Posts Tagged 'Jeremiah'

Panic Podcast: The Everything Bible Study, Part 7

It’s the start of a brand new week, and I woke up tired.  That doesn’t happen often, but it feels like at least a three-pot day!  But, we are studying two books of the Old Testament today: Jeremiah and Lamentations.  The prophet Jeremiah wrote both of these very interesting books, along with his friend, Baruch.  Baruch also wrote a book of his own, but it’sw not in the Bible.  The Book of Baruch is part of the Apocrypha.  But for now, open up those Bibles to Jeremiah 1 and we’ll get a move on.

 

Panic Podcast: The Story of the Old Testament, Part 6

Good morning, folks!  Thanks for stopping by today to study the Bible with me.  Lord knows, we need it, don’t we?  In a world falling apart,  God’s Word will hold us together.  We will be looking a some of the prophets today.  Their writings make up a large chunk of the Old Testament, so it’s important to know what they wrote about.  May the Lord bless you as we look to His Word.

 

Jeremiah Was a Prophet, Part 6

The Fall of Jerusalem at the hands of Nebuchadnezzar

The Fall of Jerusalem at the hands of Nebuchadnezzar

When we began this survey of Jeremiah’s writings, we noted that he was referred to as “the Weeping Prophet” for  of a couple of reasons. First, Jeremiah’s message from God was not a popular one. In fact, it was so unpopular that on more than one occasion Jeremiah’s life was put in jeopardy on account of it. His message was not accepted by anyone who heard it.

The word of the Lord came to me again: “What do you see?” “I see a boiling pot, tilting away from the north,” I answered. The Lord said to me, “From the north disaster will be poured out on all who live in the land. I am about to summon all the peoples of the northern kingdoms,” declares the Lord. “Their kings will come and set up their thrones in the entrance of the gates of Jerusalem;they will come against all her surrounding walls and against all the towns of Judah. I will pronounce my judgments on my people because of their wickedness in forsaking me,in burning incense to other gods and in worshiping what their hands have made. (Jeremiah 1:13-16 | NIV84)

Nobody wanted to hear this, especially during years of relative prosperity. Add to that the many false prophets who were running around preaching the exact opposite and it’s no wonder Jeremiah wept! But there was another, very pathetic reason for the weeping: he loved his people and he didn’t want to see his beloved Jerusalem fall and his people hauled off and held in exile.

It’s sobering when we realize how oblivious the Jews were to their own spiritual condition and the consequences of their stubborn sin. Even following a great revival, the people continued to think they could renege on the covenant they had with Jehovah. They lived as though His Word meant nothing at all. It was a rude awakening when the citizens of Judah realized the wrath of God was about to hit in full force.

What happened to Judah (and Israel) is part of the historical record of that part of the world. But what happened to the God’s people should serve as a warning to all nations and individuals. No nation and no person can ignore God for long, and as blessed as a nation has been, if it continually turns its back on God, it will face dire consequences.

The fall of Jerusalem

So in the ninth year of Zedekiah’s reign, on the tenth day of the tenth month, Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon marched against Jerusalem with his whole army. They camped outside the city and built siege works all around it. The city was kept under siege until the eleventh year of King Zedekiah. By the ninth day of the fourth month the famine in the city had become so severe that there was no food for the people to eat. (Jeremiah 52:4-6 | NIV84)

There at Riblah the king of Babylon slaughtered the sons of Zedekiah before his eyes; he also killed all the officials of Judah. Then he put out Zedekiah’s eyes, bound him with bronze shackles and took him to Babylon, where he put him in prison till the day of his death. (Jeremiah 52:10-11 | NIV84)

The material contained in Jeremiah 52 is so important, it is found in 2 King 25:18 – 25:30. This shows just how important these events are in Hebrew history. What happened to Judah was the greatest catastrophe to ever befall any nation in Old Testament times. Yet, apparently once was not enough.  A similar event took place in 70 AD, also in Jerusalem, at the hands of the Romans. The simple fact is this: the destruction of Jerusalem vindicated the Word of the Lord. Jeremiah’s predictions – and in fact those of many prophets before him – did come to pass.

Already Nebuchadnezzar had swept into Judah and taken off many captives, exiling them in Babylon. At least there, these pesky Jews were kept under control. Not so back in the homeland. By 589 BC, Zedekiah, bowing to public pressure, rebelled against Nebuchadnezzar and in 588 BC Jerusalem was placed under siege. The rest of Judah was completely occupied by Babylonian troops.

