“40 Days and 40 Nights of God’s Word”
DAY 25: AUGUST 16
JEREMIAH 23 – 49:39
From a 21st century perspective, Jeremiah was like an embedded journalist in war-torn Jerusalem. He was always in the thick of things when reporting God’s Word, but few wanted to hear what God had to say. They preferred tuning into the fake news from the false prophets, as they promised continued prosperity and peace. As we see in today’s reading, only those who heeded Jeremiah’s warnings survived.
- Like Isaiah and other prophets before him, Jeremiah was also given a word from God about Jesus. Through the prophet, God called Jesus a “righteous Branch” of the house of David, a King who would not only reign but prosper (unlike evil kings) and be known as “The Lord Our Righteousness”. During his reign, Israel will be safe from all its enemies. This, of course, is yet another reference to God’s Kingdom on Earth, which exists here and now and is currently being ruled over by none other than The Lord Our Righteousness himself – Jesus. If you’re genuinely born-again, you’re a citizen of that Kingdom and The Lord Our Righteousness is your King. Amen!
- Lovely line a few chapters later, also in reference to the Kingdom: “I will cause them to walk by the rivers of waters in a straight way, wherein they shall not stumble: for I am a father to Israel….” If any of you have spent time walking by a river, you’ll know that the lushest greenery is next to it, the freshest air is next to it, and a natural pathway is next to it, forged by erosion over the centuries. God promises to be a father to us, protecting and guiding us, fighting off our enemies, and correcting us through appropriate punishment when we need it. Note that Jeremiah says that God will “cause” us to walk by the river. That means he’ll make it so that we end up there; it will be his doing – not ours – that we walk along this naturally-forged path in the freshest of air and lushest of greenery, with abundant fresh water for the taking. This is life in the Kingdom for the converted. God always delivers on his promises.
- Much of today’s reading centers on the political intrigues and behind-the-scenes plots involving the kings that immediately succeeded Josiah and also on the problems caused by the false prophets. Recall that Josiah was the only king during Jeremiah’s time that “did right in the sight of the Lord”; all the rest did evil. (Check out 2 Chronicles, last page, for a run-down of the final kings before the 70-year exile to Babylon.) We read about Jeremiah getting arrested and imprisoned in various places, his papers confiscated and burned, and his reputation dragged through the mud, all for speaking God’s Word to God’s people. God doesn’t promise his servants an easy time of it, but he does promise them that they will be renewed and refreshed by his Word and protected by his Spirit. We see this in Jeremiah, in that he continually gets rescued from whatever’s thrown at him. Even the enemies of the Israelites rescue him. God uses every resource he has at hand to protect and support those who are loyal to him.
- Jeremiah told the people that God wanted them to leave Jerusalem and the surrounding cities, go to Babylon, and put themselves under the authority of Nebuchadnezzar, whom God called his “servant”. To the Jews in positions of power in Judah and Israel, this was treason. In their view, Jeremiah was aiding and abetting the enemy by telling the Israelites to cut their losses and surrender to the Chaldeans and Babylonians. Why would God tell his people to desert Jerusalem, knowing that when they did that, the temple would be looted and the city destroyed?
- Jeremiah is very clear that God needs to punish Judah and Israel for their centuries of sins. The punishment is to live in Babylon as captives for a period of 70 years, after which, if they repented and turned back to God with all their hearts, they could return to their lands. God would then punish Babylon. God always has a plan, and God’s plan is always best. Too bad that so few people go along with it.
- The remainder of today’s reading shows that those who refused to obey God’s guidance, as given by Jeremiah, either died in Jerusalem, died fleeing Jerusalem, or died shortly after if they went to Egypt instead of Babylon. God is always very clear about his directives; he doesn’t leave room for misinterpretation. The people were told to surrender and go to Babylon under Nebuchadnezzar’s authority and all would be reasonably well with them. However, they chose not to heed the advice. They saw surrender as losing face, and they couldn’t conceive that God wanted them to live as captives under their enemies. They took a position of pride and refused to budge, and it was their downfall. Jeremiah survived and actually thrived as a stranger in a strange land.
- The story of the machinations of the evil kings and their princes, priests, advisors, and false prophets is meant for us to learn from. It is a cautionary tale. Sometimes the right way forward is directly into the arms of the enemy, if that’s where God tells you to go. Always go where God tells you to go, not where human reasoning or pride dictate. God makes use of all the world’s resources to support his children, including resources belonging to enemies. What’s theirs, in some cases, is also ours, if God says so.
The book of Jeremiah shows us the day-to-day life of a prophet of God in ancient Israel. Of all the OT prophets, it probably provides the most details, other than for the book of Daniel. The NT, on the other hand, is full of intimate day-to-day details of lives lived in accordance with God’s will, as we’ll see starting next week. The details are important not only to flesh out the people being described and draw us deeper into their story, but to serve as a guide for what to do (or not to do) under different situations.
The schedule for the BIBLE READ-THROUGH is directly below.