Growing in Christ
"He opened their minds so they could understand the Scriptures." Luke 24:45
Links to observations drawn from other books of the Bible
Background: Jeremiah's name means "the Lord establishes." Jeremiah received his call while "a youth" (Jer. 1:6) and ministered faithfully, and largely unfruitfully, for over 40 years (627-585 BC). When Jeremiah began to call Judah back to the Lord and warn of pending punishment for its apostasy, Judah was comparatively prosperous, free and secure. Judah's leaders continued to reject Jeremiah's warning through the rise of Babylon and Babylon's final breaching of Jerusalem's walls and exile of it's most prominent people.
Jeremiah, like Jesus, wept over Jerusalem. Yet, Jerusalem's hardness of heart remained firm. Jeremiah himself was taken to Egypt (against his will) by a remnant left in the land as the Babylonians withdrew, where Jeremiah died (in oral tradition by stoning at the hands of his countrymen weary of a message they refused to heed).
If you are able to access a copy, the NLT provides an excellent introduction to Jeremiah, as do many other translations. (Those who purchase the NLT have access to the introduction online.)
Practical and Pastoral Observations on the Book of Jeremiah (please read each chapter slowly and meditatively, taking personal notes, before reading observations below):
A Purpose for Every Life: God's plan for Jeremiah's service of the Kingdom is formed before his birth (v.5) and God's call to obey (v.7) comes to Jeremiah while still young (v.6), probably in his teens.
Sustained by God: See how God sustains Jeremiah in his call...
1.) The Word of God is put into Jeremiah's mouth (v.9) and continued to come to Jeremiah from 627 BC (v.2) through 586 BC (v.3) without fail,
2.) God knew there would be violent opposition to His message and messenger but promised to protect Jeremiah as a fortified city (v.18), to be with and deliver him (v.8, 19).
3.) God promised to watch over the Word He gave to Jeremiah and bring it to pass (v.12).
Jeremiah as royal messenger: In the ancient near east messengers representing their King and were sometimes abused by those rejecting the message. Jeremiah knew this. Yet the cost of fearing man more than fearing God is a very bad exchange (v.17). Therefore Jeremiah remained a faithful messenger to the end, knowing the Lord's promise: "I am watching over my Word to perform it" (v.12).
Stuff: People are prone to collect and "worship the works of their own hands" (v.16), whether homes, car, clothes or technology. This is no different than the ancients worshipping idols fashioned by their own hands. It may be for this reason some Christians have resisted even the idea of private property (despite the fact ownership tends to produce better care of it.)
My Practical Response: I will embrace God's calling on my life until I have fully fulfilled His purpose for me (Acts 13:36). I will hold lightly the "works of my own hands" (possessions, education and achievements) and hold absolute allegiance to the King of the rulers of the earth.
My Prayer: I will go everywhere You send and speak all You
command. Lord, give me ears to hear your voice.
Yahweh yearns for the days when He was Judah's Husband: God remembers the devotion of the early days of their love (v.2) when Israel followed her Lord through the wilderness after He had set her free from slavery, when Israel sought to love Him purely, when Israel was holy unto the Lord (v.3). But, without any injustice from God (v.5), Israel wandered from Him, walking after emptiness to become empty (v.5). In this, Israel's leaders failed her: priests, rulers and prophets led the way to apostasy (v.8).
Effects of Breaking Covenant: In abandoning her marriage covenant Israel exchanged living water from eternal springs for broken cisterns (v.13), the Glory of God for unprofitable slavery to pagan gods (v11), the status of a wife for that of a harlot (v.20). Unfaithfulness to Yahweh leads to political alliances to provide the projection only God can give (v.14). "The Israelites had been rescued from slavery in Egypt, but they became slaves again in Jeremiah’s time through their covenants with Egypt and Assyria (NLT)." Judah made for herself as many gods as she had cities, none of which could save (v.28). How can the children of Israel forget the God who brought them into being? (v.32) Such abandonment of its gods had not even been done in the surrounding nations (v.11).
Refusal: Despite all this, and the life-blood of the innocent poor on her clothes (v.34), Israel refuses to accept responsibility (v.35). Therefore God has no choice but to allow Israel the consequences of her abandonment. Israel and those in whom she trusts, will be judged (v.35, 37).
Substitute Alliances: Political alliances as a substitute for trust in the Lord (v.18)) always lead to sorrow as they produce slavery to fickle nations and/or spiritual compromise (as "Ivy League" seminaries bring in teachers not committed to the Lordship of Christ, where one board member or professor with divided heart votes to bring another).
"But now what are you doing on the road to Egypt, to drink the waters of the Nile? Or what are you doing on the road to Assyria, to drink the waters of the Euphrates?" (v.18)
History is littered with broken branches of the faithful church entering alliances with the world leading off into apostasy. Consequently and repeatedly, a faithful remnant remains of whom Yahweh requires one alliance only; that with Him. And that alliance in utter purity of heart and purpose.
Personal Application: I will not enter into alliances with those who hold not only to Christ. I will serve the Lord only. I will expect persecution (hard or soft) from governments and institutions which hold not to Christ.
My Prayer: Father, how can it be that a nation which has known Christ, could loose her ardor and abandon her covenant joy and blessing? Yet many nations in the west have done so. Lord, call your people to faithfulness, love and covenant.
Unteachable Hearts: Judah belonged to Yahweh, the One who brought her into being, out of Egypt, her husband. Both Israel (the 10 northern tribes) and Judah (the southern tribe) absorbed and embraced the idolatry of the Canaanites; despite God's command to root out these spiritual influences entirely. For her spiritual adultery Israel was given a writ of divorce and sent into exile permanently among the Assyrians. Yet Judah, her sister, has learned nothing, and without fear continued in the same harlotry (v.9) despite King Josiah's efforts to bring reformation (Jer. 3:6 to 6:30).
