Dissembling Hearts

August 12, 2019 at 10:29 am | Posted in Jeremiah | Leave a comment
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Jeremiah Chapter 40 marks the transition from the pre-exilic to the post-exilic period in Israel’s history. Nebuchadnezzar, for reasons that are not fully revealed to us, ordered that Jermiah be treated kindly. However, through some mistake, Jeremiah wound up being placed in chains with the other people who were being taken captive, and transported to Ramah, sort of a staging area for the final deportation to Babylon.

The word that came to Jeremiah from the LORD, after that Nebuzaradan the captain of the guard had let him go from Ramah, when he had taken him being bound in chains among all that were carried away captive of Jerusalem and Judah, which were carried away captive unto Babylon.

Jeremiah 40:1

The captain of the Babylonian guard recognized that this was contrary to Nebuchadnezzar’s orders, and gave Jeremiah a choice between going to Babylon and living a fairly comfortable life under Nebuchadnezzar’s protection, or remaining behind, trying to carve out a life in the ruins, with the people who were remaining in Jerusalem.

And now, behold, I loose thee this day from the chains which were upon thine hand. If it seem good unto thee to come with me into Babylon, come; and I will look well unto thee: but if it seem ill unto thee to come with me into Babylon, forbear: behold, all the land is before thee: whither it seemeth good and convenient for thee to go, thither go.

Jeremiah 40:4

Of course, for Jeremiah, it had never been about personal survival, nor did he really have a vested interest in making sure that Jerusalem itself remained inhabited. For him, it had always been about the people’s repentance and turning back to God. God’s people in Babylon would have other prophets, such as Ezekiel and Daniel, to minister to them. Jeremiah probably sensed that he would be more needed if he stayed in Jerusalem.

Then went Jeremiah unto Gedaliah the son of Ahikam to Mizpah; and dwelt with him among the people that were left in the land.

Jeremiah 40:6

Gedaliah’s family had a connection with Jeremiah throughout his ministry. Nebuchadnezzar saw fit to appoint him as governor over the ruined city of Jerusalem. He seems to have been level-headed and wise concerning his counsel to the people at the outset of the Babylonian occupation. Knowing that there would be no wheat harvest, he made sure they would harvest the summer fruits and grapes.

Even all the Jews returned out of all places whither they were driven, and came to the land of Judah, to Gedaliah, unto Mizpah, and gathered wine and summer fruits very much.

Jeremiah 40:12

His problems started, though, when the Ammonites, one of the conspirator-nations in the old plot against Babylon, used a man name Ishmael to plot the assassination of Gedaliah. Johanan, one of his loyal officers, discovered this plot, and offered to kill Ishmael before Ishmael could kill Gedaliah.

Then Johanan the son of Kareah spake to Gedaliah in Mizpah secretly saying, Let me go, I pray thee, and I will slay Ishmael the son of Nethaniah, and no man shall know it: wherefore should he slay thee, that all the Jews which are gathered unto thee should be scattered, and the remnant in Judah perish? But Gedaliah the son of Ahikam said unto Johanan the son of Kareah, Thou shalt not do this thing: for thou speakest falsely of Ishmael.

Jeremiah 40:15-16

Gedaliah did not believe him, and this ultimately would turn out to be his downfall.

Now it came to pass in the seventh month, that Ishmael the son of Nethaniah the son of Elishama, of the seed royal, and the princes of the king, even ten men with him, came unto Gedaliah the son of Ahikam to Mizpah; and there they did eat bread together in Mizpah. Then arose Ishmael the son of Nethaniah, and the ten men that were with him, and smote Gedaliah the son of Ahikam the son of Shaphan with the sword, and slew him, whom the king of Babylon had made governor over the land.

Jeremiah 41:1-2

Johanan’s warning proved to be correct.

But when Johanan the son of Kareah, and all the captains of the forces that were with him, heard of all the evil that Ishmael the son of Nethaniah had done, Then they took all the men, and went to fight with Ishmael the son of Nethaniah, and found him by the great waters that are in Gibeon.

Jeremiah 41:11-12

Johanan rescued the captives of Ishmael, although Ishmael escaped. The people were glad not to be taken to Ammon, but there was a potential problem with going back to Jerusalem.

Because of the Chaldeans: for they were afraid of them, because Ishmael the son of Nethaniah had slain Gedaliah the son of Ahikam, whom the king of Babylon made governor in the land.

Jeremiah 41:18

Ishmael had killed Nebuchadnezzar’s appointed governor, Gedaliah, and some of the soldiers that were with him. Johanan feared the reprisals of the Babylonians, who might just decide that it wasn’t worth it having to deal with these Jews and their attempts at treachery, and he thought going to Egypt might be another alternative, so they decided to go see Jeremiah, and to ask him to get a word from God about what they should do.

