Thursday, July 22, 2021

The Letters

Week 29 – Book of Jeremiah 

Read: Jeremiah Chapter 29


Background

 

Jeremiah’s forty years of ministry occurs during an exceptionally critical time in Middle Eastern history. Initially, Egypt comes to power over Judah after King Josiah is killed by Egyptian military forces. This begins an era of Judah’s designation as a vassal state, first with Egypt’s ruler Pharaoh Necho. The people attempt to choose their king, with Jehoahaz, Josiah’s son next in succession, but three months later, Jehoiakim (Eliakim) is appointed king by Necho. In their loss of freedom and confusion, the people turn to the idols they had worshiped during wicked Manasseh’s reign, not to the One True God.

 

Egypt is defeated by Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon in 605 BC. In a clever, political effort, Jehoiakim submits to Nebuchadnezzar and requests to stay on as Judah’s vassal leader. However, three years later, the arrogant Jehoiakim attempts to rebel against Nebuchadnezzar. In 597 BC, Jehoiakim, many others in the royal family, significant leaders, aristocrats, and artisans of Jerusalem are exiled to Babylon. A new leader emerges, Zedekiah, also appointed by the Nebuchadnezzar. The now powerful  Babylonia Empire is in control. Uncertain times with enemy-appointed pseudo-kings, Judah’s future looks to be full of gloom.

 

The vassal state of Judah remains in a precarious position. A few years later, 589 BC, Zedekiah leads his own rebellion against Babylon. Nebuchadnezzar returns to Jerusalem, taking the city, but finds his attention interrupted due to an Egyptian uprising in Palestine (588 BC). With the Egyptian defeat, Nebuchadnezzar again back for Jerusalem. In 586 BC, the walls of the city of Jerusalem are breached. The last of nearly 5,000 people are deported to Babylon. The Temple is burned, the palace is burned, the houses are burned, and the city walls are destroyed.

 

Jeremiah understands “the necessity of submitting to the rule of the Babylonian Empire.”[1] Ever faithful to his calling, Jeremiah continues to deliver the message God requires. Encouraging the exiles, Jeremiah reminds them of God’s never-ending presence and never-ceasing power. Jeremiah remains “keenly aware of the provisions of the covenant between God and Israel.”[2] God’s everlasting love for His people will be evidenced in His promises to return them from exile, to restore them to Judah, to replenish them with blessings.

 

 

Study

 

Some scholars will say there are three or four letters. Certainly, Jeremiah writes a letter to the exiles in Babylon, and a false prophet in Babylon writes a letter complaining of Jeremiah.  As for exactly how many letters, the better inquiry is what Jeremiah’s letter includes. The letter, a literary device, is a way for Jeremiah to remind his fellow countrymen about God’s divine plan for them. “Judah is enmeshed in a strange new world, but it is still God’s world.”[3]

 

In some ways, one could call Jeremiah’s epistle as a how-to-survive-exile. Addressed to all the exiles “carried a way captive”, the letter is written to the elders, priests, prophets, and all people. Also, it is to Jeconiah, Judah’s king, and to the Queen mother, the royal family, the palace officials, craftsmen, and artisans. The messengers who deliver the letter to Babylon are likely “diplomatic couriers” from Judah. Elasah is the son of Shaphan, a “prestigious member of Josiah’s court.”[4]


The purpose of this letter is to encourage the Hebrew exiles. “Instead of repentance and a renewed understanding of their relationship to Yahweh, they were filled with false hope about a quick end to this tragedy.”[5] The letter describes how the Hebrew people should live in exile: build houses, plant gardens, marry, have children, find spouses for your children so they, too, can have children. He clearly says to settle in, plant some roots, establish your lives. It is more than existing or passing time; it is about thriving. Remember that Babylon experiences great prosperity and much building during this era. Nebuchadnezzar likely uses the skills of Judah’s craftsmen and artisans to help with this.

