Archive for October, 2016

Jeremiah 21

Jeremiah 21 has the King sending a message asking Jeremiah to intercede for his kingdom.  Zedekiah was scared, and rightfully so.  He was under fear of attack from Nebuchadnezzar, king of Babylon, and wants God to help.  So he sends Pashhur to ask.  Remember that this is the priest who had Jeremiah in stocks not too much earlier.  “Perhaps the Lord will deal with us according to  all his wonderful deeds and will make him withdraw from us”.  Wishful thinking, but Pashhur goes and asks Jeremiah for God’s help.

Jeremiah doesn’t mince words in his reply from God. “I myself will fight against you with outstretched hand and strong arm, in anger and in fury and in great wrath”.  Not only are the kings of enemy lands coming, but God himself is committed to making sure that Jerusalem and Judah pay for their sin.  God’s not going to protect them at all.  And in fact, says He will bring them together into the city.  God’s aiding the enemy of His people.  So He is more than slightly aggravated here.  They have crossed the line and are going to pay.

There isn’t any pity from God, nor Jeremiah.  After all, they’ve been worshipping Baal and treating Jeremiah as a liar and criminal.  God tells them if they stay and fight, they will die.  So their best option is to surrender and become captive to the enemy.  At least then they will live and have a chance in the future to repent and get right with God.  But He is clear.  “I have set my face against this city for harm and not for good”.  God is punishing His people for the choices they have made leading them to live a life of sin.  They will not be spared for their sin.

One of the hard lessons we have to learn about God is that He is a God of righteousness and justice.  He is unable to just look past our sin.  His very nature doesn’t allow it.  “I will punish you according to the fruit of your deeds”.  When we choose to sin, we must pay a price, and it is a heavy one indeed.  Sin separates us from God.  It has to because of who He is.  And sin left undealt with will cause eternal separation from Him.  God has made a way for us to deal with our sin, which is an intentional choice, not something that happened to us.  We choose to sin, and that means we have to choose to get right.  Confess, repent, receive – it’s that easy.  Jesus came to earth and went to the cross to give us the solution.  But we have to walk through the steps and build a saving relationship with Him.  Have you done that?  Are you ready?

Jeremiah 20

Jeremiah 20 has the prophet in a tight spot. Pashhur, the priest and chief officer of the house of the Lord has had enough of Jeremiah.  “Pashhur beat Jeremiah the prophet, and put him in the stocks that were in the upper Benjamin Gate of the house of the Lord”.  Jeremiah was beaten and had to endure painful public disgrace.  He wasn’t only regarded as a false prophet, but surely also as a traitor, discouraging the people who still trusted in help from God or Egypt against Babylon.  Jeremiah doesn’t back down, but when Pashhur lets him out of the stocks the next day, he gives God’s words to him.

I will make you a terror to yourself and to all your friends…. And you, Pashhur, and all who dwell in your house, shall go into captivity. To Babylon you shall go, and there you shall die, and there you shall be buried, you and all your friends, to whom you have prophesied falsely”.  His position as priest and chief governor would not help him. He was one of those who prophesied lies, and he and his friends who heard him would all die in Babylon.  There is a price to pay for dishonoring God, and it will be step and inclusive for Pashhur and his friends.

Jeremiah has a chat with God about his life.  Jeremiah explained to God that he was compelled to his prophetic work. He had not desired it or pursued it, yet God prevailed upon him to take on this prophetic work.  And now, it feels to him like he’s become a mockery for the people.  Jeremiah is overwhelmed by the load he carries.  “For the word of the Lord has become for me a reproach and derision all day long”.  He’s bummed out and since his prophecies were so long coming, the people around him were ridiculing him whenever he spoke of the future.

