Day 110: A Survey of Jeremiah’s Experience

Jeremiah 25:1-6

The word that came to Jeremiah concerning all the people of Judah, in the fourth year of Jehoiakim the son of Josiah, king of Judah (this was the first year of Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon), which Jeremiah the prophet spoke to all the people of Judah, and to all the inhabitants of Jerusalem: From the thirteenth year of Josiah the son of Amon, king of Judah, even to this day, these twenty-three years, Yahweh’s word has come to me, and I have spoken to you, rising up early and speaking; but you have not listened.

Yahweh has sent to you all his servants the prophets, rising up early and sending them (but you have not listened or inclined your ear to hear), saying, “Return now everyone from his evil way, and from the evil of your doings, and dwell in the land that Yahweh has given to you and to your fathers, from of old and even forever more. Don’t go after other gods to serve them or worship them, and don’t provoke me to anger with the work of your hands; then I will do you no harm.”

Here we learn that for 23 years Jeremiah got up early and spoke the word of God to the people. Not only that, Jeremiah reminds us that God had sent all of the prophets for many more years than that. It’s wonderful to learn that the message of all the prophets was the same. They told the people to stop doing evil and to stop worshiping other gods and to live in the land that God had given them. We even saw the same behavior in the last prophet we call John the Baptist. What can we learn from this?

I think that two of the big things we learn are these: We learn what God is like, and we learn what mankind is like. What we learn about God is that He is very, very patient. God tried to tell Israel what was wrong and what they needed to do, for a very long time. We can’t accuse God of not providing enough time to change. We also see that God is a good communicator. God sent many prophets and what we learn here is that He made them get up early to do their job! God maximized the time spent communicating with the people, so we can’t accuse God of not communicating clearly.

The problem was not God at all. The problem obviously came from man, and that is the second big thing we learn. Israel’s behavior doesn’t just show us how bad Israel is. It shows us how bad mankind is. Mankind is unable to follow God’s word no matter how clear or how long his chance to do it right is. It demonstrates that humanism is a horrible idea! If humanity were able to heal itself, it should have been able to follow God’s 10 commandments, instead, what we see is that mankind cannot apply himself to anything and get it right.

There’s another big thing we learn about God as we study what happened to Israel at the time of Jeremiah, and we read more about that next.

Day 99: God Makes His Word Clear

Jeremiah 22:10-19

Don’t weep for the dead.
Don’t bemoan him;
but weep bitterly for him who goes away,
for he will return no more,
and not see his native country.
For Yahweh says touching Shallum the son of Josiah, king of Judah, who reigned instead of Josiah his father, and who went out of this place: “He won’t return there any more. But he will die in the place where they have led him captive. He will see this land no more.”
“Woe to him who builds his house by unrighteousness,
and his rooms by injustice;
who uses his neighbor’s service without wages,
and doesn’t give him his hire;
who says, ‘I will build myself a wide house and spacious rooms,’
and cuts out windows for himself;
with a cedar ceiling,
and painted with red.

“Should you reign, because you strive to excel in cedar?
Didn’t your father eat and drink,
and do justice and righteousness?
Then it was well with him.
He judged the cause of the poor and needy;
so it was well, then.
Wasn’t this to know me?”
says Yahweh.
But your eyes and your heart are only for your covetousness,
for shedding innocent blood,
for oppression, and for doing violence.”
Therefore Yahweh says concerning Jehoiakim the son of Josiah, king of Judah:
“They won’t lament for him,
saying, ‘Ah my brother!’ or, ‘Ah sister!’
They won’t lament for him,
saying ‘Ah lord!’ or, ‘Ah his glory!’
He will be buried with the burial of a donkey,
drawn and cast out beyond the gates of Jerusalem.”

Back when we were reading Israel’s history in 2 Kings 23, we didn’t know that some of the events there were actually known before they happened. Jeremiah predicted what was going to happen to two wicked kings of Judah. Both of these kings were sons of the good king Josiah. The first one was to be exiled to a foreign country and die there. Jeremiah called his name “Shallum” here. In 2 Kings, he is known as Jehoahaz. He ended up being taken away by Pharaoh Neco, the same Pharaoh that killed his father. He did die in exile, just as Jeremiah predicted.

