September 27, 2015
Jer. 48:25-47, Lk. 11:1-28
Jer. 49:1-22, 1 Cor. 12
Ammonites were also conceived through the incest of Lot’s daughters (Gen. 19:38). At this point in Jeremiah, they have sent Ishmael to murder Gedaliah and enslave other Jews (Jer. 40:14). This is only one of many aggressive acts toward Israel. 1 Samuel 11 records an Ammonite attack in which they would allow the Israelites to surrender only if they allow the Ammonites to “thrust out” their right eyes.” They were idolaters, and led Israel into idolatry with them (Judges 10:6).
Therefore God will drive them out of their land (Jer. 49:5) The Babylonians will conquer them, as they take the entire area around the Jordan and the Dead Sea. Yet God promises to allow them to return (6).
Edom is the subject of verses 7-22. Descendants of Abraham through Esau, their king refused to allow Israel to pass through Edom on their journey to Canaan (Num. 20:14-20). They continued to be aggressive toward Israel, and also enticed the Jews toward idolatry. God will make their land a desolation (17) through the Babylonian invasion.
Damascus (23-27) is a city-state north and east of the Sea of Galilee. After the battle of Carchemish, the Babylonians continue to push the Egyptians southward toward the Nile, intending to invade Egypt itself. They are forced to abandon the invasion when many of the city-states in Canaan attempt to reassert themselves. Jerusalem is among them, as is Damascus. These city-states could band together into a powerful army and attack the Babylonians from behind. This would trap the Babylonians between two armies, which they would have to fight on two fronts simultaneously. The Babylonians cannot afford to risk this, so they temporarily stop fighting Egypt to return to Canaan. It takes several campaigns and many battles, but the rebellious city-states are ruthlessly crushed and nearly annihilated, including Damascus. God, through Jeremiah warns that the city’s young men will fall in her streets and her men of war will be cut down (26). When the Jews see this happening they should realise Jeremiah’s words are true. This will give them yet another opportunity to repent. But they will say it is just coincidence, and continue in their sin.
Many today take this passage out of context, believing it predicts an event that will occur near the “rapture.” In reality, it refers to Nebuchadnezzar’s conquest of Damascus. All of the prophecies in chapters 46-49 centre around, and are fulfilled in the Babylonian invasion and conquest of the area in the 7th and 6th centuries B.C. Babylon and Nebuchadnezzar are even named as the means by which these prophecies will be fulfilled (Jer. 49:28). Chapter 49 ends with similar prophecies about other peoples in the area. Kedar and Hazor are south east and south west of Damascus, respectively. Elam is on the north east bank of the Tigris River, and may refer to Assyria, which was crushed in 605 B.C.
Jer. 49:23-39, Lk 11:29-54
Jer. 50, 1 Cor. 13
Even mighty Babylon will not last forever. Chapters 50 and 51 foretell the empire’s demise and fall. As Jeremiah writes these words, Babylon is the master of a vast empire. But soon Babylon will be a subject in another nation’s empire. Chapters 50 and 51 go to great lengths to describe the devastation and destruction of the city. “A sound of battle is in the land, and of great destruction. How is the hammer of the whole earth cut asunder and broken! how is Babylon become a desolation among the nations” (22, 23). “Therefore shall her young men fall in the streets, and all her men of war shall be cut off in that day, saith the Lord” (30). You will remember that this is exactly what God said Babylon would do to Damascus (Jer. 49:26). What Babylon has done to others will also be done unto her.
A nation, and a coalition of nations will rise up against Babylon (9). These nations will come from the north (3, 9), and their invasion will punish Babylon for destroying God’s heritage, Israel (11). God used Babylon to punish the Jews, but their invasion and crimes were still horrible sins and wickedness, for which they will pay by being conquered as they conquered others.
By contrast, God will bring Israel again to Jerusalem and Judah (19). The sins of the Jews will be forgiven (20). “Weeping they shall go, and seek the Lord their God” (4). “They shall ask the way to Zion with their faces thitherward, saying, Come and let us join ourselves to the Lord in a perpetual covenant that shall not be broken” (5). These verse describe the Jews being released from Babylon and returning to Israel, determined to keep the Covenant of God.
Here again, we must clarify the meaning of this passage due to a popular misunderstanding of them that is very prevalent today. This misunderstanding interprets the formation of the modern state of Israel as the fulfilment of the prophecies about Israel returning to her home (see vss. 4 and 5). People holding this view have various interpretations of the identities of Babylon, and of kings of the north who conquer it. Russia and China have often been named as the kings of the north. Iran is the current popular recipient of Babylon’s identity, though some people also believe Babylon is the United States.
In reality, the kings of the north are the Medes (Jer. 51:11). In Jeremiah’s time, the Medes are part of the Babylonian Empire. But, in the very near future, they will gain power as Babylon declines. In 70 years from the time of the Jewish deportation to Babylon, Cyrus will rule the former Babylonian Empire. Cyrus will give the Jews freedom, and money to return to Jerusalem and re-establish their nation. This, not modern Israel, is the fulfilment of verses 19 and 20. As an added note, the “Babylon” of Revelation 17-19 is ancient Rome, the city on seven hills (Rev. 17:9), not the literal Babylon.
September 29, Feast of Saint Michael and All Angels
Revelation 12:7-12, Mt. 18:1-10
1 Cor. 14
There is an unseen realm that both permeates and lies beyond the physical universe. It is populated by those who have lived and died before us, and by supernatural creatures we know as angels. In some cases, the angels in the Old Testament seem to be appearances of God (Gen. 22:15-18), but usually they are supernatural creatures sent by God. “Angel,” in both Hebrew and Greek, means messenger, and the Bible often shows angels bearing messages to people from God (Lk. 1:26-37). In Revelation, angels often execute the judgements of God.
They are clearly not the cute, cuddly creatures, or voluptuous figures that decorate Christmas trees and bookshelves today. Michael is a fierce warrior. People who saw angels were stricken with fear. Yet, angels are often charged with caring for, and watching over us (Ps. 91:12). Therefore, the Collect for today prays:
“O Everlasting God, who hast ordained and and constituted the services of Angels and men in a wonderful order; Mercifully grant that, as thy holy Angels always do thee service in heaven, so by thy appointment, they may succour and defend us on earth; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.”
