Friday, July 29, 2011

Jeremiah Chapters 44-46

44:7 and 9 - God continues the conversation started n the previous chapter by speaking through Jeremiah to the Jews who fled Judah for Egypt despite God's instructions to stay. God questions them, "Why have you left even though I told you to stay? Have you already forgotten that it was your lack of listening that brought destruction upon Judah?" They are stubborn people that refuse to learn from the past...that sounds a little familiar!

44:16-17 - After being warned again and again the people defiantly refuse to listen. The women boldly say to Jeremiah's face that they will worship whoever they want to worship...and where are the husbands? Silent. Refusing to take up their role as spiritual leaders in their families. All the people do not understand that it was their idolatrous sin that got them into the terrible position they find themselves in the first place. They want to blame God. They want to blame Jeremiah. They want to blame the lack of sacrifices they have made to false God's. When what they really need to do is come to grips with their own guilt and repent.

45:5 - A bleak future gets prophesied over Baruch who is Jeremiah's scribe. Jeremiah tells Baruch not to set his sights on the things of this world or worldly success, because everything they know will be destroyed by God due to the idolatry of the Israelites. Jeremiah and Baruch have a ministry of repentance that God has called them to, but it will not end successfully...they will be rejected and abused for doing the will of God. But God promises that Baruch will be given his life in the end. The Bible never tells us that following God's will is easy! And I have to say, there is a beautiful simplicity in which Baruch will be able to function. He will have nothing, so he cannot be obsessed with the meaningless of this world, and he will not be successful so he will not have to deal with pride issues - all that is left for Baruch is utter reliance on God.

46:11 - The Egyptians had a very advanced culture with many medical breakthroughs in the ancient world, but they had nothing to bring healing to the soul. In fact, they culture was absolutely corrupt and did nothing but putrefy people's souls. They may have been healthy on the outside, but they were twisted and sick on the inside. Sounds a lot like the US to me.

46:28 - There is always a bit of hope thrown in at the end of violent prophecies about the future. God uses vile nations as a tool for judgment against the sins of the Israelites to discipline them, but in the end those nations will be destroyed and a remnant in Israel will always remain. God is faithful to His promises and the Jewish people are His chosen priest nation.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Jeremiah Chapters 40-43

40:2ff - I always find it interesting when non-believing characters from the Bible seem to have a better understanding of God then God's own people do. This pagan Babylonian official Nebuzaradan affirms Jeremiah as a prophet more than any Israelite ever has! He says, "I know you prophesied about us winning this war, and I know that your God has allowed this to happen because your people have sinned against Him." Nebuzaradan gets it! He understands what has just happened and most of the Israelites and Judeans do not! He allows Jeremiah to go and choose where he wants to end up...he says he can come to Babylon and be completely taken care of, or he can choose to stay behind. Though life would have been easier in Babylon for Jeremiah, he chooses to stay behind because he has been called to speak to the Children of God.

40:9 - Apparently Gedaliah is one of the few Israelites who also seems to understand the prophecies of Jeremiah. He knows that God has allowed the conquering to take place and encourages his fellow countrymen to work with the Babylonians.

40:16 - Gedaliah seems like a competent enough leader...he listens to Jeremiah, is respected by his fellow Jews, and is working well with the Babylonians...but he refuses to listen to the advice of men that come to warn him about a possible assassination attempt. This turns out to be a huge mistake on his part!

41:2ff - Ishmael and the men with him come to Mizpah and have dinner with Gedaliah, a sign of companionship and hospitality. But Ishmael is a treacherous man who uses the hospitality and trust of Gedaliah to slaughter the man and take all of the people following him captive. It strikes me as ironic that Ishmael is so zealous for his country that he is willing to kill fellow Jews, but that he is working with the Assyrians. Does he really think the Assyrians are going to be better than the Babylonians? The issue has never been about physical has been about spiritual faithfulness, and Ishmael is a great example of the lack of faithfulness to God during this time in Israel's history.

41:5 - Not only is Ishmael willing to kill Jewish leaders that are working with the Babylonians, but he is willing to slaughter a group of Jewish pilgrims who have come to worship God so that he can have a little more time to escape before anyone finds out that he has killed Gedaliah. The pilgrims show up at the wrong time, so he kills them...plain and simple. Ishmael is willing to slaughter faithful Jews in order to "cleanse" the land - that seems like pretty twisted logic to me.

41:17-18 - After Johanan and the others capture back the people who were taken from Gedaliah and chase Ishmael off, they prepare to head to Egypt so they will not have to face the wrath of the Babylonians. They are right to be scared. When revolts broke out in newly conquered territories in ancient times, the revolts were dealt with swiftly and violently. Even though Johanan and his followers did not kill Gedaliah, they do not know that Nebuchadnezzar will believe them...they are ready to flee.

42:2ff - In a move that actually makes sense, they decide to go to Jeremiah and ask him to speak to God on their behalf before they leave for Egypt. They say that they want to know what God wants them to do. They swear to Jeremiah that whatever God tells them to do...they will do. I think they only do this because they assume that they already know what God wants them to do. They are just trying to cover their bases spiritually. There is no way that God would want them to remain behind, right?

42:9ff - Jeremiah comes back to them after ten days and tells them the exact opposite of what they wanted to hear. He says that everything will be alright if they remain in Israel. God is more powerful than the Babylonian leaders and He will protect them from any wrath that might be coming their way. They wanted confirmation on their escape to Egypt and instead, God called them to stay put. Ever been there yourself? Think you have everything all figured out and you want God to affirm YOUR plan for your life when all the sudden He is calling you to do something that couldn't be further from what you wanted to do. So the Judeans are faced with a dilemma - what are they gonna do?

43:2 - The leaders call Jeremiah a liar and they refuse to listen to what he has to say. They didn't get the answer from God that they wanted, so they choose to reject God's instructions. I can understand where they are coming from - to stay behind would almost look like suicide...the Babylonians are gonna come back and somebody has got to pay for the murder of Gedaliah (The Babylonian appointed official!). From the human perspective, the will of God seems impossibly hard. But you cannot simply look at the situation from a human perspective...God is at work in the events of the world. God often calls us to do things that are truly impossible by our own strength, but He is willing to offer us His strength and He does not place a call on us for no reason. We must learn to trust God and to go faithfully where He calls us to go. The more we ignore His path and try to go our own way, the weaker our faith becomes. The more we trust God and choose to chase Him down paths that seems impossible to us, the more faithful we become.

43:6 - Then they left for Egypt and "took" all the other Judeans with them, including Jeremiah.

43:8ff - When they get to the outskirts of Egypt, Jeremiah pulls out another one of his powerful sermon illustrations that come straight from God...and talk about dramatic! He takes huge stones tears up the cobblestone streets of Talphanes (I'm sure the Egyptian officials were really pleased about that!), then he buries the stones and covers them back up. The Jewish people are all watching him do this and after he is done he says, "These stones will be a foundation for the throne of Nebuchadnezzar, because God is going to once again use him as a tool to bring judgement to the world! There is no escape for you who refused to listen to God. Babylon will take over Egypt next...they will destroy the Egyptian idols and all the Jews who refused to stay behind as well!" That had to be a really fun sermon to hear for everybody, the Egyptians and the Jews. There is never a happy ending when the people of God refuse to follow Him and listen to His voice.