Wednesday, 29 October 2014

(303) October 30: Jeremiah 27-28 & 2 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 what God was asking of the nations.

To ponder:
Now we come to the reign of Zedekiah, Jehoiachin’s uncle and successor (27v1, 28v1, see 2 Kgs 24v15-20). God instructs Jeremiah to make and wear a yoke, and then send God’s word to the nations around Judah through their envoys (perhaps this is how he passed previous oracles to nations). God said he is the LORD God Almighty of Israel, who made the earth and all peoples and animals, and who gives it to who he pleases. He stated that he will cause these various countries and even their wild animals to be subject to his “servant” Nebuchadnezzar, until the time of his son and grandson, when many nations and great kings will subjugate him (see Dan 5v30-31). He continued, that if any nation refuses to bear Nebuchanezzar’s yoke and serve him, they will be destroyed by him. So they should not listen to their own prophets or future tellers, as they speak lies that will only serve to cause their nation to be banished and perish. By contrast, if they serve under Nebuchadnezzar’s yoke, God will enable them to keep their land (27v1-11). By bringing all this to pass in accordance with Jeremiah’s word, God would of course display to the nations that he is the true God. Jeremiah adds that he gave the same message to Zedekiah, urging him to submit to Babylon’s yoke, asking why he would choose for him and his people to die for not doing so, and saying the prophets are not sent from God but prophesying lies (27v1-15). Christians don’t have a holy land as such on earth, and so are called to serve the rulers of this world as good citizens (so far as it doesn’t dishonour God), just as the Jews were to Nebuchadnezzar, until the day God comes in Christ to bring them to their heavenly Jerusalem. And we should note that refusing to do this in rebelliousness, will ultimately be to our harm (see Rom 13v1-5).
            Jeremiah also told the priests not to listen to the prophets who were saying that soon the articles take to Babylon during Jehoiachin’s reign would be returned (see 2 Kgs 24v13). Instead, he urged them to serve Nebucadnezzar so that they live and Jerusalem is not destroyed. Indeed, he said that if they truly had the word of the LORD then they should pray that the remaining furnishings would not be taken from the temple to Babylon. But he added that God had said that these things would actually be taken to Babylon, and remain there until the day God himself would come for them and bring them back to Jerusalem (27v16-22). We should recognize the shock of losing these items. It signified the end of worship at the temple, and of the special presence of God himself in protecting Israel. Rather than preaching peace and freedom from judgement irrespective of repentance, false teachers today would also do better to pray for the maintenance of true and godly worship.
            Chapter 28 begins with a record how the “prophet” Hananiah spoke to Jeremiah in the temple and in front of the priests and people that God. He declared that God had said he would break the yoke of Nebuchadnezzar within two years and bring back the articles of the temple, all who had so far been exiled, and king Jehoiachin himself. With some sarcasm, Jeremiah replied “Amen,” may God do it, but added that from early times prophets had prophesied war, disaster and plague against many countries, but the one who prophesies peace will be recognised only if his prediction is fulfilled (28v1-9). The point is probably that because there is nothing to be gained in negative prophesies, and because messages of judgement have historically been the primary (although not total) message of true prophets, those speaking them are much more likely to be genuine. But it is easy, often beneficial to oneself, and against the grain of God’s previous messages to preach peace. The key issue for those who do is therefore whether they are from the LORD, and so whether their message comes to pass. It’s another reminder to be particularly cautious of those whose message is always encouraging.
            It seems Jeremiah was still wearing the yoke he had made, so Hananiah took it off him and broke it to symbolise his message that God will break the yoke of Babylon from the neck of the nations within two years. Jeremiah went on his way, but sought Hananiah out shortly afterwards, with a personal message from God to him: It was that in place of the yoke of wood, he would put a yoke of iron on the necks of the nations so they serve Nebuchadnezzar. And because Hananiah persuaded Judah to trust lies and rebel against God’s word to serve Nebuchadnezzar, that very year he would die – as he did just two months later (28v10-17, 28v1). This is the seriousness with which the LORD views those who give people false hope.
Praying it home:
Praise God that he restrains evil so that believers can often live peacefully under unbelieving rulers. Pray that Christians would be good citizens, setting their hope firmly on the return of Christ.

Thinking further:
None today.

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