In his frustration, Jeremiah threatens to stop his prophesying work.  But he can’t, as God’s Word “in in my heart as it were a burning fire”.  He’s consumed with speaking truth from God.  And as he wrestles with his life calling, he remembers “the Lord is with me as a dread warrior; therefore my persecutors will stumble; they will not overcome me….for to you have I committed my cause”.  He knows that in the end God prevails and he will too. With that recognition, he shifts to praising God for who He is.  While he knows his pain and problems aren’t over, he also knows who holds the future and is confident in Him!

Jeremiah 19

Jeremiah 19 has the prophet delivering some sobering news to the people of Judah and Jerusalem.  God sends Jeremiah to the entry at the Potsherd Gate and asks him to take the elders with him, along with a potter’s earthenware flask.  This message is going to include a visual, not just harsh words for the people to hear.  But to begin with, God gets right to the point. “I am bringing such disaster upon this place that  the ears of everyone who hears of it will tingle”.  Destruction is coming.  Then God makes it crystal clear why…..

He lists off the reasons for the coming catastrophes:

  1. Because the people have forsaken me and have profaned this place by making offerings in it to other gods
  2. because they have filled this place with the blood of innocents
  3. and have built the high places of Baal  to burn their sons in the fire as burnt offerings to Baal”

God has never commanded human sacrifice – that is always related to worship of idols and other gods.  But suffice it to say the people have moved completely away from God and are worshipping Baal with practices that God will not tolerate.  He says “I did not command or decree, nor did it come into my mind”.  What was happening was so far outside God’s plan it was completely against His nature.

God doesn’t speak in generalities when it comes to describing the outcome that is coming.  And He makes it clear, this is personal and coming directly from Him:

  • I will make void the plans of Judah and Jerusalem
  • and will cause their people to fall by the sword before their enemies
  • I will give their dead bodies for food to the birds of the air and to the beasts of the earth
  • I will make this city a horror
  • I will make them eat the flesh of their sons and their daughters”

This is some pretty radical stuff, and God is going to cause all of it to happen.  He absolutely will not allow what is going on to continue.

After Jeremiah was to deliver these strong words that described the why and the what, then God tells him to use his visual prop.  “Then  you shall break the flask in the sight of the men who go with you, and shall say to them, ‘Thus says the Lord of hosts: So will I break this people and this city,  as one breaks a potter’s vessel, so that it can never be mended’”.  God told Jeremiah to break the clay bottle as an illustration of the destruction to come.  It’s going to get bad, and they aren’t going to be able to talk their way or prayer their way out of it.

Jeremiah got their attention, and issues the final word.  “Thus says the Lord of hosts, the God of Israel, behold, I am bringing upon this city and upon all its towns all the disaster that I have pronounced against it, because they have stiffened their neck, refusing to hear my words”.  He wants to make it very clear that they are going to reap based on how they have lived.  The coming disaster is not just something God is doing to them, but something they are doing to themselves because of how they have lived and their rebellion and refusal to hear God and receive His word and correction.  How we live matters.  God is paying attention.

Jeremiah 18

Jeremiah 18 has our prophet getting some lessons at the potter’s house.  God’s word came to him as he watches and learns from the potter who is working at his wheel.  “Arise, and go down to the potter’s house, and there I will let you hear my words”.  Jeremiah does and enters the house to see the potter create something that didn’t turn out as desired, so he reworked it into another vessel.  God gives Jeremiah the first of His words: “can I not do with you as this potter has done? declares the Lord.  Behold, like the clay in the potter’s hand, so are you in my hand”.  The truth is clear that God is the Author of life.  God is sovereign and has the right to do whatever He wishes with us.  But He wants to created good.

God gives Jeremiah two possible outcomes for people.  The first was “If at any time I declare concerning a nation or a kingdom, that I will  pluck up and break down and destroy it, and if that nation, concerning which I have spoken, turns from its evil, I will relent of the disaster that I intended to do to it”.  God is a God of restoration.  If we repent and turn from our sin, He’s there to bring us to Himself and set us free from the bad outcome that would happen as a result of sin.  He wants us to be restored to Him.  Jesus is the way we can get to God.