The second king mentioned here is the one that Neco put in charge after he removed Jehoahaz. His original name was Eliakim, but Neco renamed him Jehoiakim. That’s the name that Jeremiah used in his prophesy about him. We aren’t told in 2 Kings 24 exactly how Jehoiakim was buried. We actually have to rely on the prophesy we have here to know that. We do know that he was forced to be Nebuchadnezzar’s servant in the end. He rebelled against Nebuchadnezzar so it’s clear that He wasn’t respected at the time of his death based on circumstances. In 2 Chronicles 36:6 we learn that he was taken in shackles to Babylon.

What should have been clear to all of Israel is that Jeremiah was a true prophet of God. The way to determine if a prophet is really from God is to make sure that what he says about the future comes true. If he accurately tells the future, then the people were to pay close attention to what God was saying. God had given the people a chance to not die in Jerusalem by surrendering to Babylon. Those who took Jeremiah’s words to heart would be saved from death and starvation. It’s good to know that when God tells us to believe in something, He makes sure that we can separate the words of those who lie from those who tell the truth. God allowed the people to see the truth as Jeremiah’s words came true with Pharaoh Neco before Nebuchadnezzar showed up and ended up defeating both Pharaoh Neco and Jerusalem.

Day 93: A Serious Look at Persecution

Jeremiah 20:14-18

Cursed is the day in which I was born.
Don’t let the day in which my mother bore me be blessed.
Cursed is the man who brought news to my father, saying,
“A boy is born to you,” making him very glad.
Let that man be as the cities which Yahweh overthrew,
and didn’t repent.
Let him hear a cry in the morning,
and shouting at noontime;
because he didn’t kill me from the womb.
So my mother would have been my grave,
and her womb always great.
Why did I come out of the womb to see labor and sorrow,
that my days should be consumed with shame?

Jeremiah is one of the men in the Bible that curses his own birthday. Job did the same thing as we read in his book. Both men were chosen by God to suffer persecution at the hands of their own friends. Since we know the end of Job’s story, it’s pretty obvious that Jeremiah is going to be taken care of in the end, but going through persecution is not a good thing. If it were, I’m sure that God would arrange for us all to be persecuted forever in Heaven someday. That doesn’t make any sense does it? Neither does pretending like persecution is good. Jesus did tell us to rejoice when we are persecuted, but He also told us why. Let’s look at that again:

Luke 6:22-23

Blessed are you when men shall hate you, and when they shall exclude and mock you, and throw out your name as evil, for the Son of Man’s sake.

Rejoice in that day, and leap for joy, for behold, your reward is great in heaven, for their fathers did the same thing to the prophets.

Jeremiah didn’t have these words from Jesus yet. These words have been entrusted to us along with the example of Jeremiah’s life. It makes sense that Jeremiah would be given space to complain by God. I’m not sure that Jeremiah and Job were given the knowledge of the fact that there are rewards in heaven. We were told and it is written into the Bible now. We are the ones who know without any doubt that we are going to receive a great reward because we have been treated like Elijah, Isaiah, Jeremiah and Job. We have a great deal of good to look forward to, but the pain and suffering we receive here, are not good. Jeremiah’s words remind us of that fact. We should not have a morbid desire to be persecuted, but we should be happy that we are going to be rewarded with men like Jeremiah for what we had to go through.

Day 92: God’s Word vs. The Authorities

Jeremiah 20:10-13

For I have heard the defaming of many,
“Terror on every side!
Denounce, and we will denounce him!”
say all my familiar friends,
those who watch for my fall.
“Perhaps he will be persuaded,
and we will prevail against him,
and we will take our revenge on him.”
But Yahweh is with me as an awesome mighty one.
Therefore my persecutors will stumble,
and they won’t prevail.
They will be utterly disappointed,
because they have not dealt wisely,
even with an everlasting dishonor which will never be forgotten.
But Yahweh of Armies, who tests the righteous,
who sees the heart and the mind,
let me see your vengeance on them,
for I have revealed my cause to you.
Sing to Yahweh!
Praise Yahweh,
for he has delivered the soul of the needy from the hand of evildoers.

