“I beheld the earth, and, lo, [it was] without form, and void; and the heavens, and they [had] no light,” Jeremiah 4:23.
The word translated ‘earth’ (ץרא ‘erets eh’– rets) is translated as ‘land’ twice as many times as it is ‘earth’ in the Old Testament.
I believe that here it is not a reference to the global earth but the land of Israel. It is possible the Authorised Version translators were influenced to use the word ‘earth’ rather than ‘land’ because of the similarity to the words of Genesis 1:2. “And the earth was without form, and void; and darkness [was] upon the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God moved upon the face of the waters,” Genesis 1:2.
I believe the context would confirm that the Lord is talking about the ‘global earth’ in Genesis 1:2 whereas, in Jeremiah 4, it is the land that is spoken of. In chapter 4, the Hebrew word, ץרא, is translated as land in verses 5, 7, 20, 23, 27. The context clearly indicates that it is the land of Israel that is spoken of.
Therefore, understanding that our text is referring to Israel, we see the consequences which follow the Lord’s withdrawal of His presence and power from a people.
In Genesis 1:3, the formlessness of the earth ended when the Spirit of God began to move and His voice was heard.
I. From this we may conclude that a withdrawal of the moving of God by His Word and His Spirit results in formlessness, voidness.
As Matthew Henry says: “In a graceless soul, one that is not born again, there is disorder, confusion, and every evil work: it is empty of all good, for it is without God; it is dark, it is darkness itself: this is our condition by nature, until Almighty grace works a change in us.”
This explains the spiritual and moral barrenness that rules in the lives of those into whose hearts the gospel light has not shined.
It is of course the chief objective of the devil to stop the shining of the gospel light into hearts. “But if our gospel be hid, it is hid to them that are lost: In whom the god of this world hath blinded the minds of them which believe not, lest the light of the glorious gospel of Christ, who is the image of God, should shine unto them,” 2 Corinthians 4:3-4.
As the Lord Jesus transformed the creation that was formless and void by His power, so He in like manner changes the poor sinner. “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. The same was in the beginning with God. All things were made by him; and without him was not any thing made that was made. In him was life; and the life was the light of men,” John 1:1-4.
What the Saviour wrought upon the physical world, He, in like manner, works within the soul of the repentant sinner who believes the gospel. The work of regeneration is a work of creation. “A new heart also will I give you, and a new spirit will I put within you: and I will take away the stony heart out of your flesh, and I will give you an heart of flesh,” Ezekiel 36:26. This is the result of Christ the Creator working by His grace in the heart of the sinner.
Those parts of the world where there is no gospel light are places of a moral void and rampant wickedness! “The dark places of the earth are full of the habitations of cruelty,” Psalm 74:20.
None can have failed to note the news reports of floggings, the ‘honour killings’, evil hardships endured by the weak, the young, the helpless in lands and regions where gospel light does not burn brightly. I am not merely referring to heathen lands per se, but include the reports of these dreadful happenings in this United Kingdom! Almost daily it seems we hear of the murder of infants by those purporting to be their parents. Husbands murder wives and wives murder husbands.
This moral void comes from a lack of gospel light.
II. It is to the utter shame of any nation where once the gospel was proclaimed for it to be reduced to a state of moral formlessness and voidness.
Few regions, if indeed any outside of Israel itself, have enjoyed the spiritual privileges of the British Isles. Here in Ireland, the witness of the gospel can be traced back to the days of Patrick in the fifth century, Indeed, it is likely that it had received the gospel in the late first century or the early part of the second. Sadly, the departure from God’s truth which followed the death of the apostles and those who followed after, as was prophesied by Paul (Acts 20:28-30) impacted upon Ireland and it was steeped in considerable darkness when Patrick was sent of God some 250 years later. However, I believe that I am correct in saying that even in the darkest times that came upon Ireland in the centuries that followed, there remained a spark of gospel truth until the mighty times of blessing, particularly in the north eastern parts of the island, in the 17th, 18th, 19th and 20th centuries.
Yet look at this island and the whole of the British Isles today!
The murder of the unborn is legalised, right up to the time of birth, if the utterly godless pro-abortion campaigners have their way!
The abomination of sodomy is legalised, promoted, kowtowed to by ‘the great and the good’ (in the eyes of men) if I can so term them.
The Sabbath is utterly desecrated and forgotten and is but one evidence of demise of the remnants of true Bible religion in our land! Church buildings, filled to hear the gospel not that long ago, now are used as industrial premises or renovated as private homes. There is even an old Methodist church building being used as a nightclub in the north of England. If I recall correctly, to add insult to injury, they have retained the church name upon the stonework of the building!
What churches remain active and preach the gospel in its fulness complain of the dwindling numbers and the decline in zeal amongst those that remain. Are not these the signs the Saviour referred to in Matthew 24:12? “And because iniquity shall abound, the love of many shall wax cold.”
I think they are!
