Jeremiah 30:12-17

12 “This is what the Lord says:

“‘Your wound is incurable,
    your injury beyond healing.
13 There is no one to plead your cause,
    no remedy for your sore,
    no healing for you.
14 All your allies have forgotten you;
    they care nothing for you.
I have struck you as an enemy would
    and punished you as would the cruel,
because your guilt is so great
    and your sins so many.
15 Why do you cry out over your wound,
    your pain that has no cure?
Because of your great guilt and many sins
    I have done these things to you.

16 “‘But all who devour you will be devoured;
    all your enemies will go into exile.
Those who plunder you will be plundered;
    all who make spoil of you I will despoil.
17 But I will restore you to health
    and heal your wounds,’
declares the Lord,
‘because you are called an outcast,
    Zion for whom no one cares.’
(Jerermiah 30:12-17 NIV)

In a similar pattern to yesterday’s text, today’s passage outlines the Lord’s discipline of His people because of their sin and their restoration and redemption to a relationship with Himself because of His great love.

While verses 12 – 17 are about God’s people and their willful sin and straying from the Lord, they are also reminiscent of Jeremiah’s description of fallen Jerusalem in the Book of Lamentations.

In verse 12, the Lord makes it clear that there is no human cure for the sins of His people.   These sins are not mere flesh wounds that will heal over time, but rather, they are mortal wounds from which they will surely die.

Verses 13 – 14 remind God’s people that all their allies have deserted them – no one will come to their rescue, no one will stand up in their defense.  God’s people are on their own, fatally wounded, guilty, and alone.

In verse 15, the Lord asks His people why they are whining about the pain of their discipline when they have in fact brought these consequences upon themselves.  God is holy and cannot overlook or accept sin in His sight.  God has promised to forgive His people if they will repent and turn to Him, but they have chosen to go their way instead.

Verses 16 – 17 show the great paradox of God’s character.  In verse 16, the Lord promises to punish those who have punished His people.  In verse 17, the Lord promises to heal His people and restore them to health as a nation.  God is holy, and He is also forgiving.  God reduces His people to nothing because of their sins and waywardness, and He restores His people to wholeness because of His mercy and love.

Does God gain some demented pleasure out of seeing His people suffer under His control?  No, quite the opposite is true.  Lamentations gives us insight into God’s character and heart:

31 For no one is cast off
    by the Lord forever.
32 Though he brings grief, he will show compassion,
    so great is his unfailing love.
33 For he does not willingly bring affliction
    or grief to anyone.
(Lamentations 3:31-33 NIV)

So why does the Lord restore His people to a relationship with Himself?  Verse 17b gives us the answer:  because they belong to Him.  God has announced to the world over the centuries that He will provide for, protect, and love His people, and yes, even discipline them harshly when they flagrantly disobey Him.  Let no one say that God has permanently abandoned or given up on His people.

So why does God care so much?  The Lord reveals His heart through the prophet Ezekiel:

22 “Therefore say to the Israelites, ‘This is what the Sovereign Lord says: It is not for your sake, people of Israel, that I am going to do these things, but for the sake of my holy name, which you have profaned among the nations where you have gone. 23 I will show the holiness of my great name, which has been profaned among the nations, the name you have profaned among them. Then the nations will know that I am the Lord, declares the Sovereign Lord, when I am proved holy through you before their eyes.
(Ezekiel 36:22-23 NIV)

May we remember that our restoration to fellowship and relationship with God is based on God’s provision, not on human merit.

May we remember that when we reach the end of our human resources and are ready to give up, it is then we discover that God has been there all along.  When we finally turn to the Lord,  He is ready and willing to heal us, renew us, and restore us to new life and relationship to Himself.

And finally, may we remember that this is all for God’s glory.  When His people, whether the ancients in Jeremiah’s day or you and I in our day, choose to honor God and live for Him, our hearts and actions honor Him and draw others to Himself.

