Saturday, 8 November 2014

(313) November 9: Jeremiah 49 & Hebrews 5

Ask God to open your mind, heart and will to understand, delight in and obey what you read.

To discover:­
As you read consider why each oracle might be included.

To ponder:
Against the Ammonites, God asks whether Israel has no heirs (ie. people of its own) for them to take possession of the Israelite region of Gad in the name of the Ammonite god Molech. However, God predicts a day Israel will drive out of the Ammonite region of Rabbah the Ammonites who drove her out. The people of the area are therefore called to mourn and panic as Molech will go into exile with his priests and officials. God asks why the Ammonites boast of their fruitful valleys and trust their riches in false confidence that they won’t be attacked, promising instead to bring terror from the nations around them, so they will all be driven away. But, again, he also promises that afterwards the Ammonite’s fortunes would be restored (49v1-6). It is unclear how Israel ever drove the Ammonites out. 49v2 may refer to them being so weakened by Babylon, that Israel could do this. Whatever the case, the oracle again shows God calls nations to account for their wickedness, as a foretaste of the final accounting. And then, whatever humanity may boast or trust in will be proved nothing.
            Regarding Edom, Israel’s ancient enemy, God asks if wisdom has disappeared as the people are not fleeing. So he urges them to run and hide from the disaster he is bringing as punishment on these descendents of Esau. He stresses he will strip the land bare, so that none can hide and all perish – except for the widows and orphans, who God is always concerned for. Next he acknowledges that the general judgements Jeremiah deals with inevitably impact those who don’t deserve that punishment alongside those who do. But his point is that if those who don’t deserve it have to drink the cup of God’s wrath (here, probably, the devastation throughout the known world wrought by Babylon), then why should Edom, who is particularly guilty, go unpunished. And so God declares that the Bozrah region will become a ruin and reproach. Jeremiah describes this as an envoy from God going to the nations telling them to assemble and attack Edom. And God declares that the terror Edom inspires together with her pride have deceived her into thinking herself secure. Yet, despite having strongholds in mountain passes like eagle’s nests, he will bring her down like Sodom and Gomorrah, and those who pass by will be appalled at her wounds. The enemy (probably Nebuchadnezzar) is here described like a lion and eagle chasing and swooping down on Edom. As before, he is the one God has appointed for this, and no shepherd (ie. ruler) can stand against God in what he is doing. So the young of the flock of Edom will be dragged away, their pasture destroyed, and the earth tremble on hearing how devastating it will be. Moreover, as before Edom’s warriors’ will like those of a woman in labour (49v7-22).
            About Damascus, we read that two of its regions are similarly dismayed, panicking and in anguish. And God asks why the city has not been abandoned because of what is coming, noting her young men will fall, soldiers be silent, and the walls burned down (49v23-27). Next is an oracle concerning two Arab tribes which Nebuchadnezzar attacked. It seems to precede this event. God calls Nebuchadnezzar to arise and attack this confident nation that doesn’t live in cities with gates. He declares that their tents, livestock and goods will be taken as people cry terror, and they will be scattered with disaster on every side, leaving the land desolate. So Jeremiah urges them to flee and stay in caves, as Nebuchadnezzar has plotted against them (49v28-33). The chapter ends with God’s word about Elam, east of Babylon. God declares he will break their military might, metaphorically bringing against them the four winds, and scattering them to the four winds in exile. The winds here are a picture of God’s power and universal rule. So he will shatter Elam before her enemies in his fierce anger, setting his own throne in Elam (a sign that he reigns), and promising to restore them in days to come (49v34-39). The point of this oracle may have been to make clear when Zedekiah reigned in Jerusalem that the Babylonian threat wouldn’t be removed by this rival power. Rather God would remove it, leaving Babylon in power to do his bidding. It reminds us that when we can’t see why an evil remains, God has some purpose in not removing it.
            Comparing the various oracles, it is striking that God doesn’t promise each will be restored again. This reveals that he deals with nations individually as he sees fit, removing some for good, whilst causing others to fall only for a time.

Praying it home:
Praise God that he governs all nations working out his righteous purposes. Pray that you would boast and be confident only in him and his salvation.

Thinking further:
None today.

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