 

Continuing, Jeremiah writes for them to pray for peace; seek peace and live in peace. Several generations will pass, and they should live as good witnesses while in captivity. As a caution, like in Judah, Jeremiah reminds them to beware of false prophets sharing their deceptions of a short captivity; these are lies. Remember Yahweh’s promise, “I will come to you.” (v 10)

 

“For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the LORD, “plans to give you hope and a future.” (v 12) Perhaps this the most well-known verse of the Book of Jeremiah, the most quoted, and possibly the verse chosen by many as a life verse. Remember it is offed as encouragement in exile, in captivity, in a time where control of life simply is beyond their reach. The verses that directly follow are often omitted in quotations, but they are the essence of how to find God’s hope and future. “Call on Me” and “pray to Me” are first, and God’s replies, “I will listen to you.” Going further, the message is “seek Me” and “find Me”. God says, “search for Me with all your heart.” The theme throughout Jeremiah’s message is the repentant heart.

 

In verse 14, after seeking God with sincere hearts, God promises to return the exiles to Judah. The next verses go back to the prophets who do not speak for God and speak falsehoods. Apparently, Nebuchadnezzar is known to execute false prophets, an example in verses 21-22 of “roasting them in the fire.” Shemaiah the Nehelamite, a false prophet, writes to Zephaniah, an overseer in the temple in Jerusalem, and complains about Jeremiah. Zephaniah reads the letter to Jeremiah. The prophesy for the fate of this false prophet is “none of his descendants [will be] left among all the Israelites.”[6]  Repeatedly told, we must remember, “God’s word remains true even when others do not like it.”[7]

 

 

Reflection

 

“You will seek Me and find Me, when you seek Me with all your heart.” Jeremiah 29:13 ESV


Jeremiah, a prophet who predicted the Babylonians would capture Judah, writes a letter to the captives exposing the false prophets. Telling the Jews to settle in their new home, build lives, pray for their captors, and serve God where they are, for their captivity will be long. Initially with vanity but later with despair, the Jews laughed at God then later mourned their fate. Within Jeremiah’s letter is a favorite verse of many people: For I know the plans I have for you, declares the LORD, plans to prosper you and not to harm you; to give you a future and hope. Jeremiah calls the people into a spirit of prayer, encourages them with hope, and reminds them to seek God, “with all your heart.”


As Jesus begins His ministry, many of those He encounters are in spiritual bondage, captive to disease, rejection, arrogance, and pride. Held prisoner by false truths, Jesus brings healing and hope, forgiveness and freedom. Jesus calls us, too, “Seek Me with all your heart.” Blessed Assurance, unbind me from the chains that hold me hostage, the doubt that imprisons my success, the fear that feeds my insecurity, the darkness that steals my hope. Count me alive in Christ. Find me! I seek You with all my heart 

 

Application

 

Robert Laha writes, in the Interpretation Bible Studies in his commentary on Jeremiah, “Embracing exile means carrying on with the primary work given to them by God.” Even when trying times come, we are to continue living for God, sharing in the lives of others, reaching out into the community for God.

 

  • When have you found yourself in some type of “captivity” or holding pattern or time of waiting? Did you or are you continuing to participate in the ‘primary work’ given to you by God?

  • Have you found that times like this can give you a pause, a time to stop and reflect, a reason to realign priorities?

 

Donna Oswalt



[1] Harper’s Bible Dictionary, Jeremiah, p 458

[2] New King James Version Study Bible, Introduction to Jeremiah

[3] Interpretation Bible Studies Jeremiah; Laha, Robert, p 65

[4] Walking the Ancient Paths, A Commentary on Jeremiah; Kaiser, Walter C, p 331

[5] Ibid

[6] Ibid, p 334

[7] Ibid, p 335

Tuesday, July 20, 2021

Update on Emails!

ATTENTION Followers!!! Blogger is DISCONTINUING the "email subscription" part of Feedburner. Sometime after July, 2021, the email-subscriber function will cease to work. IF you signed up to get an EMAIL of my blog posts, they will stop whenever this is completely discontinued.

At that time, my blog will continue to post at BreathingRoomForMySoul.com, as well as on several Facebook pages that include: Snyder Memorial Baptist ChurchSWOP Snyder Women of Purpose, Breathing Room For My Soul. Unfortunately, the email subscribers will no longer get emails. 

