Don’t Baal on God

April 3, 2020 at 9:04 am | Posted in Jeremiah | Leave a comment
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Thus saith the LORD, What iniquity have your fathers found in me, that they are gone far from me, and have walked after vanity, and are become vain?

Jeremiah 2:5

Do you know someone who used to attend church faithfully, but doesn’t anymore? What are some of the reasons that you’ve heard as to why they walked away from church? Perhaps their feelings were hurt by the real or perceived bad behavior of a church member or leader. Perhaps they identified hypocrisy in the church. Maybe they felt like they “just weren’t getting anything out of it.” Maybe they got involved in other activities and didn’t have time. It could be that their underlying motivation for coming to church was that they believed it was good for their children, but then, one day, their kids got too old for youth group.

We tend to give people a pass on these issues: “Well, they got of church, but that doesn’t mean they left God.” The Bible sure doesn’t look at it that way. Jeremiah 2:5 is a scalding rebuke, and it’s in the form of a rhetorical question because no one could actually give a satisfactory answer to the question, “What iniquity did your fathers ever find in God Himself?” And, by extension, “What iniquity can YOU claim to have found in Him?”

Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and cometh down from the Father of lights, with whom is no variableness, neither shadow of turning.

James 1:17

There are no imperfections in God’s character, in His will, or in His Word, and there is no “dark side” to God’s nature. He is immutable, so He does not turn from evil, because He never has and never could or can turn TO evil. It is logically impossible for God to sin. Therefore, while you might find a universe of faults with any and every church member, pastor, teacher, or leader you encounter, God has demolished this is a reason for walking away from HIM – and therefore from walking away from His covenant people.

The idea in the use of the term “walking” is not really physical footsteps; it is the idea of “following after” someone or something, the way Jesus recruited disciples by saying “Follow Me.” He didn’t mean just going to the same location He was going to in Judea (although in His earthly ministry that would have been part of it). He meant following His teaching and example – obeying Him and worshiping Him with attention and emulation.

God had Jeremiah tell the leaders in Jerusalem that they and their fathers (their ancestors) had a long history of “following” – of walking after – “vanity,” a play on the Hebrew word for “vain” (habal) and the similar sounding word for the false god Baal (bahal). In other words, they “Baaled (bailed) on God,” who HAD helped them, and was the the only one who COULD help them, because the other god is not even real – he’s vanity. He’s emptiness masquerading as fullness.

Jesus, during His earthly ministry, was always “full,” because His “meat” was to do the will of His Father – the will of God.

In the mean while his disciples prayed him, saying, Master, eat. But he said unto them, I have meat to eat that ye know not of. Therefore said the disciples one to another, Hath any man brought him ought to eat? Jesus saith unto them, My meat is to do the will of him that sent me, and to finish his work.

John 4:31-34

The surest way to become empty is to follow after emptiness. If we become silly, vain, ineffective, then we will only have ourselves to blame, because God Himself is an endless source of satisfaction, purpose, joy, meaning, and fulfillment in this life and the next.

Camels as Booty

April 1, 2020 at 9:39 am | Posted in Jeremiah | 1 Comment
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Question: We studied Jeremiah 49 yesterday in my Sunday School class, and I think I’m on to something in Jeremiah 49:32: “And their camels shall be a booty, and the multitude of their cattle a spoil: and I will scatter into all winds them that are in the utmost corners; and I will bring their calamity from all sides thereof, saith the LORD.” It says their camels shall be a booty. I know the word used in the Bible for a donkey is a** (Genesis 22:5), and sometimes people use that same word for “booty.” So I think Jeremiah was telling them that their camels would behave like donkeys – like they would be dumb or stubborn or whatever. Tell me if I’m right.

Answer: I follow your logic, and I like you’re enthusiasm, but I think you’re seeing the word “booty” anachronistically. It’s true that we do sometimes use the word “booty” for someone’s backside in modern times, for instance, when we tell our kids not to “shake their booties” when they are doing their praise motions, but it wasn’t used that way when the King James translators were translating the Hebrew text into English. For them, “booty” meant material possessions that were seized and stolen after a conquering enemy vanquished an opposing nation or tribe. You might recall hearing cartoon pirates saying, “Aaargh, me booty!” when they realize their ship has been raided, and that is closer to the meaning of the word when it’s used in the Bible.

