Jeremiah 48 prophesies the downfall of the people of Moab. It is a very long chapter, and there is a very long list of all the reasons that God is going to have this happen, but the main one is the fact that they were overly proud.
Jer 48:7 For because thou hast trusted in thy works and in thy treasures, thou shalt also be taken: and Chemosh shall go forth into captivity with his priests and his princes together.
Jer 48:29 We have heard the pride of Moab, (he is exceeding proud) his loftiness, and his arrogancy, and his pride, and the haughtiness of his heart.
I point this out because pride is one of the things that it is sometimes hard to see within ourselves. It is one of those things that kind of sneaks up on us, and it seems like it was the same way for the people of Moab.
Jer 48:39 They shall howl, saying, How is it broken down! how hath Moab turned the back with shame! so shall Moab be a derision and a dismaying to all them about him.
The people were going to wonder why everything fell apart. They thought that it was going well, and they were proud of their society. They were going to be genuinely surprised when they found that they had been invaded just like everyone else.
That comes back to pride. Pride gives us a higher opinion of ourselves than that which is merited. Self-esteem is a good thing. It is good to like the person that we were designed to be. I don’t want to come across as sounding like we ought to continually live in a state of self-loathing.
However, the perspective is what is important. We may like things that we have done, but the praise for it goes to God rather than to us. For example, say I built a beautiful building. I did build it with my hands, but I am not responsible for the fact that I am good at building. The talent comes from God who gave it to me in the way that He designed me.
If we think that we are the beginning of our own talent, we’re stopping a step too early, and that is where pride is dangerous. That was what was happening to the people of Moab. They were trusting in themselves, and they did not go up a level to realize that it was actually God who really deserved the praise.
In Jeremiah 47, we receive a rather interesting prophecy that Jeremiah made regarding the fate of the Philistines. I know that I tend to use the word interesting an awful lot to describe prophecy, but it is particularly notable in this case that this probably would have been viewed as a good sign to most of the people of Judah. The Philistines were longtime enemies of God’s people, so this might have been a kind of welcome sign.
Babylon was going to come rolling into the land of the Philistines as well.
Jer 47:4 Because of the day that cometh to spoil all the Philistines, and to cut off from Tyrus and Zidon every helper that remaineth: for the LORD will spoil the Philistines, the remnant of the country of Caphtor.
Jer 47:5 Baldness is come upon Gaza; Ashkelon is cut off with the remnant of their valley: how long wilt thou cut thyself?
Jer 47:6 O thou sword of the LORD, how long will it be ere thou be quiet? put up thyself into thy scabbard, rest, and be still.
Jer 47:7 How can it be quiet, seeing the LORD hath given it a charge against Ashkelon, and against the sea shore? there hath he appointed it.
Verses six and seven combine in such a way that demonstrate the power of the prophecy of God. We don’t take it as seriously as we ought to.
Verse six points out that the sword of God, figuratively speaking of Babylon, has been busy for a long time, and Jeremiah is asking when that might slow down.
Verse seven says that it simply can’t slow down because God said that Babylon was going to conquer all the way to the seashore. The prophecy was powerful. It was not just a kind of thing that God said kind of haphazardly. When He said that history was going to develop in a certain way, it was going to happen in that way.
I think that we sometimes forget about this when we talk about God and His prophecies which He delivered to people like Jeremiah. It was not as if they were just instructions on what to do if something happened. They were statements that something was going to happen. There was a power that God has when He speaks that certainly ought to compel us not only to listen to but also to trust.
In Jeremiah 46, we hear the ultimate reason that God did not want the people of Israel to go to Egypt. Babylon was going to come in and take over the land. While they were there, the people of Judah who had run there were going to be devastated as well. However, it was going to be okay for the people of Israel because God had been at work the whole time.
Jer 46:27 But fear not thou, O my servant Jacob, and be not dismayed, O Israel: for, behold, I will save thee from afar off, and thy seed from the land of their captivity; and Jacob shall return, and be in rest and at ease, and none shall make him afraid.
Jer 46:28 Fear thou not, O Jacob my servant, saith the LORD: for I am with thee; for I will make a full end of all the nations whither I have driven thee: but I will not make a full end of thee, but correct thee in measure; yet will I not leave thee wholly unpunished.
From the beginning, God had been telling the people that the best course of action was to submit to Babylonian rule, and they didn’t listen. First, they decided to try to fight, and that didn’t go well. Then, the ones that were left behind in Judah to work the land decided that they wanted to run away and not submit.
The people were literally doing whatever they could to disobey what God had told them. Part of that might be because they did not want to be captives, and I can’t necessarily say I blame them on one level.
