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.

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

CCLIV - Jeremiah 21-25

The last post ended with Jeremiah’s outpouring of his soul in chapter 20.  One should by this time have understood why Jeremiah was considered such a passionate man.  Passionate for God and passionate for his people.  In this post we will see Jeremiah’s total disgust for corruption.  Corruption was a problem not only in the country’s leaders, but also the religious leaders.  {Corruption grows like a cancer, and once it gets a foothold, it is extremely difficult to clean up.}

During Jeremiah’s ministry, the nation of Judah went through five kings in forty years, promoting chaotic administration and allowing corruption to take place.  In this passage, Jeremiah actually speaks of the various kings by name.

Chapter 21 – King Zedekiah’s Request to God is Rejected

During this time of Jeremiah’s writings was when King Zedekiah requested Jeremiah to seek God’s help, as Nebuchadnezzar, kin of Babylon was approaching Jerusalem with his might army.  This chapter tells of God totally rejecting Zedekiah’s plea for help.  As you read this chapter you will paraphrase in your mind God saying, “I warned you so many times that it wore Me out.  I will not only withhold My assistance to you, but I will help your enemy defeat you”.  {Wow!  What a shock that must have been to the people of Jerusalem.  God should never be taken for granted, as was clearly the case here.}

Chapter 22 – Leaders Matter

In the last chapter Jeremiah dealt directly with King Zedekiah.  In this chapter he deals with kings in general.  Remember, all kings of Judah were descendants of David, as per the Davidic Covenant made by God Himself.  So all the kings had a perfect example by which to pattern their reign.  And to be fair, many of them were great kings who sought the will of God.  But time and corruption watered down their zeal for that which was most important.  When in verse 11 he refers to “Shallum”, he is referring to Jehoahaz who was taken captive in Egypt.  He makes a point of saying that Jehoahaz will never return to the Promised Land, and that he will die in the land of his captures.  Jehoahaz’s brother Jehoiakim took his place on the throne after it was determined that Jehoahaz would never return.  Then verse 13 offers a scathing indictment against Jehoiakim’s reign.  {Wouldn’t be a shame if you were a leader and people marked your administration with Corruption, injustice, and cheating laborers.}  Verse 14 tells of the extravagance the Jehoiakim enjoyed for himself.  (Remind you of anybody?)  The first part of verse 15 is sarcastic, asking if an expensive palace makes you a good leader.  Then Jeremiah briefly compares both Jehoahaz and Jehoiakim with their father Josiah, who was such a good and wonderful king for Judah.  The difference between Josiah and his sons were as night and day.  Good versus evil.  Godliness versus selfishness.  Humility versus haughtiness.  Peaceful versus violent.  In the following verses Jeremiah goes so far as to say that nobody mourned the death of Jehoiakim.  How sad.  He then goes on to the next king, Jehoiachin, Jehoiakim’s son.  He goes on to say that Jehoiachin (vs 26) will suffer two penalties from God:  1. He will be taken captive and die in a foreign country, and 2. He will have no son to carry his name.  {This was important to the Israelite culture.}  His uncle Zedekiah would take the throne after Jehoiachin was taken off to Babylon.

Chapter 23 – More on Leaders

Verse 1 says “Woe to the shepherds who scatter the sheep of My pasture”.  God is speaking of both kings and priests.  He is giving fair warning to all future generations.  If God places a person in a position of leadership, woe to him if he does not lead in a Godly manner.  The level of responsibility is staggering.  In the following verses he mentions a few of the punishment He will invoke on those who shirk their responsibilities as His appointed leaders.  Now take notice of verses 5 and 6.  This is a prophesy for our Lord and Savior, Christ Jesus.  The word “Branch” is used, as it is in the New Testament.  Also he says the name by which he will be called:  The Lord Our Righteous Savior.  The remaining verses of chapter 23 are the judgments cast upon Judah’s priests and prophets who have so disrespected their appointed positions.  As you read these verses you will see words like Baal, Sodom and Gomorrah, repulsive, wicked, adultery, horrible, just to name a few.  The indictment is very serious.

