Posts Tagged 'Jeremiah'



Jeremiah Was a Prophet, Part 1

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The Old Testament prophets were a strange lot. They had to be. Life was hard enough back then, but add into the mix having to preach messages that put you on the wrong side of most people, and you’ve got men with few friends and fewer supporters. Here’s a very brief description of the last Old Testament prophet, John the Baptist:

John’s clothes were made of camel’s hair, and he had a leather belt around his waist. His food was locusts and wild honey. (Matthew 3:4. TNIV)

But no Old Testament prophet is so misunderstood as Jeremiah. What most Christians know about Jeremiah they know from sound bites. He was “the weeping prophet.” He was “temperamental and neurotic.” But if that’s all you know about him, you’ve missed the essence of Jeremiah. He was, in fact, a prophet of hope.

He messages were hard but not unique to him. Jeremiah’s messages of warning were really restatements of what his predecessors had preached; they were messages of the sure final doom of the nation he loved so much, yet he was able to see beyond the coming judgment to a new and better day. Reading the sermons of Jeremiah, I can’t help but think of the words of Mote’s classic hymn, The Solid Rock:

When darkness hides his lovely face,
I rest on his unchanging grace,
In every high and stormy gale,
My anchor holds within the veil.

No matter how dark, depressing, and distressing his circumstances had become, Jeremiah was absolutely convinced that there was a light just ahead. His was not an empty hope, but a hope built on his faith in God and God’s promises.

People who are filled with confidence in themselves and their own abilities worship at the altar of “the god of immediate success” and tend to avoid reading Jeremiah. Their immaturity forbids them reading what a realist wrote. And yet, Jeremiah stands today as the greatest figure of his generation. He wasn’t appreciated back then, but his messages resonate with a new generation of believer, looking for the hope Jeremiah was convinced of that is so needed today.

Jeremiah the prophet began his ministry around 627 BC and continued for some 40 years until his nation dissolved around him in 586 BC. He lasted through the final five kings of Judah, and while Isaiah also preached during the reigns of a number of kings, Jeremiah was never welcomed anywhere near the royal courts as Isaiah was.

God knows whom He calls

The message the prophet was never some kind of nebulous theory, a figment of his over-active and deranged imagination, but rather the prophet’s message came out of the history of his time. Jeremiah was a real man who lived during a real time in history. The opening words of Jeremiah’s book of prophecy nail down this man’s history:

The words of Jeremiah son of Hilkiah, one of the priests at Anathoth in the territory of Benjamin. The word of the Lord came to him in the thirteenth year of the reign of Josiah son of Amon king of Judah, and through the reign of Jehoiakim son of Josiah king of Judah, down to the fifth month of the eleventh year of Zedekiah son of Josiah king of Judah, when the people of Jerusalem went into exile. (Jeremiah 1:1 – 3 TNIV)

Jeremiah was born in a town about three miles northeast of Jerusalem. His father was a priest, and we may be sure Hilkiah had high hopes that his son would follow in his priestly footsteps. He didn’t. Jeremiah, whose name means “Jah is high” or “Whom Jah appoints” would, instead, become one of those weirdo prophets.

Jeremiah was a young man when he began his ministry in the 13th year of Josiah’s reign. His years of ministry occurred during a tumultuous time in history for the Jews. There were great social and political upheavals going on which Jeremiah witnessed firsthand. From Judah’s last righteous King (Josiah) to its last actual King (Zedekiah), Jeremiah lived long enough to experience a glorious revival and to witness Jerusalem’s utter destruction by Nebuchadnezzar and Babylon. This latter event came as no surprise to the citizens of Judah, as Jeremiah warned them for decades the day was coming because of their stubborn obsession with idolatry.

This prophet was a man for his times. Just a quick survey of the kings he ministered under will give you an idea of Jeremiah’s temperament. Josiah, the first king mentioned, came to power at eight years of age! At that time, Judah had fallen so far from God that there was not a single copy of the Law in the land. And yet, when he was 26 years old, Josiah began a Temple reconstruction project. The high priest at that time –  Hilkiah – found a copy of the Law hidden away in the rubble of the Temple! When the young king read it, he was overcome with fear and conviction and instituted a number of religious reforms that led Judah into an incredible spiritual revival that lasted until Josiah left the throne.

