Day 172: The People Fail to Obey, Again

Jeremiah 42:19-43-7

“Yahweh has spoken concerning you, remnant of Judah, ‘Don’t go into Egypt!’ Know certainly that I have testified to you today. For you have dealt deceitfully against your own souls; for you sent me to Yahweh your God, saying, ‘Pray for us to Yahweh our God; and according to all that Yahweh our God says, so declare to us, and we will do it.’ I have declared it to you today; but you have not obeyed Yahweh your God’s voice in anything for which he has sent me to you. Now therefore know certainly that you will die by the sword, by the famine, and by the pestilence in the place where you desire to go to live.”

When Jeremiah had finished speaking to all the people all the words of Yahweh their God, with which Yahweh their God had sent him to them, even all these words, then Azariah the son of Hoshaiah, Johanan the son of Kareah, and all the proud men spoke, saying to Jeremiah, “You speak falsely. Yahweh our God has not sent you to say, ‘You shall not go into Egypt to live there;’ but Baruch the son of Neriah has turned you against us, to deliver us into the hand of the Chaldeans, that they may put us to death or carry us away captive to Babylon.”

So Johanan the son of Kareah, and all the captains of the forces, and all the people, didn’t obey Yahweh’s voice, to dwell in the land of Judah. But Johanan the son of Kareah and all the captains of the forces took all the remnant of Judah, who had returned from all the nations where they had been driven, to live in the land of Judah— the men, the women, the children, the king’s daughters, and every person who Nebuzaradan the captain of the guard had left with Gedaliah the son of Ahikam, the son of Shaphan; and Jeremiah the prophet, and Baruch the son of Neriah. They came into the land of Egypt, for they didn’t obey Yahweh’s voice; and they came to Tahpanhes.

It has been hard for me to read about the life of Jeremiah. He spent his life in obedience to God but in return he had a life of great persecution by his own people and here we read that it continued as he was taken captive by more disobedient Jews and forced to go to Egypt. It’s alarming that these Jews lied to Jeremiah about what they intended to do. Notice that they accused Jeremiah of lying as they themselves were lying. When we fail to trust in God, our fears are able to take over and produce evil in us. If only they had been willing to simply rest in God’s word. Instead, they forced Jeremiah to go with them to Egypt.

Jeremiah’s words here appear to show us that he was used to the idea that God was using him to give messages to those who would disobey them. Even before the people decided to disobey, Jeremiah predicted that they would. Perhaps Jeremiah was learning to rest in God’s will for him. As we move on to the next book of the Bible, I think we will get a better look at what Jeremiah was thinking as he went through these things. The next book of the Bible is called: Lamentations. It’s pretty obvious from that name that it wasn’t a fun thing for Jeremiah to endure, but perhaps we will learn how he was able to endure it and it will help us as we endure things that we must endure in our lives as well.

Day 169: What Can We Learn from This?

Jeremiah 41:11-18

But when Johanan the son of Kareah, and all the captains of the forces who were with him, heard of all the evil that Ishmael the son of Nethaniah had done, then they took all the men, and went to fight with Ishmael the son of Nethaniah, and found him by the great waters that are in Gibeon. Now when all the people who were with Ishmael saw Johanan the son of Kareah, and all the captains of the forces who were with him, then they were glad. So all the people who Ishmael had carried away captive from Mizpah turned about and came back, and went to Johanan the son of Kareah. But Ishmael the son of Nethaniah escaped from Johanan with eight men, and went to the children of Ammon.

Then Johanan the son of Kareah and all the captains of the forces who were with him took all the remnant of the people whom he had recovered from Ishmael the son of Nethaniah, from Mizpah, after he had killed Gedaliah the son of Ahikam—the men of war, with the women, the children, and the eunuchs, whom he had brought back from Gibeon. They departed and lived in Geruth Chimham, which is by Bethlehem, to go to enter into Egypt because of the Chaldeans; for they were afraid of them, because Ishmael the son of Nethaniah had killed Gedaliah the son of Ahikam, whom the king of Babylon made governor over the land.

