Archive for the ‘Jeremiah’ Category

Jeremiah 42

Jeremiah 42 has the prophet being approached by the leaders of the remnant wanting help.  “Let  our plea for mercy come before you, and pray to the Lord your God for us, for all this remnant—because we are left with but a few, as your eyes see us—that  the Lord your God may show us the way we should go, and the thing that we should do”.  Those who were left after the massacre at Mizpah wanted a word from the Lord.  It wasn’t going anything like they had expected, so it was time to check in.  Isn’t that how we live far too often?  We do things our way until it doesn’t work, and then we want to run to God.

Jeremiah is willing to seek God.  But before he does, the people offer this promise.  “Whether it is good or bad, we will obey the voice of the Lord our God to whom we are sending you, that it may be well with us when we obey the voice of the Lord our God”.  One of the problems with prayer and seeking God’s will is that it may not come back the way we want it to.  God may have a plan that is different than what we want to do.  But here, the people seem to be humbly seeking God’s will.  They want His protection.

Jeremiah agrees and seeks God on their behalf.  It was ten days later that he received a word from the Lord. That likely felt like an eternity to them, but God doesn’t move on our timeline.  He tells Jeremiah to pass this along.  “If you will remain in this land,  then I will build you up and not pull you down; I will plant you, and not pluck you up; for I relent of the disaster that I did to you”.  It’s pretty simple – stay where you are and God will protect and establish you again as a nation.  If you move, that is not the outcome.

To make sure they didn’t miss the severity of the decision, Jeremiah gives them more.  “If you set your faces to enter Egypt and go to live there, then the sword that you fear shall overtake you there in the land of Egypt, and the famine of which you are afraid shall follow close after you to Egypt, and there you shall die”.  Can it get much clearer?  So now it comes down to choices.  And like so many of us, they are determined to make the wrong one.  They are determined to disobey God and attempt to run from death (in their own mind) but will in fact, run directly to death because they choose to disobey God’s plan.  Obedience matters.  We can’t seek God and then do what we were going to anyway.

Jeremiah 41

Jeremiah 41 has the prophet recording a massacre at Mizpah.  It began with the killing of Gedaliah who was governor of the land, but extended to many others.  Gedaliah had been warned that Ishmael was coming to kill him, but he didn’t believe it.  They met and the governor extended hospitality to the visitors by inviting them to eat with him at his table.  It is likely that Gedaliah knew Ishmael based on the fact he wouldn’t believe the word that he was coming to destroy him, and the fact that he invited him to a meal.  That makes what happened all the worse.

Ishmael was thorough.  He “struck down Gedaliah….and killed him….all the Judeans who were with Gedaliah at  Mizpah, and the Chaldean soldiers who happened to be there”.  Ishmael was only there with ten men, so it seems likely the locals were not at all suspicious of their guest.  Ishmael was of the royal family and of the officers of the king, a descendant of David. He was probably jealous that Gedaliah was appointed governor, making him more willing to do the work of the king of the Ammonites.

Ishmael’s crime was startling because he lived through God’s judgment in the fall of Jerusalem and Judah. But it did not make him fear or honor the Lord.  In fact, as another group of 80 arrived to sacrifice from around the area.  These worshippers were “from Shechem and Shiloh and Samaria” and they came to offer sacrifice and worship God.  Ishmael put on a good show, meeting them as they approached the city and inviting them in.  Then he and his men killed them and put their bodies into a cistern.  This guy is one bad egg.

Ishmael takes the survivors captive from the city and returns them to the Ammonites.  He likely sold them as slaves to this foreign king.  There was a good guy in this story.  “When Johanan the son of Kareah and  all the leaders of the forces with him heard of all the evil that Ishmael the son of Nethaniah had done, they took all their men and went to fight against Ishmael”.  Johanan had been the one who had warned Gedaliah about Ishmael before his murder.  Now he is making it his business to try and right the wrong Ishmael did.  He chases him and frees his captives but Ishmael escapes.  But Johanan does much good in trying to free those whom Ishmael intended for harm.