In spite of that, Josiah entered into a deal with the devil, specifically, Josiah got involved in the convoluted world of international politics and went to war against Neco, the Egyptian King. Jeremiah did his best to dissuade Josiah from this course of action, but Josiah was determined. Sadly, this godly King was killed in battle and the army of Judah trounced. Jehoahaz, Josiah’s third son, was chosen to be king. Judah quickly degenerated to a mere vassal to Egypt. Jehoahaz managed to hang on to the throne for three months before Neco had him deported to Egypt.

Another son of Josiah, Jehoiakim, was chosen to replace Jehoahaz. Jehoiakim was one evil king. He was greedy, dishonest, and treated his people mercilessly. During his reign, Babylon defeated Egypt in battle, and they soon took notice of Judah. It was during Jehoiakim’s reign that Nebuchadnezzar first invaded Judah. It was then that Daniel and the best and brightest of Hebrew children were taken captive back to Babylon. King Jehoiakim tried to have Jeremiah killed but was unsuccessful. He sat on the throne for eleven years, and was eventually taken by Nebuchadnezzar captive during a failed revolt against Babylon.

Jehoiakim’s son, Jehoiachin, succeeded his father. After only three months the mighty Babylonian army came and carried him off to Babylon. It was during this invasion that Ezekiel, another prophet, was taken captive as well. Ezekiel lived in exile for some 40 years. He never saw Judah again, dying in exile.

Zedekiah was Judah’s final king. He ruled for eleven years, but by then Judah was literally falling apart. Jeremiah had given Zedekiah some sound advice, which the king disregarded. Instead of living in peace with his Babylonian overlords, Zedekiah joined in a doomed rebellion against them. Nebuchadnezzar, by this time, had no more patience with the Hebrews and in a final siege against Jerusalem which last two years, he breached the walls and entered the city only to find its citizens starving and dying. With no more resistance, the forces of Babylon destroyed the Temple and much of the city. Jerusalem was left almost empty and decimated.

This was what the world was like when Jeremiah was ministering. Martin Luther observed:

Next to faith this is the highest art – to be content with the calling in which God has placed you.

Jeremiah was called to preach at a horrible time in history. But he kept on, never stopping, and fulfilled God’s calling.

The word of the Lord came to me, saying, “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 1:4, 5 TNIV)

Jeremiah was probably in his late teens or very early 20’s when the Lord spoke these words to him. Verse 5 is really a phenomenal verse for a couple of reasons. First, it says God actually knows us. Jeremiah isn’t unique, God knows all people this well. That’s either very comforting or terrifying depending on your spiritual state! There’s just no way to misinterpret what God is saying here. He KNOWS people. Nothing is hid from Him. That’s why this is such a powerful verse for those of us who view abortion as an abomination. When an unborn child is aborted, regardless of when, a person is being killed – a person God knows personally. But, second, we can see how well God knows people; His knowledge isn’t just passive. In the case of Jeremiah (and others mentioned in the Bible), God had definite plans in store for him. The unborn Jeremiah was “set apart” for a very specific task: to be a prophet. Theologically, this “setting apart” by God is how the Old Testament views sanctification. For a person or even a nation to be “holy” means that God had chosen them to be His own to be used for His purposes. In the case of Jeremiah, God had chosen him for a very specific purpose.

God provides the message

Ah, Sovereign Lord,” I said, “I do not know how to speak; I am too young.” But the Lord said to me, “Do not say, ‘I am too young.’ You must go to everyone I send you to and say whatever I command you. Do not be afraid of them, for I am with you and will rescue you,” declares the Lord. (Jeremiah 1:6 – 8 TNIV)

God commanded him to be a prophet, but Jeremiah was worried. He was young. He felt completely under qualified. But whom God calls, God equips. The Lord didn’t care about Jeremiah’s age or his inexperience. He promised to be with the prophet and to protect him. The Lord’s personal and abiding presence would be forever accompany Jeremiah.

This exchange reminds us of another conversation:

Moses said to the Lord, “Pardon your servant, Lord. I have never been eloquent, neither in the past nor since you have spoken to your servant. I am slow of speech and tongue.” The Lord said to him, “Who gave human beings their mouths? Who makes them deaf or mute? Who gives them sight or makes them blind? Is it not I, the Lord? Now go; I will help you speak and will teach you what to say.”. (Exodus 4:10 – 12 TNIV)

We really should learn to relax and stop being so self-centered and live more God-centered lives. Nothing is impossible for God! God always implements His own plans.

