Day 163: Justice in the End

Jeremiah 39:11-14

Now Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon commanded Nebuzaradan the captain of the guard concerning Jeremiah, saying, “Take him and take care of him. Do him no harm; but do to him even as he tells you.”

So Nebuzaradan the captain of the guard, Nebushazban, Rabsaris, and Nergal Sharezer, Rabmag, and all the chief officers of the king of Babylon sent and took Jeremiah out of the court of the guard, and committed him to Gedaliah the son of Ahikam, the son of Shaphan, that he should bring him home. So he lived among the people.

In American business today, there is a special position that is occasionally granted to certain employees. This position is called: “Fellow.” I understand that this can mean different things depending on the business, but in the technology world, it has often meant that a person in this position tells the business what to do, not the other way around. I see a parallel with what happened to Jeremiah once he was taken “captive” by Nebuchadnezzar and this position as “Fellow.” Nebuchadnezzar commanded his men to not harm Jeremiah but, instead, “do to him even has he tells you.” So, Jeremiah was taken out of custody and allowed to live “among the people.”

It’s wonderful that God allowed Jeremiah to have such a high level of freedom once he was taken captive by Babylon and to you and I it seems only right, but what does this say to us in our lives today? What we witness here is a situation in which Jeremiah’s own people treated him worse than their enemies! Israel’s enemies had to “save” Jeremiah from his own people. Is it possible that we might mistreat people like this today? Could it be that we may be doing wrong to fellow Christians in a way non-believers wouldn’t? Now, I’m not saying that we should tolerate sin. It’s actually the other way around. Jeremiah wasn’t tolerating sin and because he didn’t, he was being mistreated by his fellow “believers.” Notice that this mistreatment was promoted by the leadership. It’s important for the common people to take action in spite of the bad leadership even if we become poor. If we don’t, we also know what the end will likely be.

Notice that for many years, the way that God felt about things was invisible. It appeared that Jeremiah was wrong and the people of Israel were right. In the end, however, God revealed that Jeremiah was right and that the destitute in the land were being mistreated. God promoted the destitute and Jeremiah and destroyed everyone else. We can often get the wrong idea about what is right by making the wrong assumption about when the end is. The end of the matter was not during the reign of king Zedekiah. The end of the matter was after Nebuchadnezzar brought judgment. Even this is not the very end as we read back in the history books. God intended to bring Israel back after their hearts were softened.

Day 139: How Does This Make Sense God?

Jeremiah 32:24-27

“Behold, siege ramps have been built against the city to take it. The city is given into the hand of the Chaldeans who fight against it, because of the sword, of the famine, and of the pestilence. What you have spoken has happened. Behold, you see it. You have said to me, Lord Yahweh, ‘Buy the field for money, and call witnesses;’ whereas the city is given into the hand of the Chaldeans.”

Then Yahweh’s word came to Jeremiah, saying, “Behold, I am Yahweh, the God of all flesh. Is there anything too hard for me?

God is the maker of all reasoning, yet, there are times in life when what God tells us to do doesn’t seem to make any sense at all. This passage is an excellent example of this. Jeremiah is in jail, the remainder of his country is crumbling before his eyes. God had made it clear that He intended to destroy the land and even told Jeremiah to tell people to leave. Now, God tells him to buy land. How in the world does that make any sense?

I’ve been in this kind of situation in my mind many times with God. It’s one of the reasons that I look forward to getting a new body. I can’t stand the fact that I stress over things that I can’t understand. My problem is the same one that Jeremiah has and God addresses it in the first question of His response. Is there anything too hard for God? The funny thing about that is that Jeremiah just said that to God in His prayer. I think that Jeremiah was saying that in reference to the fact that God destroyed Judah even though it didn’t seem likely to the people, but now God is trying to tell Jeremiah that God will restore Israel even though it doesn’t seem likely to him! I think that Jeremiah is trying to process how these two things can possibly happen.

God is not necessarily going to explain how it will happen, but He will repeat what will happen to Jeremiah next. What Jeremiah needed and what we need, is to simply trust in God’s power to do everything He says He will do. We need to really take hold of the fact that God is able to do anything. If God needs to create the whole universe in six days, then He can. If He needs to have a virgin give birth, He can. If He needs to raise the dead, He can. If He decides to completely destroy and remake the universe, He can. Jesus is our best example. When the storm raged around Him, He decided to take a nap. May God help us to trust in His power and follow the example of Jesus.

