Week 44 – Book of Jeremiah
Read: Jeremiah Chapter 44
In the last few chapters of Jeremiah, we read about a “remnant” of Judah, the ones left behind after three times Jews are exiled to Babylon. What do we know about the “Jewish remnant” that God promises to spare, the remnant that will become the future of Israel? Who is the remnant? In Deuteronomy (30:1-3), after forty years of wandering, in Moab, about two months before the children of Israel cross the Jordan River to enter the Promise Land, Moses’ words are both promise and prophecy and “introduces the concept of a future restoration of Israel. This prophecy includes todays’s descendants of Israel.”
Remnant is mentioned various places in the Old Testament. The term is used in Isaiah (10:20-22) and refers to those who survive the invasion of the Assyrians. In Isaiah (11:11-16) God promises that one day they will return to the Promised Land given by Yahweh. “Isaiah’s concept of the remnant may have included both the faithful minority and and those who would accept God’s message under the impact of the forthcoming disaster”.
Remnant is also included in the prophets’ writings of Micah, Jeremiah, and Zephaniah. Jeremiah calls them, “the poor people who had nothing “ and are left in Judah when all the others are exiled to Babylon. Micah 2:12 reads, “I will surely gather the remnant of Israel.” The prophet Zephaniah (3:17-20) tells of a future for Israel when God will deal with their oppressors, save the lame, gather the outcasts, and restore their fortunes. Obedience to God, worshiping the One True God brings restoration. “God will act on behalf of all His people who have suffered in exile.”
Prophets Ezra, Nehemiah, Haggai, and Zechariah write after the exile. Their Biblical writings suggest Jews who return to Jerusalem from Babylon captivity are the remnant. Ezra (9:8-9) tells of the grace of God who leaves a “remnant” to restore Jerusalem, as the King of Persia (Cyrus) will allow their return. “Prophets also spoke positively of a remnant of Israel who would repent and be restored after the purifying judgment of exiles and who would continue to bear the identity and destiny of Israel.” This is a testimony of God’s enduring lovingkindness.
In the New Testament (Romans 11:5), the faithful remnant is mentioned. Paul, an Israelite, a descendant of Abraham, part of the tribe of Benjamin, and evangelist for the Gospel of Christ, writes that God has a plan for the righteous remnant. He explains, how God includes the Gentiles into His grace, and “even though many of [the Jews] are presently rejecting the gospel, God still has a merciful plan for saving all his people, both Jews and Gentiles.” Paul closes this writing with truth, “Oh, the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are His judgments and unfathomable His ways! For WHO HAS KNOWN THE MIND OF THE LORD, OR WHO BECAME HIS COUNSELOR? Or WHO HAS FIRST GIVEN TO HIM THAT IT MIGHT BE PAID BACK TO HIM AGAIN? For from Him and through Him and to Him are all things. To Him be the glory forever. Amen.” (Romans 11:33-36)
Prophecies of exile and destruction of Israel along with promises of survival and hope run throughout the Bible. Scripture gives evidence to “the belief that the future of Israel would be assured by the faithful remnant surviving the calamities that would befall the people as a a result of them departing from the way of God.” Jeremiah echoes God’s promise, “Then I will gather the remnant of my flock out of all the countries where I have driven them, and I will bring them back to their fold, and they shall be fruitful and multiply”, follows with God’s prophecy, “Behold, the days are coming, declares the LORD, when I will raise up for David a righteous Branch, and he shall reign as king and deal wisely, and shall execute justice and righteousness in the land. In his days Judah will be saved, and Israel will dwell securely. And this is the name by which he will be called: The LORD is our righteousness.” (Jeremiah 23:3. 5-6)
Another concept of the remnant is the church, the body of Christ. Matthew 7:13-14 reveals the way to God is to enter through the narrow gate. Few will choose the narrow way; few will find eternal life. Looking back, Jeremiah 31:10 reminds, “He who scattered Israel will gather him.” This is a glimpse of the sovereignty of God, the goodness of His righteous judgment, and divine plan for reconciliation and restoration. This is the great mystery of faith. “The eternal promise and plan of God is declared irrevocable by Paul in Romans 11:29, but that is no guarantee that every person or every generation will participate in that promise God made to Israel, for that will only come by belief and trust in the coming Man of Promise, the Messiah.” God’s steadfast loves endures.