I hope you will continue to follow my blog, continue to share it with others! God is always seeking us, always loving us! - dho

Thursday, July 15, 2021

Iron Yoke

Week 28 – Book of Jeremiah 

Read: Jeremiah Chapter 28; 2 Chronicles 36:11-21 


Background
 

Zedekiah, considered the last king of Judah by some scholars, is twenty-one years old when he is chosen by Nebuchadnezzar to be king. Mattaniah his given name, is changed by the king of Babylon. He will reign eleven years. Jehoiachin, also called Jeconiah or Coniah and the grandson of Josiah, has been king but serves only three months when forced to surrender to Nebuchadnezzar. He is taken captive and sent to Babylon along with thousands of other Hebrew people in 597 BC. A time of chaos and conflict find some of the people of Judah already exiled to Babylon. 


In a breach of loyalty to Nebuchadnezzar, Zedekiah tries to become an ally of Egypt, and in the “ninth year of his reign, Zedekiah declares an open revolt against the Babylonians.”[1] Nebuchadnezzar’s response becomes an all-out revolt at the gates of the Holy City. Jeremiah tells Zedekiah to surrender but he refuses. Although, Nebuchadnezzar temporarily leaves to battle Egypt, he will return with the Babylonian army and destroy Jerusalem, defeat Judah, and take everyone remaining to Babylon.


Some commentaries consider Jehoiachin the last king of Judah, as he is chosen by direct succession. Zedekiah reigns because he is appointed by an opposing, stronger leader. Zedekiah, a weak and uncourageous king, ultimately flees from his palace when the city is again under siege. He is caught and brought before Nebuchadnezzar who kills Zedekiah’s sons before him. Then Zedekiah’s eyes are put out, and he is led in chains to Babylon.


Study


Most commentaries suppose this chapter, along with chapter 27, take place in 597 BC, just after Jehoiachin is taken into captivity. Zedekiah is appointed king by Nebuchadnezzar. We meet one of the “peace prophets” or false prophets, Hananiah. He tells the people what they want to hear, a message of hope and fast return on their losses. Hananiah also tells the people that the temple treasures stolen by the Babylonian army will be returned within two years. He claims that God is telling him that the “yoke of the king of Babylon” will be broken. (v 4) 


Hananiah is from Gibeon, six miles SW of Jerusalem and part of the tribe of Benjamin. He likely has “a similar upbringing as Jeremiah.”[2] Hananiah claims “thus says Yahweh” which is a traditional opening for a prophet. This message, despite its falsehood, is more popular. Jeremiah says that if only this message could be true; yet the truth delivers more doom than the “shalom prophet” offers. The clash between Jeremiah and Hananiah continues. Hananiah breaks the wooden yoke that Jeremiah is wearing (v 10) 


We see the wooden yoke is replaced with an iron yoke, symbolizing a yoke of submission that cannot be broken by man. Deuteronomy 28:47-48 establishes the punishment, a yoke of iron,  for disobedience. The verses 12-17 talk about the iron yoke, reiterating what Jeremiah continues to say. The truth is that there will be more taken into exile and more destruction will happen. Another prophesy is given, and this time about Hananiah. “This year you shall die because you have taught rebellion against the LORD.” (v 16) Interfering with God’s word, misusing or misinterpreting is an “act of rebellion”.[3] His death comes two months later.


We know Jeremiah’s prophesy is fulfilled, and Judah would be captured and endure 70 years of captivity. The Temple treasures would only be returned when the exiles return to Jerusalem after these years. King Jehoiachin will never return to Jerusalem and dies in Babylon. After the seventy years, Nebuchadnezzar and the Babylonian Empire will lose its power, and the Persians will become the next great power. God’s plans and purposes cannot be stopped. “This always happens - when we reject the light yoke of God’s will, we end up wearing a heavier yoke of your own making.”[4] 


Reflection


Jesus said to those who believed in Him: If you make My Word your home, you will indeed be My disciples; you will come to know the truth, and the truth will set you free. John 8:31-31(The New Jerusalem Bible)


Truth is the great equalizer, a weapon of revelation. So often we stand at the crossroads and look both ways, the world to our left and righteousness to our right. Here we are confronted by Truth. Truth says we will experience both delight and disappointment in life. In its most honest moments, the world will tell you stories of both. There is a freedom on both paths; however, the consequences remain vastly different. In the world, everything depends on me, but in Jesus, He provides everything I need. Truth always reveals a choice. The world chants, Pick me! Pick me! all the while Jesus whispers, I choose you! The world offers no guarantees, no refunds, no exchanges. Jesus offers unmeasured. grace, undeserved forgiveness, and eternal life.


