Thursday, April 08, 2021

The Cry of Jerusalem

Week 14 – Book of Jeremiah

Read: Jeremiah Chapter 14

Background


“The purpose of life is the building of character through truth, and you don’t build character by being a spectator.” – Phillip Brooks


What is character? The dictionary defines character as “features and traits that form the individual nature of some person or thing.”[1] We understand character to be the qualities that might explain or express the habits, personality, reputation, or disposition of a person. Jeremiah’s character is tested and revealed and proven throughout the book of Jeremiah.

“Jeremiah’s life reminds us that God sometimes call us to take a difficult stand.”[2]  Jeremiah, a deep thinker with keen perspective, demonstrates some strong character components that serve him well in his appointed ministry. A strong spiritual relationship with God replenishes his faithfulness and obedience to God’s calling. Inner strength sustains Jeremiah in difficult times. Jeremiah exhibits, “qualities of courage, compassion, and sensitivity. He also [reveals] a darker side of moodiness, introspection, loneliness, doubt, and retribution toward his personal enemies.”[3]

Another character trait is compassion. Jeremiah, the author of Lamentations and called the weeping prophet, feels the suffering of his people, understands their grief. His empathy flows as he weeps for the people demonstrating love for the people. With passionate intercession to God, Jeremiah prays for a stubborn people. Laments evidences his love for the Hebrew people.

“Jeremiah depends on God’s love as he develops endurance.”[4] To make it through difficult times, endurance is required. Jeremiah reveals his courage by standing before the people, other prophets, priests, and kings as he delivers a divine but unfavorable message. Repeatedly, he brings the message which brings great risk to him. From responding to God to delivering the messages to seeing the prophesies fulfilled, Jeremiah endures. “The Lord who formed us, knows what particular services and purposes He intended us.”[5] Jeremiah is anointed by God for a specific purpose.

Study

Jeremiah delivers four messages in chapters 14-17. As we study Chapter 14, the time “reflects the panic and dismay of the people… to preserve life and home in the face of overwhelming military threats.”[6] Historical preservation of this era comes through a collection of broken pieces of pottery with written texts, that “grant glimpses into the last decades of the Kingdom of Judah.”[7] Most are military communications. Certainly, we see that these are stressful and uncertain times. These chapters are “dominated by laments: some from the people, some from the prophet, and some from God.”[8] The lesson is repeated and “nothing can be done now to stop the destruction.”[9]

Chapter 14 begins with the drought and the laments that follow. While Egypt benefits from the Nile River, Canaan depends on rain, the blessings God sends. In Deuteronomy 28:1-24 read about the blessings of obedience and the consequences of disobedience. Drought is a consequence of turning from God. The people mourn, both rich and poor, both city dwellers and farmers. They “covered their heads” suggests mourning like a funeral procession. There is no water, the vessels are empty. The city of Jerusalem mourns, and the land mourns.

The confessions and pleadings in vs. 7-9 speak to their iniquities, acknowledge their sinfulness against God, and beg God not to leave them. God always knows the heart and recognizes these as insincere. “To weep because of the sufferings that sin causes is to show remorse but not repentance.”[10] God responds, “They have loved to wander.” He will not respond to their pleadings, and, for a third time (v 11) tells Jeremiah not to pray for these people. God says the people will be consumed by sword, famine, and pestilence.

Jeremiah tries to say the people have been influenced by false prophets giving a false vision and offering false hope and peace. God replies that “lies in My name” and “deceit in their heart” are no excuses. The prophesy of doom will happen. The idols of Canaan have no power to bring rain. God has two tests for false prophets: “True prophets or prophetesses in Israel: (1) their predictions must be 100 percent accurate (Dt. 18:20-22), and (2) their messages must agree with the law of God (Dt. 13:1-18).”[11] Any and all idol worship that is promoted or permitted comes from false prophets. God would never send a false message.

We see weeping for the difficulties coming, the pleading for mercy. In the last verses, the imagery helps to paint a picture for us. There is weeping for the “virgin daughter” that is Judah. No healing, rejection is found along with battles and famines. Religious leaders fail the people and God. Wickedness and iniquity prevail. After repeatedly breaking the covenant, the people are pleading for God, “Remember, do not break Your covenant with us.” They must be remiss in the parameters of this promise: rain as blessings for obedience and drought as consequence for disobedience. (Dt. 11:10,12; Lev. 26:3-5) “Therefore, we hope in You”. In the last verse, a great truth is spoken. God is our only hope!

Reflection

The lesson offers more visuals of destruction and disobedience, of disappointment and despair; yet, in the last thought we find hope. God is the only true hope. As Christians, we frequently seek our affirmations in the New Testament, but clearly the message of God’s hope resonates throughout the whole Bible. In Hebrews 6:19 NLT, “This hope is a strong and trustworthy anchor for our souls. It leads us through the curtain into God’s inner sanctuary.”  

This anchor for our souls symbolizes confidence, expectation, and assurance which encourages in uncertainty, endures through storms, promises beyond fear. Hope, like faith, believes what cannot be seen. God’s faithfulness secures our hope with Grace.

Throughout Holy Week and Easter, Christians all over the world remember and celebrate the death and resurrection of Jesus. On the day of the crucifixion, at the moment when Jesus dies the curtain in the Temple that separates the Most Holy Place tears completely from top to bottom. Anchored and immovable, hope fills the inner sanctuary. Grace invites each believer to spiritually enter the presence of God. Jesus Christ is our Living Hope.

Holy One, I need hope in the darkness and courage in my doubt; I hold tight to this anchor when the storms of life make me weary. As I enter Your inner sanctuary, peace fills my soul. Great is Your faithfulness.

Application

Considering some of Jeremiah’s character traits, what are there some you desire but struggle to exhibit? Which one(s) do you think benefit(s) Jeremiah most frequently?

What parallels do you see in Jeremiah’s Judah and the world today? We understand that for them, they have reached the point of no turning around, that destruction is certain. What about us? Where is the hope for us?

Donna Oswalt

*Just an update, Chapter 13 was ¼ of the way through… This study guide includes 17,993 words so far and with a small font (11), fills 37 pages, with 53 references in addition to Scripture.



[1] Dictionary.com/character

[2] Blackaby Study Bible notes, Blackaby, Intro to Jeremiah

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

[4] Life Application Study Bible, Jeremiah, p 1123

[5] Matthew Henry’s Concise Commentary, Jeremiah

[6] Archaeological Study Bible; Jeremiah Chapter 14 commentary

[7] Ibid

[8] Walking the Ancient Paths; Kaiser, Walter C., p 189

[9] Ibid

[10] Wiersbe Study Bible; Wiersbe, Warren; commentary Jeremiah 14

[11] Ibid

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