7/26/2017

God Guarantees Salvation Amid Punishment (Jeremiah 46-52)

"Do not be afraid, Jacob my servant; do not be dismayed, Israel. I will surely save you out of a distant place, your descendants from the land of their exile. Jacob will again have peace and security, and no one will make him afraid. 28 Do not be afraid, Jacob my servant, for I am with you," declares the Lord"Though I completely destroy all the nations among which I scatter you, I will not completely destroy you. I will discipline you but only in due measure; I will not let you go entirely unpunished" (Jer 46:27-28).
  • Ch. 46 (Judgment and Salvation): God in his sovereignty will bring judgment on prideful nations, but he will provide salvation for the remnant that truly believes.
  • Ch. 47-49 (Judgment on the Nations): God is at work throughout the world, judging and restoring.
  • Ch. 50-51 (The End of Babylon and the Future of Israel): The end of Babylon is contrasted with the everlasting restoration of God's people.
  • Ch. 52 (The End of Jerusalem, Yet Hope for the Future): Even in the context of imminent and well-deserved judgment, God offers hope.
Jeremiah, as the prophet to the nations (Jer 1:5, 10), prophesies judgment on some of Judah's neighbors. Thus, Jeremiah 46-51 is appropriately referred to as the Judgment on the Nations. The nations are: Egypt, Philistia, Moab, Ammon, Edom, Damascus, Kedar and Hazor, Elam and Babylon. Starting with Egypt provides continuity with Jeremiah 43-44. Ending with Babylon is appropriate because Babylon is the most powerful nation in the region, the one that brings judgment on the other nations, including Judah, and the nation whose future most affects that of the remnant of Israel.

Oracles against other nations are a common feature in the prophetic books (Isaiah 13-23; Amos 1-2; Ezekiel 25-32). Jeremiah's oracles, in general, make the point that the coming of Babylon is God's judgment on all the nations -- but that in the end Babylon too will be judged, and Judah saved from its oppression (Jer 25:15-19).


7/24/2017

The Most Difficult Instrument to Play is Second Fiddle

Leonard Bernstein, the late conductor of the New York Philharmonic Orchestra, was once asked to name the most difficult instrument to play. Without hesitation, he replied: "The second fiddle. I can get plenty of first violinists, but to find someone who can play the second fiddle with enthusiasm – that's a problem; and if we have no second fiddle, we have no harmony."

"Humility is a strange thing: the moment you think you have it, is just the moment you have lost it. Only the proud will speak of their humility: the humble confess to having a problem with pride. Until a man is nothing, God can make nothing of him." Anon.

Am I thrilled, zealous and full of enthusiasm to play second fiddle to my Lord (and any others that he chooses)?

In the KJV of the Bible, the word 'leader' is mentioned only six times. The word 'servant' is mentioned more than 900 times. Serving seems to be thought of more highly by Jesus.

In his brilliant book Outliers, Malcolm Gladwell tells the strangest story about a guy called Christopher Langan – a genius with a staggering IQ of 195 (Einstein's was 150). In school, Langan could ace any foreign language exam just by skimming the textbook two to three minutes before the test. But Langan never made the most of his amazing ability and ended up working on a horse farm in rural Missouri. According to Gladwell, Langan never had a second fiddler – a community to help him capitalise on his gifts. Gladwell summarises his story in one sentence. "Langan had to make his way alone, and no one – not rock stars, not professional athletes, not software billionaires and not even geniuses – ever makes it alone."


7/19/2017

How Foolish to Reject God's Gracious Second Chance (Jeremiah 40-45)

Jeremiah 40-44 is a postscript of sorts, narrating the events that take place in Judah in the aftermath of the Babylonian invasion. The point, however, is to explain how those who remained in Judah rejected God's offer of blessing and restoration, and thus removed themselves and their descendants as candidates to participate in the great restoration promised in Jeremiah 30-33, where God gives his people a new heart, one heart and one way. Ch. 45 is the "deliverance oracle" concerning Baruch, which relates to a lament by Baruch about the burden of his task (Jer 45:3), since he shared firsthand in the grief and frustration of Jeremiah. It contains both a gentle rebuke and a great encouragement.