And said unto Jeremiah the prophet, Let, we beseech thee, our supplication be accepted before thee, and pray for us unto the LORD thy God, even for all this remnant; (for we are left but a few of many, as thine eyes do behold us:) That the LORD thy God may shew us the way wherein we may walk, and the thing that we may do.

Jeremiah 42:2-3

Jeremiah wanted to help them, so he agreed that he would talk to the Lord on their behalf, but he warned them that, whatever God gave him, that’s what they would get from him – nothing held back. In response, they made a big show out of swearing that, if God would deign to give them instructions, they would surely be faithful to follow them.

Here is what God told Jeremiah to tell them:

And said unto them, Thus saith the LORD, the God of Israel, unto whom ye sent me to present your supplication before him; If ye will still abide in this land, then will I build you, and not pull you down, and I will plant you, and not pluck you up: for I repent me of the evil that I have done unto you. Be not afraid of the king of Babylon, of whom ye are afraid; be not afraid of him, saith the LORD: for I am with you to save you, and to deliver you from his hand.

Jeremiah 42:9-11

Of course, God knew it was unlikely that they would do what He told them to do, so He also sent a warning about what would happen if they didn’t, and, of course (remember, these were the “bad figs”), they broke their promise, and decided they would take their chances in Egypt. God’s people, in times of trouble in the Old Testament, seemed to have a weird, almost fetishistic fascination with Egypt, which is why Egypt is a picture of what the “world” is to New Testament Christians.

For ye dissembled in your hearts, when ye sent me unto the LORD your God, saying, Pray for us unto the LORD our God; and according unto all that the LORD our God shall say, so declare unto us, and we will do it. And now I have this day declared it to you; but ye have not obeyed the voice of the LORD your God, nor any thing for the which he hath sent me unto you. Now therefore know certainly that ye shall die by the sword, by the famine, and by the pestilence, in the place whither ye desire to go and to sojourn.

Jeremiah 42:20-22

A Final and Unforgettable Sight

July 23, 2019 at 2:40 pm | Posted in Biblical Eyesight, Jeremiah | 2 Comments
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Jeremiah Chapter 39 deals with the complete conquest of Judah by Babylon. Nebuchadnezzar’s officers set up military rule in Jerusalem. Surrender was now too late. Everybody who had ignored Jeremiah’s warnings would have to face the consequences.

Of course, Zedekiah tried to flee, but he was easily tracked down and captured.

And it came to pass, that when Zedekiah the king of Judah saw them, and all the men of war, then they fled, and went forth out of the city by night, by the way of the king’s garden, by the gate betwixt the two walls: and he went out the way of the plain. But the Chaldeans’ army pursued after them, and overtook Zedekiah in the plains of Jericho: and when they had taken him, they brought him up to Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon to Riblah in the land of Hamath, where he gave judgment upon him.

Jeremiah 39:4-5

There had been some conflicting prophecies: one that Zedekiah wold be captured and taken to Babylon, and one that he would not live to see Babylon. Here is the grisly way that the paradox was resolved:

Then the king of Babylon slew the sons of Zedekiah in Riblah before his eyes: also the king of Babylon slew all the nobles of Judah. Moreover he put out Zedekiah’s eyes, and bound him with chains, to carry him to Babylon. And the Chaldeans burned the king’s house, and the houses of the people, with fire, and brake down the walls of Jerusalem.

Jeremiah 39:6-8

What an awful image to have as the last thing you ever see. We do not know how long Zedekiah lived in Babylon, but he never actually saw the place.

Modern archaeological digs continue to confirm the destruction of the homes and buildings in Jerusalem after the siege. One deportation of the “best” citizens had occurred before. Now they sent pretty much everybody but the poorest of the poor to Babylon, and distributed lots of land to those left behind so that they could farm it and grow food for the Babylonian soldiers. God saw to it that Nebuchadnezzar was aware of Jeremiah and treated him favorably and turned him over to Gedaliah, the appointed governor. Jeremiah’s prophecies had come true, but God wasn’t finished with him yet. He still had much for him to accomplish.

Stuck in the Mud

July 8, 2019 at 4:36 pm | Posted in Jeremiah | 1 Comment
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Jeremiah 38 gives us insight into the mental condition and some of the actions of King Zedekiah during the last days before the big deportation of the people out of Jerusalem and into Babylon.

Thus saith the Lord, This city shall surely be given into the hand of the king of Babylon’s army, which shall take it.