Jer. 50:21-46, Lk. 13
Jer. 51:1-34, 1 Cor. 15
This chapter continues the threats against Babylon. The city will be punished for its cruelty and bloodshed against others, especially Israel (24). Therefore, Babylon will will become heaps of rubble, as the Babylonians made Jerusalem rubble (37). “The broad walls of Babylon shall be utterly broken, and her high gates shall be burned with fire; and the people will labour in vain, and the folk in the fire, and they shall be weary” (58).
Jer. 51:35-64 , Lk. 14
Jer. 52, 1 Cor. 16
The book of Jeremiah closes with a summary of all the events addressed in the prophecies given to Jeremiah by God. This summary shows how the prophecies were truly and literally fulfilled. Beginning with Zedekiah (1-3), it makes the two points: that Zedekiah did that which is evil in the sight of the Lord, and that he rebelled against the king of Babylon. Zedekiah was only a puppet king. The real ruler of Jerusalem, humanly speaking, was Nebuchadnezzar, to whom Zedekiah had vowed fidelity and obedience. Instead of keeping his treaty with Babylon, he attempted to make an alliance with Egypt to fight the Babylonians. It was this action by Zedekiah that brought the Babylonians to Jerusalem, and ended in the conquest and destruction of the city and Temple, and the deportation of the Jews to Babylon.
The fall of Jerusalem, often predicted by Jeremiah and other prophets, and the capture, punishment, and death of Zedekiah, are recounted in verses 4-22. The destruction of the Temple (17-22) is a particularly telling event. The Jewish people had allowed pagan idols to be placed in it, and worshiped alongside God. They trusted in the Temple, thinking that doing the sacrifices and feasts and fasts in the proper way at the proper times would be enough to please God, who would then be honour bound to defend and prosper Israel, according to His promises to Abraham and his descendants. But God makes it clear many times that He wants the whole person, not just sacrifices and ceremonies. He also warned Israel many times that He would not continue to bless them if they continued to break the Covenant. Finally the day arrives when God turns them over to their enemies. The destruction of the Temple shows God’s disgust with the polluted and insincere faith and worship offered there. It also signifies His withdrawal from Israel. He no longer maintains His house because He no longer dwell in it.
Verses 24-27 recount the Babylonian revenge on the leaders and people of Jerusalem. Many of these people were simply executed after Jerusalem surrendered. 28-30 tells of some of the people deported to Babylon. The count probably only includes the heads of families, so many thousand more were actually deported. Thousands more probably died in the journey to Babylon, but those who lived eventually made homes in Babylon, and many of them refused to leave it when Cyrus released them in 536.
Though Zedekiah died in prison, Jehoiachin, who had been taken to Babylon prior to Jerusalem’s fall, was released from prison and treated well in Babylon. Of course, he spent 37 years in prison, but as a king, his prison was probably a house arrest in the palace. He is given his freedom, but not allowed to return to Israel. He dies in Babylon.
Thus, the things Jeremiah prophesied happened, just as he said they would. But all the suffering and killing could easily have been avoided, if only the Jews had heeded the real message of the book, repent of sin and love God with your whole heart.
Lamentations 1, Lk. 15
Lamentations 2, 2 Corinthians 1
This short book is Jeremiah’s lament for Israel. It is his expression of grief for the suffering, deportation, and death of hundreds of thousands of the people, and for the destruction and devastation of Jerusalem and the Temple. But the prophet weeps for more than just the people and the buildings that have suffered in the conquest. The entire social/theological structure that made Israel who and what she was has died. It will be resurrected, but, as Jeremiah writes Lamentations, it is dead. It has been dying for generations and hundreds of years. It died, not because it was killed by the Babylonians, but because the people drove the soul out of it by turning away from God. They let the spirit of the Covenant get away from them, thus they were left with only the shell, the exterior body of ceremonies and sacrifices. In other words, they had only the corpse of the faith. The Babylonians did not kill it, they only destroyed the corpse, like vultures.
Jeremiah laments not only the destruction of the corpse, but also the loss of the life of the faith. He regrets that the people have become so vile that the Lord has left His sanctuary, and allowed evil people to destroy it. The nation that was created to be a peculiar people unto God and a light unto the Gentiles, has become so filthy, that God willingly destroys the outward forms of His worship and the social organisation of His people. It is for this that the weeping prophet weeps most (see Dr. E. J. Young’s comments in An Introduction to the Old Testament, p 345).
Chapter 1 describes Jerusalem, and through her, the entire nation and fabric of Israel, as without friends or help, as solitary. She is deserted (3) and naked (8). Her lovers (2) are the pagan idols with whom she became a spiritual harlot. Her friends are the nations around her to whom she attempted to form alliances, and from whom she learned the ways of idolatry and sin. Where are they now? Did they help her at any time? Can they help her now? No. They are gone, fallen under the same people God used to punish Israel. They, too, are under the wrath and punishment of God.
Verse 13 assures us that Israel’s condition is from God, not fate or accidents of history and other people. They are “from above.” God put the consuming fire in her bones. God spread the net that captured her. God made her desolate and faint. “For these things I weep” (16) Jerusalem says through the literary technique of personification.
We could easily look at our own world and weep for its current condition, all of which we suffer because we collectively fail to keep the commandments of God. Western culture once attempted to build itself on Biblical values and ideals. It was from the Bible that we learned about justice and equality and freedom. It was from the Bible that we learned about government of, by, and for the people, rather than of, by, and for dictators or elites and their cronies. We cannot claim perfection by any means. But all of our failures are due to our lack of following the values, ideals, and faith of the Bible, not by following them. Today we are seeing our culture crumble like ancient Jerusalem. Why? For the very same reasons Jerusalem fell; because we have turned away from our founding faith and values, and the further we go from them, the more our culture crumbles. Our problems are not political, they are spiritual.
Verses 18 and 20 give a hint of repentance in the Jewish people. Jeremiah has Jerusalem say, “I have rebelled against [God’s] commandments.” How we wish all of Israel would say these words from the heart. How we wish all people, especially in the Church, would do likewise.