Everything that happens, and everything God has written into His book, is done for a reason. One of the mysteries for me is attempting to discover what those reasons are. In this passage we are told that Johanan was able to go after Ishmael and recover the Jews and others he had kidnapped. That is great, but why did God want us to know all of this? Why did he put this strange set of events into the Bible for all of us to read?

One thing that this reminds me of is that anything can happen. Some important and life-changing events cannot be planned for. I have noticed that my world tries to convince me that my destiny is my choice, but it really isn’t. I think that the poorer we are the less we believe in the idea that we make our own destiny. Perhaps age helps too. The only way to successfully plan your own future is to trust in God and what He says about us. I think that this is probably the reason why God is telling us these things. As we study these events in Jeremiah, we will find that it leads to a faith issue. Does this remnant really believe in God’s word and what He says about them, or are they still trying to make their own way?

Our fears often expose our faith. After Johanan retrieved his people from Ishamael, he was too afraid to go back tho Mizpah. He was afraid that Ishmael’s assassination of Gedaliah had harmed his relationship with the Chaldeans. We are told here that he was staying near Bethlehem, intending to go to Egypt. It would appear that he was thinking that Egypt would protect them from Babylon. Do you see a problem with this? Where’s God in all of this? Could it be that this is one reason that God has these events in the Bible for us today? I think you will probably agree that it is as we go on.

Day 154: Talking to God without Listening to Him

Jeremiah 37:1-10

Zedekiah the son of Josiah reigned as king instead of Coniah the son of Jehoiakim, whom Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon made king in the land of Judah. But neither he, nor his servants, nor the people of the land, listened to Yahweh’s words, which he spoke by the prophet Jeremiah.

Zedekiah the king sent Jehucal the son of Shelemiah and Zephaniah the son of Maaseiah, the priest, to the prophet Jeremiah, saying, “Pray now to Yahweh our God for us.”

Now Jeremiah came in and went out among the people, for they had not put him into prison. Pharaoh’s army had come out of Egypt; and when the Chaldeans who were besieging Jerusalem heard news of them, they withdrew from Jerusalem.

Then Yahweh’s word came to the prophet Jeremiah, saying, “Yahweh, the God of Israel, says, ‘You shall tell the king of Judah, who sent you to me to inquire of me: “Behold, Pharaoh’s army, which has come out to help you, will return to Egypt into their own land. The Chaldeans will come again, and fight against this city. They will take it and burn it with fire.” ’

“Yahweh says, ‘Don’t deceive yourselves, saying, “The Chaldeans will surely depart from us;” for they will not depart. For though you had struck the whole army of the Chaldeans who fight against you, and only wounded men remained among them, they would each rise up in his tent and burn this city with fire.’ ”

This piece of history records a very interesting situation. God tells us that neither the king, “nor his servants, nor the people of the land, listened to Yahweh’s words.” Even so, “the king sent… to the prophet Jeremiah, saying, ‘Pray now to Yahweh our God for us.'” What we have here is one-way communication. Israel decided not to listen to God but expected God to listen to them when they were in trouble. It appears that “when the Chaldeans… were besieging Jerusalem,” the Israelis found it in their best interest to have the prophet that they ignore pray to get the war to stop. We get to read here about how that turned out.

At first, it appeared to work because when Egypt decided to move in, the Chaldeans “withdrew from Jerusalem.” Perhaps they thought that they could ignore God and get His blessing anyway by praying some magic words, but God made sure to have Jeremiah give them another message.

God not only didn’t choose to help them, He repeated His intention to have them be destroyed. He had the very same prophet that they had been ignoring, tell them that the Chaldeans would not only return, but that even if they were all wounded, they would still end up burning Jerusalem.

There’s one thing that appears to be very clear from this passage. You can’t expect to pray to God for His help if you have been ignoring Him. I believe that this passage demonstrates that not only will God not help you, He may get angry and hurt you. Some may say that God is being mean here, but that’s because they are still refusing to see the obvious. God is a real person and He can’t be boxed up in a man-made, man-focused religion. Just like you would expect of any person, God gets angry when He’s ignored and He doesn’t feel close to people who try to use and abuse Him. He’s also the most powerful person and can do something about it when He’s mistreated. It is a lesson to us to pay attention to God’s words, then we can expect that God will hear our prayers for help.