So, I can’t really go along with your interpretation, although I’ll give you points for effort and cleverness. And, while we’re on that verse, I’ll take the opportunity to point out that many of Jeremiah’s oracles were in the form of poetry, rather than strict prose, which we can note in this verse by looking at the parallelism.

“their camels shall be a booty”
“their cattle [shall be] a spoil”

You can see the way these two thoughts parallel each other and explain the same concept with poetic variation. Their “camels” (the animals used to carry things) would be “booty” (stolen and used by the enemy), and their “cattle” (the animals used for food and milk) would be “a spoil” (taken away and possibly killed just for spite). God often used Jeremiah to paint very vivid and evocative images in his prophecies.

Loud and Clear

March 25, 2020 at 11:10 am | Posted in Jeremiah | Leave a comment
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In Chapter One, Jeremiah was called and commissioned by God as a prophet to the kingdom of Judah. He was warned that this would not be a pleasant task, but he was also encouraged by the dual promise of God’s Word and His presence. We, too, have these same promises – in some ways to a greater extent: not just periodic revelations and instructions, but the full Book. And not just an intellectual and faith-based experience of God’s presence, but the constant in-dwelling of the Holy Spirit.

We DO have those promises and assurances, but we DO NOT have the promise that our attempts to speak “prophetically” will be well-received, nor that they might not put us in danger. Just like Jeremiah, we should expect skepticism, anger, rejection, struggle, and even battle.

Thou therefore gird up thy loins, and arise, and speak unto them all that I command thee: be not dismayed at their faces, lest I confound thee before them.

Jeremiah 1:17

Girding up the loins was what men in Bible times did when things were about to get real: for running or fighting or working.

For, behold, I have made thee this day a defenced city, and an iron pillar, and brasen walls against the whole land, against the kings of Judah, against the princes thereof, against the priests thereof, and against the people of the land.

Jeremiah 1:18

A defenced city is a place of protection, but the walls do get battered.

And they shall fight against thee; but they shall not prevail against thee; for I am with thee, saith the LORD, to deliver thee.

Jeremiah 1:19

After giving Jeremiah the visions or illustrations of the urgency of his mission (God’s judgment was right at hand), He told him him to go right to the “heart” of the problem.

Moreover the word of the LORD came to me, saying, Go and cry in the ears of Jerusalem, saying, Thus saith the LORD; I remember thee, the kindness of thy youth, the love of thine espousals, when thou wentest after me in the wilderness, in a land that was not sown.

Jeremiah 2:1-2

Jerusalem was the capital of Judah, and the geographical capital of God’s Kingdom on earth. There was no “time in the minors” for Jeremiah; he was sent straight to the big leagues. Nor was there any “spying out” period; no “getting the lay of the land.” The command to “cry in the ears” was a command to get right in their faces, to be loud and bold. We think of proximity to the ear as an occasion for whispering, but Jeremiah was told to YELL right in their ears, and he started by delivering the preamble to a legal declaration by God against the people and the nation. This was like an indictment or the service of a lawsuit. It began with the history of the unfaithfulness of God’s covenant people.

Israel was holiness unto the Lord, and the firstfruits of his increase: all that devour him shall offend; evil shall come upon them, saith the Lord. Hear ye the word of the Lord, O house of Jacob, and all the families of the house of Israel: Thus saith the Lord, What iniquity have your fathers found in me, that they are gone far from me, and have walked after vanity, and are become vain?

Jeremiah 2:3-5

God’s Sugar-Free Calling

March 10, 2020 at 10:10 am | Posted in Jeremiah | 1 Comment
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This is what God said to Jeremiah:

Before I formed thee in the belly I knew thee; and before thou camest forth out of the womb I sanctified thee, and I ordained thee a prophet unto the nations.

Jeremiah 1:5

Previously, I analyzed Jeremiah’s response:

Then said I, Ah, Lord GOD! behold, I cannot speak: for I am a child.

Jeremiah 1:6

And here is God’s response to Jeremiah’s response:

But the LORD said unto me, Say not, I am a child: for thou shalt go to all that I shall send thee, and whatsoever I command thee thou shalt speak.

