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Thursday, September 16, 2021

Pray For Us

Week 37 – Book of Jeremiah 

Read: Jeremiah Chapter 37



Background

Eugene Peterson writes, “In chapters 37-39 decisive historical events were taking place. World history was being shaped.”[1] In between armies and invasions, politics and prophecies, the Hebrew people and the culture they know are changing in radical ways. “Powerful theological realities were emerging, too.”[2] Religious obedience of the once faithful now disregard Yahweh, and the burdens of everyday life overwhelm the people. Drastic, radical change is happening.


World powers are rising and falling. Assyria rises to conquer the Northern Kingdom (721 BC), but slightly more than one hundred years later falls as Egypt and Babylon rise to great power. Despite Judah’s failed attempts to form an alliance with Egypt, Judah, too, will fall. Babylon is rising and will become the greatest world power, for a season! Drastic, radical change is happening!


Inadequate leadership riddles Judah, but the greater failure rests in the unrepentant hearts of her people. Their failure to recognize God, their denial of God, their in-your-face worship of false gods brings final judgement. Babylon, the greatest threat and most destructive enemy, becomes God’s tool for punishing the wickedness of Judah. The social and economic decline further fragments the nation. This dark period of spiritual retreat fro God brings the nation immense loss. From exile to restoration of their God-given homeland, Hope never leaves, rather, Hope waits, waits while His people doubt, struggle, fail, adjust, recover, resume, and find spiritual restoration. Drastic, radical transformation is coming!


Study

Keeping in mind that the texts of Jeremiah often retell events, eighteen years have passed since the events of Chapter 36, and Chapters 37-45 comprise the recorded events of “the final days of Jeremiah” before the fall of Jerusalem and “the event after resulting from the fall.”[3] Words of hope fade as judgment becomes more evident. “Chapters 37-39 treat events that lead up to the fall of Jerusalem.”[4] As chapter 37 opens, Zedekiah, twenty-one year old son of Josiah, has been selected as a vassal king by Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon. None in official roles pays “any attention to the words of Yahweh spoken through Jeremiah the prophet.” (v2)


In 588 BC, Pharaoh Hophra leads the Egyptian army into Palestine, and Nebuchadnezzar temporarily leaves Jerusalem (v5). King Zedekiah wants Jeremiah to pray on the behalf of Judah. The response to Zedekiah about the Chaldeans (Babylonian Army) is that they will return, and even if the “entire army of Chaldeans” are defeated by you, their “wounded men left” will “rise up and burn this city with fire.” There is no way out!


Since the Chaldeans left, Jeremiah plans a trip to Anathoth to “take possession of some property”. As he approaches the Gate of Benjamin, “a captain of the guard” named Irijah arrests Jeremiah, suggesting he is defecting to the Chaldeans. Jeremiah denies this, but his efforts go ignored. Taken to the officials, who are angry with Jeremiah, they beat him and “put him in jail” in the house of Jonathan the Scribe. Jeremiah is put “into a dungeon” and remains there many days. This dungeon is most likely a cistern. Zedekiah “secretly” asks Jeremiah if the LORD has a word for him. Bad news comes, “you will be given into the hand of the king of Babylon”.


Jeremiah pleads for release from prison at the house of Jonathan. Zedekiah agrees and moves Jeremiah to the “court of the guard house” then provides him a loaf of bread every day until there is no bread left in Jerusalem. Judgment is still coming!


Reflection

From the beginning, humanity, created in God's image, chooses knowledge over faith, evil over good and experiences the consequences of disobedience and darkness over the blessings of obedience and light. Today people still find themselves standing outside the Garden looking at the guarded gates in desperation. Choosing to do good for it's rewards competes with avoiding evil for fear of punishment. Separated from God, imperfection creates boundaries, yet choice remains.


The world around us seems limitless, but it is restricted by many boundaries. In this world, our limitations are evidenced by time, resources, geography, education, race, gender, and social status. We are constrained by imperfections that produce fear, hate, greed, poverty, and loneliness. The only boundary-buster is True Perfection - Christ with infinite grace and limitless love. Only in Christ can one experience Perfect Love - holy and divine, heart transforming, unity building, eternal friendship. Only through Christ are fallen, flawed and finite people able to love other imperfect people with grace and healing, both now and infinitely!