Jeremiah 38:3

Jeremiah never ceased, despite great personal danger, to faithfully proclaim the Word of the Lord. Have you ever been tempted, due to peer pressure or safety or fear of embarrassment or loss of income, to keep silent about God’s Word? Have you ever diluted it in order to try to make it more palatable, less offensive?

Therefore the princes said unto the king, We beseech thee, let this man be put to death: for thus he weakeneth the hands of the men of war that remain in this city, and the hands of all the people, in speaking such words unto them: for this man seeketh not the welfare of this people, but the hurt.

Jeremiah 38:4

Of course, what the princes were saying about Jeremiah was not true. Nobody cared more about the welfare of the people than Jeremiah did. He was not gung-ho patriotic in supporting military resistance in Babylon because neither was God. In fact, fighting against Nebuchadnezzar would have amounted to fighting against God.

Then Zedekiah the king said, Behold, he is in your hand: for the king is not he that can do any thing against you.

Jeremiah 38:5

Zedekiah acknowledge his own cowardice and weakness. Leadership can carry great benefits and prestige, but it can also be a great temptation: “I have been given authority over others. Will I serve them? Protect them? Seek their good? Or will I use, or even sacrifice, them for my own gain or safety or comfort?” Zedekiah clearly chose the latter. He is often called by Bible commentators “weak and vacillating.”

Having been given the okay to execute Jeremiah, the government officials chose not to do it directly.

Then took they Jeremiah, and cast him into the dungeon of Malchiah the son of Hammelech, that was in the court of the prison: and they let down Jeremiah with cords. And in the dungeon there was no water, but mire: so Jeremiah sunk in the mire.

Jeremiah 38:6

This “dungeon” amounted to a semi-dry cistern. There was no water to drink (nor food to eat), but there was mud in which to sink, which would have resulted in Jeremiah getting stuck and starving to death or possibly suffocating. The officials could say that they didn’t technically shed his blood, but what an excruciating way to die!

However, God had promised to protect Jeremiah, and He did so through an Old Testament version of the Good Samaritan.

Now when Ebedmelech the Ethiopian, one of the eunuchs which was in the king’s house, heard that they had put Jeremiah in the dungeon; the king then sitting in the gate of Benjamin;

Jeremiah 38:7

A non-Jewish servant was concerned enough to intervene for Jeremiah and rescue him. He probably knew that Zedekiah was often persuaded by the most recent person to try to influence him.

Ebedmelech went forth out of the king’s house, and spake to the king saying, My lord the king, these men have done evil in all that they have done to Jeremiah the prophet, whom they have cast into the dungeon; and he is like to die for hunger in the place where he is: for there is no more bread in the city.

Jeremiah 38:8-9

Zedekiah authorized Ebedmelech to take some men and rescue Jeremiah. They took some ropes and cloths to pull him out, and to protect his arms while so doing. Don’t ignore opportunities to help those who have been cast out and rejected by society, nor those who are in danger or in trouble. God rewarded Ebedmelech for his actions.

Once Jeremiah was set free, Zedekiah wanted to meet wtih him privately.

Then Zedekiah the king sent, and took Jeremiah the prophet unto him into the third entry that is in the house of the Lord: and the king said unto Jeremiah, I will ask thee a thing; hide nothing from me. Then Jeremiah said unto Zedekiah, If I declare it unto thee, wilt thou not surely put me to death? and if I give thee counsel, wilt thou not hearken unto me?

Jeremiah 38:14-15

Jeremiah only had the same message for the king: Repent or perish. Of course, Zedekiah was worried about himself rather than his people.

And Zedekiah the king said unto Jeremiah, I am afraid of the Jews that are fallen to the Chaldeans, lest they deliver me into their hand, and they mock me.

Jeremiah 38:19

He did not want to be humiliated.

But Jeremiah said, They shall not deliver thee. Obey, I beseech thee, the voice of the Lord, which I speak unto thee: so it shall be well unto thee, and thy soul shall live.

Jeremiah 38:20

His only choices were humiliation or death, and, even in his death, he would still be mocked.

But if thou refuse to go forth, this is the word that the Lord hath shewed me: And, behold, all the women that are left in the king of Judah’s house shall be brought forth to the king of Babylon’s princes, and those women shall say, Thy friends have set thee on, and have prevailed against thee: thy feet are sunk in the mire, and they are turned away back.

