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


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