God's Yearning: Though continuing to be polluted by every false god (v.2) Yahweh calls His bride to return (v.12-14), not unconditionally but on the condition of faithfulness to her Husband. This, Israel and Judah, the promiscuous sisters, refused to do to the end (v.24-25).
Promises: Yet God is good, unceasingly beacons his people (v.12) and makes promises to those he hopes will be a repentant faithful bride. The promises include good shepherds who are committed to Israel's shalom (v.15). In addition, though the physical Ark of the Covenant is gone (v.16, and see note below), the very presence of God enthroned in Jerusalem will draw all the nations of the earth (v.17). This promise, and that of the reunification of Judah and Israel (v.18), is yet to come, but both are equally sure.
Father/son: Jesus's reference to God as Father is prefigured in vs. 4 and 19. God is creator, husband, father, king, shepherd and unspeakably more. The 'waiting Father' (Luke 15) is clearly seen in vs. 12-15. The Father's arms, despite all, are open wide those those who will come:
v.14: "Return, O faithless sons, declares the Lord…and I will bring you to Zion…. v.17: and they shall call Jerusalem "the Throne of the Lord" and all the nations will be gathered to it, to Jerusalem, for the name of Yahweh."
Personal Application: I will be patient and persistent, inviting and giving hope to those who wander and reject Him, as I also have been faithless but found Him to be faithful. I will seek to be a midwife to at least one person each day, to come or return to the Good Shepherd (v.15).
My Prayer: Father, give me today an opportunity to give hope, to invite, to be a midwife to someone to enter the Kingdom, to draw near to you. Give me eyes to see into hearts, courage to speak, wisdom from the Holy Spirit. Lord, use me as a midwife today for your glory.
(Final resting place of the Ark of the Covenant: This question remains interesting, largely because there is no answer. The last Biblical reference to the Ark is in 2 Chron 5 during Josiah's reforms, when the king calls for it to be returned to Solomon's temple. We assume, but don't know for certain, that Josiah's command was obeyed. The last noncanonical reference is 2 Maccabees 2, which states Jeremiah hid the Ark, tent and alter of incense in a cave on Mt. Nebo where Moses had received the law. We also don't know if this happened, though many have since looked for a blocked cave, without success to the best of our knowledge.)
Benefits of Repentance: Repentance brings blessing to the nations and glory to God (v.2). The blessing to the nations is truth, justice and righteousness (v.1). Without these no society can prosper. For this blessing however, repentance must be firm, permanent and unwavering.
Alternative Judgment: when repentance is rejected, judgment is needed to cleanse evil. Judgment wipes the slate, so to speak, as far as necessary to remove evil, even back to the formlessness of the original state (v.23ff) if necessary. Why anyone would prefer judgment to repentance is unfathomable. Judgment is certain (note v.7-8 is in present tense) and as one-sided as a man against a lion (v.7), a sirocco wind (v.11), or storm (v.13). There is no defense (v.29-31).
There is then nothing greater than to be rightly related to God. In so far as it is up to us, it is worth all our focus, love, energy and effort. Yet, even then, God bridges the gap remaining with His grace and forgiveness. In this we are given yet greater reason for praise and worship.
v.2: You will swear, "As the Lord lives in truth, in justice and in righteousness." Then the nations will bless themselves in Him, and in Him they will glory.
Personal Application: I will do all I can to hold before the nations His truth, justice and righteousness (v.2) that the nations may know Him also, be blessed in Him and give Him all glory. I will seek to do this by continuing to help strengthen disciple-making movements and national church planting processes and by developing www.murraymoerman.com.
My Prayer: Father, how I desire your Glory to be spread through all the earth. How I desire everyone to be blessed as they come to know Your glory and salvation and to love You above all.
Repentance Precedes Pardon: The Lord asks, "Why should I pardon you?" (v.7) and looks for a reason but can find none. He looks for a man who does justice and seeks truth (v.1) but cannot find one. In addition, Jerusalem refuses correction, even when smitten, but sets her heart and face hard against God's rebuke (v.3).
God's patience amazingly is nearly without limit, but His patience is not without limit. God seeks a reason to pardon (v.7). But lacking reason to pardon, pardon comes not, but judgment.
Judgment Alone Remains: Jeremiah found no openness to God's Word among the poor (v.4) so went to the great (v.5) but found no difference. Evil abounded (v.25-29), spiritual eyes and ears closed (v.21), false prophets welcomed (v.31) and God's prophets rejected (v.13). Therefore God will bring judgment like fire (v.14-17) by a nation which comes from afar (v.15) to take Jerusalem as slaves to exile (v.19).
v.31: The prophets prophesy falsely and the priests rule on their own authority and my people love it so! But what will you do at the end of it?
Personal Response: I will be a man who seeks truth and does justice (v.1). I will be a man who is not surprised, should God not find what He seeks on earth, when judgment comes.
My Prayer: Father, those who reject you - by ignoring you, by pretending, giving mere lip-service or by direct hostility - are angry when You discipline them or when judgment comes. Yet repentance is easy and pardon sure. Father, turn the hearts of those who reject You to seek You and run to You alone. Father, here I come!
The Babylonians Come to deliver God's Judgment: Jeremiah calls his own tribe, the Benjaminites, to flee as "evil looks down from the north" (v.1). Babylon is cruel without mercy (v.23) causing hands to fall limp with fear (v.24) and bitter lament (v.26).