Jeremiah 38:21-22

Jeremiah spoke from experience (very recent experience!) about “feet [that] are sunk in the mire.” As Christians, we have to be careful about getting stuck in a rut – getting set in our ways. The Lord can deliver you from anything in which you are sinking, whether it is a bad habit, an addiction, a financial hole, a spiraling depression, bitterness, lack of spiritual energy, but we need to be patient and not try to wriggle and free ourselves with our own schemes, mind-altering drugs, credit card advances, get-rich-quick gimmicks, or replacing one bad habit with another.

I waited patiently for the Lord; and he inclined unto me, and heard my cry. He brought me up also out of an horrible pit, out of the miry clay, and set my feet upon a rock, and established my goings.

Psalm 40:1-2

Trust and prayer are our means of exercising patience. The Lord will set you on the solid rock that is Christ Jesus. He will “establish” you – strenghten you and make solid your goings.

We can’t judge the “mire” by society’s standards. What looked like wallowing in the muck and slop 20 years ago is perfectly acceptable today. What kind of environment makes you feel comfortable? Do people talking about Jesus and the Bible and sin and righteousness make you uncomfortable, while people talking about movies and partying and off-color jokes tend to relax you and help you feel not so uptight and judged? Remember your new nature. If you really have a new nature caused by the regenerative power of the Holy Spirit, you should have new affections.

For if after they have escaped the pollutions of the world through the knowledge of the Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, they are again entangled therein, and overcome, the latter end is worse with them than the beginning. For it had been better for them not to have known the way of righteousness, than, after they have known it, to turn from the holy commandment delivered unto them. But it is happened unto them according to the true proverb, The dog is turned to his own vomit again; and the sow that was washed to her wallowing in the mire.

II Peter 2:20-22

Zedekiah didn’t want to be made fun of for rolling in the mud like a pig, but even the women and children of his enemies could see what he couldn’t.

So they shall bring out all thy wives and thy children to the Chaldeans: and thou shalt not escape out of their hand, but shalt be taken by the hand of the king of Babylon: and thou shalt cause this city to be burned with fire.

Jeremiah 38:23

The Lord Our Righteousness

June 5, 2019 at 1:25 pm | Posted in Jeremiah | Leave a comment
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Josiah reigned for 31 years and had been relatively good king. Three of his sons and one of his grandsons were the last four kings of Judah, but they were all wicked. Jehoahaz (also known as Shallum) only ruled for three months before the Egyptian pharaoh (Necho) took him to Egypt where he died.

For thus saith the LORD touching Shallum the son of Josiah king of Judah, which reigned instead of Josiah his father, which went forth out of this place; He shall not return thither any more: But he shall die in the place whither they have led him captive, and shall see this land no more.

Jeremiah 22:11-12

Jehoiachim (also known as Eliakim or Johoiakim) ruled for eleven years before he died.

Therefore thus saith the LORD concerning Jehoiakim the son of Josiah king of Judah; They shall not lament for him, saying, Ah my brother! or, Ah sister! they shall not lament for him, saying, Ah lord! or, Ah his glory! He shall be buried with the burial of an ass, drawn and cast forth beyond the gates of Jerusalem.

Jeremiah 22:18-19

Jehoiachin (also known as Jeconiah or Coniah) ruled for three months before Nebuchadnezzar conquered him and took him to Babylon where he died.

As I live, saith the LORD, though Coniah the son of Jehoiakim king of Judah were the signet upon my right hand, yet would I pluck thee thence; And I will give thee into the hand of them that seek thy life, and into the hand of them whose face thou fearest, even into the hand of Nebuchadrezzar king of Babylon, and into the hand of the Chaldeans.

Jeremiah 22:24-25

Zedekiah, the last king, saw Jerusalem destroyed. The Babylonians killed his sons and then blinded him. He died in Babylon, too.

Out of the survivors of the Babylonian conquest, though, Jeremiah promised a Messiah.

Behold, the days come, saith the LORD, that I will raise unto David a righteous Branch, and a King shall reign and prosper, and shall execute judgment and justice in the earth. In his days Judah shall be saved, and Israel shall dwell safely: and this is his name whereby he shall be called, THE LORD OUR RIGHTEOUSNESS.

Jeremiah 23:5-6

Yahweh Tsidkenu means “the Lord our Righteousness,” and He would be a king descended from King David who would execute judgment and justice in the earth, but how would that be a comforting promise? A righteous king and a just judge would punish the unrighteous, and that’s exactly what we are. The comfort is found in the word “OUR.” This king would somehow clothe us with His righteousness, and, even more to the point, He would BE our righteousness. He would execute justice upon Himself in our place, and transfer to us His righteousness, effectively trading places with us until the wrath of God against us was satisfied. We know Him more particularly as Jesus Christ. What a Savior!