Jeremiah 1:7

“Don’t say, ‘I’m a child,’” said God. God can not be fooled by our pleas of incompetence. In reality we are way more unfit for the work of the Lord than we even know or are willing to admit, but God was telling Jeremiah that because He was sending him, He would also equip him, and that, because Jeremiah would be speaking for God, God would tell him what to say. This is reason number 3411 why we need to be reading our Bible. How will we know what to say? How will we know what to do? How grieved the Lord must sometimes be to hear His children pleading, “Lord, please speak to me,” in a prayer of worried discontent, or saying, “Lord, speak to my heart. I want to see You,” when our Bibles are right there!

Did God love Jeremiah? Of course He did! There’s no greater love than to be chosen by God – to be elected as one of His servants – and then to be given His Word and the promise of His presence with us, but God didn’t say, “It’s okay, I know you’re nervous. It won’t be that bad. I’ll get you a speaking engagement with a friendly audience.” No, He told Jeremiah:

Be not afraid of their faces: for I am with thee to deliver thee, saith the LORD.

Jeremiah 1:8

He told him not to be afraid of their faces, because their faces were going to be mad. Their faces would be “against him,” but God promised to be with him and to DELIVER him. Deliverance presupposes danger and difficulty and even the threat of death. The sine qua non for deliverance is captivity or threats of bodily harm.

God never sugarcoats His calling. He never uses a bait and switch sales pitch. He never covers up the crown of thorns while promising a rose garden. The call to follow God is a call to die to ourselves, to take up a cross, and to follow Him in a world that, really, at the most basic level, hates Him and His message. What building contractor starts a building without first counting the cost? What King declares war without reviewing His troops and the prospect of great losses in the attempt at victory?

God went on to tell Jeremiah this:

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

This was going to be hard work: pulling down nations, destroying cities, rooting out sin in the heart, building in places where building would be treacherous, planting in rocky, dry, hostile terrain. This list of metaphors is not the prosaic, to-everything-there’s-a-season, rolling-on-the-river-of-life, just-accepting-what-comes-next list that calls to mind the Book of Ecclesiastes. No, this this is a call to war, to battle, to shake the foundations of the mightiest civilizations in the world.

Blooming and Boiling

February 18, 2020 at 5:00 pm | Posted in Jeremiah | 1 Comment
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When I taught the Book of Jeremiah in Sunday School, I called the study “A Prophetic Heart Attack,” partly in reference to Jeremiah’s shock and awe when the Word of the Lord came to Him to tell him that he would be a prophet, but mostly in reference to one of Jeremiah’s over-arching themes: He was ordained by God to attack the hearts of the people – not to just try to get them to reform outwardly, but to call them to an inward revival – a true revival of the heart. And he did this by “attacking” or exposing the true evil that lurks in the heart of every man before he finds God, or when he wanders from God.

Jeremiah was initially afraid to speak for God, but God encouraged him by promising to be with him and by promising to give him the words to say. You and I are not prophets in the way the Jeremiah was, but do we have the same duty, in a sense? To boldly speak God’s Words and to warn our neighbors of God’s judgment? We sure do. And if so, do we have the same assurances of God’s help? We have His promise to be with us, and we have the promise that He has given us His Word in the Bible.

God had some huge plans for Jeremiah’s ministry, including a command to “throw down” (Jeremiah 1:10). When I was in school, “throw down” was slang for fighting: “Dude, you broke my Der Kommissar cassette! Meet me in the parking lot at 3:00 – we’re gonna throw down!” Many of us today, although hopefully less inclined toward physical violence, are more than ready to “throw down” when someone offends us, messes with our children, tries to cheat us out of a bargain, or makes a political statement with which we disagree. But how willing are we to “throw down” what Satan has built up in our own lives? How anxious are we to “throw down” the vain thoughts that we have entertained in our minds in opposition to the Kingdom of Christ (II Corinthians 10:5)?

God did not spend much time coddling Jeremiah. There are a number of reasons for this, but one was that God wanted Jeremiah to understand that there was an urgency to his mission.

Moreover the word of the LORD came unto me, saying, Jeremiah, what seest thou? And I said, I see a rod of an almond tree.

