Daniel 9 shows an interesting picture of a man who believed in the power of prayer. Daniel prayed to God to allow the children of Israel to return to their home in Jerusalem. However, the interesting part about that is Daniel knew that the people would be returning. It had been prophesied by Jeremiah in Jeremiah 25:12 that the children of Israel would be captive for 70 years.
Therefore, Daniel knew that the time was coming, but he still prayed for the people of Israel.
Dan 9:3 And I set my face unto the Lord God, to seek by prayer and supplications, with fasting, and sackcloth, and ashes:
Dan 9:4 And I prayed unto the LORD my God, and made my confession, and said, O Lord, the great and dreadful God, keeping the covenant and mercy to them that love him, and to them that keep his commandments;
Dan 9:5 We have sinned, and have committed iniquity, and have done wickedly, and have rebelled, even by departing from thy precepts and from thy judgments:
Daniel could have easily assumed that the prophecy was going to come true because he did believe in the power of God. He knew that God would fulfill His promise, so he could have just operated in neutral and rolled along. However, he understood that there was something that needed to be done. He understood that it was important for himself and the people to be right with God.
Daniel remembered that the chief purpose of humanity is to glorify God, and we can do that by asking for forgiveness from God and living our lives in a way that imitates that of Jesus Christ.
God never leaves a promise unfulfilled, so I have no doubt that He would have come through even if Daniel had not prayed. It is not like God would have gone back on His word that he gave to Jeremiah. However, what we can learn here is that Daniel realized his responsibility to live his life in the right way. Like Daniel, we know that we can be saved through Jesus Christ, but there is then the desire to live our lives in a way that glorifies God.
Rom 6:1 What shall we say then? Shall we continue in sin, that grace may abound?
Rom 6:2 God forbid. How shall we, that are dead to sin, live any longer therein?
Ezekiel 11 makes me think of a hypothetical situation. I might be driving a car down the road, and somebody in the other lane starts flashing his headlights. It is rather obvious that he wants me to slow down, but I might not pay attention seeing that he is only one person. However, then the next car comes by and also flashes her lights. Now, I ought to realize that something is going on. These are separate instances, but they seem to be pointing towards the same idea; I should slow down my car.
At the beginning of Ezekiel 11, Ezekiel is being called on to be that second driver.
Eze 11:1 Moreover the spirit lifted me up, and brought me unto the east gate of the LORD’S house, which looketh eastward: and behold at the door of the gate five and twenty men; among whom I saw Jaazaniah the son of Azur, and Pelatiah the son of Benaiah, princes of the people.
Eze 11:2 Then said he unto me, Son of man, these are the men that devise mischief, and give wicked counsel in this city:
Eze 11:3 Which say, It is not near; let us build houses: this city is the caldron, and we be the flesh.
Eze 11:4 Therefore prophesy against them, prophesy, O son of man.
Verse three is mocking a prophecy of Jeremiah in Jeremiah 1:13. He was the front runner, and now Ezekiel is being told to follow-up. The people of Jerusalem did not realize everything that was coming towards them.
It’s kind of funny though. When I’m driving my car, I have no problem trusting that person who is flashing his or her headlights at me. I trust them because I assume that they would have no motivation for doing that except for trying to help me out.
The people of Jerusalem did not understand that about Jeremiah or Ezekiel even though the situations are similar. Neither one of them had anything to gain on earth by prophesying. Nobody liked them, and they were ridiculed. It is interesting that no one would realize that they had no other motive for telling the truth other than that there really was something coming ahead.
I think that is part of our responsibility as Christians. We know that there are things that are right and wrong, and we know that there are consequences for decisions. We don’t go around handing down judgment, but we do need to make sure that we are taking a stand for truth.
This is a pretty fast book, and today we’re in the fifth and final chapter of Lamentations. This chapter is basically a prayer to God about all of the terrible things that the people of Judah were going through. It afflicted everyone from men to women, young to old and rich to poor. Everyone was suffering as a result of captivity, and here is now Jeremiah ended his prayer.
Lam 5:19 Thou, O LORD, remainest for ever; thy throne from generation to generation.
Lam 5:20 Wherefore dost thou forget us for ever, and forsake us so long time?
Lam 5:21 Turn thou us unto thee, O LORD, and we shall be turned; renew our days as of old.
Lam 5:22 But thou hast utterly rejected us; thou art very wroth against us.
I wanted to point this out because it never says that God was not just. Of course, Jeremiah would prefer that the people come back to God and that the relationship be repaired. However, at the same time, he recognized that God was angry at the people for continually violating His law for a long time. Jeremiah never said that God was wrong for being angry.
This can be difficult one for all of us today. We get mad at God for bringing consequences. We say that God isn’t just, and we want something different to be happening. There are two separate issues here though. Asking God that something different happens is perfectly acceptable. Coming back to God and asking for forgiveness can be the first step in asking God to help us handle difficult situations.
However, it is a different thing to say that God is not just. Jeremiah understood that this was not the problem here. The people deserved the punishment because they had violated the law, and when people violate the law, there are consequences. That is the entire point of our justice system. I entirely understand that the courts are a human system and are occasionally faulty, but the ideal intent of the justice system is that people who break the law and receive appropriate punishment.
Why would we expect anything different of a perfect judge? God knows everything, so He can appropriately adjudicate cases. God’s justice system is certainly capable of bringing punishment when people have violated it, and that is what Jeremiah recognized.
I think that is why we never see Jeremiah say it wasn’t fair. While he certainly seemed to want things to be different, he never once said that God was not fair.
In Lamentations 4, Jeremiah talks about the perception of other nations in regards to this downfall that was happening in Judah.
Lam 4:11 The LORD hath accomplished his fury; he hath poured out his fierce anger, and hath kindled a fire in Zion, and it hath devoured the foundations thereof.
Lam 4:12 The kings of the earth, and all the inhabitants of the world, would not have believed that the adversary and the enemy should have entered into the gates of Jerusalem.
God’s people had been blessed for years. They were given many miraculous victories. In the not-too-distant past, David and then Solomon sat on the throne. They ruled a large kingdom through the grace of God. David was obviously a man after God’s own heart, and Solomon had been blessed with wisdom from God. Solomon had built the temple to glorify God. This was not that far in the past, but when you look at the way that the people of Judah were acting, you would have thought that that was ancient history. They had come so far from where they had been.
As a result, God was angry. God brought the consequences that He always said would come when the people drifted too far away from where God told them to be. Think about the end of Deuteronomy where Moses is talking about the blessings of following God or the curses of not following God.
It is interesting in verse 12 that the other people of the world would not believe that that the people of God had fallen. Again, given that miraculous history, it seemed impossible that there would finally be time where they failed. However, they did not fail because God failed to protect them; they failed because they lost touch with God and were exposed to the consequences of their actions.
I think that we have to be careful about this kind of thing in our everyday lives. God has blessed us in so many ways, but if we start to drift from God, He does not always take away the consequences of our actions. If we do drift, all I can say is that we do so at our own risk and need to recognize that.
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.