Pages

Thursday, August 05, 2021

A New Covenant

Week 31 – Book of Jeremiah

Read: Jeremiah Chapter 31


Background

As the Summer Olympics fill the TV with images of the strongest and fastest and most accurate, life is happening around us. Positive Covid tests and hospitalizations, debates about the vaccine and mask mandates swirl around and affect our families and friends, our communities and events. Swimming and gymnastics, track and field, cycling and skateboarding, volleyball and soccer and more are played out before no crowds, medal ceremonies are rarely televised, but athletes give their best efforts and set world records. History will one day tell this story to the next generation.

The first Olympic Records date back to 776 BC, nearly twelve centuries before. Initially, the event is one day event until 684 BC, then three days, and eventually four days. “ The Olympic Games, like all Greek games, were an intrinsic part of a religious festival”[1] in honor of Zeus. Every four years, the games play out in the ancient city of Olympia in Greece, until they are banned in 393 AD by the Roman Emperor, Theodosius, as pagan cults. Then 1,503 years later, the first modern day Olympic Games are held in Athens, Greece, in 1896.

Initially the competitions include one event, a long “foot race”. Over time, other races of varying lengths are added in, and in 708 BC wrestling and pentathlon, which includes foot race, long jump, disc throwing, javelin throw, and wrestling, are added. Boxing joins the games in 688 BC and chariot racing in 680 BC. All the competitors are men. Most compete in the nude, and although many explanations are given, no real reasons are known.

The first exiles are taken to Babylon in 609 BC, and the Olympic Games are held in 608 BC. Training for the athletes continues for the 596 BC games, while in 597 BC the second group from Judah is taken into captivity. As Nebuchadnezzar executes his final attack on Jerusalem, the 588 BC Olympic Games come to close. The final captives are taken to Babylon in 587 BC, with the complete destruction of Jerusalem and the temple in 586 BC. The prize for the Olympians is a crown of olive branches. For Israel and Judah, the exiles will find spiritual restoration and a promise of a new covenant. 

Study

In Chapter 31, the most famous passage of Jeremiah, the promise of a new covenant, occurs. Opening the chapter with words to those who are in exile, those who survived the sword and found grace in the wilderness. The words are like Israel’s exodus experience, escaping death and finding grace in the desert. God is promising to be the covenant partner to the Hebrew people, to love them beyond the temporary, to love them in the age to come. God will pull them out of their situation with mercy and goodness. He will return them to Jerusalem to sing and dance and rejoice, to rebuild, to plant vineyards. They are the remnant God will bring home to find comfort and joy.

“The perceived incurable wound makes way for the peaks of grace and mercy that culminate in the repetition of God’s ancient promise and the renewal of the covenant, called the new covenant.”[2] This is written to “all the families of Israel” suggesting a new start. Israel has been divided since 931 BC, at the end of Solomon’s rule, when divided into the Northern Kingdom and the Southern Kingdom. The remnant will come from the whole nation (vs 7-14). God will ransom and redeem His people. God’s goodness is seen in the blessings of new wine, olive trees, cattle and sheep. “Their souls shall be like a well-watered garden.”

A reference to Rachel, the favorite wife of Jacob and mother to Joseph and Benjamin, recalls a time of sorrow, a lamentation. The prophecy continues with stop weeping and rejoice. Ramah, a town in the tribe of Benjamin located about 5 mines north of Jerusalem, is “where the Northern tribes were assembled to begin their exile”[3] after their 722 BC defeat by the Assyrians. “God promises that Rachel’s children will return from exile.”[4] A reference to the land of Ephraim, named for the second son of Joseph, describes this tribe as becoming “tens of thousands”.[5] “Setup signposts, make landmarks” because this will mark your way home. There is hope for the future.

The next section introduces a new way to respond to God. “Everyone will die for his own sin.” Each individual will be held accountable for his or her own sins. Just as God allows them to go into exile, He will bring them home to rebuild, to plant again, but this time, there will be a renewed way to come to Him.

The section of verses 31-34 define the Messianic Promise. “With this text, we have reached the apex of biblical theology for both Testaments.”[6] These are perhaps the most important and influential passages in Jeremiah. “I will put My law in their minds and write it on their hearts.” Again, the repentant heart, the circumcised heart appears. God’s law initially is written on stone tablets, but this new way is an internal relationship.

The covenant God gives at Mt. Sinai, the giving of the law, asks the Israelites to agree to and follow the terms. The people break their promise of only worshiping the One True God. The Ten Commandments represent God’s standard, but humanity is flawed and can never achieve this. “The fault with the old covenant was not with the covenant but with the people.”[7] This human inability to sustain that level of commitment reveals just how much God is needed. A new covenant, a refreshed version, will include Israel, Judah, and the Gentiles, an offering for all peoples. “The initiative and the responsibility for carrying out this covenant is altogether Yahweh and not with the people of Israel.”[8]

This New Promise does not depend on people. God’s grace will forgive and redeem any who believes. This Covenant in recorded in the New Testament as fulfilled by Jesus Christ. Clearly, Christianity benefits from this same covenant, with its deep Jewish roots and fulfillment of a Divine Promise.

