Wednesday, September 29, 2021

The Fall

Week 39 – Book of Jeremiah

Read: Jeremiah Chapter 39; 2 Kings 25


Called the Holy City and the City of David, Jerusalem rests in the mountainous region of Judah between the Mediterranean Sea and the Dead Sea. Considered one of the oldest cities in the world, Jerusalem is holy to three major religions: Judaism, Christianity, and Islam, all having root in Abraham’s ancestry. God plans for Jerusalem to be a city of righteousness but many times over it becomes a city of oppression. 

Jerusalem becomes the Capital City of the Kingdom of Israel and residence of the King of Israel when David reigns. The initial inhabitants, the Jebusites, are defeated, and David captures Zion, calling it the City of David. (1 Chronicles 11:4-9) When Solomon, David’s son, is king, he would build a Temple for the Lord, which is estimated to be around 1010 BC. Soon Jerusalem becomes the central city, a place for religious festivals, a place for governmental affairs. At the end of Solomon’s reign, the kingdom divides into the Northern and Southern kingdoms. Jerusalem become the hub of the tribes of Benjamin and Judah. In 586 BC, Jerusalem is conquered, destroyed, and burned by Nebuchadnezzar, the King of Babylon.

Jerusalem, known as Yerushalayim in Hebrew, is traditionally called the city of peace. Jeremiah 6:16 God says, “Stand at the crossroads and look; ask about the ancient paths. Which one is the good way? Take it, and you will find rest for your souls.” Jeremiah brings a prophecy that a great army will destroy Jerusalem unless they turn from their wicked ways. This truth evolves, and ultimately the Hebrew people are exiled to Babylon for 70 years. Then, Jerusalem begins a period of restoration. Old Testament books Ezra and Nehemiah tell of the rebuilding of Jerusalem – the walls, the city, the Temple. From 536 BC until 70 AD, Jerusalem thrives but remains under foreign rulers, like the Persians, Greeks, and Romans. The Romans destroy and burn the city, for a second time, in 70 AD.

Today, Jerusalem, after centuries of excavations of many religious sites, hosts tourists from around the world. The lines of today’s city and the ancient city vary. Only a portion of the ancient Temple’s Western Wall remains, a sacred place of prayer and meditation. Since the Arab-Israelite War in 1948, Jerusalem has been divided into West Jerusalem and East Jerusalem. Beginning in 1967, the ancient city of Jerusalem is officially called the capital of the state of Israel. Definitive boundaries remain in dispute between East and West Jerusalem, between Palestine and Israel. Jerusalem, destroyed twice and enduring multiple attacks and battles, still stands after some 5,000 years. With a population just under a million, it remains a city of diversity, historical significance, and religious importance.



“Now when Jerusalem was captured in the ninth year of Zedekiah king of Judah, in the tenth month, Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon and all his army came to Jerusalem and laid siege to it; in the eleventh year of Zedekiah, in the fourth month, in the ninth day of the month, the city wall was breached.” This opening verse for Chapter 39 is our setting and timeline for the fall of the city. For 40 years, Jeremiah’s prophecy predicts this event, and now the truth arrives.


Officials of Babylon arrive, and Zedekiah and all his men flee, leaving the city at night, heading to Arabah, a “desert valley running south from the Sea of Galilee.”[1] However, in the plains of Jericho, Zedekiah is captured and brought to Nebuchadnezzar. Zedekiah’s sons are killed before his eyes. Nebuchadnezzar also slaughters “all the nobles of Judah”. (V6) Blinded and bound in bronze chains, Zedekiah is taken to Babylon.


Burning the palace and the houses of Jerusalem, the Chaldeans break down the city walls. Nebuzaradan, “commander of the imperial guard”,[2] leads the remaining Hebrew people “into exile in Babylon” (v 9). The poorest people, those who had nothing to give are left behind in Judah. “The poorer, unskilled people were left to till the land. After all, somebody had to feed the soldiers who were left behind.”[3] With its walls broken down, the city lays exposed to any threat without defense. “Babylon has a shrewd foreign policy toward conquered lands. They deported the rich and powerful, leaving only the very poor in charge, making them grateful to their captors.”[4]


Regarding Jeremiah, orders to Nebuzaradan are to protect him. The leading officers of Nebuchadnezzar take Jeremiah out of the courtyard prison and charge Gedaliah, an official of Zedekiah that Nebuchadnezzar named governor, to take him to the governor’s residence.


Chapter 39 ends with an account of God’s message to Jeremiah that confirms disaster for Jerusalem, but promises to rescue Ebed-melech, the Ethiopian that had helped Jeremiah, “because you have trusted in Me.” Appearing to be out of sequence, this information is likely rearranged as the “editor may have wanted to show God could allow the enemy to destroy Jerusalem and torture the king because of Judah’s disobedience, yet He could spare Jeremiah and Ebed-melech because of their trust in Him.”[5] God is sovereign!


The fall of Jerusalem does not happen because God cannot protect it. The prophet Jeremiah’s pleas for the people to return to God have been long rejected. The prophet Ezekiel (10:18-19, 11:23) records “visions that the glory of God had departed from the temple and was no longer protecting the city.”[6] Babylon conquers Judah after God leaves Jerusalem. 