Even the very Temple of the Lord is fallen and destroyed. God has “cast off His altar” and abhorred His sanctuary (7). His anger is so great that He no longer accepts the sacrifices and offerings of the people. He despises even the place where they were offered. This destruction also signifies God’s withdrawal from Israel. They have broken the Covenant, therefore, God is no longer bound by it. Therefore, He removes His house from the city. He has moved His home, so that He no longer dwells with Israel.
Lam. 3:1-36, Lk. 16
Lam. 3:37-66, 2 Cor. 2
Jeremiah continues to write of Israel as a person. Thus, “the man” in verse 1 is all of the people of Israel collectively. It is the nation. “[T]he rod of his wrath” is Israel’s conquest and captivity, which comes to them as Divine chastisement. The chapter encourages Israel to repent, and to wait patiently on the Lord. Jeremiah knows the day of deliverance will come, but many of the Jews either do not know, or do not believe it will happen. Jeremiah urges all to seek God, have hope, and quietly wait for the salvation of the Lord.
This is good advice for God’s people in any era. Troubles will come and go. Evil people will often prosper while the Godly suffer. God may even put troubles on us to chastise us, or to grow our faith. We must not give up hope. We must repent of our sin and wait quietly for the salvation of the Lord.
September 22, 2015
Jer. 36, Lk.7:36-50
Jer. 37, 1 Cor. 5
In the fourth year of Jehoiakim’s reign Jeremiah is commanded to record the words of God in a book (2). This is accomplished by dictating them to the scribe, Baruch (18), a fearless and faithful man of God, who reads them in the Temple (10), and to the princes of Judah (11-19). The warnings in the book cause fear in the princes, who take it to the king. But the king is not moved by the words. At least some parts of the scroll are burned by the king (23), though some may have been saved (25). The king orders Jeremiah and Baruch to be found and brought before him, probably to have them executed (26). But God saves the king the trouble of finding Jeremiah, sending him to the king (27), with another copy of the book.
Zedekiah is the final king to reign before the sack of Jerusalem in 586. Shortly after the Babylonians besiege Jerusalem an Egyptian army arrives in Judah to fight against Babylon (5). The Babylonians leave Jerusalem to meet the Egyptians, and many in Jerusalem probably believe this battle will end in in an Egyptian victory and deliver Jerusalem from Babylonian domination. But the word of the Lord comes to Jeremiah and contradicts their hope. Egypt will be defeated, and the Babylonians will return to Jerusalem and destroy the city (7-9).
In verse 12, Jeremiah attempts to leave Jerusalem. He probably does not want to see the horrors of pestilence and disease that will accompany the siege of Jerusalem. Nor does he want to see the systematic execution of thousands of his people after the fall of the city. But he is stopped at the gate of Jerusalem and accused of attempting to get to the Chaldeans (Babylonians) to aid them in their war against Jerusalem (13). He is taken before the princes, who have him flogged and imprisoned (15).
The king secretly has Jeremiah brought to him, to ask him if he has received any word from the Lord. The king hopes Jeremiah will prophecy the defeat of the Babylonians and the freedom of Jerusalem. But the prophet simply repeats his message of doom. Afterward he asks the king to set him free, lets he die in the prison. Jeremiah is probably very sick and weak from the beating and ill treatment in prison. The king refuses. He sends Jeremiah back to prison, and even increases the prophet’s suffering by putting him on bread and water, essentially intending to starve him to death.
Lk. 1 Cor. 6
In place of the reading from Jeremiah we look today at Matthew 9:9-13. Though less well known than Paul and Peter, Matthew was a Godly man who gave up wealth and ease to follow Christ. Many of the early Christian writers believe he was the first to write a Gospel, and that he wrote it in Aramaic, and translated it into Greek later. His desire was that his own people would know and love the Messiah as he did. To that end he lived, and wrote, and preached in and around Jerusalem during a time when some Jews hated and persecuted Christians. He was probably still in Jerusalem when Paul appeared before the Apostles around A.D. 50 (Acts 15). At some time after this, Matthew traveled to take the Gospel to Jews outside of Jerusalem. It is not known exactly where he went, but many believe it was eastward into the Tigress Euphrates valley, where he died a martyr.
Jer. 38, Lk. 8:26-56
Jer 39, 1 Cor. 7
Jeremiah is nearly dead. Severely flogged, his untreated wounds from the beating are probably, infected and painful. He is on starvation rations and in solitary confinement in a deep cistern, where no little or no light enters unless it is opened by the guards to throw a scrap of bread and swallow of water to him. Ebed-melech pleads with the king for his release, and finally, the king agrees. By this time, the king must realise that the Babylonians are not going away, and Jerusalem is in real danger. If it falls to the invaders, it means Jeremiah is right and a true prophet. The king is probably afraid of being punished by God because of his mistreatment of Jeremiah. There is no sign of repentance in the king. He does not turn to God, nor does he make any attempt to help Jeremiah, nor is the prophet released from the prison; he is merely let out of the cistern. The king is very sorry for himself, and fears what lies ahead for him, but he is not sorry for his sins. He is like many people who are sorry they may go to hell, but not at all sorry for their sins against God and humanity.
It is in this frame of mind that Zedekiah sends for Jeremiah and asks what will happen to him. The words of Jeremiah are not comforting. Surrender to the Babylonians, and you will live, and you will save the city from being sacked and burned. This will save tens of thousands of lives, and will save the city and Temple. Much suffering will be relieved or avoided. But the king, like many others in similar situations and positions, is willing to sacrifice all of his people and his city on the slight chance that he may escape from the Chaldeans. Such self-serving cowardice is often seen in people with influence or power.
As God said, Jerusalem finally falls to the Babylonians. The devastation and suffering in the city is horrifying. Disease and famine have already killed thousands. The Babylonian soldiers entering the city kill thousands more. After the surrender, Nebuchadnezzar systematically executes the civil and religious leaders, the wealthy, the educated, and anyone with influence or power in the city. The king is forced to watch this, including the execution of his sons. After this, his eyes are burned out with a hot iron, and he is bound in chains for the journey to Babylon.