Why?: Jerusalem has ceased being God's "city of peace" ("salem"). In turning from God, Jerusalem has become a city of oppression, wickedness and violence (v.6-7). Rather the delighting in the Word of the Lord, Jerusalem rejects it (v.10).
Leadership: People don't easily rise above the models of leadership before them. Even those who should provide moral leadership in Israel - prophet and priest - live falsely, without shame, greedily and superficially (v.13-15). Leadership has a greater responsibility before God and society due to its disproportionate influence.
Beyond Refining: True watchmen sounding God's trumpet are rejected (v.17). As a result, God's refining work does not separate the wicked from the righteous perhaps because, as in Sodom and Gomorrah, there are no righteous. "In vain the bellows blow fiercely..." (v.29) not able to produce the needed refining between good and evil.
Stubborn hearts do not melt easily. For this reason God sometimes initiates extreme measures.
Personal Application: I will accept greater responsibility to lead to a higher standard. I will not deal superficially but expect myself, and help others, to go deeper. I will not accept nominalism in myself or others, recognizing no one stands still but always becomes either more or less devout, loving, worshipful and Kingdom centered. Therefore, I must continually choose for God and good.
My Prayer: Father, Israel and Judah's pollution by other gods and wandering from you is a desperately cautionary tale for every age and day. Let it never be far from my heart or mind or decision making. Lord Jesus, be my center, today and always!
Jeremiah Confronts Temple-Goers: Jeremiah is blunt, as prophets are and must be, to be heard by hard hearts. The truth is God demands faithfulness, humility and purity. Temple-going is no substitute for love, justice and obedience - indeed is a false confidence. God seeks not temple-dressing but faithful-love.
The Scourge of Syncretism: The root divergence of Israel from following Yahweh is syncretism, walking after other gods (v.6), even sacrificing to Baal (v.9) including the burning their own children in the sacrificial fire (v.31). False gods always lead to injustice and immorality (6-9). Showing-up at the temple to cover your base with various gods is of no value. Yahweh alone is God. Monotheism allows no pretenders or rivals. God will cast out (v.15) syncretists.
Do not pray: At this point of deliberate sustained disobedience in the life of Judah, prayer is fruitless. Punishment will not be averted (v.16). Families collaborate to worship Ishtar, the Babylonian "queen of heaven" (v.18) to their own shame (v.19) and ruin (v.6). Choosing to go backwards and not forwards (v.24) removes the blessing of God (v.23). To be "beyond prayer" is frightening!
What about us? The west has known the Lord for centuries but has chosen instead a civil religion of moral therapeutic deism, if not practical atheism, or even other gods as paganism gains new footholds in the west. The west too burns its unborn children in the sacrificial fires of abortion-on-demand.
The window for prophets today to speak with equal clarity as Jeremiah is closing or will be met with seething hostility or active hatred. In the west, people demand justice of others, e.g. the police, and refuse to forgive others e.g. the police, but themselves want liberty to do as they wish and believe what they want, and often denying their own need for forgiveness personally. The Lord has not called us to cease praying (v.16) for the west so must as long as we can.
Personal Application: I will speak prophetically with courage even if people do not listen or answer (v.27). I will be patient as long as God shows patience, and call for repentance as long as God calls, even if few listen.
My Prayer: Father, please give strength for a continuing long obedience in the same direction as western culture continues to unravel, falling apart without people even understanding why. Lord, I pray for joy on the difficult journey, clarity of thought and speech, and courage to call out in love even to those who don't want to hear.
Questions for a failing culture: Can Jeremiah's words have relevance for our day? For example, how can it be that any people would choose death rather than life (v.3)? Yet many do so, also in our culture.
What kind of wisdom have those who reject the word of the Lord (v.9)? Very little. Yet many are satisfied with the thin dangerous foolishness which remains when the world turns its back on the deposit of heaven offered by the Lord.
Are people then less wise than birds who do know their way home (v.7)? It seems so. And, when one falls, isn't it natural to get back up again (v.4)? Yet as many fall to apostasy, they are not ashamed (v.11) and refuse to get up (v.5).
What then is the outcome? Sorrow (v.18), loss and brokenness (v.21): "Harvest is past, summer is ended, and we are not saved (v.20)"
The chapter concludes with Jeremiah's question, "Is there no balm in Gilead? Is there no physician there? (v.22) The phrase refers to a resin used medicinally in nearby Gilead. Yes, God is near, His arm is not shortened, healing is available to those who turn. But Israel was unwilling and went into exile.
Who is unable to draw the application to our times? Who will ask of themselves, what will you do?
Personal Application: I will, when I fall, whether the slip be small or great (v.4), turn again quickly to the Lord with all my heart, get up with gratitude and press on with joy! I will look to the Lord as my homing beacon (v.7) eager to make course corrections, eager to arrive home.
My Prayer: Father, you are our righteousness, our peace, our hope and joy, our balm in Gilead. Lord, I grieve when the world turns its back on you. I turn to face and follow you our wisdom and protection, our salvation and healer.
Weeping prophet: Jeremiah is known as the weeping prophet because of his self-description in v.1. Jeremiah's experience reminds us that while God calls us to obedience not all obedience brings avoidance of tears. While Jeremiah calls for repentance and weeps, Israel wearies itself committing iniquity (v.5).
Refinement: Will not God respond? (v.9). Yes, he will winnow and refine (v.7) his rebellious people. God's people should not then ask "why is the land ruined?" (v.12) since God has already made clear the reason (v.13-14). The result will be mourning. Jeremiah calls professional wailers to their work (v.17-20).
