Day 178: Dream Big

Jeremiah 45:1-5

The message that Jeremiah the prophet spoke to Baruch the son of Neriah, when he wrote these words in a book at the mouth of Jeremiah, in the fourth year of Jehoiakim the son of Josiah, king of Judah, saying, “Yahweh, the God of Israel, says to you, Baruch: ‘You said, “Woe is me now! For Yahweh has added sorrow to my pain! I am weary with my groaning, and I find no rest.” ’

“You shall tell him, Yahweh says: ‘Behold, that which I have built, I will break down, and that which I have planted I will pluck up; and this in the whole land. Do you seek great things for yourself? Don’t seek them; for, behold, I will bring evil on all flesh,’ says Yahweh, ‘but I will let you escape with your life wherever you go.’ ”

This part of Jeremiah feels like reading the appendix of a book. Here, we jump back to and get some detail about an event that happened between Jeremiah and Baruch. Those who chose to add chapter divisions to the Bible, made this passage into its own chapter. It does appear to be naturally separated from the rest of the book. So, what does God want us to learn from it?

It appears that this happened at the time that Jeremiah was commanded by God to write down God’s message. It appears that when the Baruch the scribe who was writing down the message heard what he was supposed to do, he was filled with anxiety. If you go back and look at chapter 36, when these events happened, you can see that God expected Baruch to not only write down the words but to read them to the leadership. Then both he and Jeremiah were forced to run and hide. God was telling Baruch that he was to become unpopular by simply obeying God. Baruch was the messenger that people would want to kill simply for writing down and reading God’s word! It would appear that this didn’t sit very well with Baruch. I think that this would probably be a challenge for many Americans today as well. Baruch was obviously trained for a special occupation. It appears that he could read and write better than his own leaders could. His career was about to be ruined by simply obeying God’s command. To be honest, I think I would have been pretty disappointed myself. What hope did he have left in his career? How was he supposed to retire?

God asked Baruch a question that I have to ask myself. “Do you seek great things for yourself?” Isn’t that what Americans are supposed to do? God says this to Baruch: “Don’t seek them; for, behold, I will bring evil on all flesh.” To put this in a different light. Suppose I turned 30 in 1928. The stock market was about to crash and the great depression was about to happen followed by a second world war. Let’s say that God decided to tell me all about it in advance. I would feel like my life was about to be ruined in that case too. God is telling us to not place our hope in our lives here in this world. He’s also comforting us by telling us that He can save our lives even through hard times, but we may not get much more than that as the world is being punished for its sin. It can actually be a danger for us to “dream big” in this life. What we need to do is to obey what Jesus said and store up our treasure in Heaven. It may seem like God is telling Baruch to not dream big, but Jesus came and told us the opposite. He said that if we give up good things in this life, we will get 100 times more and experience eternal life. May God help us to see this more clearly so that we can truly experience joy in our lives today and stop worrying about what is happening in our world.

Day 123: A Letter from God

Jeremiah 29:8-14

For Yahweh of Armies, the God of Israel says: “Don’t let your prophets who are among you and your diviners deceive you. Don’t listen to your dreams which you cause to be dreamed. For they prophesy falsely to you in my name. I have not sent them,” says Yahweh. For Yahweh says, “After seventy years are accomplished for Babylon, I will visit you and perform my good word toward you, in causing you to return to this place. For I know the thoughts that I think toward you,” says Yahweh, “thoughts of peace, and not of evil, to give you hope and a future. You shall call on me, and you shall go and pray to me, and I will listen to you. You shall seek me, and find me, when you search for me with all your heart. I will be found by you,” says Yahweh, “and I will turn again your captivity, and I will gather you from all the nations, and from all the places where I have driven you, says Yahweh. I will bring you again to the place from where I caused you to be carried away captive.”