Jeremiah 40

Jeremiah 40 has the prophet getting a word from the Lord.  This word came to Jeremiah after the Babylonians had conquered and destroyed Jerusalem.  When Jerusalem was conquered Jeremiah was briefly moved with the other deportees, but then the Babylonian captain of the guard let him go. As he let him go, he shared these words.  “The Lord your God pronounced this disaster against this place. The Lord has brought it about, and has done as he said”.  Then he released Jeremiah and gave him the freedom to move about the country as he wished.

The captain offered Jeremiah the opportunity to go with him to Babylon and be cared for there.  “If it seems good to you to come with me to Babylon, come, and I will look after you well”.  But Jeremiah chose to go to the place where the people from Judah were allowed to live.  The Babylonian captain of the guard made provision that Jeremiah would stay in the care of Gedaliah, who was appointed by the king of Babylon as governor over the cities of Judah.

It tells us much of the character of Jeremiah, that when, undoubtedly, he might have secured safety and even comfort for himself in Babylon, he elected to remain in his own land and among the weak remnant of his own people.  There were some who had escaped the battle where Jerusalem fell, and they were plotting an attack on the leader of the Judean cities overseen by Gedaliah.  But Gedaliah told them to do what Jeremiah the prophet had told the people to do. Submit to God’s judgment through the Babylonians, and seek to honor God and glorify Him in normal life.

Jews from all around began to return to this Judean city.  There was a plot to attempt to kill the Babylonian ruler Gedaliah by a neighboring king, but he wouldn’t believe it and rejects an offer for protection against the threat.  One of the leaders who brought the report of a murder plot to Gedaliah pressed him further, speaking to him secretly. He offered to eliminate the man accused of plotting the murder.  But Gedaliah still did not believe the warning, and continued to trust what he knew of Ishmael and regarded the warning as a false report.  We’ll find out next chapter that this was a bad choice.

Jeremiah 39

Jeremiah 39 has the prophet in Jerusalem as it comes under siege of Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon.  This happens during the 9th year of Zedekiah’s reign, and the siege lasts for about 18 months before “a breach was made against the city”.  The city was surrounded, preventing all business and trade from entering or leaving the city, and eventually starving the population into surrender – or the defenses of the city gave way and the surrounding army poured into the weakened city.  It was not a pretty sight.

Zedekiah and his solders saw what has happening.  “When Zedekiah king of Judah and all the soldiers saw them, they fled, going out of the city”.  Probably there was a private passage underground, leading without the walls, by which Zedekiah and his followers might escape unperceived.  They weren’t  interested in being captured, so they took off but “the army of the Chaldeans pursued them” and eventually run them down out in the plains of Jericho.  And as part of the work to be sure there was no question of who was in charge, another portion of the army “broke down the walls of Jerusalem”.

Zedekiah is captured along with his sons and leaders of the army.  He is brought to Nebuchadnezzar and while the rest of his leadership were killed before him, he had his eyes put out and was bound.  But the king of Babylon ordered the captain of his guard to find and care for Jeremiah. He had to wonder what would become of him when the Babylonians eventually conquered Jerusalem. God cared for His faithful servant, keeping him safe and in favor with Nebuchadnezzar and his captains.  “Take him, look after him well, and do him no harm, but deal with him as he tells you.”

So Jeremiah was able to dwell among the people and was protected by the Babylonians, being released from his captivity in Zedekiah’s kingdom.  He was able to live among the people once again after being isolated for some period of time by Judah’s king.  God had promised his safety, and God did exactly what he promised.  “For I will surely save you, and you shall not fall by the sword, but you shall have your life as a prize of war,  because you have put your trust in me”.  God is faithful.  Jeremiah believed and trusted God.  And God faithfully and fully delivered.  God never fails!

