Monthly Archives: September 2014
Lamentations 3 would have to be one of the most encouraging chapters in the Bible. Jeremiah was clearly in an incredibly dark place. As we just read in the book of Jeremiah, nothing really ever went right for him. He was following God, and he continually did what God told him to do, but I think that his testimony alone destroys the prosperity gospel where it stands.
The first 20 verses of this chapter talk about how abandoned Jeremiah felt. He basically felt as if God had become his enemy. However, he also understood that God was perfectly good. The next 20 verses talk about how even despite all of the trouble that he had gone through, God was still good. God was still in control, and even if situations were difficult, that did not change his convictions.
Lam 3:40 Let us search and try our ways, and turn again to the LORD.
Lam 3:41 Let us lift up our heart with our hands unto God in the heavens.
After all of that introduction regarding how awful life is while simultaneously praising God for how good He is, here is how Jeremiah responds to this situation. Essentially, we need to keep following God. Let’s make sure we are on the right track, turn back to God if we are not and continue worshiping Him.
I mentioned in the introduction that this was an encouraging chapter. It is encouraging because even though we might be in the darkness of depression where we feel like God has abandoned us, that isn’t the case whatsoever. God still has all of the characteristics that He has always had, and as long as we are doing what God wants us to be doing, we are on the right path.
Dark times definitely come to all of us. I can’t think of anyone who has not had some type of difficulty. However, these times don’t mean that we are necessarily failing. Jeremiah did everything God wanted him to do, and the people still didn’t listen. The people ignored him with dire consequences. That must have been heavy on his heart, but essentially, his advice to all of us is exactly how he lived his life.
Regardless of the consequences, continue doing what God has called you to do and continue to worship God with your entire life. The rest of the chapter talks about people who were far away from God, so this is a warning for them, but for people who are walking with God, this is an encouragement that you are actually where you need to be.
Lamentations 2 demonstrate some of what it is like to fall under the judgment of God. I think it is sufficient to say that it is not a place you want to find yourself. God is certainly loving, but He is also a God of justice.
However, there is one thing that stood out to me about this entire chapter. The people of Judah were certainly responsible for their actions. After all, they had the Law, and they could have come back to God, but there was a major problem.
Lam 2:14 Thy prophets have seen vain and foolish things for thee: and they have not discovered thine iniquity, to turn away thy captivity; but have seen for thee false burdens and causes of banishment.
The advice that the leaders of Judah were taking was false. They were listening to people who told them things, but they were not things from God. These advisors were not recognizing the problems that were present because they were not obviously looking at what God had provided.
How often can this happen to any one of us? We need to be very careful about who we are listening to. We need to be careful that the advisors we are listening to actually base their advice on the word of God and not on other purposes. We are not necessarily told here where these advisors were coming from, but they were not pointing out what was going wrong in Judah.
When we are not being told that we are going down the wrong road but are actually being encouraged to continue on that way, we are probably going to find ourselves in a situation like the people of Judah. As has already been established, you don’t want to be on that side of God. The consequences of disobeying God are not pleasant.
The point of this is to be very discerning of who we listen to. Obviously, we are ultimately responsible for our own actions and reactions to advice given by others, but how much better is it to have people who are encouraging you in the right direction? Having brothers and sisters in Christ who are helping you stay on track rather than encouraging you to continue in your sin is a wonderful thing.
Lamentations was also written by Jeremiah, and in chapter 1, it is clear that the book is appropriately named. When we start at the beginning, we really get a summary of what the situation is like now that the city is virtually vacant.
Lam 1:1 How doth the city sit solitary, that was full of people! how is she become as a widow! she that was great among the nations, and princess among the provinces, how is she become tributary!
Lam 1:2 She weepeth sore in the night, and her tears are on her cheeks: among all her lovers she hath none to comfort her: all her friends have dealt treacherously with her, they are become her enemies.