Chapter 24 – The Parable of the Baskets of Figs

You may or may not have heard of this parable before.  The Lord showed Jeremiah two baskets of figs at the Temple.  One basket was full of good ripe figs.  The other was full of rotten figs.  To make a long story short, the good figs represented those Israelites who have been taken captive.  The basket full of bad figs represented those left behind with King Zedekiah.  {This was sure to have been a big attention-getter.}

Chapter 25 – God’s Wrath Foretold

God’s wrath was foretold against not only the remnant of Judah, but also for the surrounding nations, including Babylon, who have exercised cruelty against Judah and other nations in the north, east, and west of Judah.  In the first half of this chapter God assigns Israel to captivity for seventy years.  This should have been somewhat comforting, hearing that God’s punishment was temporary, although nobody living at this time would be allowed to escape captivity.  Only the future generations.  From verse 15 through the end of this chapter is God through Jeremiah telling of how wide God’s net will be cast.  The “cup” is used as an analogy, which is used often throughout the Bible.  God plans to clean up the entire world, making sure to leave out no nation in His showing of exactly Who is the only God and Creator.  God had everything in His control then and He has everything in His control now.

Next Post – The difference between Jeremiah and the other prophets

Saturday, April 12, 2014

CCLIII - Jeremiah 15:10-20:18

The last post ended with the ninth verse of chapter 15.  I ended it there because the subject changes beginning with verse 10.  In the last post Jeremiah was lamenting the sins of Judah and their inevitable punishment.  Now in verse 10 Jeremiah begins to lament about himself.

15:10-21  -  Jeremiah Complains

As you read these verses you will sense Jeremiah’s feelings of frustration.  He starts out questioning why he was even born.  In Jeremiahs emotional state right now, he (like all human beings do) tends to exaggerate the negative.  He says that the whole nation contends with him and that everybody curses him.  {This is of course not true.  There were many who were on his side in these issues, but of course those in contention are usually the loudest voices.}  In verse 15 Jeremiah addresses God Himself, appealing to God’s sense of fair play.  Jeremiah reminds God that he has been an obedient servant, “stating his case”.  {Jeremiah is to be commended in that he knew who to go to in times of trouble, but he went a bit too far in verse 18.  He suggests that it is God who is causing all of his misery.  {In this verse Jeremiah gets dangerously close to blasphemy.  No matter how frustrated we are, we must be careful to be respectful when talking to God.}  His reference to the “deceptive brook” and “the spring that fails” are a reference to springs that provide water for the community during the rainy season, but fail when it is dry and the water is needed the most.  Then, in verses 19-21 God responds.  God instructs Jeremiah to repent.  You might ask “repent of what?”  God seems to have run short of patience for Jeremiah’s self-pity and criticism of God.  He promises Jeremiah that He will protect him, just as He has been doing.  He warns Jeremiah not to become like those men of Judah.  This was a timely warning, as Jeremiah’s emotional state could weaken his resolve.  It is in these emotional states that all of us are vulnerable to giving up the good fight.

16:1-18  -  Jeremiah Gets Back to His Message

In this passage I see Jeremiah getting a grip on his emotions and getting back to that for which he has been called: Delivering God’s message to the people of Judah.  Jeremiah is forbidden to take a wife and raise a family.  {This is interesting.  I think every man needs a wife as a soul mate and a comfort throughout life.  But raising a family takes time and concentration.  I think this would be a good passage to help defend the forbidding of priests to marry.}

16:19 – 17:13  -  Another Plea for Judah to Repent

In this passage Jeremiah writes in poetic form, speaking again of Judah’s need to repent and turn completely to God and His commandments.  In verse 17 he urges them to trust in the Lord, and they would not regret their repentance.

17:14-18  -  Plea for God’s Help

Just a reminder that this entire book is not written in one sitting.  It is not in chronological order.  While still writing in poetic style, Jeremiah shifts from talking to Judah, to talking to God, making yet another appeal to God for help.  {Sometimes I think an appeal for help is actually an appeal for encouragement.  Remember, Jeremiah’s ministry stretches over decades, making down periods frequent and long.  Human beings do not have such stamina to “stay the course” without some encouragement along the way.  We are just not built that way.

