Text: Jeremiah 51-52
Observe: Jeremiah continues to prophecy against Babylon in Chapter 51. Just as he had spoken the Word of God against Judah for all the wickedness they had done and the sins they committed against the Lord, he now prophesied the same kind of destruction upon the conquering Babylonians. God says that after all the damage and destruction that the mighty Babylonian empire had caused to God’s chosen people, He would punish them with the same fate and remove them from their land. He would bring all the armies of Babylon’s enemies against her and lay waste to her King, her cities and her people. Babylon would never rise again. These are the last words recorded by the prophet Jeremiah.
Chapter 52 is a historical record of the fall of Judah and Jerusalem, just as Jeremiah had prophesied for so many years. It records that King Zedekiah did what was evil in the sight of the Lord, just as the kings before him had done (vs 2) and so God removed them from His sight (vs 3). King Nebuchadnezzar marched against Jerusalem, lay siege to the city for 2 years and caused a famine so severe the Israelites had no food left to eat, and finally broke through the city’s defenses. His army captured King Zedekiah, and executed him in a most brutal fashion. The Babylonian army set fire to the Temple of the Lord, and looted absolutely anything and everything of value. They burned down every important building and broke the city walls. They carried into captivity all the military leaders, city officials, skilled workers and people, but left behind the poorest of the people to work the vineyards and fields.
Interpret: In previous chapters, God tells Jeremiah that He will bring His “servant” King Nebuchadnezzar against the Israelites as punishment. God would use His “servant” to carry out His righteous judgement on Jerusalem for their wickedness (Jer 25:8-9). The implication is that Nebuchadnezzar was doing the work of the Lord in punishing the people of Judah. Yet here we see God tell Jeremiah to prophesy the same find of judgement against Babylon for their wicked ways and for the damage they had done to God’s chosen people. So if the king of Babylon was simply doing God’s will, why was he being punished? The fact that Nebuchadnezzar was referred to as the Lord’s servant should not be taken to mean that he was a righteous king God often used wicked people and nations to do His work. It is not a sign of God’s approval of their behaviour, only of their usefulness in carrying out God’s purpose. The Babylonians would in turn be destroyed by God for their own wickedness. The usage here in Jeremiah is similar to that in Isaiah. The people of Israel and Judah are called God’s servants because God has chosen them to stimulate His redemptive purposes in the world. God often refers to “my servants the prophets” because He sent them to bring His word to the people and call them back to their chosen role. However, God also calls pagan emperors his “servants” because He is using them to fulfill His divine will.
Application: These verses remind us that it is not enough to simply play some role in God’s will for humankind. God can and does use people from all walks of life and in all circumstances to bring about His divine will. What we, as followers of Christ must do, is faithfully obey God (Ecclesiastes 12:13). If we fail to do this, no matter how significant we were during our lifetime, or how our actions impacted people and events around us, we will be punished just like the people of Judah and Babylon. Jesus tells us the things that He considers important for us do with our lives. In Matthew 22:37-40, “Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.” Then later in Matthew 25:35-40 Jesus says, “For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.’ “Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?’ “The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.” And there is one thing more that is needed from us. John 20:31, “ But these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in His name.” When you believe that Jesus came down from heaven to die in our place as a sufficient sacrifice for our sins, you will live your life according to His will, and the judgement that we rightly deserve is satisfied through His precious blood.
Questions: Do you really believe, deep down in your bones, that Jesus is the Messiah who sacrificed His life on the cross so that you might live with Him in eternity? How can you live your life as a living testament to His love, mercy and grace?
Prayer: Heavenly Father, thank you for Your mercy when we forget our place as Your adopted children. Forgive us and guide to us to seek You in every person we meet, and in every circumstance we encounter, so that we may reflect Your glory, and Your love for all of creation. In the mighty and merciful name of Jesus, Amen.
Song: You Say: Lauren Daigle
Jeremiah describes discipline and punishment that consists of death of the people by war, famine or plague, and ruin of the cities by tearing down the walls of the city and destroying peoples’ homes.