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 TNIV)

That’s the essence of prophecy; a person speaking God’s word. When a Christian tries to speak using his own words – or, as we might also say, using his own talents and abilities – his message must necessarily be suspect. Remember what James wrote:

The tongue also is a fire, a world of evil among the parts of the body. It corrupts the whole person, sets the whole course of one’s life on fire, and is itself set on fire by hell. All kinds of animals, birds, reptiles and sea creatures are being tamed and have been tamed by human beings… (James 3:6, 7 TNIV)

The true prophet; God’s genuine ministers, will be like Moses and Jeremiah and be humble enough to realize their shortcomings. Paul did. And that’s why he wrote this:

But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness. ” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong. (2 Corinthians 12:9, 10 TNIV)

That’s not an insignificant sentence of self-realization: “When I am weak, then I am strong.” That’s because when a person finally realizes their genuine weaknesses or shortcomings, he will finally start trusting in God. Self confidence is a wonderful thing, but it can work against the Christian unless self confidence is viewed as having confidence in your position in God.

God’s message to the people through Jeremiah was a depressing one. There was no “light at the end of the tunnel.” The die had been cast and there was no way to avoid the coming judgment. This was Jeremiah’s message. Jeremiah was given the job nobody would have applied for. But even though the message was a tough one, God consoled His prophet with this:

Get yourself ready! Stand up and say to them whatever I command you. Do not be terrified by them, or I will terrify you before them.” (Jeremiah 1:17 TNIV)

 

JEREMIAH AND THE RECABITES

Jeremiah 35

The book of Jeremiah is special. It is the only prophetic book in the Bible that records the fulfillment of its main prophecy: the fall of Jerusalem and the captivity of the Jews in Babylon. Chapters 34 through 44 tell that part of the story; the siege of Jerusalem is in chapters 34—38, its fall in chapter 39, and the events after the fall are found in chapters 40—44.

The prophet Jeremiah is just as special as the book that bears his name. He not only preached and foretold future events, he used his imagination in trying to get his message across to the people. Jeremiah’s favorite technique was to take everyday things or people –like the potter and his clay—to illustrate deep, spiritual truths. Here, in chapter 35, he used a whole tribe of people to teach a singular lesson to the people of Judah.

The people were known as Recabites. This was a separatist, nomadic family that descended from the Kenites. They are first mentioned back in 1 Chronicles 2:55—

...and the clans of scribes who lived at Jabez: the Tirathites, Shimeathites and Sucathites. These are the Kenites who came from Hammath, the father of the house of Recab.

In spite of the fact that the Recabites lived on the outskirts, in the desert, they were followers of Yahweh, as far back as the days in Egypt, where they joined the Hebrews in their Exodus. Being related to the Kenites, they were actually part of Jethro’s family—the same Jethro who was Moses’ father-in-law. They were instrumental in purging the Northern Kingdom, Israel, of Baal worship during the time of Jehu.

Jonadab, was their spiritual father (see 2 Kings 10, 15, 16). He was a wise, strong man who had taken the vows Nazarite; whose life and testimony glued the tribe together. His whole life was a protest against the sins of his generation: Baal worship and rebellion against God.

Jonadab was absolutely zealous for the cause of God and, like any good father, consistently set a good, positive example for his people to follow. To paraphrase as well-known saying, “The good, and the evil, that men do live after them in their children.”

And Jeremiah was about to use the whole tribe to both rebuke Judah and teach them a lesson. In doing so, believers of the 21st century may learn some priceless lessons about the Christian life.

1. They were severely tested, verses 1—5

This is the word that came to Jeremiah from the Lord during the reign of Jehoiakim son of Josiah king of Judah: “Go to the Recabite family and invite them to come to one of the side rooms of the house of the Lord and give them wine to drink.” (verses 1, 2)

Chapter 35 has one purpose: to contrast the remarkable obedience of the Recabites with the consistent disobedience of Judah. The Recabites had come come to Jerusalem at this time seeking refuge from the Babylonian armies. Under the direction of God, Jeremiah was to go to the Recabites, offer them sanctuary in one of the rooms in the Temple and a drink of wine.

Some churches like to use the Recabites and their temperance as a way to teach abstinence from alcohol, but that’s not the purpose of this chapter. The Recabites had taken the Nazarite vow, which forbade them from consuming alcohol. It was their personal choice, just as living in the desert and avoiding life in the city was their personal choice.