On the other hand, Jeremiah receives these words for the opposite response.  “And if at any time I declare concerning a nation or a kingdom that I will  build and plant it, and if it does evil in my sight, not listening to my voice, then I will relent of the good that I had intended to do to it”.  The hard lesson here is that sin carries a price, no matter at what point it happens.  The requirement is clear: “Return, every one from his evil way, and amend your ways and your deeds”.  God’s requirements aren’t changing.  Sin will be dealt with.  The only hope is for us to confess, repent and receive His gift of salvation through Christ.

Unfortunately, the people in Jeremiah’s time are in the same place much of our world is today.  “We will follow our own plans, and will every one act according to  the stubbornness of his evil heart”.  We’re not listening to God or anyone else for that matter.  We will do what we want and feels good, without regard to what might be the outcome.  “My people have forgotten me; they make offerings to false gods”.  This doesn’t play well with God.  We are not in charge.  And there is a price to pay for our stubbornness.  “Like the east wind I will scatter them before the enemy.  I will show them my back, not my face, in the day of their calamity”.  We must not forget God, nor the consequences of our sinful choices.  There is a payment coming.  We need to seek His face, confess our sin, repent and seek His salvation!

Jeremiah 17

Jeremiah 17 has the prophet considering the sin of Judah.  It is deep.  “The sin of Judah is written with a pen of iron; with a point of diamond it is engraved on the tablet of their heart, and on the horns of their altars”.  He makes it clear that their sin is full of hardness and their rebellion is strong.  This is deep rooted sin.  But in God’s eyes, sin is sin.  And our sin is equally as bad as the people in Jeremiah’s time.  We may try and excuse it as much less sinful, but there are no levels or grades of sin.  All sin separates us from a righteous God.

God’s people have experienced His blessing.  Their history is full of His power alive in their lives.  Yet they forget and choose to worship idols and ignore the God who saved them and set them free.  So they pay a price for those choices.  “Your wealth and all your treasures I will give for spoil as the price of your high places for sin throughout all your territory”.  God gives, and God can just as easily take away.  But He never tolerates sin.  He can’t look the other way and just ignore it.  Sin will be addressed and carries a price.

We get a picture of what does lead to success in God’s economy.  ” Blessed is the man who trusts in the Lord, whose trust is the Lord. He is like a tree planted by water, that sends out its roots by the stream, and does not fear when heat comes, for its leaves remain green, and is not anxious in the year of drought, for it does not cease to bear fruit”.  Success is about relationship with God.  It is about knowing Him and taking delight in His Word.  When we get it right, we have no fear and will bear fruit.  We live a blessed life in His presence.

Then comes the truth that puts a reality check on that blessing.  “The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately sick; who can understand it?  “I the Lord search the heart and test the mind, to give every man according to his ways, according to the fruit of his deeds”.  So blessing is available to each of us if we learn to trust and walk in obedience with the Lord.  On the other hand, we’ve got to overcome our inclination to sin and realize that within us is a heart that can lead us the wrong way.  Obedience to God is a choice – we have to intentionally make that choice because our natural inclination will be to take a different path.

God’s paying attention.  He does keep score, at least until we receive the gift of grace through Jesus Christ at which time all our past sins are covered and forgiven and we’re set free from any scorecards from the past.  Are you ready to stand before God and give an account?  If we do it on our own, based on how we have lived, we’re going to fail the test to spend eternity with God.  If we do it with Jesus as our Savior and Lord, we’ll pass with flying colors and our sin will be covered and we’ll have an eternity with the Father and Son and Holy Spirit that we can’t even imagine.  But we have to make that choice.  No one else can do it for us.  Are you ready?

Jeremiah 16

Jeremiah 16 has the prophet getting a personal message from God.  “You shall not take a wife, nor shall you have sons or daughters in this place”.  This is a unique command that very much went against the general will of God in that day.  Culturally, it was a shame and dishonor to be single and childless.  In fact, in the biblical Hebrew language, there isn’t even a word for ‘bachelor’.  Marriage and kids were part of their way of life.  But God makes it clear that he was going to do some deep and painful cleansing, and there was no reason for Jeremiah to put himself in a place of suffering.

