Thursday, April 22, 2021

Now Watch for What Comes Next

Week 16 – Book of Jeremiah

Read: Jeremiah Chapter 16; 2 Chronicles 36:15-23


Background

Prophet to the Southern Kingdom, Jeremiah’s ministry of 40 years in Judah suffers many disappointing outcomes. Despite the Hebrew people not returning to Yahweh with truly repentant hears, he gives great energy and effort to fulfill his calling as a prophet. In a time of disillusionment and despair, only one king, Josiah, is know as a God-trusting king. The other four kings who reign during Jeremiah’s ministry only advocate increased idolatry and false truths to Judah. Jeremiah, severely persecuted and frequently rejected, witnesses Judah’s defeat. “Jeremiah responded to all this with God’s message and human tears… God had called him to endure.”[1]

This week let’s focus on the many accomplishments of Jeremiah. Frequently his heartfelt emotions for the coming destruction and the people’s losses speak loudly. Known as the ‘weeping prophet’, Jeremiah’s sincere sorrow is repeatedly evident in the verses. Despite God telling Jeremiah not to pray for the people, he did plead for mercy of several occasions. Jeremiah shows compassion on a stubborn people.

Jeremiah, his life often in danger, risks everything to be God’s faithful messenger. God anoints him for this time and place, and Jeremiah willingly complies. He learns that security does not necessarily come with service. His perseverance for so many years is to be applauded.

During Josiah’s reign, Jeremiah walks alongside to help with the king’s spiritual reformation. These times are probably the best and easiest period for Jeremiah to speak God’s message of repentance. A servant of God and faithful messenger, Jeremiah remains obedient to God’s calling.

Scholars credit Jeremiah as author of two Old Testament books, the book of Jeremiah and Lamentations. The book of Jeremiah compiles the great struggle of the Hebrew people and the last two tribes of Israel. This provides historical recordings of political and military happenings as Judah falls to Babylon. Providing the moral and religious weaknesses that lead to God’s judgment on Judah, the lessons become clear for future generations that God expects a true, repentant heart.

Jeremiah, son of a Hebrew priest, a prophet for God, a fellow countryman of Judah, accomplishes much in 40 years. Broken in spirit for the people, Jeremiah faithfully and repeatedly brings God’s message. Often rejected, isolated and alone, God tells him not to marry; yet, Jeremiah endures the hardships, grows his relationship with God, demonstrates endurance and strength, and authors two books. Because of Jeremiah, today some 2,500 years later, we can read God’s message, still relevant for us.

Study 

Immediately chapter 16 begins with a significant command for Jeremiah, “You shall not take a wife, nor shall you have sons or daughters in this place.” “All Jewish men were expected to be married by age twenty.”[2] Jewish customs require marriage and children, and rabbis would pronounce “a curse in any who refused to marry and begat children.”[3] In Walking the Ancient Paths we read, “Jeremiah is not forbidden to marry because of the present crisis… but because his life is a symbol of his message.”[4] As this chapter continues, we will discover God forbids Jeremiah to participate in “three normal and acceptable activities: getting married, mourning for the dead, attending feasts. God often guides prophets toward unexpected, attention-getting behaviors.

Continuing to verse 5, the second restriction is given, “Do not enter the house of mourning, nor got to lament or bemoan them.” God desires Jeremiah’s life to “be a living warning that Yahweh no longer has sympathy for the people of Israel in that generation.”[5] There is too much despair to celebrate. In verse 9 there is no peace or joy, no gladness, no marriage celebrations. “Weddings will cease as society disintegrates.”[6] “The prophet’s ministry itself was an object lesson—a real-life parable about God’s judgment against Judah’s sin”.[7]

Again, the people question this message. In fact, the people ask three questions: 1) why are we threatened with terrible misfortune, 2) what is our crime, 3) what is our sin against God. “Their unbiblical theology gave them false assurance that God would never abandon His people or allow the Gentiles to desecrate the hoy city or temple.[8] Simply restated, the answer remains that their ancestors follow other gods. “And you have done worse than your fathers”. (v 12) Assyria takes the Northern Kingdom of Israel captive because of idolatry, and still at least 100 years later, the same behavior is strong in the Southern Kingdom. Same lesson is repeatedly taught and is never learned. 