Henri Nouwen writes, “The joy that Jesus offers His disciples is His own joy, which flows from His intimate communion with the One who sent Him. It is a joy that does not separate happy days from sad days, successful moments from moments of failure. This joy is a divine gift that does not leave us during times of illness, poverty, oppression or persecution.” No different from Jeremiah’s time, today “false prophets” still say what we desire to hear and promise what they cannot deliver. We all are given a choice, in fact, we make infinite choices each day. We choose our yoke. To be yoked with world offers substantial opportunities for self-indulgence, but the world can never give you eternity. To be yoked to Christ, even in our most dark, desolate times, we can have sustaining hope, spiritual contentment, and a promise of everlasting life. Truth demands a choice. I choose to be yoked with Jesus, the most Divine Gift, my best Guide! 


Application


God presents the truth, then gives us a choice; choose Him or choose the world. Our choice of Christ goes beyond a verbal confession. After our words, our behavior defines us. As we seek a deeper relationship with God, our lives will evidence our testimony that we choose life!


- When I survey my behavior, does it more often reflect the world or Christ?

- What is my life’s testimony?

 Donna Oswalt



[1] Chabad.org/library/article/Zedekiah

[2] Walk the Ancient Paths, Commentary on Jeremiah, Kaiser, Walter C; p 323

[3] Ibid, p 326

[4] Wiersbe Study Bible, Jeremiah Chapter 28

Thursday, July 08, 2021

Yoke of Submission

Week 27 – Book of Jeremiah

Read: Jeremiah Chapter 27



Background 

Remember the Hebrew prophet, Daniel, who along with his three friends, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, are exiled to Babylon? When the three friends refuse to fall down and worship the king’s golden image, the king is absolutely furious and commands them to be “thrown into a blazing furnace”. (Daniel 3) He is so furious that he orders “the furnace heated seven times hotter than usual.” Shadrach Meshach, and Abednego are tied up and thrown into the furnace.


“The king’s command is so urgent and the furnace to hot that the flames of the fire kill the soldiers” (v 22) who push the three into the furnace. The king is amazed as he clearly sees “four men walking around in the fire, unbound and unharmed.” (v 35) When this most familiar story ends, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego exit the furnace completely fine with no signs of fire. This king changes his viewpoint and decrees, “the people of any nation or language who can say anything against the God of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego shall be cut into pieces and their houses be turned into piles of rubble; for no god can save this way.” This king is the infamous Nebuchadnezzar. For a time, Nebuchadnezzar has a moment of true revelation of the One True God and discovers he is no match for the God of Israel.


One of the most powerful rulers of all time, Nebuchadnezzar (or Nebuchadnezzar ll) the king of Babylonia becomes the longest-reigning of the Babylonian Empire (605-562 BC). He is the most influential ruler of the Empire when Babylon reaches its greatest power and prosperity. Born into royalty in Babylon, Nebuchadnezzar is the son of Nabopolassar, the founder of the Chaldean dynasty. Including Syria and Palestine, his successful military campaigns bring him fame, especially his defeat of the Egyptians. Mostly Nebuchadnezzar is known as the king of Babylon credited with taking thousands of Hebrew people into captivity over several years and destroying Jerusalem in 586 BC. Along with conquering Judah, Nebuchadnezzar raids the temple that Solomon built in Jerusalem and takes all its treasures to Babylon. 


Under his leadership, the Babylonian Empire greatly expands while much building and improving of Babylon occurs. Many pagan shrines are restored. Nebuchadnezzar builds himself a palace and a lavish summer palace. The Hanging Gardens of Babylon is a splendid architectural accomplishment of his. All this extensive, elaborate construction for his own pleasure happens while the people live in immense poverty.