17:19-27  -  The Sabbath

As mentioned many times in this blog, God takes the Sabbath very seriously.  {In the early stages of this blog I suggested that we may have made a mistake in dealing with the Sabbath.}  God instructs Jeremiah to go to the main gate of the Temple and instruct the people about the requirements in dealing with the Sabbath.  In verse 27 God lays down an ultimatum, warning them that if they do not respect the Sabbath according to God’s instructions, He will rain down destruction on Jerusalem.  God makes it a point to be very clear on this matter, but the Sabbath is only one of many of God’s commandments that are being disrespected by His people.

18:1-12  -  The Potter

In these verses God compare Himself to the potter and Judah being the clay.  He continues to urge the people to return to God and His statutes as their only way to salvation and protection against the pending disaster.

In verses 13-17 of chapter 18, Jeremiah speaks of how utterly perplexing it is that the Israelites have turned so far from God.  Then in the next six verses (very interesting how Jeremiah has matured), he refers back to the conspiracy against him by the people of Jerusalem.  But this time he seems to have peace with the knowledge that God will protect him.  {Again, the chronology is difficult to follow, so be careful not to over-think it in terms of calendar order.}

Chapter 19 – Another Attention-Getter

In this passage God instructs Jeremiah to purchase a clay potter’s flask.  His somewhat dramatic instructions are just another attempt to make the people understand the dire situation they are in.

20:1-6  -  Pashur

Pashur was the captain of the Temple guards.  As mentioned earlier, God instructed Jeremiah to proclaim His message at the main gate of the Temple.  When it was obvious that Jeremiah was making an impact with his words (small impact, but nonetheless an impact), Pashur had him arrested.  When he arrested Jeremiah, he had him beaten put in stocks, making a mockery of him while inflicting much pain.  This only served to embolden Jeremiah, as he preached all the harder when he was released.  As for Pashur, God pronounces that Pashur will be punished by the Babylonians for this cruel treatment of God’s prophet.

To close this post, I want you to take a moment and read 20:7-18.  This poetic passage is considered by many theologians as perhaps the most powerful passage in all of the writings of the prophets.  It is absolutely full, as Jeremiah pours out his soul on paper.  He goes beyond being the weeping prophet in verses 14-18 as he shows bitterness and actually calls for curses on those who have made his life so painful.  In this passage you will sense what kind of man Jeremiah is.

In the next post we will continue our study of Jeremiah, starting in chapter 21.

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

CCLII - Jeremiah 11:1 - 15:9

In the last post we covered chapters 7-10, but I focused mainly on Jeremiah’s Temple sermon and its impact on him as God’s chosen prophet for this time in Judah’s History.  This post will cover Chapters 11-15 and again I will focus on a main topic, this time being “the broken covenant”.

You probably have noticed by now that Jeremiah uses a variety of writing styles, many of which are in these five chapters.  His sermons seem to portray a powerful preaching style, displaying much emotion.  His writings at times are in the form of poetry.  And when he is merely speaking of thoughts or events, his words are of a remorseful tone.  Additionally, he speaks using symbolism such as his reference to a speckled bird, a linen waist cloth, and a wine jar.  One may reflect on these different speaking and writing styles, but I wouldn’t over-think it too much.  I submit that Jeremiah is trying everything in his speaking arsenal to make these stubborn Israelites understand what he is trying to warn them against.