Jeremiah bitterly predicted that the city would be destroyed if the rebellion continued and the only hope of survival lay in surrendering to Nebuchadnezzar and co-operating with him. Here’s what he told the people –

Whoever stays in this city will die by the sword, famine or plague. But whoever goes out and surrenders to the Babylonians who are besieging you will live; he will escape with his life. (Jeremiah 21:9 | NIV84)

Naturally, patriotic Jews viewed this statement as treasonous. This coupled with a brief respite from the violence of Nebuchadnezzar and his armies caused the people to resent Jeremiah even more. A very similar thing had happened before during Sennacherib’s time, when another siege was lifted permanently. Surely, the people assumed, this would happen again. It didn’t. Jeremiah made sure the people understood this, and they hated him even more!

The prophet, taking a bit of a break during this brief time of peace, decided to take a trip back to Benjamin to look after some property he owned there. He was grabbed by some members of the army and accused of deserting to the Babylonians. Could things get any worse for the prophet of God? Well, yes, actually, because after denying the charges vigorously, Jeremiah was thrown into prison. According to some sources, it wasn’t just a prison but a dungeon, with no light, no water, and no food. Had it not been for Zedekiah’s timely, if not misguided, intervention, our faithful prophet might have died there.

Zedekiah the king was a conflicted man. He didn’t have much for God, but he didn’t care much for the Babylonians either and, not wanting to take any chances, had Jeremiah brought to him on the down low, so as not to anger the nationalists.

Then King Zedekiah sent for him and had him brought to the palace, where he asked him privately, “Is there any word from the Lord?” “Yes,” Jeremiah replied, “you will be handed over to the king of Babylon.” (Jeremiah 37:17 | NIV84)

In one form or another, Jeremiah remained incarcerated for the duration of the siege. Just like the apostle Paul, this Old Testament prophet kept up preaching God’s Word of immanent disaster. And yet, in spite of what was about to happen, Jeremiah did an unusual thing: he arranged for the purchase of some land in his home town. It was a leap of faith; an indication that even though the immediate future looked bleak, at some point in the future Judah would be Jewish once again.

Then, just as the Lord had said, my cousin Hanamel came to me in the courtyard of the guard and said, ‘Buy my field at Anathoth in the territory of Benjamin. Since it is your right to redeem it and possess it, buy it for yourself.’“I knew that this was the word of the Lord; so I bought the field at Anathoth from my cousin Hanamel and weighed out for him seventeen shekels of silver. (Jeremiah 32:8-9 | NIV84)

“In their presence I gave Baruch these instructions: ‘This is what the Lord Almighty, the God of Israel, says: Take these documents, both the sealed and unsealed copies of the deed of purchase, and put them in a clay jar so they will last a long time. For this is what the Lord Almighty, the God of Israel, says: Houses, fields and vineyards will again be bought in this land.’ (Jeremiah 32:13-15 | NIV84)

Nebuzaradan, the captain of Nebuchadnezzar’s elite troops, took even more captives and in 587 BC, Jerusalem was sacked, it’s walls broken down, many buildings razed to the ground, and the glorious Temple, center of the Jewish faith, was completely destroyed. Zedekiah attempted to run but was caught and before his eyes were gouged out, he witnessed the execution of his children. There is a very high price to pay for not paying attention to the Word of the Lord. Zedekiah learned this, as did most of the citizens of Judah. All the work and accomplishments of David, Solomon, and a godly generation almost vanished during an evening of violence, fire, and bloodshed.

Life in exile

After two deportations (one more would take place), Judah lost much of its population. In Babylon, the exiles clung to their faith like they hadn’t in generations. While in exile, the Jewish faith was further developed and organized. Meanwhile, back in Judah, those Jews who hadn’t been put in exile continued to live as best they could and the form of Jewish faith practiced there soon became more superstitious in nature.

After the fall of Jerusalem, Nebuchadnezzar took care of Jeremiah –

Now Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon had given these orders about Jeremiah through Nebuzaradan commander of the imperial guard: “Take him and look after him; don’t harm him but do for him whatever he asks.” So Nebuzaradan the commander of the guard, Nebushazban a chief officer, Nergal-Sharezer a high official and all the other officers of the king of Babylon sent and had Jeremiah taken out of the courtyard of the guard. They turned him over to Gedaliah son of Ahikam, the son of Shaphan, to take him back to his home. So he remained among his own people. (Jeremiah 39:11-14 | NIV84)

While there, the prophet continued to minister to his people in the form letters; he sent letters to the exiles living in Babylon. Here’s an sample of what he wrote to them –

This is what the Lord Almighty, the God of Israel, says to all those I carried into exile from Jerusalem to Babylon: “Build houses and settle down; plant gardens and eat what they produce. Marry and have sons and daughters; find wives for your sons and give your daughters in marriage, so that they too may have sons and daughters. Increase in number there; do not decrease. Also, seek the peace and prosperity of the city to which I have carried you into exile. Pray to the Lord for it, because if it prospers, you too will prosper.” (Jeremiah 29:4-7 | NIV84)

The interesting thing in that paragraph is the revelation that it wasn’t Nebuchadnezzar who carried the Jews into exile, it was the Lord Almighty, the God of Israel! There is no better example of God’s sovereignty than that!