Jeremiah’s treatment is entirely different. “Look well to him” (11) refers to caring for his wounds and nursing him back to health. At first, Jeremiah attempts to make the journey with his people, in chains as they are. But he is too weak, so he is released after a few miles. He is sent with Gedaliah, whom the Babylonians appoint as governor of the territory. The chapter ends with God’s promise to the man who talked the king into releasing Jeremiah from the cistern.
Jer. 40, Lk. 9:1-36
Jer. 41, 1 Cor. 8
Ramah is about 6 miles north of Jerusalem on the road the Babylonians used to take their prisoners to Babylon. Jeremiah, bound in chains, is among the prisoners, apparently by choice, identifying with his Jewish brethren (39:11-14). There, the captain of the guard releases the prophet with the freedom to go wherever he chooses (4, 5). Jeremiah goes to Mizpah, where Gedaliah has made his base of operations because Jerusalem is in ruins. Thousand of its citizens are dead; thousands more are on their way to Babylon in chains, including the priests and higher government who were not executed after the battle. Jeremiah probably intends to help Gedaliah by preaching and ministering to the people, who are still in terrible shock and mourning, in addition to their hunger and poverty.
Gedaliah is an able leader. Soon, Jews in neighbouring areas return to Israel and begin to do the work necessary to survive (12). The Lord grants them a bountiful harvest, thus securing their food supply and ending their devastating hunger (12). Ishmael, king of Ammon, which, though also conquered by the Babylonians, did not suffer as much devastation and killing as Jerusalem, plans to kill Gedaliah, probably intending to take control of the farms and produce. Gedaliah is warned, but believes the warnings are false reports.
Ishmael comes to Mizpah under the guise of friendship. He is warmly welcomed by Gedaliah, and they share a bountiful meal together. But the warnings about Ishmael are true. During the meal, he kills Gedaliah, and all Jews presents at the meal.
Two days later, men from cities in central Israel arrive in Mizpah with the intention of offering sacrifices in what is left of the Tabernacle, which once stood at Shiloh. Their cuttings show they have been deeply affected by pagan theology and rituals (5), but their arrival in Mizpah may also show their intention to return to the Covenant and worship God again. Their sacrifices are never offered. Ishmael, again feigning friendship (6) murders many of the men, and takes the rest to be be slaves in Ammon.
Johannon, who had warned Gedaliah about Ishmael, gathers a coalition of warriors together, which meets Ishmael in Gibeon. Their arrival alarms the Ammonites, and allows the captives to escape. But Ishmael and his men also escape, causing the Jews to fear an Ammonite invasion of Israel, along with a punitive strike by the Babylonians for being involved in the fight against the Ammonites. The chapter closes with Johanan and his people camped near Bethlehem planning to flee into Egypt.
Jer. 42, Lk. 9:32-62
Jer. 43, 1 Cor. 9
Johannon is the natural choice to lead the remnant of Israel. His warning to Gedaliah, and daring rescue of the Jews held by Ishmael show skill and courage. In this chapter, he seeks the word of God from the prophet Jeremiah. This is both an intelligent, and a natural thing to do. He knows Jeremiah foretold the fall of Jerusalem, and that he continued to warn the Jews of the impending disaster, even when they beat and tortured him, and even when they put him in a dark and solitary cistern on starvation rations. And, his predictions came true. Any wise person would now consult Jeremiah to know the word of God.
Jeremiah promises to pray, and to speak what God reveals, just as he has always done. And the word of the Lord is, stay in Judah. God will protect them from Babylon if they stay. But Egypt will be conquered by the Babylonians, and if Johanan and his band of Jews go there, they will suffer through yet another brutal war and conquest, and they will die in it.
When the word of God counters the desires of Johanan and the people, they call Jeremiah a false prophet. Their minds were probably already made up to go to Egypt before they asked Jeremiah’s prayers and words. They did not really want him to tell them the truth, they wanted him to endorse their plans and desires. Things haven’t changed much in the last 2600 years. People still want ear tickling sermons that endorse their preconceived ideas about God and their choices in life. They still honour the entertaining crowd pleasers, and deny those who attempt to preach the word. “Make me feel good about myself,” seems to be their motto. “Don’t warn me about hell; promise me peace on earth, and Heaven forever.”
“So Johannan the son of Kareah, and all the captains of the forces, and all the people, obeyed not the voice of the Lord, to dwell in the land of Judah” (4). “So they came into the land of Egypt” (7).
Jeremiah goes with them. He does not go in disobedience to God. He goes because it is his calling to preach the word to the people. While in Egypt, the word of the Lord comes to Jeremiah again (8-13). The message is not about inner peace, or feeling good about themselves, nor does it promise health and wealth. It is an announcement of the coming doom of Egypt. The king of Babylon will come to Egypt, and will smite it, and “deliver such as are for death to death; and such as are for captivity to captivity; and such as are for the sword to the sword” (11). The very thing the Jews hoped to escape by going to Egypt, will happen to them there. And they could have escaped, if only they had trust God instead of Egypt; if only they had stayed in Judah.
How very contemporary this sounds to us. We run from God’s commandments because they require faith, self control, and the denial of the desires of the flesh. We run to fulfil the desires of the flesh because we believe there is happiness and peace in them. But, instead of happiness, we find sorrow and meaninglessness. The very thing we seek to escape becomes our fate forever.
Jer. 44 Lk. 10:1-24
Jer. 45, 46, 1 Cor. 10
When Johanan and the other Jews went to Egypt, they not only turned away from God’s prophet, they also turned away from God. Though it appeared for a while that they wanted to turn from their idolatry and sin (42:1-6), in Egypt they continued their idolatry, and may even have expanded it to include Egyptian idols (8). The first 14 verses of this chapter are an indictment of their sins, and an announcement of the coming judgement of God on Egypt, and them, at the hands of the Babylonians.
We would think such predictions from the mouth of the prophet who predicted the fall and captivity of Jerusalem, would move the people to fall to their knees in true and humble repentance. But such is not the case. Instead they boast about their intention to continue in sin. “We will certainly do whatsoever thing goeth forth out of our own mouth, to burn incense unto the queen of heaven, and to pour out drink offerings unto her” (17). Such are many today who mock the Bible and wish to be free of its outdated and “hateful” morals and values. They boast about their sins. They call sin “good’ and holiness “evil.”