God tells Jeremiah “I have taken away my peace from this people, my steadfast love and mercy, declares the Lord”.  The people are going to be cut off and die, and they were not to be buried nor mourned over.  Jeremiah was commanded not to go in and feast with them or to interact in any way.  “I will silence in this place, before your eyes and in your days, the voice of mirth and the voice of gladness, the voice of the bridegroom and the voice of the bride”.  Joy and gladness will be gone – no more celebrations or weddings.

Of course, Jeremiah knows the first question he’ll get when he prophesies what is to come will be the all too familiar one we always ask: “why”?  God is very clear about the problem.  “Because your fathers have forsaken me, declares the Lord, and  have gone after other gods and have served and worshiped them, and have forsaken me and have not kept my law, and because  you have done worse than your fathers, for behold,  every one of you follows his stubborn, evil will, refusing to listen to me”.  The answer is direct, detailed, and personal.  This sin is generational and also personal.  And God is done putting up with it.

Jeremiah knows it will be a difficult message to deliver and he’ll be the object of attack and ridicule.  He knows where his strength comes from.  “O Lord, my strength and my stronghold, my refuge in the day of trouble”.   We can always depend on God to be there for us exactly the same way Jeremiah does.  And our mission is also the same as the one God gave to him – to make God known and glorified.  “I will make them know, this once I will make them know my power and my might, and they shall know that  my name is the Lord”.  Jeremiah has a job to do – to warn the people of God’s judgment and to make them know that He is Lord.  Our job is the same.  We need to proclaim the coming judgment for sin and let people know that Jesus Christ is the only answer to that reality.

Jeremiah 15

Jeremiah 15 has God speaking directly to Jeremiah about the serious state of affairs in Judah.  He is not pleased with the rebelliousness of His people.  In fact, God tells Jeremiah not to waste his breath trying to intercede for his people.  “Though  Moses and Samuel stood before me, yet my heart would not turn toward this people. Send them out of my sight, and let them go”! These two guys had successfully interceded for the wayward people in their generations, but God says it isn’t going to happen in this case.  Jeremiah would be wasting his breath.

God gets pretty specific about what is coming.  There are four forms of destruction that lie ahead:

  1. The sword
  2. Dogs
  3. Birds of the air
  4. Beasts of the earth

These “four kinds of destroyers…..the sword to kill, the dogs to tear, and the birds of the air and the beasts of the earth to devour and destroy” are alrady in motion and will bring judgment upon Judah.  God isn’t just going to kill them, but also further humiliate them as their bodies are dishonored.

God makes it clear what is underlying this destruction.  “I will make them a horror to all the kingdoms of the earth because of what  Manasseh the son of Hezekiah, king of Judah, did in Jerusalem”.  Manasseh was a particularly bad sinner and his rebellion has made judgment inevitable and irreversible.  God’s going to do a number on His people.  “You have rejected me, declares the Lord; you keep going backward, so I have stretched out my hand against you and destroyed you—I am weary of relenting.  I have winnowed them with a winnowing fork in the gates of the land; I have bereaved them; I have destroyed my people; they did not turn from their ways. I have made their widows more in number than the sand of the seas; I have brought against the mothers of young men a destroyer at noonday; I have made anguish and terror fall upon them suddenly”.  God is going to make it something that will not be forgotten.

Jeremiah is pretty bummed about what’s happening on his watch.  God has told him to get out of the way and let destruction come upon His people.  He’s been under personal attack from people that don’t want to hear the truth.  He asks God to take care of him.  “O Lord, you know; remember me and visit me, and take vengeance for me on my persecutors”.  He doesn’t want to be lumped in with the rest of the people who are going to be utterly punished.  He makes a case for himself with God based on how he has lived.

