Friday, May 2, 2014

CCLXI – Lamentations

The very word “Lamentations” comes from the word “lament” which means to mourn or grieve.  Unfortunately, grief is a part of life.  Only a very few escape grief throughout their entire lives.  In fact I would say that only those whose lives have been shortened would be able to avoid this awful emotion we call grief.  This book is devoted entirely to grief and ways to express it.  The cause of the grief expressed in Lamentations is the fall of the once great nation of Judah and the destruction of the Temple in Jerusalem.  Added to that is the captivity, at which time almost all the citizens of Judah were taken off to be slaves in the far-away land of Babylon.

Traditional among theologians is the acceptance of Jeremiah as having authored the entire book.  It makes sense that this “weeping prophet” would have had the mindset to express such thoughts on paper.  Also, we know that Jeremiah lived through the captivity and the sad events leading up to it.  Only an eye witness to all of these events would be able to document them with such detail and emotion.

I have mentioned before that I’m not “wired” in such a way to be a lover of poetry.  However, I understand its value.  The book of Lamentations is one of the more lengthy poems in the Bible.  It is unique in that it is written entirely in poetry form.  We have discussed back in the Book of Psalms what an acrostic poem is.  {It’s a poem using all of the letters in the Hebrew alphabet in proper sequence.}  The Hebrew alphabet has twenty-two letters, therefore each chapter contains twenty-two verses (except chapter 3, which contains twenty-six verses.  I cannot explain that).  Lamentations was written around 600 BC.  During this particular time period, the acrostic poetry form of writing was used to express completeness which is why all letters of the alphabet was used.  Also, using this form of poetry, the content was easier to memorize.

This is not a long book and it is interesting (howbeit somewhat depressing) to read in one sitting.  Not many sermons are preached out of this book, although perhaps there should be, considering my opening paragraph.

Chapter 1  -  Jerusalem

When Jeremiah was first called as God’s spokesman about forty years ago, Jerusalem was a thriving city, full of life.  It was during Josiah’s reign and Josiah was instituting reform in Judah which brought the city to an even livelier place.  And, just like all Judeans, Jeremiah was aware of what Jerusalem was during Solomon’s reign, when it was the jewel of the entire world.  In the first chapter Jeremiah is asking “How can this happen?”  He couldn’t express just how amazing such a transformation was as he was describing the desolation he was witnessing.  He was very good at describing it in this chapter, giving us as the readers a vivid picture of what it looked like.  He reflects frequently of the “old days”, referring to festivals and commerce.  There were no signs of those things any more.

Chapter 2  -  The Explanation

This chapter continues on about the desolation of Jerusalem, then tries to explain why.  We see that God was upset with Jerusalem and has cast upon it exactly what it deserved.  Again mentioning in verse 14 that even after their captivity the citizens did not think they had ever done anything wrong.  It also speaks of neighboring nations ridiculing Jerusalem (vss 15-16).  This speaks of Jerusalem being a witness to the world for God, but in the negative, rather than the positive sense.

Chapter 3  -  Jeremiah Weeps

This chapter is the longest poem in whole book.  It dedicated three verses for each Hebrew letter.  In this poem Jeremiah seems to be thinking out loud and talking mostly about himself and how he has personally been affected.  He even mentions again about that particularly fearful time in his life when he was threatened with being put to death (vs 25>).

Chapter 4 – Religious Leaders

This chapter seems to concentrate on the Priests and Prophets of the two latest generations of Judeans.  They were clearly at fault for being silent about the apostasy and the iniquitous lifestyle that they actually seemed to encourage.

Chapter 5  -  Jeremiah’s Prayer

Take a moment and read this final chapter in this book.  Jeremiah is praying.  You can tell how knowledgeable he is about God and How God thinks.  He is simply making an appeal to God for Him to cool His anger.  But I find it interesting that Jeremiah is stating his prayer in such a way that he is less than confident that it will make much difference.  {Remember, Jeremiah knows that God has already sentenced Israel to seventy years of captivity.

This singe post begins and concludes our study of Lamentations.  I like Jeremiah and have enjoyed learning a bit more about him.  In the next post we will begin the Book of Ezekiel.

