Wednesday, 22 October 2014

(296) October 23: Jeremiah 9-10 & 1 Timothy 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 what we learn about God’s judgement.

To ponder:
Jeremiah vividly describes the tension within him: He would weep desperately over the slain of his people whilst desiring to be separated from them because of their spiritual unfaithfulness, sin and deception even of friends (9v1-6). God declares that he will refine, test and punish them for this. The sense is that through their trials they will become purer (9v7-9). Here God himself states he will weep over the devastation on the land, but lay waste Judah and Jerusalem (9v10-11). Asking who is wise enough to understand, he then explains this is because the people forsook his law, stubbornly following their fathers in worshipping Baals (the Canaanite gods). So God will bring hardship, scattering them and pursuing them with a sword (9v12-16). He therefore tells the people to call professional female mourners to wail over their tears, ruin, shame, death, and destruction even of children (9v17-22). In the light of all this, he also calls people to boast in nothing, no wisdom, strength or riches, but only in understanding and knowing him as the one who exercises and delights in kindness, justice and righteousness (9v23-24). This is the perspective judgement always brings. It ends all that human beings might esteem, showing that in an ultimate sense, all that really matters is knowing and imaging God. In the light of this, Jeremiah can say that without circumcised hearts (ie. hearts that have cut off sin in devotion to God), Israel are just like the uncircumcised pagan nations and so will be punished accordingly. This teaches that circumcision was always intended to signify the love and obedience towards God that makes someone truly one of his covenant people (see Deut 6v4-12, Rom 2v29).
            With this likeness to the nations in mind, God goes on to command Israel not to follow their ways by fearing astronomical occurrences. He declares their customs worthless as they make idols from wood and metal that can neither speak nor walk, and so are obviously no more to be feared than a scarecrow (10v1-5). Here Jeremiah declares God’s unique greatness and power, meaning that he alone should be revered by all and as king of the nations. He describes how none of the nations’ wise men are like God. Rather, they are fools, being taught by idols that craftsmen have made. By contrast, the LORD is the true and living God, the eternal king, whose wrath causes the earth to tremble and cannot be endured (10v6-10). This should breed discernment in a culture where intellectuals are revered who don’t know God, but let their atheistic presuppositions govern their views, just as these people would have let their idols govern theirs.
            Jeremiah states how such idols will perish because they did not creat the universe, whereas God did create in power – so he should be feared, and wisdom – so he should be listened to. Everyone is therefore said to be ignorant, under the influence of their idols. By contrast, God, as the portion (ie. inheritance) of Jacob (Israel), is the maker of all, including Israel, which is his inheritance. The point is that Israel should be looking to him not idols, as he is not only the creator, but is their God and they are his people (10v11-16). It is similarly tragic for Christians to turn from the true God who is committed to them, to the false beliefs of the world, that leave people so foolish in their thinking (as Rom 1v18-32).
            The prophet continues to call the people under siege to ready their belongings for exile because God has declared this is what he is bringing about. Jeremiah then utters a cry of “woe” that represents that of the nation: It is over an incurable wound or sickness, which is that his tent (dwelling) and sons (people) are destroyed. The shepherds (religious leaders) lack all sense in not enquiring of God, and so they don’t prosper and their flock (the people) are scattered, as the report of commotion from the north is heard – an army coming to desolate the land (10v17-22). It is when church leaders don’t heed God’s word, that a church and nation becomes more susceptible to God’s judgement.
            Perhaps as a last attempt to seek mercy, Jeremiah seems to acknowledge that the LORD’s purpose was behind Israel’s rebellion, as he ultimately governs how someone’s life spans out. He then prays for justice – which would account for these circumstances, rather than anger – which responds only to the deeds themselves. It reminds us that the final judgement will not excuse sin, but will account for differing circumstances that may have led to it. Jeremiah’s prayer is, however, that he might survive, and in representing Israel, that it might in some form too. Nevertheless, he also prays for God’s wrath against the nations for devouring Jacob and his homeland (10v23-25). 

Praying it home:
Praise God that in justice he accounts for all circumstances. Pray that we would not boast in or esteem anything but understanding and knowing God.

Thinking further:
None today.

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