Day 138: God Isn’t Nice to Sinners

Jeremiah 32:16-23

Now after I had delivered the deed of the purchase to Baruch the son of Neriah, I prayed to Yahweh, saying,

“Ah Lord Yahweh! Behold, you have made the heavens and the earth by your great power and by your outstretched arm. There is nothing too hard for you. You show loving kindness to thousands, and repay the iniquity of the fathers into the bosom of their children after them. The great, the mighty God, Yahweh of Armies is your name: great in counsel, and mighty in work; whose eyes are open to all the ways of the children of men, to give everyone according to his ways, and according to the fruit of his doings; who performed signs and wonders in the land of Egypt, even to this day, both in Israel and among other men; and made yourself a name, as it is today; and brought your people Israel out of the land of Egypt with signs, with wonders, with a strong hand, with an outstretched arm, and with great terror; and gave them this land, which you swore to their fathers to give them, a land flowing with milk and honey. They came in and possessed it, but they didn’t obey your voice and didn’t walk in your law. They have done nothing of all that you commanded them to do. Therefore you have caused all this evil to come upon them.

It’s difficult to relate the the level of fear that must have been in the air at this time in Jeremiah’s life, but by this act of faith, it appears that Jeremiah was encouraged to worship God. What Jeremiah had predicted was coming true, even though it was a horrible thing. On top of that, he also had God’s clear promise to make Israel great again.

This passage reminds us that God can encourage us during times of stress in our lives. It also reminds us that God is in complete control. Israel had disobeyed God for a very long time and they thought that they were getting away with it. They seemed to expect God to keep blessing them even when they had decided to worship other gods and had stopped obeying His laws.

Sin has an unavoidable consequence. I’ve listened to many people as they try to explain why God would never send them to Hell. Most of them admit that they have done bad things, but they try to argue that God is nice and would be willing to overlook their sins and let them into Heaven anyway. That’s not exactly how it works. Jeremiah witnessed the fact that God will punish everyone who sins. The Bible tells us that there can be no forgiveness without punishment and that is not something that my generation appears to understand. The only way to not be punished for our own sins is for us to accept the fact that Jesus was punished for them already. It’s not that God is just ignoring our sins because He is nice. The opposite is true. God isn’t nice about sin at all and He even punished His own Son to prove that point. Our responsibility is to believe this and then God will not have to bring punishment down on us.

Day 137: A Good Investment

Jeremiah 32:6-15

Jeremiah said, “Yahweh’s word came to me, saying, ‘Behold, Hanamel the son of Shallum your uncle will come to you, saying, “Buy my field that is in Anathoth; for the right of redemption is yours to buy it.” ’ ”

“So Hanamel my uncle’s son came to me in the court of the guard according to Yahweh’s word, and said to me, ‘Please buy my field that is in Anathoth, which is in the land of Benjamin; for the right of inheritance is yours, and the redemption is yours. Buy it for yourself.’

“Then I knew that this was Yahweh’s word. I bought the field that was in Anathoth of Hanamel my uncle’s son, and weighed him the money, even seventeen shekels of silver. I signed the deed, sealed it, called witnesses, and weighed the money in the balances to him. So I took the deed of the purchase, both that which was sealed, containing the terms and conditions, and that which was open; and I delivered the deed of the purchase to Baruch the son of Neriah, the son of Mahseiah, in the presence of Hanamel my uncle’s son, and in the presence of the witnesses who signed the deed of the purchase, before all the Jews who sat in the court of the guard.

“I commanded Baruch before them, saying, Yahweh of Armies, the God of Israel, says: ‘Take these deeds, this deed of the purchase which is sealed, and this deed which is open, and put them in an earthen vessel, that they may last many days.’ For Yahweh of Armies, the God of Israel says: ‘Houses and fields and vineyards will yet again be bought in this land.’

Here we read that God uses Jeremiah as a physical example once again. This time, he was told by God that his cousin would be coming in an attempt to sell him Israeli land that was to be kept in his family. I think it’s good to consider how bad this transaction was. We already read that Jerusalem was under siege. This means that there were troops that had most likely already ravaged the surrounding countryside of Jerusalem. Land in Jerusalem was about to be worthless and the surrounding lands of Judah probably already were. To make matters worse, Jeremiah was in custody. Now, we have already read in the law that it was a legal obligation to help your family by buying their land when they were in need. This kind of buying was more like what we would call leasing today in that you could use the land but then return it to its owners during the Year of Jubilee. So what we have here is Jeremiah’s cousin coming to him while Jeremiah is in jail, obligating him to give him money for worthless land. At this point, the witnesses probably thought Jeremiah had gone totally mad, but Jeremiah was told by God to buy this land, so he did.

