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

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