Archive for September, 2013

Jeremiah 30

Jeremiah 30 has God instructing the prophet to “write in a book all the words that I have spoken to you”.  God wants His Words captured and put on paper so they can be shared with generations to come, but more immediately, that they can be shared with those He is about to set free.  “For behold, I will save you from far away, and your offspring from the land of their captivity”.  God is already ready to save us.  But first, we have to be reconciled to Him.  We need to be restored to right standing in His sight.

For I am with you to save you, declares the Lord”.  God is with us always.  He never leaves.  When it seems that way, we need to realize that God didn’t move away from us, we moved far from Him.  He never leaves nor forsakes us.  But that said, He also doesn’t turn a blind eye to our sin.  He has to address it, and that is never fun.  “I will discipline you in just measure, and I will by no means leave you unpunished”.  Even as He prepares to set His people free and restore them to their land, the restoration comes with a price – punishment for the disobedience they have lived.

God deals with sin strongly.  “I have dealt you the blow of an enemy, the punishment of a merciless foe, because your guilt is great, because your sins are flagrant”.  Obedience is not optional.  God requires us to obey.  And when we don’t we are guilty of sin.  There is a price to pay for that sin, and unfortunately on our own, we can never pay that price.  That’s why Jesus came to save us.  He went to the cross to pay the price for our sin and redeem us from it.  We can be set free and overcome sin.  But the way that happens is grace, through the shed blood of Christ.

So how does God respond when we get right with Him?  “I will multiply them, and they shall not be few; I will make them honored, and they shall not be small….you shall be my people, and I will be your God”.  How wonderful that reunion is.  When we are set free from the punishment of sin by the grace of Jesus Christ’s shed blood and are brought back into relationship with God.  He wants to bless us indeed.  We need to focus on living our lives in a way pleasing to Him so we can experience His goodness and blessing.  Oh what a glorious gift that is!

Jeremiah 29

Jeremiah 29 has the prophet sending a letter to the people who have been exiled just as he prophesied.  They are now in Babylon and under Nebuchadnezzar’s hand.  Jeremiah writes to encourage them to not give up.  “Plant gardens and eat their produce…..multiply there, and do not decrease”.  In other words, keep on.  Don’t let the circumstances stop you from living.  Sometimes we get so disheartened with the circumstances around us that we want to give up.  But we must never forget that God is in control, even when things are bad.  He is still God.

Jeremiah goes further in telling the exiled people to “seek the welfare of the city where I have sent you into exile, and pray to the Lord on its behalf, for in its welfare you will find your welfare”.  He’s asking them to pray for this city they have been taken to as captives.  That’s like praying for the enemy.  Is he crazy?  Nope, he isn’t.  It is what Jesus has told us to do in the New Testament as well.  We are to pray for those who hate us, imprison us, treat us poorly – the situation doesn’t matter – we are to pray for those around us no matter the circumstances.  Why?

Jeremiah reminds the people that “when seventy years are completed for Babylon, I will visit you, and I will fulfill to you my promise and bring you back to this place”.  There is an end in sight, and God will be faithful to His words.  Jeremiah reminds the people why this happened in the first place too, so they can keep their eye on the ball.  It all occurred “because they did not pay attention to my words….you would not listen”.  So the root of the problem is clear.  They did not know God’s will so they did not do God’s will.  Obedience requires us knowing what God expects!

Jeremiah writes one of the most powerful promises in all of scripture, at least from my perspective.  “For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans for wholeness and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope. Then you will call upon me and come and pray to me, and I will hear you. You will seek me and find me. When you seek me with all your heart, I will be found by you, declares the Lord, and I will restore your fortunes and gather you from all the nations and all the places where I have driven you, declares the Lord, and I will bring you back to the place from which I sent you into exile”.  What a promise!  God has a plan.  That is something we need to hang onto.  And that plan is for our good and is the best that we can ever experience.  We just need to seek Him.  We need to walk with Him.  We need to live in obedience to Him.

Jeremiah 28

Jeremiah 28 has another prophet taking center stage.  Hananiah “spoke to me in the house of the Lord, in the presence of priests and all the people”.  There is a little prophecy convention going on here.  Hananiah is in front of all the people making his own prophecy of what is to come.  And it is a bit different, actually completely different, from what Jeremiah has been telling the people.  Hananiah’s prophecy is that “within two years” there will be restoration and freedom from Nebuchadnezzar.  Pretty appealing compared to what Jeremiah has been saying for some time.

