there is still hope – there is always hope, in Jesus Christ. We need to share the Gospel with the wicked, the lost, and the dying. Perhaps, the Lord will still save some, and He will rescue them from the gall of bitterness. Where there is no vision, the people perish: but he that keepeth the law, happy is he. (Prov 29:18)

 

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