Still, they had this set of beliefs and practices that they took very seriously and at God’s express direction, Jeremiah was to offer them a drink, in the Lord’s Temple. Talk about temptation! Imagine, turning the House of the Lord into a saloon! Especially troubling about what God asked Jeremiah to do is this verse in James 1:13—

When tempted, no one should say, “God is tempting me.” For God cannot be tempted by evil, nor does he tempt anyone…

Two points need to be remembered here. First, God was not tempting the Recabites to sin against their consciences. The Recabites, like Job, were strong in their convictions. God, in His omniscience, knew they would never take that alcohol.

Second, because God knew how the Recabites would respond, God trusted them to provide the perfect living example for the people of Judah. This is another classic example of God’s sovereignty.

2. They remained faithful to their convictions, verses 6—11

But they replied, “We do not drink wine, because our forefather Jonadab son of Recab gave us this command: ‘Neither you nor your descendants must ever drink wine.” (verse 6)

No matter who was tempting them, these Recabites would not be tempted to go against the commands of their ancestor. Not only did they refuse to drink, they went so far as to instruct the prophet on why they would abstain. They reminded Jeremiah why they lived the way they lived and why they came to Jerusalem:

But when Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon invaded this land, we said, ‘Come, we must go to Jerusalem to escape the Babylonian and Aramean armies.’ So we have remained in Jerusalem.” (verse 11)

They had come to Jerusalem for safety, not to indulge in the very things they were avoiding. They avoided the things that they perceived caused people to sin and rebel against God. Things like alcohol, living in big cities, building homes, and so on. For hundreds of years these people lived precisely the way their ancestors wanted them to.

These were the people God was using to teach Judah a lesson. The lesson had nothing to do with their lifestyle per se. God was not a teetotaller. He was not against people living in a house or even in a city, necessarily. God has never been big on the idea of asceticism. What impressed God, and what God wanted Jeremiah to impress upon his people, was how the Recabites remained faithful to their ancestor Jonadab:

We have lived in tents and have fully obeyed everything our forefather Jonadab commanded us. (verse 10)

3. Their example, verses 12—17

“Jonadab son of Recab ordered his sons not to drink wine and this command has been kept. To this day they do not drink wine, because they obey their forefather’s command. But I have spoken to you again and again, yet you have not obeyed me.” (verse 14)

We can imagine what a stir this group of nomads caused in and around the Temple. A lot of people probably came, rubber-necking, trying to get glimpse of these strange looking people. Jeremiah had a captive audience and he seized the opportunity to drive home God’s message to the people of Jerusalem.

The Recabites had remained steadfastly faithful to a dead ancestor yet the people of Judah couldn’t seem to remain faithful to God, who had been sending them His prophets for centuries! This paragraph gives us the startling contrasts:

  • The Recabites obeyed a fallible, dead leader. Judah’s leader was the eternal God.
  • Jonadab gave his commands to the Recabites only one time. God repeatedly sent His messages to His people.
  • The Recabites’ beliefs dealt with worldly issues, not eternal ones. God’s messages to His people dealt with both eternal and temporal issues.
  • The Recabites obeyed Jonadab’s commands for some 300 years. God’s people had been disobedient since the days of the Exodus.
  • The loyalty of the Recabites would be rewarded. For their disloyalty, the people of Judah would be punished.

What a powerful message this should have been. But, as happened so often, the message fell on deaf ears:

“Therefore, this is what the Lord God Almighty, the God of Israel, says: ‘Listen! I am going to bring on Judah and on everyone living in Jerusalem every disaster I pronounced against them. I spoke to them, but they did not listen; I called to them, but they did not answer.’” (verse 17)

4. The Recabite’s Reward, verses 18, 19

Then Jeremiah said to the family of the Recabites, “This is what the Lord Almighty, the God of Israel, says: ‘You have obeyed the command of your forefather Jonadab and have followed all his instructions and have done everything he ordered.’ Therefore, this is what the Lord Almighty, the God of Israel, says: ‘Jonadab son of Recab will never fail to have a man to serve me.’”