Jeremiah 1:11

almond branch

This may have been in a vision, or it may have been something truly observed by Jeremiah in his surroundings. Jeremiah’s home town, Anathoth, is known for almonds to this day. The Hebrew word for “almond” was similar to the word for “hasten to perform it” (“SEE to it”) or “watch.”

Then said the LORD unto me, Thou hast well seen: for I will hasten my word to perform it.

Jeremiah 1:12

In the original language, this was a play on words similar to our song, “I’m looking over a four leaf clover, that I overlooked before.” God let Jeremiah know that He would be very hands-on in supervising the fulfillment of Jeremiah’s prophecies and Jeremiah’s ministry.

Do you find God’s omniscience – and His immanence – comforting or disturbing? He is watching you. Is He pleased with what He sees? This is a sobering thought, but it can also be a reassuring thought. It is important to remember that His disposition toward Christians is one of both requiring and encouraging us to do right. He is not anxious to see us do wrong so that He can smack us down with glee, so the primary meaning of the almond tree metaphor was that, just as the almond tree was the first plant to bloom after the winter, and is often a prediction of how the rest of the harvest will go, so, too, was God’s judgment against His own people closer than it had ever been.

And the word of the LORD came unto me the second time, saying, What seest thou? And I said, I see a seething pot; and the face thereof is toward the north. Then the LORD said unto me, Out of the north an evil shall break forth upon all the inhabitants of the land.

Jeremiah 1:13-14

boiling cauldron

This second prophecy was another image of urgency, although, again, it’s something that anyone of Jeremiah’s day would have recognized as a familiar sight: a kettle boiling over, seething and spilling out its scalding contents. Here it is a reference to judgment coming from the north, as though God had been restraining the enemy army of the Chaldeans from over-running Judah, and now He was about to allow them to tip over or boil over and conquer His people, killing them, or as we know from hindsight, taking them away into captivity.

Open Up and Say “Ah”

January 31, 2020 at 3:47 pm | Posted in Jeremiah | 3 Comments
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There have been many Jeremiahs, but two Jeremiahs really stand out in the history of the world. One was the famous prophet of the Book of Jeremiah in the Bible. The other one was a bullfrog featured in the 1971 hit song, “Joy to the World” by Three Dog Night, which starts starts off with the lyric, “Jeremiah was a bullfrog, was a good friend of mine.” Okay, I will admit I am little biased about the latter Jeremiah due to the fact that I performed that song, to much consternation, in front of my K4 class at the First Baptist Church preschool back in the day, along with dance moves that were more enthusiastic than graceful.

For now, we will stick with discussing the Biblical Jeremiah, whose book is found in the Old Testament section of major prophets between Isaiah and Lamentations. It was written by the Holy Spirit through Jeremiah himself.

The words of Jeremiah the son of Hilkiah, of the priests that were in Anathoth in the land of Benjamin: To whom the word of the LORD came in the days of Josiah the son of Amon king of Judah, in the thirteenth year of his reign.

Jeremiah 1:1-2

Jeremiah’s father was a priest, so this means that Jeremiah probably thought he was going to be a priest also, but the Lord had other plans for his life. The Lord spoke to him directly in Josiah’s 13th year as king, when Jeremiah was probably about 20 years old. The life of a priest was not necessarily easy, but it could be very mundane: teaching the law, overseeing temple sacrifices, inspecting lepers and other clean and unclean citizens, and a steady income. It was a noble profession, but it dealt much more with external religion than with the hearts of men and women. The job a prophet was way different.

Then the word of the LORD came unto me, saying, Before I formed thee in the belly I knew thee; and before thou camest forth out of the womb I sanctified thee, and I ordained thee a prophet unto the nations.

Jeremiah 1:4-5

Prophets were often unpopular. They had to say exactly what God told them to say. Their lives were unpredictable. They didn’t get a steady paycheck, or even room and board. Their provision came directly from God, but that requires more palpable trust. Additionally, prophets were needed when the people were disobeying and getting involved in idolatry. Whereas priests were concerned with external religion, prophets spoke directly to the heart. In a time when God’s people had forsaken His law, Jeremiah was supposed to tell them the truth about God’s justice, wrath, faithfulness to His promises, and, yes, His love.

