Saturday, July 12, 2014

This Week in Jeremiah (26-43)

jerchartThe 2nd part of Jeremiah is a little more hopeful, but in a way that would not have been expected by the nation of Judah. Jeremiah’s message throughout the book has been one of soon coming judgment and that does not change. The added element here is that the “remnant” who believe Jeremiah’s message and surrender to the Babylonians will be preserved through 70 years of exile, and after that, will be a 2nd exodus that will return and rebuild the nation. But, even better than that, God would provide a “Davidic Priest-King” who would inaugurate a New Covenant which would change the people from the inside out and re-gather those who truly trust YHWH into his eternal kingdom.

Quotes are from the New American Commentary, Jeremiah and Lamentations by F. B. Huey.

Believers should never be afraid to proclaim (i.e., speak and live) the word of God... persecution of such believers can be severe (death of Uriah) and trying (Jeremiah’s trial); nevertheless, such faithfulness to God is rewarded by knowing that God is present at all times in the lives of such faithful witnesses. Jeremiah 26, 240.

Though the major emphasis of Jer 27 is on God’s threat of punishment if the people refused to submit to the Babylonian yoke, it also speaks of another facet of God’s nature. He is always ready to forgive and give an opportunity for a new beginning. The same God who pronounces judgment on sin also proclaims hope for those who will turn to him. God forgives and gives second chances. Jeremiah 27, 245.

God’s ways may not seem logical, but one had better follow them. Judah’s deliverance would come through submission, not resistance. The NT speaks of achieving greatness through servanthood and of being set free through submission to Christ. It speaks of death in order to live, of giving in order to receive, of forgiving as we are forgiven. The passage also serves as a solemn reminder not to teach what is contrary to God’s Word, even if sincere. We must not confuse our own beliefs and desires with the will of God. We are held accountable for every careless word spoken. Jeremiah 28, 250.

God does not tend to act and call us in ways that would be expected by humans. God’s message through Jeremiah was to surrender. This must have been very hard for Jeremiah to say, yet he was faithful to preach God’s Word instead of what was expected of him. In Jeremiah’s message one can see a tremendous mix between telling the unvarnished truth and an offer of mercy and forgiveness. One really does not work without the other. Of course, Jeremiah’s reward was persecution and hatred even from his own family. Yet his reward from God was preservation and a place as one of God’s remnant.

God is accessible. If we seek him, we will find him when we want him more than all else (“with all your heart,” i.e., with the mind, the will). God assured his people that when they sought him wholeheartedly, he would be found.  Jeremiah 29.13, 254.

Optimistic words do not mean that they are God’s words. Many speak of being optimistic in crisis situations. And though there is nothing wrong with hope, hope is found in God’s will, but optimism can be (as here in 26–29) blind to God’s will. Jeremiah 29, 257.

Hope is found in truth, discipleship and relationship with God, not in positive thinking or blind optimism. God is not here to make you wealthy and comfortable. He provides the means for us to be living ambassadors of his kingdom to bless the people around us.

This verse, then, prophesies a priest-king through whom the Lord would restore Israel...As van Groningen explains, “The Davidic king is the covenant mediator through whom all the promises and responsibilities of the covenant will become realities.” The relationship would not be restored on the basis of the old Mosaic covenant, however, but by a new covenant that is announced in 31:31–34. Jeremiah 30.21-22, 267–268.

The tears of the exile, he (D.A. Carson) writes, “are climaxed and ended by the tears of the mothers of Bethlehem. The heir to David’s throne has come, the Exile is over, the true Son of God has arrived, and he will introduce the new covenant (26:24) promised by Jeremiah.” Jeremiah 31.15, 275.

The five “I wills” in the passage, together with references to “my covenant,” “my law,” and “my people,” demonstrate clearly that as in the other major theological covenants, it would be God taking the initiative. Human history since the garden of Eden has been the story of humankind’s flight from God and his pursuit of us. The God who speaks in these verses is a pursuing God, who refuses to leave his people alone to follow their own self-destructive paths.  Jeremiah 31.31-32, 284.

Christ, descendant of David through his earthly genealogy, is the fulfillment of this as well as other messianic texts. The prophecy of Jeremiah, therefore, was not fulfilled completely with the restoration of Judah in the communities of Ezra and Nehemiah but is fulfilled in Jesus Christ (in his present reign and future return)...If the promise of a Davidic king is considered to be fulfilled in Christ, it is not unreasonable to conclude that Christ in his priestly role fulfills the Levitical priestly role. Jeremiah 33.17-18, 302.