While the judgement is coming, the prophet uses imagery and metaphors to describe the coming captivity. Reminding them of their deliverance from Egypt, God reminds them of His mercy. Fishermen, hunters, and bankers suggest complete destruction but then comes a message of hope that one day they will return, a message of restoration. This return will be like “a second exodus and far outside the glory of Israel’s exodus from Egypt.”[9]

The last three verses (19-21) express an affirmation as Jeremiah proclaims “not only the gathering of the Jewish remnant but also the coming of the Gentile nations from the ends of the earth to worship the true and living God of Israel.”[10] “O LORD, my strength and my fortress, My refuge in the day of affliction” can be our battle cry, our whisper in the darkness, our hope in difficulty. The chapter concludes with a powerful proclamation from God: And they shall know that My name is the LORD. This is the One, True Living God, this is I AM. “God wants us to know Him. When He chooses to reveal who He is and what He is like, there can be no doubt about His sovereignty.”[11]

Reflection

O LORD, my strength, and my stronghold,

And my refuge in the day of distress Jeremiah 16:19 

The times of Jeremiah are full of discontent and despair. In all this chaos, Jeremiah draws his courage and perseverance from God. Each week something speaks to me, and these words capture my heart.

Let me break the verse down, beginning with “O LORD”. This is the Hebrew YHWY that speaks of Yahweh, the One True God. It also implies Jehovah, with whom we have a personal or covenant relationship. This is the I AM who never changes, who always keeps His promises. This is Who I must pray to and plead with, call on and choose first.

In these words, there are three attributes of God that will help me. First, strength is the Hebrew word “oz” which means power or might, and this strength comes from Him, not me. This effort or force is provided for me. God is fierce in His boldness. Elohim is all-powerful. Second, there is the Hebrew word “maoz” for stronghold which means fortress, a place of shelter, a place of protection. God is my shelter. Jehovah-Jireh is the One who provides. Third, the metaphor of God as a refuge is given. The Hebrew word “manos” means safety, a place to escape, a place to flee. I think of a safe harbor or port in a storm. Immanuel reminds us that God is with us. These are ways God teaches us to know His name is LORD!

The last phrase to explore is the day of distress, the when God becomes these things for us. Of course, God is present in good times, although how easy to forget God when everything is good. Not only does every good thing come from God, but He loves to celebrate with us. Truthfully, we find the dark places the hardest, the times that disrupt our plans, our dreams, our lives. These days of distress can be anytime that we find ourselves in trouble. Times of anguish or anxiety, times that can break our hearts, times that can literally bring us to our knees require an extraordinary strength, a strength beyond us. El Shaddai is all-sufficient, the God of the mountains who says nothing is too hard. 

Holy Father, we call you many names for many reasons. In the silence of waiting, in the chaos of need, You come to me. You feed my soul with everlasting manna. I cannot prove You, but I can testify that God provides for me in mysterious and majestic ways. I do not understand the when or how or why of Your provision, but I trust that Your Goodness will always cover me in Christ. 

Application

Derek Kidner’s writes this about Judah in his commentary about the Book of Jeremiah: “[We] get some insight into Judah’s insensitivity to God, and her inverted scale of values, whereby the first commandment was the last to be considered. But to be amazed at her tolerance of other gods is to be no less amazed at a generation – our own – which prides itself on religious pluralism and is embarrassed at the exclusive claims of Christianity.”

·       *      What do you hear when you read the above statement?

·        *     Compare Judah and our world today. How is our “scale of values” inverted?

·         *    What is religious pluralism? (You may have to look that up…)

·         *    What is the difference between “religious pluralism” and “religious tolerance”

·         *        Relativism is a belief system that accepts all religions as equal while no one religion gives access to absolute truth. This is inclusivism. Where do you stand?

·           *      What absolute truth about God speaks loudest in your life?

 

Donna Oswalt



[1] Chronological Life Application Study Bible Notes on Jeremiah, Introduction

[2] Be Decisive, Wiersbe, Warren W.; p76

[3] Ibid

[4] Walking the Ancient Paths, A Commentary on Jeremiah, Kaiser, Walter C.; p 211

[5] Ibid; p 212

[6] ESV Study Bible, notes on Jeremiah 16:9

[7] Ibid; notes on Jeremiah

[8] Be Decisive Wiersbe, Warren W; p 77

[9] Wiersbe Study Bible, notes Jeremiah 16:14,15

[10] Ibid; Jeremiah 16:19-21

[11] Blackaby Study Bible notes Jeremiah 16:21

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