Day 184: When God’s Sword Comes Out

Jeremiah 47:1-7

Yahweh’s word that came to Jeremiah the prophet concerning the Philistines, before Pharaoh struck Gaza.
Yahweh says:
“Behold, waters rise up out of the north,
and will become an overflowing stream,
and will overflow the land and all that is therein,
the city and those who dwell therein.
The men will cry,
and all the inhabitants of the land will wail.
At the noise of the stamping of the hoofs of his strong ones,
at the rushing of his chariots,
at the rumbling of his wheels,
the fathers don’t look back for their children
because their hands are so feeble,
because of the day that comes to destroy all the Philistines,
to cut off from Tyre and Sidon every helper who remains;
for Yahweh will destroy the Philistines,
the remnant of the isle of Caphtor.
Baldness has come on Gaza;
Ashkelon is brought to nothing.
You remnant of their valley,
how long will you cut yourself?

“ ‘You sword of Yahweh, how long will it be before you are quiet?
Put yourself back into your scabbard;
rest, and be still.’

“How can you be quiet,
since Yahweh has given you a command?
Against Ashkelon, and against the seashore,
there he has appointed it.”

Perhaps one of the reasons that Pharaoh was feeling so confident in his conquest of Babylon was that he had already fulfilled this prophesy. Here we read that God had decided to have Egypt conquer the Philistines, including Gaza, Caphtor and Ashkelon. God had decided to give Pharaoh that victory but it could have been that he thought that it was his own hand that won the battles.

When we read the past about the Philistines in the Bible, we learn that they were a rough people. They weren’t afraid to burn people they didn’t like in their own houses. They were the ones who fought using the giant Goliath and who captured Samson, but here we read that they were to become so weak that the men wouldn’t have the strength to go back and save their own children. It’s clear that the Philistines didn’t think they needed God either and were usually quite willing to attack Israel and enslave them if possible. For a portion of Israel’s past, the Philistines were the ones in charge.

It’s kind of strange to have a prophet talk to God’s sword and ask when it is going to stop, and tell it to go back into its sheath. Jeremiah also asks the sword how it can be quiet when God has commanded it to attack. Perhaps the battle went on and on until the Philistines were finally destroyed. If I were in the area, I might be asking the same thing. It’s not unusual for us to ask God when He is going to relieve us of our pain, but the problem we see here is that neither Egypt or the Philistines were willing to respect God’s word. When people look to their own understanding of things instead of trusting in God’s word, they can expect God’s sword to eventually come out and bring the justice they deserve.

Day 183: Why Israel and Egypt?

Jeremiah 46:25-28

Yahweh of Armies, the God of Israel, says: “Behold, I will punish Amon of No, and Pharaoh, and Egypt, with her gods and her kings, even Pharaoh, and those who trust in him. I will deliver them into the hand of those who seek their lives, and into the hand of Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon, and into the hand of his servants. Afterwards it will be inhabited, as in the days of old,” says Yahweh.
“But don’t you be afraid, Jacob my servant.
Don’t be dismayed, Israel;
for, behold, I will save you from afar,
and your offspring from the land of their captivity.
Jacob will return,
and will be quiet and at ease.
No one will make him afraid.
Don’t be afraid, O Jacob my servant,” says Yahweh,
“for I am with you;
for I will make a full end of all the nations where I have driven you,
but I will not make a full end of you,
but I will correct you in measure,
and will in no way leave you unpunished.”

One of the interesting things that I see in this passage is that God intended for Egypt to be “inhabited, as in the days of old.” His prophesy against Egypt was not permanent and God makes a small statement about that here. Then, God goes on to reassure His people Israel for the rest of this passage.

There is an interesting contrast between Israel and Egypt, and Babylon. God promises that both Israel and Egypt will rise again, and also says to Israel: “I will make a full end of all the nations where I have driven you.” God says that His punishments against Israel are measured, or have a limit. I think that this spells out the difference between how God disciplines His children and how He disciplines those who aren’t. God’s children will only be punished for a limited period of time. Those who are outside of God’s family will be destroyed forever. This brings up an important question.

What did Israel and Egypt do to deserve to continue to exist? It is obvious that they both were filled with evil. Israel had been sacrificing their own children. Egypt was worshiping everything under the sun and encouraging God’s people to do the same. How is it that they were allowed to continue to exist? Perhaps the easy way to answer this question is to point it at ourselves. Why did God allow you and I to exist as Christians? What did we do to deserve it? I hope that the answer is obvious: we didn’t do anything to deserve it and neither did Israel or Egypt. The reason they were saved is the same reason you and I were saved. God simply decided to do it. When God does things like this, it removes all pride doesn’t it? It also builds a living demonstration of His grace. Both Israel and Egypt stand today as examples of what happens when God decides to save.