Can you imagine what it would have been like to have been violently ripped from your home and made a slave in a country that doesn’t speak your language and does everything differently? Then can you imagine what it would have been like to receive a letter directly from God like this? What a wonderful thing that would be don’t you think? God tells His people that He has “thoughts of peace, and not evil” toward them. That’s quite amazing considering the fact that they were being punished for their rebellion. God tells them in His letter that he wants to give them “hope and a future.” Then He lays out the plan. He intends to wait until they seek Him with all of their heart and then take them back out of their captivity and bring them back to their own land. He even tells them how long it will be. That’s quite a letter.

We have similar times in our lives. There are times when things are so confusing that we don’t really know what to expect tomorrow. Then God gives us hope. He helps us to see His hand in our lives and may even give us a clear vision for several years into the future. God loves us, even though we are sinners and His intention for mankind has been good since the very beginning as we have been reading for several years now.

There’s another important thing that we need to really pay attention to as believers. God can and does speak through dreams. Even in the New Testament, we see examples of this, but that does not mean that God speaks through all dreams. In this letter, God makes that clear. He warns His people that the dreams that the prophets are having there in Babylon are not to be trusted. They were having dreams but those dreams were simply their own. They weren’t from God. I believe that the Bible makes it clear that all truth that is not directly written in the Bible is to be carefully tested. Even good people can have dreams that are more related to stress or a meal that they ate before going to bed. There are even drug related dreams that unbelievers have that could be influenced by evil. We need to remember what God wrote in His letter to us:

1 John 4:1

Beloved, don’t believe every spirit, but test the spirits, whether they are of God, because many false prophets have gone out into the world.

Day 107: Thinking Critically About What Teachers Say

Jeremiah 23:25-32

“I have heard what the prophets have said, who prophesy lies in my name, saying, ‘I had a dream! I had a dream!’ How long will this be in the heart of the prophets who prophesy lies, even the prophets of the deceit of their own heart? They intend to cause my people to forget my name by their dreams which they each tell his neighbor, as their fathers forgot my name because of Baal. The prophet who has a dream, let him tell a dream; and he who has my word, let him speak my word faithfully. What is the straw to the wheat?” says Yahweh. “Isn’t my word like fire?” says Yahweh; “and like a hammer that breaks the rock in pieces?

“Therefore behold, I am against the prophets,” says Yahweh, “who each steal my words from his neighbor. Behold, I am against the prophets,” says Yahweh, “who use their tongues, and say, ‘He says.’ Behold, I am against those who prophesy lying dreams,” says Yahweh, “who tell them, and cause my people to err by their lies, and by their vain boasting; yet I didn’t send them or command them. They don’t profit this people at all,” says Yahweh.

Many books in the New Testament have warnings in them about the false teachers that were to come. The men who wrote these warnings had the writings that we are reading today from the Old Testament. It is very valuable and contemporary for us to consider what Jeremiah wrote down for us about the false prophets of his day. It allows us to recognize people like this when they try to deceive us today.

One thing that false prophets do is to use their dreams as proof of God’s direction in our lives. The problem with doing this is that God tells us clearly, here, that false prophets used dreams to spread lies about God’s direction. If I’m reading this correctly, God is telling us to not rely on the dream alone. Notice that God tells the prophets to go ahead and tell their dreams, but he also says to that those who have His word should speak His word too. God then mentions straw and wheat and that His word is like fire. Now straw cannot be eaten, but wheat can be. Somehow, a person must separate straw from wheat. I do know that God’s word is required to interpret the dreams that come from God so we can tell truthful dreams from lying ones. It could be that God is using this metaphor to explain this. Fire burns wheat and straw, but I think that a skilled farmer learns to apply fire to the straw and keep the wheat. The fact that God’s word is like a hammer, reminds me of how much more powerful propositional truth is compared to mysterious dreams. Once the clear truth is known, it crushes the foolish interpretations of a dream that don’t apply.

We need to be aware of the fact that there are those who will claim to speak the words of God that have not received a message from God at all. God tells us this right here and we must learn to critically separate the truth from a lie using the clear words we have in the Bible.