 

 

Unity with God brings spiritual reconciliation which transcends boundaries. Richard Foster, a 21st century theologian, offers, "To our astonishment we find that we are walking with God, His thoughts becoming our thoughts, His desires becoming our desires."

 

 

Application

“If we are halfhearted in our desire to hear from God, we will be unprepared to respond to what He says. God’s word to us is not always what we want to hear, but it is always what we need to know. We are wise to obey whatever God says, regardless of what others think.”[5]


  • Be honest. When have you been asking God for something but do not really want to hear the response God is giving you? It is like when God says ‘no’ to something you really desire or allows something you really do NOT want! Hard stuff!!!

  • How often do we reject God’s provision because it fails to meet our expectation?

 

Donna Oswalt



[1] The Message Study Bible, Notes Jeremiah Chapter 37, Peterson, Eugene

[2] Ibid

[3] Walking the Ancient Paths A Commentary on Jeremiah; Kaiser, Walter C, p 428

[4] Ibid

[5] Blackaby Study Bible, Encounter Notes, Jeremiah chapter 37





Thursday, September 09, 2021

Two Scrolls



Week 36 – Book of Jeremiah

Read: Jeremiah Chapter 36


Background

Ancient scrolls, written on rolls of papyrus (paper) or treated leather used for writing, are used by scribes to record important documents, laws, and customs, and Biblical books. During the 11th and 10th centuries BC, the actual writer of scrolls, “The scribe was a high cabinet officer concerned with finance, policy, and administration (2 Kings 22; Jeremiah 36:10).”[1] Working with Jeremiah, Baruch is the scribe who pens God’s prophecy to Judah. “In the New Testament the scribes appear alone occasionally and along with other Jewish groups often.”[2]  There are multiple references to scroll writing throughout Scripture.

Remember the days of Josiah, the king of the southern Kingdom who brings spiritual renewal for Judah, and the Book of the Law is rediscovered in the Temple. Clearly, these words from God had not been currently read. In 2 Kings 23:2-3, Josiah gathers all the leaders of Judah and the prophets and all the people at the Temple, then he reads the “entire Book of the Covenant that has been found in the LORD’s Temple.” The finding of the scroll by Hilkiah, the priest, becomes a new opportunity to hear God’s words and understand His promises. Despite Josiah’s efforts, this is too little too late to prevent captivity.

The Dead Sea Scrolls (DSS), discovered in caves along the shore of the Dead Sea between 1949-1960, include fragments and scrolls of “medieval copies of Qumran texts found in the Cairo, Egypt, Genigah”.[3] Within the eleven caves, various examples of texts include “two copies of Isaiah, one complete and one fragmentary”, miscellaneous texts such as “Thanksgiving hymns”, a “manual of discipline”, a “commentary on Habakkuk, and fragments of seventy-two other texts.”[4] Hundreds of Biblical texts and some fragments have been reconstructed by scholars.

 In 1979, Israeli archaeologist, Gabriel Barak’s, discovers what some call one of the greatest discoveries of the First Temple Period (Solomon – 586 BC). In a cave at Ketef Hinnom, a hillside southwest the Old City of Jerusalem, two small silver amulets (scrolls) are excavated. These two silver scrolls are “inscribed with Hebrew letters, one with the [priestly]benediction found in Numbers 6:24-26. Not only do they include the divine name Yahweh, but they also represent the earliest biblical text (ca. seventh century BC) found so far with an almost identical textual reading to the biblical text we have today.”[5] Dated some 4oo years before the DSS are penned, these are the oldest currently known surviving texts of the Hebrew Bible.

The LORD bless you and keep you; the LORD make His face to shine upon your and be gracious to you; The LORD lift up His countenance upon you and give you peace. Numbers 6:24-26

 

Study

The setting of Chapter 36 is during the fourth year of Jehoikim’s reign (609-598). Historians record the first group of exiles leaving for Babylonia after Nebuchadnezzar’s first battle with Judah in 605 BC. Around this time, Jeremiah is commanded by Yahweh, “Take a scroll of a book and write on it all the words that I have spoken to you against Israel, against Judah, and against all the nations, from the day I spoke to you, form the days of Josiah even to this day.” (v 2) The directions are very specific, and the purpose is to remind them of their wicked ways and what will happen if disobedience remains.