Just like God was with His people during their desert wanderings after their exodus from Egypt, so He was with them in the Babylonian exile. In both instances, He was punishing them, yet He never left them. Jeremiah’s letter contains some of the most beautiful, comforting verses anywhere in the Bible, including these –

You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart. 14 I will be found by you,” declares the Lord, “and will bring you back from captivity. I will gather you from all the nations and places where I have banished you,” declares the Lord, “and will bring you back to the place from which I carried you into exile.” (Jeremiah 29:13-14 | NIV84)

And they did seek the Lord. And 70 years later, the Jews returned home. But they never returned en mass, with many Jews choosing to remain in Babylon, or as it was becoming, the Persian Empire. Those who did return, though, found “strangers” living in their land, practicing an odd form of Judaism. Those “strangers” were in reality descendants of those left in Judah after the deportations to Babylon two generations earlier! There was some animosity between them and the returning exiles, and the exiles had a difficult time rebuilding Jerusalem, as detailed in the Old Testament historical books of Ezra and Nehemiah.

What of all the Jews who remained in Babylon? There were huge and important communities living and prospering in Babylon that actually helped in rebuilding Jerusalem and Judah by sending financial support to those engaged in those efforts. Even after the Temple was rebuilt and the walls around Jerusalem restored, these large Jewish communities throughout the Babylonian and Persian Empires persisted throughout the Old and New Testament era and beyond. After the destruction of Jerusalem in 70 AD, these Jewish communities became the centers of Jewish life and culture for over a thousand years.

The Babylonian exile was more than just an “event” in Hebrew history. It wasn’t just a hiatus in the life of Judaism. It was, in fact, a vital stage in the development of not only Judaism, but also in that of Christianity and, unfortunately, Islam. The Babylonian exile may be viewed as the beginning of the Diaspora (Greek for “dispersion”). The Diaspora is a name given to Jewish communities living outside of Judah and Israel, and it continues to this very day, over 2,500 years after Nebchadnezzar’s time.  Viewing the Babylonian exile through the long lense of God’s involvement in history, we realize that, far from a terrible thing, it was actually fortuitous. Jewish theology and doctrine were further developed and firmed up and stored for all time.  Nebuchadnezzar was used by God to judge His people, yes, but thanks to God’s sovereignty, we have preserved for us divine beliefs and practices that otherwise may not have survived the reckless and haphazard treatment treatment at the hands of God’s own people.  God’s sovereignty is an amazing thing!

 

Jeremiah Was a Prophet, Part 5

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Jeremiah had a tough row to hoe. He was relatively young when God called him to be a prophet, and Jeremiah was sure he was just too young; too inexperienced. That’s probably how most of us feel when we’re faced with doing something we know the Lord wants us to do. The thing about God is this pesky passage:

Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, before you were born I set you apart; I appointed you as a prophet to the nations. (Jeremiah 1:5 NIV | 11)

That’s God laying it on the line for Jeremiah. When you realize, as our reluctant prophet soon did, that God knows you that well and that He is absolutely in charge of your life, it’s hard to argue with Him. You may think you aren’t good enough; worthy enough; spiritual enough; or whatever enough, but if God called you, then obviously He thinks you’re up to the challenge. To make matter ever worse, whom God calls, He equips:

Then the Lord reached out his hand and touched my mouth and said to me, “I have put my words in your mouth.” (Jeremiah 1:9 NIV | 11)

Well, that’s it then, isn’t it? The discussion was over for Jeremiah, and it’s over for us too. When God calls, just do what Mary, Jesus’ mother told some people:

But his mother told the servants, “Do whatever he tells you to.” (John 2:5 TLB)

The first verse in Jeremiah 26 sets the scene –

Early in the reign of Jehoiakim son of Josiah king of Judah… (NIV | 84)

Jeremiah began his ministry during the reign of Josiah, who was a godly king, and under whose direction many religious reforms were instituted and a great revival took place. Josiah was killed in battle and very shortly thereafter, Judah became, for a time, a puppet state of Egypt. The king of Egypt put Josiah’s son, Jehoiakim, on the throne in Judah. He was a weak man, materialistic and self-centered. He not only rounded up and persecuted innocent citizens, but he tried to have Jeremiah killed. His end came none too soon:

Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon attacked him and bound him with bronze shackles to take him to Babylon. (2 Chronicles 36:6 NIV | 84)

Jehoiakim’s son, Jehoiachin, took over from his father, and just like his father he was a weak ruler who would have nothing to do with God. Nebuchadnezzar soon ended his career and took him off the throne and brought him to become a slave in Babylon. Like father, like son.