Surrender or Die

June 3, 2019 at 2:19 pm | Posted in Jeremiah | 1 Comment
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Jeremiah Chapters 21-24 are not necessarily in chronological order after the time of Jeremiah’s life and ministry that have been described in the immediately preceding chapters, but they show that the kings of Judah during Jeremiah’s time WERE aware of his ministry. Around 588 B.C. the Babylonian army surrounded Jerusalem. King Zedekiah had attempted to secure an alliance with Egypt, but when he did not pay tribute to Babylon, Nebuchadnezzar was provoked into invading.

The king sent for Jeremiah, probably desperate for hope that Yahweh would intervene and rescue, but Jeremiah remained consistent, prophesying only judgment and wrath.

Thus saith the LORD God of Israel; Behold, I will turn back the weapons of war that are in your hands, wherewith ye fight against the king of Babylon, and against the Chaldeans, which besiege you without the walls, and I will assemble them into the midst of this city. And I myself will fight against you with an outstretched hand and with a strong arm, even in anger, and in fury, and in great wrath.

Jeremiah 21:4-5

The King and the officers would be captured and executed, but many people could survive by surrendering.

And unto this people thou shalt say, Thus saith the LORD; Behold, I set before you the way of life, and the way of death.

Jeremiah 21:8

Note that obeying God is the way of life – the only way. Going any other way – disobeying God – is a way of death, and there are a million “other” ways.

He that abideth in this city shall die by the sword, and by the famine, and by the pestilence: but he that goeth out, and falleth to the Chaldeans that besiege you, he shall live, and his life shall be unto him for a prey.

Jeremiah 21:9

The sword, famine, pestilence (disease), and surrender had been previously given as choices, although none of them were “good” choices. All these were in keeping with the curses of the Deuteronomic covenant, but those who would go go out and fall down (surrender) before the Chaldeans would at least be spared. They would give their “life for a prey” – they would give up their freedom in exchange for continuing to breath. Surrender to God’s Word and His will would result in mercy. Rebellion against God and refusal to surrender to Him would mean conquest by earthly enemies who would delight not in mercy, but in subjugation, punishment, humiliation, and death. God does not want a partnership with rebels. He wants pride-destroying capitulation and total dependence on Him.

Experiencing, and Overcoming, Emotions in Ministry

May 14, 2019 at 2:05 pm | Posted in Jeremiah | 2 Comments
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In the Book of Jeremiah we see that the Lord often expressed His anger through Jeremiah. No doubt there were times when Jeremiah worked up quite a bit of righteous anger himself.

Thus saith the Lord of hosts, the God of Israel; Behold, I will bring upon this city and upon all her towns all the evil that I have pronounced against it, because they have hardened their necks, that they might not hear my words.

Jeremiah 19:15

The people hardening their necks was reminiscent of Moses’s encounters with Pharaoh, who had hardened his HEART against God and His Word. We use the term “hard-headed” to describe someone as stubborn, but in ancient times the neck was used in this context in order to illustrate the idea of a refusal to turn the head, and therefore the vision, from a direction and a destination that an obstinate person had determined to go. The reference to hardened necks may have also carried the connotation of carrying heavy objects – especially large jars or containers of water – on the tops of people’s heads. As Christians, we don’t want to be “stiff-necked” to the point that we can’t repent or be called away from sinful paths, but neither do we want to be swiveling our heads around to look at every worldly distraction.

Now Pashur the son of Immer the priest, who was also chief governor in the house of the Lord, heard that Jeremiah prophesied these things.

Jeremiah 20:1

Pashur was assistant to the High Priest, and security officer for the Temple.

Then Pashur smote Jeremiah the prophet, and put him in the stocks that were in the high gate of Benjamin, which was by the house of the Lord.

Jeremiah 20:2

He had Jeremiah arrested and beaten, probably administering the beating himself, and then put Jeremiah into a body-twisting and body-cramping device overnight, as a form of punishment/torture and humiliation, since this was done in public, near the Temple.

And it came to pass on the morrow, that Pashur brought forth Jeremiah out of the stocks. Then said Jeremiah unto him, The Lord hath not called thy name Pashur, but Magormissabib.

Jeremiah 20:3

The nickname that God told Jeremiah to give to Pashur meant “Terror on Every Side” or “Terror All Around,” because Pashur and his friends would experience total terror during the coming invasion. Having turned their backs on God, they would not face judgment merely in front of them, but from every angle. Their true God deserting them in response to their desertion of Him, they would be attacked from every side. I wonder if Pashur just ignored this warning, or if he started jumping at his own shadow.