Thursday, May 1, 2014

CCLX - Think on These Things

As I mentioned before, periodically I will send a list of things for you to think on as a review of what we've covered thus far.  If you are unable to bring to mind significant thoughts concerning each of these, you might want to scan the pertinent blog posting.  This list will get lengthy as we proceed through our study.  Also helpful is the Timeline in post CXCI.

The Creation
Adam and Eve
The Fall
Cain Kills Abel
Noah and the Ark
Noah's Son:  Shem, Ham, and Japheth
Tower of Babel
Sodom and Gomorrah
Isaac Is Born
Hagar and Ishmael
Abraham Tested
Isaac and Rebekah
Jacob and Esau
Stolen Birthright
Jacob's Ladder
The twelve sons of Jacob = Israel
Joseph the Dreamer
Joseph and Potifer's Wife  =  Prison
Cupbearer and Baker
Joseph and Pharaoh
Jacob's Son's Reunite
Israel Goes to Egypt
400 Years of Slavery in Egypt
Moses is Born
God Commissions Moses
Ten Plagues of Egypt
The Exodus
Israel Through the Wilderness
The Ten Commandments
The Tabernacle
The Ark of the Covenant
The Golden Calf
Levitican Law
Forty Years in the Wilderness
Twelve Spies sent to Canaan
Moses Gives Final Sermons
Joshua Replaces Moses as Leader of Israel
Rahab the Canaanite Prostitute
Crossing the Jordan; 12 Stones
Battle of Jericho
Land Allotments for the 12 Tribes
Baal and Ashteroth
Gideon Lays Out the Fleece
Samson and Delilah
Ruth and Boaz
Hannah Dedicates Samuel
Saul - Israel's First King
David and Goliath
Jonathan, David's Friend
The Ark Returns to Jerusalem
David and Bathsheba
Solomon Crowned King
The Temple in Jerusalem
Rehoboam and Jeroboam
Leaders Matter
The Ungodly Kings of Israel
The Godly Kings of Judah
The Fall of Israel to Assyria
The Fall of Judah
The Three Groups Return and Rebuild Jerusalem
Queen Esther and Mordecai
Job Afflicted by Satan
Psalm 23
Proverbs – Wise Sayings and Aphorisms
Ecclesiastes – Soloman’s dark years
Isaiah Foretells the Coming of the Messiah
Jeremiah - The Weeping Prophet

Saturday, April 26, 2014

CCLIX – Finishing Jeremiah (Chapters 46-52)

Jeremiah’s book concludes with judgments (some rather lengthy) against nations that were influential in the History of Israel.  There are ten altogether, some are nations and others are groups or clans of people.  The one dominant fact out of this entire passage is that no nation or person is outside the sovereignty of God.  And also, God’s memory is absolutely perfect.  He remembers everything.  Also important is that back in the very first chapter of Jeremiah, in the 5th verse, God said, “I appoint you a prophet to the nations”.  Notice the word “nations” is plural.

Chapter 46 – Egypt

He starts with the Historically powerful nation of Egypt, and actually calls out Pharaoh Necho by name.  Remember in the last post I commented about God referring to Nebuchadnezzar as his servant.  He will actually name the Babylonian king many times in this passage.  Again, Nebuchadnezzar is merely a vessel through which God achieves His purposes.  God refers to Egypt and the surrounding nation as His adversaries.  (This was probably due to a History of them rejecting the God of Israel in favor of their multitude of pagan gods.)  In verse 9 He seems to be rallying troops of neighboring nations to assist Egypt in their defense against the Babylonians, knowing it will be a futile effort.  He even mentions their chariots, which were always the pride of their military.  In verse 6 He says that “the swift cannot flee nor the strong escape”.  God is pronouncing to them that their bitter defeat is an absolute certainty.  Jeremiah uses poetry to describe Egypt’s fall from their self-imagined pedestal.

Chapter 47 – The Philistines

The Philistines have been a thorn in the side of Israel (they still are) since Moses led the exodus from Egypt.  The Philistines occupied the land where modern-day Israel lies.  Kings Saul and David were constantly attacked by the Philistines, not to mention Samson and other judges before them.

