Archive for the ‘Jeremiah’ Category

Jeremiah 52

Jeremiah 52 is written by someone other than Jeremiah, likely Baruch.  It captures the fall of Jerusalem and Judah.  God’s patience had finally run its course and He allowed – even prompted – the Babylonian capture of Judah.  The straw that broke the camel’s back was King Zedekiah and his evil rule.  “He did what was evil in the sight of the Lord….because of the anger of the Lord things came to the point in Jerusalem and Judah that he cast them out from his presence”.  God had enough and took action.

The Babylonians lay siege to the city and after a few years, hunger sets in and the walls are breached.  “The king of Babylon slaughtered the sons of Zedekiah before his eyes, and also slaughtered all the officials of Judah at Riblah. He put out the eyes of Zedekiah, and bound him in chains”.  It wasn’t a happy capture – the king of Babylon wiped out any and all of the leaders who had resisted him.  Zedekiah went from king to a blind prisoner.  Nebuchadnezzar kept Zedekiah in prison until he died; and then buried him.

The enemy destroyed Solomon’s temple by holding a two-day feast there to desecrate it; then, on the third day, they set fire to the building.  They also broke down the city walls.  The walls of Jerusalem – the physical security of the city – were now destroyed. Jerusalem was no longer a place of safety and security. The walls would remain in ruin until they were rebuilt by the returning exiles in the days of Nehemiah.  Nebuzaradan was the captain of the guard and carried the title in Hebrew that is literally, ‘the chief executioner’ or ‘the slaughterer.’ Methodically, he set about to demolish the beautiful city, burning the palace and the chief buildings, breaking down the walls, and wrecking the temple.  Total destruction was the goal.

A new king comes to the throne in Babylon at the end of Jeremiah’s book and he takes a less harsh approach to his captives from Judah.  The fact that Jehoiachin lived on long after the exile and that he was finally released from prison may have seemed like the first signs of the fulfillment of Jeremiah’s promise of a day of restoration.  “And in the thirty-seventh year of the exile of Jehoiachin king of Judah….Evil-merodach king of Babylon, in the year that he became king, graciously freed Jehoiachin king of Judah and brought him out of prison”.  It is evidence that God was not done blessing and restoring His people, foreshadowing even greater blessing and restoration to come.

Jeremiah 51

Jeremiah 51 has the prophet continuing with his prophecy against Babylon.  After being an instrument God used to pass judgment on other nations, now the focus is turned on this might nation and judgment is coming.  “Behold, I will stir up the spirit of a destroyer against Babylon….and I will send to Babylon winnowers….and they shall empty her land, when they come against her from every side on the day of trouble”.  God announced His coming judgment against the empire that He used to bring judgment against Judah.

God used the picture of a destroying wind that would winnow Babylon as grain is processed, with a wind blowing away the useless chaff. It would utterly destroy all her army.  And even in the midst of this destruction, God is faithful to remind His people that “Israel and Judah have not been forsaken by their God, the Lord of hosts”.  They’ve received judgment and some harsh punishment, but God has not forgotten them.  His people had sinned, but they were not forsaken by God.

Jeremiah uses some strong words that described the Babylonians, and also unfortunately describes us today.  “Every man is stupid and without knowledge”.  We don’t understand the ways of God and thus bring about all sorts of negative things in life.  The Babylonians brought on the full force of God’s judgment for their evil and idolatry and the way they destroyed God’s temple.  But before that, they were an instrument of God.  He is in absolute control of all things.  “You are my hammer and weapon of war:…I will repay Babylon and all the inhabitants of Chaldea before your very eyes for all the evil that they have done”. 

 So they will transition from a tool of God to the focus of God’s wrath and judgment.  They will be judged and destroyed.  The righteous will rejoice – even singing with joy – over the justice and judgments of God.  Babylon may try and resist, but God will win. “Though Babylon should mount up to heaven, and though she should fortify her strong height, yet destroyers would come from me against her,declares the Lord”.  This is an allusion to the Tower of Babel, constructed as a defense and in defiance against God. God came against that tower and would come against the height of Babylon’s strength now and in the future.

As Jeremiah ends his prophecy he tells Seriah to literally take the scroll, weight it with a stone, and then throw it into the Euphrates as a graphic illustration of the catastrophe of judgment that would soon sink Babylon.  God is more powerful than any nation.  He can use any nation for His ways, and yet has power to destroy them as well.  Our God reigns above all!