Judah’s future looked pretty bleak. But not so for the Recabites. God promised to reward these desert nomads, not because of their odd lifestyle, but because they remained faithful to the wishes of their forefather. Their reward was, in reality, a striking rebuke against the rebellious, double dealing people of Judah. Both groups of people would reap what they had sowed! Judah would reap judgment and the Recabites would reap their reward. Yes, the faithfulness of the Recabites would forever stand as a living example of the kind of devotion and commitment wants from His people.

Conclusion

The Bible clearly teaches that obedience to one’s parents will be rewarded with a long life in this world.  The Bible also teaches us about our heavenly Father, and that our obedience to Him will bring about eternal rewards.

JEREMIAH: CLAIMING GOD’S PROMISES

Jeremiah 29:10—14

This chapter of Jeremiah’s collection of prophecies and sermons is a little different because the content of two letters makes up its content. Both letters were written by Jeremiah to Jews taken into captivity by the Babylonians. The first letter has to do with the general welfare of the exiles with a strong warning against listening to false prophets. In the second letter, addressed to all the exiles, Jeremiah deals specifically with one false prophet in particular.

The citizens of Judah didn’t go into captivity all at once. Before the final onslaught of the Babylonian horde, Judah experienced two small exiles in 605 BC and 597 BC before the last and greatest Exile of 587 BC. This letter went out to the small groups of exiles taken first. While in exile, they had been hearing from false prophets among them that their exile would be short; that it would soon come to an end and they would be allowed to return home. If only that had been true!

1. The setting, verses 1—9

This is the text of the letter that the prophet Jeremiah sent from Jerusalem to the surviving elders among the exiles and to the priests, the prophets and all the other people Nebuchadnezzar had carried into exile from Jerusalem to Babylon. (This was after King Jehoiachin and the queen mother, the court officials and the leaders of Judah and Jerusalem, the craftsmen and the artisans had gone into exile from Jerusalem.) He entrusted the letter to Elasah son of Shaphan and to Gemariah son of Hilkiah, whom Zedekiah king of Judah sent to King Nebuchadnezzar in Babylon.

Apparently during these early captivities, there were regular communications between Judah and Babylon, and Jeremiah was able to have his letter carried by emissaries from King Zedekiah traveling to see King Nebuchadnezzar in Babylon. We don’t know much about these emissaries, Elash and Gemariah, but Jeremiah must have trusted them to get this letter to its intended destination.

It must have been a strange and stressful time for both the Jews in Judah and the group of Jews in Babylon. Both knew of each other’s existence, both seemed to be able to communicate to the other, and both had to deal with false prophets. In Judah, the false prophets were still running around telling anybody who would listen that things were going to get better. In Babylon, the false prophets among those in exile were peddling the same, upbeat lie: things would get better and they would be heading home any day. This makes Jeremiah’s advice to the exiles even more important. What he wrote to them was, as it were, the Word of the Lord for them. The following verses constitute God’s will for the exiles, and it was not good news at all. God’s will is, admittedly, hard to take some times, but it is God’s will nonetheless. We, His children, aren’t called to understand the “why’s” of it. We are called, simply to obey it.

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.” (verses 5—7)

This advice from God by way of Jeremiah’s letter was in complete opposition to what the false prophets were saying. Far from their rosy predictions of a short “vacation” among the pagans in Babylon, theirs was to be an extended stay! So long, in fact, that they might as well get used to the idea and start building lives for themselves and their families among the Babylonians. Thoughts of Egypt must have rushed through their minds! Could it be that God was abandoning them again to some heathen land? Of course not! God was angry with His people, but they remained HIS people. All they needed was some stern discipline.

They were build homes, have children, and work to support themselves in whatever city they found themselves living. In fact, they were to do even more than that. Here, in Jeremiah 29:7 we see the very first admonition to “pray for your enemies” in Scripture. If they, the exiled Jews were to prosper, the Babylonians were to prosper too! Now, that was a mighty big pill for them to swallow!

2. The plans of God, verse 11

For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.”

We often hear this verse recited at funeral services, but here we see its proper context. It has nothing to do with death, but everything to do with life and hope for the future in spite of the present. All great men in history thought great plans. We serve a God greater than all these great men put together and His plans are so far above ours as to be unbelievable. He said as much to another prophet, Habakkuk:

Look at the nations and watch—and be utterly amazed. For I am going to do something in your days that you would not believe, even if you were told. (Habakkuk 1:5)

Here is what God’s plan looks like:

I know the plans I have for you… First of all, God always deals with the individual. Science and philosophy cannot discern the mind of God. God’s will for a person cannot be found in a library or a petrie dish or in the halls of a university. It is not up to doctors or parents or employers to tell you what God wants for you. The heavens may declare the glory of God, but only His Word can tell you what He wants for you. God has a plan for each and every person ever born or ever to be born. For those who don’t know Jesus Christ as their Lord and Savior, that plan involves eternal separation from Him. But for those who claim His Son, God’s plans are “out of this world!”