Chapter 48 – Moab

A brief History of the Moabites.  These people were of course the descendants of Moab.  Moab was born under unholy circumstances.  His father was Lot, the nephew of the great patriarch Abraham.  After Lot escaped Sodom and Gomorrah he was left with only daughters.  The two daughters, who wanted children to carry the blood line, got their father intoxicated, and had sex with him.  The oldest daughter became pregnant by her father and she had a son.  This son of Lot and Lot’s daughter was Moab.  The descendants of Moab became a large clan referred to as the Moabites, who occupied a strip of land located in modern-day Jordan.  The Moabites had always been contentious and cruel toward the Israelites.  Evidently the Moabites were a proud and haughty people, as we have seen in several places in the Scripture the term “the pride of Moab”.  This entire chapter (also in poetic form) speaks to the fate of Moab.

Chapter 49 – Other Clans and Nations

In the first 6 verses, God pronounces judgment on the Ammonites.  These Ammonites were located just to the north of the Moabites.  Their story is similar to that of Moab.  The oldest daughter gave birth to Moab.  The younger of Lot’s two daughters gave birth to Ben-Ammi, the father of the large clan referred to as the Ammonites.  {The modern-day capital city of Jordan was long ago named Amman.}  The Ammonites were particularly evil mostly due to their chief pagan god, Molek (remember him? the only way they thought they could please Molek was to burn their children upon his altar).  The Ammonites were then, as today, an enemy of Israel.

Verses 7-22 are concerning Edom.  The Edomites are all descendants of Esau.  They too were unkind to Moses during the exodus, and forced Moses and the Israelites to turn south, way out of their way to the Promised Land.  The Edomites were a military-minded people, fancying themselves as superior warriors.  But they were no match for what God was about to inflict upon them.

Verses 23-27 speak to Damascus.  Damascus was the capital of Syria (still is), therefore when God speaks of Damascus, He is speaking of all of Syria.  Syria had become a shell of what it once was, which was powerful and prosperous.

Verses 28-33 refers to Kedar and Hazor.  Kedar was a nomadic Arabian tribe also known as “the men of the east”.  There is not much History written about Hazor, but we are to assume they were also nomadic because verse 31 mentions them both as being like “cities without gates or bars”, which suggests mobile tents for dwellings.

Verses 34-39 tell of Elam.  Elam was the son of Shem who was the son of Noah.  Elam settled in an area in the southern portion of the modern-day nations of Iran and Iraq.   They were considerably east of Judah and even east of Babylon.  It is suggested that they were considered mighty warriors, but they are not mentioned throughout the Old Testament as frequently as many of Israel’s enemies.

Chapter 50 and 51 – Babylon

Jeremiah dedicates these one hundred and ten verses to Babylon and God’s judgment against it.  Heretofore, God was using Nebuchadnezzar and his army to exact punishment on many nations, including Judah.  But now He is pronouncing judgment on Babylon itself.  Great detail is given (again in poetic form) to Babylon’s history of cruelty and how they will fall as a nation.  Jeremiah’s prophesy will be fulfilled quickly.  As powerful as the Babylonian empire was, it only lasted about seventy years, as it was easily destroyed by Cyrus and the Persians.

Chapter 52 – Review

This is unusual.  This is the last chapter in the book of Jeremiah, and in it he wrote a review of his ministry, basically in chronological order.  From a standpoint of History, it is a great overview.  This appropriately concludes our study of Jeremiah, “the weeping prophet”.

Next Post - Lamentations  

Friday, April 25, 2014

CCLVIII – Jeremiah 40-45

These six chapters tell (mostly in chronological order) of the continued ministry of Jeremiah after the captivity took place.