Jeremiah listens and then says this: “Amen! May the Lord do so; may the Lord make the words that you have prophesied come true, and bring back to this place from Babylon the vessels of the house of the Lord, and all the exiles”.  Jeremiah doesn’t directly confront Hananiah, although he obviously is questioning this word.  But Jeremiah realizes his place is not to correct another prophet.  God has called him to speak truth, and to wait on the Lord for what it is that he is to say.

Then Jeremiah drops his bomb: “Yet hear now this word that I speak in your hearing and in the hearing of all the people. The prophets who preceded you and me from ancient times prophesied war, famine, and pestilence against many countries and great kingdoms. As for the prophet who prophesies peace, when the word of that prophet comes to pass, then it will be known that the Lord has truly sent the prophet”.  Sort of a message that this is too good to be true and doesn’t line up with what God has said in the past.  Thus, it is likely not something to believe and hang your hat on.

God does give Jeremiah a word for Hananiah.  “Listen, Hananiah, the Lord has not sent you, and you have made this people trust in a lie. Therefore thus says the Lord: ‘Behold, I will remove you from the face of the earth. This year you shall die, because you have uttered rebellion against the Lord”.  Basically it was – you lied, you will die.  Not a pleasant thing to say, but it was God’s word and Jeremiah did his job which was to deliver it.  Hananiah dies a few months later, just as Jeremiah had said.  That is pretty strong evidence as to who the real prophet is here.

Jeremiah 27

Jeremiah 27 has Jeremiah getting a little further out on a limb, to the point he is pretty much out there by himself.  That is, except for the fact that God is there with him.  That makes this truth a lesson we all should know – God plus one is enough.  Jeremiah is standing up against priests and prophets and even kings.  He is telling them “do not listen to the words of the prophets….do not listen to them; serve the king of Babylon and live”.  Can you imagine how popular that message is?  He is standing against every person with power and in charge.

God tells Jeremiah to take the prophecy to a new level – to make it visual for even more impact.  “Make yourself straps and yoke-bars, and put them on your neck”.  The message is clear from God.  Either every kingdom serves Nebuchadnezzar, the king of Babylon, whom God has ordained to be the current ruler, along with his sons and grandsons, or they will perish.  There isn’t a lot of middle ground.  God says Nebuchadnezzar will make all the peoples his slave.  That is not the message the other “prophets….diviners….dreamers….fortune-tellers…..sorcerers” were saying.  This message is coming from one guy, and a guy that hasn’t been highly liked for some time.

Of course, the difference has been that Jeremiah has been right every time because He has a word directly from God.  And this time it flies in the face of pretty much everyone.  “For it is a lie that they are prophesying to you, with the result that you will be removed far from your land, and I will drive you out, and you will perish”.  Calling people liars, especially those who have folks who listen to them and who plan and live their lives based on what they are told, is a pretty bold move.  But Jeremiah has never been one to focus on being politically correct.  He just lets it rip and speaks God’s truth.

The message he delivers is hard to swallow.  “Any nation that will bring its neck under the yoke of the king of Babylon and serve him, I will leave on its own land, to work it and dwell there, declares the Lord”. There are basically two choices, and one really isn’t a choice at all.  So the bottom line is that kings and kingdoms have to bow down and give in to the king of Babylon if they want to survive.  Jeremiah is giving this message to lots of kingdoms, and you know they have to be looking for a different way to survive.  But he stays true to God’s message, in spite of the fact it is very unpopular, and just continues to walk with God.

Jeremiah 26

Jeremiah 26 has the prophet continuing to speak truth as God gives it to him.  Jeremiah is told “do not hold back a word”.  This has to be getting old, as Jeremiah has been telling the people to repent and get their act together, but there hasn’t been any action to that end at all.  They are still stuck in their old sinful ways.  Yet God doesn’t give up.  He tells Jeremiah “it may be they will listen, and every one turn from his evil way, that I may relent of the disaster that I intend to do to them because of their evil deeds”.

