Friday, 7 November 2014

(312) November 8: Jeremiah 46-48 & Hebrews 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 we learn about the LORD.

To ponder:
So far the focus has been on Judah and Israel. Now God looks to the nations. First God speaks against the Egyptian army that was defeated by Nebuchadnezzar at Carchemish on the river Euphrates. His words may have come just before the defeat, predicting it, or just after, describing it. He calls the army to prepare and march out to war. God sees them terrified, retreating and defeated, and declares neither the swift or strong can escape. He describes Egypt like the surging Nile who says she will rise and cover the earth destroying peoples. To this God urges her mercenaries on, but declares that the day actually belongs to him and is a day of vengeance against his foes – ie. Egypt, in which she will be offered like a sacrifice and the sword devour until satisfied. He then tells the “virgin daughter of Egypt” (stressing vulnerability) to get healing ointment for her wounds, but says she can multiply remedies but will not be healed. Rather, the nations will hear of her shame and hear her cries as her warriors fall (46v1-12).
            What follows is God’s message about the coming of Nebuchadnezzar to attack Egypt. Jeremiah is told to proclaim in three key areas of Egypt that they are to prepare as the sword devours those around them – presumably the army at the Euphrates. He states that their warriors will not stand because God will push them down. And as they stumble they will tell one-anther to get up and return to their own people and lands away from their enemy, whose ambitions are just a loud noise and now a wasted opportunity. The sense here is that mercenaries are in mind who would return to their countries. At this point God declares that he is the king, the Almighty, and that one is coming who is like two high mountains in Israel (ie. Nebuchadnezzar). So he urges the Egyptians to back their belongings for exile, and describes Egypt like a beautiful heifer about to be stung by the large gadfly, with her mercenaries fleeing like calves that have been fattened for the killing – the day of disaster and punishment. He adds that she is like a fleeing serpent (implying she is evil) and one whose forest will be chopped down (implying her humiliation). The Babylonians are described as innumerable like locusts (46v13-24).
            46v25-26 gives the implication: God is punishing Egypt’s gods and kings, and all who rely on Pharoah. He is therefore showing how impotent they are before him, and by predicting these things through Jeremiah revealing himself as the true God. No doubt by this means, a number of Egyptians put their faith in him. But the key thing is that it showed the Jews who had fled there for safety how misplaced their trust in Egypt was. So although God promises the Egyptians that Egypt would be inhabited again as in the past, the oracle ends addressing the Israelites who had not fled to Egypt but been taken to Babylon. God tells them not to fear, promising he will save them from the place of their exile so they enjoy peace and security, and all because he is with them. He declares that even if he completely destroys the nations they have been scattered amongst, he will not completely destroy them. Nevertheless, he will discipline them with justice (46v27-28). It is here that we can be confident that God the gates of hell will not prevail against the church, and all God’s people will be saved on the last day.
            Chapter 47 is a word against the Philistines, looking to Pharoah’s attack on Gaza. It describes the waters of Egypt coming from the north like a torrent that will overflow the land causing people to cry out in terror, and fathers not even to help their children. God declares this the day to destroy all the Philistines, and the survivors of Egypt’s attack on Tyre and Sidon. The towns are described as mourning and silent, cutting themselves – perhaps in mourning or to gain the favour of their gods. Jeremiah imagines them asking how long till the sword of the LORD rests, but states that it cannot as the LORD has commanded it. Again, the point is that God’s judgement is certain and terrible.
            To Moab, God declares ruin, disgrace, conquest, silence and anguish. Instead of being praised by other nations, the inhabitants of the Israelite city of Heshbon will plot her downfall (48v1-5). The Moabites are urged to flee, as they, their god and his priests and officials will be taken captive for trusting in their deeds and riches. Every town will be laid waste, never to flourish again like when salt is put on ground, and all because the LORD has spoken (48v6-9). Jeremiah doesn’t shirk from the implications of what he is saying. He even curses those in the enemy army who refrain from bloodshed as being lax in God’s work (48v10)! These oracles reveal God as quite different from the sentimentalized God of so much modern Christianity.
            Jeremiah continues stating that Moab will be poured out like previously unchanged wine, and will be ashamed of her god because he proved false. The reference to Israel trusting in Bethel may be their trust in an idol they worshipped at Bethel (48v11-13). Again, God declares himself king, undermining Moab’s confidence in being worriors, stating their best will be slaughtered, and the mighty sceptre who once wielded some power will be broken with those around her mourning (48v14-17). So God commands her people to come down from their glory, and other stand by the road asking those escaping what happened, and announce with wailing that Moab is destroyed under judgement (48v18-25). God calls for her to be made drunk and wallow in her vomit – images of her reeling and falling under the cup of God’s wrath. And this is because she defied the LORD and ridiculed Israel when she suffered God’s wrath, treating her like a thief in need of punishment (48v26-28). God tells her to leave her towns to find refuge in rocks, and denounces her pride and boasting as accomplishing nothing. Astonishingly, the LORD who wreaks such destruction then states how he weeps over it, as he causes the joy of the vine harvest to cease, and cries rise up as he puts an end to Moab’s idolatry. He adds that his heart laments as he considers their lost wealth, mourning and brokenness, as the nation becomes an object of ridicule (48v29-39). This is the balance of God’s character we have seen throughout. His judgement is more terrible than we imagine because sin is. Yet his love is more extreme too, as he grieves over the justice he must execute.
            As with previous oracles, God declares that as the eagle of Babylon swoops down, the hearts of Moab’s warriors will be like those of women in labour. The nation will be destroyed for defying God, and any who seem to be escaping will only fall into another danger so that Moab’s year of punishment is received. 48v45 pictures fugitives standing in the shadow of the Israelite city of Heshbon, and suffering fire from the people there. This alludes to Num 21v21-31, implying perhaps that just as the Amorites once conquered Moab so Babylon now would, possibly with Heshbon as their base. Whatever the case, God declares the Moabites will be taken into exile, but that he will one day restore the fortunes of Moab as he would Egypt (48v46-47, see 46v26).

Praying it home:
Praise God that he is both extremely just and extremely loving. Pray that you would grasp something of the seriousness of sin an the extent of his grace.

Thinking further:
None today.

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