Jeremiah 50

Jeremiah 50 has the prophet now bringing God’s prophecy about Babylon out.  It is about a larger region known as Chaldea and the great city of the area was Babylon. This is a word of judgment against the empire that God used to bring judgment upon Judah in Jeremiah’s day.  They have moved from being an instrument of God, to the nation under His coming judgment.  “For out of the north a nation has come up against her, which shall make her land a desolation, and none shall dwell in it; both man and beast shall flee away”.  The Medes, who were part of the army of Cyrus, were located to the north.

While God’s judgment is happening to Babylon, His people are going to begin restoration.  “they shall seek the Lord their God. They shall ask the way to Zion….my people have been lost sheep”.  Jeremiah connected the coming judgment upon Babylon to the restoration of Israel and Judah. They would return to God with repentance (continual weeping) and they would seek the Lord their God.  They want to create an ongoing covenant with God as they returned to Him on His terms.  God’s goodness and care comes to us based on His covenant with us.

Why do we need restoration and a covenant with God?  Because just like the people of Jeremiah’s time – we are like lost sheep.  Jeremiah calls out bad leadership as a root cause of the situation – “their shepherds have led them astray”.  We have to be very careful that we don’t allow that to happen to us today as well.  Even if their current sin was completely led by the shepherds of the day, sin is always personal and we can’t project blame on anyone else.  Each of us make our own choices and will have to stand individually before a Holy God and be judged.  Our role is to make sure we only follow those who lead us in godly ways.

Babylon was a mighty nation but God is going to completely destroy her.  “She shall never again have people, nor be inhabited for all generations”.  That’s the reality of how much God hates evil and sin.  The destruction would come from the north at the hands of the Medes and Persians.  They would be ruthless in their destruction and conquer the entire nation.  God makes it clear there was no shepherd, no king, no leader who could stand against Him and His coming judgment.  That was true then, and it is equally true for us today.  God reigns – yesterday, today and forever!

Jeremiah 49

Jeremiah 49 has our prophet receiving more from God – this time about the Ammonites who are another enemy of Judah in line for judgment.  The Ammonites lived in the area on the east side of the Jordan River, north of the Moabites. Their lands are included in what is today Jordan, and the capital of Jordan is named Ammon because of this connection.  “Has Israel no sons? Has he no heir? Why then has  Milcom  dispossessed Gad, and his people settled in its cities?”  Through Jeremiah, God spoke of the fact that the Ammonites occupied land that was given to the tribes of Gad, Reuben, and Manasseh. In the name of their god Milcom they lived in that land, acting as if Israel’s inheritance was invalid.

But God’s not dead.  “I will cause  the battle cry to be heard against Rabbah of the Ammonites; it shall become a desolate mound, and its villages shall be burned with fire”.  Payback is coming.  God promises the day when Israel would repossess the land that was once its own.  The Babylonians are coming and would not only conquer the land and the peoples of the Ammonites, but also their god Milcom, together with his priests and his princes. You might say might say the Babylonian idols were superior.  But no other god compares at all with the one true God.

God’s going to destroy this evil people in Ammon, but even so He says “afterward I will restore the fortunes of the Ammonites, declares the Lord”.  In the midst of judgment, God had mercy and some promise of restoration even for the Ammonites.  God is a God of mercy and grace.  Restoration is always part of His nature and plan.  Destruction is coming, but once judgment is delivered, God will offer the opportunity for the enemy to be restored. Jeremiah goes on in this chapter to also talk about the judgment coming against Edom.  The Edomites were also a cousin-nation to Israel. Their founder was Esau, the son of Isaac, twin brother of Jacob. They also lived in the lands east of the Jordan River and the Dead Sea, toward the south mountains and deserts.

Edom’s sin was its pride resulting in an unrelenting and violent hatred of Israel and its rejoicing in her misfortune.  Destruction is coming, but as with Ammon, God invited the remnant remaining – made up of fatherless children and widows – to trust in Him.  The Edomites thought they were somewhat secure in where they lived, but God makes it clear “one shall mount up and fly swiftly like an eagle and spread his wings against Bozrah, and the heart of the warriors of Edom shall be in that day like the heart  of a woman in her birth pains”.  Judgment is coming and with it much pain.

Jeremiah adds another to the list of judgments coming – this time to Damascus.  This is the famous city of Syria, one of Israel’s neighbors to the north. Damascus is one of the oldest continually occupied cities of the world.  He also list Kedar and Hazor who were tribes and cities in the desert.  “Their tents and their flocks shall be taken, their  curtains and all their goods; their camels shall be led away from them”.  And the prophet ends this chapter talking about Elam which is the ancient name for some of the peoples of Persia or modern day Iran.  God again offers redemption to these people in the latter days, but not until judgment has come.  God’s judgment is based on His nature and character.  It must be done.  Money or power or wisdom or might won’t defer or stop it.