Your words were found, and I ate them, and your words became to me a joy and the delight of my heart, for I am called by your name, O Lord, God of hosts. I did not sit in the company of revelers, nor did I rejoice;  I sat alone, because your hand was upon me, for you had filled me with indignation”.  Jeremiah didn’t fall into the ways of the rest of the people.  But he had questions about God and what He was going to do.  God tells him to repent of his own sin, and remain unmovable as a prophet of God.  God promises to take care of him.  “I am with you to save you and deliver you….and redeem you”. 

Jeremiah 14

Jeremiah 14 has our prophet getting God’s word concerning the droughts that were happening in Judah.  “The word of the Lord that came to Jeremiah concerning the drought”.  This is a big deal to the people.  They were dependent on rain for survival.  This was a true life or death issue.  In that day the often-worshipped Canaanite idol Baal was thought to be the god of weather and rain. Many ancient Israelites were drawn to Baal worship because they wanted rain.  That just made things worse as God often used drought to bring the nation to repentance.  So their attempt to correct the problem through idols just made it worse.

It was a true disaster.  “Her nobles send their servants for water; they come to the cisterns; they find no water; they return with their vessels empty…. since there is no rain on the land, the farmers are ashamed; they cover their heads”.  There simply was no water anywhere, and this has been going on for a while through a series of successive droughts.  It was bad enough scripture tells us that even the farmers were ashamed of what they could do with the land.  This is some serious despair.  Farmers take much pride in their ability to produce a harvest, and it was completely impossible given the drought that was upon the land.

Jeremiah imagines what true repentance would look like to get back into right relationship with God.  It begins with confession.  “Though our iniquities testify against us, act, O Lord, for your name’s sake;  for our backslidings are many; we have sinned against you”.  The people have sinned and need to confess their guilt and appeal to God for His mercy and grace.  Sin carries a price tag, and it is severe.  Jeremiah calls upon God to be God.  “O you hope of Israel, its savior in time of trouble, why should you be like a stranger in the land….why should you be like a man confused….you, O Lord, are in the midst of us, and  we are called by your name; do not leave us”.  Jeremiah knows the problem and what needs to be done to get things right.  Confession, repentance and trust in God.

Jeremiah lays out his case and God heard him.  The response was strong and direct. “Thus says the Lord concerning this people: They have loved to wander thus; they have not restrained their feet;  therefore the Lord does not accept them; now he will remember their iniquity and punish their sins….Do not pray for the welfare of this people. Though they fast, I will not hear their cry, and though they offer burnt offering and grain offering, I will not accept them. But I will consume them  by the sword, by famine, and by pestilence”.  The problem was that Jeremiah knew what needed to happen but the people were not involved and didn’t go through the steps Jeremiah identified.

We can’t confess and repent for someone else.  They have to take ownership for their own decisions and choices.  We can intercede on behalf of another, but ultimately we own our sin and must deal with it on our own.  Forgiveness is granted by God to the sinner, not some third party who may pray and seek it on their behalf.  Jeremiah plays out the steps that need to take place to get right with God and turn the rain back on.  But the people were not taking the steps themselves.  Thus God says ‘no deal’.  We alone can get right with God.  We must take action to confess our sin, repent and turn the other way, and receive God’s gift of forgiveness and salvation through Jesus Christ.  That’s how it happens today.  No one can do that for us.  We must seek God and get right, or suffer the eternal consequences of our sin.  Don’t wait.  Take those steps and get right with God today!

Jeremiah 13

Jeremiah 13 has God giving our prophet two signs and their prophetic meaning.  The first revolves around a linen sash that God asked Jeremiah to go get, and then hide it near the Euphrates river which was a long journey from where he was.  He hid it and then went back to retrieve it only to find it was worthless.  “Then I went to the Euphrates, and dug, and I took  the loincloth from the place where I had hidden it. And behold, the loincloth was  spoiled; it was  good for nothing”.  The lesson was how the sash had deteriorated in the dirt and the moisture. It still existed, but it was ruined and good for nothing.