Nevertheless, when the destructive judgements are past, what are the Hebrews to do during the captivity? They are to live in the land, to have families, to be productive, and pray for and bless their captors.
Does this have any similarity to our/your situation? Certainly, our church situation has changed. Perhaps your work situation has also changed? Our social situations have changed, sometimes drastically changed. Could these events be part of God’s movement in our lives?
Psalm 25 – our psalm for today is a prayer for God’s mercy in our hardships. Perhaps this could also be our prayer during our current hardships.
How do we respond to changes that affect the way we live, but we are not able to control?
Could this be something used by God for our correction and discipline?
Has God moved us out of our comfortable niche?
The psalmist prays – not just for his relief but that God will not be shamed, nor that the enemy will be able to exult.
Psalm 25 – Can we pray along with the psalmist, “To you O Lord, I lift up my soul. Oh my God in you I trust; do not let me be put to shame; do not let my enemies exult over me. Do not let those who wait for you be put to shame; let them be ashamed who are wantonly treacherous. Make me to know your ways, O Lord; teach me your paths. Lead me in your truth and teach me, for you are the God of my salvation; for you I wait all day long.”
Text (Jeremiah Chapters 45-48)
OBSERVE: In chapter 45, we see a message for Baruch who was the long-time and very trusted penman for the prophet Jeremiah.
This is what the Lord, the God of Israel, says to you, Baruch: You said, “Woe to me! The Lord has added sorrow to my pain; I am worn out with groaning and find no rest.” But the Lord has told me to say to you, “This is what the Lord says: I will overthrow what I have built and uproot what I have planted, throughout the earth. Should you then seek great things for yourself? Do not seek them. For I will bring disaster on all people, declares the Lord, but wherever you go I will let you escape with your life.” (Jeremiah 45: 2-5)
INTERPRET: This chapter is not in chronological order. The previous chapters dealt with the time after the fall of Jerusalem and Judah while this chapter deals with a time many years before that disaster. This chapter can almost be seen as a flashback in the narrative. Although Baruch was used to writing out what God was saying to others, this was a word for God’s discouraged and exhausted servant.
God first tells Baruch of His great power and in particular His great power expressed in judgment. This reminded Baruch of God’s power and authority and also put some of Baruch’s perceived problems into perspective. Secondly, God reminds Baruch of the promise of His care. God wanted Baruch to have the right mindset and not to be overly focused about things that would eventually fade away but rather on the purposes and promises of God.
APPLICATION: Baruch was an educated man, qualified as a secretary, whose brother was an officer of high rank under Zedekiah (Jeremiah 51:59). But whatever great things he sought for himself and his future were most likely lost by becoming a supporter of the unpopular Jeremiah. However, God’s assurance to Baruch was very strong - He would take care of Baruch. Even when he was later taken to Egypt with Jeremiah, this promise was sure to take care of Baruch wherever he may go.
As Christians, we too will need to let go of certain things and to trust in God’s promises. Baruch had to let go of his ambitions in his professional career in order to serve God. But we see that this decision was truly worth it to Baruch. This becomes clear by the order that Baruch arranged Jeremiah’s scroll as he put his prophecy right where it belonged. Baruch treasured the promise God gave him. It reminded him of the way God answered him in his despair. So Baruch put it here at the end of his life to show that God was faithful to His promise to care for him.
REFLECTION: Is there anything that God is calling you to give up to serve him more faithfully?
PRAYER: Jesus, living in your purposes is where all the worthwhile treasures are located. Thank you for your promise to care for me forever. Help me to focus on your Kingdom and not my own. AMEN.
SONG: Promise Keeper - David Jooste
Experiment: Click here and put the song Psalm 91 on in the background as you read :)
Jeremiah is ordered by the Lord to buy a field in the middle of the Chaldean siege at Anathoth. He gets witnesses together, weighs the coins in a scale, signs the deed and makes the purchase, which confuses the king Zedekiah. Jeremiah then prays for understanding from God for the people of Jerusalem. God responds to Jeremiah saying that these people will face the consequences for their many abominable actions, but that they will be lead home to safety one day with a new heart and a fear of the Lord. “And they shall be my people, and I will be their God.”