…plans to prosper you and not to harm you… The future for the exiles looked bleak in the natural. In the natural, the future is always bleak because it depends on too many “natural” variables beyond our control. Think about it for a moment. For most Americans, their future depends on paper with numbers printed on it. But who controls what that paper is worth? Things like rain or a frost or wind or decisions made a world away can determine your future. Why would anybody take the chance? God’s plans for the exiles in Babylon are the same as His plans for modern-day exiles on earth: plans of prosperity and peace.

to give you hope and a future. God will secure for all exiles, past, present, and future, a blessed future. Think about it. God’s plans for Judah have not yet come to past. Consider:

On that day I will set out to destroy all the nations that attack Jerusalem. “And I will pour out on the house of David and the inhabitants of Jerusalem a spirit of grace and supplication. They will look on me, the one they have pierced, and they will mourn for him as one mourns for an only child, and grieve bitterly for him as one grieves for a firstborn son. (Zechariah 12:9, 10)

And God’s plans for His Church are inexpressible:

…in order that in the coming ages he might show the incomparable riches of his grace, expressed in his kindness to us in Christ Jesus. (Ephesians 2:7)

The thoughts and plans of God, revealed to us and believed by us, ought to encourage us and inspire us with new hope and fresh anticipation, not only for a blessed future here in this world, but also in the next. The psalmist said it right:

How precious to me are your thoughts, O God! How vast is the sum of them! (Psalm 139:17)

3. The expectation of God, verses 12, 13

Then you will call upon me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you. You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart.

Now that you know what God’s plans are, what do you about them? God has an expectation of those to whom He has revealed His thoughts.

…you will call upon me… A glimpse of God demands a pursuit of God. God’s Word, when it gets into your heart, burns like a fire. It can propel you deeper and deeper in a quest to know Him more. God’s Word so often involves promises, yet all too often those promises go unclaimed because we who know better, are ignorant of them. Some Christians think God is a stingy miser because they keep asking for things already given to them, because they don’t reach out in faith to lay hold of them! When you know God and you have an understanding, however imperfect, of His Word, you will call to Him.

…come and pray to me, and I will listen to you. Not only will you call to God, but you will “come to Him” or “seek” Him out. A lover of God wants to be spend time with God! The more you get to know God, the more you want to talk to Him. And His promise is clear: He will listen to you. God knows what you sound like. He never fails to listen to every word prayed in faith.

You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart. What a comfort! What a promise! Those who are earnestly seeking God will always find Him! God is not elusive. God does not play games like “Hide and Seek” with anybody. The sinner crying out for forgiveness in repentance will always find God. The saint who is desperate for more of God will never be disappointed.

But all this is what God expects from those who know Him. It is your responsibility to take the initiative when you have been given a glimpse of God and His plans for you.

4. The promises of God, verse 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.”

These promises given by God to the exiles in Babylon are proofs of just how much God loves His people and how precious are His plans for them.

I will be found by you… God is there to be found. This is, of course, man’s perspective. God isn’t lost so he can’t be found. When anybody “finds” God, that person is actually drawn to God by God, but to that one, God is found like gold nugget in a stream. When one seeks God with an earnest heart; when one prays to God, God is THERE in Person, listening. God doesn’t find ways to avoid you. God’s not on the “other line” when you call. In fact, God longs to be found found you.

[I will] bring you back from captivity. God promised to deliver the exiles just as He has promised to set repentant sinners free from their bondage to sin. If Jesus is your Lord, sin has no more claim on you; God has set you free from that sin as surely as those exiles were set free.

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.” The accumulated sins of the people drove them away, but God’s grace will bring them back. Christ suffered, the sinless for sinners, to bring them back to God.

Seventy years after the exile began, the Jews were allowed to return to Jerusalem. Many went back, many chose to remain in the Persian Empire. There will come a day when all of God’s people will be gathered to Himself. What happened to the Jews back then is an imperfect preview of what will happen when Christ returns.

