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.

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