Tuesday, 21 October 2014

(295) October 22: Jeremiah 7-8 & 1 Timothy 2

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

To discover:­
As you read consider the ways truth is distorted.

To ponder:
Jeremiah is instructed to proclaim a message, at the entrance to the temple, to those from Judah who come in. One can imagine the impact. He calls them to reform their ways if they are to continue living in the city or land, and by addressing worshippers he is affirming their worship is hypocritical. They are not to trust in the mantra that implies that because God’s temple is there, all will be well. Rather, they will remain only if they act justly, aid the needy, and reject violence and idolatry. They just cannot claim they are safe whilst they break the commandments, making God’s house a den of robbers because it contains such sinful worshippers (7v1-11). Jesus makes the same point, reminding us that worship without godliness is an affront to God (Matt 21v13).
            The LORD proves his point by telling the people to see what happened to Shiloh where the tabernacle was first pitched more permanently. As part of the northern kingdom of Israel, it was destroyed because of how wicked the people there were. So God says, because the people ignored his word through Jeremiah (and perhaps other prophets) whilst they sinned, he will now do the same to the temple that “bears his name” (ie. where he is present), thrusting Judah from his presence (7v12-15) as he did Ephraim (ie. the northern kingdom).
It seems this is now so certain that nothing will turn God from this. He therefore commands Jeremiah not to pray for the people, as things are so bad that whole families are baking gifts for the Queen of Heaven (a Babylonian god) and making offerings to other gods too, provoking him to anger and shaming themselves (7v16-19). God therefore says that his anger will be poured out on people, animals, and land – no doubt through the coming conquest. The note that God’s wrath will burn and not be quenched suggests not that it is literally everlasting, but that it cannot be put out and so avoided. But Jesus implies that at the final judgement it will endure (Matt 25v46).
God adds that the people can go ahead with their offerings and sacrifices to him, even if not done as prescribed. It makes no difference, as his concern from the time of Egypt had always been with obedience; and from that time on, the people had stubbornly followed evil and refused to listen to his prophets (7v20-26). The point is that God’s immense patience with what have always been a rebellious people has run out. And so God has Jeremiah declare to the people when they ignore him that the nation has disobeyed and truth (as to God’s will) has perished. He is also to lament that God has rejected his generation. Here, cutting his hair is a symbol of the people losing their pride or crown. And his lamenting on the “barren heights” (perhaps the desert outside the city) probably symbolises them lamenting in exile from their abundant land (7v27-29). The lesson for us, again, is to listen to those who warn us of God’s justice.
            What follows displays the extremity of Judah’s sin: They have set up idols in the temple, so defiling it, and built high places on which to burn their children as sacrifices. It’s even hinted they thought this might be acceptable to God as he has to stress it was not (7v30-31). Indeed, he declares that because of this, this place of great evil will become a place of slaughter, in which the people will die and be fed on by the birds. None will be left to frighten the birds away, all joy will have gone, and the land will be desolate. The bones of the people will also be removed from their graves as a humiliation by the enemy, and exposed to the very heavenly bodies they worshipped. Moreover, those who survive will wish they had died (7v32-8v3). It’s a picture of how the justice of God rightly fits the crime. Those who slaughter children are slaughtered, and those who worship stars exposed before them, showing their impotence. Likewise, Paul writes that those throughout the world who suppress God’s truth for sin are handed over to foolish thinking and sinful desire (Rom 1v18-32). And on the last day, those who have chosen to live apart from the Lord will experience just that by being shut out of his kingdom.
            Jeremiah is told to ask why the people refuse to turn back to God, clinging to the lie that they haven’t done wrong, and showing that they don’t know God’s requirements. The suggestion is that obedience should have been as instinctive and natural to them as migration is to birds. So this is a wilful decision to follow their own course (8v4-7). And if they are tempted to claim wisdom because they have God’s law, they should recognize that the scribes who apply it in their writings are handling it falsely – a warning to all authors of Christian books! So the so-called wise will end up trapped for rejecting God’s word, losing their wives and fields to the conquerors. Here God states that all are greedy for gain, but may mean all scribes, prophets and priests who, perhaps for the sake of financial support, unashamedly deceive by proclaiming Judah have not provoked God and so will know peace. He promises they will be punished (8v8-12). An this teaches us that wisdom is to accept what is true, not spin it to make it more palatable.
            8v13 probably refers to the LORD seeking or scuppering any spiritual harvest, so there is no fruit of righteousness amongst the people, and they therefore lose what he had given. Jeremiah therefore calls the people to flee with him to safety because God has doomed them to destruction and given them poisoned water (perhaps a reference to their unhealthy alliances, 2v13, 18) because of their sins. They hoped for peace and healing after past oppression, but face only terror as they hear battle horses coming from the north, and God promises to send metaphorical snakes (8v14-17). At this point Jeremiah cries to God as his comforter, faint with despair at his people crying in exile as they wonder if God still reigns in Zion. This may be a vision which looks ahead to that day. Whatever the case, God immediately responds, asking why they so provoked him with their idolatry. It clarifies that they are not exiled because God is no longer king, but because he is, and they sinned against him. Jeremiah then continues with an illustration that implies the opportunity for God finding the fruit of righteousness or saving the people from what is coming has passed. The prophet therefore expresses how crushed and horrified he is, in seeing no possibility of healing for the people (8v18-22). Now is the time for our own repentance. There will be a time when opportunity has passed.

Praying it home:
Praise God for delaying Christ’s return and so giving people time to repent. Pray for an awakening in our day as to the seriousness of sin and reality of judgement.

Thinking further:
None today.

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