Prophetically, it was a picture of what was to come in Judah and Jerusalem being taken from their homes in captivity, thus ruining the prideful and hard hearts and plans of His people.  “This evil people, who refuse to hear my words,  who stubbornly follow their own heart and have gone after other gods to serve them and worship them, shall be like this loincloth, which is good for nothing”.   Their choices to follow other Gods and to refuse to listen to God’s words were going to cost them dearly, which it did as they were carried off to captivity.

But if that wasn’t a strong enough message, God gives Jeremiah another picture involving a wine bottle.  God says the “every jar shall be filled with wine” which represented the fact that everything fulfills its purpose.  God’s people had the opportunity to fulfill their purpose of worshipping and glorifying God, but they chose to be rebellious and were destined to destruction.  What God expects was clear.  “Give glory to the Lord your God before he brings darkness, before your feet stumble on the twilight mountains, and while you look for light he turns it into gloom and makes it deep darkness”.  And the warning of God’s pending judgment is clear too.  They have to change.

But God’s people were stubborn and stupid.  They refuse to follow God’s law and requirements.  They choose to do the wrong thing.  We might pretend like we don’t know or can’t hear God’s direction, but that excuse won’t cut it.  It is clear that we are to put God on the throne and give Him the glory, not focus on self.  We have to confess our sin and repent.  The people refused and God warns of the coming punishment.  “I have seen your abominations, your adulteries and neighings, your lewd whorings, on the hills in the field”.  God isn’t mocked, and He doesn’t miss anything. He sees clearly what we do.  There is a price for sin.  That was true in Jeremiah’s time, and it is true today.  Thankfully Jesus went to the Cross to offer us a way to pay for that penalty – the grace of His shed blood that is available to cover our sin.  But we have to receive that gift.  We have to make it our own.

Jeremiah 12

Jeremiah 12 has our prophet wanting to ask God a question.  There’s nothing wrong with that.  God is very willing to help us learn and understand.  But there is a right way to do it, and Jeremiah shows us how.  “Righteous are you, O Lord, when I complain to you; yet I would plead my case before you”.  He recognizes and submits to God’s authority and righteousness.  He doesn’t question or accuse God – but puts God where He belongs as Master and Creator.  We have to begin in our desire to question from a place of submission.  Too often we come at questioning in an accusatory way or with an unwillingness to listen and accept God’s answers.

The question is a good one.  “Why does the way of the wicked prosper? Why do all  who are treacherous thrive”?  I imagine that’s a question all of us want to know the answer for.  In Jeremiah’s case, he knew that his life was focused on walking in obedience and living righteously.  Those around him in Judah and Jerusalem were evil and wicked, yet they seemed to prosper.  These evil people were threatening his very life, wanting to get rid of the voice of truth that Jeremiah was bringing.  Jeremiah wants to understand why.  That’s a question we all seem to ask a lot – why?

God answers Jeremiah’s question with a few questions of His own.  “If you have raced with men on foot, and they have wearied you, how will you compete with horses? And if in a safe land you are so trusting, what will you do in  the thicket of the Jordan”?  He doesn’t directly answer him, but rather gives him something that was powerful and profound.  He encourages Jeremiah to see his present challenges and the apparent unfairness of the situation as preparation for greater things that are to come.  Jeremiah is being trained to truly trust God and draw on His strength because more difficult days are ahead.  God always has a plan.  We often can’t see it through of very limited set of eyes and perspective.

God often asks us to do things that seem difficult.  That was definitely going on in Jeremiah’s life with people who disliked his prophecy and wanted him dead.  He knew he was doing God’s work, but the bad guys seemed to have the upper hand.  The lesson here may be that we have to learn to trust God in all things when we are walking on His path for our life.  We can get caught up in the circumstances around us and get derailed from our mission.  The reality is we will never be able to run with horses on our own.  We have to learn to let God work in us and through us.  He will provide a way.  Our job is to trust and obey!

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