In Jeremiah’s day, God’s people were engaging in fornication as a means of pagan worship, they were doing this in order to promote fertility in their agriculture, and they were sacrificing their own children. You might think, “How barbaric!” but I’m afraid their wickedness would not hold a candle to us today. Our culture promotes fornication (sex outside of marriage), which results in unwanted pregnancies, and, therefore, sadly, sometimes abortion and other complications and and cruelties, and this is now considered okay in order to keep the population down and protect the environment. The devil does not have lot of new tricks. He’s been lying and tempting people with the same sins since the beginning.

God told Jeremiah that He knew him before he was created: before he was “formed in the belly.” God chose Jeremiah way before Jeremiah even had any consciousness, much less an ability to decide whether he would choose God. God set him apart for a special purpose. He was sanctified to serve God with his life (“and before thou camest forth out of the womb I sanctified thee,”). God chose his career (vocation) for him (“and I ordained thee a prophet unto the nations.”). You and I need to recognize those same truths about ourselves.

God knew you before He made you. He chose you for himself before you were born. He is in charge of your life, so, whatsoever you do, you are called to do it for Him. But what was Jeremiah’s response?

Then said I, Ah, Lord GOD! behold, I cannot speak: for I am a child.

Jeremiah 1:6

He did not receive this news with pride or even confidence. How would you receive it? Do you like to speak in front of large groups of people? How about when you know they are going to absolutely hate what you have to say? How about speaking before “the nations” – the whole world?

Jeremiah said, “Ah.” How do we read this? Did he sound like a patient having his tonsils examined by a doctor?

tongue depressor

Was he nearly speechless? Was the “ah” a gagging sound, an attempt to prove he wouldn’t be a good spokesman-prophet? Or was he saying “ah” in the tone of Sherlock Holmes finding a clue” “Ah-ha!”? Perhaps he sounded philosophical, like Confucius rubbing his beard thoughtfully and saying “ahhhh.” I don’t think so.

Like many of us, if suddenly God came to us and said, “Forget all your life’s plans, I need to you to get up and give a speech to the whole world telling them exactly what they don’t want to hear, and, by the way, as a prophet of God, if you get anything wrong, you have to die,” we would probably say “Ahhhhh!” in a terrified exclamation like the wide-eyed and open-mouthed passenger on the world’s scariest roller coaster.

roller coaster scream

That is probably closer to what the word means in the original Hebrew. It was used to express a grunt of pain. I hope you and I have not gotten so comfortable with the Word of God that it no longer produces in us a guttural, primal reaction – yes, even an emotional response – a palpable and passionate cry, depending on the condition of our heart when we read or hear it, that God is not pleased… or that God loves us… or that He has called us to the greatest service that we could never deserve… or that He would send His Beloved Son to die for a sinful worthless wicked wretch like me.

God Hurts Those Who Help Themselves

January 17, 2020 at 4:04 pm | Posted in Jeremiah | 1 Comment
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Chapter 45 is a very short chapter in the Book of Jeremiah. Chronologically it can be paired with Chapter 36 because it deals with Baruch, Jeremiah’s faithful assistant who had written down Jeremiah’s prophecies in a scroll, only to have the scroll seized and burned by the king. Baruch subsequently copied them down again. Although not mentiond in Chapter 36, apparently Baruch got discouraged as he suffered through persecution with Jeremiah, because in Chapter 45 God had Jeremiah encourage him with a personal Word.

Baruch had a brother on the king’s staff, so leaving Jeremiah for a more comfortable position was an option for him, but God promised to take care of him because of his perseverance.

Thus saith the Lord, the God of Israel, unto thee, O Baruch: Thou didst say, Woe is me now! for the Lord hath added grief to my sorrow; I fainted in my sighing, and I find no rest. Thus shalt thou say unto him, The Lord saith thus; Behold, that which I have built will I break down, and that which I have planted I will pluck up, even this whole land. And seekest thou great things for thyself? seek them not: for, behold, I will bring evil upon all flesh, saith the Lord: but thy life will I give unto thee for a prey in all places whither thou goest.

Jeremiah 45:2-5

“I’m going to do what’s best for me.”
“Always look out for number one.”
“Make sure to build up your self-esteem.”