Jeremiah 48

Jeremiah 48 has the prophet continuing in his writing of the coming judgments to the enemies of Judah.  Jeremiah now turns his attention to Israel’s neighbor to the east, on the other side of the Jordan. The ancestor of Moab came from the incestuous pairing of Lot and his daughter.  “Thus says the Lord of hosts, the God of Israel”.  God of Israel is also God of all the earth, and spoke with authority in judgment over Moab. He is also the Lord of hosts, the God commanding fearsome heavenly armies that will take care of winning the battle.

The Babylonians will come and destroy this nation.  “Moab is destroyed; her little ones have made a cry….Flee! Save yourselves”.  The people will realize that resistance has no hope, and the best they can do is try to run but that won’t work either.  Where does God’s anger come from?  It is a common theme across people everywhere.  “Because you trusted in your works and your treasures, you also shall be taken; and Chemosh shall go into exile with  his priests and his officials.”  Chemosh was an ancient God of the Moabites and part of their downfall.  God does not tolerate idols.

God is using the army of the Babylonians to do His work.  And He expects them to do it well.  “Cursed is he who does the work of the Lord with slackness, and cursed is he who keeps back his sword from bloodshed”.  The armies of Babylon were the unknowing servants of God, executing His judgment upon Judah, Moab, and other nations. They were to do their work completely.  God has His hands on the controls, even of godless nations like Babylon.  There is nothing on this planet God does not control.  We need to remember that and put our faith and trust in Him.

Jeremiah goes on to further describe Moab’s issue – “the pride of Moab—he is very proud—of his loftiness, his pride, and his arrogance, and the haughtiness of his heart”.  Scripture is clear that pride comes before a fall.  The Moabites were right there, proud of who they were as a nation and what they believed they had done.  None of that happened without God, but they weren’t giving glory where it was due, they were heaping it on themselves.  God will deal with pride.  But in spite of the complete nature of the judgment to come against them, God promised a measure to mercy unto to Moab in the latter days.  He is still and has always been a God of grace and mercy.

Jeremiah 47

Jeremiah 47 has the prophet once again getting a word from the Lord.  This time it was “concerning the Philistines” who were concerning the Philistines.  The prophecy was given before the calamity came upon Gaza, a significant Philistine city.  Jeremiah’s prophecy talks about “waters are rising out of the north, and shall become an overflowing torrent”.  The Babylonians did not only come to conquer the Kingdom of Judah and the Egyptians, but to rule the entire region as their empire. They would also come from the north to overwhelm the Philistines as flood waters overwhelm a land.

It’s going to be a painful and crushing victory for the Babylonians over the Philistines.  “Men shall cry out, and every inhabitant of the land shall wail. At the noise of the stamping of the hoofs of his stallions, at the rushing of his chariots, at the rumbling of their wheels, the fathers look not back to their children, so feeble are their hands”.  Fear will be the action of the day and men will run for their lives, ignoring even their own children as they are consumed by fear of their enemy.

But Jeremiah makes it clear that “the Lord is destroying the Philistines”.  This is not a victory won solely by the enemy army but one appointed by God.  He is in control of all things, even the evil enemy that is coming to destroy the Philistines.  God wants them all to be killed, down to the remnant along the coast and the allies who were going to assist the Philistines in their battle.  God is in control of all things in all places at all times.  And Jeremiah hears clearly and passes on the coming truth – the Philistines are going down.

It can’t get much clearer than how Jeremiah describes the “sword of the Lord”.  The very sword of God’s judgment that came heavily upon the Philistines.  The sword of God still has the same ability and responsibility today.  “How can it be quiet when the Lord has given it a charge”?  We read these old testament stories and think God’s work then is somehow different than it is today.  That’s not the case.  He is still in the business of dealing with evil and bringing people to justice.  His sword is alive and active today.  He may not use it in exactly the same ways now as He did in the old testament times, but never wonder if the charge has changed.  It hasn’t!

Jeremiah 46

Jeremiah 46 has the prophet receiving another word from the Lord – this time about Egypt and Pharaoh Neco who was king.  Most of Jeremiah’s writings are about God’s judgment of Judah, but He didn’t neglect or ignore the Gentile nations and Jeremiah speaks of the judgment that is coming over the next five chapters.  Jeremiah describes the judgment that would come upon Egypt, especially at the Battle of Carchemish when the Babylonians defeated the Egyptians. When Jeremiah gave this prophecy the battle was yet in the future.

