We have reached the final chapter in Jeremiah 52. Zedekiah becomes king in Jerusalem and really makes some major mistakes. First off he is considered “just one more evil king” by God. That in itself is a bad situation. You don’t want to really irritate God by being evil. He can’t tolerate it and will deal with it. Our buddy Zedekiah hasn’t learned that lesson yet, although he has certainly seen plenty of evidence from those who were before him. It really reinforces the concept that power corrupts, and absolute power absolutely corrupts. Here is a kid taking the throne at 21 years of age – has lived in the midst of chaos and destruction because prior kings were rebellious against God and he decides to take the same course. Not really brilliant thinking here. But unfortunately too many of us go down a similar path.
But wait, there’s more. Zedekiah decides that ticking off God is not enough so he “revolted against the king of Babylon”. Another really bad decision. I’m sure in his mind he thought that the Babylonians were too busy to deal with this little revolt. Major miscalculation. “Nebuchadnezzar set out for Jerusalem with a full army”. Bad days are on the way for Zedekiah. And they came and laid siege to the city until starvation was rampant and then broke through the walls. The army scattered and Zed was captured and his life ends with a sorry story. His children were killed in front of him before he was blinded and thrown into jail to die. This guy had it all. He was king of a wealthy domain. But success or wealth does not excuse anyone from being obedient to God and playing by His rules. Sin has a strong consequence, both here on earth and then for eternity. Jesus came to allow us to deal with the eternal consequences – when we receive Him as Savior and allow the blood to cover our sin through grace. But the earthly consequence of sin is real and still occurs. The real answer is to walk with the Father. We need to live in obedience. Life matters!
The second part of Jeremiah 51 continues to tell the coming doom for Babylon. The description is very clear – things are going to be destroyed. I love what God says: “I ….said it would happen”. Sort of a simple statement but so very true. God IS in control. He not only created this universe, He absolutely is part of every moment. Check out what scripture tells us: “By his power he made earth. His wisdom gave shape to the world. He crafted the cosmos”. Sort of flies in the face of some other junk I have heard about the cosmos. This is the reality – God created everything and His power reigns supreme. We need to know it and live it. But scripture goes on in this chapter to show us what we need to do about those truths. “Let’s tell what our GOD did to set things right”. We need to be a testimony to the truth of God’s creation. The world is full of lies and warped thinking about creation and who God really is. As Dr Del Tackett teaches in the Truth Project (a fantastic resource you should make time to participate in), creation is not negotiable. It is a foundational truth of scripture and something we must protect and teach. We have to live life beliving and demonstrating it. We need to “tell” what God did and is doing. He is very active TODAY and we need to share what He is up to in our lives. How else will people see if we don’t tell?
These truths are essential but check out a couple other important things Jeremiah writes: “You have more water than you need, you have more money than you need — But your life is over, your lifeline cut”. They had put their faith in self and stuff and guess what – it is over. It all goes away. There is no future in self or stuff. They had more of both than needed, but when they walked away from the real source of life – it is “over”. And to top off that reality check this out: “The harder you work at this empty life, the less you are. Nothing comes of ambition like this but ashes”. Is scripture telling us not to work hard – to be a slackard? Not at all – that doesn’t line up with many other areas of scripture. But it is telling us that if our end game is what WE do – it won’t amount to a hill of beans. Life is not about you or me. It is about how we align with the God who created the universe and how we serve Him through the way we live. It is about having fullness of life. Jesus tells us that he came to give us “life abundant” – not an empty life. That comes when we get off the ME wagon and get on God’s path. We can work hard and make money and accumulate stuff and have a life full of nothingness. The world is full of examples all over the place. The people with the most stuff seem to be the most unhappy, yet when you visit people with nothing or little, they seem to know that life is not about all that we accumulate. It isn’t about what we can gather and have – it is about a relationship with the One who can give us an abundant and full life. Jesus is the One. The key is to have a personal relationship with Him!
Jeremiah 51 is an unbelievable picture of how God loves us. This verse really shows us just how much God cares: “I am still alive and well, committed to them even though They filled their land with sin against Israel’s most Holy God”. His children have run from Him, made fun of Him, disobeyed Him, mistreated Him, ignored Him. They have been brats and yet God is “committed” to them in spite of all that. What an amazing God we serve. What a picture of the love we have from the Creator of the universe.