As we saw in chapter 39, Jerusalem has fallen at the hands of the cruel Babylonians, just like Jeremiah has been prophesying for the past twenty-five years.  These six chapters for today’s post tell the story of Jeremiah and a small group of Israelites who were left in Jerusalem after the fall, which I find to be rather interesting reading.  {I usually am more interested in a recording of Historical facts which are stated in chronological order.  Or perhaps it’s just easier for me.}

Chapter 40

The first six verses tell an interesting story.  Leading the invasion and captivity of the people of Jerusalem was the Babylonian military leader named Nebuzaradan.  Nebuzaradan seemed to take a special interest in Jeremiah.  This is not difficult to understand.  Jeremiah was imprisoned in terrible conditions when Nebuzaradan discovered him.  The Babylonian figured that if Jeremiah was so hated by Judah’s government then there must be some redeeming qualities to the man.  Also, Nebuzaradan must have held in his heart a measure of respect for Jeremiah as a man of God.  As a gesture of leniency, Nebuzaradan gave Jeremiah the choice of going to Babylon with the people of Judah or remaining in Jerusalem, which would be under Babylonian rule.  Nebuzaradan also promised Jeremiah that if he chose to go to Babylon, Nebuzaradan would see to it that he would be taken good care of, rather than be treated like a slave.  The choice Jeremiah had was a difficult one.  He chose to remain in Jerusalem.

Verses 7-12 give us a brief background of a man named Gedaliah.  He was a member of a prominent Judean family and a good friend to Jeremiah.  He was generally well liked by the people of Judah.  Nebuchadnezzar appointed Gedaliah governor of Judah.  Before and during the invasion, many Judeans escaped and hid in the outlying areas around Judah.  Gedaliah encouraged all Judeans to return to their country, and to cooperate with the Babylonian government.  Gedaliah knew that any resistance could only result in further violence and bloodshed.

Starting in verse 13 and continuing on into through the 3rd verse in chapter 41, we see the story of a man named Ishmael plotting and assassinating Gedaliah.  It was a set-up, brought on by what I would consider a combination of jealousy toward Gedaliah and hatred for the Babylonians.  Gedaliah had served as governor for about five years, and had done what appears to have been a good job under strange and difficult circumstances. 

41:4-18  -  Violence, Anarchy, and Chaos

Following the death of Gedaliah at the hands of Ishmael, things got really bad.  Ishmael became drunk with power after he assassinated the governor.  He went on to murder seventy of the eighty religious Judeans on a pilgrimage.  Ishmael was evil and bloodthirsty.  He appointed himself as the leader to replace Gedaliah.  A man named Johanan gathered a group of Judeans to rebel against Ishmael.  Johanan’s group was successful in destroying the new evil leadership but Ishmael escaped.  So now Johanan was considered the new leader of the Judeans who were left in the Promised Land.

Chapter 42 – Johanan’s Hasty Decision

As we have just seen, a lot has happened in a very short period of time.  Babylon’s appointed governor Gedaliah has been assassinated.  Chaos has ensued.  The remaining Judeans have appointed their own leader without the approval by the Babylonians.  Johanan knew that it was just a matter of time before the Babylonians would send troops to “clean house” and reestablish order.  Johanan thought the best way to avoid what he anticipated as inevitable punishment, was to flee from Jerusalem.  And the only place that seemed safe was Egypt.  However, as this passage points out, God through Jeremiah did not want them to leave Judah.  But by the time Jeremiah could share this with them, they had already begun their trip south, in a hurry to escape before the Babylonians could get to Jerusalem.  As we see in verse 7, Jeremiah had been seeking the Lord’s guidance for ten days before he received a clear understanding of God’s will.  Even though it was late coming, it was still God’s will.  When Jeremiah tried to get the people to turn back to Judah he met with strong resistance.

Chapter 43 – Prophecy of Military Invasion of Egypt

Although the strong aggressive military powers in the region have come and gone, each wreaking their own flavor of havoc, none have really threatened to bother Egypt.  This was due to two reasons.  Firstly, Egypt was far away to the southwest and never posed serious threats to any region to the north east.  Secondly, Egypt was always known as strong military power with the most sophisticated weaponry.  Therefore most of the dominant powers left them alone.  This is probably the most compelling reason that Johanan chose Egypt as the location in which to hide from the Babylonians.  Suddenly and unexpectedly God spoke through Jeremiah that the mighty land of Egypt was going to be conquered by the Babylonians.  This came as a shock to all hearers of Jeremiah’s words.  In fact, practically nobody believed him.  I need to clear up verses 10-11.  God referred to Nebuchadnezzar as His servant.  This does not mean that the Babylonian king was a Godly man.  He certainly was not.  But he was a vessel through which God accomplished His purpose, not only for Judah, but for Egypt as well.  {I have witnessed in my life many times that God used ungodly people through which to bless His faithful servants.