Lam 1:3 Judah is gone into captivity because of affliction, and because of great servitude: she dwelleth among the heathen, she findeth no rest: all her persecutors overtook her between the straits.
I find it particularly interesting because the emotion is particularly evident. Even though Jeremiah knew that this was going to come the pass, his emotions are strong. However, that fact alone might have made his reaction even more passionate.
Jeremiah had been preaching to the people for a long time, and virtually nobody listened. He was faithful to what God wanted him to do, so that is obviously the most important thing. However, it is one thing to talk about consequences coming and to warn people are terrible life is going to be if they don’t repent.
However, it is entirely another thing to see those consequences play out. To realize that the people actually did not listen must have been the hardest part for Jeremiah. Until it actually happened, but there is always hope that the people might repent, but at this point, it was finalized.
I spent this introduction on talking about Jeremiah’s sorrow because I think it is important to realize that God will listen to us in times of sorrow. Obviously none of us enjoy being sad or depressed, but it is okay to bring that pain to God as Jeremiah is doing here.
Jesus Himself wept when Lazarus died. Jesus knew that He was going to raise him from the dead, but He still understood what it was like to be human and have these times of difficulty.
Although we might think that God only wants to hear the good news, that idea is entirely false. Bring everything to God. He is our Comforter in any situation.
At the end of the book of Jeremiah, we finally get a summary of all that went wrong with the people of Judah, and even though it took 52 chapters to describe entirely, it really was rather simple.
Jer 52:1 Zedekiah was one and twenty years old when he began to reign, and he reigned eleven years in Jerusalem. And his mother’s name was Hamutal the daughter of Jeremiah of Libnah.
Jer 52:2 And he did that which was evil in the eyes of the LORD, according to all that Jehoiakim had done.
Jer 52:3 For through the anger of the LORD it came to pass in Jerusalem and Judah, till he had cast them out from his presence, that Zedekiah rebelled against the king of Babylon.
The people of Judah had done evil for so long that God finally allowed them to fall. It was the ultimate consequence to all of their actions. It seems as if it was kind of like getting your hands closer and closer to fire. Every time gets a little bit warmer, but when it burns, you feel the consequences. That is kind of like this situation.
Obviously God had not caused people of Judah to fall every time that there were problems. Even under King David there were problems, but by this point, the offenses had grown so great that the consequences had to come.
It is also worth pointing out on this front that while the suffering was certainly awful for the people of Judah, when you think of the larger picture, it did accomplish the purpose of getting the people to come back to God. Under the leadership of Nehemiah, the people did come back to Jerusalem, and there was a return to faith.
It seems as if that a lot as a response to adversity. When all that you have on earth seems to fall apart, we have to go back to what you have in your base, and when you have God in your base, you come back to what is really important. Your eyes opened to all that was going wrong before. Because of that kind of foundation, you end up with people like Nehemiah who are able to then rebuild nations and do it in the right way.
I like how Jeremiah had a commitment to preserving his prophecies. In Jeremiah 51, we hear the conclusion of all the judgments that are going to come on Babylon, and here is what Jeremiah did when he finished hearing the word of God.
Jer 51:60 So Jeremiah wrote in a book all the evil that should come upon Babylon, even all these words that are written against Babylon.
Jer 51:61 And Jeremiah said to Seraiah, When thou comest to Babylon, and shalt see, and shalt read all these words;
Jer 51:62 Then shalt thou say, O LORD, thou hast spoken against this place, to cut it off, that none shall remain in it, neither man nor beast, but that it shall be desolate for ever.
Jer 51:63 And it shall be, when thou hast made an end of reading this book, that thou shalt bind a stone to it, and cast it into the midst of Euphrates:
Jer 51:64 And thou shalt say, Thus shall Babylon sink, and shall not rise from the evil that I will bring upon her: and they shall be weary. Thus far are the words of Jeremiah.