Johanan and his followers even believe that when they worshiped the “queen of heaven” they had peace and plenty, but when they stopped worshiping her they were conquered and consumed by sword and famine (17,18). It wasn’t the God of Abraham who brought this calamity upon them, they claim. It was the queen of heaven, and she did it because they stopped worshiping her. This is essentially the same as saying their idol brought them out of Egypt, gave them the land of Canaan, and blessed them in it. It was her, not God.
Verse 26 begins God’s response. It is well stated in verse 27, “all the men of Judah that are in the land of Egypt shall be consumed by the sword and by the famine until there be an end of them.” As for Egypt, “I will give Pharaoh-hopra king of Egypt into the hand of his enemies, and into the hand of them that seek his life; as I gave Zedekiah king of Judah into the hand of Nebuchdrezzar king of Babylon, his enemy and that sought his life” (30). The Jews have come to Egypt for protection from the Babylonians. But Egypt will be conquered by them, and the Jews in Egypt will die with the Egyptians. Only a few will be left alive to return to Judah (28).
This short chapter is addressed to one person, Baruch, who worked as a scribe for the prophet Jeremiah, and read the words of Jeremiah to the people. His association with the prophet placed him in constant and grave danger. This chapter is written to cheer and encourage him, and to relay God’s promise to protect him in time of danger. The heart of the message is in verse 5. The man is told not to seek great things for himself. At the same time, God promises to preserve his life. Great things for himself would be things like fame and fortune, the respect of others, and the wealth that accompanies great success. All of this would be gladly given to him by the people of Judah if he would renounce Jeremiah. Poverty, derision, and suffering could be his fate if he remains with the prophet. The message of this chapter is that it is enough to serve God faithfully. Wealth and the praise of men will fade, but the grace of God endures forever.
Chapters 46-51 contain prophecies of judgement on the Gentile nations in the area around Israel (1). Most of them are enemies of Israel. The prophecy against Egypt begins with the Egyptian defeat at Carchemish in 605. There, Egypt, allied with the Assyrians, met the Babylonian army on battle on the banks of the Euphrates River, about 300 miles north of Jerusalem. The Jews tried to prevent the Egyptians from getting there by meeting them in battle near the Mediterranean coast. This was a mistake because an Assyrian/Egyptian victory at Carchemish may have prevented the Babylonians from advancing their empire. It was also a mistake because Israel lost the battle, and their king, Josiah, who died in the war. After defeating Israel, the Egyptians advanced to Carchemish, where they were defeated by the Babylonians. Thus, the Babylonians gained control of the area, and Jerusalem was left open to a Babylonian invasion.
The Babylonians would not stop at Jerusalem. Egypt was too rich and powerful to ignore, and Nebuchadnezzar intended to make it part of his empire. Verses 13-26 predict the Babylonian invasion and conquest of Egypt.
Jer. 47, Lk. 10:25-42
Jer. 48:1-25, 1 Cor. 11
The Philistines were some of Israel’s fiercest enemies, and competitors for the land of Canaan. They controlled most of the Mediterranean coast, especially Gaza. They were wealthy traders and powerful warriors. Goliath was a Philistine. The word of the Lord foretells their defeat, which probably happens just after the Egyptians defeated Judah and killed Josiah on their advance toward Carchemish around 605 B.C. This prophecy is given before the Philistines are defeated. This means the people of Judah knew of this word through Jeremiah. They knew his prediction that Gaza would be conquered by Egypt, and they saw it happen. Yet they refused to believe God and repent. And they still persecuted Jeremiah.
The same things still happens today. The Bible is more available than ever before in history. People in most of the world have at least some knowledge of it. We hear it quoted in TV shows and movies. Even politicians quote it regularly. Yet few act on it, and many blatantly deny and hate it. And yet, the truth of one of the Bible’s most basic doctrines is undeniable; man is a sinner. As the Bible itself says, “all have sinned.” The evidence of this truth is everywhere there is, or ever has been a human being. Sin has not been educated out of people. It has not been ameliorated by charity. Politics and utopian political dreams have not eradicated it. None of our attempts to perfect mankind have removed sin because sin is part of human nature. Therefore, only a change in human nature can remove sin, and only God can do that. Yet we persist in rejection of the word of God, just like the Jews who saw Egypt crush Gaza.
Moabites were descendants of Lot. Conceived through incest (Gen.19:38), they owned the area on the southeast coast of the Dead Sea, but their influence and control extended far beyond their borders. Fearful of, and aggressive toward Israel from the time of the Exodus, Moab will also fall to the mighty Babylonians.
September 14, 2015
Jer. 22, Lk. 2:40-52
Jer. 23, Rom. 14
The prophet enters into a series of denunciations of the kings of Judah. He begins with a wonderful summary of the task of government. “Execute ye judgement and righteousness, and deliver the spoiled [oppressed] out of the hand of the oppressor: and do no wrong, do no violence to the stranger, the fatherless, nor the widow, neither shed innocent blood in this place” (3). We can summarise this into three points. First, do justice. Make the laws of the land just and equitable. Defend the rights of the people. Protect the poor and the weak from those who would deceive and oppress them. The Deuteronomic code, with its principles of punishment and restitution is the standard, and the legal code of Israel. Second, make the courts enforce the laws. Make the criminals bear the consequences of their crimes. Do not pervert justice in favour of those who can benefit you with their money or influence. Third, do no wrong. Do not join with those who oppress the poor, or gain wealth by taking advantage of others, instead, make them answer for their crimes. Do not use your position or power for personal gain. Use it for the good of the people and the glory of God.
But the kings have not ruled justly. Verse 17 recalls their actions. “But thine eyes and thine heart are not but for thy covetousness, and for the shedding of innocent blood, and for oppression, and for violence to do it.” Not only have the kings not enforced justice and protected the rights of the law abiding citizens, they have actually joined forces with the criminals and the oppressors against the innocent. They have stolen the property and spilled the blood of the innocent. The have become enemies of the righteous, not defenders of them.