Know the Lord: the alternative is simple and unspeakably wonderful "know the Lord." We can refuse to know (v.6) or turn our hearts to know (v.23-24). Knowing the nature and character of God is everything. Who would want not to know the God who delights in lovingkindness, justice and righteousness (v.24) and to boast of him?
Pagan symbols: God rejects graven images. God also calls his people to avoid pagan symbols. In Jeremiah's day it was a certain "clip of the hair" in honor of heathen gods and this in lieu of (circumcision of) hearts surrendered to the only true God (v.26). In our day other pagan symbols. While some choose to view them as harmless, pagan symbols continue to have influence and are to be avoided.
Personal Application: I will not wear the supposed "peace sign" (upside down broken cross) or other contemporary symbols of the occult or other non-Christian worldviews. I will wear the sign of the fish (which pre-dated the cross) or other recognized Christian symbols or none at all. I will accept grief as part of the life of discipleship. I will introduce the Lord to those who do not know him with the description of v.24 and ask "if God was like this, would you want to know him?"
Jer 9:23 Thus says the LORD: "Let not the wise man boast in his wisdom, let not the mighty man boast in his might, let not the rich man boast in his riches, Jer 9:24 but let him who boasts boast in this, that he understands and knows me, that I am the LORD who practices steadfast love, justice, and righteousness in the earth. For in these things I delight, declares the LORD."
My Prayer: Father, you are the source of all joy. You are the one who practices steadfast love, justice, and righteousness. You will judge the earth by the standard of our own character. Come quickly Lord Jesus! Fill me and all the earth with your holy beauty and character!
Hear (v.1): what can be more important for a right relationship with our Creator than to set our hearts to hear? How are you cultivating your desire and ability to hear? How are you responding to what you hear?
The Only One: There is none like Him who speaks and calls (v.6-7). All idols are powerless, utterly inert (v.4-5,9-10). God alone made the heavens and the earth (v.12-13), no idol contributed anything and will all perish from it (v.11)
Rejection: Because Israel refused the truly hear or even listen to the only true God, a great and disruptive commotion has come on them (v.22), they are uprooted, scattered (v.21), a desolation (v.22). One can hardly overstate the impact and consequences of being violently torn out of one's home and nation into permanent exile (v.17-18) in the land of their overlords.
God's patience has limits: God's grace is patient, amazing, abundant, as far as the eye can see; almost beyond measure. But His patience is not absolutely without limit. Lacking this understanding, Israel crossed the line into God's discipline.
Idols: whether made of wood, stone, automotive components or computer chips - will perish (v.11). Our valuing of them can only then be misplaced and unworthy and their claim on our lives utterly without merit or excuse.
"There is none like You O Lord, You are great and great is your name in might. Who would not fear You, O King of the nations? (v. 6-7a)
Personal Response: I will listen for His voice daily in a time of stillness seeking to hear: "Lord, am I missing anything You are wanting to say?" and wait quietly for minimum of 5 minutes. "Lord, what are the questions You are wanting me to ask that my mind and heart are ready to hear?"
My Prayer: Father, I run to you, to your
voice, to your Glory, for there is none like you. I refuse
the way of
the nations which do not follow you and therefore cannot lead to life.
Partial turning is inadequate: Jeremiah spoke during the reformation under Josiah (2 Kings 22-23) which, while in the right direction, was grossly incomplete. The worship of Yahweh did not replace the worship of Baal (v.13).
Judgement comes to those who reject God: God is good, God is patient, God does not judge without warning (v.10). But when God judges, it is with finality. It is only in this context that we can understand the command to Jeremiah, Do not pray for this people (v.14). When judgement comes, it is a dreadful thing. So turn, at all costs, avoid it.
Silencing the messenger: The threats of the men of Anathoth did not stop Jeremiah or God's message, nor did their opposition nullify God's purpose (v.21). May we likewise not be intimidated or cease to live or speak the truth.
"Proclaim all these words in the cities of Judah and in the streets of Jerusalem, saying, Hear the words of this covenant and do them (v.6). …warning persistently, Listen to my voice" (v.7).
Personal Response: When love and promise
fails, I will warn persistently (v.7) of the consequences of rejecting God's
covenant, utterly precious, sealed by the very blood of the Son of God shed for
My Prayer: Father, give me a right spirit, that I
might love wholeheartedly, proclaim your grace and truth likewise and without
compromise. Jeremiah 12
Right Hearts: To speak rightly with our lips
while the Lord is far from heart and mind does not deceive the Lord who
Obedience despite Hardship and Opposition: Having been opposed
by those of his home town Anathoth (11:21), Jeremiah asks the Lord the age-old
question, why do the wicked prosper? (12:1). God simply challenges Jeremiah to
prepare for more difficult days. The hostility experienced from the men of Anathoth (“the
footmen”) was small compared with opposition to come from the king, court and
priests of Jerusalem (“the horsemen” v.5).
"If you have run with footmen and they
have tired you out, how will you compete with horses?" (v.5)
Half-heartedness: Professing churches
may become like speckled birds, displaying a mixture of devotion to the Lord and
distraction by the world, leaving the world confused and uninterested and the
church, in the
end, prey to the world (v. 9). Then comes judgement when silver and gold
does not profit (v.13).
Hope for the nations: Like God's own people,
the surrounding nations who struck Judah, will be uprooted like Judah (v.14).