Jeremiah 40-45: Rejecting God's Gracious Second Chance; A Remnant Flees to Egypt
  • 40-43 (events in Judah): It is foolish to reject God and his offer of deliverance; it is even more foolish to do so twice.
    • 40-41: The murder of Gedaliah, the governor appointed by Nebuchadnezzar.
    • 42: Do not go to Egypt.
    • 43: To Egypt.
  • 44-45 (events in Egypt): When God offers someone a second chance, it is foolish and irrational to reject it.
    • 44: A final appear and the refusal to listen.
    • 55: A word for Baruch

7/15/2017

Jeremiah Chapter 1-52 Outline

  • 1: The Call of Jeremiah.
  • 2-29: Judgment (Prediction)
  • 30-33: Salvation (Comfort, Consolation)
  • 34-52: Judgment (Actual)

3/23/2017

Like a Gentle Lamb Led to the Slaughter (Jeremiah 11:19)

 A Weeping Gentle Lamb

  • "I had been like a gentle lamb led to the slaughterI did not realize that they had plotted against me, saying, 'Let us destroy the tree and its fruit; let us cut him off from the land of the living, that his name be remembered no more'" (Jer 11:19, NIV).
  • "I was like a (docile, pet, HCSB) lamb being led to the slaughter. I had no idea that they were planning to kill me! 'Let's destroy this man and all his words,' they said. 'Let's cut him down, so his name will be forgotten forever'" (Jer 11:19, NLT).
  • "He was oppressed and afflicted, yet he did not open his mouth; he was led like a lamb to the slaughter, and as a sheep before its shearers is silent, so he did not open his mouth" (Isa 53:7, NIV). "Unjustly condemned, he was led away (He was humiliated and received no justice - Greek). No one cared that he died without descendants, that his life was cut short in midstream (For his life was taken from the earth - Greek). But he was struck down for the rebellion of my people" (Isa 53:8, NLT).
  • "Then I saw a Lamb, looking as if it had been slain (slaughtered, NLT), standing at the center of the throne, encircled by the four living creatures and the elders" (Rev 5:6a, NIV).
  • "Then the people said, 'Come on, let's plot a way to stop Jeremiah. We have plenty of priests and wise men and prophets. We don't need him to teach the word and give us advice and prophecies. Let's spread rumors about him (attack him with our tongues, NIV; strike him with the tongue, ESV; denounce him, HCSB) and ignore what he says (pay no attention to anything he says, NIV)'" (Jer 18:18, NLT).
  • "You, Lord, took up my case; you redeemed my life. 59 Lord, you have seen the wrong done to me. Uphold my cause! 60 You have seen the depth of their vengeance (all their malice, HCSB), all their plots against me. 61 Lord, you have heard their insults (taunts, ESV; vile names they call me, NLT), all their plots against me—62 what my enemies (assailants, ESV) whisper and mutter (slander and murmuring, HCSB) against me all day long" (Lam 3:58-62).
  • "Oh, that my head were a spring of water and my eyes a fountain of tears! I would weep day and night for the slain of my people" (Jer 9:1, NIV).
  • "If you do not listen, I will weep in secret because of your pride; my eyes will weep bitterly, overflowing with tears, because the Lord's flock will be taken captive" (Jer 13:17, NIV).
  • "Let my eyes overflow with tears night and day without ceasingfor the VirginDaughter, my people, has suffered a grievous wound, a crushing blow" (Jer 14:17, NIV).

3/21/2017

The Broken Covenant (Jeremiah 11-12)


"If you have raced with men on foot and they have worn you out, how can you compete with horses? If you stumble in safe country, how will you manage in the thickets by the Jordan?" (Jer 12:5).


Ch.1-29 deals primarily with the broken covenant and the consequent judgment. Ch.1 is the call. Ch.2 is the charge--the formal, legal lawsuit. Ch.3 is the unsuccessful call for Judah to repent and return to the covenant. Ch.4-6 describes the consequent judgment: the Babylonian invasion. Ch.7-10 indicts their false religion (primarily idolatry) and its punishment. Idolatry is at the heart of the broken covenant the the broken relationship with God.

Ch.11--which continues to ch.29--focuses on Jeremiah's role as God's prophet in conflict with the kings of Judah and their false prophets, who oppose God's word and prophesy lies in God's name. In 11:1-17 God instructs Jeremiah to proclaim to the people of Jerusalem that they have shattered the covenant, and thus their relationship with God is over. This results in one of the central themes in these chapters: the conflict and hostility that Jeremiah will face from all the leaders (kings, prophets, priests--even his own family and clan).
  • 1-5 God tells Jeremiah to remind the people of Judah and Jerusalem of the curses and blessings spelled out in the covenant (Dt.)
  • 6-8 Because the people disobeyed the curses will fall on them.
  • 9-13 The people's idolatry has annulled the covenant.
  • 14 Since they broke the covenant, Jeremiah is told to not intercede anymore for the people (7:16).
  • 15-17 God laments the tragedy that his own beloved people must now be destroyed.
11:1-17 stresses the broken covenant and in 11:18-12:6 Jeremiah is betrayed by his own people (his neighbors and relatives in his hometown), so he calls for justice and judgment on them.

