Saturday, 18 October 2014

(292) October 19: Jeremiah 1-2 & 2 Thessalonians 2

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

To discover:­
As you read note the particular sins condemned.

To ponder:
Jeremiah begins telling us that he prophesied the word of the LORD from the time of King Josiah to when Judah went into exile under Babylon (1v1-3, see 2 Kgs 22-25). First, his call is described: God had personally known and set him apart as a prophet from before he was born (1v4-5). Knowing this would have sustained him in his times of trial, and affirms his authority to the reader. It also reminds us that God has our lives and vocations pre-ordained. Like Moses, Jeremiah humbly recognized his insufficiency to the task, not least because of his youth. And like Moses, God affirmed he would be able to fulfil his calling because God would be with him and protect him. So Jeremiah must say whatever God commands without fear of others (1v6-8). There’s a model here for all called to preach God’s word. Symbolically touching Jeremiah’s mouth, God declared he had put his words in his mouth, appointing him to tear down and build up nations and kingdoms. This signals that, as with Isaiah, what we will read has consequences beyond Israel’s borders. The sense is that by declaring God’s word of judgement or restoration, Jeremiah is God’s means of that word coming to pass (1v9-10).
            The phrase “the word of the LORD came to me” will prove to be a common way of describing the receipt of a vision in which something is seen as if by the eyes and heard as if by the ears. This was the standard means by which prophets received revelations (1v11, Num 12v6-8). And these initial visions confirm Jeremiah’s call. First, he sees an almond tree, which sounds in Hebrew like “watching,” signifying the fact that God was watching for his word to be fulfilled, and so for nations to be uprooted or planted as Jeremiah would predict. Second, the prophet sees a pot of boiling liquid signifying an imminent disaster to be poured out from the north onto Judah and Jerusalem. These nations (we will learn this is Babylon and her allies) are summoned by God so agents of his judgement against Judah’s wickedness and idolatry, and their kings will eventually rule Jerusalem (1v11-16). In the light of this, God tells Jeremiah to prepare and fearlessly go and tell the people whatever he commands him. He declares he has made Jeremiah like various items of strength to stand against the land, its kings, officials, priests and people – ie. everyone. This is going to be a lonely task. Indeed, he is forewarned that they will fight against him because of what he says. But they won’t overcome him as God reiterates that he will be with him and rescue him (1v17-19). No doubt Jesus’ promise to be with his apostles had the same intent (Matt 28v20).
            Chapter 2 begins the prophecies against Judah, and Jeremiah has to proclaim this one in Jerusalem itself. God recalls Israel’s initial bride-like devotion in the Exodus, in which she was set-apart as God’s special portion from humanity, so that all who came against her faced disaster for their guilt. In the light of this he then asks what fault the people’s fathers find in him that led them to stray into their idolatry, without seeking the God who brought them through the desert into their fertile land. Instead, they defiled the land with their evil, and even the priests who dealt with the law failed to seek God, but rebelled and turned to idolatry (2v1-8). The LORD therefore levels his charge against the people, that whereas nations don’t change their false gods, his people changed their glory (ie. the excellence of the true God) for worthless idols (2v9-11). Paul notes that this is a pattern within wider humanity too (Rom 1v21-23). The heavens themselves are called to reflect how appalling this is: Not only have the people forsaken the spiritual life of God, but dug their own water pits, that can never give the life they need. Whereas Israel was not a slave by birth, he has therefore been plundered. Indeed, Assyria has laid the land waste like lions, and Egypt (Memphis/Tahpanhes) humiliated Israel. So why, God asks, does Israel seek to drink from their rivers - ie. look not to him but to them for life through the protection of military alliances (compare 2v18, 13, 36). Here God warns that this irreverent forsaking of him will end in bitter punishment (2v12-19). No matter how good we might start with God, turning from him ends in judgement.
            In what follows God describes Israel refusing to serve him and engaging with idols like a prostitute (the trees and hills were places of idolatry). He asks how Israel became a corrupt vine unable to remove his own guilt. He refutes the people’s attempt to suggest they are not defiled, describing Israel like a donkey on heat, or a runner speeding off to the false gods he loves (2v20-25). He then declares the king and Israel’s leaders are disgraced in crediting idols with their existence yet calling on him in time of trouble. He understandably asks where their gods are at such times (2v26-28), and this suggests the charges the people are bringing against him (2v29) are charges that he doesn’t come to their aid. So the LORD points out their rebellion and their refusal to respond to his correction seen in doing violence to the prophets he sent to call them to repentance (2v30). His word to the people is that it is not as if he had been a desert, not giving them blessing. Yet the people still assume they are free to do as they wish and not come to him, forgetting the good he gives like a bride forgetting her jewellery. So Israel pursue the love of idols like the loose woman, do violence to the poor for no reason, yet still claim innocence and that God is not angry. And it is because of this refusal to accept their guilt that God will pass judgement. The nation will therefore be disappointed that their alliance with Egypt will bring them no help in the face of Babylon. Indeed, their envoys will leave Egypt with their hands on their head in mourning, realising they are unprotected (2v31-37). The lesson is that we need to accept our guilt before God, as nothing and no-one but him can shield us from the penalty it deserves.

Praying it home:
Praise God for providing preachers to confront our sin and call us to repentance. Pray that your ministers would do that, not fearing man, but in God’s strength.

Thinking further:
None today.

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


Post a Comment