“Jeremiah had been in ministry for twenty-three years, and not God commanded him to write His messages on a scroll so they would be permanent and could be read by others.”[6] God uses individuals to help proclaim His message. Dictating to Baruch, the scribe, Yahweh’s words are written. Jeremiah is “restricted” and cannot go into the Temple so Baruch takes the scroll and reads to the people. It is possible that this “day of fasting” could be related to a crisis, perhaps even the Babylonian army’s increasing power.

Because of great interest by Micaiah, the grand son of Shaphan, the man who had read the newly found Book of the Law to King Josiah (2 Kings 22). Baruch then reads the scroll a second time to these royal officials. Also present is Gemariah, the son of Shaphan the scribe, and father of Micaiah. They recognize the danger coming from God’s judgment and tell Jeremiah and Baruch to hide.

The third reading of the scroll comes when the officials bring it to the palace. It is read before King Jehoiakim and all the princes. The king takes the scroll, cuts it into pieces, and throws it into his fire, burning it entirely even though the officials beg him to stop. Elnathan, one of the official’s present, is “the father of Nehushta, the mother of King Jehoiakim.”[7]  A “scribe’s knife” is what at scribe uses “to sharpen the reed pens.”[8] All the protests go unnoticed.

God’s response to the king’s actions is simple, write it again. Take a new scroll and write “all the former words” from the first scroll and add some more to include Jehoiakim’s destiny. “When he wrote the second scroll, He added other material (36:32). The first 45 chapters of the book of Jeremiah focuses primarily on Israel and Judah, while chapters 46-51 deal with the other nations in the Near East.”[9] In an article written in 2004 about the two silver scrolls discovered by Barak in 1979, 21st century scholars confirm the scrolls are “indeed from the period just before the destruction of Jerusalem in 586 BC by Nebuchadnezzar and subsequent exile of Israelites to Babylonia.”[10] Etched into silver for future generations, this is the indestructible and enduring Word of God.

 

Reflection

All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness. 2 Timothy 3:16


Christians believe the Bible to be the inspired Word of God, the living Word of God. We also believe, “All Scripture is God-breathed.” Mark Batterson says the first language of God is Scripture. He reminds us the Bible is “composed by more than forty writers over fifteen centuries in three languages on three continents.”[11] These myriad of authors are “farmers and fishermen and kings” and “poets and prophets, and prisoners of war.”[12]


The prophet Jeremiah writes, “Your words were found, and I ate them, and Your words became to me a joy and the delight of my heart, for I am called by Your name, O LORD, God of hosts. (Jeremiah 15:16 ESV) Batterson talks about consuming and savoring and digesting the Word of God. “The Bible comes alive only when we actively obey it.”[13] Obedience becomes our living out the Scriptures. This is spiritual transformation.

 

When I read the ancient words composed centuries ago, they still touch my soul, enrich my living, convict my spirit, encourage my journey. The Holy Bible is composed of words, inspired by God, and the revelation of The Word sent by God. These promises of God belong to each believer. Even though God is greater than any questions or doubts we can have, we will never be great enough to understand all of God’s answers. Through His Word, God whispers to our hungry, weary souls and our eager, longing hearts. God whispers joy and love as He celebrates with us. God whispers eternal Hope to all who listen.

 

Application

Eugene Peterson writes about this chapter in The Message notes, “Wanting to maintain control over our lives… we chop the Word of God into little pieces so that we can better control it.”

  • Can you identify some situations where you have chopped up or cut out or water down God’s Word to help you justify some behavior? Perhaps, we can even find examples of completely ignoring God’s word?

Peterson goes on to remind, “Scripture can be burned, but God’s Word cannot be destroyed.”

  • The Bible has sustained over hundreds of years, through all kinds of persecution. Does this truth give you hope?