Blessings,
~kevin

Jeremiah 30:4-11

These are the words the Lord spoke concerning Israel and Judah:“This is what the Lord says:

“‘Cries of fear are heard—
    terror, not peace.
Ask and see:
    Can a man bear children?
Then why do I see every strong man
    with his hands on his stomach like a woman in labor,
    every face turned deathly pale?
How awful that day will be!
    No other will be like it.
It will be a time of trouble for Jacob,
    but he will be saved out of it.

“‘In that day,’ declares the Lord Almighty,
    ‘I will break the yoke off their necks
and will tear off their bonds;
    no longer will foreigners enslave them.
Instead, they will serve the Lord their God
    and David their king,
    whom I will raise up for them.

10 “‘So do not be afraid, Jacob my servant;
    do not be dismayed, Israel,’
declares the Lord.
‘I will surely save you out of a distant place,
    your descendants from the land of their exile.
Jacob will again have peace and security,
    and no one will make him afraid.
11 I am with you and will save you,’
    declares the Lord.
‘Though I completely destroy all the nations
    among which I scatter you,
    I will not completely destroy you.
I will discipline you but only in due measure;
    I will not let you go entirely unpunished.’
(Jeremiah 30:4-11 NIV)

As we discussed in yesterday’s passage, the Book of Consolation (chapters 30 – 33) was written to both Israel (the northern kingdom) and Judah (the southern kingdom).  Verse 4 reiterates that same inclusive scope for today’s text.

Verses 5 – 7a provide a summary of the book of Jeremiah up to this point:  the unrepentant nation (both the northern and southern kingdoms) will pay a terrible price for their sin of deliberate disregard for God and His word.

Verse 7b is God’s promise that even though God’s people will suffer, God will not destroy them – a remnant will survive.

Verse 8 begins with the familiar phrase “In that day”, which points to some future timeframe.   And what is the future promise?  Freedom from foreign oppressors such as Babylon and others who are holding God’s people.

Notice in verse 9 that God’s people will not be free to do whatever they want after the Lord removes their oppressors and returns them to their homeland.  They will serve the Lord their God.

The Lord also says that He will raise up David as their king.  King David had been dead for a long time – was God going to resurrect him, or did this mean something else?  From other passages such as 2 Samuel 7, we know that God promised King David that someone from his family would be on the throne over God’s people forever.

Looking back in history, we are aware that a king was never reestablished over God’s people after the exiles returned to Israel and Judah.  We know that this reference to one of David’s descendants becoming king again was looking far forward to one last King, namely Jesus.

Verses 10 – 11 are God’s promise to free His people from exile and return them to their promised land.    God’s purpose in repeating this promise is to comfort and reassure His people that in spite of the discipline they are receiving, they should not give up hope, as their future is assured.

The first phrase of verse 11, “I am with you and will save you”, is the same phrase the Lord used to encourage and reassure Jeremiah at his calling into ministry (see 1:8).

We may well be asking ourselves, “God wrote those promises for the ancients of Jeremiah’s day.  What about us in our current days?”

May we be encouraged as we remember Jesus’ parting words as He prepared to leave earth and return to heaven:

“And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”
(Matthew 28:20b NIV)

As followers of Christ, Jesus’ same promise He made to His disciples is true for us today.

May we live in the power and hope and calling of His promise and assurance of His presence as we go through life together.

Blessings,
~kevin

Jeremiah 30:1-3

30 This is the word that came to Jeremiah from the Lord: “This is what the Lord, the God of Israel, says: ‘Write in a book all the words I have spoken to you. The days are coming,’ declares the Lord, ‘when I will bring my people Israel and Judah back from captivity and restore them to the land I gave their ancestors to possess,’ says the Lord.”
(Jeremiah 30:1-3 NIV)

As we begin our journey through chapters 30 – 33, verses 1 – 3 of Chapter 30 provide the overall introduction.