Self deception

This was the Lord’s instructions to His prophet:

This is what the LORD says: Stand in the courtyard of the LORD’s house and speak to all the people of the towns of Judah who come to worship in the house of the LORD. Tell them everything I command you; do not omit a word.” (Jeremiah 26:2 NIV | 84)

This incident, though in chapter 26, actually took place back in chapters 7 – 10. With the passing of Josiah, the people, bereft of a sound leader of faith, soon lost interest in the religious reforms that Josiah put in place. Jeremiah, a prophet and man of vision, understood well the precarious position Judah had put herself in. Time was running out. The nation stood at the crossroads and her only hope was to return to God and if that was to happen, it would have to happen soon before the people drifted further away. Disregarding the obvious danger to himself, Jeremiah stepped up and, as Mary counselled generations later, he simply did what God had told him to do. As one Bible scholar noted,

Jeremiah stepped into the public light as a statesman of intrepid courage and political insight.

The message from God was a simple, direct, and highly offensive to the people who heard it – priests, prophets, and all the people: If they didn’t listen to the Word of God, their holy temple and city would be destroyed and made to be a curse before all nations. Their reaction was predictable and belied the violence in their hearts:

But as soon as Jeremiah finished telling all the people everything the LORD had commanded him to say, the priests, the prophets and all the people seized him and said, “You must die! Why do you prophesy in the LORD’s name that this house will be like Shiloh and this city will be desolate and deserted?” And all the people crowded around Jeremiah in the house of the LORD. (Jeremiah 26:8, 9 NIV | 84)

Sure, they “crowded around Jeremiah in the house of the Lord,” but it wasn’t because they were listening in rapt attention to his dire words. They wanted to kill him! They wanted to stone the prophet to death because his sermon dared to contradict what the so-called professional prophets, priests, and religious leaders had been telling the people. To them, Jeremiah wasn’t preaching the Word of the Lord, he was guilty of blasphemy. The Temple of God, meant to be the dwelling place of God and the repository of His Word and teachings, had been turned into a symbol of the priest’s power over the people. In preaching something contrary to their teachings and going against the “majority opinion,” Jeremiah was undermining their authority. If this sounds familiar, something very similar happened to our Lord when He prophesied about the immanent destruction of the Temple and Jerusalem in His day:

Jesus left the temple and was walking away when his disciples came up to him to call his attention to its buildings. “Do you see all these things?” he asked. “I tell you the truth, not one stone here will be left on another; every one will be thrown down.” (Matthew 24:1, 2 NIV | 84)

Then some stood up and gave this false testimony against him: “We heard him say, ‘I will destroy this man-made temple and in three days will build another, not made by man.’ ” (mark 14:57, 58 NIV | 84)

Sometimes taking a stand for God and the truth can be outright dangerous. A lot of believers misunderstand Proverbs 15:22, believing that if all the preachers are saying the same thing, they must be right.

Plans fail for lack of counsel, but with many advisers they succeed. (Proverbs 15:22 NIV | 84)

Jeremiah and Jesus, and many reformers and martyrs down through the centuries have demonstrated that often, Proverbs 15:22 must be applied on a case-by-case basis.

The prophet’s defense

Then Jeremiah said to all the officials and all the people: “The LORD sent me to prophesy against this house and this city all the things you have heard. Now reform your ways and your actions and obey the LORD your God. Then the LORD will relent and not bring the disaster he has pronounced against you. As for me, I am in your hands; do with me whatever you think is good and right. Be assured, however, that if you put me to death, you will bring the guilt of innocent blood on yourselves and on this city and on those who live in it, for in truth the LORD has sent me to you to speak all these words in your hearing.” (Jeremiah 26:12 – 15 NIV | 84)

What an admirable, classic, and courageous defense:

• Authority: “The Lord sent me…”
• Warning: “…to prophesy against this house and city…”
• Committal: “…do with me whatever you think is good and right…”
• Warning: “…if you put me to death, you will bring the guilt of innocent blood on yourselves and on this city…”
• Authority: “…for in truth the Lord has sent me to you to speak all these words in your hearing.”