Therefore, they will feel the wrath of the Lord, the True King of Judah. His Law is absolute righteousness, and His verdicts are absolute justice. God will give them into the hand of Nebuchadrezzar (25) and cast them out of Jerusalem into another country (Babylon), “and there shall ye die” (26).
A short note on the kings of the era may be helpful. Josiah (ca. 640-609 B.C.) is remembered as a good king. He died in battle fighting the Egyptians, who wanted to pass through Judah to battle the Babylonians. Josiah’s youngest son, Jehoahaz, became king, but was taken by the Pharaoh and imprisoned in Egypt. The Pharaoh had control of Israel at this time, due to his defeat of Josiah, and he forced the Jews to make the eldest son of Josiah, Jehoiakim, king. When the Babylonians defeated Egypt’s ally, Assyria in 605, Egypt lost control of Judah, and Babylon gained control. Nebuchadnezzar attacked Jerusalem and forced the city to surrender the king, who was taken in chains to Babylon, along with Daniel, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego.
Jehoiachin, also called Coniah, then became king. Refusing to heed Jeremiah’s warnings, Jehoiachin resisted the Babylonians, so Nebuchadnezzar again besieged Jerusalem, and took Jehoiachin and about 10,000 others to Babylon. Jehoiachin died in Babylon, as Jeremiah predicted (Jer. 22:26).
The Babylonians forced the Judeans to crown Zedekiah as the new king. At first he acquiesced to the powerful Babylonians. But when a new Pharaoh was crowned in Egypt, Zedekiah attempted an alliance with Egypt, hoping to escape Babylonian control. Angered at Zedehiah’s actions, the Babylonians attacked Jerusalem. Egypt sent an army to help the Jews, which was defeated, giving the Babylonians the opportunity to begin a long and deadly siege of Jerusalem. The city fell in 586 B.C. The buildings were burned and destroyed, and the surrendered Jews were murdered by the thousands. Zedekiah was forced to watch the murder of his sons and 70 other people, after which his eyes were burned out with a hot iron. He, and most of the surviving Jews were taken on a death march to Babylon, where they lived as aliens and captives for the next 70 years.
Most of Jeremiah’s message has been of punishment and suffering, but here God gives him a message of hope. Though woe is pronounced against the shepherds (religious and civil authorities) that spiritually starved and scattered the flock of Israel, leading to the devastation of the Babylonian conquest, God will give them shepherds who will feed them, meaning to lead them into the knowledge of and loving obedience to the scriptures. This passage refers first to the return of the Jews from Babylon, begun in 536 B.C. In its fuller sense, it refers to Jesus Christ, who is the Good Shepherd and the righteous Branch of David (Jer. 23:5, see also Rev. 22:16). In His first advent, Christ begins the age of fulfilment, when all of the prophecies and promises of the Old Testament begin to be understood and accomplished. It is His atoning sacrifice that buys our pardon. It is His Holy Gospel which calls His people from the diaspora of sin and brings us into the New Jerusalem to live in peace and harmony with Him and each other. But even this age of the Church, or age of the end times, is not the complete fulfilment of His work. He will return from the Father to fully establish His Kingdom of justice and righteousness. All things will be made new, and even death will be no more for His people.
Jeremiah is led of the Lord to lament the current state of his city, with its false prophets and profane priests. Just as the civil government becomes corrupt and abusive when the Biblical principles of justice are ignored, the Church becomes corrupt when its leaders abandon the Bible for the traditions of men. And, just as a corrupt civil government leads to crime, oppression, and poverty, corrupt Church leaders bring false doctrine, sin, and hypocrisy into the Church. Such pastors commit adultery, walk in lies, and strengthen the hand of evil doers by blessing sin and condemning holiness, and by reducing the faith to a feeling or a show. When the pastors do such things, the people are not told the truth or called to faith and obedience to God’s will. Therefore, they do not return from their wickedness. Instead they are hardened in it, even to the point of believing their sin is righteousness.
The people may love such preachers ( 2 Tim. 4:3, 4) but God’s attitude toward them is revealed in verses 31 and 32; “Behold, I am against the prophets, saith the Lord, that use their tongues, and say, He saith. Behold, I am against them that prophesy false dreams, saith the Lord, and do tell them, and cause my people to err by their lies, and by their lightness.”
Jer. 24, Lk. 3
Jer. 25, Rom. 15
This short chapter gives the prophet a vision of two baskets of figs. One contains good figs, and represents the people God will bring back to Jerusalem out of Babylon, Egypt, and other places where they have been taken. The other contains spoiled figs, but the Bible does not use that word. It calls them naughty, evil, and very evil, which are moral terms rather than agricultural terms. They represent Zedekiah, false prophets and priests, and impenitent Jews who will be removed into all the kingdoms of the earth. This is done by God “for their hurt” (9). As they have left the Covenant, so they will not be allowed to dwell the Covenant land. Instead they will be a reproach and a curse in all the places to which they are driven. Those who remain in Judah after the conquest will still not be safe. They will continue to suffer the sword, famine and pestilence.
Verses 1-14 contain a specific prediction of the length of Israel’s time in Babylon. Among the reasons for their punishment, God reveals that they will be in Babylon for 70 years (12).
It is noteworthy that God proclaims judgement against the Babylonians for their violence against Israel (12, 13). Even though God allowed the Babylonians to conquer and afflict His people, the actions of the Babylonians were still grievous sins against God and humanity. They were prompted by greed and arrogance. Their empire was forged in blood, in the massacre of unknown numbers of innocent people, whose lands they invaded, whose property they stole, and whose lives they took.
Verses 15-37 show that God’s wrath expands to all nations and peoples who have captured and harmed Israel. They will all drink the cup of His wrath, and having drunk and become drunken with it, they will “spew, and fall, and rise no more, because I will send the sword among you” (27).