However, at the same time, when God tells us something, we need to be obedient. Think about Jonah. Think about the fact that Saul was supposed to wait for Samuel before making a sacrifice prior to battle. Actions have consequences, and people are responsible for the choices they make. However, one thing to notice about this particular situation is that God had everything already set for how the people were going to come back to Jerusalem. He was going to do it through the people who did what they had to do and submitted to Babylonian captivity.
In Jeremiah 45, everything seems to be a little bit out of order. Given the chronology presented in the first verse, this chapter was written prior to the conquering of Jerusalem. That then makes these last two verses much more understandable.
Jer 45:4 Thus shalt thou say unto him, The LORD saith thus; Behold, that which I have built will I break down, and that which I have planted I will pluck up, even this whole land.
Jer 45:5 And seekest thou great things for thyself? seek them not: for, behold, I will bring evil upon all flesh, saith the LORD: but thy life will I give unto thee for a prey in all places whither thou goest.
With the proper chronology, this is obviously pointing to the fact that Judah will be overrun. Fulfilled prophecy is interesting in and of itself, but I want to do with a little more technical issue today regarding God bringing evil.
In the world today, we have a very specific meaning of the word evil that it has not necessarily had throughout history. The Hebrew word that was used here is ra’. I am not a Hebrew scholar by any means, but as you read the definition in the concordance, this word does not necessarily carry the connotation of evil that we think of today. Some of the proposed ways to translate this word are adversity, grief, or trouble.
This kind of clarifies the issue that we might run into when people take this verse out of context and say that it necessarily indicates that the perfectly good God creates moral evil.
As we have been reading this entire narrative about the people of Judah, there was a choice. They could do what God told them to do, or God was going to allow adversity and trouble to come to them. There is certainly a difference between bringing evil, in the modern sense of the word, and bringing adversity or something like disaster.
The lesson I hope we all take away from this is that Biblical interpretation is not easy. We want to be very careful that we do it properly. There are cases like this where misinterpretation causes potential theological problems, but there are also cases where misinterpretation might not cause a problem per se, but it arises from not viewing the text in the right way. For example, we could read the Psalms as poetry since that are what they are meant to be, and there are certain characteristics of that genre. To read the Psalms as a historical narrative might not create a theological problem, but it would not do the text justice because we would not be understanding it in the way it ought to be understood. We need to make sure that we do not take this lightly.
In Jeremiah 44, the people of Judah are already in trouble because they disobeyed the word of God and ran away to Egypt. Then, once they got there, they picked up idolatry with some of the Egyptian gods, and when Jeremiah called them out on it, here is how they responded:
Jer 44:16 As for the word that thou hast spoken unto us in the name of the LORD, we will not hearken unto thee.
Jer 44:17 But we will certainly do whatsoever thing goeth forth out of our own mouth, to burn incense unto the queen of heaven, and to pour out drink offerings unto her, as we have done, we, and our fathers, our kings, and our princes, in the cities of Judah, and in the streets of Jerusalem: for then had we plenty of victuals, and were well, and saw no evil.
Jer 44:18 But since we left off to burn incense to the queen of heaven, and to pour out drink offerings unto her, we have wanted all things, and have been consumed by the sword and by the famine.
Jer 44:19 And when we burned incense to the queen of heaven, and poured out drink offerings unto her, did we make her cakes to worship her, and pour out drink offerings unto her, without our men?
Just for the sake of completeness, I give you Jeremiah’s response as well.
Jer 44:21 The incense that ye burned in the cities of Judah, and in the streets of Jerusalem, ye, and your fathers, your kings, and your princes, and the people of the land, did not the LORD remember them, and came it not into his mind?
Jer 44:22 So that the LORD could no longer bear, because of the evil of your doings, and because of the abominations which ye have committed; therefore is your land a desolation, and an astonishment, and a curse, without an inhabitant, as at this day.
Jer 44:23 Because ye have burned incense, and because ye have sinned against the LORD, and have not obeyed the voice of the LORD, nor walked in his law, nor in his statutes, nor in his testimonies; therefore this evil is happened unto you, as at this day.
The basic argument was that worshiping the idol worked before, so why should we stop? When we were doing it in Jerusalem, there were no consequences. In fact, everything seemed to be going well, so why not worship the goddess?
Jeremiah must have been mind-blown. The people were attributing the previous blessings to someone other than God, but where did the evidence point? The God of the Bible had been right about everything so far in regards to both the good and the bad. It was obvious that He knew what He was talking about when He spoke to Jeremiah. Wouldn’t that seem to imply that maybe He was the one in charge of everything, including the previous blessings, if every time He said something, it came to be?
I think that the biggest problem here was that the people were simply opposed to God as an explanation. We see that today in the natural sciences. It isn’t that there is a lack of evidence for the existence of some kind of intelligent designer behind the universe, but ideologically, many people are opposed to the supernatural by default. It is a presuppositional bias that obviously colors the way you interpret the results because you disqualify certain possibilities based on philosophy.