For all his military achievements and political accomplishments, Nebuchadnezzar’s greatest faults are arrogance and pride. History acknowledges him as an excellent strategist. While he does proclaim God’s power, his brief loyalty falls to pride. Later in his reign, for a period of time, Nebuchadnezzar experiences insanity or a delusional disorder. (Daniel 4)


The narratives in the book of Daniel “presents a timeless demonstration of separations from impurity, of courage against compromise, of efficaciousness in prayer, and of dedication to Him whose kingdom endures from generation to generation.” (Daniel 4:34)[1] Nebuchadnezzar must always be remembered as a instrument of God, used for God’s greater purpose. “King Nebuchadnezzar’s path crossed both the prophets Daniel and Jeremiah in his lifetime, both who carried important messages for God’s people about the New Covenant (the coming of the Messiah, Jesus Christ).”[2] 


In Daniel 4:36-37, Nebuchadnezzar “writes an official document giving personal witness to what God has done for him.”[3] It would seem unimaginable that Judah’s most wicked King Manasseh (2 Chronicles 33), and the “greatest Bible villain”[4] Nebuchadnezzar would give testimony to recognizing the One True God. God is greater and always exceeds our understanding.


Study

(If you are counting, last week, Chapter 26 was half-way of the Jeremiah study!) 

This week’s lesson brings another action-sermon. The image of a “yoke” is used. Agricultural folks would be familiar with the wooden object with a cross bar places around the necks of oxen when plowing the fields. “Make for yourselves bonds and yokes” describes submission. Jeremiah probably looks and maybe feels foolish walking around with this yoke. In Chapter 27, Jeremiah speaks his message to three groups.


First, Jeremiah takes God’s message to “submit to Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon” to the ambassadors from foreign lands visiting Jerusalem. The message is that “all nations shall serve” Babylon because God is giving all the lands to the Babylonian Empire. These foreign lands include Edom, Moab, Ammon, Tyre, and Sidon. If you don’t submit you will perish. Jeremiah warns not to listen to lies coming from false prophets in Judah or the fortunetellers and sorcerers in the Gentile nations.


Secondly, Jeremiah speaks the message to King Zedekiah of Judah. Same message and same consequences are repeated. Zedekiah is warned not create a rebellion against Babylon. Thirdly, Jeremiah, with his yoke, speaks to the priests and all the people. Peace-prophet or false prophets that say what the people want to hear are simply being deceptive. They “fight with familiar weapons of religious conflict… emotive issues… intimidation.”[5] All the gold and bronze vessels, the sacred and holy treasures have already been taken from the temple, probably during the second of three deportations of Judah’s people around 597 BC. Truth is, they would not be returned in the first exiles return to Judah after Babylonia defeat, decades later. (Ezra 1:7-11)


The yoke is symbolic of submission. Jeremiah is called to be a “prophet to the nations” (1:5) and remains faithful to his calling. We find God’s promise at the end of the chapter when He addresses the holy and sacred temple vessels. When the time comes, the LORD says, “I will bring them up and restore them to this place.” We can trust God’s greater plan and purpose.


Reflection

God must be the Yoke of our submission. We must be yoked with God’s truth, while submitting to His leading and trusting in His promises. God is always listening to our laments and discouragements, just as He comes along side us during times of uncertainty and chaos. God rejoices with us, celebrates with us, holds us and loves us. I must remember the Yoke, the One who is beside me. This is my Hope!


Faithful Father ~

In times like these, there seems to be no silence, just confusion - too many thoughts combined with too many possibilities frantically dancing with too many emotions. In times like these, the heart aches but can find no voice, the heart cries but can find no release. In times like these, there are no easy answers, no quick solutions, no simple explanations. Yahweh, remind me of Your faithfulness.

Petitions to You are endless, with asking and telling, questioning and knowing, seeking and listening. The soul finds hope beside doubt, truth beside lies, joy beside sorrow, love beside betrayal. The wounds cut so deep and so wide that they cannot be measured. Consequences are unfair, circumstances are cruel, and the burdens are too heavy. Adonai, remind me of Your unfailing love.

When darkness falls as the day ends and stillness calls, it is Your voice that whispers to the weary Come to Me… and I will give you rest… for I am gentle and humble in heart and you will find rest for your soulsHold the tears and the truth that disappoints; hear the cries and the heart that breaks. Jesus, Lover of my soul, remind me that You are the Yoke, the One who shares all burdens. 

In times like these, there is peace in Your presence. In times like these, there is hope in Your love. In times like these, there is comfort in Your loving arms. In times like these, there is joy in Your holiness and grace. El Shaddai, remind me that You are God All Sufficient.  Amen. 


Application

“God is in charge of all of history, and obedience is required from all.”[6]

  •           How do you respond to this statement? 

