Thursday, 30 October 2014

(304) October 31: Jeremiah 29-30 & Titus 1

Ask God to open your mind, heart and will to understand, delight in and obey what you read.

To discover:­
As you read consider what wisdom we have for how we should await the return of Christ.

To ponder:
Chapter 29 records the letter Jeremiah sent to the elders, priests, prophets and people amongst the exiles in Babylon, after Jehoiachin was deported and before the later destruction of Jerusalem and the temple. It was entrusted to two of king Zedekiah’s envoys that he was sending to Nebuchadnezzar (29v1-3, see 2 Kgs 24v12-17). In it Jeremiah records God’s word, telling the exiles to build, settle, plant, marry, have children, and pray for and seek the peace and prosperity of Babylon, because that will mean prosperity for them. As before, it’s a model for how the church should be within the world as it awaits the return of Christ. We are not to withdraw from culture or give up work or marriage, but seek the good of our society and settle in for what might be a significant time.
            Again, Jeremiah urges the people not to listen to the dreams and lies of the false prophets and future tellers, which they themselves encouraged these “prophets” to have – no doubt because they wanted to hear that God would immediately destroy Babylon (29v4-9). On the contrary, God declares that only after 70 years will he come and fulfil his gracious promise to bring them home. Similarly, Christ will return only when God has determined, and we cannot hurry that. 29v11 is often quoted out of context. In it God states that he plans a prosperous future for the people in their land. They will call on him for help, seeking him with their whole heart, and he will listen, bringing them out of captivity from all the nations they have been banished to (29v10-14). It’s a promise partially fulfilled after the 70 years, but only ultimately fulfilled as Jews come to repentance, call on Christ for deliverance, and are restored as a kingdom in the new creation. The letter ends with God speaking against two specific prophets, stating they will be handed over to Nebuchadnezzar and burned before the eyes of the exiles, so that their names then become a curse. Their indictment is that they committed adultery and spoke lies God did not command (29v20-23).
            29v24-28 records a subsequent charge against a third prophet for responding to Jeremiah’s letter by sending a letter to the people and priests in Jerusalem, and specifically to Zephaniah. It stated God had appointed Zephaniah to be in charge of the temple, and so he should put any who act like a prophet into the stocks and neck irons. It then asked why he had not therefore reprimanded Jeremiah for his letter to the exiles. Zephaniah, however, showed this letter to Jeremiah, whom God then told to send a further message to the exiles: Because the false prophet had not been sent by God and had led the people to believe a lie, he and his descendents would be wiped out and he would see none of the good things God would do (29v29-32).
            30v1-2 records God instructing Jeremiah to write down all his oracles – sanctioning the idea of inscripturation. It begins a new section of the book, dealing with renewal and restoration. So God immediately declares days are coming when he will bring from captivity not just the people of Judah, but those of Israel too, and restore them to the land given their forefathers. This is a promise of the reunification of God’s people beyond the return from Babylon of those from Judah (30v3). Of these two groups, God notes their cries of fear and not peace as men experience pains like those of labour. Of that day, God says it will be more aweful than any other, but Jacob (ie. the whole nation descended from him) will be saved out of it. The yoke on their necks will be broken as they are released from their slavery to foreigners, and serve the LORD and David as their king, who God will raise up for them (30v4-9). This should rightly be seen as a promise of God raising to power the long awaited Davidic descendent who was to reign forever (see 30v21, 2 Sam 7v10-16). It’s a picture of a righteous kingdom flourishing under God’s rule mediated through his chosen ruler.
            In the light of this God urges Jacob (his servant) not to fear or be dismayed in exile, as his descendents (ie. the people descended from those in both the northern and southern kingdoms) will be saved from their captivity and then known peace, security and freedom from fear, under his rule and protection. Although God will utterly destroy the nations he won’t therefore totally destroy Jacob – although he will justly discipline and punish him (30v10-11). Here he declares Jacob’s wound (the exiles of Ephraim and then Judah) is incurable from a human perspective, as all Jacob’s allies have forgotten him and God has struck him as a cruel enemy would because of his sin and guilt. But God also declares that those who, under God’s sovereign hand, so devoured and plundered Jacob, will receive just what they did to him. Moreover, God will heal Jacob’s wounds, in context, by compassionately re-establishing him in the land, with people’s homes restored and thriving, and Jerusalem and the palace rebuilt. From these places there will be song and thanksgiving, the people will increase and be honoured as they are established before God in security as they always should have been, with those who oppress them being punished (30v12-20). It is now that we hear more of their leader or king. He is not said to be David, but one who will “arise” from amongst the people – ie. not be expected to be king. God will bring him close, so that he enjoys an intimate relationship with him. And the king will enjoy this relationship because he is prepared to devote himself wholly to God, and so be the righteous king the people always needed (30v21). One cannot but think of Jesus coming from ordinary Nazareth, devoting himself even to death for his Father, and so rising and ascending to be as close as his right hand from where he now reigns.
            30v22 quotes the phrase that sums up God’s covenant relationship with his people. The point is that having restored the people to their land and given them this leader, they will belong to God in the way always intended. It is in this context that God also promises a storm of wrath on the wicked as his means of accomplishing these purposes, which are of his “heart” and so precious to him. He states this will be understood in the future, and in hindsight we do understand. His wrath on Babylon was his means of bringing an empire to power which would decree the return of the Judean exiles, and no doubt some from the northern tribes that were exiled by Assyria too. And this is a paradigm of his final wrath, which will remove all evil so his people can forever thrive in the new creation.
Praying it home:
Praise God that he acts through wrath to save in Christ. Pray that Christians suffering oppression would take comfort in these truths.

Thinking further:
None today.

If you receive this post by email, visit and make a comment.


Post a Comment