Chapter 44 – Israelites Again Condemned for Idolatry

In this chapter Jeremiah’s book seems to abruptly shift as it has many times before.  He is speaking to the Jews who have been living in Egypt’s territory.  These Jews have assimilated to Egypt and their gods.  They seem to have forgotten about their Creator and their worship practices have become an abomination to the Lord.  These people made a pitiful attempt to rationalize their behavior, which only made God more determined to bring them to account, which He did.

Chapter 45 – Baruch

Remember Baruch?  We read about him in chapter 36.  He was Jeremiah’s scribe who documented in writing all of God’s prophesies during a twenty-five year period.  This very short chapter is dedicated to Baruch, who has found himself in a state of fatigue, fear, depression, and loneliness.  God loved Baruch and wanted to help him.  God encouraged Baruch to continue to run the good race.  God went on to tell Baruch that He would not only protect him from those who threatened violence, but assured him he would accomplish great things.

Next Post – Finishing Jeremiah

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

CCLVII – Jeremiah 35-39

There is not a particular theme to this set of chapters that we will look at in this post.  The subjects change abruptly.

Chapter 35 – The Rechabites

I like this story about the Rechabites.  You have probably never heard of the Rechabites because I believe this short chapter in the middle of the book of Jeremiah is the only place in the Bible that says anything about them.  We will find out that God certainly respects their attitude about their ancestors.  The Rechabites were a group of people who were all descendants of Rechab and his son Jonadab.  Jonadab had instructed all of his people that they were not to drink wine, build houses, sow seeds, nor plant vineyards.  And all of these people strictly obeyed the rules handed down throughout the generations.  They were a nomadic people, pitching their tents wherever the weather and economy lead them.  Due to the threat of the Babylonians at this time, the Rechabites had migrated temporarily to Jerusalem as it seemed to offer protection as a fortified city.  So God told Jeremiah to invite the Rechabites to the Temple, and into one of the chambers.  When they were settled in that room, Jeremiah offered them wine.  They respectfully declined, stating their commitment to the laws of their ancestors.  Although Jeremiah might have been taken aback by their rejection of his hospitality, God was quick to use this as an example to His people in Judah.  God showed respect for these Rechabites who obeyed their ancestors and proclaimed that "if they could obey their ancestors, why can’t the Israelites?"  Moses handed down the law in no uncertain terms and the people refused to honor it.  Refusing to honor God’s laws is disrespecting the law and it’s Giver.  He goes on to spell out some of the punishment that the people were to suffer as a result of their disobedience.

Chapter 36 – The Scrolls and Jehoiakim

This is one of the most revered chapters in the entire Old Testament.  In this is an account of God instructing that all of the words he gave Jeremiah were to be put in writing for future generations.  His words were to be eternal.  {We know that Moses had documented the Law, but we have no evidence that any prophecies were placed on paper word-for-word as it came from God.}  In verse 1 it gives a specific date in time of this occurrence.  This was an eventful year.  Jeremiah had been active in his ministry for about twenty-five years.  This was also the year that Nebuchadnezzar became king of Babylon, and had immediately moved his military toward the south and defeated both the Egyptians and the Assyrians.  In verse 2 God instructed Jeremiah to take a scroll and record onto it everything that God had told him since he was first commissioned as God’s spokesman when Josiah was king of Judah.  {This is no small task, as God had spoken so much to Jeremiah during this twenty-five year span of time.  This scroll was probably a papyrus scroll imported from Egypt.  Most other scrolls were made of animal skins and were considerably smaller.  The Egyptians had perfected this process using papyrus, thus they could make scrolls as large as they wanted to.}  Jeremiah of course obeyed God’s instructions.  He called on his trusted scribe Baruch to write down the words Jeremiah was to recite to him.  {What an overwhelming task!  Twenty-five years worth!}  Note that after the scroll was completed, Jeremiah further instructed Baruch to take the scroll into the Temple and read it aloud.  Jeremiah was not allowed in the Temple, as he was banned for his pronouncements against the priests and other officials in the Temple.  Upon hearing of this reading in the Temple, several of the Temple’s hierarchy sent for Baruch to read it to them, which he did.  They were so taken by the words that they ordered it to be read to the king (Jehoiakim).  To make a long story short, the king burned the scroll out of pure disrespect for God and His prophet’s words.  God pronounced punishment on Jehoiakim that none of his sons would sit on the throne of Judah.