These statements are examples of selfishness masquerading as pop psychology, and, even for those of us who try to avoid talking this way, we have to admit that all of us have a tendency to think of our own best interest first and foremost. There is no more popular section in the library or bookstore than the “self-help” section. However, God, through the prophet Jeremiah, issued a strong warning against this mind-set: “And seekest thou great things for thyself? seek them not…” (45:5). It would not be wrong for you to pray that the Lord would use you in a great way, but neither would it be wrong to pray for God to use your friend in a great way and to let you carry his bags. Former church leaders who may have lost their qualifications to lead can still be great helpers and assistants, and God often greatly blesses those who labor behind the scenes. We might recognize Billy Graham or D.L. Moody in Heaven with all their crowns, but we might wonder who that anonymous church janitor or bus driver over there is with 10 times as many crowns.

As Jeremiah began to prophesy to the nations around Judah – nations which would also experienced defeat at the hands of Nebuchadnezzar and the Babylonian army – he used some striking imagery, describing them as stampeding heifers, slithering serpents, and chopped-down trees. This is a good reminder to parents and grandparents of young children, and those who work in children’s ministry, that we can draw spiritual lessons from the things we find in nature. Children are often drawn to animals, trees, flowers, and water, and these, being given to us as blessings from God, can be easily adapted as illustrations to make a point about faithfulness, obedience, provision, or courage.

Egypt was dealt with first because Egypt’s army looked mighty. The image used is of the Nile River overflowing its banks in a great flood.

Egypt riseth up like a flood, and his waters are moved like the rivers; and he saith, I will go up, and will cover the earth; I will destroy the city and the inhabitants thereof.

Jeremiah 46:8

However, God said that when the Babylonian army came their Pharaoh would be exposed as just a noise-maker (a “bigmouth”).

They did cry there, Pharaoh king of Egypt is but a noise; he hath passed the time appointed.

Jeremiah 46:17

Egypt is like a very fair heifer, but destruction cometh; it cometh out of the north. Also her hired men are in the midst of her like fatted bullocks; for they also are turned back, and are fled away together: they did not stand, because the day of their calamity was come upon them, and the time of their visitation. The voice thereof shall go like a serpent; for they shall march with an army, and come against her with axes, as hewers of wood. They shall cut down her forest, saith the Lord, though it cannot be searched; because they are more than the grasshoppers, and are innumerable.

Jeremiah 46:20-23

Chapter 47 deals with the Philistines – longtime enemies of God’s people  – even though they had actually tried to join the alliance with Judah and the other nations against Babylon. Their doom would be so scary that even fathers would run away, abandoning their children (which back then would be seen as the ultimate in cowardice, but today is just another Tuesday in America).

At the noise of the stamping of the hoofs of his strong horses, at the rushing of his chariots, and at the rumbling of his wheels, the fathers shall not look back to their children for feebleness of hands;

Jeremiah 47:3

Chapter 48 addresses the Moabites, descendants of Lot through his incestuous relationship with one of his daughters, who were another longtime enemy of Judah, and who had also joined the alliance, along with Ammon, against Babylon. Moab was a very proud nation, and of course God always opposes the proud.

How say ye, We are mighty and strong men for the war? Moab is spoiled, and gone up out of her cities, and his chosen young men are gone down to the slaughter, saith the King, whose name is the Lord of hosts. The calamity of Moab is near to come, and his affliction hasteth fast.

Jeremiah 48:14-16

They would turn into frightened doves hiding in a cave.

O ye that dwell in Moab, leave the cities, and dwell in the rock, and be like the dove that maketh her nest in the sides of the hole’s mouth. We have heard the pride of Moab, (he is exceeding proud) his loftiness, and his arrogancy, and his pride, and the haughtiness of his heart.

Jeremiah 48:28-29

There is a theme of the Lord opposing the pride that dwells in human hearts all throughout the Book of Jeremiah.

Chapter 49 is about the Ammonites, who were descended from Lot’s other daughter. They were related to the Jews by blood, but had been their enemies for centuries until tempted into joining the alliance out of fear of Nebuchadnezzar. Although their ancestor Lot had narrowly escaped the fire of his beloved Sodom, his descendants would experience it generations later.