Reflection – The Goodness of God


Then Moses said, "Now show me your Glory." And the LORD said, "I will cause all My goodness to pass in front of you, and I will proclaim My name, the LORD, in your presence. I will have mercy on whom I will have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I will have compassion."
Exodus 33:18-19 NIV


September is Childhood Cancer Awareness month. Ten years ago, our family prayed its way through a journey of brain cancer, surgery and radiation; we asked God to heal, to strengthen, to comfort Thomas, my nephew then 9 years old. Our prayers and the countless prayers of family and friends and friends of friends also asked for encouragement and energy, for patience and peace, for calm and courage. Holy praises were offered to the Lord for joy in simple things, for small victories, and for laughter. We had not asked God like Moses, "Now show us Your Glory", but He did! God's great goodness passed in front of us! His Glory evidenced in moments and minutes and memories of His never-failing Presence during the journey.


The question of why suffering exists and who is healed or not healed will never be adequately explained or understood by earthly minds. Soon after the beginning, human weakness invited sin to stand between mankind and God. Only through Christ can we ever find a way back into a relationship with God. Even then, we will wrestle with uncertainty and chaos and questions. However, when Christ returns for His people, Certainty and Peace and Truth will reign. For now, we can find this possibility within the heavenly realms, in God, the Creator himself who has all authority. Not bound by time or distance or circumstance, God constantly remains omnipotent, omnipresent, and omniscient. God's ways will always exceed my understanding.


Neither knowing why nor understanding His Ways, I can say for certain that we felt God's mercy and compassion, that we witnessed God's mercy and compassion, that we will continue to tell of God's mercy and compassion. As every petition would rise like incense to this Holy God, each one overflowed with thanksgiving for such undeserved, unmerited mercy and compassion. Truly the Goodness of God passed in front of us, too, during this difficult time. God's goodness and glory still surrounds us - even now in the ordinary, everyday moments of doubt or minutes of disappointment or memories of difficulty. We continue to marvel that God let His goodness pass in front of us. We choose to see God's infinite goodness embracing us each day, especially when we do not understand.



God is where goodness begins! Still, we struggle with evil vs. good, wickedness vs. goodness.

  • How is God’s goodness evidenced through you and me as we strive to live a life to honor God?
  • While just doing good things is not what God desires of us, certainly demonstrating His goodness to others is most necessary. In what ways do you share God’s goodness with others?

Donna Oswalt

[1] Strong’s Dictionary

[2] Blackaby Study Bible, Jeremiah 39:13

[3] Be Decisive, Wiersbe, Warren p 151

[4] Chronological Study Bible notes on Jeremiah Chapter 39

[5] Apologetics Study Bible Jeremiah Chapter 39

[6] Ibid

Thursday, September 23, 2021

Secret Meeting

Week 38 – Book of Jeremiah

Read: Jeremiah Chapter 38


“The semiarid climate of the Mediterranean basin made water acquisition and storage a critical issue.”[1] Similar to wells, cisterns are large container carved out of limestone bedrock that collect water runoff. The shape has a more narrow top, to prevent evaporation. “The entire interior is coated with plaster so that every drop of water is preserved.”[2] When cisterns are dry, even though the bottom would have some muddy settlement, in ancient times they are used as prisons.

In Biblical times, the word dungeon often refers to a pit or deep cell or cistern, which infers a “more severe place of punishment.”[3] Confinement in a cistern without food or water would be a slow death.


The chapter opens with unfamiliar names of four officials that are hearing Jeremiah’s words. “Shaphatiah and Gedaliah are not known to us from other texts, but Jehucal and Pashhur are (37:3, 21:1). These men seem to be a part of the pro-Egyptian party in Judah, which is no doubt tearing Zedekiah’s cabinet apart in its conflicting advice.”[4] God’s message goes something like this: Stay in the city, if you choose, and die either by war, starvation, or pandemic, Or, if you choose to leave and go to Babylon, you will save yourselves and live. Essentially, to save your life will become “a prize of war”.[5] Jerusalem will fall to Nebuchadnezzar, and he will be the winner of this war. Of course, as usual, the officials advise the king to do away with Jeremiah the prophet, as his answers are just doom and gloom. In fact, he is “discouraging the men of war who are left in this city and all the people.” (v4) King Zedekiah said, “Behold, he is in your hands” because I am tired of you all. (v5)

Jeremiah is cast into the cistern of Malchijah the king’s son, which is in the courtyard of the guardhouse. Let down by ropes, Jeremiah sinks into the residual silt at the bottom of the empty cistern. Here we meet Ebed-melech, an Ethiopian eunuch and “high-ranking African official”[6] who works in the royal palace. Defending Jeremiah’s safety and pleading for Jeremiah’s life, he asks the king for help. Zedekiah sends him and thirty men to rescue Jeremiah out of the cistern “before he dies”. (v10)

They save Jeremiah, and he remains in the court of the guardhouse. Zedekiah then calls for Jeremiah “to be brought to the third entrance of the temple of Yahweh” and asks him for the truth. (v14) Kaiser writes, “The location of this third entrance to the temple of Yahweh is unknown” but may be a “covered walkway used exclusively by royalty”.[7] This would provide a safe and secure meeting place. Jeremiah’s narrative continues to be the same. Zedekiah expresses his fear “of the Judeans who have gone over to the Chaldeans.” (v19) Pleading to listen to God’s voice, Jeremiah tries to explain the severe consequence of not complying. Forget the ones already gone; think about the women and children still here. Jeremiah gives vivid descriptions of what will happen to the women of the royal court and reminds how they will become property of the King of Babylon.