The ending restates God’s almighty power, His abilities that are beyond anything we can imagine or measure. God is in control of the sun and the seas and the stars. God chooses His people with faithfulness and forgiveness.  Giving the boundaries, “the days are coming” when Jerusalem will be rebuilt. (Can read more about this in Nehemiah) God’s promises are enduring, permanent even to this day. 

Reflection

[Jesus to His disciples] Likewise He also took the cup after supper saying, “This cup is the new covenant in My blood, which is shed for you.” Luke 22:20 NKJV


Four cups of wine celebrate Passover. Following the “Blessing After the Meal” comes the third cup, the cup of blessing, sometimes called the Cup of Redemption, which symbolizes the blood of the Passover lamb (Exodus 12:13). When Jesus lifts the third cup, this Cup of Redemption, He says, “This cup is the new covenant in My blood, which is shed for you.” With His crucifixion, Jesus becomes the true Passover Lamb, the blood sacrifice for eternal redemption. “This is My blood, shed for you.” 


Establishing a New Covenant, Jesus calls the people to a new way of living. The body of Christ is a community of believers, all believing in one faith, one baptism, one Spirit. The cup symbolizes Christ’s sacrifice on the cross. Prophesied by Jeremiah some 600 years before, Christ travels up to Jerusalem, the fulfillment the Lord’s promise of a New Covenant, “I will put My law in their minds, and write it on their hearts.” (Jeremiah 31:33) The cross tells a new story of redemption to the world, a story of everlasting hope, a story of grace.


Jehovah, El Shaddai, Adonai ~ ancient names, holy names… Your promises capture my needs, anticipate my fears, prepare my future. Broken bread and a cup of blessing call to me centuries after You blessed them, after You surrendered for me, after You settled my debts. Lord, always give us this bread and this cup of blessing to remind me of Perfect Love. 


Application

Recently, many Olympic athletes landed in Tokyo, Japan, with hopes of going the distance, enduring the difficulties, winning a medal, gold or silver or bronze. Like them, we can be intoxicated with the adrenalin of achieving a goal, surviving an illness, earning success. Like the Jewish exiles, we can find ourselves in the depths of life – searching for a job, moving to a new place, treating an illness, weeping for the losses, struggling financially, managing a family, battling an addiction, and more. Everyone is looking for hope and a better future.

  • How do you find hope for the future? Where do you look?


Donna Oswalt

 



[1] Britanica.com

[2] Walking the Ancient Paths, A Commentary on Jeremiah; Kaiser, Walter C, p 357

[3] Ibid, p 360

[4] ESV Global Study Bible notes Jeremiah Chapter 31

[5] Ibid

[6] Walking the Ancient Paths, p 368

[7] Ibid, p 369

[8] Ibid, p 370

Thursday, July 29, 2021

In the Days to Come

Week 30 – Book of Jeremiah

Read: Jeremiah Chapter 30

 



Background

 

One hundred or more years after Isaiah, Amos, Hosea, Micah give prophecy to Israel, the ten tribes of the Northern Kingdom, Assyria has long conquered them, and Jeremiah, and his contemporaries, deliver a similar message to the Judah, the Southern Kingdom. Who are Jeremiah’s fellow prophets? Nahum, Huldah, Zephaniah, Habakkuk, Ezekiel, and Daniel all make their homes in Judah.

 

Nahum’s prophecy about Nineveh, the capital city of Assyria, comes a hundred years after Jonah proclaims God’s message there. True to Nahum’s predictions, the city falls to the Babylonians in 612 BC, making Babylon the greatest power. Huldah, a prophetess, is called on by King Josiah when the scroll of the Law is found in the Temple. She is one of seven women prophets in the Old Testament. 

Zephaniah is a prophet during Josiah’s reign and the spiritual renewal of this time. Zephaniah, the son of Cushi, gives insight into his ethnic background, which is African or Ethiopian descent. Most scholars consider Zephaniah a black prophet. Also, he identifies himself as the great-great-grandson of King Hezekiah, which places him in the lineage of Jesus Christ, the genealogy of Jesus lists King Hezekiah. Hezekiah is the father of Manasseh, the most wicked king of Judah. Zephaniah has a royal lineage. “Zephaniah more than likely prophesied in the latter part of Josiah’s rule, after the king discovered the scrolls of the Law in 622 BC (2 Chronicles 34:3–7).”[1]

Habakkuk asks a lot of questions trying to understand why God. He struggles with good and evil, wrestles with how God could destroy Judah. Little is known about Habakkuk’s background, but his writings openly acknowledge the injustices of the day, question how God allows this. Through prayer he comes to understand that somethings are beyond our understanding, and God’s goodness is certain. Habakkuk becomes a person who leads other by walking in faith.

Ezekiel is an eighteen-year-old when his friend Daniel is taken to Babylon with the first exiles in 609 BC. Training to be a priest, Ezekiel is taken to Babylon in 597 BC with the second group of exiles. Ezekiel, like Daniel, find their voice and present their messages to the Jews in captivity. Likely both have been influenced by Jeremiah.

