Friday, August 31, 2012

Jeremiah 41-43: Will You Not Listen?

LINKS: Jeremiah 41-43  (read over the next three days)

BACKGROUND

Nebuchadnezzar's puppet governor should have listened to Johanan because Ishmael did assassinate him after all! Some commentators believe it was because Ishmael was angry about being passed over for leadership since he was in the line of David.

Then, Ishmael and his band slaughtered worshipers on their way to Jerusalem who were most likely going to celebrate one of the three feasts held during the seventh month (Leviticus 23:23-44). Commentators believe it was for their money and food. With no king on the throne, Judah was thrown into total anarchy.

Johanan and the army officers rescued Ishmael's captives while Ishmael and eight of his men escaped to the Ammonites. In order to escape the Babylonians, Johanan and the captives set out for Egypt via Geruth Kimhan near Bethlehem. It was obvious that they had already made up their mind to go to Egypt; but in the midst of that, they asked for God's guidance for their journey and asked Jeremiah to pray to God for them. They said they were willing to do what God told them to do stating, "We will obey the LORD our God." Through Jeremiah, God told them to stay in the land and to not be afraid of the Babylonians. If they disobeyed Him, Jeremiah warned them that they would die by the sword, famine, and plague. 

Sadly, they disobeyed Him and went to Egypt dragging Jeremiah with them. 

REFLECTION



"We will not listen to the message 
you have spoken to us
in the name of the LORD!
Jeremiah 44:16

BUT WHY??????

The whole time I was meditating on these chapters (I had to treat them as a whole instead of in individual posts), I could only think of this song:

"Will You Not Listen?" by Michael Card



Listening is the MOST important thing we can do in our relationship with God. Try to cultivate a heart that really listens. It may mean letting go of everything and stopping long enough to hear Him in the quietness. 

APPLICATION

Are you listening? Remember this book is very inspiring to help you listen and obey: God Guides.

PRAYER

Teach us to listen and obey. Amen.

Thursday, August 30, 2012

Jeremiah 40 - After the Fall

LINK: Jeremiah 40

BACKGROUND 

Jeremiah 40-44 follows the events after the fall of Jerusalem. Nebuchadnezzar established a puppet governor over Jerusalem, Gedaliah. Jeremiah was released and had the option of going to live in great comfort in Babylon, but he remained in Jerusalem and continued to prophesy.  But the people who remained in Jerusalem still refused to trust in the Lord and submit to Babylon (Ezekiel 33:23-29).

After the crushing defeat by the Babylonians, the army of Judah was scattered throughout the open country. When they heard that Gedaliah was the governor, they came to him, and Gedaliah assured them that it would go well with them if they submitted to the Babylonians. Some did submit, but the king of Ammon conspired with Ishmael son of Nethaniah, who was from the royal line of David, (40:14-15) to take Gedaliah's life. Remember that Judah and Ammon wanted to unite in rebellion against Babylon (27:1-11) in 593 B.C. with nothing coming of that, but they were still allies when Jerusalem fell. Some speculate that Ishmael wanted that power since he was in the line of the Kings of Judah. 

Foolishly, Gedaliah ignored warnings about his assassination.  Keep reading to see what happened!

No REFLECTION or APPLICATION 

PRAYER

Lord, help us not to take the easy way but the way that will bring You glory. Just like Jesus did. Amen. 


Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Jeremiah 39 - Fall of Jerusalem and Fear of Jeremiah

LINK: Jeremiah 39

BACKGROUND

For historical background you can read the section of the post with 2 Kings 25 & 2 Chronicles 36:15-21

Jeremiah 39 should follow Jeremiah 34 chronologically; but as you know, this book is not chronological! As a reminder, Jeremiah 34 involved God's judgment on Zedekiah for his lack of leadership. He tried one last attempt to please God by freeing the slaves, but the people took them back again when they hoped Egypt would repel the attack of the Babylonians. 

Babylon's foreign policy was to deport the rich and powerful and leave the poor people in charge of the land, making them grateful and loyal to Babylon. 

God had promised that Jeremiah would be rescued from all trouble (1:8). This came true when the Babylonians freed him, protected him, and treated him as a wise seer. 


Remember that Eed-Melech risked his own life to save Jeremiah's (38:7-13). Consequently, God protected Ebed-Melech from the Babylonians. 

REFLECTION 


"Do not be afraid of them 
For I am with you to deliver you," 
declares the LORD 
(Jeremiah 1:8)

I will let you in on a little secret: I used to be a "Little Miss Much Afraid," like the main character in the classic book, Hind's Feet on High Places. That is why this verse in Jeremiah was VERY dear to me for many years as God led me into situations where I was the one speaking truth when I did not want to be led there. 

For many years, I did not like that position, but I have grown into it, just like Jeremiah. And I have learned to not be afraid. On the other side, I feel like God has blessed me for the courageous steps. He has rescued me from all trouble, protected me, and given me a new name: Boldly Beloved.

If you want to know about a new name God wants to give you, see this video: "Unleashing Your Imagination"

APPLICATION

What are you afraid of right now? Talk to God about it.

If you have not already read it, Hind's Feet on High Places is an excellent book for all believers to read. 

PRAYER

Lord, make us fearless by Your power and strength. We ask this in Jesus' name. Amen.

