Death Sins

So, Jeremiah, do not pray for these people. Do not cry out to Me or petition me on their behalf. Do not plead with Me to save them. For I will not listen to them when they call out to Me for help when disaster strikes them. – Jeremiah 11:14

I’m working my way through Jeremiah these days. It’s interesting, to say the least.

Jeremiah was told to reminded the people that the Mosaic Covenant was still in effect and that their refusal to repent meant their certain doom. They would cry out to Jehovah to save them, and He would not listen (v11). They would then run to false gods for salvation, but their gods (who couldn’t hear anyway) wouldn’t save them (v12).

And in all of this, Jeremiah was not to pray for them either, because God wouldn’t listen to righteous Jeremiah praying for the salvation of these wicked people. (v14)

Yikes! Don’t pray for the wicked to not be destroyed?? Where does that come from?

In the Beginning…

If we flip back to Genesis, oddly enough, we’ll see this same thing going on there too.

In Genesis 18, the Pre-Incarnate Christ is eating with Abraham, and give him the promise of Isaac being born the following year. After the meal, the Lord looks down at Sodom and Gomorrah and says something rather odd:

Then the LORD said, “Should I hide from Abraham what I am about to do? After all, Abraham will surely become a great and powerful nation, and all the nations on the earth will pronounce blessings on one another using his name. I have chosen him so that he may command his children and his household after him to keep the way of the LORD by doing what is right and just. Then the LORD will give to Abraham what he promised him.” (Gen 18:17-19 )

I’ve always wondered why Jesus would say that, but in chewing on it (eg, re-reading it), I see that the point of revealing to Abe that He was about to destroy Sodom & Gomorrah was so that Abraham may command his children and his household after him to keep the way of the Lord by doing what is right and just. In other words, God was going to demonstrate to Abe what He does about wickedness.

The interesting thing here is that Abe’s response is just like what we see in Jeremiah! He doesn’t pray that God would not destroy the wicked – he prays that God would not destroy the righteous with the unrighteous:

Abraham approached and said, “Will you sweep away the godly along with the wicked?” (Gen 18:23 )

In the negotiation that ensues, Jesus eventually promises that He will not destroy Sodom & Gomorrah if there are just 10 righteous people there. (Surely Abe knows that there are not 10 righteous people, so I’m sure he’s praying that Lot will be rescued.)

The common connection is this: both Abraham and Jeremiah do not pray for the salvation of wicked people for whom divine judgment has been promised.

Question for us: is this true today? Are we to pray for the salvation of people for whom divine judgment has been promised?

A New Command…

The other day, I mentioned Jeremiah 11 to a friend of mine, talking about how weird it was that God would forbid His prophet from praying for these people. My friend nodded his head and quoted 1 John 5:16-17. He memorizes a lot.

If anyone sees his fellow Christian committing a sin not resulting in death, he should ask, and God will grant life to the person who commits a sin not resulting in death. There is a sin resulting in death. I do not say that he should ask about that. All unrighteousness is sin, but there is sin not resulting in death. (1John 5:16-17 )

I had completely forgotten about this verse because it seems weird. My usual way of treating weird verses is to make a mental note of it, skip it and move on. Yet, here this verse is teaching the same thing we see Abraham and Jeremiah doing. So we can’t say “well, that’s in the OT”, or “But Jesus taught differently”. That would simply not be the case. These 3 instances demonstrate a consistency across the entire Bible – before, during and after the Mosaic Law.

Which means that it applies here and now, and that I (we!) are not to pray for people who have “sin resulting in death”.

Go and Do Likewise

Is there a reason why we don’t teach this Biblical principle?

What is a “sin resulting in death”? (I shudder to think, but .. I’m not sure!) Should I, for example, pray for my cousin who claims to be a Christian, but has recently come out of the closet and is now openly gay ..and still claims to be a Christian? (See 1 Cor 5 & 6 if you don’t think this is problematic). How about a friend who claims to be a believer but gambles his paycheck away, neglecting his family? How about an entire nation that has turned its back on God and refuses to incorporate Him into any of their thinking?

Does all of this dovetail with “shaking the dust off our sandals”? (another Biblical concept that modern Christians reject)

Honestly, I’m quite curious as to how a God-fearing believer should put all this together. It’d be good if we had regular teaching on this from our pulpits.

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1 comment to Death Sins

  • I very much appreciate you writing about Biblical concepts that modern (post-evangelical) “Christians” reject. A disturbing but frequent occurrence (if not the norm) in modern churches is to only focus on the happy aspects of the Bible and ignore the rest. This obviously creates a very skewed view of who God is and how He demands to recognized, defined, and worshipped. The God of the Bible is a jealous God, so says the Bible. His intolerance to getting Him wrong is displayed throughout the Bible. If the God of the Bible is being skewed to make him palatable to modern churches, the god (small g intended) being worshipped is not the God of the Bible, but a god made in man’s own image. Is that part of the “sin resulting in death”? I believe it is, and the sermon on the mount found in the book of Matthew would seem to concur.

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