Notes:
  • By word count Jeremiah is the largest of the prophetic books of the OT. Because of its size, this book was placed at the head of the Major Prophets in some ancient lists and manuscripts. Later tradition identifies Jeremiah as the author of the book of Lamentations.
  • Jeremiah's ministry extended > 40 years, encompassing much of the reigns of the last 5 kings of Judah. He was a contemporary of the prophets Zephaniah, Nahum, Habakkuk, and Ezekiel. Jeremiah's ministry beginning with his call in 627 b.c. extending beyond the fall of Jerusalem in 586 b.c.
  • Because his ministry is one of the most thoroughly documented in the OT, Jeremiah is one of the best known of the prophets.
  • Jeremiah is known as "The Weeping Prophet." This man suffered as no other Biblical character save the Son of God himself. Some scholars have documented aspects of Jeremiah's public ministry themed as that of "agony" with 3 distinct aspects of his personal suffering being:
    • Ministerial: Jeremiah experienced the agony of his message of judgment. He saw clearly in vision the total destruction of the land he loved. He saw the suffering of men, women and children. Emotionally he was drained each time he shared those dire visions with his audience (13:17). The people he loved—the people he knew were standing on the brink of national destruction —refused to listen. The men of his own hometown plotted his demise (11:19, 21).
    • Psychological: Jeremiah's personal loneliness intensified his agony. If ever a man needed a sympathetic spouse, this prophet surely did. Yet God ordered him not to marry (16:2). For the same reason God prohibited Jeremiah from attending social gatherings, whether feasts or funerals (16:5– 9). This prophet was to be a "loner" and through his loneliness he would preach a sermon.
    • Physical: Jeremiah's agony had physical as well as psychological dimensions. The chief officer of the Temple had him seized, flogged and put in the public stocks overnight (20:1). During the last days of Jerusalem, Jeremiah was arrested on the charge of treason. Again he was beaten, then was thrown into a subterranean dungeon where he nearly died (37:11).
  • Historical Contextual Analysis A Timeline Perspective… Historical Background of the Book. As predicted by the prophet Nahum, the Assyrian capital city of Nineveh had fallen to the expanding Babylonian empire around 612 B.C. During this time, King Josiah finished his reign in Judah around 609 B.C. (2 Kings 22). He was initially replaced in rapid succession first by Jehoahaz and then by Jehoiakim who ruled from 609 B.C. to about 602 B.C. During his reign, the Babylonians first invaded Judah in 606 B.C. and carried some Jews into captivity. Very shortly, Jehoiakim would rebel against the Babylonians and be replaced by Jehoiachin around 598 B.C. In turn, Jehoiachin rebelled, the Babylonians again invaded the land, confiscated most of the treasures from the temple, carried most of the Jews into captivity in Babylonian territory, and installed Zedekiah as King. After about 10 years, Zedekiah also rebelled which resulted in the third deportation of Jews, an 18 month siege of Jerusalem, and the destruction of the city in 586 B.C. (2 Kings 25). Solomon's temple, which had existed for about 360 years, was destroyed along with the city.
  • The prophet dictated his messages to the scribe Baruch.
    • This first edition of the Book of Jeremiah was destroyed in 604 b.c. by the tyrant King Jehoiakim. God, however, commissioned Jeremiah to produce another scroll.
    • This second edition of the book contained all the words of the first scroll and "many similar words" as well (36:32).
    • A third edition of the book must have been produced by Baruch about 560 b.c in Egypt after the death of Jeremiah.
  • The historical Jeremiah was deeply in the politics of his day and paid a high price for it by way of ridicule, rejection, persecution, imprisonment, and exile. At the same time, the literary character of Jeremiah personifies the sufferings of the inhabitants of Judah and Jerusalem.
  • Clustered in the first major section of the book are the "Confessions" of Jeremiah which are specifically found in passages 11:18-12:6, 15:1021, 17:4-18; 18:18-23, and 20:7-18. "Confessions" are variations of the lament genre found principally in the Psalms and in the Book of Job. Laments which are "appeals for divine help in distress and are subdivided into two principal categories of Individual Laments and Communal Laments.

3/19/2017

Preferring Anything to God and the Truth (Jeremiah 8-10)

7:1 - 8:3; 8:4 - 9:11, 12-26

"This is what the Lord says: 'Let not the wise boast of their wisdom or the strong boast of their strength or the rich boast of their riches, 24 but let the one who boasts boast about this: that they have the understanding to know me, that I am the Lord,who exercises kindness, justice and righteousness on earth, for in these I delight,'declares the Lord" (Jer 9:23-24).