Therefore, behold, the days come, saith the Lord, that I will cause an alarm of war to be heard in Rabbah of the Ammonites; and it shall be a desolate heap, and her daughters shall be burned with fire: then shall Israel be heir unto them that were his heirs, saith the Lord.

Jeremiah 49:2

Next, Jeremiah prophesied againts the Edomites, descendants of Jacob’s brother, Esau. This was another nation consumed by pride, who thought their rock-enclosed cities were impregnable against outside attack.

Thy terribleness hath deceived thee, and the pride of thine heart, O thou that dwellest in the clefts of the rock, that holdest the height of the hill: though thou shouldest make thy nest as high as the eagle, I will bring thee down from thence, saith the Lord. Also Edom shall be a desolation: every one that goeth by it shall be astonished, and shall hiss at all the plagues thereof. As in the overthrow of Sodom and Gomorrah and the neighbour cities thereof, saith the Lord, no man shall abide there, neither shall a son of man dwell in it.

Jeremiah 49:16-18

Nebuchadnezzar would attack them like a lion.

Behold, he shall come up like a lion from the swelling of Jordan against the habitation of the strong: but I will suddenly make him run away from her: and who is a chosen man, that I may appoint over her? for who is like me? and who will appoint me the time? and who is that shepherd that will stand before me?

Jeremiah 49:19

The Consequences of Evil

January 8, 2020 at 1:25 pm | Posted in Jeremiah | Leave a comment
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Jeremiah 52 repeats much of the history recorded in II Kings 24 and 25, and is placed at the end of the Book of Jeremiah as a transition to the Book of Lamentations. It focuses on the reign of King Zedekiah, who was the final king of Judah (not counting Jesus).

And he did that which was evil in the eyes of the LORD, according to all that Jehoiakim had done.

Jeremiah 52:2

“He did evil in the eyes of the Lord” could be a summary of all the kings mentioned in Jeremiah, except for Josiah, who is referenced only in hindsight, and it could be a summary of the majority of the kings of Israel/Judah, going all the way back to Saul. It would most certainly be a summary of your life, too – apart from Christ.

Chapter 52 also reminds us that Jerusalem was besieged by the Chaldean army, and ultimately conquered.

And it came to pass in the ninth year of his reign, in the tenth month, in the tenth day of the month, that Nebuchadrezzar king of Babylon came, he and all his army, against Jerusalem, and pitched against it, and built forts against it round about. So the city was besieged unto the eleventh year of king Zedekiah. And in the fourth month, in the ninth day of the month, the famine was sore in the city, so that there was no bread for the people of the land. Then the city was broken up, and all the men of war fled, and went forth out of the city by night by the way of the gate between the two walls, which was by the king’s garden; (now the Chaldeans were by the city round about:) and they went by the way of the plain.

Jeremiah 52:4-7

The Temple was destroyed.

Now in the fifth month, in the tenth day of the month, which was the nineteenth year of Nebuchadrezzar king of Babylon, came Nebuzaradan, captain of the guard, which served the king of Babylon, into Jerusalem, And burned the house of the LORD, and the king’s house; and all the houses of Jerusalem, and all the houses of the great men, burned he with fire:

Jeremiah 52:12-13

The Temple treasures were carried away into exile with the people.

Also the pillars of brass that were in the house of the LORD, and the bases, and the brasen sea that was in the house of the LORD, the Chaldeans brake, and carried all the brass of them to Babylon. The caldrons also, and the shovels, and the snuffers, and the bowls, and the spoons, and all the vessels of brass wherewith they ministered, took they away. And the basons, and the firepans, and the bowls, and the caldrons, and the candlesticks, and the spoons, and the cups; that which was of gold in gold, and that which was of silver in silver, took the captain of the guard away.

Jeremiah 52:17-19

An overview of the sequence of these tragic events emphasizes:

1. Those who are the most religious are not immune to the worst corruptions.
2. Iniquity brings about destruction; God is more than capable of punishing the wicked.
3. Outward appearances provide a useless covering for wicked hearts in the sight of a God Who sees all.
4. God’s prophecies come to pass, and His Word shall go forth accomplishing all that He sets it forth to do.
5. There would be a restoration of the repentant remnant in Babylon; they would come back to Jerusalem.