I hope that this never happens to us. I hope that we can recognize God for who He is and are not actively trying to attribute what He does to ourselves or anyone else.
Jeremiah might have been the most ignored prophet in the entire Bible. He told the people that they would be destroyed if they went to Egypt, but here is how they responded in Jeremiah 43.
Jer 43:2 Then spake Azariah the son of Hoshaiah, and Johanan the son of Kareah, and all the proud men, saying unto Jeremiah, Thou speakest falsely: the LORD our God hath not sent thee to say, Go not into Egypt to sojourn there:
Jer 43:3 But Baruch the son of Neriah setteth thee on against us, for to deliver us into the hand of the Chaldeans, that they might put us to death, and carry us away captives into Babylon.
I feel incredibly bad for Jeremiah, and I know that this would have been frustrating for me. I don’t like when people wrongly criticize my character, and I can’t believe that Jeremiah liked it very much either. He knew that he heard directly from God, and he knew that everything they were saying about him was false, but we don’t have any indication that he lost his temper or anything like that.
I think that this is something we need to observe from him. God never promised us that people would be nice to us because we were followers of Him. In fact, Jesus told us that the world would hate us because it first hated Him. Jeremiah is living proof of that. He was faithful to God. He preached everything that God told him to preach, and he did not object to telling the people what they had to hear.
We have seen him thrown into jail and slandered as a result of that commitment at different points in this book. People do not always want to hear from God. In some cases like Jeremiah, people don’t want to hear that they need to submit to the authority of God and do what He says. People want to do their own thing.
The encouragement we can take from Jeremiah is that God gave him the strength to continue preaching in spite of all of this frustration. God help us handle these situations as well.
After all that went down with the assassination in Judah, the people were afraid and came back to Jeremiah. In Jeremiah 42, they asked him to talk to God on their behalf because they wanted to have some type of sense of direction. On one hand, they didn’t want the rage of Nebuchadnezzar coming down on them because of the actions of Ishmael, but they also wanted to stay in their homeland.
Jer 42:19 The LORD hath said concerning you, O ye remnant of Judah; Go ye not into Egypt: know certainly that I have admonished you this day.
Jer 42:20 For ye dissembled in your hearts, when ye sent me unto the LORD your God, saying, Pray for us unto the LORD our God; and according unto all that the LORD our God shall say, so declare unto us, and we will do it.
Jer 42:21 And now I have this day declared it to you; but ye have not obeyed the voice of the LORD your God, nor any thing for the which he hath sent me unto you.
Jer 42:22 Now therefore know certainly that ye shall die by the sword, by the famine, and by the pestilence, in the place whither ye desire to go and to sojourn.
God was pretty clear with Jeremiah. If the people went Egypt, it would be really bad news. Previously in this chapter, God told Jeremiah that if they remained in Judah, He would protect them from Nebuchadnezzar, and all would be well. Even with the political upheaval, there would not be the revenge that it seems the people were anticipating.
As these verses point out, God knew that the people really wanted to run away to Egypt, so on one hand you kind of have to wonder why they bothered asking Jeremiah in the first place. If the decision was basically made, why ask for an opinion that you won’t even acknowledge?
Part of me wonders if the people were looking for God as a complement to their own will. It seems like they were saying that we are going to do what we want to do, but it would be nice if God agrees with us. Obviously, that last part was not necessary, but it reduces the power of God to an unacceptable level.
When we are making these decisions and are searching for guidance from God, His opinion needs to come first. That people should have come to Jeremiah with a mind prepared to listen to God. Then, they would have been welcome to either outcome. However, it seems as if their lack of trust ended up being their downfall.
If you think way back to the beginning of this issue between Babylon and the people of Judah, God has always been telling them that everything would be fine if they would humble themselves and submit to the imminent captivity. However, they didn’t like that, and yesterday we saw the people taken captive and largely hauled off to Babylon.
Today, in Jeremiah 41, you would think that the people would have learned by now that this captivity had to be the amount of time as prophesied by Jeremiah. It was not that easy, and they continued to try to rebel from under the plan that God had laid out.
Jer 41:2 Then arose Ishmael the son of Nethaniah, and the ten men that were with him, and smote Gedaliah the son of Ahikam the son of Shaphan with the sword, and slew him, whom the king of Babylon had made governor over the land.
Jer 41:3 Ishmael also slew all the Jews that were with him, even with Gedaliah, at Mizpah, and the Chaldeans that were found there, and the men of war.
Jer 41:4 And it came to pass the second day after he had slain Gedaliah, and no man knew it,
It almost seems like Ishmael, who was a distant relative of Zedekiah, thought that the way he get back his power was by simply murdering the person who was put in charge for the time. Maybe he thought that the people would rally behind him and overthrow Babylonian rule.
