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.

The Dirty Girdle

December 12, 2018 at 12:00 pm | Posted in Jeremiah, parables | 3 Comments
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Jeremiah 13 contains two illustrated sermons – or parables – which God had Jeremiah act out. This was unusual behavior compared to the simple preaching and prophesying done by prophets most of the time in the Old Testament, but it was not unusual in the sense of being novel for both minor and major prophets. Ezekiel was especially known for his “action” sermons, doing things like shaving his beard and dividing the whiskers into thirds, building a little fort and tearing it down, and once lying on the ground, and moaning and groaning in pretend agony. Other examples include Isaiah preaching without his clothes and Hosea marrying a prostitute. So, what Jeremiah does here is strange, but not at all without precedent for an Old Testament prophet

Thus saith the LORD unto me, Go and get thee a linen girdle, and put it upon thy loins, and put it not in water.

Jeremiah 13:1

This was a private revelation given to Jeremiah. He was not told by God to share this message with the people. The “girdle” was probably not what comes to mind when we think of a girdle today. It’s not as if Jeremiah put on a pair of “man-Spanx” or anything like that. This would have been more like what we think of as a waist apron. Jeremiah, once on a career path to being a priest before his prophetic call, knew the significance of the “girdle” being linen. Many Jewish men wore aprons for wiping their hands on, etc., and probably to aid in girding up their loins for work or fast travel, but the linen was an unmistakable reference to the Levitical priesthood.

So I got a girdle according to the word of the LORD, and put it on my loins.

Jeremiah 13:2

Notice what’s missing between Verses 1 and 2: any mention of Jeremiah asking the Lord why he needed to do this, or of the Lord giving any explanation. If only we could all learn to obey the Word of the Lord that way – even when we have no idea “why.”

The most unusual thing about the girdle was that it could not touch water; it could not be washed. The nation of Judah was God’s priestly apron, in a sense. He “wore” it for His own glory, the way a priest would wear a linen girdle to be recognized as a priest, consecrated to God. The priests were also supposed to “serve” Him – to be used by Him to do His “work” in the world. God’s people, although they had been delivered “through” the Red Sea, had not gotten wet. Tragically, though, they had not been “spiritually washed,” either. They came out of Egypt dirty, and when God offered them clean garments of righteousness, their defiled hearts quickly made these dirty, too.

And the word of the LORD came unto me the second time, saying, Take the girdle that thou hast got, which is upon thy loins, and arise, go to Euphrates, and hide it there in a hole of the rock.

Jeremiah 13:3-4

This was a 250-350 mile trip each way, so possibly 700 miles round trip, to the Euphrates, not coincidentally the river associated with Babylon – the place where the enemy of Judah would come from and claim a victory over them because they had forsaken their God, their Cleanser and Protector.

So I went, and hid it by Euphrates, as the LORD commanded me. And it came to pass after many days, that the LORD said unto me, Arise, go to Euphrates, and take the girdle from thence, which I commanded thee to hide there.

Jeremiah 13:5-6

Jeremiah was required to repeat the long trip to retrieve this girdle that had been lying buried in the muck and moldly earth near the river, now completely useless for its originally-intended purpose.

Then I went to Euphrates, and digged, and took the girdle from the place where I had hid it: and, behold, the girdle was marred, it was profitable for nothing.

Jeremiah 13:7

Rather than allowing God to carry their sins away and exchange them for His gift of cleansing righteousness, they had buried their identification with God far from Him, among filthy pagans who worshiped filthy false gods which had no power to cleanse, protect, or restore. Why had they done this?

Then the word of the LORD came unto me, saying, Thus saith the LORD, After this manner will I mar the pride of Judah, and the great pride of Jerusalem.

Jeremiah 13:8-9

They had done this because of pride. I know of nothing in the Bible which God opposes more than pride.

This evil people, which refuse to hear my words, which walk in the imagination of their heart, and walk after other gods, to serve them, and to worship them, shall even be as this girdle, which is good for nothing. For as the girdle cleaveth to the loins of a man, so have I caused to cleave unto me the whole house of Israel and the whole house of Judah, saith the LORD; that they might be unto me for a people, and for a name, and for a praise, and for a glory: but they would not hear.