The Lord then points ahead to a time when He will reveal all sorts of great and secret things, forgive the sins of His people, and make them glad before Him. The Lord also declares that He will raise up a new King over His people who will sit on the throne of the house of David who will do justice and righteousness in the land. “For thus says the Lord: David shall never lack a man to sit on the throne of the house of Israel, and the Levitical priests shall never lack a man in my presence to offer burn offerings, to burn grain offerings, and to make sacrifices forever.” (33:17)
In chapter 34, Zedekiah is told he will die in Babylon, but in a state of peace and honour. He will not die by the sword or lack those who will burn spices at his grave. Jeremiah then speaks the word of the Lord to the king, telling him to order all those who have their Hebrew brother and sisters in slavery to let them go and proclaim liberty. This takes place which greatly pleases the Lord – however it does not last. No sooner do these people let their slaves go before they take them right back into captivity! This angers the Lord greatly and he says that He will proclaim Judah’s liberty to suffering by the sword and by pestilence before they are taken off their land. There is reassurance for the people called the Rechabites who have been loyal to the Lord and followed the righteous commands of their father.
Though there is much doom and gloom in the message of these prophets, let us not become discouraged reading their bleak warnings, for that’s exactly what they are: warnings. What good and faithful Father would not warn their child of the consequences of their missteps? What righteous and just God would let abominations and corruption and the cries of the poor go unheard? By now, the pattern of mankind has been firmly established: God’s people love and obey Him for a time before getting comfortable and complacent and wandering from Him into moral destitution.
The Lord has every right to abandon His people for their countless transgressions, but He never does. Instead, He disciplines them, allows them to see the fruit of their sin, humbles them, and then restores them when they acknowledge the error of their ways and turn their hearts to Him. We see His unending patience and Love in the 33rd chapter of Jeremiah where compassion and patience and gladness abound!
How does the Lord plan on breaking this pattern of disobedience? Chapter 33:17 (quoted above) is a beautiful promise of the coming Lord Jesus, the promised one who would be our peace with God. Though it may not have made sense to the peoples of the time, the man who would sit on David’s throne forever and the man who would be acting as a priest in the presence of God with an eternal sacrifice would be one man, not two.
It harkens to Hebrews 4:14-16 which beautifully reads: “Since then we have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus, the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession. For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin. Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to to help in time of need.”
Jesus Christ, the King from the line of David, sits enthroned forever, our advocate before the Father, making peace between us and God by His death on the cross and resurrection from the dead. He has given us His Holy Spirit as a down-payment, who works in us to will and to act to please God. Jesus is the promised cure for the sinful hearts we see in Jeremiah and anyone may call on His name and be saved!
These major and minor prophets are historical accounts, yes – but they are much more than that. They hold up a mirror to us and the world around us. As we read Jeremiah and then Ezekiel and so on, let us pray and approach the Lord with a humble heart so that He might point out or own sin and idolatry. Nobody likes to admit that they are so deeply sinful, yet it is on the other side of this acknowledgement and repentance that we can truly sense and appreciate the depth of God’s goodness, patience, mercy, and grace! The Lord opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble, so let us humbly accept His discipline, knowing that Jesus is our peace today just as it was prophesied all those years ago by a lowly prophet in Judah.
How can we always remain humble before the Lord and in all places? What does it look like to submit to God in each area of our hearts and lives?
Lord, we thank you that you give grace to the humble. Please move in your Holy Spirit to convict us of all pride, all malice, envy, greed, idolatry, and lust. Give us the strength to admit our weakness and need of you and let us learn to rest in your grace and forgiveness. Let us become so in love with you that we cannot help but overflow with adoration for you and what you did to bring us home to you! Finally, Lord, let us show the world that your gift of salvation and relationship with you is worth more than anything the world could ever offer. Amen!