This really shows the reality of how secure we are with God. Once we are a child of the Father, His love never ends. He never pulls back. Will He discipline us when we are off course? Absolutely. Will He whack us upside the head if we lose our way with Him? Yep. But does He ever give up on us? Not a chance. He never moves on. He never leaves. He never breaks His commitment to us. If we are not connecting with Him, it isn’t because God doesn’t want it. If we aren’t feeling the love, it isn’t because the flow isn’t happening. It is because we have chosen to be disconnected and out of relationship. We need to realize just how blessed we are with His love. It is amazing and great!
The second half of Jeremiah 50 has a couple key observations worth noting. God speaks about the way He deals with sin – in this case the sin of His people, but it applies to all of us. He tells us that “These people that I’ve saved will start out with a clean slate”. It tells us that their guilt will be “nothing” and that those looking for a trace of sin will find “nothing”. Have you pondered lately on the grace of God when it comes to sin in your life? The blood of Jesus, if we choose to accept Him as our Savior and Lord, covers a “multitude of sin”. When we put Him on the throne, our slate is wiped clean and we are made whiter than snow as the old song goes. Jesus sets us free from the burden of sin. He takes it off our resume, cleans our record. He makes it as nothing. We need to understand the gift of grace. God gives it to his rebellious children over and over in scripture. That same grace is available to you and me today through the blood of Jesus shed on the cross. We can have a clean slate. It just requires that we receive Him as our Savior.
But the chapter continues and makes a very strong statement about why this destruction is happening to the Babylonians. I love how the Message version says it: “Do you get it, Mister Pride? I’m your enemy”. Pride is the source of a whole lot of issues in life. In this case, the people were proud of self and their gods. They thought they were invincible. They believed they were on top of the world. But pride precedes a fall. And it is a big one for these folks. They are going from being in charge to being extinct. Watch out for Mister Pride. He will lead you down a path toward destruction. Lord help us be humble!
The first half of Jeremiah 50 talks of the coming doom for Babylon. This section of scripture just lines up the nations that are going down. Pretty complete – the destruction on the horizon. Check out what scripture says: “Empty of life–no animals, no people– not a sound, not a movement, not a breath”. That pretty much says it all doesn’t it. It will not be a pretty sight. God is not amused with the abuse they have poured out on his people. The “Babylonians had a good time while it lasted….lived it up, exploiting and using my people”. God is not happy with the things that had transpired. So the Babylonians are going to pay for their sin. He makes it clear when He says “oh how she’s sinned against me”. It is a personal thing – God takes it very personal when a nation comes against His children.
But there is not pass for the children of Israel either. Here is what Scripture tells us: “My people were lost sheep. Their shepherds led them astray. They abandoned them in the mountains where they wandered aimless through the hills”. They lost their way. They followed leaders that led them away from God. They chased other gods, they lost sight of their roots, they abandoned God. Really big mistake. Those decisions cost them everything. Many were lost, most of their stuff taken away, and they lived in captivity because they got focused on themselves rather than what they had been taught. Sound familiar at all. There are days I think that we in America are on a similar path. It seems like we are headed down a road that runs parallel to this one. The Word sums it up this way: “they walked out on God”. That is never a good thing. God loves us – always has and always will. He doesn’t walk out on us – if the relationship changes it is because we do what these folks did – we walk away from Him. That is a very problematic situation. It is easy to read scripture and wonder how they could be so stupid. But when I look around, I see so many of the same things happening. I see a people who is lost, following shepherds who are leading them astray. Some of it happening inside the churches of this great nation. We need to focus on our relationship with God. We need to be true to His Word. We need to be obedient to His direction. The rules have not changed. God is still God. He still requires the same sorts of things from us as He did the Israelites. Life matters. There is a price for our disobedience.
History continues to repeat itself in Jeremiah 49. The target this chapter is the Ammonites and the people of Elam. God declares that He is going to bring them down, to their knees. Their issue is the same as all the other nations that have been brought to destruction – pride and rebellion against God. Scripture tells us they are guilty of being a nation that “fondles his trophies and dreams of glory days and vainly thinks, No one can lay a hand on me”. The nation is prideful and has been doing whatever it wants – believing it is on top the world. Oh what a mistake that is. We see it over and over in scripture – people begin to believe they are above God’s laws or that they are God and that never ends well. So God makes his decree that they will be taken down and puts the punctuation on it with this statement: “I, GOD, say so, and it will be so”. I love it when we can see God’s nature – and one of those things is the consistency and faithfulness He has to His word. When God says it – it will be so. That is true of His scriptures and what He directly tells us. We can count on it. Put it in the bank. It will be so! God answers prayer – another way He acts in faithfulness to His people and His word. But we need to be sure we don’t fall into the trap so many nations have across history – believing they are the center of the universe. Certainly that position belongs solely to God. Not only is it not our nation, it is not you or me either. We often bring that being center of the universe down to our own level and begin to believe the world revolves around us somehow. Not so much I am afraid……
Scripture paints a clear picture of the issue God has with the Ammonites: “You think you’re so great– strutting across the stage of history, Living high in the impregnable rocks, acting like king of the mountain. You think you’re above it all, don’t you, like an eagle in its aerie”. The pride just runs to the surface and these folks believe they are the center of history. Have we started to believe that in our country? Are we trekking down this same path? I hope not because if we do, the punishment will be the same as it was for the Ammonites, Egyptians, Babylonians and every other nation that scripture shows us over and over allowed pride and self to taek control. God is God and we are not. We are a mere blip on the timeline of His history. We must never assume anything else. Oh how I pray we stay in our rightful place.