“This is Jeremiah’s last recorded message to his people, given in Egypt probably in the year 580 BC.” Beginning in 626 BC, Jeremiah’s ministry stands at a total of forty-six years. In Chapter 44:1, Jeremiah addresses “all the Jews living in the land of Egypt” with the list suggesting they have settled in diverse locations throughout Egypt. After arriving in Egypt, they soon begin to worship local gods. Seemingly oblivious their disobedience and idolatry are the reasons for God’s judgement. Despite God telling them not to go to Egypt, they go anyway and continue to ignore God. While a harsh consequence, God’s message is loud and clear: “So there will be no refugees or survivors for the remnant of Judah who have entered the land of Egypt to reside there and then to return to the land of Judah, to which they are longing to return and live; for none will return except a few refugees.” (v14) Who are these refugees that find exception? “Only those who repented of going to Egypt and returned to their own land would escape judgment. God wanted a change of both attitude and action.”
Excuses for worshiping idols abound. “This is a most revealing glimpse of spiritual perversity…these people were turning the truth exactly upside down.” The reference to the “queen of heaven” likely identifies the Babylonian fertility goddess Ishtar. Prior to Josiah’s reformation in Judah, incense is burned, and immoral acts of worship are offered to Ishtar. In Egypt, they return to the cult of idol worship, giving credit for past prosperity and now seeking blessings again.
Jeremiah condemns their sacrifices to idols and offers them a sign that God will not tolerate their behavior. The Pharaoh Hophra of Egypt will be handed over to Nebuchadnezzar. History records Hophra loses his throne and is executed. These hostages turned refugees continue disobeying and ignoring God, never learning from previous mistakes.
The LORD your God is making this covenant with you who stand in His presence today and also with all future generations of Israel. . . The LORD made this covenant with you so that no man, woman, family, or tribe among you would turn away from the LORD our God to worship these gods of other nations . . . if you are drawn away to serve and worship other gods, then I warn you now that you will certainly be destroyed. . .Today I give you the choice between life and death, between blessings and curses… Choose to love the LORD you God and to obey Him and commit yourself to Him, for He is your life… (from Deuteronomy 29-30)
The Israelites are God's Chosen People, a covenant-people. The warnings of Moses will become reality. Israel and Judah will both choose to worship idols, choose to follow the rituals of religion but without the right intention. Both will fall as predicted because they are not totally committed to the Lord. (You can read the following references for an account of their fall: 2 Kings 17 for Israel's exile to Assyria; 2 Chronicles 36 for Judah's exile to Babylon.)
God provides the way for the Israelites to remain separated from the pagan culture of this new land, provides a guide to purity and faithfulness that would signify that they belong to Him. Their faithfulness to God through the Covenant would provide all they need in their Promised Land. To be successful they need to remain committed to God.
Commitment is not easy. Remaining faithful to God requires us to seek God at every turn. While God provides all that we need and more, unless we seek Him in obedience and follow with sincere commitment, we, too, will miss the blessings. In our faith journey, God gives us a choice, too. We can choose to worship the Lord, choose to love the Lord wholeheartedly, or we choose to go another way, choose the way of the world. Our commitment to God's Promises defines the depth of our faithfulness and the height of our joy!
The LORD your God will make you successful in everything you do. . . God will delight in being good to you. Deuteronomy 30:9
Even though the Israelites wander from God in their new land, He never stops loving them. He will restore them. Even if we wander from Him, God still chooses to love us! He will restore us! Jesus Christ becomes the New Covenant for all people. Through Him, our relationship with God can be restored. God is totally committed and chooses us!
Lord, I am amazed that You choose me ~ choose to love me with my doubts and failures, choose to reach out to me when I look the other way, choose to heal me with all my wounds, choose to rescue me when I wander so far away. You are totally committed! Forgive me! Encourage me! Strengthen me! I long for my intentions to be pure, faithful, committed. I long for Your Delight! Amen.
Do you blame God for your circumstances, your past, your failures, your doubts, your disappointments, your future?
How do I demonstrate my total commitment to God? What are my consequences when I choose another way?
 Bibletools.org/topicalstudies “What the Bible says about the Remnant of Israel”
 Jewishvirtuallibrary.org Remnant of Israel
 ESV Global Study Bible notes Zephaniah
 ESV Literary Study Bible Notes Romans 11
 Walking the Ancient Paths Kaiser, Walter C, p 480
 Be Decisive, Wiersbe, Warren, p160
 Life Application Study Bible Notes Jeremiah 44
Jeremiah Kidner, Derek p 133