Song: Psalm 91 (On Eagles Wings): Shane and Shane
Text: Jeremiah 30-32 (Ps 20)
Observe: Following God’s impassioned plea in Chapter 29 and His glorious promise, you shall seek me and you shall find me, when you seek me with all your heart, says the Lord. (29:13) the word pivots from destroy/uproot/tear down to ‘build up’, a promise of restoration.
God commands Jeremiah, Write in a book all I have spoken to you (30:1). Even men groan in anguish as if in birth pains, such is the suffering and terror (1-7). There is no remedy for their incurable wound (12); lovers (pagan kings and idols) have deserted them because of God’s wrath. Yet Judah … will be saved out of it. (7b). Even as the verses alternate between future glorious promise and recollections of their past faithlessness God’s consolation is near (10,11). Those familiar, comforting words, So you will be my people, and I will be your God (20) will find fulfilment.
I have loved you with an everlasting love (31:3b) – dancing and joy, planting and harvesting, throngs returning with unutterable gladness, because I am Israel’s father, and Ephraim is my firstborn son (9c). They will be like a watered garden (a recurrent image of Eden) as mourning yields to sheer joy.
Strangely, that sombre portrait of Rachel weeping for her children…because they are no more (15) offers consolation: future generations will live in His newness and hope. God speaks again of His love: Is not Ephraim my dear son, my child in whom I delight? Though I speak against him, I still remember him (20). His tenderness recalls Hosea 11:4b, where He bends to feed His beloved, straying Ephraim.
Our surprising God promises something new – a covenant! Not just a recycling of earlier ones or a reprint of previous material, but of complete restoration as His people return to Him, repentant. (31-40).
Chronology in Jeremiah is fluid, circular; chapter 32 returns to Jeremiah’s imprisonment, Zedekiah’s reaction to prophecy of exile to Babylon. Well, what else can Jeremiah do but buy some real estate? (32:8-12). It’s in God’s purpose: to show the people that they would again own land. The transaction done, Jeremiah prays earnestly to the Lord, recounting His working of history, their disobedience, His wrath. Hardship awaits, but God is their God, and they are His people. Calamity becomes consolation.
Interpret: These chapters in the Hebrew Bible are called the “Book of Consolation”. In separation and exile, comfort (with its underpinning of strength and hope) is so welcome. Coming just about halfway through the book, Jeremiah has moved from sin to exile to restoration, though this is not the end of the prophecies. The Lord’s dealings with His people have been a rough ride for faithful, obedient Jeremiah, but he has not faltered.
Apply: Jeremiah’s words resonate in our tangled social and political situations. God is our true home. We return to Him even as Israel was returned in His time.
His prayer in chapter 32 is a model to imitate in its power and intimacy. We pray, alone or in company, acknowledging our deep need for the Lord in our situations. As we seek Him with all our heart, we’ll find Him. He said so.
Ask: Is God raising up prophets even now? Will I listen, or ignore them to my spiritual peril? Will I open my eyes to see how far I have strayed? Will You redirect me, Holy Spirit, to the real Way? In exile, how should I then live?
Pray: My God, nothing is too hard for You. Your purposes and Your work are beyond me. I am hard of hearing and stubborn of heart, yet You draw me out of my exile of self. You’ve been calling me to Yourself for eons. And Jesus is proof of your endless consolation; this too is beyond my small understanding. Give me the grace to seek You with all my heart, and find You so close. In Jesus’ name, then.
Song Psalm 20: John Michael Talbot
Psalm 20 Ian White: May the Lord Answer You
Text: Jeremiah 26-29
Observe: The prophet Jeremiah continues to speak the message that God gives him, which is as unpopular as ever to the people of Judah. In fact, the temple priests, the other prophets and the people all clamor for his death, to which Jeremiah responds that if they kill him, they will be adding the shedding of innocent blood, namely his, to all their other offences. It’s only when the cooler heads of some of the elders prevail that Jeremiah is spared. They remembered a quote from the prophet Micah who prophesied approximately 100 years earlier that “Zion will be ploughed like a field, Jerusalem will become a heap of rubble, the temple hill a mound overgrown with thickets.” (Micah 3:11-12.) They seemed to recognize that they were bringing disaster down on their own heads. Unfortunately, other prophets like Uriah, who also prophesied the same message as Jeremiah, were not spared death because of the blunt truth of the message from God.
