Thursday, 23 October 2014

(297) October 24: Jeremiah 11-13 & 1 Timothy 4

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 the people’s sin has been expressed.

To ponder:
God’s next word is for Jeremiah to hear and recount the terms of his covenant in the towns of Judah, telling them that according to those terms those who do not obey are cursed, and that the promise of the land was for those would do everything God commanded (11v1-5). He is also to say how this has been worked out since Israel left Egypt, as those who refused to listen to God experienced the covenant curses (11v6-8). Likewise, if we continue to rebel against God we cannot say we have not been warned by his interactions with Israel.
            God goes on to say that those in Judah and Jerusalem have conspired in following their fathers’ sin and idolatry in breaking the covenant, which is why God will bring the coming disaster on them and not listen to their cries. Indeed, the people will cry out to their many false gods, who will, of course, be no more able to help than the gods of today’s world religions, or those of materialism, science or democracy (11v9-13). Once more God tells Jeremiah not to pray for the people as their sin has reached such an extent that God will not now listen even if they did seek help – perhaps because he knows their cries would be insincere anyway. So 11v15 asks what the people are doing engaging in the rituals of the temple whilst continuing and rejoicing in evil. In the light of this, the nation, that God planted as a beautiful olive tree, will be destroyed (11v14-17).
11v18-23 relates to a plot against Jeremiah’s life, that God revealed to him. It seems he was totally unaware like a lamb going to slaughter. He was a fruitful tree in the sense that he obeyed God and ministered his word. Yet his enemies wanted to destroy him and so his fruit, that so challenged them. Indeed, they said that unless he stopped prophesying they would kill him. Yet knowing God judges rightly, Jeremiah doesn’t stop prophesying, but prays for God to act in vengeance against these opponents and uphold his cause. And it seems there were a lot of them – the whole town of Anathoth (Jeremiah’s own village, 1v1). Yet God declared in the year of punishment (probably when Babylon attacked), they and their children would die by sword and famine (that would inevitably follow) so that there would not even be a remnant left. Obviously, this wouldn’t rid Jeremiah of the immediate threat. But it would reassure him that justice would be done, just as persecuted believers today can be reassured (Rev 6v10-11).
            At this point Jeremiah asks God the age old question over his justice: Why do the wicked prosper? In bringing this as a case before God, Jeremiah speaks because he feels hard done by. God plants and establishes people who honour him with their lips but not their hearts, and they seem to benefit; whilst Jeremiah, who God knows is righteous, suffers. Jeremiah therefore asks God to drag the wicked off for slaughter out of concern that whilst they remain in the land, the land will suffer and not thrive because of God’s covenant promises (12v1-4). Jesus would affirm the importance of praying for one’s enemies to be blessed and come to repentance. But Jeremiah’s desire that God would judge the wicked so that his people and their place could thrive is not wrong. 
In 12v5 God seems to be saying that if Jeremiah can’t cope under his present difficulty, how is he going to cope when things soon get far worse? God’s ministers must be ready through faith to cope with any hardship that might come because of their ministry. Here, God acknowledges that Jeremiah has been betrayed even by family, and he should not trust them even if they speak well of him. He then describes how he will forsake Judah as his inheritance, because she roars at him. He therefore calls metaphorical predators and foreign shepherds (leaders) to ruin this “pleasant field” with the “sword of the LORD” so the people cannot even gain a good harvest (12v5-13). But he also states that the neighbouring nations who had previously sought to plunder the land will also be uprooted, presumably by Babylon. He then promises to compassionately restore them to their own lands, which he had given them as their inheritances. Moreover, if they learn from God’s people how to honour him, they will be established with them – but if not, be destroyed (12v14-17). As with Isaiah, this looks to the church age and the final judgement.
13v1-11 describes how Jeremiah was instructed to buy a brand new linen belt that he hid in rocks until it was ruined and useless. It was to be a prophetic symbol of how through their exile (the rocks) God would ruin the pride of Judah and Jerusalem, because of the people’s stubbornness and idolatry. That pride was to have been chosen to be bound to the LORD as his own and for his honour. But, now, like the belt, they will be discarded and ruined. More than that, they are like wineskins, useful only for being filled with the wine of God’s wrath, so they smash into one-another like drunkards. And once more, God says he will allow no mercy in him to keep him from carrying this out (13v12-14). It’s a stark warning to those who are given the dignity of being members of the church, but who turn from God.
Despite the fact God won’t relent, Jeremiah still calls the people not to be arrogant, but to honour the LORD before he brings the coming darkness. He adds that if they don’t listen, he himself will weep in secret because God’s flock will be taken away. The king and his mother may already be in exile at this point (2 Kgs 24v8-12), but it seems Jeremiah is anticipating that, urging them to humble themselves before their crowns are removed. Here Jeremiah looks Judah and Jerusalem to the north from where Babylon will come, asking where the flock God entrusted to them is. He explains that when they are ruled by those they sought as allies, they will be in pain like a woman in labour. And if they ask why, Jeremiah declares it is because of their (their people’s) inability to do anything other than sin (13v15-23). So he has decreed that they are scattered and have the shame of their unfaithfulness to God exposed (13v24-27). On the final day of judgement, the deeds of all will somehow be exposed and God’s justice seen to be right.

Praying it home:
Praise God for his righteous justice. Pray that any Christians you know tempted to give themselves to sin would turn from it.

Thinking further:
None today.

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