In verse 1, we see that this was clearly a word from the Lord.  As we saw in previous chapters, Jeremiah’s peers had spread lies about restoring the exiles to the Promised Land and used God’s name to give legitimacy to their false prophecies.  Jeremiah waited on the Lord and spoke the Lord’s word when it came to him.

So what was the Lord’s command in verse 2?  “Write in a book all the words I have spoken to you.”

As we noted in the introduction to chapters 30 – 33, this section is often called the “book of consolation” or the “book of hope”.  The fall of Jerusalem and Judah was not an instantaneous or even overnight event.  Rather, it was a sad, slow, gradual fall that took many years to realize.

While the Lord is holy and just and must deal with sin, He is also loving and merciful and provides hope for a restored relationship with Himself.  The Lord knew that His people would need hope to get them through these hard times, so He told Jeremiah to write down these four chapters in a book.  This book-within-a-book would serve as the Lord’s promise of love, hope, and His promise of restoration and redemption to His people.

Have you ever been through a time of suffering, profound loss, sadness, or pain so great that you thought it would consume you?  What carried you through those hard times?

Maybe it was a Bible verse that offered hope or a promise of restoration.

Maybe it was a card or a note from a family member that offered encouragement or solace.

Maybe it was a song that expressed your deep pain and offered hope to endure.

Maybe it was a friend who called or stopped by just to spend some time with you.

These four chapters in the “book of consolation” offered the same words of hope to God’s people.  In verse 3, we see that God offered this promise of hope and restoration to both the northern kingdom of Israel as well as the southern kingdom of Judah.

While we live in a broken world, we know as followers of Christ that this life is the worst it will ever be for us – a better life in eternity with Christ awaits.  Until then, we live in the tension between the broken now and the perfect then.

May we take some time to offer thanks to the Lord for providentially sending that Bible verse, family member, song, or friend to carry us through the hard times.

The Apostle Paul reminds us that God redeems even the hard times in our lives so that we can offer empathy and encouragement to others:

Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God.
(2 Corinthians 1:3-4 NIV)

As followers of Christ, may we reach out and share that same Good News of God’s love and provision with those around us who are beaten down by life, discouraged, hurting, sad, in physical suffering, or are lonely and in need of a friend.

Blessings,
~kevin

Introduction to Jeremiah 30-33

Chapters 30 – 33 are the next major section of the book of Jeremiah.  These chapters are often referred to as the “Book of Consolation” or “Book of Hope”, as they reflect the good news of God’s restoration of His people to Himself and the Promised Land.

We can split these four chapters into two subsections:

Chapters 30 – 31 are primarily poetic in style, and contain no particular references to the authorship or date of writing.   These chapters focus on the restoration of God’s people to Himself and to the land God had given them.

Chapters 32 – 33 are mainly prose in writing format, and contain specific references to dates of authorship.  While not as focused on the restoration as the previous two chapters, this subsection still reflects the hope of God’s eventual salvation in the midst of current chaos and destruction.

While Jeremiah’s ministry was primarily focused on the southern tribes of Judah and the city of Jerusalem, these four chapters include both Israel (the northern kingdom) as well as Judah (the southern kingdom).  As a point of reference, the northern kingdom is often referred to as “Ephraim” in these chapters.

While scholars may debate the details of these chapters, the overall theme and message are clear – God loves humanity and will stop at nothing to restore them to Himself.

These four chapters deal with the restoration of Israel and Judah to the Promised Land, and yet, so much more.  Looking back, we can see the Lord giving His people a taste of redemption and restoration offered the whole world through His Son Jesus.  Looking forward, we can see the Lord giving those who follow Christ the hope and assurance of redemption and restoration to an eternal Promised Land, where we will dwell with God and fellowship with Him forever.

May you be blessed and encouraged as we walk through these four chapters and see God’s Providential hand moving through ancient history, as He moves today, and into the future.