Jeremiah does a play by play as he prophecies the coming battle.  “Prepare buckler and shield, and advance for battle”!  He sees the soldiers getting ready and then, they run away.  “They are dismayed and have turned backward. Their warriors are beaten down and have fled in haste”.  Not exactly the picture you’d expect to see from the mighty Egyptian army.  But Jeremiah described a full retreat of the Egyptian army before the Babylonians.  They may run, but they can’t hide and are pursued by the Babylonians to the Euphrates where they would be caught and fight the battle of Carchemish.

Egypt is going to be destroyed.  Jeremiah has seen it.  God has made it happen.  “He made many stumble, and they fell”.  God is in control of all things.  He is the Master of the Universe and controller of all things.  It wasn’t only the power of the Babylonian army at work. God was also determined to drive away the defenders of Egypt to bring a vast judgment upon them.  Pharaoh didn’t lead well.  “Call the name of Pharaoh, king of Egypt, Noisy one who lets the hour go by”.  Pharaoh was no longer a ruler of great power and authority.

God makes it clear that this isn’t an accident.  “Behold, I am bringing punishment upon….Pharaoh and Egypt and her gods and her kings, upon Pharaoh and those who trust in him”.  God is addressing a problem of pride and evil.  Egypt will be ashamed and delivered into the hand of the people of the north (the Babylonians) when this massive army came against them God would bring punishment on the cities and rulers of Egypt.  God ends the chapter reminding His people that He loves them, even though the punishment they had to endure.  God’s judgment upon His people was evidence of His great love and care for them.

Jeremiah 45

Jeremiah 45 is one of the shortest chapters our prophet penned.  Five short verses written to Baruch.  “The word that Jeremiah the prophet spoke to Baruch the son of Neriah, when he wrote these words in a book at the dictation of Jeremiah, in the fourth year of Jehoiakim the son of Josiah, king of Judah”.  Baruch was the long-time, trusted associate of Jeremiah.  Both he and Jeremiah were taken to Egypt against their will.  He was a faithful partner with Jeremiah and served him well over the years.

Baruch had to endure a lot of opposition and abuse. He certainly suffered much for his faithfulness to God and Jeremiah, and he therefore felt that God could in some way be blamed for his grief and sorrow.  “Woe is me! For the Lord has added sorrow to my pain. I am weary with my groaning, and I find no rest”.  A little whining going on here by Baruch to the prophet Jeremiah and ultimately to God.  He has been through many challenges with God’s people and is now exposed to fear about the future.  But his focus is on one thing – me, myself and I – he used five personal pronouns in his one short verse of complaining to God.  Baruch is definitely on the me train here.

The world was falling apart around them.  God was moving their cheese.  “Behold, what I have built I am breaking down, and what I have planted I am plucking up—that is, the whole land”.  Baruch typically recorded Jeremiah’s words from God to His people.  This time, he writes down God’s words to himself.  We should note that God heard and responded to Baruch’s words or prayer.  That should give us hope and assurance that God hears us too.  God makes it clear that He alone has the power and authority to do whatever He pleases.  And that His power is sometimes expressed in judgment – God’s nature requires that He address disobedience and sin.  And the real news – God wasn’t done with that yet.

Then God addresses the root of Baruch’s issue – he wanted great things for himself.  “And do you seek great things for yourself? Seek them not, for behold, I am bringing disaster upon all flesh, declares the Lord”.  Some of Baruch’s discouragement and disappointment came from seeking great things for himself. He expected to be at a better and different place in his life than where he found himself at the time. The disappointment of great things sought and unfulfilled weighed heavily on him.  But God wanted Baruch to have the right mindset – not obsessed or overly-concerned about his own advancement and perceived success.

What God says is that to seek a name for yourself, a place of importance and distinction among men, is to look for the wrong thing in the wrong place. It’s not wrong to have ambition, but it needs to be focused on exalting God, not ourselves, and making Him known.  God’s desire for us is to exalt Christ crucified, not ourselves.  God does give Baruch strong assurance that He would take care of him.  “But I will give you your life as a prize of war in all places to which you may go.”  It doesn’t mean there was smooth sailing.  But the very suffering through which Baruch passed because of his loyalty to Jeremiah gained him honor beyond anything he could have anticipated.

