August 13 Jeremiah 21-24
August 14 Jeremiah 25-28
August 15 Jeremiah 29-32
August 16 Jeremiah 33-37
August 17 Jeremiah 38-40; Psalms 74; 79
This week’s readings focused on Jeremiah’s laments and ended with two community laments. In both the Psalms, the people were asking God why the destruction was happening. In Psalm 74, the people wanted God to uphold His end of the covenant, but didn’t admit to any wrongdoing of their own. In Psalm 79, the people realize that they have to uphold their end of the covenant as well, and we see a renewed commitment together with repentance. We do the same thing today – “hey God, you promised to do …”, but in return, we continue our sinful ways. However, repented or not, the sins of the people were too entrenched and God had to punish them.
The main problem the people had was turning away from the true and holy God and listening to the false prophets. We see that today as well. Some people think that the Bible is too restrictive for their personal taste and so they find a church or a belief system that allows them to freely live in their sins. But we see here that God only puts up with that for so long. He tries to get our attention, but if we don’t listen, He brings on destruction. Then we, like the Jews of old, cry “why MEEEEEEEEE, God? What did I do to deserve THIS?”
God sent a clear message through Jeremiah: keep the Sabbath holy. He promised continued habitation by a member of David’s family if they obeyed. The people wanted to do things their way, and God promised that He would devour Jerusalem – and He said that He Himself would fight against them. The people were astonished when this came to pass and they were besieged by Babylon (a very wicked country). Jeremiah continued to speak for 23 years. God gave the people every opportunity to repent, but the world’s pleasures were more important to them than the treasures of God. Jeremiah warned not to listen to false prophets. Hananiah, one of those prophets, told the people that the siege would only last two years. Of course the people chose to believe him since that was a “better deal” than Jeremiah’s cries of destruction. God is not amused, and as a show of His anger, kills Hananiah. Still the people refused to listen. God doesn’t have a choice. He is holy and what He says MUST come true.
For we know him who said, “Vengeance is mine; I will repay.” And again, “The Lord will judge his people.” 31 It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God. Heb 10:30-31 (ESV)
So the people are thrown into captivity. Jeremiah writes a letter to the people (chapters 30-33 are sometimes referred to as “the book of consolation”) encouraging them to marry, build, plant, multiply! That’s a far cry from the doom and gloom he spoke previously. He reminded them that they should pray for the city (!) because they would be there 70 years.
Have you ever felt exiled? Trapped? Wondering what you did to deserve the state you’re in? Wondering where God is? That’s exactly what happened to the Jews. I am not inferring that every “bad” thing that happens is a result of some longstanding sin in your life – just look at Job for proof that suffering isn’t always a direct result of sin. I see this as a reminder that we are to bloom where we are planted. We are to rejoice in everything and give thanks.
And we urge you, brothers, admonish the idle, encourage the fainthearted, help the weak, be patient with them all. 15 See that no one repays anyone evil for evil, but always seek to do good to one another and to everyone. 16 Rejoice always, 17 pray without ceasing, 18 give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you. 1 Thess 5:14-18 (ESV)
God promised to restore the fortunes of the Israelites, and He promises us the same thing. For the Israelites, the promise was twofold: restoration of their land after the exile and the promise of a new covenant (Jeremiah 31:31-34) in the future. For us, it’s the promise that our future is hopeful because we have the Spirit to assist us today, and the promise of heaven for our future.
How difficult do you find life? Are you joyful for the place God has planted you? If you are not, then why not? It’s time to examine our lives. Are we in our circumstances because we’ve sinned and God is trying to get our attention? Is our sin so ingrained in our lives that we had to be brought to this place so we would repent? Or, like Job or Esther, has God placed you in a tricky spot to encourage others with your life choices? Are you blooming where you’re planted or withering on the vine?
Why do “bad” things happen to “good” people? Where is God when evil befalls us? How can a holy God allow such suffering in the world? These questions are frequently asked today – and they were asked by Israel in Jeremiah’s time. But at the end of the day (or in this case, the week) we have a hopeful future. Do you need God’s discipline? I know I do – but I sure don’t want it! I want the “happy” God, the One Who loves me unconditionally [and might even look the other way if I sin]. But God’s Word is true, and what applied to the Israelites then applies to us today:
“Keep your voice from weeping, and your eyes from tears, for there is a reward for your work, declares the Lord, and they shall come back from the land of the enemy. 17 There is hope for your future, declares the Lord, and your children shall come back to their own country. 18 I have heard Ephraim grieving, ‘You have disciplined me, and I was disciplined, like an untrained calf; bring me back that I may be restored, for you are the Lord my God. 19 For after I had turned away, I relented, and after I was instructed, I struck my thigh; I was ashamed, and I was confounded, because I bore the disgrace of my youth.’ Jer 31:16-19 (ESV)
Talk to God. See what He’s got in store for you. He has plans for you. Find out what they are!
See you next week.