As Jeremiah continues to prophesy for the Lord, he tells the people of Judah that not only will they be taken to Babylon as captives of King Nebuchadnezzar as part of their punishment, but that all the other nations in the region will also be under the Babylonian yoke as a sign that God is the Almighty God and everyone is subject to His will. If these nations submit to Babylon, the Lord will allow them to remain in their own land, but if any nation refuses to submit to Babylon, or if anyone says that they won’t have to submit to them, they will be destroyed because they are prophesying lies in His name. As a symbol of that captivity, God tells Jeremiah to wear an actual yoke as he continues his work on behalf of the Lord.
As time passes, false prophets do rise up against Jeremiah, among them, Hananiah. He promised to break the yoke of the Babylonians and bring the people back from their exile and he physically took the yoke from Jeremiah’s shoulders. In response to Hananiah’s falsehoods, God told Jeremiah that He would replace the wooden yoke with an iron yoke, meaning an even greater oppression of Judah by the conquerors. And for his lies to the people, Jeremiah prophesied from the Lord that Hananiah would die within a short time, and he did.
Once they were taken captive, Jeremiah writes a letter to the Israelites in their exile telling them to make the best of their situation. The Lord wants them to prosper in the land and be model citizens. They are to settle down, marry, have children, live good lives, pray to the Lord for His blessings and reject the lies of the false prophets. If they do all this, God promises to return them to their own land again after 70 years.
Finally, God sends Jeremiah to prophesy against Shemaiah, who falsely told the priest Zephaniah that God wanted all the other prophets, such as Jeremiah, to be treated like maniacs and thrown into prison. For this falsehood, God punished him by removing all his descendants from seeing the good things God had in store for His people.
Interpret: Submission to the will of the Lord is at the heart of the reason for the Israelites exile in Babylon. Generation after generation, the people of Israel, led by their kings, priests and prophets continued to rebel against their God, who had brought them out bondage into the land He had promised to give to the descendants of Abraham. They had continually disobeyed God and His commandments, particularly about not worshipping any other gods but Him, as well as every other one of His laws. Jeremiah steadfastly preached submission, not so much to Nebuchadnezzar as to God, who had sent the invaders as punishment for their unrepentant sins. This lesson was a difficult one to learn, and the people hated the teacher. Hananiah, a prophet opposed to Jeremiah, made a fierce attack on the prophet and his teaching, and prophesied a false word that in two years, the Babylonian oppression would end, and all the people could go back to their olds ways in their old homes. Jeremiah answered quietly, saying, ‘I hope to God that it may be true, but events will show the truth.’ Then Hananiah, encouraged by his meekness, resorted to violence and tore the yoke off Jeremiahs, who then quietly went home.
But of course, no one can prophesy a lie against the Lord without consequences. Soon afterward, God spoke a much sharper word to Jeremiah. God declared the clear truth that a tiny kingdom like Judah rising up in the face of a world-conquering power like Babylon, would only bring greater oppression from the conqueror. Then He declared that Hananiah, for his lies and incitement to rebellion, not against Babylon, but against God, the true King of Israel, would be taken from the earth, and he died a short time later.
Jeremiah’s letter to the exiles shows that by submitting to God’s will, we can still prosper amid the challenges and difficulties of life no matter our circumstances. The key, is to submit to His will, accept His directives and discipline, and not be deceived by the lies of the world.