Jeremiah 48 tells the story of Moab and it’s pending destruction. It is not a pretty picture. God has had it with their attitude and worship of Chemosh and other false gods. The destruction is coming. It is pretty clear why as well: “because of …defiant arrogance against me” seems to be the root of the issue here. Defiant arrogance – seems like a couple problems. First there is that good old obedience thing. Defiance flies in the face of doing what we are supposed to do. God doesn’t put up with it for long. But the second word here – arrogance – may be one of the keys. Scripture goes on to explain that in a little more depth: “We’ve all heard of Moab’s pride….strutting, bullying, puffed-up pride, the insufferable arrogance”. Obviously these people have an issue with thinking more highly of themselves than they ought. That is how I look at pride. It is when we forget that life is not about me, but totally about God. It is when I push God off the throne and climb up there myself because I somehow believe that what I know and want is more important than the One who created it all. Pride is a big problem and God doesn’t like it. And when we put it with defiance – bad combination.
But there is one other thing that jumped out at me in this chapter: “You trusted in thick walls and big money, yes? But it won’t help you now”. Do you see it – they have put their trust in self and stuff and actually bought into the idea that they were in control. Hmmm…anyone else ever start to believe that lie? I know that some days I do. The enemy begins to convince me that the things I have done and the stuff I have accumulated somehow matters. Maybe in my little world and my little mind, but in God’s economy, it doesn’t even begin to move the needle of importance. No amount of money or stuff that I will ever have makes a hill of beans difference. What matters is the relationship I have with God through Jesus and what that leads me to do with what He has entrusted to me. None of what it appears is mine really is. It all belongs to God and my job is to use it for His honor and glory as He directs. Not the message we get from the TV or radio is it? But God owns it all. He created it and controls it. He may choose to entrust it to us for a period, but that does not shield us from the responsibility of our actions and certainly does not give us reason to be proud or defiant. Hard lessons here for a country that thought they were on top the world. Only problem is they forgot how that happens. They didn’t realize that their little world was just that, insignificant in the grand scheme of God’s design and when it becomes totally focused on the wrong things, change happens. Not exactly what they saw coming. But they quit looking because they became focused on self. That is our battle – keeping God who He is and remembering who we really are….
Jeremiah 47 is another one of those really short chapters. I am not sure why he wrote these little snippets like chapters 45 and 47, but know that if they are in God’s Word they are in for a reason and I need to pay attention and find out what the truth is. Jeremiah gets God’s word about the Philistines just before Pharaoh attacked. Things are not going to be pretty. Scripture tells us people will be washed away and paralyzed in fear. “God will finish off the Philistines”. As prophesied earlier – their day is here and it won’t be pretty. Interesting what God has Jeremiah write here: “Gaza will be shaved bald as an egg, Ashkelon struck dumb as a post”. It is going to be a rough time for the folks who have been mocking God in disobedience in the land of the Philistines. God is not mocked. Things are going to be taken away. People will die. Life will be very different for the few that remain.
One thing that is very obvious as we read the word of God through Jeremiah – God is in control and will make sure that the score gets settled. His people were disobedient and shared a lot of pain and suffering for that. But other peoples that disobeyed and were part of the punishment are really put in place by God’s hand. God absolutely is in control. He will drive things until people “return” to Him. The question is raised “can’t you call it quits” in this chapter. And the answer is “no” because God has a mission to straighten things out, to restore people and to clean house. None of us like to be pruned by God. No one wants to go through the pain of learning lessons the hard way. But over and over we see in scripture that when a nation continues down a path of disobedience, God acts. He has to, it is His nature of holiness that requires it. So we need to realize that when our own nation treads down a path of disobedience to the Father, there will be a price to pay. Lord help us to understand the need for obedience and alignment with His Word.