Jeremiah 38

Jeremiah 38 has things getting rather intense for the prophet.  He is under attack, and a host of people want to shut him up.  They don’t want truth, they want him to say positive and good things.  “Let this man be put to death, for he is weakening the hands of the soldiers who are left in this city, and the hands of all the people, by speaking such words to them. For this man is not seeking  the welfare of this people, but their harm.”  Of course, nothing could be further from the truth as Jeremiah has always just told it like God told him.  But it wasn’t the politically correct message.

So they convinced King Zedekiah to shut him up and “they took Jeremiah  and cast him into the cistern….there was no water in the cistern, but only mud, and  Jeremiah sank in the mud”.  The intent wasn’t to kill him, just shut him up.  But the reality was that in this place, his days were numberd.  So Ebed-melech the Ethiopian eunuch who was in the king’s house goes to the king and says “these men have done evil in all that they did to Jeremiah the prophet by casting him into the cistern, and he will die there of  hunger, for there is no bread left in the city”.  God brings an intercessor to take care of his prophet.

King Zedekiah listens and tells Ebed-melech to go rescue Jeremiah and “they drew Jeremiah up with ropes and lifted him out of the cistern”.  The king then asks for a meeting and wants to hear the truth.  Jeremiah is a bit suspect of the motive and outcome, but is finally convinced to tell it like it was.  “If you will surrender to the officials of the king of Babylon, then your life shall be spared, and this city shall not be burned with fire, and you and your house shall live”.  Tough message, but the king receives it well and then gets the real truth.  “Obey now the voice of the Lord in what I say to you,  and it shall be well with you, and your life shall be spared”.

God’s message is almost always the same.  It all comes down to obedience.  That was the price Zedekiah would have to pay to have his life spared.  Before he could do that, he needed to hear God’s message.  It begins with us understanding what God’s plan is for our life.  Then it comes down to choices.  Jeremiah did what he always did – he remained true to God’s mission for him to speak truth.  The king took care of him after this and “Jeremiah remained in the court of the guard until the day that Jerusalem was taken”.  Quite a change from what the people intended for him.  God is faithful.  We merely have to put our trust in Him!

Jeremiah 37

Jeremiah 37 has the prophet beating his head against the wall again as King Zedekiah and all his team refuse to listen to God’s words.  “Neither he nor his servants nor the people of the land listened to the words of the Lord that he spoke through Jeremiah the prophet”.   How frustrating that must have been.  Jeremiah gets clear direction from God to pass along, but the king and his men just ignore it.  However King Zedekiah does have a suspicion that something is up.  So he sends some of his folks to talk with Jeremiah.

They ask him to “Please  pray for us to the Lord our God”.  They didn’t want to publicly appear that they were listening and heeding Jeremiah’s words from God, but down deep they were.  Zedekiah knows he is the true prophet with a message from God.  Jerusalem has been under attack by the Chaldeans, but now “The army of Pharaoh had come out of Egypt. And when the Chaldeans who were besieging Jerusalem heard news about them,  they withdrew from Jerusalem”.

Seems like great news doesn’t it.  The enemy is gone and they are free to live again.  Jeremiah hears from God that this is a temporary situation and that in fact the Chaldeans weren’t really going anywhere.  The other pretenders were telling the king what he wanted to hear, that they were free from this enemy and life could return to normal.  But Jeremiah says it like it is.  “Do not deceive yourselves….they will not go away’.  They accuse Jeremiah of being a traitor and “beat him and imprisoned him” for what he had done.

Jeremiah attempts to defend himself but to no avail.  Fortunately King Zedekiah knows that Jeremiah is the true prophet and calls him to come to his place to give him the straight scoop.  He tells him the truth, not what was pleasing to his ears like all the other pretenders were doing.  And Jeremiah asks to be placed in a different prison that he would be cared for, which the king did allow.  Jeremiah was placed in the court of the guard and given care until the bread was gone due to the Chaldean siege!