Chapter 37 – Jeremiah in Prison

As is often the case, we jump considerably forward in time as we begin this new chapter.  The time skips ten to fifteen years, as we see that Zedekiah has been appointed king by Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon.  Verse 2 states that the word of God has been totally ignored.  The Babylonians were about to enter Jerusalem to capture the entire city when suddenly they were diverted southward due to a resurgence of the Egyptian army.  The people of Jerusalem took this as a sign that God was delivering them, but God quickly warned them that this was a temporary diversion and the Babylonians would return, just as God had told them earlier.  In verses 11-16 is the account of the royal guards arresting Jeremiah on trumped-up charges of desertion to the enemy.  The following verses tell that king Zedekiah secretly sent for Jeremiah out of the dungeon where Jeremiah was imprisoned.  Unfortunately Jeremiah did not tell Zedekiah anything he wanted to hear.  But Zedekiah did honor Jeremiah’s request to be moved out of the dungeon.  Zedekiah ordered that he be placed in the courtyard and be given a piece of bread every day.

Chapter 38 – Jeremiah Cast into the Cistern

This chapter tells of many of the king’s court of officials who did not like Jeremiah because of what he was preaching.  King Zedekiah shows his weakness by being persuaded by these ungodly officials.  They cast Jeremiah into a cistern, which was worse than the dungeon.  (Later, Jeremiah would be rescued from that cistern by Ebed-melech the Ethiopian.)  But deep in Zedekiah’s heart, he knew that Jeremiah was a direct channel to God, and he continued to seek Jeremiah’s prayers.  Jeremiah would advise Zedekiah to surrender to Nebuchadnezzar, as God’s will was already set and Jerusalem’s capture was inevitable.  Jeremiah never changes his words to please Zedekiah and consequently he was returned to his prison.

Chapter 39 – Jerusalem Falls to the Babylonians

This chapter gives the sad account of the great city Jerusalem being besieged by the cruel Babylonians.  In verses 6 and 7 is the account of God’s warnings to Zedekiah being carried out as his sons were killed in the king’s presence, then his own eyes were put out.  The chapter gives graphic account of this invasion and at the end it tells of Jeremiah’s rescue by the Ethiopian as mentioned earlier.

Next Post – Jeremiah’s Ministry After the Fall

Monday, April 21, 2014

CCLVI – Jeremiah 30-34

Unfortunately for Jeremiah, the times and circumstances called for him to be somewhat of a prophet of gloom and doom for his people.  But he also had the opportunity to be a prophet of hope and happiness.  God had told Jeremiah that 1. Judah would be taken captive, 2. They would be held in captivity for seventy years, and 3. They would get to return to Judah and have an opportunity to have restored fellowship with God.  As mentioned before, Jeremiah uses a wide variety of writing styles, depending upon his particular message, his audience, his mood, and/or the circumstances of the moment.  In chapters 30 and 31 Jeremiah is speaking of the restoration, and he is writing in poetic form.  These two chapters plus the next two are considered Jeremiah’s finest writing and are commonly referred to by theologians as “Jeremiah’s Book of Consolation”.