His open and honest defense worked, at least for the moment. And in fact, Jeremiah found out he wasn’t the only prophet who had spoken the truth. Some of the elders remembered that a hundred years earlier, the prophet Micah said essentially the same thing as Jeremiah did.

Some of the elders of the land stepped forward and said to the entire assembly of people, “Micah of Moresheth prophesied in the days of Hezekiah king of Judah. He told all the people of Judah, ‘This is what the LORD Almighty says: “ ‘Zion will be plowed like a field, Jerusalem will become a heap of rubble, the temple hill a mound overgrown with thickets.’” (Jeremiah 26:17, 18 NIV | 84)

What’s tragic about this whole incident is that while the people and the rulers recognized Jeremiah’s authority from God, they stubbornly refused to change their ways and obey the Word of the Lord. Had they done so, a great spiritual awakening would have taken place.

A deceived prophet

People and religious leaders are easily deceived and easily deceive God’s people. In Jeremiah 28, we read about a deceptive prophet whose name was Hananiah. This was his message to the people of Judah:

This is what the LORD Almighty, the God of Israel, says: ‘I will break the yoke of the king of Babylon. Within two years I will bring back to this place all the articles of the LORD’s house that Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon removed from here and took to Babylon.” (Jeremiah 28:2, 3 NIV | 84)

Hananiah was just a single false prophet but he represented an entire professional class – a professional class of religious profiteers; men who made money preaching what people wanted to hear. People like this are still in business today, by the way. In Hananiah’s case, he was not a “prosperity preacher” or preacher of “pop psychology” designed to make you happy. No, this false prophet was a prophet of peace – false peace. He was fool. He could see the “handwriting on the wall.” He recognized the awesome power of Babylon. He, like Jeremiah, had seen Nebuchadnezzar march into Jerusalem, take many captives back with him, along with many of the priceless Temple articles. Yet Hananiah publically prophesied a lie: that within two years Babylon’s power would be crushed and the captives returned home. It was a word full of “hope and change” and “sunny ways,” and the people lapped it up.

Jeremiah’s response is curious:

He said, “Amen! May the LORD do so! May the LORD fulfill the words you have prophesied by bringing the articles of the LORD’s house and all the exiles back to this place from Babylon.” (Jeremiah 28:6 NIV | 84)

The true prophet was clever. His response, though curious, made complete sense, for who wouldn’t want the optimistic, positive outcome prophesied by Hananiah? But, the clever response was followed this observation:

But the prophet who prophesies peace will be recognized as one truly sent by the LORD only if his prediction comes true. (Jeremiah 28:9 NIV | 84)

Jeremiah was clever, and he was no fool. He wasn’t born yesterday and he knew how God worked. He loved Judah and the people of Judah, and somewhere deep inside he hoped Hananiah’s words would pan out and be true. But he knew what God had told him. And Hananiah’s actions belied his attitude.

Then the prophet Hananiah took the yoke off the neck of the prophet Jeremiah and broke it, and he said before all the people, “This is what the LORD says: ‘In the same way will I break the yoke of Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon off the neck of all the nations within two years.’ ” At this, the prophet Jeremiah went on his way. (Jeremiah 28:10, 11 NIV | 84)

Anybody can say anything, but the proof is in the pudding. And sometimes it’s in history. In the past, the true prophets of God never prophesied good times ahead without emphasizing the responsibility of the people. Yet this was precisely what Hananiah and other false prophets were doing. The true prophets of God always spoke of ethical conduct and how that connected to eternal realities. Jeremiah knew that God dealt with people on a moral basis, not merely on desirable outcomes. The word of a true prophet wasn’t always sunshine and daisies, but a mixture of negative and positive.

God’s word to Hananiah through Jeremiah, though, was all bad:

Then the prophet Jeremiah said to Hananiah the prophet, “Listen, Hananiah! The LORD has not sent you, yet you have persuaded this nation to trust in lies. Therefore, this is what the LORD says: ‘I am about to remove you from the face of the earth. This very year you are going to die, because you have preached rebellion against the LORD.’ ” (Jeremaih 28:15, 16 NIV | 84)

And he did die, just as the Lord’s true prophet had said.

This chapter is an important one. In our world today, there is much talk of peace. Peace is something all people want. But God’s Word, which contains the objective Truth, doesn’t speak of a peaceful world, but of a world filled with wars and rumors of wars until the Lord returns. Any nation can do anything it wants to; treaties may be concocted and signed, but in the end, the Lord’s Word will always come to pass.

 


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