Jeremiah 36

Jeremiah 36 has some very direct words from God to the prophet.  “Take  a scroll and  write on it all the words that I have spoken to you against Israel and  Judah  and all the nations, from the day I spoke to you, from the days of Josiah until today”.  That’s a tall order – to write down all the words that Jeremiah has spoken to the people during his time as prophet.  God has a reason – He is hoping that His people will actually listen if it gets put down on a scroll.  “It may be that the house of Judah will hear all the disaster that I intend to do to them,  so that everyone may turn from his evil way, and  that I may forgive their iniquity and their sin.”

The message is pretty direct.  Jeremiah calls Baruch to be his assistant and do the writing.  After some time they got things recorded and Jeremiah sends Baruch to the temple to read.  Jeremiah was confined – not imprisoned, but likely banned from the temple area so he sent Baruch to read the written Word of God to the people of Jerusalem at the temple.  It wasn’t pretty stuff.  As Baruch read, it was obvious that “great is the anger and wrath that the Lord has pronounced against this people”.  God was not happy with His people.

Lots of people heard these words that Jeremiah had written.  And they weren’t happy about it.  So they decide they need to let the king in on what what happening. “We must report all these words to the king.” This was the first time the entirety of what God had to say about the future of His people was written in one place.  So the kings asks that the scroll be brought to him and read.  “As Jehudi read three or four columns, the king would cut them off with a knife and throw them into the fire in the fire pot, until the entire scroll was consumed in the fire that was in the fire pot”.  Obviously he wasn’t buying it.

In fact, the king sends some of his goons to “seize Baruch the secretary and Jeremiah the prophet, but the Lord hid them”.  That’s what you do when you don’t like what you are hearing – you work to silence the writers and speakers.  Not the response God was looking for from Jehoiakim the king of Judah or His people.  His intent was for them to be moved to change their wicked ways.  Instead they merely want to silence the messenger.  So God makes it clear.  “I will punish him and his offspring and his servants for their iniquity. I will bring upon them and upon the inhabitants of Jerusalem and upon the people of Judah all the disaster that I have pronounced against them, but they would not hear”.  Ignoring God doesn’t work.  There is a day when the price of sin will be paid.  That day is coming soon for Jehoiakim and Judah!

Jeremiah 35

Jeremiah 35 has the prophet teaching an example to the people of Judah and Jerusalem.  God asked Jeremiah to invite the Rechabites to the holy place to enjoy some celebration.  He offered them wine and fine foods, but they refused because their father, Jonadab, had commanded them :”You shall not drink wine, neither you nor your sons forever. You shall not build a house; you shall not sow seed; you shall not plant or have a vineyard; but you shall live in tents all your days”.  They were to live a simple and unencumbered life of service to God.

So even though the prophet Jeremiah invites them to celebrate with him, they refuse.  They have remained true to the commandments that their father gave them.  “We have obeyed….in all that he commanded us….all our days”.  They never faltered or fell to temptation.  They remained true to their charge, not only themselves, but their wives, sons, and daughters.  This is what true obedience looks like.  It wasn’t that they were never tempted.  I’m sure they often wondered why they had to live this way when the rest of the world was living large.  But they were faithful to obey.

God tells Jeremiah to use the Rechabites as an example of what God wants from His people.  “Will you not receive instruction and listen to my words declares the Lord. The command that Jonadab the son of Rechab gave to his sons, to drink no wine, has been kept, and they drink none to this day, for they have obeyed their father’s command. I have spoken to you  persistently, but you have not listened to me”.  Here’s the problem.  God has given His people commands to follow, but they have ignored him.  That will never go well.

So Jeremiah has a strong word for them.  “Turn now every one of you from his evil way, and amend your deeds, and do not go after other gods to serve them, and then you shall dwell in the land that I gave to you and your fathers”.  God gave them the opportunity to change their ways, but “you did not incline your ear or listen to me”.  He gives us a chance to confess and repent.  But when the people refuse, bad things happen.  “I am bringing upon Judah and all the inhabitants of Jerusalem all the disaster that I have pronounced against them, because I have spoken to them and they have not listened,  I have called to them and they have not answered”.  We’ll never get away with sin.  There is a price, and it is steep!