 Chapters 30 and 31 – The Restoration of Israel

I would say Jeremiah is in a good mood when he penned this series of poems.  I say that because of the writing style and the subject which is God’s restoration of Israel back to the Promised Land.  As early as verse 3 we see God saying not "if", but “when” I will bring them back.  He goes on to say in verse 8 that the bonds of captivity and slavery will be broken.  In the next verse he says God will save you out of a “distant place”.  Additionally in chapter 30 God promises He will vindicate Israel by punishing their oppressors.  God assures them that they will be given a chance to become God’s special people again.  Chapter 31 is a continuation of God’s assurance of redemption.  He promises that “By His Hand”, they will return.  Although you might find chapter 31 a bit lengthy, it does cover quite a bit, and if you like poetry, you should find the reading enjoyable.

Chapter 32 – A Demonstration of Faith

An interesting chapter.  God instructs Jeremiah to purchase some land.  He bought land in his hometown of Anathoth.  One would consider it rather strange timing since all of Judah was about to be overrun by Babylonians.  That was according to Jeremiah’s own words of prophesy.  But Jeremiah was buying this land to demonstrate faith that God was going to bring His people back.

Chapter 33 – Continuing the Promise of Restoration

The first twelve verses speak of the restoration in a bit more detail, being more specific in God actually healing the land when the Israelites return.  He says he will restore the land to its former glory, replenishing the crops and herds, thus returning it to its former position of prosperity.  Then in the remaining verses of chapter 33, God speaks through Jeremiah of picking back up with the covenant between Him and Israel.  He goes on to speak of providing a righteous “Branch” from the Davidic lineage (Christ).

Chapter 34 – Warning to Zedekiah

We have concluded in chapter 33 Jeremiah’s Book of Consolation.  In chapter 34 we skip to a different time again.  Through forty years, God through Jeremiah warned five kings of Judah.  None besides Josiah took him seriously.  In the first seven verses of this chapter Jeremiah tells how he has warned Zedekiah repeatedly.  He told him that his fate and the fate of Judah was sealed.  Anything Zedekiah would choose to do at this point would not change Israel’s destiny.  {In 52:8-11 is recorded the tragedy that befell Zedekiah.  He was forced to witness the killing of his sons.  Then Zedekiah’s eyes were put out by the Babylonians as they were pillaging Jerusalem.}

I’ll end this post with somewhat of an unusual story told in verses 8-22 in chapter 34.  This seems to come out of the middle of nowhere.  Back in Exodus and Deuteronomy the Mosaic Law provided for the release of fellow Hebrew slaves.  However, apparently this law had been ignored for quite some time in the land of Judah and Israel.  I’m not certain what possessed Zedekiah to do this so suddenly, but he as king decreed that all manservants and maidservants were to be set free.  {I think Zedekiah was desperate to do something that might please God.  In fact, it did seem to have an impact because Nebuchadnezzar diverted his troops toward Egypt, giving Jerusalem relief.}  Then in verse 11 we see that the former slave owners immediately took back their slaves.  This made God angry beyond description.  He said in verse 16 that this action “profaned” the name of God.  {This little story is amazing when you think about the audacity of the Israelite leaders and slave owners, not to mention the king.  How God exercised so much patience is beyond me.  To immediately disobey one of God’s laws upon seeing Nebuchadnezzar diverting his troops would have been asking for trouble from God Himself, and they got it.}

Next post – Chapter 35

Friday, April 18, 2014

CCLV – Jeremiah 26-29

These chapters in Jeremiah will deal mainly with false prophets.  There have always been false prophets.  Even Moses dealt with false prophets and addressed the subject in Deuteronomy.  Jesus said in Matthew 7:15, “Beware of false prophets”.  The Apostle Paul warned about false apostles in II Corinthians 11:13.  Peter warned against them in II Peter 2:1.  I believe there are false prophets today.  They keep things confused.  I question anybody who claims to speak prophetically in the name of God.  We have the Holy Bible.  {I am not insisting that there will be no more prophets because I cannot possibly know that.  Nor can I articulate on paper the specific reasons I think this way.  However, when we get into the books of Corinthians and Ephesians I think I can promote a clearer understanding of my own thoughts and beliefs.}  Jeremiah had a difficult job and these false prophets made his job all the more difficult and dangerous.  This was a time in the History of God’s people when they needed to hear the truth, believe it, and repent in order to save themselves and their nation from total destruction.  Unfortunately, God’s message was unpleasant to hear.  They did not want to hear what God through Jeremiah had to say.  This gave the false prophets the opportunity to gain an audience and consequently a following.  They could achieve this by simply telling the people what they wanted to hear.  This made them very popular among Judah’s citizens.  But Jeremiah was constantly preaching the opposite, causing doubt among the people.  If there was doubt among the people, then the lofty position of the false prophets was being threatened.  Therefore the false prophets’ solution to this problem was to plot to kill Jeremiah, which brings us to chapter 26.