“In our time, God can and will take all the stuff in our nation, churches, and homes away from us because we trust in that stuff more than we trust in our Lord.”[7] 

  •           Do you think this is true? In what ways are you seeking God’s purpose and submitting to Him? 

Donna Oswalt



[1] Archaeological Study Bible, notes of Daniel 4

[2] Biblestudytools.com/Nebuchadnezzar

[3] Wiersbe Expository Outlines in the Old Testament and New Testament, Wiersbe, Warren; notes Daniel 4

[4] Biblestudytools.com/Nebuchadnezzar

[5] Walking the Ancient Paths Commentary on Jeremiah, Kaiser, Walter C; p319

[6] Ibid, p 321

[7] Ibid

Thursday, July 01, 2021

Trial and Verdict

Week 26 – Book of Jeremiah 

Read: Jeremiah Chapter 26 

Background 

The message of the Old Testament’s minor prophet Micah, long deceased, reinforces the truth that Jeremiah speaks. “This is the only direct quote from another prophet in the Old Testament prophets, even though there are numerous allusions to the writings of the other prophets.”[1] We find Micah both named and quoted directly in Jeremiah 26:18-19. 

Born in 715 BC in Moreseth, a rural area some 25 miles south and west of Jerusalem, Micah’s ministry is estimated to be 742-687 BC and covers the reigns of kings Jotham, Ahaz, and Hezekiah. During the second half of the 8th century, his contemporaries are Isaiah, Amos, and Hosea. Micah ministers primarily in the Southern Kingdom, but brings messages “about greedy oppressive landowners” and predicts “the fall of Samaria to Assyria in the Northern Kingdom.”[2] The quoting of Micah by Jeremiah indicates that the words of the prophets have been circulated among the Hebrew people.

The book of Micah “provides one of the most significant prophesies of Jesus Christ’s birth in all the Old Testament, pointing some seven hundred years before Christ’s birth to His birthplace of Bethlehem and to His eternal nature. (5:2)[3] Messages of judgment and restoration reveal Micah’s calling and a God of hope. Fear and hope are messages that intertwine in the prophet’s words. The end of Micah’s book “concludes with the prophet’s call on the Lord as his only source of salvation and mercy (7:7), pointing the people toward and everlasting hope in their everlasting God.”[4]

Micah also brings a message of exposing Judah’s sins and predicting divine judgment. Micah (4:1-2) expects Israel, God’s chosen people, in the long term to be a blessing to all the nations. His messages against injustice carry the themes of God’s restoration and forgiveness and justice. One of the more well know verses in Micah (6:8) reminds, “What does the LORD require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God.” 

Study

“In this chapter, Jeremiah goes on trial for his life for speaking so boldly about the destruction of the temple and the city of Jerusalem as the price of Judah’s national disobedience.”[5]

In verses 1-6, we see Jeremiah’s message restated. Many scholars suggest this is a more complete reference to Jeremiah Chapter 7, or maybe it is the message repeated. A particular command is given, “Don’t omit a word.” (v2) References to Shiloh, the tabernacle of God destroyed in 1050 BC by Philistines, reminds that even though God chooses Zion for His dwelling place, the belief that nothing could happen to Jerusalem is false hope for people of Judah.

Then, the trial (v7-9) is not about theology or God, but rather an effort to justify or defend their lifestyle. Priests and “false” prophets and all the people hear the message and seem to see this trial. Jeremiah is brought before “palace officials” and the request is, “a sentence of death for this man.” Jeremiah begins his testimony (v 10-16) reminding everyone Yahweh is Who sends this message. Perhaps some hope of God relenting remains in Jeremiah’s heart he offers, again, that a change of heart is essential. He warns these who stand in judgment to be careful about spilling innocent blood”. (v15) 

Now some come to Jeremiah’s defense and a change of attitude in verse 16,  as “the princes and all the people said to the priests and the prophets, ‘this man does not deserver to die’”. They believe that he speaks in the “name of the LORD our God”. Then some elders testify with a reminder of the days when the prophet Micah gives prophesy to King Hezekiah some 100 years before. At that time, no one tries to put the prophet Micah to death, the King chooses to seek God’s favor, and God relents. So, be careful.