Jeremiah 44

Jeremiah 44 has the prophet in Egypt with the remnant of Judah and God’s word again comes to him.  God wants to explain why their future was not bright, because the “did not listen or incline their ear, to turn from their evil and make no offerings to other gods”.  They chose to sin against God, plain and simple.  They served other gods, were idol worshipers, and went to Egypt in spite of very clear direction from God that they should stay where they were.  And yet they seem confused as to why things weren’t going their way.

So God makes it clear through Jeremiah.  “Therefore my wrath and my anger were poured out and kindled in the cities of Judah and in the streets of Jerusalem, and they became a waste and a desolation, as at this day”.  Sin carries a huge price.  We cannot do whatever we want and expect God to ignore it.  His very nature won’t allow that.  He will deal with sin, and unfortunately we’re all guilty.  We have to deal with our sin problem and need to do it differently than this remnant of Judah who just went about doing things their own way hoping God would eventually just bless them.  It doesn’t work that way.

So Jeremiah delivers the real truth.  “I will set my face against you for harm, to cut off all Judah. I will take the remnant of Judah who have  set their faces to come to the land of Egypt to live, and they shall all be consumed… that none of the remnant of Judah who have come to live in the land of Egypt shall escape or survive or return to the land of Judah”.  Do you see how total God’s words are here – ‘none’ are going to escape.  Sin is individual and each has to pay for their own choice.  What a price to pay so they could do it their way.

As if Jeremiah hasn’t made it clear already, there seems to still be some confusion.  So he makes another run at it.  “The Lord could no longer bear your evil deeds and  the abominations that you committed.  Therefore your land has become a desolation and a waste and a curse, without inhabitant, as it is this day”.  The facts are pretty clear.  God has already began the work of cleaning up the disobedience and sin by laying waste to Jerusalem and most of Judah.  But as is often the case, there doesn’t seem to be a connecting of the dots by the people. So Jeremiah draws a very straight line to the root of the problem.

It is because you made offerings and because you sinned against the Lord and did not obey the voice of the Lord or walk in his law and in his statutes and in his testimonies that this disaster has happened to you”.  Look people – you brought this on yourself.  You can’t blame anyone else.  This is your problem caused by your choice and comes with a very personal pricetag.  The people make all sorts of confessions and promises as to how they were going to clean up their lives.  Jeremiah has one simple response: “Then confirm your vows and perform your vows”.  We can’t merely talk about obedience.  We have to live it.  We have to make choices that align with God’s ways.  It isn’t words that get us in trouble but what we do.  Jeremiah is clear that the walk has to match the talk before God will pay any attention.  Oh that we’d learn that lesson!

Jeremiah 43

Jeremiah 43 has the response of the people to Jeremiah’s word from God.  Remember in the last chapter, the people had asked the prophet to seek God about what they should do.  He came back to them with the response – they were to stay put and not go to Egypt.  Before he asked, they had assured him that they wanted to hear from God and would obey whatever his reply was.  So now we see how that is carried out.  Jeremiah is standing before the people and telling them the “words of the Lord their God, with which the Lord their God had sent him to them”.

So what should have happened?  Maybe a little gratitude and then a discussion of how to obey.  Instead, some of the leaders get combative and say “You are telling a lie”.  They really didn’t want to hear God unless what He said was what they planned to do already.  These guys were going to Egypt and just looking for God to bless their plan.  Unfortunately that is how we often pray.  We seek God’s blessing on what we are going to do rather than seek what He wants us to do.  Big difference.  In the first case, if the answer isn’t what we wanted, we either ignore it or have to tell God He’s wrong.

Of course, God is never wrong, but it doesn’t occur to us that we might be.  In this case “Johanan the son of Kareah and all the commanders of the forces and all the people did not obey the voice of the Lord, to remain in the land of Judah”.  They loaded up the people and they took off to the land of Egypt, in spite of the direct word from God to stay put.  It’s so easy to sit here today and realize just how stupid the people were.  But we tend to do the same things.  We make choices in violation of God’s ways and plans for us.  And like these people, we end up where we shouldn’t be.  “They came into the land of Egypt, for they did not obey the voice of the Lord”.

 Jeremiah continues to hear from God, and it isn’t good.  God has the prophet make very clear the coming pain that will befall these folks.  He is instructed to bury some large stones in the pavement at the entrance of Pharaoh’s palace and talk about how the King of Babylon will come and set up shop right there.  God’s plan is in motion and will happen.  And it won’t end well for the people that have gone to Egypt as “he shall clean the land of Egypt  as a shepherd cleans his cloak of vermin, and he shall go away from there in peace”.  Disobedience never ends well.  We have to learn to hear and obey God’s voice!

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