Chapter 11:1-17  –  The Covenant Has Been Broken

He begins chapter 11 with the phrase, “This is the word that came to Jeremiah from the Lord”.  He says this a number of times in this book, and it always means he is starting another subject.  Jeremiah is telling what God said to him.  God is upset with Judah for breaking the covenant God had made with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.  It is the covenant as written in the book of Deuteronomy.  We know this because of the timing of Jeremiah’s ministry.  Remember, King Josiah made Godly reforms in Judah and Jerusalem, especially dealing with the Temple.  When he had the Temple cleaned up, the book of Deuteronomy was found in it, after having been forgotten about for centuries.  Josiah, Jehoiakim, Jeremiah, and all of the Temple priests and scribes have made all of Judah aware of the covenant as written in Deuteronomy.  Judah could not claim ignorance as an excuse for disregarding God’s commandments and statutes.  If one looks at the Old Testament as a whole, he would conclude that the covenants were the predominant theme.  There were two main covenants:  The covenant God made with Abraham and the covenant God made with David.
{Briefly, about covenants:  A covenant is a binding agreement (contract) between two or more parties.  A covenant basically says “if you do this, I will do that”.  In the Scriptures there are two kinds of covenants mentioned.  One was between two parties of equal rank or authority, as in a business contract.  The other was between two parties that were not of the same rank and authority, such as between the victor and the defeated.  This second one is commonly referred to as a “unilateral covenant”.  The breaking of a covenant always resulted in punishment.  God was always careful when He spoke of His covenant with Israel, making certain that the people were made aware in no uncertain terms what the punishment would be if they did not abide by the statutes of the covenant.  God has throughout the Old Testament exercised patience and mercy with Abraham’s descendants, but we see in these chapters that His patience has finally run out.}

Now, back to the Scripture.  God told Jeremiah (verse 7-8) “I’ve warned them again and again, saying, ‘obey me’.  But they did not listen or pay attention”.  God goes on to speak harsh words concerning the Israelites worshiping other gods.  Then in verse 14 He instructs Jeremiah not to pray for these people, because He will not listen.

Chapter 11:18-12:17 – The People Plot Against Jeremiah

Verse 17 is the end of God speaking about the covenant being disrespected.  Now, in verse 18 of chapter 11, Jeremiah speaks and he is fearful because there is a plot against him by the people of Anathoth (Jeremiah’s home town).  They actually want to kill him and Jeremiah is fearful for his life, therefore appeals to God.  Jeremiah is frustrated with life’s circumstances and asks for understanding from God.  God responds somewhat indirectly as the verses 12:17 are written in poetic form.  God assures Jeremiah that punishment will be certain to come against all of the ungodly, including those who have plotted against His spokesman.

Chapter 13  -  The Linen Waist Cloth and Symbolism

God instructs Jeremiah in these verses so as to further make the point to Judah about their ungodliness, knowing it will not make any difference.  God knows their hearts and He realizes nothing will make this generation of Israelites repent.  He instructs Jeremiah to buy a waist cloth (a white undergarment).  He was to wear it and take it to the Euphrates River, a very long distance, where he was to hide it.  Later, God told Jeremiah to retrieve the waist cloth.  When he did, it was ragged and useless.  God told him that it represents the people of Judah, filthy and useless since they would not repent. The people had been so sinful and so ungodly for so long that they were incapable of repenting because they preferred sin as a way of life.  God further indicated the hopelessness of the people when He said in verse 23,”Can an Ethiopian (Dark African) change his skin or a leopard his spots?  Neither can you do good who are accustomed to doing evil”.

14:1-15:9 - The Hopelessness of Israel and Judah

Jeremiah waxes poetic again as he writes chapters 14 and 15.  It is written much like a dark psalm.  He poetically laments and mourns for his brethren, as he now is certain of their fate.  If God says they will not save themselves, then Jeremiah is convinced of it also.  He says in verse 11 that God told him not to waste his time praying for these people, as their fate is sealed.  Let’s look at the first verse of chapter 15.  It says that even if Moses and Samuel were to stand before God in behalf of these people, it would do no good.  (Remember, these two men interceded for the people many times, and with a great deal of success.)  God goes on to say in verse three of chapter 15 that He will send four kinds of destroyers against the people of Judah:  The sword to kill, dogs to drag the carcasses away, and birds and other wild animals to devour and destroy their bodies.

