Sunday, 26 October 2014

(300) October 27: Jeremiah 20-22 & 2 Timothy 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 the sings of Judah’s kings.

To ponder:
Chapter 20 begins with a priest having Jeremiah beaten up and put in stocks for his prophesying. Jeremiah’s God-given courage is seen in speaking as soon as released, telling the priest God has given him a name meaning “terror on every side,” as he will witness his friends being handed over to the king of Babylon who will take them away and execute them. And he and his whole household will die in exile too, because he prophesied lies (presumably as one of those mentioned in 14v13). Again, Jeremiah adds that the city will be plundered (20v1-6).
            Jeremiah is then surprisingly frank. He wrongly charges God with deceiving him. Perhaps he feels he was drawn into being a prophet on false pretences, overpowered in the sense that God ensured he took up the task (20v7). And Jeremiah feels aggrieved, because he is ridiculed and insulted whenever he speaks, as he always has to speak violence and destruction. But he cannot stop himself, as God’s word is like a burning fire that tires him if he holds it in. He therefore has to live surrounded by people who whisper against him, want to report him to those who might do him harm, or who are just waiting until he can be tricked into doing something wrong so they can get their revenge (20v8-10). It’s a fascinating insight into the psychology of faithful preachers, who by the Spirit just cannot do anything but speak the truth, no matter how hard - and into the various means by which they might be opposed.
            In all this, Jeremiah is confident that God is with him, so his persecutors will stumble and be disgraced, with their dishonour remembered – at least by God, and, of course, in this book too. Noting God sees his own heart and mind, he asks him to take up his cause and bring vengeance against his persecutors. After a sudden outburst of praise that God rescues the needy from the wicked, Jeremiah then speaks as Job did, cursing his birth with the most vivid poetry, and wishing God had killed him in the womb so he wouldn’t see such trouble (20v11-18). This wavering from one emotion to the next reflects the realities of struggling with one’s hardships in prayer.
            Chapter 21 begins with king Zedekiah sending another priest and a man with the same first name as 20v1, to get Jeremiah to ask God if he would deliver Jerusalem from Nebuchadnezzar (2 Kgs 25) as he had from Sennacherib a hundred years previously (21v1-2, see 2 Kgs 19v35-36). It is uncertain whether God responded by saying Judah’s army would be herded back into the city, or that the enemy army would come in (21v4). What is clear is that whilst being besieged, shockingly, God himself would fight against his own people in anger, by sending a plague to kill both men and animals. He would then hand the king, officials and other survivors to Nebuchadnezzar who would mercilessly put them to death (20v1-7). Echoing Moses’ covenant sermon appeal (Deut 30v19), God then says he is putting life or death before the people. Those who stay in the city will die by these means, whilst those who surrender will live, as God has determined to do Jerusalem harm (20v8-10). The LORD adds a particular word to the royal household. He restates his abiding warning that unless Judah’s kings administered justice, God’s wrath would break out with unquenchable fire. And so in line with this, he reiterates that he is against Jerusalem, which thinks itself impenetrable, punishing her as her deeds deserve (21v11-14). Those who assume God is for them but do not display true faith in godly living will find in the end that God is against them, and that they therefore face his burning anger too.
            What follows seems to be a number of oracles against Judah’s previous kings (see 2 Kgs 23-25), spoken earlier and included here to demonstrate the truth of 21v11-12, and so the appropriateness of God’s impending judgement. He had sent Jeremiah to preach at the palace itself, declaring to the king, officials and people that they should do what is just and right, aiding rather than oppressing the needy. He promised that if they were careful to do his commands, then kings, officials and the people would come through Jerusalem’s gates in victory. But if they didn’t, the palace would become a ruin, for although it had the greatness and grandeur of the forests in Gilead and Lebanon from which its wood came, God would make it like a desert, with its cedar beams burnt (22v1-7). So passing foreigners would ask why the LORD had done this, and the answer would be that the people forsook his covenant and worshipped idols (22v8-9).
22v10-12 urges the people not to mourn the death of the righteous king Josiah (see 2 Kgs 23v29-30) as he will never return, nor will his son (Shallum, or Jehoahaz) who will die in exile. Jeremiah then declares woe against Jehoiakim (Jehoahaz’s brother and successor) for building his palace through unrighteousness and oppression of workers, despite seeing that his father (Josiah) had all he needed by doing what was right and just. It is this, God declares, that sums what it is to know him (22v13-17). And so he says Jehoiakim will not be mourned either, but experience a humiliating death outside of Jerusalem. And he is urged to cry out because his allies are crushed. And because he would not listen to or obey God, his shepherds (ie. Jerusalem’s leaders) will be driven away and he will be ashamed and disgraced, and know pain like in labour (22v18-23).
Next, God speaks against Jehoiachin (Jehoaikim’s son), saying that even if he were as precious as a personalized signet ring through which God’s authority was exercised, he would still discard him to Nebuchadnezzar. He therefore states Jehoiachin and his mother will both die in exile too. He will be unwanted like a broken pot, and cast into Babylon with his children. God therefore states that he should be recorded as if childless as none of his children will ascend to David’s throne. Astonishingly and tragically, David’s line will therefore seem ended (22v24-30)! It all shows how desperately the people needed a truly righteous king, if they were to survive.
Praying it home:
Praise God for providing the perfect king in Christ. Pray that you would seek through faith to do what is just and right.

Thinking further:
None today.

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