Jer. 26, Lk. 4
Jer. 27, Rom. 16
Jehoiakim was the eldest son of Josiah, and was king of Judah from about 609 to 598 B.C. (see the notes on the kings of this era in comments for September 13). During this time Egypt held the power in the area, and Jehoiakim ruled only as a servant of the Pharaoh. The message in this chapter was given to Jeremiah in the beginning of Jehoiakim’s reign, which would be sometime in the year 609-607 B.C. The prophet is commanded to go to the inner court of the Temple and preach a call to repent and be saved from the approaching Babylonians. This is the second time Jeremiah is sent to the Temple, and the message is very similar to the first on preached there (Jer. 7). After his sermon, the priests, and false prophets and people take him by force with the intent of executing him (8). The civil authorities come to the Temple, probably to see why the people are shouting and threatening death to a man in the Temple (10). This gives Jeremiah another chance to speak (12-14).
A discussion among the people and leaders follows 16-20). One group cites another prophet who prophesied against Jerusalem a hundred years earlier. Not only was the prophet, Micah (not the one in the book of Micah), not put to death for his preaching, but the people repented of their sin and were spared from the wrath of God (19). This reference is intended to induce the princes to let Jeremiah go free until it is seen whether his predictions come to pass or not. Their words prevail, and Jeremiah is released.
A second prophet is not so fortunate. Urijah, a contemporary of Jeremiah, preached a message similar to that of Jeremiah. The good princes of Judah were so angry at his words, they intended to kill him, but he fled to Egypt, where he was safe for a while. But Jehoiakim sent Elnathan, whose name means “Gift of God,” into Egypt to bring Urijah back to Jerusalem. Elnathan was successful, and Urijah arrived in Jerusalem, probably nearly dead from harsh treatment by Elnathan. Jehoiakim immediately killed the prophet and cast his body into the graves of the common people (23) which was intended to be a terrible insult to the prophet.
Some readers are confused at finding two kings mentioned in regards to the bonds and yokes in verse 1. The difficulty is removed when we realise that some of the yokes and bonds are delivered in Jehoiakim’s reign (609-598), and some are delivered in Zedekiah’s reign (597-586), when the kings of the peoples named attempt to form alliances with Judah against Babylon. God’s message to them is that all their lands have been given into the hand of Nebuchadnezzar, whom the Lord calls His servant (6). He will even punish those kingdoms that resist Babylon (8). The kings and peoples, therefore, must not listen to those who claim to speak from supernatural revelation saying, “Ye shall not serve the king of Babylon” (9). “For they prophesy a lie” (10).
The chapter closes with very pointed warnings to Jerusalem and Zedekiah, who will be king at the time of the Babylonian invasion that levels Jerusalem. The word of the lord is that Zedekiah and Jerusalem should surrender to Nebuchadnezzar without a fight. Do not listen to prophets and priests who say God will deliver you from Babylon. Do not count on alliances with other nations. If they resist, they will be destroyed. Even the Temple, in which they place so much hope, will be destroyed, and its treasures will be taken as booty to Babylon.
Jer. 28, Lk. 5
Jer. 29, 1 Corinthians 1
The events of this chapter occur in the fourth year of the reign of king Zedediah, or 593 B.C. Hannaniah is a false prophet who breaks the wooden yoke Jeremiah wears around his neck. His action is symbolic. It is a dramatic expression of his words in verses 2 and 3, which predict the fall of Nebuchadnezzar and the return of the Jewish captives and property now held in Babylon. This will be accomplished within two years (3), he says.
Jeremiah does not refute these words at first. His, “Amen,” in verse 6, shows his desire that God would actually accomplish this. But he knows this will not happen. Hannaniah has prophesied lies, and this is how the people will know it. If the words of Hannaniah come to pass, it will prove that he is a true prophet. But if the words of Jeremiah come to pass, it is he who speaks the word of the Lord. Jeremiah's message has two parts. First, the Babylonians will come and they will conquer Israel and the surrounding nations (14). Within seven years the Babylonians completely conquer the area, and Jerusalem is sacked and burned. Second, Hannaniah will die because his message teaches rebellion against the Lord (16). Two months later, Hannaniah is dead.
Jeconiah, also called Jehoiachin, is king of Judah for a few short months before Jerusalem is was defeated by the Babylonians. This defeat is not the sack and destruction of Jerusalem in 586. It is the result of an earlier battle between the Babylonians and the combined forces of Assyrian and Egypt in 605. Jeconiah had sided with the Egyptians, so the Babylonians surround Jerusalem until it surrenders. Jeconiah is taken in chains to Babylon, and the Babylonians coronate Zedekiah, to serve as a vassal of King Nebuchadnezzar. Many others are taken to Babylon with Jeconiah (2-4), including Daniel, Meshach, Shadrach, and Abednego. As part of his duties to Nebuchadnezzar, Zedekiah sends a message to him by way of a messenger named, Elasah (3). Jeremiah is able to send a message to the Jews in captivity in Babylon by the same messenger.
Jeremiah's message does not tell the captives they will be home in two years. Instead it tells them to make homes for themselves in Babylon (5-7), for they will dwell there for seventy years (10). In the meantime, those who remain in Jerusalem will suffer famine, pestilence, conquest by the sword (17), and will be scattered throughout many nations (18). The lying prophets of Jerusalem will also be destroyed, along with Zedekiah and others who led the people to sin against God (21-32).
Jer. 30, Lk. 6:1-19
Jer. 31, 1 Cor. 2
The Lord now changes the tone of His message. Though the Jews have shown no inclination or desire to repent, God knows their bitter, conquest and bondage will tempt them to abandon even the nominal faith they now have. Therefore, He shows them their suffering will not continue forever. He will chastise them, but He will also have mercy upon them, as a nation, and will return them to their homeland again. He tells Jeremiah to write the words of this prophecy in a book (2). It will go with the people to Babylon, where it will remind them of their sins, and the reason for their suffering. It will return with them to Jerusalem where it will remind them to return to the Covenant and the God of the Covenant, and not just to a place. God does not need the land. He can bless His people wherever they may be. But He has called them to be one people, and to dwell together, and to love Him, and to be blessed by Him, as one people. Therefore He has given them a place where they can do this, though, for a while, they will be removed from it.