Yet if they learn God's ways from Judah and walk in those ways, they too will be saved
Apparently surrounding pagan nations swore
"As Baal lives" and taught Judah to do the same. Some in Judah
reversed their error
saying instead "As the Lord lives." Personal Application: I will turn my eye
quickly from the potential of temptation. I will not be satisfied with externals
(virtue signaling) but examine my heart to see what the Lord sees (v.3).
I, with all God's servants, will examine my heart and prepare to obey despite
suffering. My Prayer: Father, I will be satisfied with
nothing less than costly obedience before you. Give me courage, strength and
endurance to "run with
horses" when called to do so.
Intimacy scorned: As the waistcloth
(v.1-10), signifying the intimacy offered by Yahweh in His covenant but rejected
by Israel, was made worthless (v.10), so Israel made themselves worthless to
God's purpose of showing His glory to the nations (v.11).
Chaos results: Rejecting roots in God their
redeemer, Israel becomes disorientated, as inebriated (v.13), stumbling in the dark (v.14),
dashed against each other (v.14).
The righteous weep: Jeremiah sobs in secret
(v.17) at such waste and loss. It is now certain "the flock of the Lord" will be
taken captive into exile (v.17), yet ask "Why have these things happened to
How strong the stubbornness of pride:
Despite adverse outcomes, pride holds its course to destruction. It as hard for
pride, accustomed to do evil, to relax its hold on the tiller as for a leopard
to change his spots (v.23). Those who trust in falsehood (v.25) fall. Personal Application: I
will cling to intimate relationship with Yahweh. I
will desire His renown. Nothing is more
life-giving, more precious, more worthy of worship, beyond all utterance, than
God in all His glory.
My Prayer: Father, when I
sob in secret (v.17) at the pride and blindness of those who pass you by, you
hear me and are with me. Father, reveal every vestige of pride which
clings to me that you might root it out and make me pure by the blood of Christ.
God's unheeded warning: Drought is added to
God's multiple warnings to return to Him (v.1-6). Despite the severity of
the drought, there is
no indication Judah sought relief from any source but its idols.
Jeremiah's intercession: Through the
crisis Jeremiah continued to confess sin
(v.7), appealing to Israel's only hope (v.8) and asking God not to abandon those He had called
Limits of intercession: God states the
obvious - Judah loves to wander, God accepts their decision and it's consequence
(v.10). Jeremiah is shocked at God's directive to stop praying (v.11) but the point
of no return has come. Even if Judah fasts and offers sacrifices God will take
no heed. Punishment is at hand (v.12).
The "Other" Prophets: Jeremiah points out
there are other prophets who offer hope (v.13). God declares them false,
from God but from their own minds (v.14). Punishment will come both to false
prophets (v.15) and those who believe them (v.16).
Tears and lament: Jeremiah is known as the
weeping prophet because only tears are left (v.17) as judgement comes (v18).
Even in bitter lament (v.19-20),
Jeremiah cannot but continue to plead and pray (v.19-22) for there is no other hope
in heaven and earth but Yahweh (v.22).
While God's covenant stands firm and His purposes
everlasting, God's discipline may extend to removing an entire generation or more
if needed to purify His people. God did so during 40
years in the wilderness after the Exodus, 70 years in the exile, and may do so
again to entire nations.
The LORD said to me: "Do not pray for the welfare of this
people. Though they fast, I will not hear their cry, and though they offer burnt
offering and grain offering, I will not accept them. But I will consume them by
the sword, by famine, and by pestilence." (v.11-12)
Personal Application: I will pray for our
nation and for the lost around me until God stays stop. I may continue even then because the
Lord is our only hope and we cannot live without hope.
My Prayer: Father, break the stubbornness of
the unrepentant, even though with a hammer if necessary, but do not forsake
those You have called. Lord, abandon not any nation or any member of our family.
Father, keep me faithful in intercession even when I see no evidence of fruit or
even bud or softening.
My Prayer: Father, give me a right spirit, that I might love wholeheartedly, proclaim your grace and truth likewise and without compromise.
Right Hearts: To speak rightly with our lips while the Lord is far from heart and mind does not deceive the Lord who knows (v.2-3).
Obedience despite Hardship and Opposition: Having been opposed by those of his home town Anathoth (11:21), Jeremiah asks the Lord the age-old question, why do the wicked prosper? (12:1). God simply challenges Jeremiah to prepare for more difficult days. The hostility experienced from the men of Anathoth (“the footmen”) was small compared with opposition to come from the king, court and priests of Jerusalem (“the horsemen” v.5).
"If you have run with footmen and they have tired you out, how will you compete with horses?" (v.5)
Half-heartedness: Professing churches may become like speckled birds, displaying a mixture of devotion to the Lord and distraction by the world, leaving the world confused and uninterested and the church, in the end, prey to the world (v. 9). Then comes judgement when silver and gold does not profit (v.13).
Hope for the nations: Like God's own people, the surrounding nations who struck Judah, will be uprooted like Judah (v.14). Yet if they learn God's ways from Judah and walk in those ways, they too will be saved (v.16).
Apparently surrounding pagan nations swore "As Baal lives" and taught Judah to do the same. Some in Judah reversed their error saying instead "As the Lord lives."
Personal Application: I will turn my eye quickly from the potential of temptation. I will not be satisfied with externals (virtue signaling) but examine my heart to see what the Lord sees (v.3). I, with all God's servants, will examine my heart and prepare to obey despite suffering.
My Prayer: Father, I will be satisfied with nothing less than costly obedience before you. Give me courage, strength and endurance to "run with horses" when called to do so.
Intimacy scorned: As the waistcloth (v.1-10), signifying the intimacy offered by Yahweh in His covenant but rejected by Israel, was made worthless (v.10), so Israel made themselves worthless to God's purpose of showing His glory to the nations (v.11).