For thus saith the Lord, Behold, I will make thee a terror to thyself, and to all thy friends: and they shall fall by the sword of their enemies, and thine eyes shall behold it: and I will give all Judah into the hand of the king of Babylon, and he shall carry them captive into Babylon, and shall slay them with the sword. Moreover I will deliver all the strength of this city, and all the labours thereof, and all the precious things thereof, and all the treasures of the kings of Judah will I give into the hand of their enemies, which shall spoil them, and take them, and carry them to Babylon.

Jeremiah 20:4-5

In these verses Babylon is specifically identified for the first time as the invader from the north.

And thou, Pashur, and all that dwell in thine house shall go into captivity: and thou shalt come to Babylon, and there thou shalt die, and shalt be buried there, thou, and all thy friends, to whom thou hast prophesied lies.

Jeremiah 20:6

There were times when Jeremiah’s mouth was like a fire escape: his words seemed to come running out naked because there was a fire inside of him! He was bold and vengeful in making this insult to Pashur, but now we find him alone with God again, swept up in his emotions, hurting and humiliated, and dangerously challenging God. Most commentaries at this point refer to the “sensitive nature” of Jeremiah, but, although he WAS very emotional, and even prone to violent mood swings, he lived ABOVE his moods, riding them out rather than sinking down and letting them carry him away. He still obeyed. He still did his duty – despite his FEELINGS. People like this are some of the people I admire most in ministry. They are not necessarily gifted preachers or charismatic leaders or even generous givers or people with special gifts for reaching out to help those who are hurting. But they are the ones that persevere – regardless of how they FEEL.

That Ringing in Your Ears

May 9, 2019 at 5:01 pm | Posted in Jeremiah | Leave a comment
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Thus saith the LORD, Go and get a potter’s earthen bottle, and take of the ancients of the people, and of the ancients of the priests;

Jeremiah 19:1

Why would the elders of the people (the leaders) and the elders of the priests bother to follow Jeremiah outside the city to hear what he had to say? Possibly out of idle (“idol?“) curiosity. Maybe they just wanted to see what he was going to do with that bottle, but it seems more likely that they were trying to get some evidence they could use against him – to listen for some words they could twist to convict him of treason or heresy.

And go forth unto the valley of the son of Hinnom, which is by the entry of the east gate, and proclaim there the words that I shall tell thee, And say, Hear ye the word of the LORD, O kings of Judah, and inhabitants of Jerusalem; Thus saith the LORD of hosts, the God of Israel; Behold, I will bring evil upon this place, the which whosoever heareth, his ears shall tingle.

Jeremiah 19:2-3

Not coincidentally this was the place (just outside the city walls) called Hinnom/Gehenna where the garbage was taken out, and where the fires of Molech burned with sacrificed children.

The Apostle Paul warned Timothy (II Timothy 4:3) about a time when people would not want to hear the truth about God, but would want their ears scratched. Here, Jeremiah foreshadowed that by saying that these people had ITCHING (tingling) ears but they were about to have RINGING ears from the loud blast of destruction that God was going to send!

Because they have forsaken me, and have estranged this place, and have burned incense in it unto other gods, whom neither they nor their fathers have known, nor the kings of Judah, and have filled this place with the blood of innocents; They have built also the high places of Baal, to burn their sons with fire for burnt offerings unto Baal, which I commanded not, nor spake it, neither came it into my mind:

Jeremiah 19:4-5

These words ring very prophetic for America – the land of abortion – today. We seem very upset when a group school kids gets gunned down – and we should be – but we seem very complacent that, earlier and later that same day, 2500 little babies were brutally murdered and dismembered in their mothers’ wombs.

Very Naughty Figs

April 24, 2019 at 12:56 pm | Posted in Jeremiah | Leave a comment
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Jeremiah 23 deals with the false prophets that Jeremiah battled against in his ministry. Apparently, having been left behind during Nebuchadnezzar’s deportation of the “best and the brightest,” they were emboldened to view themselves as especially favored by God. They prophesied that the captives would be coming home very soon – a prophecy in direct contradiction to Jeremiah’s true prophecies that conditions in Jerusalem were going to get even worse – much, much worse.

God told Jeremiah to tell them that their false prophecies and fevered dreams (unlike Jeremiah, who received his visions, oracles, and burdens while fully awake and lucid) were just the imaginings of their own evil hearts.

Jeremiah 24 contains Jeremiah’s vision of the figs. I’m intentionally calling it a vision, but we don’t know if God showed Jeremiah something prophetic in an everyday occurrence (like He had done in the case of the potter’s house), or if God supernaturally made Jeremiah “see” things which weren’t really there. Either case would qualify as a “vision,” but it wasn’t a “dream.” God was communicating clearly with a wide-awake (although not “woke”) Jeremiah.