The wonder of this whole exercise is that God was not only encouraging the heart of His prophet, but He was using him to tell those who would hear that Israel had a future. Jeremiah made it clear before his witnesses that “Houses and fields and vineyards will yet again be bought in this land.” Jeremiah’s purchase was a good investment because he had the most critical element of a good investment. He had knowledge of the future. He was buying a very real inheritance for his family and as we already read in the history of Israel, they did end up returning to the land, little-by-little, 70 years later.

When we trust in God, we may look crazy on the outside. The truth can be missed because of our own ideas about how things work. Even when we consider investments, we should seek out the truth by believing everything God tells us first. Others may not understand our actions, but we will be encouraged in our hearts as we rest on the truth of God’s word.

Day 136: God’s Dark Comedy

Jeremiah 32:1-5

This is the word that came to Jeremiah from Yahweh in the tenth year of Zedekiah king of Judah, which was the eighteenth year of Nebuchadnezzar. Now at that time the king of Babylon’s army was besieging Jerusalem. Jeremiah the prophet was shut up in the court of the guard, which was in the king of Judah’s house.

For Zedekiah king of Judah had shut him up, saying, “Why do you prophesy, and say, ‘Yahweh says, “Behold, I will give this city into the hand of the king of Babylon, and he will take it; and Zedekiah king of Judah won’t escape out of the hand of the Chaldeans, but will surely be delivered into the hand of the king of Babylon, and will speak with him mouth to mouth, and his eyes will see his eyes; and he will bring Zedekiah to Babylon, and he will be there until I visit him,” says Yahweh, “though you fight with the Chaldeans, you will not prosper?” ’ ”

There’s a sense in which God has a dark sense of humor and I believe we are reading about one of those times in our passage today. The end of Jerusalem was at hand and Jeremiah had clearly shown himself to be a prophet of God. Here we learn that king Zedekiah of Judah didn’t like what Jeremiah was saying about him and the kingdom and decided to lock him up. That’s not funny at all, but what is funny is how God tells us about these things.

Doesn’t it strike you as a bit sarcastic that God would record in His book for all the world to see, king Zedekiah’s own words about the events. He clearly states Jeremiah’s message while explaining why he decided to lock him up. These words are so clear that you and I can read them and know exactly what happened. Jeremiah obviously did his job perfectly and king Zedekiah clearly understood his words enough to complain about them. All God had to do was record the king’s complaint. Now it serves as an obvious record that the king heard God’s word and purposefully chose to fight against it and even decided to persecute His messenger. God simply records the words and allows us to see that what Jeremiah said happened exactly as he said it would.

God hates faithlessness. The Bible tells us that He mocks the mockers and that’s what we experience as we consider this passage. God will also avenge those who take persecution for Him. It would be funny if it wasn’t so serious. Let this serve as a warning to us all. When God says something, let’s wise up and simply accept it, and when mockers think they are mocking God, they should beware because they are probably being used by God to destroy themselves.

Day 121: An Actual Contradiction

Jeremiah 28:10-17

Then Hananiah the prophet took the bar from off the prophet Jeremiah’s neck, and broke it. Hananiah spoke in the presence of all the people, saying, “Yahweh says: ‘Even so I will break the yoke of Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon from off the neck of all the nations within two full years.’ ” Then the prophet Jeremiah went his way.

Then Yahweh’s word came to Jeremiah, after Hananiah the prophet had broken the bar from off the neck of the prophet Jeremiah, saying, “Go, and tell Hananiah, saying, ‘Yahweh says, “You have broken the bars of wood, but you have made in their place bars of iron.” For Yahweh of Armies, the God of Israel says, “I have put a yoke of iron on the neck of all these nations, that they may serve Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon; and they will serve him. I have also given him the animals of the field.” ’ ”

Then the prophet Jeremiah said to Hananiah the prophet, “Listen, Hananiah! Yahweh has not sent you, but you make this people trust in a lie. Therefore Yahweh says, ‘Behold, I will send you away from off the surface of the earth. This year you will die, because you have spoken rebellion against Yahweh.’ ”

So Hananiah the prophet died the same year in the seventh month.