Jeremiah’s friends turned on him when God required that he speak to them about the coming terror. I think we can understand this. Jeremiah was thrown in jail by the authorities. A person isn’t popular after they have been thrown in jail. In our culture we say that they “have a record.” People tend to trust the authorities and doubt the one who was convicted. Obviously, Jeremiah knew that God was asking him to be shamed for the sake of the truth.

This may not seem like a big deal to us today. We may think that things are different for us, but that is so very far from the truth that it should cause us to be afraid. Jeremiah’s friends treatment caused God to condemn them to “everlasting dishonor which will never be forgotten.” That’s how serious it can be to trust the views of the authorities rather than God’s word. God is able to look beyond the command of the authorities. He sees “the heart and the mind” of every one of us individually. Today, there are many leaders who are attempting to control people by denying them the right to guide their behavior by their own conscience. If we give in to them, we are putting them in the place of God and that is idolatry. They seek our worship and it is our responsibility to be like Jeremiah and deny them of it.

Jeremiah could see that God was going to bring him justice by delivering him from his old friends, but that doesn’t mean that Jeremiah was immune from his emotions as we read next.

Day 91: Jeremiah’s Source of Strength

Jeremiah 20:7-9

Yahweh, you have persuaded me, and I was persuaded.
You are stronger than I, and have prevailed.
I have become a laughingstock all day.
Everyone mocks me.
For as often as I speak, I cry out;
I cry, “Violence and destruction!”
because Yahweh’s word has been made a reproach to me,
and a derision, all day.
If I say, I will not make mention of him,
or speak any more in his name,
then there is in my heart as it were a burning fire shut up in my bones.
I am weary with holding it in.
I can’t.

Isn’t it great to read about the strength that Jeremiah had to spend a night locked in stocks only to rebuke the one who put him there as soon as he was let loose? If that’s all I knew, I would be tempted to think that Jeremiah was doing just fine, but right after that incident, we have these words recorded. It’s as if we are listening to Jeremiah’s personal conversation with God.

Jeremiah explains that everyone is mocking him and he feels it. God clearly persuaded him to speak, but everyone is laughing at him. Jeremiah isn’t feeling very strong. What this tells me, is that the strength we see in Jeremiah, is coming from God and that’s something we all need to remember when we read of the great acts of men in the Bible. God is the real hero because it is only by His power that these men were able to do what they did. That same thing is true with every Christian today. We can do great things, but we will have to trust in God’s power to do those things.

This is one of my favorite passages in the Bible because it does a great job of explaining the feeling I have when I know that I’m supposed to say something unpopular. Jeremiah appears to have actually tried to be agreeable and not talk about what God was telling him. He describes the experience as if he were trying to hold fire in his body. He got tired trying to hold it in! When referring to his attempt to hold God’s word inside himself, he simply says: “I can’t”. It reminds me of Martin Luther’s famous words when he was told to recant. He also said: “Here I stand, I can do no other, so help me God.” At 86 years old, right before he was killed for not worshiping Roman gods, Polycarp who was one of the apostle John’s young disciples, was quoted as saying: “How can I blaspheme my King and my Savior?” It is a pattern of those who cannot stop the truth, to crush the messenger, but it’s also good to see that the messenger’s power comes from God and results in the spreading of God’s word. God will always say what He wants to say and those try to stop it will only make it worse for themselves.

Day 90: Magormissabib

Jeremiah 20:1-6

Now Pashhur, the son of Immer the priest, who was chief officer in Yahweh’s house, heard Jeremiah prophesying these things. Then Pashhur struck Jeremiah the prophet and put him in the stocks that were in the upper gate of Benjamin, which was in Yahweh’s house. On the next day, Pashhur released Jeremiah out of the stocks. Then Jeremiah said to him, “Yahweh has not called your name Pashhur, but Magormissabib. For Yahweh says, ‘Behold, I will make you a terror to yourself and to all your friends. They will fall by the sword of their enemies, and your eyes will see it. I will give all Judah into the hand of the king of Babylon, and he will carry them captive to Babylon, and will kill them with the sword. Moreover I will give all the riches of this city, and all its gains, and all its precious things, yes, I will give all the treasures of the kings of Judah into the hand of their enemies. They will make them captives, take them, and carry them to Babylon. You, Pashhur, and all who dwell in your house will go into captivity. You will come to Babylon, and there you will die, and there you will be buried, you, and all your friends, to whom you have prophesied falsely.’ ”