The Lord shewed me, and, behold, two baskets of figs were set before the temple of the Lord, after that Nebuchadrezzar king of Babylon had carried away captive Jeconiah the son of Jehoiakim king of Judah, and the princes of Judah, with the carpenters and smiths, from Jerusalem, and had brought them to Babylon.

Jeremiah 24:1

The “best classes” of people were taken away by Nebuchadnezzar. Those left behind, other than the false prophets, were mostly those who wouldn’t have been able, in the Babylonian leaders’ estimate, to contribute to Chaldean society.

I have three fig trees in my back yard, but I don’t personally care for the taste of figs. Seeing baskets of figs at the entrance of the Temple would not have been an uncommon sight during Jeremiah’s time. People were commanded under Old Testament law to bring an offering of “firstfruits.” That might explain one basket, but the other basket…

One basket had very good figs, even like the figs that are first ripe: and the other basket had very naughty figs, which could not be eaten, they were so bad.

Jeremiah 24:2

“Very naughty figs” is a funny expression to us, but, to the people who heard Jeremiah say it, it would have sounded like a repetition-for-emphasis of the unfitness of these figs, probably mirroring the unfitness of the people and the leaders who went to – and ministered at – the Temple.

Then said the Lord unto me, What seest thou, Jeremiah? And I said, Figs; the good figs, very good; and the evil, very evil, that cannot be eaten, they are so evil.

Jeremiah 24:3

Jeremiah mentions the good figs first, and we can almost see God urging him to be more specific as he emphasizes the evil of the evil figs to the fifth degree.

Thus saith the Lord, the God of Israel; Like these good figs, so will I acknowledge them that are carried away captive of Judah, whom I have sent out of this place into the land of the Chaldeans for their good.

Jeremiah 24:5 (emphasis added)

Do you hear the echoes of Romans 8:28 in the phrase “for their good?”

The good figs represented those that had been carried away to Babylon. Despite what those still in Jerusalem thought about themselves, they were not only “bad eggs,” but bad figs – unsuitable for God’s acceptance or anyone’s use.

Compare Jeremiah 24:6 with Jeremiah 1:10:

For I will set mine eyes upon them for good, and I will bring them again to this land: and I will build them, and not pull them down; and I will plant them, and not pluck them up.

Jeremiah 24:6

See, I have this day set thee over the nations and over the kingdoms, to root out, and to pull down, and to destroy, and to throw down, to build, and to plant.

Jeremiah 1:10

Jeremiah got a glimpse of the future fruits of his faithfulness, and what he saw wasn’t all bad. Sure, there would be lots of rooting out, throwing down, and destruction, but there would also be some building up and planting.

And I will give them an heart to know me, that I am the Lord: and they shall be my people, and I will be their God: for they shall return unto me with their whole heart.

Jeremiah 24:7

In this pivotal chapter we turn once again to the key theme of the heart. Bad figs can’t turn into good figs on their own, but God can transform a bad fig into a good fig. He can turn a wicked heart into a heart that wants to “know” Him. This means a heart that not only wants to get acquainted with Him and know more about Him, but a heart that wants an intimate relationship and true fellowship with Him. We call this regeneration. It appears in the Old Testament time and time again under this announcement: “They will be my people; I will be their God.” God’s people WILL turn to Him, and not like before, with all their half-turning, turning away, turning back, turning sideways shenanigans.

Going Mad vs. Getting Mad

March 25, 2019 at 3:44 pm | Posted in Jeremiah | 1 Comment
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For a long time, I had only three daughters. Partly for this reason, King Lear (the Shakespearean play about a king with three daughters) became my favorite play. There is a line near the end of Act 1 where Lear, an old man who is tired of ruling but is not truly prepared to let go of his power, fears that his mental faculties are starting to severely decline. “O, let me not be mad,” he cries out to Heaven.

One of the most difficult things to face in life is the possibility of losing touch with reality. It can make even the strongest, most faithful men tremble with fear or lash out in frustration. The prophet Jeremiah was not advanced in years like the fictional Lear, but, in Chapter 15, we find him similarly ranting and raving and wondering if he was losing touch with reality. In Verse 10 he wants to know why people are cursing him out as though he were a nagging debt collector or a borrower who had ripped off his lenders.