Donna Oswalt



[1] Harper’s Bible Dictionary, Scrolls

[2] Ibid

[3] Ibid

[4] Ibid

[5] Walking the Ancient Paths Commentary on Jeremiah, Kaiser Walter C, p 220

[6] Wiersbe Study Bible Commentary on Jeremiah Chapter 36

[7] Ancient Paths, p 423

[8] Archaeological Study Bible Jeremiah Chapter 36

[9] Wiersbe Study Bible, Jeremiah Chapter 36

[10] Web.archive.org; Yahweh’s Name Found on Artifact

[11] Whisper, Batterson Mark, p 66

[12] Ibid

[13] Ibid, p 73

Wednesday, September 01, 2021

Faithful Obedience or Not

Week 35 – Book of Jeremiah 

Read: Jeremiah Chapter 35; 2 Kings 10:15-27


 

Background

 

Who are the Rechabites? Their history dates back to the era of King Arab of the Northern Kingdom of Israel, descendants of Jehonadab, son of Rechab who “supported Jehu when he overthrew the dynasty of Ahab”[1] and attacked Baal worship. Related to Mose’s father-in-law, Jethro, the rechabites descend from the Kenites, a Midianite tribe. “They were made up of two groups: one that settled in the north, in the tribe of Naphtali (Judges 14:11,17; 5:24) and the other selected the southern borders of Judah (1 Sam 15:16; 27:10; 30:29).”[2]

 

The Rechabites are known for their nomadic and ascetic way of living and are “described as a religiously conservative group, characterized by a vow not to drink wine and strong opposition against Baalism.”[3] Living in tents and not building homes, they are also do not plant fields or vineyards. Adopting a simple lifestyle, the Rechabites lived a faithful life of obedience to God and to these customs.

 

“”By his own order of Nazirites, [God] called some people, but not others, to an austerity not unlike that of the Rechabites, to make a particular point; and the fact that Jesus and John the Baptist glorified God by different lifestyles should open our modes to the reality and value of specialized callings – such ass even the once-flourishing temperance movement which adopted the name of Rechabites in nineteenth-century England.”[4] As the object lesson of Jeremiah in Chapter 35, the Rechabites are credited with their obedience and faithfulness to their ancestor’s guidelines for living. In existence for “over 250 years” and known as “a small separatist clan in the nation”, the Rechabites had relocated to Jerusalem because of the Babylonian invasion.[5] God uses them as an example of faithfulness to their promise.

 

 

Study 

In Chapters 34-36, Judah is reminded of God’s calling them to be faithful. The focus of last week (ch 34) identifies the failing of Judah under Zedekiah’s leadership to keep their promises to free their Hebrew slaves every seven years. While out of chronological order, in Chapter 35, we see a reminder of unfaithfulness during Jehoiakim’s reign some eighteen years prior to the current time. Continual unfaithfulness demonstrates a moral failure and flawed leadership.

The timeline for this story likely dates back to Jehoiakim, the son of Josiah, who revolts against Nebuchadnezzar (2 Kings 24:1) after serving as a vassal king for the Pharaoh Neco of Egypt. After reigning eleven years, eventually, Jehoiakim is taken to Babylon by Nebuchadnezzar (2 Chronicles 36). Jeremiah brings the Rechabites into the story, invites them to the temple and tests them. They will become part of  Jeremiah’s lesson on faithfulness and obedience.

The Rechabites have followed a culture of nomadic and asceticism that includes not drinking wine, not building houses but living in tents. They do not plant fields or vineyards and have remained obedient to these over more than two centuries. “The Rechabites had been forced temporarily to abandon some aspects of their lifestyle and nomadic way of living due to the Babylonian invasion.”[6] The only reason there are in Jerusalem is Nebuchadnezzar’s invasion of the land.

Inside the Temple in an area of high visibility, the Rechabites and some important people in Judah gather. Wine is set before the Rechabites, but they refuse to drink it, saying it is against their customs. The lesson is for all of Judah and the leaders are surprised. The comparison between these who live a nomadic lifestyle and the people of Judah is evident. The Rechabites faithfulness and obedience to keep a promise to mere custom stands in stark contrast to Israel’s unfaithfulness to Yahweh. The point of being faithful to a promise matters.