In Acts 15:14, we read this:

Simon has described to us how God at first showed his concern by taking from the Gentiles a people for himself.

God has always called for Himself people from out of this world. and set them apart from all others. First the Jews, then from among the ranks of the Gentiles. God wants a holy, set apart people to call His own.

JEREMIAH, PART 11

Faithfulness and Foolishness

Jeremiah 26:1—15

Jeremiah was undoubtedly a powerful preacher. How did people in Judah react to his stirring and sometimes offensive words? In chapter 26, we see how some people reacted to the prophet’s stirring words.

Even though this is chapter 26, it goes all the way back to the early days of Jeremiah’s prophetic ministry during King Jehoiakim’s reign. Bible scholars note that the actual words of this “Temple Sermon” are found back in chapters 7 through 10, with Jeremiah’s experiences noted in chapter 26. Here, the whole sermon is given in greatly condensed form in just a single sentence:

Say to them, ‘This is what the Lord says: If you do not listen to me and follow my law, which I have set before you, and if you do not listen to the words of my servants the prophets, whom I have sent to you again and again (though you have not listened), then I will make this house like Shiloh and this city a curse among all the nations of the earth.’ (Jeremiah 26:4—6)

Jeremiah learned the hard way how hard the human heart can become toward the Word of the Lord. What our courageous prophet discovered is that the nation in general had deluded themselves into thinking that because they still had the Temple, they still had God’s favor. Therefore, as far they were concerned, Jeremiah was a heretic because his message didn’t line up with their beliefs. They were so ignorant to God’s Word, they didn’t recognize it when they heard it preached to them, preferring to cling to their own incorrect beliefs.

1. Jeremiah’s commission, verse 2

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.

To a young prophet, this might have sounded like a plum assignment! Surely the Word of the Lord would be well-received in the Temple of the Lord. You’d think that would be the case, but this was not even close to what Jeremiah experienced.

During this time in history, around 608 BC, the Near East was sitting on pins and needles. The Assyrian Empire was breaking up. Egypt was trying to become the rising power in Asia. Babylon was on the brink of killing the Assyrian Empire and becoming the dominant world power. The armies of all these empires and nations were converging at a place called Carchemish to do battle. The future of Judah was a big question mark, to be determined by the outcome of a skirmish that would take place in 606 BC.

But Judah, internally, was having some problems. The nation was still mourning the death of godly King Josiah. Jehoahaz (or Shallum) his successor had been removed from the throne by the Egyptians and puppet-king Jehoiakim, was put on the throne. He was weak, inexperienced, he was a deceiver and completely unscrupulous yet thought himself great.

Since Josiah’s death, the religious situation in Judah deteriorated and Jeremiah recognized that the nation was fast approaching a crisis where its only hope for continued survival lay in a national return to God. He knew the clock was ticking; he knew Judah had to choose God soon or be lost forever.

This was the stream of history young Jeremiah stepped into. God gave His prophet a specific order as to where and when he would address the nation and what he would say to them. Jeremiah was to give his sermon in the Lord’s House and there he would preach it all, holding nothing back.

There is an expectation, even today, thousands of years removed from this period of Hebrew history and a world away from the Judaism of the Old Testament, that the truth should be the norm in the House of God. When a person walks into any church in any town or city in any country, he should always expect to hear the plain truth of God’s Word, not mixed with other ideas or diminished or added to in any way. Those who would distort God’s Word are putting themselves in real danger:

And if anyone takes words away from this scroll of prophecy, God will take away from that person any share in the tree of life and in the Holy City, which are described in this scroll. (Revelation 22:19)

What people who worship in church need today is not more gimmicks, louder music, bigger TV screens, a more casual atmosphere, and coffee in the pews! It’s the unedited, unfiltered, unapologetic Word of God preached honestly and with conviction.

Just as a side note, notice verse 3:

Perhaps they will listen and each will turn from his evil way. Then I will relent and not bring on them the disaster I was planning because of the evil they have done.

This points out that repentance is always as individual matter and God’s judgment always depends on the individual and the choices he makes to live in submissive obedience to God or not.