Day 153: It’s Usually Better the Second Time

Jeremiah 36:27-32

Then Yahweh’s word came to Jeremiah, after the king had burned the scroll, and the words which Baruch wrote at the mouth of Jeremiah, saying, “Take again another scroll, and write in it all the former words that were in the first scroll, which Jehoiakim the king of Judah has burned. Concerning Jehoiakim king of Judah you shall say, ‘Yahweh says: “You have burned this scroll, saying, “Why have you written therein, saying, ‘The king of Babylon will certainly come and destroy this land, and will cause to cease from there man and animal?’ ” ’ Therefore Yahweh says concerning Jehoiakim king of Judah: “He will have no one to sit on David’s throne. His dead body will be cast out in the day to the heat, and in the night to the frost. I will punish him, his offspring, and his servants for their iniquity. I will bring on them, on the inhabitants of Jerusalem, and on the men of Judah, all the evil that I have pronounced against them, but they didn’t listen.” ’ ”

Then Jeremiah took another scroll, and gave it to Baruch the scribe, the son of Neriah, who wrote therein from the mouth of Jeremiah all the words of the book which Jehoiakim king of Judah had burned in the fire; and many similar words were added to them.

I believe that there is a very real possibility that Satan thought that he had won at this point. It appeared that he actually got God to curse the line of the Messiah. God had promised that there would always be a king on David’s throne, but here, God actually declares that Jehoiakim will never have a descendent on the throne. This actually became a very serious issue. How was God going to save Israel now?

There’s another issue that causes difficulties in the New Testament. Have you ever noticed that the genealogies for Jesus are different in Matthew and in Luke? It has been determined that the one in Matthew follows the genealogy of Joseph and the one in Luke follows Mary’s genealogy. Did you also notice that one of Joseph’s ancestors is none other than Jeconiah which was Jehoiakim’s son? Well, God walked around the problem with ease. He caused Mary, who was also a blood relative of David, to conceive without the help of Joseph and then had Joseph adopt Jesus. God left the genealogies in His word for us to figure out later. So Jesus was a blood relative of David and a rightful heir to the throne of Israel through Joseph! As you can see, God is in the details.

God also walked around the problem that Jehoiakim produced by burning God’s word. He simply had Jeremiah do it again, only this time, Jehoiakim was cursed and “many similar words were added” to the new book. The new edition was an expanded edition! As a side note, I discovered this principle as a software engineer. There were times when we had to re-make a software system and I don’t remember a time when the second system wasn’t an improvement on the first. God has a way of doing that through us. We don’t need to worry when it seems that all hope is lost. When God is in charge, it just means that something better is about to happen.

Day 151: Preaching the Word

Jeremiah 36:8-18

Baruch the son of Neriah did according to all that Jeremiah the prophet commanded him, reading in the book Yahweh’s words in Yahweh’s house. Now in the fifth year of Jehoiakim the son of Josiah, king of Judah, in the ninth month, all the people in Jerusalem and all the people who came from the cities of Judah to Jerusalem, proclaimed a fast before Yahweh. Then Baruch read the words of Jeremiah from the book in Yahweh’s house, in the room of Gemariah the son of Shaphan the scribe, in the upper court, at the entry of the new gate of Yahweh’s house, in the ears of all the people.

When Micaiah the son of Gemariah, the son of Shaphan, had heard out of the book all Yahweh’s words, he went down into the king’s house, into the scribe’s room; and behold, all the princes were sitting there, Elishama the scribe, Delaiah the son of Shemaiah, Elnathan the son of Achbor, Gemariah the son of Shaphan, Zedekiah the son of Hananiah, and all the princes. Then Micaiah declared to them all the words that he had heard, when Baruch read the book in the ears of the people. Therefore all the princes sent Jehudi the son of Nethaniah, the son of Shelemiah, the son of Cushi, to Baruch, saying, “Take in your hand the scroll in which you have read in the ears of the people, and come.”

So Baruch the son of Neriah took the scroll in his hand, and came to them. They said to him, “Sit down now, and read it in our hearing.”