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Jeremiah 38 - Obey the Lord by Doing What I Tell You

LINK: Jeremiah 38

BACKGROUND

In the courtyard of the guard, Jeremiah delivered God's message to high-ranking officials. It was the same message delivered in 21:3-10: the only hope was surrender to the Babylonians. 

The king allowed the officials to put Jeremiah in a cistern to kill him. A cistern was a large hole in the ground lined with rocks to collect rainwater. It was dark and damp. Jeremiah, in his 60's, could have drowned, died of exposure, or starved to death. Only the petition of Ebed-Melech (note what happens to him in Jeremiah 39), one of the court officials, persuaded the king to get Jeremiah out. In a private conversation, Jeremiah again reiterated to Zedekiah that only surrender will save him and his people and exhorted Zedekiah to "Obey the Lord by doing what I tell you . . . and your life will be spared." You will find out the sad consequences of this weak king's disobedience in the next chapter.

In the last encounter between Zedekiah and Jeremiah, the king ordered Jeremiah not to tell the officials the details of their conversation and to tell them that Jeremiah was pleading to not be sent back to Jonathan's dungeon which was true from a previous conversation. 

The Life Application Bible comments: "We must not withhold God's truth from others, but we should withhold information that will be used to bring evil to God's people" (p. 1356).

REFLECTION

This man is not seeking the good of these people but their ruin.
Jeremiah 38:4

But Jeremiah was seeking their good! Just this morning, I was reading The Perfect Leader by Kenneth Boa. In the chapter entitled "Exhortation", he writes:
Regardless of how we feel about confrontation, there are times when confronting is the most loving thing we can do for another person. Deitrich Bonhoeffer wrote: "Nothing can be more cruel than the leniency which abandons others to their sin. Nothing can be more compassionate than the severe reprimand which calls another Christian in one's community back from the path of sin." (Location 1987, Boa is quoting from Life Together, translated by Daniel Bloesch and James Burtness, p. 105)
Today, exhortation often gets a bad rap. We think we are "wounding" our friends through words of exhortation. Bonhoeffer writes:
One who because of sensitivity and vanity rejects the serious words of another Christian cannot speak the truth in humility to others. Such a person is afraid of being rejected and feeling hurt by another's words. Sensitive, irritable people will always become flatterers, and very soon they will come to despise and slander other Christians in their community. . . . When another Christian falls into obvious sin, an admonition is imperative, because God's Word demands it. The practice of discipline in the community of faith begins with friends who are close to one another. Words of admonition and reproach must be risked. (Life Together, p. 105)
Jeremiah was willing to take that kind of risk. Are you?

APPLICATION

Do you care enough to exhort those you love? How do you receive exhortation from others?

Here is an excellent book about this subject that I have recommended before:


(there are many used ones on Amazon in an older edition HERE

PRAYER

Lord, thank You for the brave example of Jeremiah who cared enough to confront even when it meant prison and a cistern. Give us boldness to proclaim truth even when it is unpopular. We ask this in Jesus' name. Amen.

Monday, August 27, 2012

Jeremiah 37 - Jeremiah Imprisoned

LINK: Jeremiah 37


BACKGROUND

Jeremiah 37-39 traces the events during the final siege and fall of Jerusalem. King Jehoiakim died on the way to Babylon (2 Chronicles 36:6), and his son, Jehoiachin, was appointed king, but he was taken captive to Babylon three months later. Then, Nebuchadnezzar appointed the last king of Judah, Zedekiah, to sit as a vassal king on the throne (2 Kings 24:15-17).

Sadly, Zedekiah and his people did not listen to the word of the Lord through Jeremiah and just wanted him to pray that God would grant victory to their allies, the Egyptians, so that Babylon would get out of Palestine and leave them alone! But God's word through Jeremiah predicted that this would not happen, and Jerusalem would be burned.

In the second half of the chapter, Jeremiah was falsely accused of going over to the side of the Babylonians when he went to divide up some land. This land should not be confused with the land he purchased in Jeremiah 32. The events in Jeremiah 37 took place before the events in Jeremiah 32.

Jeremiah was beaten and thrown into an underground cistern that had been converted into a prison where he remained a long time until Zedekiah secretly sent for him in hopes of hearing a good word from the Lord, but Jeremiah had only bad news for the king.

After Jeremiah's protest of his innocence and petition for better treatment (Jeremiah was in his 60's at the time), Zedekiah transferred him to the courtyard of the guard in the royal palace where he was treated more humanely.

REFLECTION/APPLICATION

Jeremiah was persecuted for speaking truth. Persecution for proclaiming and believing in the truth still goes on today, and we can stand in the gap for some of our brothers and sisters around the world. Please take some time to pray for those who are persecuted by going to the prayer requests on the Voice of the Martyrs website. 

PRAYER

Lord, Your Word is living and active and sharper than any two-edged sword, it pierces as far as the division of both soul and spirit, joint and marrow, and it is able to judge the thoughts and intentions of the heart (Hebrews 4:12). That is why it is such a threat to the kingdom of darkness and that kingdom persecutes and seeks to burn and destroy just like Zedekiah who burned Your Word of truth spoken through Jeremiah.