When Hananiah went on to say that Babylon’s power would be completely broken in the region within two years, a contradiction was not only apparent, it was real. God has spoken through Jeremiah that the people in other nations were to prepare for the Babylonian takeover. That takeover would not be happening if what Hananiah said was true.

Notice that Jeremiah didn’t say anything after Hananiah took the bar from his neck and used it as an illustration. He probably saw the contradiction quite clearly himself now. Both Hananiah and Jeremiah could not be true prophets of God. One of them was an imposter. Evidently, Jeremiah walked away. I know this because God told Jeremiah to “Go,” and tell Hananiah a new message which means he had to go to where Hananiah was. It’s important when we see a real contradiction, that we not try to accept it. It is also true that we shouldn’t speak until God shows us to what to say, but this passage also demonstrates that God will deal with a false prophet.

If God would have left things like they were, the people would have been confused. Which message was from God? To me, this seemed like an impossible problem but God provided an amazing way out.

The people had only one way to tell if a prophet is true. They had to see if what he predicted would happen. Both prophets could not be right, but if they were to wait until two years passed, it might be too late to follow Jeremiah and surrender to Babylon. I would imagine that Satan created this dilemma but God made it look easy. He simply had Jeremiah predict the death of Hananiah in a few months! Since both prophets could not be false, all the people had to do is watch to see if Hananiah would or die not! God not only proved to the people that Jeremiah was a true prophet, He also took out the bad one. God is quite capable of making His voice clear to us. He is also very serious about those who speak His word. This is a blessing to those of us who are telling the truth and a fearful warning to those who don’t.

Day 120: Handling Apparent Contradictions

Jeremiah 28:1-9

That same year, in the beginning of the reign of Zedekiah king of Judah, in the fourth year, in the fifth month, Hananiah the son of Azzur, the prophet, who was of Gibeon, spoke to me in Yahweh’s house, in the presence of the priests and of all the people, saying, “Yahweh of Armies, the God of Israel, says, ‘I have broken the yoke of the king of Babylon. Within two full years I will bring again into this place all the vessels of Yahweh’s house that Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon took away from this place, and carried to Babylon. I will bring again to this place Jeconiah the son of Jehoiakim, king of Judah, with all the captives of Judah, who went to Babylon,’ says Yahweh; ‘for I will break the yoke of the king of Babylon.’ ”

Then the prophet Jeremiah said to the prophet Hananiah in the presence of the priests, and in the presence of all the people who stood in Yahweh’s house, even the prophet Jeremiah said, “Amen! May Yahweh do so. May Yahweh perform your words which you have prophesied, to bring again the vessels of Yahweh’s house, and all those who are captives, from Babylon to this place. Nevertheless listen now to this word that I speak in your ears, and in the ears of all the people: The prophets who have been before me and before you of old prophesied against many countries, and against great kingdoms, of war, of evil, and of pestilence. The prophet who prophesies of peace, when the word of the prophet happens, then the prophet will be known, that Yahweh has truly sent him.”

This passage presents a serious problem. What do you do when two prophets speak seemingly contradictory messages? Here, the prophet Hananiah said that in two years, Nebuchadnezzar will return all of the captives taken to Babylon as well as all of the temple vessels. Jeremiah had just said that if the people refuse to surrender to Nebuchadnezzar, they will be destroyed and all of the rest of the temple vessels will be taken away. Why would Nebuchadnezzar give back what he had taken if they were just going to end up surrendering? More importantly, how are we supposed to handle it when prophets say things that don’t seem to go together?

Thankfully, Jeremiah shows us how to handle this by his own example. First of all, Jeremiah agrees that if it is the word of God, it must be accepted. He started out by saying: “Amen!” If it really was a word from God, then God is certainly able to change His mind and stop Nebuchadnezzar. After all, Jeremiah was asking the people to repent. Perhaps, within those two years, the people were going to repent and God would send the captives home. Perhaps, Jeremiah realized that God could bring them home with the temple vessels and then the people would surrender to Nebuchadnezzar and both of their prophesies would work out together after all. There was one problem though. Many prophets, including Isaiah, had said that war, evil and pestilence was coming. Those prophets had already been proven to be legitimate. That leads us to an important thing to remember when someone seems to contradict the Bible. It’s not possible for the Bible to be wrong. Either we don’t understand how it will work out together, or the prophet that is now speaking is false. That’s what Jeremiah also says here. If the prophet’s words don’t happen, then it will be obvious that God didn’t send him. Hananiah had just given a definite time in which something had to happen. They would all find out in two years if Hananiah was speaking God’s word or not.