Their refusal to drink the wine provides Jeremiah with an action sermon. Those who observe this event are surprised, thinking “they are guests of such a significant prophet as Jeremiah, and… God-fearing worshipers of Yahweh, should they continue to observe their old rules and traditions, or should they bend these rules for the sake of showing appreciation for the prophet’s hospitality?”[7]

Over and over, the prophet Jeremiah attempts to get Judah and its leaders and people to hear and obey Yahweh. Their repeated disobedience brings disaster. “The Rechabites are credited with being faithful to the command of their ancestor a whopping seven times (vv. 6,8,10,14 [2x], 16,18), with three of those times a part of the word of God.”[8] The illustration of the action sermon magnifies Judah’s behavior. “If they can be faithful to a mere mortal’s words, how much more should Israel listen to the words of the living God.?”[9] Not commending the Rechabites for personal standards, God does acknowledge their faithfulness and obedience to their ancestor’s leading. Whether they choose to live in tents and abstain from wine is not the point, rather, keeping their promise. “Obedience is no substitute for faith in the living God, but it is the fruit and demonstration that real faith is present.”[10]

 

Reflection

A life of faith does not consist of acts of worship or of great self-denial and heroic virtues, but of all the daily, conscious acts of our lives. Oswald Chambers

 

Now I saw heaven opened, and behold, a white horse. And He who sat on him was called Faithful and True … And He has on His robe and on His thigh a name written: KING OF KINGS AND LORD OF LORDS. Revelation 19:11-16 NKJV

 

The resurrection of Christ invites faithfulness to a new standard. Christ calls us to be people of faith, identifies us as His faithful people, and affords us the opportunity to be faithful in worship, obedience, study, and service. God longs for His character and truth to be reflected in the lives of His people. KING OF KINGS AND LORD OF LORDS, the One who is called Faithful and True, challenges each of us to live faithfully, to live by His own example.

 

Our faithfulness cannot be limited to religious activities or righteous deeds but must secure its foundation in the faithful promises of God. In Christ, we can love without perfection, have certainty without understanding, experience peace within grief. When God dwells in the hearts of His people, we have new awareness, new insight, and new hope. The Holy Spirit empowers us to see those living on the margins, to offer Bread of Life to a starving world, and to retell the stories of God’s faithfulness. 

 

El Shaddai, Immanuel, LORD of Lords – Hallelujah! Christ has died! Christ is risen! Christ will come again! Such an offering leaves my heart in wordless praise, with endless wonder. Great is Your faithfulness! You take me to Your high places of blessing! I pray to stand firm in my faith, to listen for Your voice, to respond to Your calling. Perfect Love, You pour unmeasured Grace over me. Your faithfulness is everlasting!

 

Application

Warren Wiersbe asks, “If a family tradition was preserved with such dedication, why was the very Law of God treated with such disrespect?[11]

Today, we often give allegiance to things of the world, and less to God. Think about your choices and priorities – just today – just this week – and answer honestly about your faithfulness to God.

What does my life’s narrative say about my spiritual discipline and faithfulness to the Lord?

Donna Oswalt



[1] Walking the Ancient Paths Commentary on Jeremiah, Kaiser Walter C, p 412

[2] Ibid

[3] Eerdmans Dictionary of the Bible

[4] Jeremiah, Kidner Derek, p118

[5] Be DecisiveTaking a Stand for the Truth Wiersbe, Warren p 143

[6] Walking the Ancient Paths, Commentary on Jeremiah, Kaiser, Walter C, p 413

[7] Ibid

[8] Ibid, p 415

[9] Ibid

[10] Ibid, p 416

[11] Be Decisive, Taking a Stand for Truth, Wiersbe Warren p 144

Thursday, August 26, 2021

Into the Hands of the Enemies

Week 34 — Book of Jeremiah

Read: Jeremiah Chapter 34



 

Background

 

Lachish, a royal citadel and ancient city of the kingdom of Judah, is located SW of Jerusalem. This old Canaanite city that is captured by the Israelites under Joshua’s leadership (Joshua 10:31-33) becomes a strong fortress of Judah (920 BC) during the reign of Rehoboam, Solomon’s son. In Micah 1:13, the prophet warns Lachish of the coming destruction from Assyria and the spreading of destruction to Judah. Ultimately seized by the Assyrians and later destroyed by the Babylonians under Nebuchadnezzar in 587 BC, Lachish will be conquered. Mentioned in Nehemiah 11:30, post-exiles resettle the city.

