Monday, 3 November 2014

(308) November 4: Jeremiah 36-37 & Hebrews 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 how you would describe the attitudes to God’s word that are displayed.

To ponder:
Still during Jehoiakim’s reign, God’s word came again: Once more (as 30v2) Jeremiah was to write all God had said to that point so that the people could hear about every disaster the LORD planned. And God speculates whether they would then turn from their wickedness so that he could forgive them. Of course this is a rhetorical point, as he already knows and has foretold their general response, although what follows shows that some individuals would respond more appropriately (36v1-3). Jeremiah dictated God’s words to Baruch. It seems he was banned from the temple area, so he told Baruch to go there on a fast day when there would be many about, and read the scroll. Echoing God’s words, Jeremiah also wondered whether they might then petition God for mercy, turning from their sin, as God’s anger was so great (36v4-7). It’s yet another reminder to give Christ’s teaching on the coming judgement the weight it deserves.
            Baruch did as asked on what seems to have been the next fast day. A man called Micaiah told the officials who then asked Baruch to come and read the scroll to them. On hearing it, they looked at each other in fear, saying that they must report it to the king. Finding out from Baruch that the words had come from Jeremiah however, they told them both to hide, put the scroll in the secretary’s room, and told the king. He sent for the scroll and had it read to him with the officials present, systematically cutting off and burning each section until it was all gone. He and his attendants showed no fear or mourning, and did this despite being urged by the officials not to. He even commanded that Jeremiah and Baruch be arrested (36v8-26). The word of the LORD then came to Jeremiah again, telling him to write the words on another scroll, and speak against the king. He was to state how the king had burned the scroll whilst asking why Jeremiah had written that the king of Babylon would destroy the land, including both men and animals. Jeremiah was then to say that God’s word was that Jehoiakim will have no son sitting on the throne, and will himself die and have his body left exposed to the elements. Indeed, he, his children and his attendants will all be punished for their wickedness as God brings on them and all in the city every disaster predicted, because they would not listen (36v27-31). So Jeremiah again dictated all the words God had previously given him to Baruch, who wrote them on a scroll (36v32). Even in the church today some effectively do as the king did, sidelining the Bible out of refusal to heed its teaching. The point throughout is that such a refusal to listen to God’s word won’t stop it from taking place. And so the contemporary assumption that truth can depend on personal preference is shown not only to be foolish but dangerous.
            Chapter 37 begins recounting how Zedekiah was appointed by Nebuchadnezzar to replace Jehoiakim’s son, and neither he, his attendants or the people paid any attention to Jeremiah’s words. Nevertheless, the king did send two messengers to ask Jeremiah to pray for the people – showing he recognized that Jeremiah did walk with God (37v1-3). At this point we’re told the Babylonian army withdrew from besieging Jerusalem in order to face the Egyptian army, which was advancing to help Judah. Then God told Jeremiah to tell the king that Pharoah’s army will return to Egypt, and the Babylonians will then return to Jerusalem, capturing and burning it. They should not therefore deceive themselves with false hopes of deliverance. Indeed, God said that even if they were to defeat the Babylonians, God would enable their wounded to burn down the city. The point is that its destruction is certain as it is ultimately from God not the merely human army (37v4-10). For us, this keeps us mindful that no matter how unlikely a future judgment might seem – no matter how secure the world, it is certain because God has declared it.
            After the Babylonian withdrawal, we read Jeremiah sought to leave the city to get some property that belonged to him from the land of Benjamin (perhaps as 32v1-15). However, when at the gate, he was arrested and charged with deserting to the Babylonians, despite his protesting his innocence (37v11-14). Perhaps in their paranoid refusal to recognise God spoke through him, his enemies reasoned to themselves that he was sympathetic to the enemy, if not planted by them. Likewise, those who oppose Christians do sometimes rationalize it to themselves, just as the religious leaders in Jesus day told themselves he was on league with Beelzebub.
            On being brought to the officials, they had Jeremiah beaten and imprisoned in a cell (probably cistern) beneath someone’s house, where he was kept for a long time. King Zedekiah then had him brought to the palace and asked if he had any word from the LORD. Astonishingly, he seems to think that he can bully Jeremiah into giving a favourable message as if God’s word can depend on that. Courageously and faithfully, Jeremiah immediately replies that he does have a word, and it is that the king will be handed over to Babylon. Jeremiah then asked what crime he had committed to be imprisoned, and where the king’s prophets were who prophesied that Babylon would not attack. His point is that the siege had already proved that their messages were false. So Jeremiah humbly asks the king as his LORD to hear his petition not to be sent back to his prison as he feels he will die there. In response, Zedekiah ordered that Jeremiah instead be kept in the courtyard of the guard and given bread right until there was none left. So God fulfilled his promise to rescue Jeremiah (37v14-21, see 1v19).

Praying it home:
Praise God that his word is certain and sure. Pray that you would treat it as such, and guard against assuming it is subject to our preferences.

Thinking further:
None today.

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