So Jeremiah goes to the house of the Lord, not exactly a low profile out of the way place to tell people something they don’t want to hear, and gives them the full dose of what God has told him to say.  “If you will not listen to me, to walk in my law that I have set before you, and to listen to the words of my servants the prophets whom I send to you urgently, though you have not listened, then I will make this house like Shiloh, and I will make this city a curse for all the nations of the earth”.  The message is pretty clear.  Straighten up, change your ways, or disaster is coming.

Of course the people were ecstatic – NOT.  They surround poor Jeremiah and “the priests and the prophets and all the people laid hold of him, saying, you shall die”.  They didn’t want to hear the truth, and certainly were not amused with the words that Jeremiah spoke.  This was a sentence to death, because they had no intention of changing.  So the human response is to try and shut up the messenger, which is like sticking our head in the sand, so we no longer hear the reality of what will happen.  Somehow if we don’t hear it, we aren’t thinking about it, and we can continue to do whatever we want.

Jeremiah is surrounded and speaks out.  “The Lord sent me to prophesy against this house and this city all the words you have heard. Now therefore mend your ways and your deeds, and obey the voice of the Lord your God, and the Lord will relent of the disaster that he has pronounced against you”.  He doesn’t back down one bit.  He proclaimed truth, and he continues to do it in the face of death.  That is a true prophet – he only knows one thing and that is speaking from God.  They argue over his fate and he is spared due to Ahikam coming to his aid.  But Jeremiah was ready to die if that was the outcome of speaking truth.  We can try to silence God, but it doesn’t change anything.  God’s truth is alive and lasts forever.

Jeremiah 25

Jeremiah 25 has the prophet bringing some strong words to the people from God.  Jeremiah has been doing this now for “twenty-three years”.  He gets up each day and listens to what God has for him to share, and he has faithfully delivered those words.  “I have spoken persistently to you, but you have not listened”.  How frustrating would that be?  To get up each day and know what God expects of the people, but to have them continually just ignore the message.  Would tend to begin creating an inferiority complex, wouldn’t it?  Maybe for most people, but not Jeremiah.

He just winds up and lets them have it again.  “Turn now, every one of you, from his evil way and evil deeds, and dwell upon the land that the Lord has given to you and your fathers from of old and forever. Do not go after other gods to serve and worship them, or provoke me to anger with the work of your hands. Then I will do you no harm”.  This is God’s message.  It has been delivered in lots of different ways by Jeremiah over his 23 years as prophet, but it remains the same, even for us today.  We need to turn away from evil and focus on God and walking with Him.

When we get it right we experience blessing.  When we choose to disobey, we experience punishment.  “This whole land shall become a ruin and a waste, and these nations shall serve the king of Babylon seventy years”.  Not just a simple slap either.  Jehoiakim the king is setting his people up for a long stint in captivity.  We tend to think we can choose sin and just get away with it, but sin can have severe consequences and those can have a very long tail.  Jeremiah goes through the history of how God has dealt with disobedience in the past – He is consistent – it doesn’t get overlooked.  But the people continue to just do whatever they want.

So Jeremiah does what any good prophet would do – he reloads and lets them have it yet again.   God says “You, therefore, shall prophesy against them all these words, and say to them:  He is entering into judgment with all flesh, and the wicked he will put to the sword, declares the Lord”.  God is in judgment mode.  As much as we want to see Him as a God of love, which He is, we cannot forget that He also is a God of holiness and justice.  He will deal with sin.  It will not pass Him by.  Jeremiah continues to shine the light on truth, and to call people to live a life of obedience.  Are you living that way?

Jeremiah 24

Jeremiah 24 is a short chapter with a message from God to Jeremiah about His people.  It contains a vision.  “The Lord showed me this vision: behold, two baskets of figs placed before the temple of the Lord. One basket had very good figs, like first-ripe figs, but the other basket had very bad figs, so bad that they could not be eaten”.  As clear as some things are from God, sometimes it takes a little interpretation.  When I read these words, I have to admit I didn’t really understand the whole fig thing.  The only thing about figs I really know are Fig Newton’s.