 

Lachish, located between the coastal plain and the hills of Judah, is “surrounded by deep valleys on all sides.”[1] The “inner wall is over 12 feet thick”[2] which provides good security. “Communication by tablets in cuneiform script”[3] have been found, proving the essential “internal communication”[4] format. Ostraca, ancient pottery sherds with writing on them, are unearthed by archaeologists and become part of the Lachish Letters.

 

The Lachish Letters, partially discovered in 1932-39, are written in classic Hebrew script. Archaeologists also believe Lachish had been burned because of extensive charcoal debris found. Believed to be modern-day Tel ed-duwier, Lachish remains “one of the most significant sites of the Holy Land”.[5] The “early Hebrew writings on bowls, seals, a stone altar, and 21 pottery sherds on which were written letters about the attach on Lachish and Jerusalem by Babylon in 586 BC”[6] have been excavated.

 

This group of 21 pottery sherds is known as the Lachish Letters. In one letter, the message says, “Signals from Azkaban could not longer be seen.”[7] The archaeologists’ find leads scholars to believe it had been written “shortly after the events noted in Jeremiah 34:7”.[8] Today, this piece of potsherd and its inscriptions is included in an exhibit at the Israel Museum in Jerusalem.

 

 

Study

 

Chapter 34 can be marked on a timeline about 588 BC and brings a warning to Zedekiah. Nebuchadnezzar and his Babylonian army revels in a successful military campaign. Lachish, 23 miles SW of Jerusalem, and Azekah, 18 miles from Jerusalem, remain the last two “fortified cities” to fall. Along with Nebuchadnezzar, he instructs many vassal countries to also send soldiers.

 

The LORD tells Jeremiah to speak to Zedekiah and bring the bad news. Jerusalem is to be given to Babylon, and the city shall be burned. While Zedekiah would not escape, he would live to see Nebuchadnezzar “face to face” and then be taken to Babylon. Zedekiah would be spared death “by the sword” and die in peace, but as a captive in Babylon.

 

This chapter recounts Zedekiah’s renewed promise to honor the covenant and with “all the people of Jerusalem” to free the Hebrew slaves. There had been a change of heart and “made the male and female slaves return.” (v11) Historically and to be obedient to the Law of Moses (Exodus 21:1-11), the Hebrew people are to free all slaves after seven years. Although, this had not been observed for a number of years, they tried to resume this, perhaps to see the favor of God. In verses 15-16, God confronts their disobedience. God restates the outcome of the Babylonian invasion and Judah’s captivity because they did not keep their promises.

 

We see the description of the covenant ceremony (v 18-19) which is the same ceremony between God and Abraham (Genesis 15:7-21). This ancient ritual seals a covenant, signifies an oath. The chapter ending brings images of death and doom to those breaking their promises. Zedekiah and the royal family will be taken into captivity. Jeremiah’s prophecy is being fulfilled.

 

 

Reflection

 

Only those who are innocent and who do what is right. Such people speak the truth from their hearts and so not tell lies about others. They do no wrong to their neighbors and do not gossip. They do not respect hateful people but honor those who honor the LORD. They keep their promises to their neighbors, even when it hurts. They do not charge interest on money they lend and do not take money to hurt innocent people. Whoever does all these things will never be destroyed. Psalm 15:3-5 NCV 


Christians demonstrate their relationship and fellowship with God in the everyday, ordinary, getting-up, going-to-work, having-lunch, sitting-in-car line, helping-with-homework, cleaning-the-kitchen-again activities. Worshiping God is not confined to the church building. When our inner integrity merges with our outward sincerity, the heart reveals its true intimacy with Jesus. Desiring to serve or wanting to love, wishing for faith or longing for hope, simply is not enough. Behavior becomes the thermometer for our worship. Integrity exceeds doing what is right by doing it for the right reason. Sincerity has only room for truth, honor, and love. Are you lukewarm?