Application: The choice for us is to decide which yoke we would rather carry. The yoke of the law or the iron yoke of lawlessness; the yoke of virtue or the iron yoke of vice; the yoke of Jesus Christ or the iron yoke of godlessness. We might not appreciate the symbolism of the yoke very much, but we all must conform to something, whether human laws, social convention, or divine directives. If we throw off legitimate authority, such as God’s will for us, we automatically conform to the other, lesser but heavier behaviour drivers, which Paul calls the desires of the flesh. In Galatians 5:17-21, he says, “For the desires of the flesh are against the Spirit, and the desires of the Spirit are against the flesh, for these are opposed to each other, to keep you from doing the things you want to do. But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the law. Now the works of the flesh are evident: sexual immorality, impurity, sensuality, idolatry, sorcery, enmity, strife, jealousy, fits of anger, rivalries, dissensions, divisions, envy, drunkenness, orgies, and things like these. I warn you, as I warned you before, that those who do such things will not inherit the kingdom of God.”
Jesus said in Matthew 11:29-30 “Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For My yoke is easy and My burden is light.” The reason the yoke of Christ is easy for us to bear is because He gives us the power to bear it when we proclaim that He is the Lord of our lives.
Questions: How often have we listened to people who simply told us what wanted to hear, even if we knew in our heart it was wrong? How often have we stayed quiet when someone was speaking the truth that no one else wanted to hear? Do we accept the yoke of love and obedience that Jesus helps us carry?
Prayer: Heavenly Father, thank you for Your unfailing patience and mercy when we are tempted away from You. Give us hearts to seek and accept Your will for our lives. Give us wisdom to discern which is Your voice and which is the voice of the world. Give us courage to do the right thing and follow Christ alone. In the mighty and merciful name of Jesus, Amen.
Song: I Will Follow : Chris Tomlin
Search God and listen to God’s voice in order to discern whether prophecy is true.
You can discuss the prophecies with others who truly hear God’s word (but don’t be swayed by the lies of the false prophets).
Are you truly hearing God’s voice? Do you search the Scriptures for the truth? Do you take time to listen to the Holy Spirit of God?
Dear Lord God, be gracious to us and cleanse us from all evil thoughts and wrong doing. Speak to us through your Word, through your true teachers and prophets, and open our eyes and ears to hear your Holy Spirit.
Ever Faithful, Ever Sure. – D. Bruce Moore
I think this song is so true in all our lives – whether at home, at work, at school or at play. We’re thankful for your faithfulness.
Jeremiah (Chapters 17-22)
OBSERVE: In our Sunday readings, we came upon a very profound statement that can’t be overlooked. The prophet Jeremiah wrote “The human heart is the most deceitful of all things, and desperately wicked. Who really knows how bad it is?” (Jeremiah 17:9)
Throughout our readings today, we see this truth played out in the narrative. At first, God attempts to show Israel their wickedness through the examples of the potter and the flask. The response to these examples goes on to confirm their wickedness as they then persecute Jeremiah. God then does the unthinkable and confirms that not only will Judah be attacked but that he would fight for their attackers. All of this suffering would be a sign to the nations that they had gone astray and had turned their backs on their God with their wicked hearts.
INTERPRET: The Old Testament doesn’t exactly gloss over the reality of sin in the human heart. Genesis 6:5 told us that “The Lord observed the extent of the human wickedness on the earth, and he saw that everything they thought or imagined was consistently and totally evil.” As centuries passed, and even after humanity “started over” after the Flood, not much seemed to change. King David put this truth into poetry in Psalm 14: 2-3 “The Lord looks down from heaven on the entire human race; he looks to see if anyone is truly wise, if anyone seeks God. But no, all have turned away; all have become corrupt. No one does good, not a single one!” We see that this problem of the wicked heart was not just an issue with Judah at the time of Jeremiah, but rather it was a problem that affected the entire human race throughout all ages. It was a problem that absolutely needed an answer; a total cure.
APPLICATION: Christ’s coming and Christ’s dying provided the only hope for sinners who are totally evil, corrupt, and desperately wicked – which is everyone ever born. The Apostle Paul explained it this way “When we were utterly helpless, Christ came at just the right time and died for us sinners………And since we have been made right in God’s sight by the blood of Christ, he will certainly save us from God’s condemnation.” (Romans 5: 6, 9)
We are not basically good people who occasionally do bad things; we are thoroughly bad people who occasionally do good things. The good news of the gospel is that Jesus came to save bad people by taking their punishment and giving them his own personal goodness.