Jeremiah obviously didn’t get it right away either.  God asks him “what do you see Jeremiah”?  And he gives God the direct answer: “figs”.  But the key to this whole vision happens next.  “Then the word of the Lord came to me”.  Jeremiah didn’t make up the interpretation.  He didn’t come up with his own version of what the vision meant.  He stayed in communication with the Source of knowledge so he got it right.  He waited for God to make it clear to him.  And God does.  God gives Jeremiah the answer to what the figs mean.

It’s a two-parter.  “Thus says the Lord, the God of Israel: Like these good figs, so I will regard as good the exiles from Judah, whom I have sent away from this place to the land of the Chaldeans”. God goes on to explain what that means:

–       “I will set my eyes on them for good

–       I will bring them back to this land

–       I will build them up, and not tear them down

–       I will plant them, and not uproot them

–       I will give them a heart to know that I am the Lord

–       they shall be my people and I will be their God

–       they shall return to me with their whole heart

A very good outcome for those who are ‘good figs’.

God is equally clear about those who are ‘bad figs’.  “Like the bad figs that are so bad they cannot be eaten, so will I treat Zedekiah the king of Judah, his officials, the remnant of Jerusalem who remain in this land, and those who dwell in the land of Egypt”.  In detail, that means:

–       “I will make them a horror to all the kingdoms of the earth

–       to be a reproach, a byword, a taunt, and a curse in all the places where I shall drive them

–       I will send sword, famine, and pestilence upon them

–       they shall be utterly destroyed from the land that I gave to them and their fathers

Pretty clearly not a good outcome for Zedekiah and his kingdom.  Jeremiah waits on God for the interpretation of the vision.  No guessing, no making it up on his own.  We need to seek God for His direction and be connected to the source of wisdom!

Jeremiah 23

Jeremiah 23 has the prophet pounding the people, but even more so his fellow prophets.  God has some pretty strong words about how things are going to be.  He reminds us of His grand plan: “I will gather the remnant of my flock out of all the countries where I have driven them, and I will bring them back to their fold, and they shall be fruitful and multiply. I will set shepherds over them who will care for them, and they shall fear no more, nor be dismayed, neither shall any be missing, declares the Lord”.  He will restore His people and bring them back together after their punishment.

But God’s word to Jeremiah about the prophets had to make him pretty unpopular.  God is not happy with those who are supposed to proclaim His Word.  Jeremiah writes “My heart is broken within me; all my bones shake; I am like a drunken man, like a man overcome by wine, because of the Lord and because of his holy words”.  The prophets are doing whatever they want.  They say things that are not from God.  They live in a way that is “unsavory” or “commit adultery” even in the House of God itself.  These folks are off the rails and Jeremiah is calling them out from God.

Remember the entire relevance of being a prophet is around speaking God’s truth.  They only matter if the people believe that they have a message from God.  So Jeremiah says this: “Do not listen to the words of the prophets who prophesy to you, filling you with vain hopes. They speak visions of their own minds, not from the mouth of the Lord”.  I imagine his list of close friends and allies is dwindling pretty quickly.  He is threatening their future and well being.  But he goes on to define the lies they are speaking: “They say continually to those who despise the word of the Lord, ‘It shall be well with you’; and to everyone who stubbornly follows his own heart, they say, ‘No disaster shall come upon you”.  They are giving false hope.  Telling people they can do whatever they want and follow their heart and life will be good.  What a lie!

Jeremiah paints the picture of how a prophet should function.  “If they had stood in my council, then they would have proclaimed my words to my people, and they would have turned them from their evil way, and from the evil of their deeds”.  God’s Word should change how people live and act.  It isn’t just a casual set of instructions – it changes lives and causes people to live differently.  And it applies to everyone whether they read it, hear it, know it or not.  “Can a man hide himself in secret places so that I cannot see him”?  God is going to judge us according to His Word.  It is where the expectations for living come from.  But it isn’t just a rubber stamp of what we are doing.  “Is not my word like fire, declares the Lord, and like a hammer that breaks the rock in pieces”?  It should burn the dross and break the hardness of heart and cause us to change how we live.  We don’t like that.  We want to live life the way we want to live.  But truth is, that won’t end well.  We must live God’s way!

