Going Under the Knife

September 3, 2019 at 11:38 am | Posted in Jeremiah | Leave a comment
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The prophet Jeremiah’s adult life had been spent trying to talk about God’s Word with people who did not want to hear or heed it. As the culmination of some of his most terrifying prophecies approached, the Lord had Jeremiah and his assistant, Baruch, write His prophecies down in a scroll (Jeremiah 36:2).

Through a series of events this scroll came into the possession of King Jehoiakim as he sat in his winter house warming himself by the fireplace. Predictably, the king did not like what was read to him, so he took out his “penknife,” (Jeremiah 36:23) and started cutting up the scroll and tossing it, page by page, into the fire.

While the point of this episode was to show the king’s utter contempt for God’s Word – such that he would actually try to destroy it – there is a certain irony in his choice of cutting instrument. A penknife is what we would today call a pocketknife – the kind with a blade that folds into the handle – but in Bible times it was more like a razor or a scalpel: a sharp blade used to whittle down the tip of a quill which would be dipped in ink and used for writing. What he should have been using to copy God’s Word, he was instead using to try to erase it.

King Jehoiakim thought he was “sharper” than God’s Word, but ultimately, of course, it is the Word of God that is “sharper than any twoedged sword, piercing even to the dividing asunder of soul and spirit, and of the joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart” (Hebrews 4:12).

The Word of God might “cut” us at times, but, as any surgeon can tell you, cutting is an often-necessary first step in the healing and strengthening process.

The Fireproof Truth

August 30, 2019 at 10:52 am | Posted in Jeremiah | 1 Comment
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Jeremiah Chapter 36 shows us the origins of the scroll which would one day become the Book of Jeremiah as we know it.

And it came to pass in the fourth year of Jehoiakim the son of Josiah king of Judah, that this word came unto Jeremiah from the Lord, saying, Take thee a roll of a book, and write therein all the words that I have spoken unto thee against Israel, and against Judah, and against all the nations, from the day I spake unto thee, from the days of Josiah, even unto this day. It may be that the house of Judah will hear all the evil which I purpose to do unto them; that they may return every man from his evil way; that I may forgive their iniquity and their sin. Then Jeremiah called Baruch the son of Neriah: and Baruch wrote from the mouth of Jeremiah all the words of the Lord, which he had spoken unto him, upon a roll of a book.

Jeremiah 36:1-4

Jeremiah was imprisoned and could not go into the Temple, so he had Baruch go read the scroll at the Temple during an offical fast, when the Temple would be very crowded. Word started getting around, and several government officals heard about it. This was clear evidence that Jeremiah had been right all along about the Babylonian invasion, and that the false prophets had been wrong. Some of the officials and scribes were afraid for Jeremiah’s sake (and rightly so), and were favorable to him, but, obviously, the most powerful officials were against him, and word ultimately got to the king.

So the king sent Jehudi to fetch the roll: and he took it out of Elishama the scribe’s chamber. And Jehudi read it in the ears of the king, and in the ears of all the princes which stood beside the king. Now the king sat in the winterhouse in the ninth month: and there was a fire on the hearth burning before him. And it came to pass, that when Jehudi had read three or four leaves, he cut it with the penknife, and cast it into the fire that was on the hearth, until all the roll was consumed in the fire that was on the hearth.

Jeremiah 36:21-23

When people can’t stand to hear the Word of God they will sometimes try to refute it, sometimes try to ignore it, and sometimes try to hide from it. Here, the king tried to destroy it, but trying to destroy the Word of God is a hopeless endeavour.

The grass withereth, the flower fadeth: but the word of our God shall stand for ever.

Isaiah 40:8

Yet they were not afraid, nor rent their garments, neither the king, nor any of his servants that heard all these words.

Jeremiah 36:24

This is in contrast to King Josiah’s reaction when the Book of the Law was found the Temple during his time as king. When that happened everyone trembled. Now Josiah’s son and his officials did not tremble at all – even as God’s Word was rejected and burned.

Nevertheless Elnathan and Delaiah and Gemariah had made intercession to the king that he would not burn the roll: but he would not hear them.

Jeremiah 36:25

The king would have proabably had both Jeremiah and Baruch killed at that point, or at least beaten and thrown into prison again, but God supernaturally hid Jeremiah, and then proved that His everlasting Word could not be destroyed.

Then the word of the Lord came to Jeremiah, after that the king had burned the roll, and the words which Baruch wrote at the mouth of Jeremiah, saying, Take thee again another roll, and write in it all the former words that were in the first roll, which Jehoiakim the king of Judah hath burned. And thou shalt say to Jehoiakim king of Judah, Thus saith the Lord; Thou hast burned this roll, saying, Why hast thou written therein, saying, The king of Babylon shall certainly come and destroy this land, and shall cause to cease from thence man and beast?