Blessings,
~kevin

Jeremiah 29:24-32

24 Tell Shemaiah the Nehelamite, 25 “This is what the Lord Almighty, the God of Israel, says: You sent letters in your own name to all the people in Jerusalem, to the priest Zephaniah son of Maaseiah, and to all the other priests. You said to Zephaniah, 26 ‘The Lord has appointed you priest in place of Jehoiada to be in charge of the house of the Lord; you should put any maniac who acts like a prophet into the stocks and neck-irons. 27 So why have you not reprimanded Jeremiah from Anathoth, who poses as a prophet among you? 28 He has sent this message to us in Babylon: It will be a long time. Therefore build houses and settle down; plant gardens and eat what they produce.’”

29 Zephaniah the priest, however, read the letter to Jeremiah the prophet. 30 Then the word of the Lord came to Jeremiah: 31 “Send this message to all the exiles: ‘This is what the Lord says about Shemaiah the Nehelamite: Because Shemaiah has prophesied to you, even though I did not send him, and has persuaded you to trust in lies, 32 this is what the Lord says: I will surely punish Shemaiah the Nehelamite and his descendants. He will have no one left among this people, nor will he see the good things I will do for my people, declares the Lord, because he has preached rebellion against me.’”
(Jeremiah 29:24-32 NIV)

In the previous post, we saw the Lord deal with two exiled false prophets in Babylon.  The Lord’s charges against them were adultery and prophesying lies to the exiles.  Because the false prophets also committed rebellion against Nebuchadnezzar and Babylon, Nebuchadnezzar had them burned alive.

In today’s passage, we catch a glimpse of the ongoing correspondence between Jerusalem and Babylon.  Jeremiah’s letter has reached Babylon, and Shemaiah, one of the exiled prophets in Babylon has responded.

Shemaiah wrote to three groups in response to Jeremiah’s message:

  • The remaining people of Jerusalem
  • Zephaniah the priest
  • All the other priests in Jerusalem

Shemaiah calls out Zephaniah the priest for not dealing with Jeremiah.  Zephaniah was the priest in charge of the Temple in Jerusalem; he had the authority to address all issues, including disciplinary actions against priests and prophets.

Shemaiah calls Jeremiah a “maniac”, a madman if you will, and a false prophet.  And what are the basis of Shemaiah’s charges?  Jeremiah’s claim that it would be a long time (seventy years) before the exiles would be released to return to Jerusalem (vs. the two years all the false prophets were saying).  And what was Shemaiah’s recommendation for Jeremiah’s punishment?  Public humiliation again via stocks and neck irons.

What was Zephaniah’s response?  Instead of carrying out Shemaiah’s demands, Zephaniah the priest took Shemaiah’s letter and read it to Jeremiah.  Why did Zephaniah the priest not implement Shemaiah’s demands?   Was he sympathetic to Jeremiah and wanted to obey the Lord?   Or did Zephaniah remember what happened to the last priest who put Jeremiah in stocks (see 20:1-6) and showed Jeremiah the letter just to save himself?   Scripture does not say.

Notice that in verses 30 – 32 that Jeremiah does not respond, but rather waits for a word from the Lord.  When the Lord answers, He tells Jeremiah to address the letter to the exiles in Babylon.  The Lord’s message?  Shemaiah was preaching rebellion against the Lord.   The Lord’s judgment on Shemaiah?  The same fate as Hananiah (see 28:15-17) – the death sentence for false prophets (see Deuteronomy 18:20-22).