REFLECTION: Do you recognize your absolute need for the Good News?
PRAYER: Jesus; I am a sinner through and through and the only answer is you. I believe that you are the only cure for my wicked heart and that I need your goodness. AMEN.
SONG: The Cure (By Unspoken)
Text: Jeremiah 4-6
Through the words of the prophet Jeremiah, we see God’s heart longing for his people, Judah, to cease their rebellion and turn back to Him. He implores them to cut off their wicked practices and “break up the unplowed ground” of their hearts so He can grow something good in them again (4:1-4). Jeremiah personally experiences anguish and terror because of the things he both hears and sees prophetically about the coming punishment that God is bringing on the people of Judah and Jerusalem (4:19).
Just as Judah’s hearts are unplowed and unfruitful, Jeremiah warns of coming disaster that will leave the land empty and desolate--a warrior nation will come from the North that will besiege Jerusalem and terrorize all the people so no one is left unharmed. The end result is a forsaken land where once Judah flourished (4: 23-28).
God contrasts the people of Judah to His other creations. Whereas the seas and land obey his divine authority and order, God says the people do not fear or respect him (5:22-23). Even those in the roles meant to facilitate God’s rule and reign – his prophets and priests –are lying and using their own authority instead of upholding God’s authority (5:30-31, 6:13-15). This rebellion against God’s natural order and authority results in the autumn and spring rains coming out of regularity and dependability so that the food harvest is disrupted (5:24-25).
The Lord implores the people to seek His divine order once again:
“Stand at the crossroads and look; ask for the ancient paths, ask where the good way is, and walk in it, and you will find rest for your souls. But you said, ‘We will not walk in it.’” (6:16)
Using the poetic imagery of a silversmith (6:27-30), God talks of his people, comparing them to ore, and Jeremiah is testing this metal with the prophetic words and images he receives from the Lord and delivers to the people. But rather than refining the ore to reveal precious silver, all Jeremiah’s fire-y words and warnings do not result in repentance from the people. Therefore, God says he will reject and punish them because evil would not be purged from their hearts and they are not fulfilling their call to bless the nations for God’s glory (4:2).
When the people God chose as His own made the conscious choice to reject and rebel against His rule and authority, they stepped outside the design and order of their divine Creator, who purposed to use them to bless the nations. Jeremiah saw, foretold and witnessed the result of this opposition to God’s purpose and order: turmoil, destruction, desolation.
We see God’s heart pleading with His creation to follow His order so that they could live in the blessings of His plans and purposes; so they could find “rest for their souls”. Ultimately when Jesus came, he perfectly filled the role of prophet and priest to re-establish God’s rule and reign on earth. Listen to his similar words recorded in Matthew 11:29-30:
“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.”
God wants us to walk in alignment with His plans and purposes for our lives. When we accept salvation, made possible by Jesus, and when we surrender ourselves to Him and submit to His authority, we are following the divine order he established. The scriptures tell us that this is how we find “rest for our souls”.
Is your life in alignment with God’s divine order? Have you surrendered yourself completely over to God? What areas of your life are lacking peace? Is it possible that these areas need to be submitted to God’s authority?
Father God, you are Lord over my life. Thank you for the peace that comes from submitting to your rule and reign. Help me to enter the soulful rest that you want to give me. Gently show me any adjustments I need to make in my life so that I am more completely in alignment with and in submission to you. In Jesus’ name, Amen.
Rest by Wake Worship
Be Still My Soul – sung by Trish Reimer
Text: Jeremiah 1-3
Observe: The prophet Jeremiah is called by God to speak to the people of Judah, and the surrounding nations, during the reign of King Josiah through to the reign of King Zedekiah. God tells him that He had a plan for him from before he was born and set him apart for this specific task. At first Jeremiah is reluctant, saying he is too young and doesn’t know what to say, but God commands him to go and says He will put the words into Jeremiah’s mouth. His message is not a popular one, but God tells him not to be afraid because He is with him and will not allow Jeremiah to be overcome. So, faithfully for over 40 years, he travels far and wide, continually calling out the sin and hypocrisy of the people, priests and kings. Ultimately, Jeremiah prophecies that because of their defiance and immorality, God’s punishment will lead them to exile in Babylon.