Jeremiah made sure that his friend read all that he had prophesied, but he also obviously wanted to get rid of the incriminating evidence since his friend was going to Babylon. However, the main point is that he wanted to make sure that this word got out to other people. God gave him knowledge, and he wanted people to know.
I kind of think about that with the Bible today. We have knowledge that has come to us from God, so why don’t we have a similar commitment to telling people about that knowledge? Jeremiah clearly did what he could to make sure that his message got out in Babylon even though he was not going to Babylon himself.
I don’t know your personal evangelism style. For me, I like to write this because I am better in print than I am in person. I feel like it is a small piece of what I can do to bring the Bible to people. However, maybe you have a different preferred method. That’s fine as well, but the point is that we ought to have a commitment to trying to do what we can to get the word of God out. The Holy Spirit moves in people, but God does use people to spread the word.
I find it particularly interesting that even though God was using Babylon as a way to handle the problem that had happened from the leadership of Judah, as is obvious by Jeremiah 50, it is not as if Babylon itself was going to escape its own judgment.
Let’s face it, the Babylonians were generally a rather brutal empire. They had plenty of issues of their own that did not make God happy.
Jer 50:11 Because ye were glad, because ye rejoiced, O ye destroyers of mine heritage, because ye are grown fat as the heifer at grass, and bellow as bulls;
Jer 50:12 Your mother shall be sore confounded; she that bare you shall be ashamed: behold, the hindermost of the nations shall be a wilderness, a dry land, and a desert.
Jer 50:13 Because of the wrath of the LORD it shall not be inhabited, but it shall be wholly desolate: every one that goeth by Babylon shall be astonished, and hiss at all her plagues.
Jer 50:14 Put yourselves in array against Babylon round about: all ye that bend the bow, shoot at her, spare no arrows: for she hath sinned against the LORD.
Nevertheless, God was still able to use them to accomplish His purposes. Babylon was definitely not perfect, and they even had imminent judgment coming on them at the hands of the Persians.
I think that we can see this demonstrated in our own lives as well. God might intervene by using people or situations that we would never expect. For example, God could use something that Richard Dawkins says to work for His purposes. I think about his comments regarding children with Downs’ Syndrome. Basically, he argued that it was morally better to abort them then to allow them to live. This has caused a lot of reaction online even from some atheists recognizing that Dawkins has gone too far on this one. Even in the midst of something that seems bad, when Richard Dawkins makes statements like this, God is able to use it for good.
We sometimes forget that God is in control of everything. Even things that are wrong and have judgment coming to them can be used by God to accomplish His purposes.
It is problematic when we began to trust in what we have rather than the God we worship. That is what was happening to the people of Edom in Jeremiah 49. They thought that they had all of the protection in the world because the city was way up on a hill which is definitely a strong defensive position.
Jer 49:16 Thy terribleness hath deceived thee, and the pride of thine heart, O thou that dwellest in the clefts of the rock, that holdest the height of the hill: though thou shouldest make thy nest as high as the eagle, I will bring thee down from thence, saith the LORD.
From reading the verses around this one, it is clear that these people were making many bad decisions and doing many bad things. That is why God is going to bring them down from exactly where they thought nobody could touch them.
I don’t know about you all, but this has quite a bit of practical application in my life. It sounds to me like these people were assuming that nobody on earth would be able to make it up the mountain and overrun their city. That very well may have been true. I don’t know the topography, but the main problem is that they forgot that physical barriers really don’t mean much to God.
I know that for me, it is very easy to simply accept things as they are because change seems so difficult or improbable. It didn’t necessarily need to be something really bad, but sometimes we can kind of get bogged down in going through the motions of Christianity and not recognizing that there is another dimension that needs to be taken into account. Just like the intervention of God made the unconquerable city vulnerable, God can still interact with humanity today. As a result, when we get tied up in a situation where it seems that there is no way out, we need to remember that what seems like an obstacle to us is not a problem for God. He is above all of our problems. It is much easier sometimes to perceive our problems as bigger than God, but that is sorely mistaken.
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.