Adultery and fornication are embraced as utterly acceptable by society as is demonstrated in the lives of parliamentarians such as our Prime Minister, Boris Johnston. We are fast becoming what Greece and Rome and Babylon were at the depths of their wickedness.
Brutishness, born of drug-taking and boozing, dominates the streets of the nation. Neither the aged nor the vulnerable are safe, even in the hours of daylight!
“[There is] a generation [that] curseth their father, and doth not bless their mother,” Proverbs 30:11. It is with us today!
Buffoons and dullards are deemed ‘celebrities’ to be swooned over, emulated and heeded as the very fountainheads of wisdom, of decorum and sartorial elegance!
The recent displays of the most unseemly behaviour by the millions of fans of football, male and female, gave a full revelation to the empty-headed stupidity that has ensnared and enslaved the nation.
There is a blindness to all things spiritual and eternal today. In the midst of the unparalleled consequences of the Covid-19 pandemic, the Lord has never even been given a mention, not even by the so-called ’spiritual’ leaders of the nation!
“There is no fear of God before their eyes,” Romans 3:18. Look back to the beginning of the passage that ends with verse 18 and see what Paul wrote under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit. “As it is written, There is none righteous, no, not one,” Romans 3:10. That explains the behaviour, the going ‘out of the way’ (verse 12) by the nation.
Is that not true of our land? And it all is the fruit of the abandoning of the truth of the gospel by a people who once rejoiced in its light!
III. All this has been foretold in God’s Word.
It is indeed ironic that the denial of God and the deriding of His Word turn out to be the firmest proofs of its veracity, its trustworthiness!
When the Lord Jesus was rejected by the leaders of the Jewish nation as a fraud and a charlatan, a deceiver and false prophet, some 2000 years ago, the rejection by the Jewish leaders disproved their reprehensible allegations and underscored the genuineness of Christ’s claims to be the Son of God and the long promised Messiah.
Some time before His crucifixion, the Saviour said to His disciples: “I speak not of you all: I know whom I have chosen: but that the scripture may be fulfilled, He that eateth bread with me hath lifted up his heel against me. Now I tell you before it come, that, when it is come to pass, ye may believe that I am [he],” John 13:18-19. He repeats this assertion again. “Ye have heard how I said unto you, I go away, and come [again] unto you. If ye loved me, ye would rejoice, because I said, I go unto the Father: for my Father is greater than I. And now I have told you before it come to pass, that, when it is come to pass, ye might believe,” John 14:28-29. Again, He informs them of His rejection by the nation and the evidence of His divinity and omniscience. “These things have I spoken unto you, that ye should not be offended. They shall put you out of the synagogues: yea, the time cometh, that whosoever killeth you will think that he doeth God service. And these things will they do unto you, because they have not known the Father, nor me. But these things have I told you, that when the time shall come, ye may remember that I told you of them. And these things I said not unto you at the beginning, because I was with you.” John 16:1-4.
So, we repeat, the very rejection of Christ as an imposter only emphasised the genuineness of His claims.
In like manner, the Bible’s clear prophecies of the terrible character of the days that are overtaking us — the apostasy from the truth of God, the denial of the existence of the Almighty, the abandonment of the morality instituted in former times by the influence of the gospel on the nation, the outbreak of ‘man’s inhumanity to man’ — all go to prove the authenticity and faithfulness of God’s Word.
Heed these words.
“Now the Spirit speaketh expressly, that in the latter times some shall depart from the faith, giving heed to seducing spirits, and doctrines of devils; speaking lies in hypocrisy; having their conscience seared with a hot iron; forbidding to marry, [and commanding] to abstain from meats, which God hath created to be received with thanksgiving of them which believe and know the truth,” 1 Timothy 4:1-3.
“This know also, that in the last days perilous times shall come. For men shall be lovers of their own selves, covetous, boasters, proud, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, unthankful, unholy, without natural affection, trucebreakers, false accusers, incontinent, fierce, despisers of those that are good, traitors, heady, highminded, lovers of pleasures more than lovers of God; having a form of godliness, but denying the power thereof: from such turn away,” 2 Timothy 3:1-5.
“Knowing this first, that there shall come in the last days scoffers, walking after their own lusts, and saying, Where is the promise of his coming? for since the fathers fell asleep, all things continue as [they were] from the beginning of the creation. For this they willingly are ignorant of, that by the word of God the heavens were of old, and the earth standing out of the water and in the water: whereby the world that then was, being overflowed with water, perished: but the heavens and the earth, which are now, by the same word are kept in store, reserved unto fire against the day of judgment and perdition of ungodly men. But, beloved, be not ignorant of this one thing, that one day [is] with the Lord as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day,” 2 Peter 3:3-8.
The very darkening of the spiritual skies above our heads declares the trustworthiness of God’s Word and by believing and obeying it we are warned and prepared for the final days of wickedness, the rise of the Antichrist and the soon return of the Lord Jesus in power and great glory.
Oh be aware of these things, Christian, and walk in the light of God lest you stumble in the darkness overtaking mankind.
Rev Ivan Foster (Rtd)
9th July 2021.