Another interesting example is given (v20) of Uriah, son of Shemaiah of Kirjath-Jearim, who also brings the same prophesies. Jehoiakim seeks him, and Uriah is put to death. Commentaries give a few ideas as to why this is important. Some suggest a contrast and others loyalty. One thing that stands out to me is that Kirjath-Jearim, located 9 miles west and north from Jerusalem, is “where the ark of the covenant had been housed for those years that followed the destruction of the city of Shiloh. (1Samuel 7:1-2)”[6] This may just be an additional reminder of Shiloh and the destruction because of disobedience.

So, what is Jeremiah’s crime? He is charged with blasphemy against God, but he gets a reprieve thanks to some who testify in his defense. The last verse says, “Nevertheless, the hand of Ahikam the son of Shaphan was with Jeremiah, so that they should not give him into the hand of the people to put him to death.” (v 24) Ahikam is an influential person who lends support to Jeremiah and is mentioned in 2 Kings 22. Scholars tell us that, “six members of his family were known to be active during the reigns of the last five kings of Judah.”[7] His father, Shaphan, is a scribe to King Josiah and part of the delegation sent by Josiah to the prophetess Huldah when the law is found in the temple. Some of his sons serve as messengers for King Zedekiah. This family shows favor to Jeremiah. 

Reflection

We have seen what we are not, and what God wants us to be, but are we willing to be battered into the shape of the vision to be used by God? The beatings will always come in the most common, everyday ways and through common, everyday people. Oswald Chambers, My Utmost for His Highest

The account of the trial and crucifixion of Christ is in all the Gospels. Like reading the story of Jesus' birth in Luke each year at Christmas, at Easter we remember, listen to, or read the recorded history of Jesus' last hours on earth. Unlike the Christmas story, this one is harder to hear. Full of partial truths and truths ignored, betrayals and beatings, cowards and cynics, guilt and innocence, this story let us walk the Via Dolorosa with Jesus and the crowd, and hear Crucify! Crucify!

"Shall I crucify your king?" Pilate asked. We have no king but Caesar," the chief priests answered. Finally, Pilate handed him over to them to be crucified. (John 19:15b-16) The chief priests and religious  leaders in Jerusalem call on the Roman Governor, Pilate, to sentence Jesus to death. They charge blasphemy. Although Pilates finds no fault in Him, he gives the verdict of death. Jesus fulfills the Scripture, lives God's plan of salvation for us in detail, willingly and obediently. He is crucified between two thieves, a picture of disgrace and disillusionment for those who doubt Him, those who believe in Him, those who love Him. And the crowd? From Hallelujah! to Crucify! in a week's time, the crowd both scatters and scorns with uncertainty. Who are those standing in the crowd, both watching and wondering, fickle and frightened, confused and concerned?

Today, we are standing in the crowd –  we are the crowd. We either endure the everyday beatings or participate in them. We determine our worth and either applaud our own plans, or we confess our sins and need for Grace. We seek the world's approval or humbly accept God's plan. We are arrogant or obedient, either rolling the dice for a piece of Jesus or embracing the completeness of Perfect Love. We are the everyday reasons that Jesus is broken bread and poured out wine.
 

Application

The story of Jeremiah being accused of blasphemy for bringing God’s message finds a striking similarity to Jesus being accused of blasphemy. Jeremiah gets a reprieve after witnesses come to his aid. Jesus gets the cross as His most loyal followers turn away and hide in fear. Of course, there are significant differences, even if both point to God’s plan and purpose of His people.

Consider this: “The goal of all prophetic preaching is to get the people to turn around and abandon their evil ways and put their full trust in Yahweh.”[8] This of course is Jeremiah’s calling. One of the characteristics of God is “omniscience”. It is one we often wonder about and struggle to define within our own limited understanding. This is a good summary to me: “Scripture asserts God’s omniscience, that is He knows all that will, as well as what might, happen in the past, present, and future.”[9]

Donna Oswalt



[1] Ancient Paths, Commentary on Jeremiah; Kaiser, Walter C, p311

[2] Archaeological Study Bible Introduction to Micah

[3] Insight.org/resources/bible/the-minor-prophets/Micah; Swindoll, Chuck

[4] Ibid

[5] Ancient Paths, Commentary on Jeremiah; Kaiser, Walter C, p306

[6] Ibid, p 312

[7] Ibid

[8] Ibid, p 308

[9] Ibid