Jeremiah 34

Jeremiah 34 has the prophet getting a tough assignment from God.  He is to go to Zedekiah and tell him what lies ahead.  “Go and speak to Zedekiah….I am giving this city into the hand of the king of Babylon, and he shall burn it with fire”. The message is clear – God’s going to let the city fall.  But it gets worse.  Jeremiah has to tell the king what his fate will be too.  “You shall not escape from his hand but shall surely be captured and delivered into his hand. You shall see the king of Babylon eye to eye and speak with him face to face. And you shall go to Babylon”.  So the king isn’t getting away.  He’ll be captured too.

But there is a bit of good news that God asks Jeremiah to tell the king.  “You shall not die by the sword. You shall die in peace”.  He won’t be killed in the battle, but will be taken and allowed to die peacefully in the future.  This is a tough message to deliver, and we can only imagine the response Jeremiah got from King Zedekiah.  He couldn’t have been pleased.  After all, the expectation was that God would protect and deliver, not hand His people over to the enemy.

God had instructed His people how to deal fairly with those who were slaves.  “At the end of seven years each of you must set free the fellow Hebrew who has been sold to you and has served you six years”.  It wasn’t that they couldn’t have slaves or servants, but that they were required to set them free every seven years.  Zedekiah’s kingdom had done that but quickly reneged on the freedom and took them again as slaves, contrary to God’s law.  “You made a covenant before me in the house that is called by my name, but then you turned around and profaned my name when each of you took back his male and female slaves”.  This was against God’s plan and did not sit well with Him.

Sin always carries a price, and God makes that clear yet again to His people.  “I will give them into the hand of their enemies and into the hand of those who seek their lives”.  Ignoring God’s rules and laws brings about a very negative outcome.  It won’t go unpunished.  God’s going to deal with this sin, and He’ll do the same in our world and lives today.  If we violate His Word and His commandments, we’ll face His wrath.  He can’t ignore it because of His holiness and righteousness.  It’s why Jesus had to come to the Cross – to be the atonement for our sin.  Confess, repent and receive!

Jeremiah 33

Jeremiah 33 still has our prophet locked up in jail.  But God knows where he is, and the Word of the Lord came to him again.  Zedekiah may be trying to keep him quiet, but God is not limited by anything man attempts.  God invites Jeremiah to experience the power of faith through prayer.  “Call to me and I will answer you, and will tell you great and hidden things that you have not known”.  The main reason prayers are not answered is that they are never asked.  God wants to answer our prayers, but we have to come to Him in faith and let Him know our hearts.

God makes it clear to Jeremiah why the current situation exists with His people in exile and captivity.  “I have hidden my face from this city because of all their evil”.  God doesn’t tolerate sin.  And He is punishing the people for their choices – idolatry and self centered living.  But even in the middle of that punishment, God still is a God of forgiveness and restoration.  He wants to restore His people.  “I will cleanse them from all the guilt of their sin against me, and I will forgive all the guilt of their sin and rebellion against me”.  See how complete that forgiveness is.  He will clean it ALL away.

Jeremiah is encouraged to remember God’s faithfulness and be grateful for it.  “Give thanks to the Lord of hosts, for the Lord is good, for his steadfast love endures forever!” God’s love never goes away.  And He is good, all the time, whether we see it or not.  God also never breaks a promise or covenant.  So He reminds Jeremiah “Behold, the days are coming, declares the Lord, when I will fulfill the promise I made to the house of Israel and the house of Judah”.  He’s going to restore them and make things right, faithful to His covenant.

In case Jeremiah was struggling to believe it, God makes this promise.  “If you can break my covenant with the day and my covenant with the night, so that day and night will not come at their appointed time, then also my covenant with David my servant may be broken”.  God says that if the day and night stops happening like it is supposed to, then you can doubt whether I’ll keep my covenant as I laid out with David.  But that will never happen.  God never fails us.  His Word is never changed.  And His promise to His people will be delivered.  It isn’t always easy, but it always happens exactly as God plans!

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