Lord, help us to speak truth in spite of the persecution, and we lift up our brave brothers and sisters throughout the world who are being persecuted for speaking and believing in the truth. Give them an unwavering awareness of Your powerful presence, and we pray that You would be glorified and exalted through their lives. We ask this in the name of the One who suffered more than any of us, Jesus. Amen.

Sunday, August 26, 2012

Jeremiah 36 - Jeremiah's Scroll

LINK: Jeremiah 36

BACKGROUND

The events in this chapter began in the fourth year of the reign of King Jehoiakim (605-604 B.C.). They happened before the events in Jeremiah 34 and 35.

God wanted all the prophecies of Jeremiah written down and read in hopes that the people would hear about everything that Jeremiah had said was going to happen and repent. Baruch wrote them down, and it was read three times. The first time was on a fast day in the house of the Lord. At that time, fast days were only called in times of emergency. Babylon was destroying city after city. So they were in an emergency mode. Micaiah, grandson of Shaphan (the man who read the book of the Law to King Josiah in 2 Kings 22), was concerned and brought it to the king's house and read it the second time to the officials who trembled and went to the king. The third reading to the king was rejected, and the king cut the scroll and had it burned! Consequently, God had Jeremiah write another scroll with the addition of a special judgment against the disobedient king.


Enjoy another free reading day!

Saturday, August 25, 2012

Jeremiah 35 - Comparison to the Recabites

LINK: Jeremiah 35

BACKGROUND

This prophecy was given during the reign of Jehoiakim (609-598 B.C.) which was 11 - 20 years before the prophecies in chapter 34. It is given to contrast the faithfulness of the Recabite family with the people of Judah. The Recabites were people who had traveled in the wilderness of Negev (1 Sam. 15:6) and were descended from Jonadab, son of Recab (35:6) who assisted Jehu in abolishing Baal worship in Israel (2 Kings 10:15-27). Their line was through the Kenites who descended from Jethro, Moses' father-in-law (Judges 1:16).

The Recabite code of conduct was similar to that of the Nazirites, who took a vow of dedication (Numbers 6, Samson was a Nazirite, Judges 13). For over 200 years, they had obeyed the commandment to not drink wine handed down from their ancestors. God compared Recabites to the other Israelites who had broken their vow to the Lord.

It is a "Keep Reading" day!

PRAYER

Lord, teach us to obey You. In Jesus' name, Amen.

Friday, August 24, 2012

Jeremiah 34 - Jerusalem Falling

LINK: Jeremiah 34

BACKGROUND

The Babylonian Captivity had finally come. You can read the post from 2 Kings 24-25 & 2 Chronicles 36  for review. Jeremiah 32-34 are in chronological order. 

This chapter was the fulfillment of many of Jeremiah's prophecies. The prophecy to Zedekiah is a more detailed prophecy already given in Jeremiah 32:1-5 that resulted in Jeremiah being put in prison. 

As Jerusalem was falling, Zedekiah finally gave heed to Jeremiah's prophecies and attempted to please God by freeing slaves. That is too little, too late! According to the Law, bond-servants are to be freed on the seventh year (Exodus 21:22; Deuteronomy 15:12), and the people were not doing that.

The people released the slaves, and there was temporary reprieve from the attack while the Babylonians had to repel an attack of the Egyptians (37:4-13). Judah was hoping that Egypt would win, and they would be saved from captivity. Hedging their bets toward Egypt, they took their slaves back again; thus proving that they did not really want to follow God with their whole heart. 

How they had forgotten of their own ancestors' slavery to Egypt and God's deliverance from that bondage. Now, they would be freed, but it would be freedom from life by sword, plague, and famine!

The covenant was made by cutting a calf in two and walking between the pieces symbolizing their commitment to the covenant. We learned about this in Genesis 15:4-18 when God made the covenant with Abraham. God passed between the parts of the animal in the form of a smoking oven and blazing torch. Now, God was promising that Judah would be treated like the slaughtered calf!

Zedekiah and his official were doomed for their lack of godly leadership! 

There is no REFLECTION or APPLICATION today. Keep reading! You are almost to Jesus!

PRAYER

Lord, help us to keep our promises to You. We ask this in Jesus' name. Amen. 


Thursday, August 23, 2012

Jeremiah 33 - Restoration!

LINK: Jeremiah 33

BACKGROUND

Jeremiah 33 is chronologically right after Jeremiah 32. So the historical context from yesterday still applies. That is unusual for the book of Jeremiah.

This continues the "restoration" theme started yesterday. Jerusalem would be destroyed, but it would be restored after 70 years because it was part of God's ultimate plan from the beginning. God is just, but He is also merciful. Sorrow would turn to joy and praise in the future. 

The Scarlet Thread of Redemption

The most wonderful blessing of all would be the promised King who would reign in righteousness (33:14-15; 23:5). The "righteous Branch of David" is Jesus (who is coming to the Bible Book Club in 134 days. WOOHOO!). Jesus descended from the line of David (Luke 1:31-33).

At His first coming, He set up his reign and rule in the hearts of all believers, but at His second coming, he will execute justice and righteousness throughout the whole earth. 

In this time, the city of Jerusalem will have a name change to "The Lord our Righteousness" because the Messiah will dwell there (Ezekiel 48:35). 