"In the stillness, our false, busy selves are unmasked and seen for the imposer they truly are." Richard FosterPrayer, Finding the Heart's True Home  


If we take inventory of our behavior, what will we find? What happens when we remove our masks? Our exposed frailties and bare excuses reveal control, busyness, apathy, carelessness, greed, prejudice, rationalization, self-consciousness, fear, anxiety and more. The simplicity of Psalm 15 lays out the characteristics for one who desires to abide in God's presence, to live with sincerity of His purpose. So, take off the masks. Work, speak, and think, making Christ the center of your intentions.


"He who does these things will never be shaken." Psalm 15:5 NASB 


This phrase, a promise of a faithful God, appears at least 8 times in Psalms and Proverbs.The Hebrew word mot describes something that "falters, falls, shakes, slips, or staggers." With these last words, God reminds us that our completeness in Him; He is our sure foundation. In our weaknesses, we are certain to falter, likely to fall, sometimes shake, and frequently stagger; yet God embraces our frailties and failures with mercy. God calls us, first, into His holiness to restore our inward integrity, then reveals Himself to others through our outward sincerity. God calls us to walk among the bruised and broken, sit beside the outcasts and overlooked, encourage the frail and fallen. We are to do this with sincere hearts in the name of Jesus, knowing we will never be shaken. 

 

 

Application

 

The people of Judah try bargaining with God once times get tough – then change their ways when everything gets easier.

  • Do you make bargains with God to achieve outcomes you desire?

  • Do you keep those promises to God, keep those new behaviors when the difficulty passes? OR do you resume your former ways of thinking and living?

 

Donna Oswalt



[1] IVP Bible Background Commentary/ Old Testament, Lachish

[2] Ibid

[3] Easton’s Bible Dictionary, Lachish

[4] Ibid

[5] New Kings James Version Study Bible, Notes on Lachish

[6] Ibid

[7] Ibid

[8] Ibid

Thursday, August 19, 2021

Great and Mighty Things

 Week 33 – Book of Jeremiah

Read: Jeremiah Chapter 33 



Background 

Baruch, the scribe, the son of Neriah, and Jeremiah’s secretary, comes from a respected family in Jerusalem. Serbiah, the brother of Baruch is “a minister to King Zedekiah”.[1]  In 1978, the seals of the two brothers, the bullae, are discovered in an Archaeological excavation. “The bulla of Baruch reads to/from Baruch//son of Neriah//the scribe.”[2] In the seal, the title, hspr, “indicates Baruch’s position as a royal clerk.”[3] Mentioned three times in association with Jeremiah, some scholars credit Baruch with recording the “autobiographical chapters” of Jeremiah.

Baruch is mentioned in Jeremiah Chapter 32 in the role of preserving the deed of purchase of the field in Anathoth. Possibly having visited Jeremiah in prison after the land deal, Baruch is entrusted with the legal documents. In Chapter 36, Baruch writes the scroll and reads it to the people in the Temple. When the scroll is read to the king, the king destroys it. Baruch, along with Jeremiah, goes into hiding and rewrites the scrolls.

As secretary to Jeremiah, Baruch likely recorded Jeremiah’s dictations about the Babylonian invasion. “Some scholars discern in Jeremiah’s dictation of scrolls to Baruch important clues for understanding the origins of the book of Jeremiah.”[4] 

From the tribe of Judah and friend of Jeremiah, Baruch demonstrates bravery and faithfulness to God’s prophecy. “Postexilic Judaism elaborated on his character, attributing to him the composition of one apocryphal book.”[5] The Book of Baruch, a book in the Apocrypha, is accredited to Baruch. Writings of this book are found in the Septuagint, the Greek translation of the Old Testament. Believed to be from an influential family, most commentators believe Baruch and Jeremiah are taken to Egypt at the fall of Jerusalem.

 

Study 

This is the last of the chapters (30-33) that make up the Book of Consolations, the grouping that expresses the promise of restoration for Israel, that gives much focus to the messianic promise. 