Chaos results: Rejecting roots in God their redeemer, Israel becomes disorientated, as inebriated (v.13), stumbling in the dark (v.14), dashed against each other (v.14).
The righteous weep: Jeremiah sobs in secret (v.17) at such waste and loss. It is now certain "the flock of the Lord" will be taken captive into exile (v.17), yet ask "Why have these things happened to me?" (v.22).
How strong the stubbornness of pride: Despite adverse outcomes, pride holds its course to destruction. It as hard for pride, accustomed to do evil, to relax its hold on the tiller as for a leopard to change his spots (v.23). Those who trust in falsehood (v.25) fall.
Personal Application: I will cling to intimate relationship with Yahweh. I will desire His renown. Nothing is more life-giving, more precious, more worthy of worship, beyond all utterance, than God in all His glory.
My Prayer: Father, when I sob in secret (v.17) at the pride and blindness of those who pass you by, you hear me and are with me. Father, reveal every vestige of pride which clings to me that you might root it out and make me pure by the blood of Christ.
God's unheeded warning: Drought is added to God's multiple warnings to return to Him (v.1-6). Despite the severity of the drought, there is no indication Judah sought relief from any source but its idols.
Jeremiah's intercession: Through the crisis Jeremiah continued to confess sin (v.7), appealing to Israel's only hope (v.8) and asking God not to abandon those He had called (v.9).
Limits of intercession: God states the obvious - Judah loves to wander, God accepts their decision and it's consequence (v.10). Jeremiah is shocked at God's directive to stop praying (v.11) but the point of no return has come. Even if Judah fasts and offers sacrifices God will take no heed. Punishment is at hand (v.12).
The "Other" Prophets: Jeremiah points out there are other prophets who offer hope (v.13). God declares them false, speaking not from God but from their own minds (v.14). Punishment will come both to false prophets (v.15) and those who believe them (v.16).
Tears and lament: Jeremiah is known as the weeping prophet because only tears are left (v.17) as judgement comes (v18). Even in bitter lament (v.19-20), Jeremiah cannot but continue to plead and pray (v.19-22) for there is no other hope in heaven and earth but Yahweh (v.22).
While God's covenant stands firm and His purposes everlasting, God's discipline may extend to removing an entire generation or more if needed to purify His people. God did so during 40 years in the wilderness after the Exodus, 70 years in the exile, and may do so again to entire nations.
The LORD said to me: "Do not pray for the welfare of this people. Though they fast, I will not hear their cry, and though they offer burnt offering and grain offering, I will not accept them. But I will consume them by the sword, by famine, and by pestilence." (v.11-12)
Personal Application: I will pray for our nation and for the lost around me until God stays stop. I may continue even then because the Lord is our only hope and we cannot live without hope.
My Prayer: Father, break the stubbornness of the unrepentant, even though with a hammer if necessary, but do not forsake those You have called. Lord, abandon not any nation or any member of our family. Father, keep me faithful in intercession even when I see no evidence of fruit or even bud or softening.
"Divine wrath against a provoking people" (Matthew Henry): While some believe God's patience with blatant sin is without end, they are in error. The point of no return, however distant, can and will be reached by those who persist in sin. When that point is reached, God will not longer listen to His intercessors (v.1), His hearts turns away, His presence lets them go.
Judgement comes: Reprieve for a season is not pardon and God is weary of relenting (v.6). When His judgements come, some may be instantaneous, such as the sword, others enduring, such as captivity (v.2). The means of judgement may vary, but inevitably comes those who persist in rebellion against God, yes, even upon the post-Christian West. Judgement uproots the sin of our generation, which in turn is rooted in and grows out of the sin of past generations. E.g. Manasseh's sin (2 Kings 24:4, made worse by his rejection of his godly father, Hezekiah), was a taproot. Sin grew from it for generations and Judah refused to turn from it (v.7).
The sentence: utter ruin without intercessors to plead for aid (v.1) or even seven warrior sons to fight against armies bringing judgement (v.9). The destroyer, bold and confident, need not come by night but brings judgement at high noon (v.8). No one will intervene, take pity or even mourn (v.5).
Jeremiah grieves over his failed mission: Jeremiah is widely disliked due to his rejected message. Would that his mother had not brought him forth (v.10). Jeremiah had long clung to hope of success, as does a traveler seeking water from a stream in a desert, but his hope had proven deceptive (v.18). His pain over failure was perpetual, the wound would not heal (v.18). This, though Jeremiah had been faithful (v.15-17), taking into himself and speaking out God's word, enduring reproach from those who rejected it, and feeling the very indignation of God against sin.
God's encouragement: assures Jeremiah that the purposes for which God called him remained good and that at least some of those who had been enemies of God would come to Jeremiah for help (v.11). God renews his call to Jeremiah to be His spokesman (v.19), to focus on the precious in the midst of the worthless, to stand firm in righteousness - whether or not the unrighteous turn.
Sometimes, despite faithfulness, those who are obedient to God fail in their mission and suffer at the hands of those who reject righteousness. Bonhoeffer is one such person, widely known, but many others like him are lesser known. We must know fame matters not, only faithfulness.
Personal Application: I will be faithful in my calling, doing my best and measuring myself ultimately not by success in the eyes of others but by God's approval. In this I will not allow myself to despair, even while the post-Christian West, and individuals I care deeply about, suffer in a controlled demolition at the hands of evil men (today's Babylonians bringing God's judgement).
My Prayer: Father, speak and I will eat and repeat your Words (v.16). Give me joy and delight in your Word regardless of the response of others. Father, accomplish Your purposes. I am your vessel and instrument.