So Baruch read it in their hearing.

Now when they had heard all the words, they turned in fear one toward another, and said to Baruch, “We will surely tell the king of all these words.” They asked Baruch, saying, “Tell us now, how did you write all these words at his mouth?”

Then Baruch answered them, “He dictated all these words to me with his mouth, and I wrote them with ink in the book.”

These events appear to have been pretty unusual in Judah during Jeremiah’s time, but they have become the cornerstone of Christian gatherings today. What we have here is the story of a time in Israel in which the words of a prophet were written down and this allowed another man to take it and read it to others. Today, the Bible contains the written words of the prophets that God wants us to know and we have been able to print it and reproduce it on the Internet so that it can get to people almost anywhere on earth and even in space. It wouldn’t surprise me at all if this was one of the reasons that the New Testament saints chose to use letters to pass around God’s truth. Jeremiah had given them a perfect example of its effectiveness.

All Baruch had to do at this point was to obey and read the book in front of other people and that’s exactly what he did. The amazing thing is that it really did have an effect. We read here that someone who heard the words in the temple area, reported it to the nobles and they requested another hearing. As a result, a proper fear came upon them. Jeremiah had already spoken all of these words but God allowed the written version of them to be heard when they were passed along by another man. That should be an encouragement to us. You may not be able to come up with amazing messages about God, but if you have a Bible, you could just read it to others. I believe that God is showing us that it can have a major effect if we are willing to simply spread the actual words of God.

These words that I am writing are an attempt to point some things out about the verses we read, but the truth of the matter is, that it is God’s word that is the most important part. What you need and what I need the most is just to hear the words of God that the prophets wrote. The words of the Bible are the ones inspired by God and they are the ones that will change your life.

Day 128: The Curer of the Incurable

Jeremiah 30:12-17

For Yahweh says,
“Your hurt is incurable.
Your wound is grievous.
There is no one to plead your cause,
that you may be bound up.
You have no healing medicines.
All your lovers have forgotten you.
They don’t seek you.
For I have wounded you with the wound of an enemy,
with the chastisement of a cruel one,
for the greatness of your iniquity,
because your sins were increased.
Why do you cry over your injury?
Your pain is incurable.
For the greatness of your iniquity,
because your sins have increased,
I have done these things to you.
Therefore all those who devour you will be devoured.
All your adversaries, everyone of them, will go into captivity.
Those who plunder you will be plunder.
I will make all who prey on you become prey.
For I will restore health to you,
and I will heal you of your wounds,” says Yahweh;
“because they have called you an outcast,
saying, ‘It is Zion, whom no man seeks after.’ ”

This is one of those passages that would be confusing to a person who feels the need to prove the Bible without considering it as a worldview. Here God says that Israel’s “pain is incurable” and then He immediately tells them that He “will restore health” to them. Isn’t God being inconsistent? How can He say that something is incurable and then say that He will cure it? I think that doubts like this can only arise when we fail to assume God’s word to be true. When you doubt God’s word and then attempt to judge it, it leads to confusion like this.

When we assume God’s word to be true, we first assume that God isn’t being inconsistent and that we are making a mistake in our understanding of what He’s saying. How can something be incurable and still be cured by God? I think that the most natural and consistent interpretation is that God intended to cure what they could not cure on their own. From this perspective, it’s pretty clear that God was going to make sure that they fully understood that they were unable to do anything good for themselves. They were going suffer and have no ability to fix it without His involvement.

I can’t think of any more incurable thing than to die, can you? God is even able to cure that according to the Bible. It’s important for us to treat the Bible as it claims to be. It claims to be the words of God which define truth. That’s the nature of a worldview. It’s the set of beliefs we assume without evidence and we all have those. If you think you don’t, that very thought is an example one.

So here we read that things were to get so bad for Israel that it would take a miracle for God to bring them back together as a nation and that’s what God intended to do. He also intended to punish the great nations that brought them down which would also would have probably have seemed impossible. God is supernatural and cannot be stopped by the natural world that He created. No matter what seems possible to us, God’s word will always come true.

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?