I only bring this up because we know that it was prophesied that the Babylonians were going to rule. Jeremiah already said that earlier in the book, and it is not as if God would not have seen this coming. It is not as if God was surprised that Ishmael what do this.
I guess my main point is simply that we need to pay attention to the word of God as we go through our everyday lives. For example, if the Bible distinctly tells us something is wrong, we don’t get to go and change it because we want to. Now, there is always the possibility that we were previously interpreting something incorrectly, so I understand that that kind of thing can change. However, it is never a good idea to go explicitly against something that God has laid out. It is not as if our rebellion is justified simply because it is a rebellion that we feel is justified.
In Jeremiah 40, we have the fallout from the Babylonian invasion. Jeremiah had decided to remain with the remnant of poor people who the Babylonians had left behind to occupy the land of Judah while the rest of the nation was taken away. Gedaliah was the man who was chosen to be the governor over Judah, and he made it rather simple for the people.
Jer 40:9 And Gedaliah the son of Ahikam the son of Shaphan sware unto them and to their men, saying, Fear not to serve the Chaldeans: dwell in the land, and serve the king of Babylon, and it shall be well with you.
Jer 40:10 As for me, behold, I will dwell at Mizpah to serve the Chaldeans, which will come unto us: but ye, gather ye wine, and summer fruits, and oil, and put them in your vessels, and dwell in your cities that ye have taken.
Basically, as long as everyone did their jobs, there would be no problem from the higher levels of government. In my mind, this seems reasonable. If I was one of those who was commanded to remain in Judah, I would not have been thrilled of course to be under foreign rule, but in terms of oppression, this was a lot better than it could have been without a doubt.
It is interesting how even in this rather tame situation, it seemed as if discord was only one rumor away.
Jer 40:15 Then Johanan the son of Kareah spake to Gedaliah in Mizpah secretly, saying, Let me go, I pray thee, and I will slay Ishmael the son of Nethaniah, and no man shall know it: wherefore should he slay thee, that all the Jews which are gathered unto thee should be scattered, and the remnant in Judah perish?
Gedaliah did not seem to be worried about this plot, but he should have been as we will find out tomorrow (my apologies for the spoiler).
I bring up this story because it is important to remember that our position on earth is precarious. Gedaliah seemed to be doing some decent things. He was trying to make life as good as he could for the people in Judah, but people were nevertheless beginning to spread rumors and eventually acted on those rumors.
If we put all of our trust in the world (I am not saying that Gedaliah necessarily was; I don’t know an awful lot about his spiritual life), it very well might turn on us even if we are doing good things for the people. How much better is it to make sure that we put our trust in God? We certainly still can and should do good things for the world, but it is done with the recognition that we are now working for a higher authority who is not going to betray us regardless of what the world does.
Jeremiah 39 is a tragic story. All of the prophecy of Jeremiah came true. The army of Babylon moved in and ransacked Jerusalem. However, amidst all this tragedy, there was still the provision of God at work. Jeremiah had been faithful the entire time and continually tried to communicate the message of God to a people who did not want to listen.
Jer 39:11 Now Nebuchadrezzar king of Babylon gave charge concerning Jeremiah to Nebuzaradan the captain of the guard, saying,
Jer 39:12 Take him, and look well to him, and do him no harm; but do unto him even as he shall say unto thee.
The captain of the guard was a relatively important person, and it does not seem that Nebuchadnezzar would really have any logical reason for valuing the life of Jeremiah so specifically. At this time, Jeremiah was locked up in prison, so I imagine that if I had been Nebuchadnezzar, I would have thought that he was just another prisoner.
However, Jeremiah received special treatment that Babylon probably did not give to very many people. He did not share in the punishment that was being doled out to the people of Judah at large. Why? He was faithful, and God was not done with him yet.
God spared his life and provided him with provision even when everything around him was literally going up in flames.
Even though the world seemed to be going crazy around him, God obviously had a plan, and the death of Jeremiah was not meant to be in that plan yet. Jeremiah died eventually like all humans, but this was not the time.
I think that we can extend this to our lives in the sense that there are times when we might have no idea what is going on around us. It really doesn’t matter if the circumstance is as extreme as the one that Jeremiah found himself in. There are plenty of trials in all of our lives, and we can be unsettled by any of them.
However, we can take comfort that God is still there, and God doesn’t have to play by the percentages of probability. Certainly, I would be willing to bet that if you look at all of the conquests that the people of Babylon went on, a very small percentage of prisoners survived. However, the death of Jeremiah was not in God’s plan at this point, so the probabilities didn’t matter. Even if Jeremiah had died, it would not have meant that God was not there, but I only framed this account in terms of him living because that is what actually happened.