Jeremiah 13:10-11

God calls you to cleave to Him – to STAY close – as close as underwear to the body, but, unlike underwear, to receive honor that will redound to HIS (not our) glory.

Beware the Feeling of Formidability

May 18, 2015 at 2:20 pm | Posted in Hebrews, The Fives | 5 Comments
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The Lord Jesus Christ, in His position as the Great High Priest, is superior to the Levitical priesthood of the Old Testament. Not only is He seated at the right hand of God, on the throne of grace, but He is a superior High Priest in the way in which He was ordained. Aaron was appointed by God as high priest, and was given great honor, respect, responsibility, and privilege among men.

For every high priest taken from among men is ordained for men in things pertaining to God, that he may offer both gifts and sacrifices for sins:

Hebrews 5:1

But Christ was appointed by God as the Great High Priest without any glorying in Himself on His own behalf.

So also Christ glorified not himself to be made an high priest; but he that said unto him, Thou art my Son, to day have I begotten thee.

Hebrews 5:5

Christ was greater, not only in the way He was ordained, but also in the sacrifice that He offered. Aaron sacrificed animals. Christ sacrificed Himself. None of those animals came back to life, but Christ rose from the dead. God did not speak directly to Aaron at his ordination, but He did speak to Jesus.

Aaron and the subsequent high priests felt formidable. Despite their best efforts to remain pious and humble, they were guilty of pride and self-promotion because of their position. The Lord Jesus Christ humbled Himself to the point of becoming a servant, enduring abuse, and allowing Himself to experience a greater undeserved humiliation than any other man. God honored this humility and sacrifice by making Him the eternal Mediator between God and man. We must never think of ourselves as worthy to minister on behalf of God, nor as holding a special exalted place in ministry because of any inherent good within us.

Night Visions Part 3

March 25, 2010 at 9:51 am | Posted in Zechariah | 4 Comments
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Zechariah Chapter 5 contains the vision that I like to call “The Legend of the Flying Scroll.” The other vision in Chapter 5 is the woman in the bushel basket. She wants to get out, but a talent of lead is placed on her, and she is carried to Babylon by two angels. She originally represents the idolatry of female gods. The Hebrew word for “wickedness” is a feminine-form word.

The years in Babylon had seemed to cure Israel of idolatry. What remained was the commercialism bred by the practice of idolatry. This is one reason why Babylon is referenced in the New Testament as the world system. The world cares little if you worship false gods – its motivation is to make a profit. Money, material wealth, toys, and the false security of finances are the new gods of the modern world. The love of money is the root of all evil.

Zechariah Chapter 6 gives us the last of Zechariah’s night visions – the vision of the four chariots and horses. These horses delivered judgment to the Gentile nations. This will occur during the “Day of the Lord” (the Tribulation).

Then the Lord tells Zechariah that three wealthy men are coming from Babylon to bring the funds to finish the temple.

Take of them of the captivity, even of Heldai, of Tobijah, and of Jedaiah, which are come from Babylon, and come thou the same day, and go into the house of Josiah the son of Zephaniah; Then take silver and gold, and make crowns, and set them upon the head of Joshua the son of Josedech, the high priest;

Zechariah 6:10-11

So Zechariah obeys the Lord and takes their silver and gold and makes a (multi-tiered) crown, and he crowns Joshua king. This is the first time in the Bible we see a priest being crowned king. When this happens it is symbolic of Christ, and it reminds us of Melchizedek, encountered by Abram in Genesis 14. He was also a priest and king combined in one, and a foreshadowing of Christ, Who is the True Great High Priest and the One True King over all kings.

Zechariah’s crowning of Joshua is also noteworthy because God judged Uzziah for trying to combine the priesthood with the kingship.

And the crowns shall be to Helem, and to Tobijah, and to Jedaiah, and to Hen the son of Zephaniah, for a memorial in the temple of the LORD.

Zechariah 6:14

Zechariah’s visions occurred on February 15, 519, or 517 B.C. Sebat (Shevat) is the 11th month. It begins in January-February of the common calendar year, so the 24th day would be what most of us call February 15.


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