Tuesday, 28 October 2014

(302) October 29: Jeremiah 25-26 & 2 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 note the words of hope Jeremiah declares.

To ponder:
Now we’re in the year of Jehoiachin’s reign that Nebuchadnezzar ascended to the Babylonian throne. Jeremiah noted that he had been prophesying for 23 years, but the people hadn’t listened to him or to other prophets sent to turn them from evil and idolatry with the promise of remaining in the land. God declared that this was actually not to listen to him, and that it had provoked him to anger meaning that they would experience harm. He therefore promised to summon the peoples of the north with Nebuchadnezzar, who he described as his “servant,” to destroy the land and its surrounding nations – banishing, joy, festivity, industry, and life itself; and leaving the land desolate, with the nations serving the king of Babylon for 70 years (25v1-11). Yet he also promised that he would then punish the king of Babylon and Babylon itself, making it desolate forever, bringing on it the things Jeremiah had spoken against other nations, so Babylon itself is enslaved and repaid for its deeds (25v12-14). It’s another example of how God’s sovereign use of the evil acts of others to achieve his just ends doesn’t condone their evil, for which he will hold them accountable.
            With God’s wrath against the nations in mind, God tells Jeremiah to pour it out like a cup of wine that he presumably saw in a vision. He declares it will cause the nations to stagger in madness like drunkards, because of the sword he is sending against them. In making the nations drink, Jeremiah must have acted this out in a symbolic way, or seen it somehow in the vision. The point is that the nations must drink down God’s judgement – whether Judah, with her kings and officials, the king if Egypt and his, with his people, or the kings and peoples of the entire known world, near and far (25v15-26). The final king mentioned is that of Babylon (see footnote and 51v41). The relationship we’ve seen throughout between ruin, scorn and cursing, reflects the fact that a ruined nation implies weakness in them and their god that might be mocked, but also leads to that nation being referred to in curses that wish others would become as it is. So with destruction also comes humiliation.
            God commands the nations through Jeremiah to drink until they vomit and fall like drunkards, to rise no more. And he adds that if they refuse to drink, he says they must. In other words, his judgement is not optional. For if he is beginning to punish his own special city, could they really think they could avoid punishment themselves? This is God’s commitment to justice. It is not biased. It exempts no-one. So Jeremiah is to declare that God will roar, thunder and shout against all humanity, bringing charges and judgement on every nation, pictured by a storm rising from the ends of the earth and spreading nation to nation, until the whole world is engulfed. We’re told the slain will then be like refuse lying everywhere, un-mourned and unburied – no doubt because there will be so many (25v27-33). This universal judgement in the time of Babylon is a paradigm for the final judgement of all (Rev 18-20).
            Turning again to Judah’s leaders (shepherds), Jeremiah tells them to mourn in the dust because they will be slaughtered and shattered, and have no-where to flee to as the land itself will be destroyed by God’s fierce lion-like anger (25v34-38). We have seen this image before. It pictures the nobility, majesty and fierce nature of God’s right anger and justice, and is picked up as a description of Christ (see Rev 5v5).
            Chapter 26 takes us to an earlier time in Jehoiachin’s father Jehoiakin’s reign. God instructed Jeremiah to stand in the temple courtyard and speak everything he commanded to the people coming for worship. As earlier in the book, the LORD suggested “perhaps” they might turn from the evil so he could relent, knowing, of course, that they wouldn’t. Once more the message was that if they didn’t listen to the prophets and follow his law, then the temple would be like the destroyed high place in the northern kingdom (Shiloh), and the city an object of cursing. In response, the priests, prophets and people seized Jeremiah, saying he must die for saying such things. The officials then went from the palace to the temple, the two key buildings of God’s kingdom, and at the temple’s new gate, heard the prophets and priests lay their charges against Jeremiah (26v1-11). Surely this all prefigures the shock at Jesus’ words by the leaders in his day, that led them to seek his death and put him through his mock trial (Matt 23v63-68, Jn 10v31-36). 
            With Spirit-given Christ-like courage, Jeremiah didn’t flinch. He told them God had sent him and urged them to repent, promising God would relent from bringing disaster if they did, and challenging them to do to him as they see fit, but stressing that if they kill him they will bring guilt on themselves and the city (26v12-15). We see the same boldness in Peter, John and Stephen (Acts 4v8-12, and Acts 7). The officials and people respond to the priests and prophets that Jeremiah shouldn’t die as he spoke in God’s name. Some elders also refer them to when king Hezekiah feared God and sought his favour after Micah prophesied similar disaster (see Mic 3v8-12), which then led God to relent. They therefore warn that continuing their current course would bring disaster. Finally, Jeremiah was supported by the son of the influential scribe who penned King Josiah’s reforms (26v24, see 2 Kgs 22v3), and so was not handed over to death. But we see this was the only reason, as the case of the prophet Uriah is also told. He fled Jehoiakim after preaching similar things, only to be pursued, captured in Egypt and executed (26v20-23). Here we might compare the book of Acts telling how Paul survived the plots against him, whilst Stephen and James didn’t. The point is that God is well able to protect his servants, as he promised Jeremiah he would (1v19). But he doesn’t always make that promise. Moreover, we also see how violently and irrationally hostile even those amongst God’s people can be when his word is spoken against them, just as Judah’s king was.

Praying it home:
Praise God that no-one can hinder his word, as he is well able to ensure his spokesmen remain free and alive to preach. Pray that he would protect those who are persecuted, and turn the hearts of their persecutors to himself.

Thinking further:
None today.

If you receive this post by email, visit bible2014.blogspot.co.uk and make a comment.


Post a Comment