God reminds them of His covenants. The first one is the one with David (2 Samuel 7:8-16; 1 Kings 2:4; Psalm 89:4, 29, 36; 1 Chronicles 17:4-14). The unbroken line of descendants can be seen in the genealogy of Jesus. See an explanation of the genealogy of Jesus in the Gospel Harmony Book Club.

The second one mentioned is the covenant of the perpetual Levitical priesthood (Numbers 25:12-13). Offerings did cease between 586 BC at the Babylonian Captivity and 437 B.C. when the exiles returned (Ezra 3:1-6), but the priestly descendants continued, and Jesus fulfilled the priesthood (Hebrews 7:17, 21, 24-28) as He stood as a sacrifice for all time and all peoples! In addition, we are the priesthood of believers daily making sacrifices with our lives (Romans 12:1; 15:16; 1 Peter 2:5, 9; Revelation 1:6).

Isn't this an encouraging chapter after so much gloom and doom? The amazing thing is that it was given right before the Babylonian Captivity. 

Even in the darkest hour, God always gives us hope, doesn't He?


REFLECTION 
“Call to Me and I will answer you and tell you great and unsearchable things you do not know” (v. 3, NIV). The word translated “unsearchable” pictures an impregnable city protected by high walls—an apt image during the siege of Jerusalem. The idea is that God’s people don’t learn the hidden things of the Lord by “storming the gates” through their own strength but by seeking Him through believing prayer. 
(Wiersbe, W. W. (1996, c1995). Be decisive. An Old testament study. (Je 32:1). Wheaton, Ill.: Victor Books.)
APPLICATION 

I love that we can call to God, and He will answer. Prayer is so vital to our survival. What is your conviction about prayer? Is it vital to you also? If it is not, why not?  Talk to God about this (then you will be "calling to Him"!).  

PRAYER

Lord, thank You for giving us HOPE. Come Lord Jesus, COME! Amen. 

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Jeremiah 32 - Purchase in Troubled Times

LINK: Jeremiah 32

BACKGROUND

The time frame for this chapter is sometime between April 23 and October 17, 587 B.C. During this time, Babylon was besieging Jerusalem (January 15, 588 till July 18, 586) and Jeremiah was imprisoned in the palace. It was not a wise time to buy a field already occupied by enemy forces, but Jeremiah was following the Mosaic Law which stated that a person must purchase the property of a relative who was forced to sell so that it could stay in the family (Leviticus 25:25-28; Ruth 4:1-6). God told Jeremiah that his cousin would come so that Jeremiah would see God's hand in Hanamel's request to buy the field. God's purpose in Jeremiah's purchase of the field was to show that the people would indeed return to the land.

Following the purchase, Jeremiah gave praise and prayed to God, but he also expressed his doubt about buying the field when the city was about to be taken (Jeremiah 32:24-25). I love Jeremiah's honesty! God's response assured Jeremiah that while judgment was falling, restoration would eventually come, and He would make an "everlasting covenant" with them. This is the New Covenant we talked about yesterday.

REFLECTION/APPLICATION (written in 2009)

Take some time to praise God through Jeremiah's prayer in 32:17-22! Something happened to us yesterday that does not make sense from a human perspective, but we have seen God's hand at work before and know that He loves us, and that there is a larger purpose in the situation. In fact, we already see a glimpse of it in the distance. Perhaps some things do not make sense to you either. Let this prayer give you God's perspective!

2012 Update: I wrote this in 2009, and at first, I could not even remember what the "thing that happened to us" could have been, but now I remember! George did not get a promotion that he was asked to apply for and was assured he would get, until a woman applied, and because of Affirmative Action, they had to hire her because they were under quota for women scientist. It was a sad day, but just a few days later, we were given the opportunity to do a ministry that we had always dreamed of. If George had gotten the promotion, he would have been traveling quite a bit, and we would not have been able to do this great ministry that we are still involved in to this day! A few months later, he was offered a job that put him in the center of campus where he could meet more easily with people in our ministry! God's way is always the best!

Now, we face another "seeming set back" in that George's job in the heart of campus is being cut by 20%. We see that this will be an opportunity for him to have more time for ministry, but we also know that he already had a 40% pay cut from his job that he was laid off from in 2008. We trust God again and will buy more land in faith! LOL! 

2014 Update: We are still living here and doing that same great ministry! George did have to switch jobs, but it has worked out great.

PRAYER

Lord, sometimes things happen to us that do not make sense at the time, but You are faithful, and You have loved us with an everlasting love. You are faithful to Your promises. Therefore, we can trust You and obey Your leading. We know You will make it all clear in the future. Thank You. Amen.

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Jeremiah 31 - The New Covenant

LINK: Jeremiah 31

BACKGROUND

God will restore and unite all the clans of Israel and Judah, and they will experience a new Exodus through the desert (16:14-15; 23:7-8; Hosea 2:14-15). The key motivation for this is His love:
I have loved you with an everlasting love;
Therefore I have drawn you with lovingkindness. (31:3)
Even though they had sunk to the most degrading of sins, God still loved them! He would restore a remnant because He was faithful to His covenant (For more on God's everlasting love and lovingkindness, see Hosea 11:4; 14:4; Zephaniah 3:17; Jeremiah 9:24; 32:18; Lamentations 3:32; Daniel 9:4).