It’s interesting that when Jeremiah was preaching in the place that represented Hell, he didn’t get harmed, but when he showed up in the place that represented Heaven, he was attacked. This same thing happened to Jesus as well. Pashhur was a man with a very high official position in the temple. It appears that he not only was considered to be a priest, but was also given operational and administrative authority over the temple. This was a man with a resume. We also learn that he had been prophesying in opposition to Jeremiah, but the things he had been saying were just made up. His message didn’t actually come from God at all.

We read here that Pashhur also took it upon himself to physically attack Jeremiah and lock him up in stocks for a night. This would have probably been quite humiliating to Jeremiah but God must have been helping Jeremiah stay true to God’s truth in his mind because when he was released the next day, He immediately spoke a word from God against the man who had just locked him up. Jeremiah was told by God that He had renamed Pashhur: Magormissabib. Now that name doesn’t sound good but it also has a very horrible meaning. I am told by modern translators that it means: “terror on every side.” I think that God struck Pashhur where it hurt him the most. It appears that Pashhur was a believer in his own title. He was highly respected by people in that he was given a high religious office, but to God he was greatly dishonored. Pashhur had taken it upon himself to speak for God even though God had not given him anything to say and then he took God’s messenger and dishonored him. God told Pashhur that his future title would be one of great shame to both himself and those who listened to his lies.

What we want to do is to seek God’s power to be like Jeremiah and avoid any similarity to Pashhur. We shouldn’t believe in the titles given to us by people. Only what God says about us matters. What God says about us is so important that even when we are dishonored and embarrassed in front of the world, we need to stand strong like Jeremiah and trust God’s word until He allows us to escape. We must not be intimidated by the people who have high positions in this world but continue to speak the truth to their so-called “power.”

Day 88: Jeremiah Gives Them Hell

Jeremiah 19:7-13

“ ‘ “I will make the counsel of Judah and Jerusalem void in this place. I will cause them to fall by the sword before their enemies, and by the hand of those who seek their life. I will give their dead bodies to be food for the birds of the sky and for the animals of the earth. I will make this city an astonishment and a hissing. Everyone who passes by it will be astonished and hiss because of all its plagues. I will cause them to eat the flesh of their sons and the flesh of their daughters. They will each eat the flesh of his friend in the siege and in the distress, with which their enemies, and those who seek their life, will distress them.” ’

“Then you shall break the container in the sight of the men who go with you, and shall tell them, ‘Yahweh of Armies says: “Even so I will break this people and this city, as one breaks a potter’s vessel, that can’t be made whole again. They will bury in Topheth, until there is no place to bury. This is what I will do to this place,” says Yahweh, “and to its inhabitants, even making this city as Topheth. The houses of Jerusalem, and the houses of the kings of Judah, which are defiled, will be as the place of Topheth, even all the houses on whose roofs they have burned incense to all the army of the sky and have poured out drink offerings to other gods.” ’ ”

If they thought they hated Jeremiah before, God had more for them. We find out from the next passage that Jeremiah is standing right there in Gehenna telling them that they are going to be starved and killed in such numbers that they will not have enough room to bury all the dead in the valley. They are going to be so hungry that they will start eating their own children and friends. Then we find out why God had him bring the pot. He broke it in front of them as an illustration of the fact that they would be so utterly destroyed that they will not be able to be repaired.

This is probably the best reference for what Jesus was communicating when He talked to us about Hell. It’s where the cursed dead were left for the birds. It’s a place of defilement and Jesus added the fact that the real Hell is a place where the worm never dies and the fire never goes out. Why do we have to know this? I think the answer is pretty obvious don’t you? It’s a real place and God doesn’t want man to go there. He made a way for anyone who believes to escape it, but people are ignoring it and building nice parks over the bones of the dead like we see in the Gehenna today. This horrible time was just one of the many that were to happen to Jerusalem after that point in history. We can try to ignore those times and why they happened, or we can learn about them and avoid doing the things that lead to them. This is true for Israel as a nation, and for each of us spiritually.