As mentioned before, the book of Jeremiah is not written in chronological order.  This chapter picks up immediately following Jeremiah’s Temple sermon that we studied back in chapter 7.  {When large books are written out of chronological order it is difficult study them without a lot of research.  I'm trying to simplify this as we go along.}  After Jeremiah had finished his Temple sermon the people and the priests seized him (verse 8) and said that he “must die”.  They confronted Jeremiah and demanded that he explain to them why he prophesied such gloom.  The people took Jeremiah to the officials, hoping to have him pronounced guilty and put to death.  But in verse 12 and following, Jeremiah did not change his message as he was asked to answer the charges.  I think the officials were frightened with the thought that Jeremiah was indeed the only true prophet, and pronounced him “not worthy of death” (verse 16).  {This story has similarities to that of Jesus at the time of His arrest.}  The remaining verses of this chapter tells how the officials defended their decision to set Jeremiah free, using examples of past prophets (Micah) and King Hezekiah’s decision.  I get the impression that this so called “trial” took a long time.

Chapter 27

This chapter seems to jump forward in time, as it is obvious that he was speaking during the early stages of Zedekiah’s reign which was considerably later than Jeremiah’s Temple sermon.  This chapter is dedicated to the foretelling of the captivity by the Babylonians, going into great detail.  But also Jeremiah was telling Zedekiah to submit to the bondage of the Babylonians in order to save his own life.  This would have been particularly difficult for the king to hear, but I think Jeremiah was telling him that God is beyond the point of changing His mind about the inevitable captivity.  Therefore to resist the Babylonians would lead to certain death.

Chapter 28  -  The False Prophet Hananiah

This chapter begins with a specific time reference which helps in understanding.  It was early in the reign of Zedekiah that Jeremiah was forced to deal with Hananiah, one of the false prophets.  Hananiah took a different approach than did the other false prophets.  The others simply said that Jeremiah was wrong about Judah being taken captive by the Babylonians.  Hananiah, on the other hand, submitted to Jeremiah’s prophecy, but went on to say that in two years, God would break the yoke of Babylon and the nation would be free again.  Hananiah said this publicly in the presence of Jeremiah, so Jeremiah confronted him in verse 5.  Don’t be confused by Jeremiah’s initial response to Hananiah’s words, which was to say “Amen”.  By that Jeremiah was saying “That would sure be nice.  If it was true”.  The chapter continues on with Jeremiah and Hananiah, using the analogy of the yoke, but then in verse 15 Jeremiah turns to very direct language, accusing Hananiah of being a false prophet, telling lies in the name of the Lord.   Jeremiah goes on to prophesy the death of Hananiah, which came about two months later.  {Jeremiah’s life was difficult.  Hard enough was his message and the peoples’ reluctance to hear, but he also had to deal with things like false prophets such as Hananiah and others.}

Chapter 29 – Jeremiah Speaks to the Exiles

This chapter is dedicated to the letter that Jeremiah writes to the elders who were carried away captive from Jerusalem to Babylon by Nebuchadnezzar in the first wave.  Note that in the letter he is telling them to “make a life” in Babylon.  Marry and have children.  He tried to tell them to make a life because they were going to be there for seventy years.  {This might seem cruel for him to tell them they were never going to leave and come back home, but actually he was being merciful in telling them, squashing false hopes for freedom any time soon.}

In the next post Jeremiah will speak of the restoration.