Jeremiah's social restrictions become powerful parables: God did not permit Jeremiah to marry and have a family (v.2-3) or participate in funerals (v.5-7) or celebrate with his friends (v.8-9). These living parables would have been unspeakably difficult for Jeremiah.
Jeremiah's social parables raise questions: When asked (v.10), Jeremiah is to warn of God's coming judgement for the idolatry of Judah's forefathers (v.11) as well as the continuing idolatry of his own generation (v.12).
God's ultimate purpose: Judah will be ejected from it's land (v.13) for a season (v.14-15) that Israel may know that Yahweh - who delivered them from Egypt (v.14) and from exile in Babylon (v.15) - alone is God, creator and redeemer (v.21).
Oh Lord my strength and my stronghold, and my refuge in the day of distress, to You the nations will come from the ends of the earth (v.19)
Personal Application: God gives unique assignments to each His children to accomplish the fullness of His purpose. If my role brings discomfort to me, as Jeremiah's role did to him, I will accept and fulfil God's calling. My identity is not in my social standing but in my relation to God. I will serve the Living God alone. I will live and speak the truth faithfully, though as a minority or alone.
My Prayer: Father, give me courage and wisdom to reflect Your word and invitation to turn to You and be restored, spoken in love, regardless of popularity or response.
Embedded: Why does Judah not repent? So deeply embedded is Judah's idolatry that it is like the engraving of a iron stylus with a diamond point. (This technology in the 7th century BC is remarkable.) Idolatry is as deeply embedded in Judah as is the allegiance parents have to their children (v.2). For this idolatry, Judah will freely give up its inheritance of the promised land to serve their enemies in a land they do not know (v.4).
Matter of the Heart: Truth, clearly spoken, has no guaranteed effect. It is the heart that accepts or filters out truth. The heart that turns away from the Lord becomes like stony wasteland (v.6) having forsaken the only source of living water (v.13). The heart that trusts the Lord is like a thriving tree planted by a life-giving stream, fruitful even in drought (v.8).
Examine my heart: the natural condition of fallen man is to hide what they choose from others (deceit, v.9) and to take advantage of the labour of others (v.11). But God sees and will give to each according to his ways. Note especially this includes not our intentions but the real results (intended or otherwise) of our deeds (v.10).
Jeremiah's dilemma: Jeremiah's detractors mock the delay of judgement (v.15). Yet Jeremiah does not long for that woeful day (v.16). However he does pray that his persecutors, rather than he, be put to shame (v.18).
The public gate: is the symbol of commerce (v.21) demonstrating, also on the Sabbath, Judah's rejection of Yahweh. Jeremiah views Sabbath rest a litmus test of covenant keeping. Covenant keeping will result in long-term prosperity (v.25) evidenced by always bringing produce and offerings to the Lord through the public gates (v.26). Covenant breaking will result in destruction of the city (v.27).
Personal Application: I will keep continual watch on the results of my deeds, do they express practical love, do they bring healing, hope, encouragement? (Narrow focus here on deeds, not words. Words, require their own examination.)
My Prayer: Father, give me eyes to see deeds, that if done, express practical love, and to do them with joy.
God's sovereignty: So important is God's word that He uses images as well as words to communicate. God used a word "Go to the potters house" (v.2) to give an image "as the clay in the potters hand..." (v.6) so Judah would understand the absolute sovereignty of God over the nations and repent. God can and will be as a potter reshaping or throwing out clay according to His good purpose (v.7-9).
God's good intentions are conditional: God intends good and promises blessing to this people and the nations (v.10). We however must trust Him, love and align with His purposes. Disobedience and deliberate evil takes us out of alignment.
God is not in a hurry: God plans good (v.10) and, if good is rejected, "fashions calamity" to come (v.11) just as the potter fashions good but may refashion or even discard a family line or nation over the years. God gives us time to leave the paths onto which we wander and return to His highway (v.15). Why would we not return? (v.13-16) If God walks away we will see only His back (v.17).
Jeremiah's frustration: Though Jeremiah warned and interceded for them (v.20), Judah rejected God and made plans to harm Jeremiah (v.18), repaying good with evil (v.20). Jeremiah erupts with frustration and anger (temporarily at least) willing to leave Judah to the consequences of their decisions. (v.21-23).
If at any time I declare concerning a nation or a kingdom that I will build and plant it, and if it does evil in my sight, not listening to my voice, then I will relent of the good that I had intended to do to it. (Jer 18:9-10)
God is sovereign, righteous, patient, just and desirous to bless. To our own hurt we can stand, only temporarily, in His way.
Personal Application: I will call people to return to the "ancient paths" (v.15) laid down by the Lord into His Kingdom of blessing and glory.
My Prayer: Father, give me the clarity, focus, persistence and courage of Jeremiah as I invite and urge people into Your covenant, forgiveness and blessing.
The symbol: "an earthenware jar (v.1), once hardened, could not be remade but had to be broken if unacceptable. Judah had arrived at that stage." (Ryrie)
The witnesses: Jeremiah took leaders, religious and civic (v.1), with him to the place broken pottery is discarded (v.2).
The message: God will break Judah like pottery because Judah has forsaken God (v.4) to follow Baal, burning their infants in sacrifice to demons (v.5). Judah and Jerusalem will fall to Babylon (v.7) following a siege with horrific outcomes (v.8-9). The defiled houses and their rooftop altars where Judah sacrificed to demons (v.13) will be destroyed.
