Category Archives: Jeremiah
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.
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.