Next Post:  Jeremiah’s Personal Struggles

Monday, April 7, 2014

CCLI - Jeremiah 7-10 - Jeremiah’s Temple Sermon

The four chapters we are covering in this post have more than Jeremiah’s Temple sermon, but I will focus on it because of its tremendous impact on the people of Judah and Jeremiah’s ministry following this sermon.  Through Jeremiah, God has condemned His people for false religion (idol worship), oppression of the poor, and injustice in its court system, and the general corruption of the whole society in Jerusalem and beyond.  But there seemed to be a new sin that was particularly disturbing.  That sin was the people’s shifting of their worship from God to the Temple.  {There has been much commentary on this.  I’ll try not to dwell on this too much but one must understand what was going on in the minds of the people of Judah, and how God felt about it.}  This false mindset had penetrated the hearts and minds of the people, the priests, the prophets, and the royal family.  {This can happen fairly easily.  One should not allow his/her allegiance to transfer from God to a building or a structure or a location that is meant to represent Him.  We should not allow our service to a church to supersede our service to God.  We should be serving God through the church.}  These people did not fear God or His judgment as long as they were in or around the Temple grounds.  They actually said this, as indicated in 7:10.  {As a younger Christian I often wondered why we cannot determine the exact location on which Jesus was crucified.  Although there has become a “general” belief of the location of the skull hill (Golgotha), it was not actually established as the most likely location until the late 1800s.  The crucifixion and the resurrection are the two acts which save us from our sins and places us back into fellowship with God.  In keeping with the focus of this post, I believe it is God’s will that we do not know for certain the exact location lest we worship the location, rather than the Savior and His immeasurable act.  These Israelites in Jeremiah’s time proved that this can easily happen.}  Jeremiah proceeds to lash out boldly against this mindset.  And he prophesied punishment for this.  These prophesies made Jeremiah extremely unpopular, not only with the Israelite people, but also with the priests, other prophets, all scribes and clergy, and the king and his court.  This set the pace for the remainder of Jeremiah’s ministry.  Bear in mind, this happened early in his ministry which means Jeremiah struggled almost his entire life trying to deliver God’s messages to His people.  {No wonder they call him the weeping prophet.}  Not long after this sermon Jeremiah was arrested and was threatened with execution.  As a point of time reference:  Jeremiah began his ministry during Josiah’s reign.  Josiah was a good king for Judah and made happen many reforms that would lead Judah back to God.  One of the focal reforms was to bring proper worship back to the Temple in Jerusalem.  But shortly after Josiah had done this was when the people started the practice of worshiping the Temple rather than God.  Jeremiah’s Temple sermon was during the early years of king Jehoiakim.

7:16-8:3  -  Disgraceful Idolatry

In verse 17 Jeremiah suggested that their idolatry practice was something of a family affair.  In verse 18 he names “the queen of heaven” as the pagan god they worshiped.  She was an Assyrian/Babylonian goddess that could be satisfied only with the death of children by fire at the hands of the parents.  {Where did they come up with these gods?}

8:4-9:26 – The Weeping Prophet Laments

Jeremiah laments in these verses for two reasons:  The sin of Judah, and God’s forthcoming judgment on them.  In verse 9:6 God, out of frustration with them, declares that “they refuse to acknowledge Me”.  Think about that.  The REFUSE to acknowledge God!

10:1-16  -  The Difference Between God and Man-made Idols
Jeremiah in these verses is contrasting God with all idols.  Jeremiah is stating how obviously stupid it is to even compare the two.  Just a brief mention of verse 5 saying that pagan idols cannot speak, they cannot walk and must be carried around.  Jeremiah is somewhat making fun of the people for being afraid of these idols, as there has been no evidence that they have ever done anybody either any good or harm.


 Jeremiah pronounced God’s judgment on Judah.  He did it in two parts in this passage.  Firstly he told the people to make preparations to leave their homes.  (He knew the Babylonians were coming in a few short years.)  Secondly, he described for them the horrible and terrifying conditions under which they would be taken captive then placed into slavery in a far-away land.  {No wonder the people did not like Jeremiah, but they didn’t listen to any of his prophesies anyway.}  And then in the last three verses of chapter 10, Jeremiah prayed for himself and the people.  Notice that he appeals to God’s grace in verse 24.  He is submitting himself to God’s judgment and punishment, but at the same time asking God to be merciful and not punish him in anger.  I believe in verse 25 Jeremiah is asking God to punish only the guilty ones and to spare the faithful.

Next post:  Breaking the Covenant