Thursday, 6 November 2014

(311) November 7: Jeremiah 43-45 & Hebrews 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 how the hardness of heart in the Jews is expressed.

To ponder:
After God warned the people through Jeremiah not to go to Egypt, Johanan and other arrogant men accused him of being enticed by Baruch to lie so the people would be handed over to the Babylonians and exiled. They therefore disobeyed God’s command to stay in Judah. Instead, Johanan and the army officers led away the entire remnant – including those who had returned from having been previously scattered amongst the nations, the kings daughters, and Jeremiah and Baruch themselves. This implies they must have used force. And so we read they entered Egypt in disobedience to the LORD (43v1-7). In Taphanhes God then told Jeremiah to bury some large stones in clay, within the brick pavement at the entrance to Pharaoh’s palace – and all in view of the Jews. He was then to declare that God said he would send for his servant Nebuchadnezzar and set his throne over the stones, attacking Egypt, and so fulfilling God’s purposes in which some are destined for death, some for captivity, and some for the sword. He said Nebuchadnezzar would burn down the Egyptian temples, demolish their sacred pillars, and take their gods captive, wrapping Egypt around himself like a cloak around a shepherd (43v8-13). The point is that the refugees cannot escape God’s purposes. The Egyptian gods are false and unable to help them, and Pharoah’s power nothing compared to God’s servant’s. So if the people are destined for death, captivity or the sword, that’s what they will suffer. It’s a reminder that there is no escaping God’s judgement on sin.
            Chapter 44 records God’s word about the Jews in Egypt. He refers them to the disaster he brought in Judea because of the people’s evil idolatry. He recounts how he repeatedly sent prophets to tell them not to do this because he hated it. Yet he notes that they did not listen and this is why he poured out his anger on Judah and Jerusalem (44v1-6). In the light of this he asks why they would bring disaster on themselves by cutting people off from Judah and so leaving themselves without a remnant in the land. The sense is that by leading those who returned to Judah to Egypt, they are in danger of leaving Judea without any of God’s people. It’s a challenge to church leaders not to lead their flock astray, to the detriment of the broader church.
            God also asks why the Jews in Egypt would provoke him to anger, destroying themselves and becoming an object of cursing before the nations by worshipping false gods they have made for themselves. He asks if they have forgotten the wickedness their fathers, kings and queens, and they themselves had committed in Judah and Jerusalem; adding that they have not humbled themselves, or reverently followed God’s law that was given to their fathers (44v7-10). The LORD then declares this has made him determined to bring disaster on them and destroy Judah – ie. the remnant from Judah who were determined to go to Egypt. He promises to make them an object of horror, and punish them with sword, famine and plague as he did Jerusalem, so that none who escaped to Egypt survive to return - except a few (44v11-14). In response, all those who knew their wives were burning incense to false gods, the women who were present when Jeremiah spoke, and those from throughout Egypt, all said that they would not listen to what he had spoken in God’s name (implying it may not have been from him), but continue offering worship to the “Queen of Heaven.” They even stress they will do this because it is what their fathers, kings and officials did in Judah and Jerusalem. And by saying they then had food and were well off, but have perished since stopping doing this, they imply that their idolatry was blessed. The women even add that their husbands knew what they were doing and didn’t stop them – as if this justifies their actions (44v15-19). This was utterly defiant, showing how spiritually blind people can be, and how far they can go to excuse themselves. In particular, there is challenge here to husbands to take responsibility for the spiritual wellbeing of their wives and families.
            In response Jeremiah points out that it was when God could no longer endure this sort of wickedness that he caused the desolation of the people’s land, and the disaster they had experienced. He then tells all the people that God says they have shown by their actions that they meant it when they said they would carry on with their vows and offerings to the “Queen of Heaven.” Moreover, they should continue to do so. But they should also hear God’s own vow by his great name that none from Judah living in Egypt will ever invoke his name, because he is watching over them not to bring good, but harm -  so that they perish by the sword and by famine, with only a few managing to return to Judah. By this means the whole remnant in Egypt will know God’s word stands. Indeed, he predicts that the Pharaoh would be handed over to his enemies as Zedekiah was to Nebuchadnezzar, and says this will be a sign, proving Jeremiah speaks from him and so that the rest of his prophecy will come to pass (44v20-30). The fulfilment of OT prophecy in general similarly acts as a sign that what has yet to be fulfilled and that was spoken by OT prophets will come to pass. Likewise, the “sign of Jonah” in which Jesus was in the belly of the earth for three days, confirms his wider words – as do his predictions of his own death and resurrection.
            Chapter 45 records a brief word to Baruch, Jeremiah’s scribe. God states that he knows how Baruch despaired at the sorrow he said the LORD had given him because of the trials and opposition he faced with Jeremiah. He says that Baruch should not seek great things for himself (presumably comfort or status) when considering how God is bringing disaster on the people. Nevertheless, he promises he will always enable Baruch to escape whatever he faces (45v1-5). In all the talk of judgement, this is a reassuring note that God knows and watches over those who seek to serve him, even if their life might be hard because they live in a day when God is acting against their nation or church.

Praying it home:
Praise God that he sees and acknowledges those who seek to serve him. Pray that you would do so no matter how isolated this might make you.

Thinking further:
None today.

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