Jeremiah 31:15 refers to "Rachel weeping for her children." As we know from our BBC studies, Rachel was the mother of Joseph and Benjamin. She was Jacob's favorite wife and was the symbolic mother of the northern tribes, who were taken away by the Assyrians into captivity. She is pictured as crying for the exiles at Ramah, a town five miles north of Jerusalem and the staging point of both the Assyrian and Babylonian deportations. It is also quoted in Matthew 2:18 where it describes the sadness of the mothers who have lost their male children due to Herod's purge. Even in the midst of the weeping, God provided hope that their children would return to their own land (31:16-17).

One of the most difficult verses in this passage is one I have wrestled with for years, "The LORD will create a new thing on earth -- a woman will surround a man" (31:22). There are many different interpretations of this, but quite a few commentators believe that it means that just like it was unusual for a woman to court a man in that culture, Israel, the unfaithful woman, would finally seek out her God and ask to be united with Him.

The most important part of this whole chapter is the promise of a New Covenant (31:33) in which God would put His Law within them and write it on their hearts. The Old Covenant was the Mosaic Covenant from Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy. God had announced a series of punishments that would occur if they transgressed it (Leviticus 26; Deuteronomy 28), and the final judgment would be the deportation to Babylon in 586 B.C. God's New Covenant would be an internalization of His Law, giving them the inner ability to obey. This would result from God giving them the Holy Spirit (Ezekiel 36:24-32; Joel 2:28-32). The Holy Spirit did not universally indwell all believers in the Old Testament times. So, this was a new concept.

The Scarlet Thread of Redemption

As part of the New Covenant, God would forgive Israel's wickedness and remember their sins no more. A holy God could not "overlook" sin. So, sin's penalty would be paid for by a Substitute (Isaiah 53:4-6): JESUS! 

In the Upper Room, Christ proclaimed that the New Covenant was to begin through the shedding of His blood (Matthew 26:27-28; Luke 22:20). Our sins would be "overlooked" because Jesus would pay the penalty required of man for His sin and avert the wrath of a holy God.

As believers today, we enjoy the spiritual blessing of the New Covenant by the forgiveness of our sins and the indwelling of the Holy Spirit. Spiritual and physical blessings will be realized by Israel at a future day when they acknowledge their sin and turn to the Substitute for forgiveness (Zechariah 12:10-13:1).

REFLECTION

I am letting the realities of the New Covenant sink deep into my soul this morning as I meditate on God's everlasting love and His drawing of us to Himself through Jesus, the Substitute for our sins! Ahhhhhhh.

APPLICATION

Look at the complete picture of God given in Jeremiah 30 and 31 (Specifically look at 30:12-15; 18-22; 23-24; 31:1-9; 10-22; 23-34; 31:35-37; 33:19-22). Having this complete picture helps you understand the significance of the New Covenant!

PRAYER

Thank You, most Holy God, for overlooking my sin because of the Substitute, Jesus. It is in His name we pray. Amen.

Monday, August 20, 2012

Jeremiah 30 - Restoration Promise

LINK: Jeremiah 30


BACKGROUND

The key word in this beautiful chapter is "restore." Even though Israel and Judah's "wound is incurable" and their "injury beyond healing" (30:12) because their "guilt is so great" and "sins so many" (30:14), God will restore them to health and heal their wounds (30:17)!

In the midst of this restoration, there would be a leader who would be one of their own and will come close to God (30:21). This is speaking of when they return after the exile, but it also speaks of the future when Jesus will be the leader from among them.

REFLECTION

Today was a hard day for some people I am involved with, but He is a God of restoration, and I am praying that He restores some relationships that seem incurable from this outsider looking in!

APPLICATION

Is there any relationship that needs to be restored in your life? Does your relationship with God need to be restored? Talk to Him about that today.

PRAYER

Lord, restore us to You. We ask this in the name of our leader, Jesus Christ. Amen.

Sunday, August 19, 2012

Jeremiah 28 & 29 - Let His Presence Make a Difference Today

LINK: Jeremiah 28 & 29


BACKGROUND

Jeremiah 28 - Jeremiah versus Hananiah, Truth versus Lies

This chapter is very straightforward. Hananiah was a false prophet because his prophecies did not come true. In a symbolic gesture, he broke the yoke off of Jeremiah to prove that the yoke of Babylonian oppression would be broken, but Jeremiah prophesied that the wooden yoke would be replaced by an iron one of Babylonian oppression. Hananiah was removed from this earth for telling lies.

Jeremiah 29 - A Letter

Jeremiah inserted the text of a letter he had sent to the exiles from Jerusalem. The deportation he mentions occurred in 597 B.C. and is mentioned in 2 Kings 24:8-17; Jeremiah 13:18; 22:24-27, and Daniel 1:1-2. 

Jeremiah announced a long exile of 70 years for Judah. Consequently, life would go on as normal. They were to seek peace and prosperity for Babylon in prayer! The judgment would lead the exiles to seek God with their whole heart (Daniel 9:2-3; 15-19). Once they did this, God would gather them back (Deuteronomy 30:1-10).

Jeremiah condemns the false prophets and singles out Ahad and Zedekiah. They would be handed over to Nebuchadnezzar who would put them to death.