As we close out Chapter 29, we also come to the end of this group of events in Jeremiah’s history.  Let’s take a quick look back on the events of the last few chapters of Jeremiah’s life:

  • He preaches of the Temple’s destruction and Jerusalem’s desertion; a lynch mod immediately forms and demands his death (Chapter 26)
  • He disrupts a high-level international gathering of ambassadors coming together to rebel against Nebuchadnezzar by wearing an oxen’s yoke and preaching subservience to Nebuchadnezzar (Chapter 27)
  • He has a face-to-face confrontation with a rival prophet who represented the majority opinion of the prophets and who had the heart and minds of the people (Chapter 28)
  • He writes what many would consider a letter of treason to the exiles in Babylon, encouraging them to settle down and get on with their lives in Babylon (Chapter 29)

And if we could ask Jeremiah why he did all these things, he would likely let out a deep breath and say with quiet but firm conviction, “I am doing what the Lord told me to do.”

May we, like Jeremiah, have the courage to follow the Lord’s leadings, to be faithful to the Scriptures and God’s prompting, no matter what the cost.

May we, like Jeremiah, wait on the Lord for our response, even when the attacks are personal and unfounded, or the majority of public opinion has turned against us.

May we, like Jeremiah, be more concerned about giving God glory and speaking the truth in love than worrying about our reputations.

May we, like Jeremiah, put our confidence in the Lord and leave the results of our obedience in His hands, and not try to control the outcome of events in our lives.

Blessings,
~kevin

Jeremiah 29:15-23

15 You may say, “The Lord has raised up prophets for us in Babylon,”16 but this is what the Lord says about the king who sits on David’s throne and all the people who remain in this city, your fellow citizens who did not go with you into exile— 17 yes, this is what the Lord Almighty says: “I will send the sword, famine and plague against them and I will make them like figs that are so bad they cannot be eaten.18 I will pursue them with the sword, famine and plague and will make them abhorrent to all the kingdoms of the earth, a curse and an object of horror, of scorn and reproach, among all the nations where I drive them. 19 For they have not listened to my words,” declares the Lord, “words that I sent to them again and again by my servants the prophets. And you exiles have not listened either,” declares the Lord.

20 Therefore, hear the word of the Lord, all you exiles whom I have sent away from Jerusalem to Babylon. 21 This is what the Lord Almighty, the God of Israel, says about Ahab son of Kolaiah and Zedekiah son of Maaseiah, who are prophesying lies to you in my name: “I will deliver them into the hands of Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon, and he will put them to death before your very eyes.22 Because of them, all the exiles from Judah who are in Babylon will use this curse: ‘May the Lord treat you like Zedekiah and Ahab, whom the king of Babylon burned in the fire.’ 23 For they have done outrageous things in Israel; they have committed adultery with their neighbors’ wives, and in my name they have uttered lies—which I did not authorize. I know it and am a witness to it,” declares the Lord.
(Jeremiah 29:15-23 NIV)

In the first fourteen verses of Chapter 29, the Lord reset the exiles’  expectations for freedom. They would be in Babylon for seventy years. The Lord encouraged them to get on with living and quit believing the lies of the prophets who said that freedom was just around the corner.

The good news was that the Lord promised to restore them – in right relationship with Him, to their homeland, in their families, in their hopes, in their possessions – in short, for the future they had hoped.

In today’s passage, the Lord deals with the false prophets that are in Babylonian exile.  Today’s text is a carryover from verse 8, where the Lord told the people not to believe or encourage the false prophets.  From verse 4 – 7 and 15, we can read between the lines and see that these false prophets were saying that they would be going home soon – back to Jerusalem.

Their argument was logical, from a human perspective:  Jerusalem is still standing, and there is still a king from David’s royal lineage on the throne, and there are still Jewish people living in Jerusalem.  Therefore, the prophecies from the likes of Jeremiah and others saying that the Lord will destroy Jerusalem are not accurate.  The Lord must have relented and will soon free the exiles to return to Jerusalem, right?

In verses 16 – 19, the Lord puts those arguments to rest by reminding the exiles that those left behind in Jerusalem will die by the sword, famine, and plague.  The Lord recalls the object lesson of the good and bad figs (see Chapter 24), using the bad figs to describe those remaining in Jerusalem.