Day 182: Never Too Large to Fall

Jeremiah 46:20-24

“Egypt is a very beautiful heifer;
but destruction out of the north has come.
It has come.
Also her hired men in the middle of her are like calves of the stall,
for they also are turned back.
They have fled away together.
They didn’t stand,
for the day of their calamity has come on them,
the time of their visitation.
Its sound will go like the serpent,
for they will march with an army,
and come against her with axes, as wood cutters.
They will cut down her forest,” says Yahweh,
“though it can’t be searched;
because they are more than the locusts,
and are innumerable.
The daughter of Egypt will be disappointed;
she will be delivered into the hand of the people of the north.”

One of the problems that I have with stock market trading is illustrated in this prophesy. If you were to look at Egypt’s 10 year chart, you would see that investing in it would have looked like a pretty good risk. It had good medical facilities and according to this prophesy, it had one of the largest armies. This passage appears to be also telling us that they had contracted soldiers from other countries to help them as well. The country itself had been going strong for many years and was a power to contend with. If Egypt had sold stock, I would think that it would have been trading at a lower rate because of all of the political unrest in the area. It would probably have looked like an extremely good deal. The problem I have is that even when something looks this good, it is absolutely no guarantee that it will continue, even for one more year. If Egypt would have had their own stock market, the entire market was about to close because they were about to be destroyed by a distant power.

In this passage, God says that it doesn’t matter how beautiful they are or how many troops they have or how many people live there. They were about to be completely taken over by Babylon. Past performance was no guarantee of future results.

I think that the reason the stock market is so frustrating to me is that it doesn’t come with a guarantee. Even our banks are not secure because they are affected by governmental changes as well. Our savings accounts could be similar in function to what Egypt was to Judah. They may affect our decisions when God tells us to do something that seems unusual. What we should always do is simply obey God, but when our own understanding starts to interfere with what God’s says, we make very foolish choices. It’s important for us to trust in God for our well being instead of our own means. Then we will be secure, even if our entire bank account is threatened. That’s because God loves us and He will tell us what we should do next.

Day 181: A More Complete Picture of Jesus

Jeremiah 46:13-19

The word that Yahweh spoke to Jeremiah the prophet, how that Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon should come and strike the land of Egypt:
“Declare in Egypt,
publish in Migdol,
and publish in Memphis and in Tahpanhes;
say, ‘Stand up, and prepare,
for the sword has devoured around you.’
Why are your strong ones swept away?
They didn’t stand, because Yahweh pushed them.
He made many to stumble.
Yes, they fell on one another.
They said, ‘Arise! Let’s go again to our own people,
and to the land of our birth,
from the oppressing sword.’
They cried there, ‘Pharaoh king of Egypt is but a noise;
he has let the appointed time pass by.’

“As I live,” says the King,
whose name is Yahweh of Armies,
“surely like Tabor among the mountains,
and like Carmel by the sea,
so he will come.
You daughter who dwells in Egypt,
furnish yourself to go into captivity;
for Memphis will become a desolation,
and will be burned up,
without inhabitant.

I don’t know the history about this time in Egypt, but I do know from this prophesy what happened. Egypt was defeated by Babylon and the cities of Memphis and Tahphanhes were destroyed. People were taken into captivity. We also know that God caused the soldiers to fall and stumble over each other. They lost heart and wanted to go back home. They came to the realization that Pharaoh’s chance to take over had already passed and they were doomed.

I have been told that God the Father never refers to Himself as “Yahweh of Armies.” This is a reference to the Messiah and we know who that is. Jesus is calling Himself the King here and makes it clear that Egypt will be destroyed and the people taken captive. I think it’s important for us to take a moment to think about Jesus in the light of these events.

When Jesus came the first time, He put asside His wrath. He didn’t act like the commander of an army at all. I think that this is one of the problems the Jewish leaders had with Him. He wasn’t the Messiah they were expecting. If we aren’t careful, we will not have the right ideas about Him either. It’s important for us to have a complete picture of Jesus. I believe that our enemy would love for us to assume that Jesus is just a weak push-over who walks around in sandals and turns the other cheek. The Bible actually says that He is an army commander and a warrior. He has destroyed many civilizations in the past, but the real destruction is coming in the future. We should love Jesus, but it’s also important that we fear Him. Jesus is our Savior, but He is also the commander of Heaven’s army and the Judge of the World. We are supposed to turn the other cheek but Jesus won’t be doing that. He will eventually destroy every person and nation that chooses to rebel against His kingdom just like He did to Egypt and Judah. It is a fearful thing for enemies of God to think of Jesus this way, but it is a comfort to us because we can be assured that He will set things strait when He returns.