Study

Here is the Big Picture, the “glory of the drawing of a new day” that Jeremiah paints for the Hebrew people in captivity. Chapters 30-33 are often referred to as “The Book of Consolation”. Jeremiah’s first directive from God is in the opening of Chapter 30, “Write in a book for yourself all the words that I have spoken.” (v2) Recording God’s words for His people will make a “permanent record of the promises God was giving to His people.”[2] Preserving the message for generations to come will exceed the oral traditions. Papyrus scrolls of up to twenty pages and fifteen feet long would the format. “The transition from oral to written prophecy prompts a whole new perspective on the mind and will of God.”[3]

“The theme of the restoration of Israel will be the dominate topic of the book of consolation.”[4] The words that follow describe a time of pain, a time when no peace can be found. “In that day” (v 8) suggests a future time, after the seventy years of captivity. God will restore His people to the land He has given them, breaking the “yoke from your neck” of the Gentile captivity. Commentaries for these verses suggest a distant future time. This prophecy includes both Israel and Judah (all the tribes). Israel (Jacob’s descendants) will serve Yahweh, and a new king David, a “righteous branch” (Jeremiah 23:5), a new king “whom I will raise up for them.” (V9) Messianic prophecy begins to emerge. “For I am with you,” says the LORD.

God’s covenant people will have the promise of peace and security. God promises to redeem them, to return them to their land. Their wound “is incurable” and “severe”. They have suffered for a “multitude” of “iniquities”. “The LORD reminds the Jews that He was the one who had used other nations to wound them because of their disobedience to Him.”[5] But in this section we see redemption and restoration. God will “devour all the adversaries”, and put them into captivity. “For I will restore health to you and heal you of your wounds.” (v17)

Returning to the land, to Jerusalem, rebuilding and renewal will come. God promises, “I will punish all who oppress” them. (v20) “ This verse [21] refers to the restoration after the Babylonian captivity as well as to the final restoration under Christ”. [6] The “whirlwind” of verse 23 is an assault on the Babylonians. Israel will experience joy again, multiply their descendants, find new leadership and a renewal of faith. “You shall be My people, and I will be your God.”

The chapter ends with a reference to Genesis 40:1, an oral tradition passed down since the time of Jacob. Jacob calls his sons together, part of his last will and testament, and says, “Gather together, that I may tell you what shall befall you in the last days.” For centuries, the Hebrew people have gathered and shared their history and a hope. God continues to lay the foundation for the Messiah. “In the latter days you will consider it.” How often do we all see more clearly, understand more thoroughly, appreciate more deeply when time gives us some room to reflect. These recorded words will continue tell God’s story to the future generations of Israel, and even to us. 

Reflection

“One thing I have asked from the LORD, that I shall seek: That I may dwell in the house of the LORD all the days of my life, to behold the beauty of the LORD and to meditate in His temple.” Psalm 27:4 ESV 

Just before Jesus ascends to heaven, He instructs the disciples to tell the story of Good News to all people. His final words of encouragement: And be sure of this: I am with you always, even to the end of the age. In Scripture in the New Testament, the last days refers to the time between Christ’s return to heaven after the resurrection and His second return to earth. The last days are now! The promise remains true; Jehovah Shammah, the LORD is there, dwells with us. God’s presence with His people is certain.

Scripture tells us that in the last days Jesus is mocked and questioned. Arrogance attempts to diminish the power of God, to discredit His role in creation, and to dismiss His promise of judgment. People choose other gods to worship. With humility, His faithful followers must earnestly continue to be about the work God calls us to do. 

LORD, Creator and Promise Keeper, Your grace falls gently in the middle of these harsh last days. Forgive those who deny You and give them a reason to hope. I long to dwell in Your Presence all the days of my life. Here I see the beauty of Extravagant Love and know the unexplainable joy of Living Hope. As I eagerly anticipate what You will do next, help me tell Your story of Grace! Count me alive in Christ. Moment by moment, Jehovah Shammah, You are here!

  

Application


In the last words of Jeremiah Chapter 30, we read “In the latter days, you will understand this.” We do not always understand the present times, and even parts of the future are unclear and beyond our understanding.

  • What do these words say to you? Is it just a centuries old equivalent to “hindsight is 20/20”? Or, does it suggest our understanding will be whole when Christ returns, when the end of time opens the mind to complete understanding?

  • How do you deal with the uncertainties and unknowns in life? 

Donna Oswalt



[1] Insight.org/resources/bible/the-minor-prophets/Zephaniah; Swindoll, Charles

[2] Wiersbe Study Bible, Jeremiah Chapter 30

[3] Interpretation Bible Studies, Jeremiah; Laha, Robert, p 7

[4] Walking the Ancient Paths, A Commentary on Jeremiah; Kaiser, Walter C, p339

[5] Wiersbe Study Bible Jeremiah Chapter 30

[6] Chronological Study Bible, Jeremiah Chapter 30

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