From the previous 14 chapters we can see that the people were angry with Jeremiah because he spoke God’s truth and exposed their sin. Have you ever found yourself confused about your surroundings or the responses of the people you encounter? Have you ever wondered why your family or acquaintances were so put out with you for daring to obey God in their presence? None of us can completely control our mental faculties when we are stressed, but with God’s help we can always rely on Him to stand for us and with us if we have committed to proclaim His Word.

The Days Will Come

March 19, 2019 at 1:20 pm | Posted in Jeremiah | 2 Comments
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Thus speaketh the Lord God of Israel, saying, Write thee all the words that I have spoken unto thee in a book.

Jeremiah 30:2

Jeremiah Chapters 27-29 appear to be grouped together under the theme of Jeremiah’s battle against the false prophets. Chapters 30-33 seem to be grouped together as promises of restoration. They are yet another turning point in the Book of Jeremiah, and are in stark contrast to the vast majority of what comes before. They are intended to give comfort, encouragement, and hope to the future generations after the purging and refining which would take place in the years of the exile and captivity. The purpose of having Jeremiah record these in a “book” (a scroll that held official records or a document containing important information) written by Jeremiah’s scribe, Baruch, was so that God’s Words could be preserved and read years later by people who would look back and see God’s prophecies and the fulfillment of His promises.

For, lo, the days come, saith the Lord, that I will bring again the captivity of my people Israel and Judah, saith the Lord: and I will cause them to return to the land that I gave to their fathers, and they shall possess it.

Jeremiah 30:3

“The days will come” indicates that this was a promise for both Israel and Judah, and, though it is not a circumstantially identical promise for Christians today, it is certainly a “principle-promise” that we can claim. “Days will come,” whatever you are going through today, if you are a Christian, that will “come to pass,” because they did not “come to stay.” If you ever find yourself “trapped,” “stalled,” “stuck,” remember that God is the Deliverer. Your “captivity” may consist of “days,” but new days WILL come – and those days are in God’s hand, and He will bring a blessed change when the time is right. We must “wait upon the Lord” in both senses of the word “wait:” look to Him patiently and expectantly AND serve Him while we wait.

Ask ye now, and see whether a man doth travail with child? wherefore do I see every man with his hands on his loins, as a woman in travail, and all faces are turned into paleness? Alas! for that day is great, so that none is like it: it is even the time of Jacob’s trouble, but he shall be saved out of it. For it shall come to pass in that day, saith the Lord of hosts, that I will break his yoke from off thy neck, and will burst thy bonds, and strangers shall no more serve themselves of him:

Jeremiah 30:6-8

There is some strange imagery here, but the reference to “the time of Jacob’s trouble” and to a future heir of David reigning as king in Verse 9 lets us know that this prophecy is going beyond even the return of the exiles after 70 years, all the way to the time of the appearance of the Messiah.

There will be men acting like pregnant women in labor, clutching their groins in pain, white-faced, but Verse 7 says “he SHALL be saved out of it” (emphasis added). God will break the yoke and break the chains, and the only one they will be serving is God Himself, which is what they (and we) were created to do.

Therefore all they that devour thee shall be devoured; and all thine adversaries, every one of them, shall go into captivity; and they that spoil thee shall be a spoil, and all that prey upon thee will I give for a prey. For I will restore health unto thee, and I will heal thee of thy wounds, saith the Lord; because they called thee an Outcast, saying, This is Zion, whom no man seeketh after.

Jeremiah 30:16-17

Israel and Judah, which had been punished severely by their enemies, would see God punish those who had punished them. Note the poetic justice: the devourers would be devoured; the spoilers would be spoiled; the predators would be preyed upon. This is often God’s way. It’s not “karma” – some impersonal cosmic balancing scale. No, it’s personal – an eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth, with what measure you mete, it shall be meted unto you. What you sow, that’s what you’ll reap. Be careful how you treat others.

God is zealous for His own name. The nations called Judah and Israel “Outcasts.” They had been “cast out” by their God, but God will not allow His name to be mocked forever. As Christians we ought to be accustomed to the role of outcasts in society, but we need to remember that we are accepted by God in Christ.

Thus saith the Lord; Behold, I will bring again the captivity of Jacob’s tents, and have mercy on his dwellingplaces; and the city shall be builded upon her own heap, and the palace shall remain after the manner thereof.

Jeremiah 30:18

There are so many great promises and images of restoration in Jeremiah Chapter 30. Not only would the people be restored to safe homes, but in many cases their restored homes would be rebuilt right the “heap” of the wreckage of the old ones. The new houses would be better houses, higher houses. If you’ve got some wreckage in your past, you probably never want to see it again, but don’t discount the possibility that God may give you a victory right on top of it, and that He might even use that wreckage as part of the foundation of your future blessings or future ministry.

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