Jeremiah 46 describes the way it will be for the army of Egypt as they come up against Nebuchadnezzar and his troops. Egypt thinks they are on top of the world and no one can get to them. Pharaoh Neco is sitting high and mighty and has the best of everything. He has called his troops to attention and ordered them to prepare for war. Only problem – they aren’t on that page and don’t want to fight. Egypt believes in their own mind that no army can come against them. They didn’t factor in God. They forgot the one true determination of what happens in the world. I love how scripture says it: “But it’s not your day. It’s the Master’s”. Pharaoh can think and say and do whatever he wants – but it is God that determines the outcome. He positions his troops and tries to get ready for battle but the reality is he has a bunch of cowards that don’t want to fight. Scripture tells us “When the going gets tough, they’ll take the easy way out”. Our enemy wants us to do the same, to take cover and run. When Satan comes against us he is banking on that. That is the only way he can defeat us, if we turn and run. So we need to keep focused on the truth. It is never his day, unless we let him have it by failing to keep it God’s. Every day is God’s day if we walk with Him. We have to stay connected to the source – we have to stay in line with the power – we need to march with the Master!
Scripture also describes Pharaoh in a very interesting way: “Big-talk-bad-luck”. I really like that. Pharaoh had it all together on paper. He was a big talker. He had assembled the finest army money could buy. He had great plans to take over the world. He looked to be on top of it all. Problem was – his luck goes bad – at least on the surface. The reality is – his luck goes bad because he didn’t take the God factor into account. His gods were of no value when it came time for battle. His gods could do nothing. But our God, the God of creation, had a plan and it wasn’t for Pharaoh to continue in his ways. In fact, as Pharaoh gets put in his place we are told “Egypt will be set back a thousand years”. Talk about the impact of a poor decision on the future. Did you catch that. Pharoah’s failure to get lined up with God and try to do things his own way will destroy 1000 years of past and future work. Do you see the impact here. That is a long time because this leader fails. Who said what we do doesn’t matter. It does – big time. Life matters. We have to live it like it does.
God’s motivation for all this is to restore his children who have been living in exile all over the place. He is now working to bring them together again. He affirms that promise to Jacob. But you need to catch what God says here as He is setting up the restoration: “I have more work left to do on you. I’ll punish you, but fairly”. Did you catch this? While God is winning wars and destroying nations, He doesn’t lose sight of the main thing. He is not finished working on making His people holy. While He is doing amazing things, changing the course of history, He does not lose sight of the real focus. And He doesn’t give His people a free pass either. Did you see that? They are going to be punished for their sin, but fairly. Did you ever consider that before? Punishment when we fail to be obedient doesn’t seem fair, at least to me. But in God’s economy it has to happen. God is all about growing us into maturity so we become holy like Himself. That means we have to get purged of the junk. It won’t seem fair, but know that it is, even when it doesn’t feel like it. No one ever wants to be punished. God has to do it to help us get on the holiness trail….
Curious little chapter Jeremiah 45 is. Only 5 verses and far from uplifting. Jeremiah is talking to Baruch during the fourth year of Jehoiakim’s reign. Baruch is belly aching about how bad things are. “These are bad times for me. It’s one thing after another”. Have those words ever come from your mouth? Have you ever experienced the frustration of things just not quite working the way you wish they would. He continues “God is piling on the pain”. Man I am starting to feel sympathetic here. Poor Baruch is overwhelmed. He is experiencing some tough times and is really singing the blues. “I’m worn out and there’s no end in sight”. That about does it for me. I have been there and done that. Cried in my soup and whined about it all the day long. Life is tough even on good days isn’t it. Baruch has it a bit tough. I am in that boat some days too. But God’s response then is really the same as it is for us today….
God says”Look around. What I’ve built I’m about to wreck…to rip up….everywhere”. Do you get this? God is the creator and it is in His dominion to make changes as He sees fit to His world. I know that there are days when I have convinced myself that I am in charge and it is my decision on what happens now. Not so fast. God is still in control no matter what I think. This world is not about me or what I want it to be. It si God’s and He alone will determine what happens when. But this verse is the one which struck me right in the forehead: “So forget about making any big plans for yourself”. There are actually days I convince myself that I can make plans and they will happen because I planned it that way. Hogwash! My plans only work if they align with God’s plan. My little piece of reality is only real if it is connected to His plan. Don’t get me wrong – I am a big believer in planning – but that planning has to be in sync with the Master planner. If it isn’t, I just provided Him a good laugh because what I think really doesn’t matter a whole lot in the grand scheme of things. Five little verses that put me in my place. Life is about God’s plan, not mine. Life is about Him, not me. Time I get that right!