2. The message, verses 4—6

As was stated earlier, these three verses represent a severe condensation of Jeremiah’s actual sermon. This summation makes the preacher’s three main points really stand out:

  • The absolute necessity of obeying God’s law. This is not negotiable! You cannot call yourself a lover of God yet disregard His Word. In the context of Jeremiah’s sermon, judgment could only be avoided if there was a national return to God.
  • Jeremiah wasn’t the only preacher standing for God in Judah, there were others. The vast majority of prophets at this time was made up of liars, deceivers, charlatans, and thugs, but like always, God had a small band of warriors who dared to stand against the tide of falsehood and heresy.
  • The coming judgment was going to be severe. Shiloh, capital of Samaia (the Northern Kingdom) was not far from Jerusalem and the people could look to Shiloh to see the kind of devastation that awaited them if they didn’t straighten out.

When the blight of God falls on the house of God because of sin and unbelief, that same House of God becomes the object of scorn.

3. The opposition, verses 8—11

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.

When the officials of Judah heard about these things, they went up from the royal palace to the house of the Lord and took their places at the entrance of the New Gate of the Lord’s house. Then the priests and the prophets said to the officials and all the people, “This man should be sentenced to death because he has prophesied against this city. You have heard it with your own ears!”

A very similar thing happened to another preacher of righteousness:

Jesus entered the temple courts, and, while he was teaching, the chief priests and the elders of the people came to him. “By what authority are you doing these things?” they asked. “And who gave you this authority?” (Matthew 21:23)

Religious people love religion but don’t care to hear the Word of the Lord if it cuts against their grain. By telling the people what God wanted them to hear, not what they themselves wanted to hear, Jeremiah was truly risking his life. A false prophet was punished by death, and as far the religionists of his day was concerned, Jeremiah was a false prophet. The charge against Jeremiah was led by the prophets and the priests, the ones who had been telling the people everything was going to be just fine; that God was pleased with Judah and there was no danger.

4. The call to repent, verse 12, 13

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.”

Fortunately for our prophet, the court officials heard the ruckus in the Temple from the palace and investigated. This timely intervention probably saved Jeremiah’s life. The religious leaders accused Jeremiah of being a false prophet in front of the political class and all that remained was the judgment from these officials. But they apparently gave the prophet a chance to defend himself, and, like a dog going after red meat, Jeremiah was at it again! He was absolutely dedicated to God’s Word, resolute in his commitment to preach it not matter what or where, and, apparently, unafraid of the consequences!

In truth, while we may admire Jeremiah, he was God’s messenger and he was simply delivering God’s message to the people. How could he do any less and still remain faithful to his calling? In truth, Jeremiah could take back nothing he had said, for to do so just to save his hide would have made him just as bad as the false prophets and lying priests he was opposing. Besides, God had already clued Jeremiah into how rough it could get out there:

They will fight against you but will not overcome you, for I am with you and will rescue you,” declares the Lord. (Jeremiah 1:19)

5. An honest testimony, verses 14, 15

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.

We read the same language in Joshua 9 and 2 Samuel 15. It always pays to be honest, especially when handling God’s Word. Though Jeremiah thought his fate was in their hands, it really rested in God’s hands. He was prepared for whatever was going to happen to him. He did not plead for his life. He knew je faced imminent death. But he knew he had done nothing wrong and committed no crime.

6. A voice of reason, verse 16

Then the officials and all the people said to the priests and the prophets, “This man should not be sentenced to death! He has spoken to us in the name of the Lord our God.”

In a weird twist of fate, the politicos and the people were more amenable to the Word of the Lord than were the priests and the prophets! Which goes to prove that religious bigotry and pride are often the most bitter enemies of God. Blinded by their religion and their lies, the religious class couldn’t see past their own beliefs, but others saw Jeremiah for what he claimed to be: a man delivering God’s message. To the everlasting shame of priests, the laymen got it! And Jeremiah was spared.

Interestingly, we read about a group of elders, probably from the countryside, who stepped forward in Jeremiah’s defense, reminding the people that a hundred years earlier, another prophet named Micah said much the same thing as Jeremiah just did and he also was spared.

7. A frightening post scriptum

To round off the chapter, we are read of another prophet named Uriah who, we are told, preached the exact same things as did Micah and Jeremiah. But unlike Jeremiah, Uriah fled for his life rather than stand his ground for God. He fled to Egypt, where he was pursued, found, dragged back home and executed for preaching the Word of the Lord.

Yes, it always pays to be honest when dealing with the Word of God and the calling of God!


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