The harvest is past, the summer is ended, and we are not saved. (Jeremiah 8:20, ESV)
Through the Bible: Jeremiah 7-9
Preachers can be the worst at making a point and then cherry picking a Bible verse that seems to support their point. I can say this because I’m a preacher, and I’ve definitely been guilty of the same thing.
Years ago, when I was working for a Christian publisher, a prominent pastor was the guest preacher for our employee chapel service. This particular pastor had developed a very effective evangelism strategy, and had partnered with our company to publish and distribute the strategy.
In his sermon he was passionate and convicting, and his heart for the lost was evident. He used Jeremiah 8:20 to paint a picture of all our lost friends and neighbors wondering why we haven’t shared the gospel with them. “They’re all looking at us and pleading,” he said, his voice trembling. “‘The harvest has passed. The summer has ended. And still, we are not saved.’”
It was powerful and convicting. Motivating and compelling. It was everything you would want from a sermon, except for one thing:
It wasn’t biblical.
Jeremiah 8:20 is not about the lost crying out to us that they aren’t saved. Jeremiah was mourning for God’s people who, because of their idolatry, were in exile. They had bought into false prophets such as Hananiah who had promised the exile would only last two years (see Jeremiah 28:3). So Jeremiah 8:20 is about the disobedient children of God who were complaining about still being in exile.
I know the guy meant well. And I know that the point he was making is valid. People really are desperate for the Gospel.
But we aren’t serving the Gospel if we twist and manipulate its very words. The end doesn’t justify the means. The Bible can never mean what it never meant.
That’s why what you are doing in this reading challenge is so very important. You are learning to “rightly handle the word of truth” (1 Timothy 2:15). Stay with it! And no matter how charismatic or engaging a Bible teacher or preacher is, don’t just take his or her word about what the Bible says. Do the hard work of studying it for yourself.
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