The reason: Judah has stiffened its neck and turned its back to the Lord and refused to listen or respond to His word, covenant, love or Lordship.
v.10-11: Then you are to break the jar in the sight of the men who accompany you and say to them, "Thus says the Lord of Hosts, "Just so shall I break this people…"
Personal Application: The courage of Jeremiah to speak truth to power is rare. Who then, is now called to this prophetic role among the nations that once worshiped the Lord? I will wrestle with how such a prophetic act applies at the abortuaries of our nation. Which is the more violent act: the breaking of a dead pot or the dismemberment of an living infant?
My Prayer: Father,
when the call to return to You comes to naught, where does the prophet turn?
When judgment alone remains, how do I wait?
What do I do while awaiting the
inevitable? Father, increase my courage from Your heart.
The Cost of Speaking God's Word: Jeremiah was beaten (v.2), likely with 40 lashes to his feet, before being put in stocks overnight. Bending the body this way produces sustained pain as muscles cannot be relaxed.
The Urgency of Speaking God's Word: Yet, upon his release, Jeremiah immediately challenged Pashhur, declaring his fate and that of his friends to whom Pashhur had prophesied falsely (v.6). Though costly and resulting in reproach and derision (v.8), Jeremiah spoke nevertheless because God's Word was like fire within (v.9); it had to come out regardless of cost.
The Distress of Speaking God's Word: Jeremiah complained about the dilemma of being being mocked for his obedience, yet overcome by God's call (v.7) and the pain caused him. The distress was so strong Jeremiah wished his mother had not brought him forth (v.14-18).
God, who calls, sees and tests the righteous: Yet, it was in the womb that God had called Jeremiah (1:5). God knows both the hearts and minds of those He calls and, yes, tests us (v.12).
Hearing and obeying the Word of the Lord can be difficult, especially when called to speak the truth to power.
Personal Response: I am encouraged that the Lord sees the minds and hearts of men and women. I will accept the tests He brings me (v.12). I will hear and obey the voice of the Lord.
My Prayer: Father, let me not listen casually, lightly; enabling Your word to slide over me without going in. Let me rather hear all You have for me. Give me then both courage and joy as I speak and live it, Your living Word.
Undeterred: Jeremiah has been beaten and tortured by Pashhur the priest (20:2) for speaking God's Word of judgement, now Pashhur asks assurance on behalf of King Zedekiah that God will remove the siege of Babylon (v.1-2) hoping for a more positive response. Jeremiah is not intimidated or swayed. He speaks the truth, undeterred.
God's Word does not change: God Himself now wars against Judah (v.5, 13) and will punish with famine, illness and sword (v.6) giving victory to Babylon (v.7) because Israel followed other gods (22:9) and lived out the evil deeds involved in rejecting Yahweh (21:12).
Mercy in judgement: Yet to those who surrender to Nebuchadnezzar will live in community in exile and not die like those who refuse God's Word (v.9). Choose the way of life (v.8): this includes surrender to Babylon, serve Yahweh alone in exile, living in just, not oppressive relationships with each other (v.12). The moral bar is low (22:3) for His wayward children, very low compared to Jesus.
"Thus says the Lord, behold I set before you the way of life and the way of death." (v.8) The way of life and the way of death (v.8) are ever before us, before our nation and before our Father's world.
Personal Response: I will choose life, allegiance to Yahweh, not only His "entry level" moral standards (22:9) but the higher, costly way of love called for and modeled by Jesus.
My Prayer: Father,
even exile is grace and not the judgement Israel and Canada deserves. Thank you
that your grace is ever before us. Thank you for the joy of the way of life.
Fast-paced Judgement: God's patience is far greater then ours. Many evil kings have ruled Israel and Judah (see overview chart). Josiah was the last good king of Judah. God's Word to the evil sons of Josiah make clear that judgement, when it comes after many warnings and immense patience, is swift and final.
Exile to Egypt (v.10-12): Josiah's evil son Shallum (or Jehoahaz 1 Chron 3:15) ruled only 3 months before being departed to Egypt by Neco. He never returned (2 Kings 23:29-35).
Unmourned and unburied (v. 13-19): Josiah's son Jehoiakim was Shallum's elder brother and successor and like Shallum, evil. God rebukes Jehoiahkim for failing even the most basic good of paying workers their wages (v.13). While Josiah lived righteously and received all he needed (v.15-16), Jehoiakim violently took what he needed through dishonestly, oppression, extortion and the shedding innocent blood (v.17). As a result Jehoiakim would not be mourned (v.18) but his body dragged off and thrown out (v.19) without burial (2 Kings 24:6).
Exile to Babylon (v.20-30): Josiah's grandson Jehoiachin (or Coniah) likewise refused the Word of the Lord (v.21). He too ruled only three months and was given over to Nebuchadnezzar and exile in Babylon (25-27) where his descendants would not prosper. Jehoiachin was considered "childless" (v.30) in the sense that his children, though having legal rights to the throne, never continued his dynasty.
God's judgement, for those who consistently reject His covenant of grace, appears to be without mercy. Yet not so. God's mercy has in fact been poured out, often for decades or centuries, in His patience, calling and spurned offer of salvation. God's judgement then comes as faithfulness to His word.
"I spoke to you in your prosperity, but you said, 'I will not listen.' This has been your practice from your youth, that you have not obeyed my voice." (v.21)
Personal Response: I will make it my daily practice to adjust my heart and listen for His voice that I may miss nothing of the Lord's guidance, course correction or encouragement I need today.
My Prayer: Father, thank you for your presence and voice, graciously aligning me with your blessing and salvation. Lord enable me to hear with sensitivity, miss nothing and obey quickly with joy.
In process...please come again...