In Jerusalem, Jeremiah reminds the Israelites that they were the beloved people of God, and how he brought them out of bondage and gave them a land that was not their own as an inheritance in fulfillment of His promise to Jacob. Everything that God had ever done was for the good of His chosen people. Yet, over time the people turned away from God and worshipped other idols. They adopted many of the detestable practices and rituals of the people who had lived in the land before. They came to rely on their own strength, developed their own wisdom, and followed their own ways. God says that they committed two sins: they had forsaken Him, the spring of living water; and dug their own broken cisterns.
In times of difficulty, the people would call out “Come and save us!”, but always they would fall back on the false idols that they had created with their own hands, worshipping inanimate objects instead of the Living God. And even when they did worship their God and Creator, it was always with empty words and meaningless motions. They would cry out that they were innocent, yet continue to offer sacrifices to other idols, and living like a donkey chasing after wild cravings.
The Lord, through Jeremiah, compared them to prostitutes for their brazen ways, instead of being virtuous wives to God, the faithful husband. By their immorality, they had defiled the good land and home that God had provided them. Yet, through all of this rebellion, God in His mercy continued to call them back, and wanted to teach them His ways. But, always the people would backslide into immorality.
Interpret: This is a theme that is played out over and over again in scripture. Out of His great love God, gives His beloved chosen people everything they need for a good life. He saves them from bondage; gives them a fertile land to live in; and blesses them with His excellent laws to live in a right relationship with Him. But, it’s never enough. They wander in their own ways, not recognizing their error which leads away from God and into sin. They begin to think that it was by their own work that they had become successful. They began to worship idols created by human hands and adopted practises that were evil and immoral. No matter how often God disciplined His wayward children and called them back to Himself, they would soon forget Him and turn back to sin. They would talk the talk but their hearts were never in it, and so they were not able to walk the walk. They brought their own destruction down on their heads.
Application: In these verses, we see the consequences of disobedience to God’s will. When we follow the ways of the world, we get caught up in the illusion of success: the chasing after money, power, sex, and celebrity. They become the idols we worship. We begin to think that our successes are the result of our own efforts, and if anyone else is struggling, that’s obviously their doing and their own problem. We begin to see ourselves as central to our existence. We do what’s good for us or whatever feels good to us. Our own rules become our guide. Jeremiah reminds us that disobedience to God will leads only to misery and destruction.
Yet even in this message of warning to the wayward people of God there is an expressed hope for the future. (Jeremiah 1:10), “See, today I appoint you over nations and kingdoms to uproot and tear down, to destroy and overthrow, to build and to plant.” Although God will uproot and destroy what is evil, He will also plant and build up that which is good and righteous.
If we really want the things that are important and lasting, Jesus tells us to follow Him. He is the Way, the Truth and the Life, (John 14:6). His good and perfect will for us (Romans 12:2) is transformative. It is in Him that we find the abundant life (John 10;10) that we so desperately desire and seek.
Questions: How often have we gone our own way, only to find that what we had sought after was just a fleeting pleasure? How often have we gone along with the world’s view of success only to find a growing emptiness? What must be torn down in our lives before God can build us back up again? Are we willing to see Jeremiah’s unpopular message as a hope for the future?
Prayer: Heavenly Father, thank you for Your unfailing faithfulness and mercy despite our striving after worldly things. Help us to recognize those things which draw us away from You and give us the courage and patience to allow them to be torn down. Give us hearts to seek and love you. Give us wisdom and faith to allow You to transform us into the people you created us to be. Help us bend our will to Yours. In the mighty and merciful name of Jesus, Amen.
Song: “Give Us Clean Hands” ; Chris Tomlin
In 2023, each week's blog is a follow-up reflection written by the preceding Sunday’s preacher to dig deeper into the sermon topic and explore engaging discussion questions.