Jeremiah, still imprisoned, asks God for guidance. The reply to Jeremiah comes in a familiar verse, “Call to Me, and I will answer you, and show you great and mighty things, which you do not know.” And what are some of these unknowns? “The Lord gave [Jeremiah] further words of assurance and encouragement – promises that relate to the end times.”[6]

Jeremiah brings a prophesy to Judah that the fall of Jerusalem is coming followed by hope, “Behold, I will bring health and healing… the abundance of peace and truth.” (v 6) The captives will return, both Israel and Judah, meaning people from all the tribes of Israel, so they can rebuild. God expresses His plan for the rescue and redemption, for the forgiveness of their sinful rebellion. They will “be a testimony to all the nations of the world of the marvelous goodness and all the prosperity of God.”[7] Jerusalem and the people of Judah will be a light to the world, a light of glory for God.

In these verses, we see restoration where there has been rebellion, pastures where there has been destruction. Joy and gratitude will replace sorrow and disobedience.   “Since these blessings didn’t come during the postexilic period, we have to believe they will be realized when the Lord returns and restores His people and their land.”[8] The greatest blessing will come when the Lord promises, “I will perform that good thing which I have promised to the house of Israel and to the house of Judah… a Branch of righteousness… THE LORD OF OUR RIGHTEOUSNESS.” (vs 14-6) This promise speaks to the end times when people will “call Jerusalem The Holy City.”[9]

This righteous branch is referred to previously in Jeremiah 23:5. The Messiah will execute justice and righteousness in the land. This new and final messianic king will be a mediator of righteousness. This great leader will be both king and priest. The Book of Consolation concludes with the image of unmeasured possibilities. God’s covenant with Abraham and his descendants continuing through David and his descendants will be fulfilled with the resurrection of Jesus Christ. The covenant of God promises, “I will have mercy on them.” This future promise of grace reveals a future Promised Land of eternity.

 

Reflection


“This is the record of the ancestors of Jesus the Messiah, a descendant of King David and Abraham:” Matthew 1:1 NLT

For centuries, prophets deliver the Lord’s decrees to prepare, instruct, discipline, and encourage the people of Israel. In times of disobedience, crisis, war, famine, captivity, and in times of celebration, peace and abundance, God’s presence dwells with to those who seek Him. Then, a period of 400 years of silence passes as the people continue to wait for the coming of the promised Messiah. In the decades leading up to the Messiah's birth, Rome controls Jerusalem, and its own Herod the Great rules Judah, while Cleopatra rules Egypt. Matthew’s record of the ancestors from Abraham to the Messiah reveals God’s Promise arrives through a diversity of peoples, generation by generation.


Some of the ancestors are heroes of faith while others are outcasts; some are simply ordinary people, and others leave a trail of sinfulness. God is not limited by time or place, race or gender, nor is His work limited by human frailty. He is a God of forgiveness and new beginnings. God calls each of us to be a part of His Master Plan. God, sometimes I must wait through the seemingly endless silence. When I want to rush ahead, give me patience to endure, faith to trust, and wisdom to listen. Count me alive in Christ. Give this ordinary person extraordinary possibilities.

 

Application

 

When we wait in silence or what seems like endless chaos or even in the boring ordinary of life, the end results are frequently hidden. The struggles are real, and unfulfilled promises can make us cynical, despondent, frustrated, or simply weary. What are the options?

 

For me, I see two. Wrestle and whine with all the feelings or look ahead to a better possibility. I admit that maybe seeing the glass half full is more my nature. Trying to take note of circumstances I cannot change, I look for ways to go around, to soar above, or simply survive through. For me, I find I can only do this with God’s strength and wisdom and grace.

 

How about you? What works for you? (and... can you identify what does NOT work?)

   



[1] Harper’s Bible Dictionary, Baruch, p 95

[2] Ibid

[3] Ibid

[4] Eerdman’s Dictionary of the Bible, Baruch

[5] Harper’s Bible Dictionary, p 96

[6] Wiersbe Study Bible Jeremiah, Chapter 33

[7] Ibid, verse 9

[8] Be Decisive, Taking a Stand for Truth; Wiersbe, Warren p 138

[9] Wiersbe Study Bible