In verses – 23, the Lord addresses the exiles again.  The Lord specifically calls out two exiled false prophets who are notoriously evil – Ahab, son of Kolaiah and Zedekiah, son of Maaseiah.  The Lord held them accountable for prophesying lies and for committing adultery with their neighbors’ wives.

Reading between the lines again, these two false prophets must have been “drinking their own kool-aid”, believing their lies and taking action on those lies by participating in plots to free themselves from Nebuchadnezzar’s bondage.

Nebuchadnezzar would not have cared about these two prophets wishing to go back home, nor would he have cared about them committing adultery.  What Nebuchadnezzar did take action on, however, was the insurrection against Babylon.  And what was the punishment for such treachery?  Death by burning.  If you want a vivid description of this type of execution and the wrath of Nebuchadnezzar, read Daniel Chapter 3.

May we listen to and obey the Lord’s commands, even when “common sense” and public opinion seem to prevail.

Even though written to the exiles of Jerusalem and Judah many years ago, may we remember God’s promises in verses 10 – 14.  God’s heart is to draw us closer to Himself, to be our eternal Hope and promise of eternal life through His Son Jesus.

May we listen and obey, and ignore the lies of the false prophets declaring otherwise.

Blessings,
~kevin

Jeremiah 29:10-14

10 This is what the Lord says: “When seventy years are completed for Babylon, I will come to you and fulfill my good promise to bring you back to this place. 11 For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. 12 Then you will call on me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you. 13 You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart. 14 I will be found by you,” declares the Lord, “and will bring you back from captivity. I will gather you from all the nations and places where I have banished you,” declares the Lord, “and will bring you back to the place from which I carried you into exile.”
(Jeremiah 29:10-14 NIV)

In Chapter 29, the word of the Lord came to Jeremiah regarding the captives in Babylon. Jeremiah wrote them a letter and sent it with two of the trusted men who were on their way to Babylon.

Starting in verse 4, we see the Lord telling the exiles from Jerusalem to quit living as if they were going back home anytime soon.   They were to settle down, build houses, plant gardens, let their kids get married and have children of their own.  They were also to disregard the prophets who were telling them that freedom was just around the corner.

In today’s passage (which is still part of the letter to the exiles), the Lord resets their expectations for freedom.  They would be in Babylon for seventy years.  Yes, that was a long time, but not forever.

The good news was that the Lord promised to restore them – in right relationship with Him, to their homeland, in their families, in their hopes, in their possessions – in short, for the future they had hoped.

The NIV translation of verse 12 starts with the word “Then”.  Other translations more clearly begin verse 12 with “And when”.  The Lord was telling the exiles that their worship of Him was not confined to Jerusalem, or the Temple, or any other geographic location.  The Lord was not saying that their worship of Him was at the end of the seventy years, or sometime in the distant future.  The Lord was telling the exiles that they could worship Him even in Babylon, right there and right then.

So what was the key to this restoration?  Nothing less than seeking God with all their hearts.  Remember, the “heart” in Old Testament understanding was not the emotion, but rather the will and mind, along with every ounce of physical energy each person possessed.  No halfhearted commitment would work – the person had to be “all in”.

The Lord then reiterates His promise to restore His people from all the places the Lord had scattered them.  In fact, if you’ll remember, the Lord promised that His restoration of the exiles to Judah would be even more historically significant than His leading the Jews out of Egypt (see 16:15).

Wherever we are in our walk with Christ, may we be “all in”, seeking Him with every fiber of our being (v. 13).

May Paul’s words to the Ephesians be our promise, our prayer, our praise, the fulfillment of verses 12 – 14 in our day:

14 For this reason I kneel before the Father, 15 from whom every family in heaven and on earth derives its name. 16 I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being, 17 so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, 18 may have power, together with all the Lord’s holy people, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, 19 and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.

20 Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, 21 to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever!  Amen.
(Ephesians 3:14-21 NIV)

Blessings,
~kevin