Day 126: Carefully Considering God’s Word about Israel

Jeremiah 30:1-3

The word that came to Jeremiah from Yahweh, saying, “Yahweh, the God of Israel, says, ‘Write all the words that I have spoken to you in a book. For, behold, the days come,’ says Yahweh, ‘that I will reverse the captivity of my people Israel and Judah,’ says Yahweh. ‘I will cause them to return to the land that I gave to their fathers, and they will possess it.’ ”

I know that something is seriously wrong in our world when so many people who claim to be believers think that God is no longer involved with Israel as a nation. God repeats the fact that He intends to “reverse the captivity” of His people so many times, it actually get’s kind of monotonous. Once again, God says in this passage: “I will cause them to return to the land that I gave to their fathers, and they will possess it.” How much more clearly does it need to be stated?

I’m going to guess that most Christians, were like me. They simply never read Jeremiah. Or, like me, they may have read it very quickly and didn’t really study it. When we look back over the history of Israel, we see that they actually returned to the land more than once, and we also read in the words of the prophets that they will be returning again in the future. It’s OK for us to argue that the current return of Israel may not be the final one, but it isn’t OK to argue that God is done with Israel. You’d have to really ignore or subjectively symbolize many passages in the Bible and once you do that, you could make the Bible say pretty much anything. You’d also create a problem. You’d have to consider the possibility that salvation from Hell is only symbolic and perhaps even for someone else other than you. Could Jesus’ words to Christians have been only symbolic?

In this passage, God told Jeremiah to write these words because Israel and Judah would return and posses their land. It’s pretty obvious that Jeremiah and all those who would go into captivity would not expect these words to be merely symbolic. I do believe that how God treats Israel is symbolic of how He treats Christians today, but that doesn’t help those who believe that God has rejected the nation of Israel. If God were to throw away Israel after promising them their land like this, wouldn’t that mean that God will also do the same to Christians symbolically?

Day 87: The Valley of Slaughter

Jeremiah 19:1-6

Thus said Yahweh, “Go, and buy a potter’s earthen container, and take some of the elders of the people, and of the elders of the priests; and go out to the valley of the son of Hinnom, which is by the entry of the gate Harsith, and proclaim there the words that I will tell you. Say, ‘Hear Yahweh’s word, kings of Judah, and inhabitants of Jerusalem: Yahweh of Armies, the God of Israel says, “Behold, I will bring evil on this place, which whoever hears, his ears will tingle. Because they have forsaken me, and have defiled this place, and have burned incense in it to other gods that they didn’t know, they, their fathers, and the kings of Judah, and have filled this place with the blood of innocents, and have built the high places of Baal, to burn their children in the fire for burnt offerings to Baal, which I didn’t command, nor speak, which didn’t even enter into my mind. Therefore, behold, the days come,” says Yahweh, “that this place will no more be called ‘Topheth’, nor ‘The Valley of the son of Hinnom’, but ‘The valley of Slaughter’.

I did some searching on the web for: “The Valley of the Son of Hinnom” and found out that it looks like a small valley with some buildings paths and what appears to be a nice little park. It’s interesting because Jesus referred to it as Hell. The word Gehenna is said to be a transliteration of “The Valley of Hinnom.” Scholars argue over whether or not it ever really was a garbage dump for Israel, but one thing everyone appears to agree with is that it was the place where the kings of Judah burned their children to the gods. That’s because the Bible says it right here. To Jesus, this valley was a type of Hell even though it isn’t Hell itself. It certainly doesn’t look like Hell today, but what happened there is truly horrible.

God told Jeremiah to tell the leaders that the place would become a place named after slaughter. It was clearly a symbolic thing and it’s no surprise that Jesus would continue the same symbolism in His words to the people. Sin has consequences. As I was studying this place, I noticed some scholars who cast doubt on whether or not Jesus was referring to eternal damnation when referring to it. I looked up all 12 references and it’s pretty obvious that the New Testament writers used this place as a reference to a spiritual place. It wasn’t just a place for the body to be thrown, but a place for the soul. See Matthew 10:28. It’s not like Jesus didn’t talk about this in other ways. He also mentioned it without saying Gehenna in His teaching about the judgment of nations in Matthew 25 where He says that the place was intended for Satan and the fallen angels.

It’s pretty obvious that what God said about this place has happened. We call it “Hell” even today even though the physical place looks rather nice now. Jesus has made it clear to the world that this represents a real spiritual place, and just as the people of Jeremiah’s day mocked Jeremiah’s message of destruction, so people today mock the reality of an eternal place of torment.