Jeremiah 22

Jeremiah 22 has the prophet continuing to pound the message from God that there is a right way to live, and they are missing the mark completely.  Jeremiah has been delivering some really negative news to the kings and people pretty much his entire time as God’s messenger.  They have to run when they see him coming.  But he is faithful to continue to carry the news.  And God continues to whisper it into his ear so he has the straight scoop.  Today he has a message for the king of Judah.  “Do justice and righteousness, and deliver from the hand of the oppressor him who has been robbed. And do no wrong or violence to the resident alien, the fatherless, and the widow, nor shed innocent blood in this place”.

Remember that the king has all the power he wants.  Yet Jeremiah continues to give bad news and make demands on those with power.  He speaks truth without fear.  He is not afraid, at least on the surface.  With this command from God, he again paints the choice.  “If you will indeed obey this word” good will come, “but if you will not obey these words” the floor will fall out and disaster will be the result.  Obedience mattered – God had a plan and requirements even of kings – and how they responded and the choices they made determined the outcome of God’s interaction not only on themselves but their people too.

Unfortunately, a lot of the kings and leaders chose poorly.  “Because they have forsaken the covenant of the Lord their God and worshiped other gods and served them”.  But we must not miss the reality that it was a choice.  And guess what, we are in the same boat today.  Our life is filled with choices moment by moment that we make around obedience.  God has given us a pretty clear path to what He expects from us in His Word.  Right and wrong is not a mystery in most cases.  We know the answer from God’s point of view most of the time.  The question is only whether we will choose to follow God’s way and walk in obedience, or let self get in the way and do life our way.  We have the choice.  We also will receive the fruit of that choice.

Just like in Jeremiah’s times, our choice will probably spill on those around us.  “Woe to him who builds his house by unrighteousness, and his upper rooms by injustice, who makes his neighbor serve him for nothing and does not give him his wages, who says, ‘I will build myself a great house”.  If we choose to disobey God, it probably will cause pain and suffering on more than us, and spread to at least some in our patch.  But when we make the choice to walk with Christ in obedience, the blessing of that decision will also likely touch those around us.  “Hear the word of the Lord” and live accordingly.  We get to choose the outcome.  God doesn’t force our obedience.  But He does reward it, and also punish when we choose sin.

Jeremiah 21

Jeremiah 21 has the prophet just coming out of stocks after Pashhur locked him up, now being questioned by King Zedekiah about the enemy making war against the kingdom.  So what would you do if you’ve just been punished for things you’ve said?  Jeremiah got another word from the Lord and has to make a decision on how to respond to this request.  He knows what the king wants to hear.  But he also clearly knows what God has told him, and they are not compatible or even close.

The king hopes that God will be gracious because of His nature.  “Perhaps the Lord will deal with us according to all his wonderful deeds and will make him withdraw from us”.  That is often how we hope things will go.  Since God is good and loves us, maybe He will pour that love and goodness all over us in spite of how we’re living and treating Him.  Zedekiah knows that God hasn’t been worshiped or served, and not any kind of focus for him or the people.  But he still hoped for mercy.  He still clings to the knowledge that God is love.

But Jeremiah delivers truth, not what the king wants to hear.  The message is clear.  Zedekiah has a bigger problem than Nebuchadnezzar and his army.  Zedekiah will be dealing with God Himself.  “I will strike down the inhabitants of the city…..I will give Zedekiah king of Judah and his servants….into the hand of Nebuchadnezzar….I set before you the way of death”.  The outcome isn’t going to be what the king wants at all.  Jeremiah just gives it to the king exactly like God has told him.  No sugar coating, no spin, no attempt to keep his personal hide safe.  Truth, all truth, straight from God.

Jeremiah does make it clear why too.  Not just a gloom and doom message, but a little commentary too.  He makes it clear what God will do: “I have set my face against this city for harm and not for good”.  But then he goes on to be very clear about the why: “I will punish you according to the fruit of your deeds, declares the Lord”.  Contrary to what the king wants to hear, he can’t ignore God and run things his own way and then in the face of disaster expect God will swoop in and save his skin because he wants that outcome.  How we live matters.  How we walk with God day by day is a big deal.  Obedience is the key to receiving God’s blessing.  We can be forgiven based on our willingness to confess, repent and receive God’s grace through Christ.  But blessing comes when we walk with Jesus day by day and moment by moment.  Are you living that life?

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