"Lord, I know that people's lives are not their own; it is not for them to direct their steps. 24 Discipline me, Lord, but only in due measure—not in your anger, or you will reduce me to nothing" (Jer 10:23-24).
  • 8:4-7 People stubbornly clinging to deceit.
    • "I have listened attentively, but they do not say what is right. None of them repent of their wickedness, saying, 'What have I done?' Each pursues their own course like a horse charging into battle. Even the stork in the sky knows her appointed seasons, and the dove, the swift and the thrush observe the time of their migration. But my people do not know the requirements of the Lord" (Jer 8:6-7).
  • 8:8-12 Prophets and priests deceive the people.
    • "From the least to the greatest, all are greedy for gain; prophets and priests alike, all practice deceit.11 They dress the wound of my people as though it were not serious. 'Peace, peace,' they say, when there is no peace.12 Are they ashamed of their detestable conduct? No, they have no shame at all; they do not even know how to blush. So they will fall among the fallen; they will be brought down when they are punished, says the Lord" (Jer 8:10b-12).
  • 8:13-17 People flee when they understand that the prophecies of peace were false. "...the Lord our God has doomed us to perish" (Jer 8:14).
  • 8:18-9:1 Jeremiah cries out in sorrow.
    • "You who are my Comforter in sorrow, my heart is faint within me. Since my people are crushed, I am crushed; I mourn, and horror grips me.22 Is there no balm in Gilead? Is there no physician there? Why then is there no healing for the wound of my people?" (Jer 8:18, 21-22).
  • 9:2-6 People characterized by lies and deceitfulness.
  • 9:7-11 Because of the constant deceitfulness, God will completely devastate and make desolate Jerusalem and the towns of Judah.
  • 9:12-16 The one who is wise will understand that the judgment on the people of Jerusalem is just and well deserved.
  • 9:17-22 Using a wordplay that seems to suggest a sense of "poetic justice," God declares that since the people refuse to listen to his voice, they will now listen to waiting.
  • 9:23-24 Knowing God in the context of his love and his justice is more important than wisdom, strength or riches.
  • 9:25-26 Footnote: The coming judgment is broader than described so far, for it will also fall on Judah's unrighteous neighboring nations.
  • 10:1-5 God exhorts the people to avoid following the valueless ways of the other nations, especially in regard to worshiping their impotent gods that have been made by human hands.
  • 10:6-10 Jeremiah declares that it makes much more sense to fear (worship) the all-powerful, living God than to worship worthless, human-constructed idols.
  • 10:11-16 All the worthless false idols, which did not create the world, will perish. God, on the other hand, is the all-powerful Creator of heaven and earth, the one who actually controls the thunderstorms and rain.
  • 10:17-22 God declares that he will hurl the people of Judah out of the land because of their continued idol worship.
  • 10:23-25 Finally, Jeremiah prays again to God, acknowledging God's sovereignty and calling on God to pour out his wrath on the unbelieving nations while showing mercy toward him.
Book Outline:

  • Ch. 1: The Call (God chose Jeremiah before birth) [Sun 2/12/17]
  • Ch. 2: The Charge (Spiritual adultery/idolatry) [Sun 2/19/17]
  • Ch. 3: The Plea (Repent, return, change, circumcise your heart … but there was none)
  • Ch. 4-6: The Judgment (The Babylonian invasion is the consequence of not repenting) [Sun 3/19/17]
    • Ch. 4: The Warning of Coming Judgment. It begins and ends with a trumpet warning.
    • Ch. 5: The Reasons for the Coming Judgment. Not one person does justice. The Bible teachers lie.
    • Ch. 6: The Inevitability of Judgment. Refusing/unable to listen to God's word.
  • Ch. 7-10: The Self-deception (False religion and its punishment) [Sun 3/26/17]
    • Ch. 7: Preferring rituals to a relationship.
    • Ch. 8-9: Preferring lies to the Word of God.
    • Ch. 10: Preferring idols to the Living God.
  • Ch. 11-29: The Conflict (Jeremiah's conflict with the leaders who say "peace, peace" when there is no peace)
  • Ch. 30-33: Consolation / Restoration (Future comfort for Israel and Judah)
  • Ch. 34-35: Covenant faithfulness
  • Ch. 36-45: Refusing prophetic warnings and judgment falls on Jerusalem (Present catastrophe of Judah)
  • Ch. 46-51: Judgment against the nations (Prophecies concerning the nations)
  • Ch. 52: Fall of Jerusalem (Historical appendix/supplement/recap)