The chapter concludes with a second letter to the exiles. Things are a bit out of sequence. After Jeremiah's first letter to the exiles in 29:1-23, another prophet of Babylon, Shemaiah, wrote to the leaders and urged them to punish Jeremiah (29:25-28). The letter was read to Jeremiah (29:29) who then wrote a second letter to the exiles. He quoted the text of Shemaiah's letter (29:24-28) and gave a word of condemnation to Shemaiah for preaching rebellion against God (29:29-32).

REFLECTION/APPLICATION
Is your yoke on straight? Take a moment and read about it in Matthew 11:28-30. Compare it to Jeremiah's experience

Jeremiah's yoke was a heavy, wooden implement made of straps and crossbars, representing the harsh domination of Babylon. Jesus' yoke symbolizes His relationship with His disciples, a fellowship of joy and rest. Jeremiah's was a heavy, lonely burden; Jesus promised to share the burden with His followers.

Both yokes stand for submission: one to a foreign conqueror, the other to a Savior's love. Jeremiah spoke to a rebellious nation about the need to yield to the enemy in order to survive. Jesus also spoke of yielding, not to an enemy but to a friend -- one who provides all that is necessary for life and godliness.

As you go about your routine today, picture yourself yoked to Jesus Christ. Make a list of things you would do differently if you knew He was yoked beside you. What problems would you turn over to Him? What worries would you forsake? What attitudes would you change? Would you talk to Him more often? Let His presence make a difference in your life today.
(Daily Walk, August 2008) 

PRAYER

Lord, we praise You that the yoke of Jesus is easy and the burden is light. Lord, help us to continue to remember to bring You into all of the challenging things that come our way today. We ask this in Jesus' name. Amen.

Saturday, August 18, 2012

Jeremiah 26 & 27 - Do Not Listen to False Prophets!

LINK: Jeremiah 26 & 27

BACKGROUND 

Jeremiah 26 - Arrest and Trial 

Remember that Jeremiah's prophecies are not in chronological order. This chapter lines up with the "temple address" of Jeremiah 7-10 (see Dating of Jeremiah's Prophecies diagram and Order with Historical Events Word Document if you are still confused). Jeremiah 26 is the response to that address. It was delivered early in the reign of King Jehoiakim who ascended the throne in 609 B.C. 

Jeremiah's "temple address" message is clear: listen, turn from your evil ways, and God will not bring the promised disaster. But instead of responding in obedience, the priests, prophets, and people arrested and tried Jeremiah as a false prophet! Jeremiah defended himself and reminded them that if they turned from their wicked ways, there was hope for deliverance. 

The officials of the court sided with Jeremiah and against the priests and false prophets. They referred to the prophet Micah who had made similar claims 70 years before (Micah 3:12). In that case, King Hezekiah responded in obedience to Micah's prophecy. Consequently, Micah was not put to death. But another prophet, Uriah, whose prophecies are not in the Bible, was put to death.  

Jeremiah 27 - The "Yoke" of Babylon

The year of this prophecy is 593 B.C. during the reign of King Zedekiah (some manuscripts say it is Jehoiakim, but the textual support makes it obvious is is Zedekiah). 

Jeremiah is commanded to make a yoke like one that they used to put oxen together:


File:Bullock yokes.jpg
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It was meant to symbolize the importance of Jerusalem and the other nations surrendering to the yoke of Nebuchadnezzar, king of Babylon, because he was God's "servant/chosen instrument" of judgment. This went against the false prophecies of Hananiah and others. Jeremiah warned the foreign ambassadors assembled not to listen to the false prophecies urging them not to rebel.  They should listen to his true prophecy if they wanted to live! 

REFLECTION 

The yoke of Babylon was a hard yoke. Naturally, Zedekiah and the kings of the other nations wanted to rebel against it.

While that yoke was hard, Jesus' yoke is easy and light! LISTEN to what He says:
“Come to Me, all who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For My yoke is easy and My burden is light.” (Matthew 11:28-30) 
The first time I meditated on these verses (June 1981), I did not know what a yoke was, and thought it was an egg yolk! Hopefully this post will clear up any confusion you might have about the difference between "yolk" and "yoke."  

Jesus' yoke results in joy and rest!  I hope you will wear it today!

APPLICATION 

Picture yourself resting in the "yoke" of Jesus.  I hope you can see Him right next to You in everything you encounter throughout the day. Try to see the difference it makes!

PRAYER

So glad to be yoked to You, Jesus! Help us to rest in You and find the joy of Your loving rule in our life. We submit to You. Amen. 

Friday, August 17, 2012

Jeremiah 24 & 25 - Figs and a Cup

LINK: Jeremiah 24-25

BACKGROUND  

Jeremiah 24 - The Vision of the Two Baskets of Figs

The background for the exile of King Jehoiachin and the skilled artisans and craftsman is told in the 2 Kings 24-25 & 2 Chron. 36 - Babylonian Conquest and Exile post. Jeremiah foretold the event of the exile of King Jehoiachin in Jeremiah 22:24-28. This prophecy can be dated at the beginning of the reign of Zedekiah in 597 B.C. 

The good figs represented those who were exiled to Babylon. They would ripen early (Isaiah 28:4; Hosea 9:10; Micah 7:1) and be given a new heart that would respond to God and return to Him wholeheartedly. They would be refined by their exile and preserved in order to return to the land.

