Saturday, 1 November 2014

(306) November 2: Jeremiah 32 & Titus 3

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

To discover:­
As you read consider how Jeremiah stresses the justice of the exile.

To ponder:
Chapter 32 takes us to Zedekiah’s tenth year as king, and Nebucadnezzar’s eighteenth (588/587BC). Nebuchadnezzar’s army was besieging Jerusalem just as Jeremiah had predicted (see 2 Kgs 25), and Jeremiah imprisoned in a courtyard in the palace because he was saying the LORD was about to hand the city and king over to Nebuchadnezzar. Indeed, Jeremiah says Zedekiah would speak to him face to face and be taken to Babylon until God deals with him there – presumably by bringing about his death. Because Zedekiah refused to recognise Jeremiah as a prophet he would have felt such a message terrible for morale. But Jeremiah’s point was that it was pointless fighting against the Babylonians, as God had willed they be conquered. If listened to, his message would therefore have saved many Jewish lives (32v1-5). God’s word is always for our good. And our readiness to listen to and obey it protects us against much harm.
            God’s word to Jeremiah was that his cousin would come and ask him to buy his field according to the law (Lev 25v25-31), which required him to buy it as the nearest relative. Most likely in context (see 32v15) the cousin recognized that he was about to lose it to the besieging army, or that he would die, wanting the land to remain in the family as was intended in the law. Whatever the case, it was not good business sense to buy land when about to be conquered. Nevertheless, the cousin came exactly as God had predicted, and Jeremiah bought the field, giving the deed of purchase to Baruch, in the presence of his cousin, witnesses, and all the Jews in the courtyard with him (32v6-12). In their presence he then spoke God’s word to Baruch, instructing him to put the sealed and unsealed copies in a clay jar that will last a long time, as God declares houses, fields and vineyards will be bought again in the land (32v13-15). Jeremiah’s actions were therefore those of faith and hope, speaking powerfully to those present that although God had given them over to Babylon, this wasn’t the end of his purposes.
            Jeremiah then prayed to God as sovereign ruler and creator who can do anything, and who shows love to thousands but, on the principle of solidarity, does punish people for sin in such a way that implicates their children. He acknowledged God’s great purposes and power, and the fact that he sees all and rewards everyone according to their desert. This principle still applies in the gospel, as he gives eternal life to those who seek to glorify him through faith, and everlasting wrath to those who are unrepentant (see Rom 2v6-11). Jeremiah continues acknowledging the history of great wonders God has done for Israel in the face of all mankind, gaining renown: He brought the people from Egypt, gave them the abundant land as he had promised, but they did not obey him so that he brought this disaster on them. So Jeremiah calls God to see the siege ramps, noting that because of the sword, famine and plague, Jerusalem wouldn’t be able to hold out, and so will be handed over just as God said it would. Yet despite this, Jeremiah notes that God had told him to buy the field (32v16-25). The implication throughout is that this is because God intends to do more wonders in restoring the people after exile.
            At this point God speaks, declaring he is the God not just of Israel, but all mankind, and so nothing is too hard for him – he can moved nations to do as he pleases. He then predicts how the city will not only be handed over, but burnt down along with the houses where idolatry was engaged in. He continues that the people, priests, prophets, officials and kings of Israel have done nothing other than provoke him with their evil and idolatry from their youth and from when Jerusalem was first built. They turned their back on God, refused to listen to or respond to his discipline, building their high places and even sacrificing their children to Molech (32v26-35). He adds that although by his word Jeremiah is saying the people will be handed over, God will surely gather them from where he banishes them in his wrath, and bring them back to Judah to live in safety. Again he uses the covenant formula that they will be his people and he their God – as opposed to the idols. He continues that he will give them a singleness of heart and action so they always fear him for their good and that of their children, that he will enter into an everlasting covenant with them in which he never stops doing them good, inspiring them to fear him so they never turn away, rejoicing in the good he does them and planting them in the land. Indeed, he will do this with all his heart and soul – so without reluctance and with absolute determination and so certainty (32v36-41). Again we see the new covenant outlined, in which God will work within his people so that they fear and don’t veer from him as they did before. So just as he has brought calamity, he will bring prosperity in which fields throughout the land that were once regarded as desolate after the conquest by Babylon, will again be brought as the people’s fortunes are restored (32v42-44). The concepts here are of course tailored to Jeremiah’s ancient audience. But the point is that a future in a physical land will be enjoyed by God’s people. It reminds us that we must continually keep in mind that the final state isn’t a spiritual heaven but a literal new or renewed creation in which people will live together and before God (perhaps even spanning out from a literal Jerusalem and Israel), enjoying all that creation has to offer.

Praying it home:
Praise God that for this hope that you have in Christ. Pray that he would forgive and keep you from your own tendency to evil and idolatry.

Thinking further:
None today.

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