Day 180: Wasted Conquest

Jeremiah 46:7-12

“Who is this who rises up like the Nile,
like rivers whose waters surge?
Egypt rises up like the Nile,
like rivers whose waters surge.
He says, ‘I will rise up. I will cover the earth.
I will destroy cities and its inhabitants.’
Go up, you horses!
Rage, you chariots!
Let the mighty men go out:
Cush and Put, who handle the shield;
and the Ludim, who handle and bend the bow.
For that day is of the Lord, Yahweh of Armies,
a day of vengeance,
that he may avenge himself of his adversaries.
The sword will devour and be satiated,
and will drink its fill of their blood;
for the Lord, Yahweh of Armies, has a sacrifice in the north country by the river Euphrates.
Go up into Gilead, and take balm, virgin daughter of Egypt.
You use many medicines in vain.
There is no healing for you.
The nations have heard of your shame,
and the earth is full of your cry;
for the mighty man has stumbled against the mighty,
they both fall together.”

While working as a software engineer, I spent a lot of time learning about wasted effort. In software, we don’t waste materials when we make mistakes. What we do waste is our own time and effort as well as the time and effort of our investors and our customers. We do that when we make bad decisions. It’s possible to charge down the road of success, only to find that you are harming yourself and others because you are fighting against reality.

Jeremiah records for us that Egypt was going to make an attempt to take over the world. God told them to go right ahead and try. Instead of taking over the world, they were going to fall. It even tells the medical workers to go ahead and try to use their medicine to heal people. Even that was going to fail. Egypt was about to waste their efforts. It even tells us here that “the earth is full of your cry.” It’s one thing to make a private mistake, but Egypt’s mistakes were going to be high-profile.

I see a lesson for us in this. No matter how big and powerful we are, it is possible for us to take on something that will destroy us. God is the one who defines reality and because of this, our success is in His hands, not in our own. Our big idea shouldn’t be to take over the world, but to simply do what God wants us to do today. Then, when He takes over the world, we will be glad we helped. There’s no waste in that.

Day 179: Willfully Ignorant

Jeremiah 46:1-6

Yahweh’s word which came to Jeremiah the prophet concerning the nations.

Of Egypt: concerning the army of Pharaoh Necoh king of Egypt, which was by the river Euphrates in Carchemish, which Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon struck in the fourth year of Jehoiakim the son of Josiah, king of Judah.
“Prepare the buckler and shield,
and draw near to battle!
Harness the horses, and get up, you horsemen,
and stand up with your helmets.
Polish the spears,
put on the coats of mail.
Why have I seen it?
They are dismayed and are turned backward.
Their mighty ones are beaten down,
have fled in haste,
and don’t look back.
Terror is on every side,”
says Yahweh.
“Don’t let the swift flee away,
nor the mighty man escape.
In the north by the river Euphrates
they have stumbled and fallen.

At this point, Jeremiah records his revelation concerning a battle that happened earlier in Egypt. One of the things that surprised me is that this battle was lost before Babylon took Judah into captivity. We just read that the remnant that decided to go to Egypt, went there later because they thought that they would be safe there. Here we can see that they weren’t even taking the historical facts into account. Pharaoh Necoh had already been defeated in a battle with the very same king of Babylon some time earlier. If Egypt’s gods were helping them, they weren’t doing a very good job.

Another thing that this tells us is that the people should have known to listen to Jeremiah’s words and not doubt them. The way that they were to determine if a prophet was from God was to look at his resume. Jeremiah had not only predicted the fall of Jerusalem, but he had also predicted the defeat of Pharaoh Necoh. This demonstrates how completely irrationally the remnant of Judah was acting. Not only did they have to ignore the fact that Jeremiah was never wrong about any of his predictions, but that Egypt was not even a safe place based on historical losses to Babylon. To top it all off, the queen of the sky was clearly unable to help anyone.

One thing that we should be aware of as Christians is that the Bible teaches that people are willfully ignorant of God. They actually know God in their minds but they refuse to recognize Him. They actually suppress the truth in an effort to rebel against God and do what they want to do. All of the reasoning and explaining in the world can’t help a person who has decided to rebel against God. God may use us like Jeremiah to tell them the truth, but the only way that they will actually change their minds and repent, is for God to bring about that change. We cannot do it.