Pulling on the Reins

December 20, 2019 at 3:21 pm | Posted in Jeremiah | Leave a comment
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We know from what is recorded later on in Jeremiah Chapter 26 that Jeremiah was arrested after the sermon or series of sermons that concludes in Chapter 10. In Chapter 12, after getting the revelation from God about the plot against him, he questioned God with a discussion of a problem akin to theodicy. Jeremiah wanted to know why God was allowing this to happen to him while the wicked wre prospering. Job, Habakkuk, Asaph (Psalm 73), and others had struggled with similar ideas.

Righteous art thou, O Lord, when I plead with thee: yet let me talk with thee of thy judgments: Wherefore doth the way of the wicked prosper? wherefore are all they happy that deal very treacherously? Thou hast planted them, yea, they have taken root: they grow, yea, they bring forth fruit: thou art near in their mouth, and far from their reins. But thou, O Lord, knowest me: thou hast seen me, and tried mine heart toward thee: pull them out like sheep for the slaughter, and prepare them for the day of slaughter.

Jeremiah 12:1-3

Jeremiah could ask this honestly because God did in fact know his heart. If anybody had insight into God’s interest in the hearts of His people, it was Jeremiah. His error – partly – was that he knew God had tried the reins of the wicked and found their hearts to be wicked, and that He had tried Jeremiah’s reins and found his heart to be devoted. However, once reins are “tried,” that is when they can be trusted and used.

Jeremiah was praying about HOW he could get out of this instead of about WHAT he could get out of this.

If thou hast run with the footmen, and they have wearied thee, then how canst thou contend with horses? and if in the land of peace, wherein thou trustedst, they wearied thee, then how wilt thou do in the swelling of Jordan?

Jeremiah 12:5

Jeremiah had shown himself true and passed the test, but the tests were also training for greater challenges to come. We never reach a plateau in our Christian lives. We are always called to higher service and greater levels of faithfulness.

Many pastors have destroyed my vineyard, they have trodden my portion under foot, they have made my pleasant portion a desolate wilderness. They have made it desolate, and being desolate it mourneth unto me; the whole land is made desolate, because no man layeth it to heart.

Jermiah 12:10-11

God did not want Jeremiah to do what the people had done: get a blessing from God, take advantage of it selfishly, start believing it was an entitlement, fail to treat it as an investment-in-trust, use it up, then, having fooled themselves into thinking the goodness of it was self-generated or deserved, turn inward to find a replacement which would only point them back outward to anything but the real God.

Jeremiah (and God) Contra Mundum

December 17, 2019 at 1:35 pm | Posted in Jeremiah | 1 Comment
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Therefore thus saith the LORD, Behold, I will bring evil upon them, which they shall not be able to escape; and though they shall cry unto me, I will not hearken unto them.

Jeremiah 11:11

Notice that the Lord did not say that He would only allow evil to come upon them; He said He would BRING it. The point had come where He would not even relent and hear their prayers.

Then the Lord also revealed the second conspiracy: a specific conspiracy hatched by the men of Anathoth, Jeremiah’s home town, to kill him and to stop him from trying to interfere in their pagan idol-worshp, and from making it look like the priests of Anathoth were unpatriotic and on-board with this doom and gloom prophesying about the fall of Judah.

And the LORD hath given me knowledge of it, and I know it: then thou shewedst me their doings. But I was like a lamb or an ox that is brought to the slaughter; and I knew not that they had devised devices against me, saying, Let us destroy the tree with the fruit thereof, and let us cut him off from the land of the living, that his name may be no more remembered.

Jeremiah 11:18-19

This revelation must have devastated Jeremiah, but he knew, even though the whole land was against him – even his kinsmen in his home town – that he was not “Jeremiah contra mundum.” It was really Jeremiah AND GOD against the world. When God is with you, you can defeat any enemy, overcome any circumstance, escape from any trap, get the victory over any sin, conquer any depression, bring forth joy and beauty and praise from any calamity.

But, O LORD of hosts, that judgest righteously, that triest the reins and the heart, let me see thy vengeance on them: for unto thee have I revealed my cause.

Jeremiah 11:20

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