Jeremiah 36:27-29

It was the defiant earthly king, not God’s Word, that would be destroyed.

Then took Jeremiah another roll, and gave it to Baruch the scribe, the son of Neriah; who wrote therein from the mouth of Jeremiah all the words of the book which Jehoiakim king of Judah had burned in the fire: and there were added besides unto them many like words.

Jeremiah 36:32

This scroll is what most likely became Chapters 1-25 of the Book of Jeremiah. When Baruch rewrote it he added the part about the king burning the first scroll and some other prophecies that were yet to come to pass.

There is not a ton of humor in the Book of Jeremiah, and, although King Zedekiah, the final king of Judah at the time of the Babylonian conquest, is not someone at whom we should laugh – being alternately tragic, pitiable, frustrating, and even confusing – there is a certain ludicrous aspect to his behavior in his final days on the throne as it related to Jeremiah.

Chapter 37 begins in or around 588 B.C.

And king Zedekiah the son of Josiah reigned instead of Coniah the son of Jehoiakim, whom Nebuchadrezzar king of Babylon made king in the land of Judah. But neither he, nor his servants, nor the people of the land, did hearken unto the words of the Lord, which he spake by the prophet Jeremiah.

Jeremiah 37:1-2

That King Zedekiah and his servants did not want to hear the Word of the Lord spoken through Jeremiah has been well established at this point in the Book.

And Zedekiah the king sent Jehucal the son of Shelemiah and Zephaniah the son of Maaseiah the priest to the prophet Jeremiah, saying, Pray now unto the Lord our God for us.

Jeremiah 37:3

They rejected him as a prophet, but they demanded that he ask God to rescue them. This would be like refusing to listen to the person who keeps telling you that breaking the law is going to land you in trouble with the police, and then calling him at 3:00 a.m. and demanding that he come bail you out of jail!

Now Jeremiah came in and went out among the people: for they had not put him into prison.

Jeremiah 37:4

Thus saith the Lord; Deceive not yourselves, saying, The Chaldeans shall surely depart from us: for they shall not depart. For though ye had smitten the whole army of the Chaldeans that fight against you, and there remained but wounded men among them, yet should they rise up every man in his tent, and burn this city with fire.

Jeremiah 37:9-10

Jeremiah had been told not to bother praying, so he responded to Zedekiah’s demands with more preaching. His point was that even if the Chaldeans were all wounded and bleeding out, they still defeat Zedekiah’s troops and burn the city, because, even though they didn’t know it, they were on a mission from God.

At this point Jeremiah decided to go home to check on his kinfolks.

Then Jeremiah went forth out of Jerusalem to go into the land of Benjamin, to separate himself thence in the midst of the people. And when he was in the gate of Benjamin, a captain of the ward was there, whose name was Irijah, the son of Shelemiah, the son of Hananiah; and he took Jeremiah the prophet, saying, Thou fallest away to the Chaldeans. Then said Jeremiah, It is false; I fall not away to the Chaldeans. But he hearkened not to him: so Irijah took Jeremiah, and brought him to the princes.

Jeremiah 37:12-14

As he was leaving the city he was recognized as somebody who advocated surrender to Babylon, and he was arrested on charges of desertion. These were completely false charges, for nobody in the land was more loyal to his nation than Jeremiah.

Wherefore the princes were wroth with Jeremiah, and smote him, and put him in prison in the house of Jonathan the scribe: for they had made that the prison.

Jeremiah 37:15

When Jeremiah was entered into the dungeon, and into the cabins, and Jeremiah had remained there many days; Then Zedekiah the king sent, and took him out: and the king asked him secretly in his house, and said, Is there any word from the Lord? And Jeremiah said, There is: for, said he, thou shalt be delivered into the hand of the king of Babylon.

Jeremiah 37:16-17 (emphasis added)

When the king asked Jeremiah, “Is there any word from the Lord?” I wonder if Jeremiah thought, “SERIOUSLY??! Is there a Word from the Lord?! Let me see… I’ve only been proclaiming it openly for 25 years!” What a contrast! The king – afraid of his own counselors and advisors, sneaking in to see the man of God, hoping for some self-serving false prophecies – while Jeremiah, with everything to lose, just continues to faithfully repeat his true message.

A good lesson for us to take from this is: Learn the Word of God. Stand on the Word of God. Apply the Word of God in every season and circumstance – even when it seems like everbody wants to hear something else, or at least wants you to water it down.

Dissembling Hearts

August 12, 2019 at 10:29 am | Posted in Jeremiah | 1 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 | 3 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 | 3 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 | 1 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.

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