The bad figs represented King Zedekiah and the people who stayed in Israel or fled to Egypt (43:4-7). They would be abandoned by God and be sent to His instruments of judgment until they were destroyed. 

Jeremiah 25 - The Cup of the Win of God's Wrath. 

There were 13 messages of judgment from Jeremiah 2-25, and this is the last. It puts an exclamation point on all the other messages. It was given before the message in Jeremiah 24. Apparently, Jeremiah's messages are arranged topically rather than chronologically. 

The message is dated 605 B.C. The Lord had been provoked to anger because they had not listened and obeyed His words. Nebuchadnezzar would be God's servant (or "chosen instrument") in the Lord's judgment.  They would be taken into captivity in Babylon for 70 years. Then Babylon would be punished for their sin. 


Jeremiah 25:15-29 speaks of "the cup of the wine of God's wrath." He begins his list with Jerusalem and Judah (Ezekiel 9:6; 1 Peter 4:17), but his main focus is the Gentile nations (Lamentations 4:21; Ezekiel 23:31-33; Revelation 16:19; 18:6). He uses different metaphors related to His judgment: roaring lion, winepress, lawsuit, storm, refuse, broken pottery, and a slaughtered flock. God wanted these nations to submit to Him. If they did not drink the cup of submission, they would drink the cup of judgment. 

I will go into more detail about the historical judgments of some of these nations when we get to Jeremiah 49, but this map gives you an idea of where the nations mentioned were located:


From the Bible Knowledge Commentary: Old Testament, p. 1124

A note on literary style: 

Jeremiah 1-25 were a mixture of poetical and prose discourse with some narrative thrown in.  

Jeremiah 26-29 will be a mixture of prose discourse and narrative. 

REFLECTION/APPLICATION 

The people who remained in Israel thought they were blessed, but Jeremiah's prophecy proves otherwise. The exiles would be blessed because they would be refined by their adversity:
We may assume we are blessed when life goes well and cursed when it does not. But trouble is a blessing when it makes us stronger, and prosperity is a curse if it entices us away from God. If you are facing trouble, ask God to help you grow stronger for him. If things are going your way, ask God to help you use your prosperity for him. 
(The Life Application Bible, p. 1332)
PRAYER

Lord, it is our hearts desire to drink the cup of submission rather than wrath. Teach us to learn the lesson You desire for us through our adversities. Help us to ask "What are you trying to teach me?" rather than "Why are you doing this to me?" in all our adversity. We ask this in Jesus' name. Amen. 

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Jeremiah 23 - A Glimpse of Jesus In the Distance

LINK: Jeremiah 23


BACKGROUND

The Message of the Righteous Branch

While the unrighteous kings were like shepherds who destroyed and scattered their flocks, God would regather them by raising up another King who would be a righteous Branch (Isaiah 4:2, 11:1)) and a descendant of David. We all know who that is:

JESUS!

He will reign wisely and do justice and righteousness and be called, "The LORD our righteousness." This is a play on the Hebrew words where Zedekiah's name means "my righteousness is Yahweh."

Christ offered Himself as Israel's Messiah at the First Advent. The final fulfillment of this prophecy will come at his Second Advent when Judah and Israel will be delivered, reunited, and live in safety (Romans 11:26; Ezekiel 37:15-28).

The rest of Jeremiah 23 deals with a rebuke of the godless (yet "religious") false prophets who were "pseudo-seers" who opposed Jeremiah's declaration of doom and offered a promise of peace instead. God would bring everlasting disgrace and shame on them for this.

REFLECTION

I have been telling you for the last few days that JESUS IS COMING? The beginning of Jeremiah 23 fills me with hope after so much judgment. Yes, we need to hear of the judgment, but it is so nice to hear the hope of Jesus today!

APPLICATION

Worship Jesus, the righteous Branch today. He is coming in our reading very soon!  I cannot wait to really SOAK in the life of Jesus in the Gospels when we start our study of the New Testament next! You will have a really exciting option of either reading through the four gospels separately or reading through the life of Jesus chronologically in the Gospel Harmony Book Club. I want Jesus to come alive to you next year like never before!!! Stay tuned! By the end, I hope He comes out of our pores because we have soaked so deeply in His living water!

Speaking of Jesus coming our of our pores, I know you are not a king and will not be reigning on a throne any time soon, but who has God placed in your care? The leaders of Judah were not good shepherds of their people. Evaluate your leadership in light of the righteousness reign of Jesus! Who can you overflow the life of Jesus into?

PRAYER

We praise You for the righteous Branch. Jesus, reign in our heart today. We ask this in Your name. Amen.

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Jeremiah 22 - Do Justice and Righteousness

LINK: Jeremiah 22

BACKGROUND


Jeremiah 22 

Chapters 22-25 are thought not to be in chronological order because in 21:8-10, God implied that it was too late for repentance; but in 22:4, God said that there was still time to change. The chapter also refers to events that happened prior to chapter 21.

This chapter deals with judgment against the evil kings:

Shallum/Jehoahaz (22:10-12) who was king in 609 B.C. After a reign of only three months, he was deposed by Pharaoh Neco and taken to captivity in Egypt (2 Kings 23:34).