God has made the move in Jesus Christ to extend a new covenant, not just to the people of Israel, but to also fulfill the role Israel always had, to extend his offer of relationship, kingdom and blessing to all the nations and peoples of the world. Jesus has inaugurated this covenant (which means the church has the job to extend kingdom relationship and blessing by making disciples of all nations in this age) and will complete in the age to come.

We readily affirm that God can do great things, such as create the universe. But do we really trust him in life’s decisions?  Jeremiah 32.24-25, 293.

Verse 3 is a remarkable reminder that God’s knowledge far exceeds ours and that he is always ready to hear our appeals... The NT equivalent of this verse is John 16:13, but neither of them justifies a “crystal-ball” mentality that seeks to know the future. There is no “secret” formula for unlocking the doors to the future. God can reveal what he desires to whom he desires and when he desires.  Jeremiah 33.3, 298.

A people who had experienced slavery in their past should have had a more compassionate attitude toward others who were enslaved.  Jeremiah 34.12-14, 309–310.

Here is the application of the New Covenant for us. Do we really believe God enough to live out our daily lives based on his covenant promises? Do our credit card statements, day timers, personal relationships, possessions reveal a kingdom focus or a self focus? Are we able to live with and forgive others as God lives with us and forgives us?

It is quite remarkable that anyone would keep a vow made by an ancestor hundreds of years earlier or consider it still binding on the descendants. It is equally remarkable that anyone who enters into a covenant relationship with God through the new covenant today would be inclined to a life of disobedience. The commendation of the Recabites for their faithfulness and the warning to Judah for its unfaithfulness contain a valid lesson for the present generation. Jeremiah 35, 318.

Verse 31 serves as a reminder that leaders are held responsible for their actions, but those who follow them without protesting immoral leadership are also held accountable. When leaders commit wicked or immoral acts and their people say nothing, the people are in effect giving assent to their leaders’ deeds. Therefore they should expect to reap the consequences of their silence.  Jeremiah 36.31, 326.

Ebed-Melech’s trust in the Lord saved him from the fate of the rest of the city. God did not commend Ebed-Melech for his compassion or courage but only for his trust in God. His life was saved because he risked it to save Jeremiah’s life. The passage serves as encouragement that the person who trusts the Lord will experience the Lord’s protection. It also serves as a subtle warning against self-centeredness, only doing what will benefit oneself. Jeremiah 39.15-18, 346.

This begins the section which, in telling the story of the final days before the destruction of Jerusalem, shows what kind of people are in the blessed righteous remnant and what kind of people are not. People who listen to and live by the word of God and keep covenant with God and their fellow human beings are “in.” Those who are unfaithful to God, don’t keep faith with others and live to enrich themselves at the expense of others are “out”

Many people throughout history have been imprisoned for being faithful to God...Like Jeremiah, believers must be willing to make the supreme sacrifice in the life of faith. God calls people to obey him at any cost. Jeremiah 37, 332.

In retrospect Jeremiah’s forty years of identification with the Word of God had brought him a sense of purpose in life that indelibly altered his life. His experiences brought a level of maturity that he earlier denied when he said, “I am only a child” (1:6). His ministry resulted in hostility from his people, even from his own family, as well as physical suffering and threats of death. But his obedience to the ministry the Lord gave him blessed him with fellowship with God that few have experienced. Jeremiah 38.28, 340.

Jeremiah, therefore, received better treatment at the hands of the enemy than from his own people whom he loved. Jeremiah 39.11-14, 344.

Jeremiah was learning a bitter lesson that God had tried to teach him years earlier (see 12:5): the reward for faithful service may be more rigorous service. Jeremiah 43, 362.

As I heard somewhere, “don’t evaluate God’s love for you and his promises based on present circumstances.” Jeremiah seems to be rewarded with persecution and difficulty whenever he takes a stand for God. “Smoothing the way” is not necessarily an indication of God’s direction. Nevertheless, like Jesus, he was vindicated in the end and used mightily by God.

Where was God? Why had God taken them out of their land? The answer is found in understanding that the land was not the ultimate gift of God at Sinai but rather it was his presence...The land remained important as a gift from God, but belief and faith are centered not in a “geographical place” but in one’s heart and soul (Deut 6:4–5).  Jeremiah 40-41, 357.

Jeremiah 42:7 gives valuable insight into the nature of biblical prophecy. The prophet could not set the time for hearing from God, nor did he speak until he was sure he had discerned God’s message. Jeremiah 42.7-10, 359.

We need to be careful to make sure we are preaching God’s message before we speak. We also need to know his word in the context of its whole message. Incomplete, adulterated word of God is not the real thing. We need to stop going to God’s word to confirm our biases and go to it to allow the Spirit to change our thinking.

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