With fear of retaliation, Zedekiah demands that Jeremiah keep their conversation confidential. Jeremiah honors the King’s request, replying only that he had been pleading his own case before the King. Here, Jeremiah remains until the day Jerusalem  is captured.

Possibly Chapter 38 gives us a more detailed account of the events in Chapter 37 or another event. Some scholars believe the chronology of events “is clearly not the central purpose of these chapters.”[8] Even though Jeremiah is “confined in the courtyard of the guard, he was allowed to have visitors and to speak freely to them.”[9] Recognizing even in prison, Jeremiah continues to share the message of Yahweh. God provides for Jeremiah by sending Ebed-melech, an often-overlooked Old Testament hero of true courage and character, a person God inspires to help his faithful prophet, Jeremiah. ”Jeremiah later had the privilege of informing his Ethiopian rescuer that God would keep him safe during the fall and destruction of Jerusalem. (39:18)”[10] Fear of the people creates an impotence of leadership for King Zedekiah, who remains uncommitted and ineffectual. Jeremiah is now in his 40th year of ministry and brings the same message. God is not changing His plan.



In John 18:33-38, Pilate, the governor of Jerusalem, finds himself face to face with Jesus, face to face with Truth. Pilate asks, "What is truth?" His rhetorical cynicism does not investigate truth or even debate truth; rather, like the philosophy of the culture of Rome, Pilate suggests there is no real truth. The answer to Pilate's question sits right in front of him but goes unrecognized.

After looking at a variety of Scripture in a search for "truth", these are the truths Christians embrace: God's word is truth. Christ is truth. Scripture testifies to truth, as does the Father. Jesus is The Truth. The Helper, the Holy Spirit is the Spirit of Truth. Christ, called Faithful and True, will come again. Pope Francis writes, "Faith without truth is an illusion; truth without love is cold." Faith is believing God is Sovereign. Faith is believing the Gospel of Jesus is Grace. Faith is empty without truth! 

In Matthew 27:22-24, when Pilate sees that his efforts to free an innocent Jesus are “accomplishing nothing, but rather a riot was starting,” he decides to no longer be involved, to let the people choose. This fear of political suicide, this anxiety of rejection or rebellion by the people, is like Zedekiah in the Chapter 38 of Jeremiah. Neither leader seeks the truth or stands for the truth. Less than 650 years before Pilate and fearing retaliation, Zedekiah says, “Behold, [Jeremiah] is in your hands” because I am tired of you all. (Jeremiah 38:5) . Zedekiah’s failure to act rests on the precipice of Jerusalem’s fall, the temple’s destruction, and complete exile for the Hebrew people to Babylon in 586 BC.

Pontius Pilate would soon use his authority to condemn Jesus to the cross. Within less than 40 years, Rome would destroy the temple in Jerusalem. By the end of the first century AD, the Christian church will endure great turmoil and resistance. All the disciples except John will be martyred; yet, despite persecution, faithful believers will continue to spread the Good News. Before the end of the second century, the power of Rome will be threatened by many invasions and civil war, and the third century will be marked with countless wars. In 476 AD, the reign of the last Roman emperor marks the end of Roman rule and the beginning of the Middle Ages. History continues.



  • Does fear prevent you from serving God? Can you identify with Zedekiah, who fears negative remarks or even retaliation? Are you frequently swayed by public opinion?
  • Are you more like Zedekiah or Ebed-melech in your faithfulness to God? Do you allow God to use your abilities and gifts for His service? When you speak about your beliefs, are you bold? Trust can overcome fear.

[1] Archeological Study Bible, Wells, Cisterns, Aqueducts of the Ancient World

[2] Ibid

[3] Easton’s Bible Dictionary, dungeon

[4] Walking the Ancient Paths Commentary on Jeremiah, Kaiser, Walter C, p 439

[5] New Interpreter’s Study Bible, Jeremiah Chapter 38

[6] Chronological Study Bible Notes, Ebed-melech

[7] Ancient Paths, Kaiser, p 442

[8] New Interpreter’s Study Bible, Chapter 38

[9] Archaeological Study Bible, notes Jeremiah Chapter 38

[10] Chronological Study Bible

Thursday, September 16, 2021

Pray For Us

Week 37 – Book of Jeremiah 

Read: Jeremiah Chapter 37


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!


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!


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."




“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


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 400 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



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 now 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.



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.



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]; 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




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.




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 (indentured servants) 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]



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!



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