Jehoiakim (22:13-23) was appointed by Neco. He was a corrupt king who cared only for personal gain by building a palace for himself at the expense of his subjects (2 Kings 24:1-17).

Jehoiachin (22:24-30) followed his father Jehoiakim. After only a three-month reign, he surrendered to Nebuchadnezzar and was deported to Babylon (52:31-34). Even if he was as valuable as a signet ring, God would pull him off because of his sin. A signet ring was valuable because a king used it to authenticate important documents.

The prophecy here states that none of his offspring would sit on the throne of David. This came true. His grandson Zerubbabel ruled as governor in the return from exile (Ezra 2:20) but not as king. This also helps explain the genealogy of Christ in Matthew 1 and Luke 3. Matthew presents a line through Joseph, but Joseph's line was through Shealtiel who was a son of Jehoiachin (Matthew 1:12; 1 Chronicles 3:17). Since Christ was not a physical descendant of Joseph and virgin-born, he was qualified through the physical line of Mary to be king. On Mary's side, he was descended from David through the line of his son Nathan (Luke 3:31).

HERE is a an explanation of the genealogy of Jesus Christ in the Gospel Harmony Book Club (a way to study the four gospels in a chronological way). 

Which brings us to a prophecy of that particular descendant in Jeremiah 23! Stay Tuned!

APPLICATION

Read about the genealogy of Jesus Christ HERE in preparation for tomorrow. 

PRAYER

Lord, help us to be in a right relationship with You at all times through confession and repentance. Amen. 

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Jeremiah 20 & 21 - Persecution, Lament, and Rejection

LINK: Jeremiah 20 & 21

BACKGROUND

Jeremiah 20 - Pashhur's Persecution and Jeremiah's Lament

Pashhur, chief officer of the temple, did not respond well to Jeremiah's prophecy. He had him beaten and put in stocks at the Upper Gate of Benjamin (northern gate). After he was released, Jeremiah refused to change his message but changed Pashhur's name instead. Magor-Missabib means "terror on every side." Because Pashhur refused to heed God's message, he would see this terror and be carried away to Babylon. His judgment was not only for having Jeremiah beaten but also for prophesying lies.

This chapter contains the last of Jeremiah's recorded laments. He complained to God for his treatment by others. He considered withholding God's Word, but it was "like a burning fire" within him that he could not keep in (20:9). His lament vacillates between great confidence in God to deep despair as he sees that if the prophesy comes true, Judah will be destroyed. What a difficult message to convey!

Jeremiah 21 - God Rejects Zedekiah's Request

The book now turns toward prophecies directed at specific individuals or groups. Hope of repentance is replaced by the certainty of judgment. In this chapter, Jeremiah begins his rebuke toward the kings. They were to be shepherds to the flock of Judah, but they did not shepherd according to God's way. The first king singled out is Zedekiah who was the last king chronologically. Although Zedekiah requests deliverance as in times past (Probably referring to the deliverance from Sennacherib, king of Assyria, in the days of Hezekiah. See Isaiah 36:37.), God rejects his request and there would be no mercy. This request was probably given some time between 588 B.C. and 586 B.C. The exile was in 586 B.C.

REFLECTION

The persecution of Jeremiah always cuts my heart. He was being faithful to give God's message that was "like a fire" within him, but he was physically beaten for being faithful to deliver it. 

Isaiah and Jeremiah are so different. Isaiah does not lament about his treatment like Jeremiah does. I think I am more like Jeremiah. I do not like to be persecuted for speaking truth, and God hears about it when I am!

That is what I love about God. He did not condemn Jeremiah for his laments, and He does not condemn us for our laments, but the ultimate goal in our laments is for Him to bring us to a point of having His perspective on our circumstances so that we might grow to be more like Him. That is a win-win situation!

I have had a few times in my life where I felt like God was wanting me to say something. I prayed about it, sought counsel, prayed about it, searched God's Word for guidelines, prayed about it, resisted God's direction, prayed about it, and eventually did what God wanted me to do because I loved that person enough to not want to see them continue in sin. I did this with much fear and trembling and big prayer back up.

Sometimes, the truth was received with great humility, and the person thanked me profusely for speaking truth! It was all good! Other times, the truth was not received very well, and it was horrible. Lies and gossip about me spread like wildfire, and I was really mad at God for leading me into it! You can bet that I lamented and complained to God about it too.

It went something like this:
"God, I felt like I followed You every step of the way. I didn't want to do it, but you were "like a fire" within me! I went into this very prayerfully, lovingly, gently, and I came out bruised emotionally. What gives! This is so painful. I wish I had just kept my mouth shut. UGH!"
Unlike Jeremiah, I have never been beaten or put in stocks, but I have been "beaten up" by slander and condemnation, and it hurt!

Yet, God grew me up in those tough times. He helped me to see more of Himself. He helped me to continue to LOVE those who persecuted me. He helped me to pray more diligently and trust Him more fully for His outcome in His time.

And it was all good. :)


APPLICATION

Have you ever been persecuted for doing what is right or speaking the truth in love? Are you still smarting over it? Do not stuff it! Lament! Let God bring you over to His point of view via that process!

PRAYER

Lord, You are the almighty, sovereign God who sees all things from Your perspective. Help us to grasp a better glimpse of Your perspective and plan for our lives. We ask this in Jesus' name. Amen.