While in Babylon, it will seem to the Jews that the hope of dwelling in Jerusalem as one people united in the Covenant of God, is gone forever. It will seem as though God has taken that calling and blessing from them, forever. Some will realise that He would be right and justified to do so. Though God has been faithful, and patient with their sins, Israel, as a people, has broken every vow and every obligation of the Covenant. They have offended against every aspect of their obligation, both in letter and spirit. Since they have broken the Covenant, God is no longer obligated to them. If He abandons them, and leaves them in perpetual punishment, forever banned from His blessings and graces, it would be no more than they deserve. It will indeed appear to them that this is exactly what God has done, and returning to Judah, and the Covenant, is impossible.
But God will bring them home. “Therefore, fear thou not, O my servant Jacob, saith the Lord; neither be dismayed, O Israel: for, lo, I will save thee from afar, and thy seed from the land of their captivity” (10). It is their enemies who are without hope (12-16).
No one familiar with the Biblical story can read this chapter without seeing the Messianic Hope depicted in it. It is especially clear in verse 9, “But they shall serve the Lord their God, and David their king, whom I will raise up.” In its fullest sense, this refers to Jesus Christ, the righteous Branch of David (23:5) to reign and execute justice in the earth.
The restoration is not for Judah alone. In fact, the first 22 verses of this chapter refer to the 10 northern tribes, known collectively as Israel. They are already in the bonds of cruel defeat, even as Jeremiah writes these words. “[T]hey shall come and sing in the height of Zion… and their soul shall be as a watered garden; they shall not sorrow any more” (12). [T]hy children shall come again to their own border” (17).
Israel divided into two kingdoms after Solomon died. The northern tribes were called Israel, and existed, more or less independently until conquered by the Assyrians (722 B.C.) and becoming assimilated into the Assyrian culture. The Israelites, who had been guilty of the same sins as Judah, were scattered among the Gentile nations. Some left Israel as refugees from the war devastated land. Others were forced to move by the Assyrians (2 Kings 17:5,6). Those allowed to remain in Israel were later known as Samaritans. Here God promises to bring them home again. Israel and Judah will be reunited as one people.
Verse 23 begins to tell of the restoration of Judah. After the 10 northern tribes left to establish their own kingdom (ca. 950 B.C.), the two remaining tribes of Benjamin and Judah eventually merged and became known as Judah. This kingdom also existed more or less independently until conquered and sacked by the Babylonians in 586 B.C. The Babylonians murdered thousands of the surrendered Jews, sacked and burned their cities and towns, and moved tens of thousands of the survivors to Babylon. Verses 23-28 foretell the return and restoration of Judah.
Verse 29 begins to talk about a new Covenant. By their sin, Israel and Judah have nullified the former Covenant. The conquest and deportation of the people, and the destruction of the Temple in Jerusalem, and the destruction of the House of the Lord in Israel, are very important symbols of the fact that God has recognised that Israel and Judah have failed to keep their Covenant obligations, thereby making the Covenant null and void. Therefore, God is released from His Covenant duties. He is no longer the God of Israel, or the God of Judah, so the places where the people gathered to “meet” Him are not needed. Their destruction graphically portrays the end of the Covenant. It is important to remember here that the Covenant with Israel was conditional. God promised to do specific things, such as giving Canaan to the descendants of Abraham. They also promised to obey God and be His people. If they, or their descendants ever stopped keeping their Covenant obligations, God had the right to end the Covenant and be released from His Covenant obligations. Even the land that He gave them will be taken from them (Dt. 28:63-68).
But God will make a new Covenant with the people. It will be a personal, rather than a national Covenant. This means it will be with individual people who accept and live by it. This Covenant is a spiritual Covenant, and the Covenant people will be a spiritual people, an Israel within Israel. The New Covenant is the Covenant in Christ’s blood, and the spiritual Israel consists of those who enter by faith in Christ (Heb 8:1-9:28).
Obviously, then, much of the language in Jeremiah 31:31-40 is spiritual language. The vast majority of the Jews did not return to Israel when Cyrus of Persia freed them for Babylon. They preferred their new homes in foreign lands. Even today, most Jews remain outside of the modern nation of Israel. But a spiritual reunion, gathered around the righteous Branch of David, has already begun. The Church of God is no longer limited to one country, one nation, or one ethnic group. In the righteous Branch, the Church has embraced believers from every race, nation, and tongue.
Jer. 32, Lk. 6:20-49
Jer. 33, 1 Cor. 3
In the tenth year of Zedekiah’s reign (ca. 588 B.C.), The Babylonian army arrives at Jerusalem again. This time it begins a siege that will cause disease and starvation, and will end in almost complete destruction of the city and the people. During this time, Jeremiah continues to foretell the destruction of the city and the captivity of the people. Angered and desperate, the king, Zedekiah, imprisons the prophet. A nephew comes to the prison and asks Jeremiah to buy a field in Anathoth, Jeremiah’s home town.
Why does the nephew ask this of Jeremiah? Maybe he wants to use the money to try to escape from Jerusalem. Maybe he thinks the Babylonians will change their minds and negotiate peace, which will end the siege. Maybe he is just trying to keep the law of inheritance. But God tells Jeremiah to buy the field. Jeremiah buys the field and has the deed sealed in an air tight and water proof vessel that will preserve the document for many years. Why does the prophet buy land in a country he knows will soon be conquered and devastated? Because he knows God will bring the people back to Jerusalem. “Houses and fields and vineyards shall be possessed again in this land” (15).
Jeremiah’s prayer seems to suggest that God’s command to buy the field is foolish. He probably expects to die in the war, or be killed by the king as a last act of revenge and defiance before the city falls, or be taken to Babylon to die there. In either case, the field will be useless to him. But God uses the field to show the reality of His promise. Just as His threat to destroy the city is being fulfilled, His promise to restore it will also be fulfilled. “I will cause their captivity to return, saith the Lord” (44).
Amid a moving account of the mercy of God in returning the captives comes another word about a king in the line of David. The line of David will be established on the throne again. This means Israel will have some form of independence, with its own king again. Along with this the priesthood, with its services and functions will be established again in Jerusalem. Ultimately these functions will be fulfilled in Jesus Christ, as we have seen in other passages of Jeremiah.