Jeremiah 38:1-13

38 Shephatiah son of Mattan, Gedaliah son of Pashhur, Jehukal son of Shelemiah, and Pashhur son of Malkijah heard what Jeremiah was telling all the people when he said, “This is what the Lord says: ‘Whoever stays in this city will die by the sword, famine or plague, but whoever goes over to the Babylonians will live. They will escape with their lives; they will live.’ And this is what the Lord says: ‘This city will certainly be given into the hands of the army of the king of Babylon, who will capture it.’”

Then the officials said to the king, “This man should be put to death.  He is discouraging the soldiers who are left in this city, as well as all the people, by the things he is saying to them. This man is not seeking the good of these people but their ruin.”

“He is in your hands,” King Zedekiah answered. “The king can do nothing to oppose you.”

So they took Jeremiah and put him into the cistern of Malkijah, the king’s son, which was in the courtyard of the guard. They lowered Jeremiah by ropes into the cistern; it had no water in it, only mud, and Jeremiah sank down into the mud.

But Ebed-Melek, a Cushite, an official in the royal palace, heard that they had put Jeremiah into the cistern. While the king was sitting in the Benjamin Gate, Ebed-Melek went out of the palace and said to him,“My lord the king, these men have acted wickedly in all they have done to Jeremiah the prophet. They have thrown him into a cistern, where he will starve to death when there is no longer any bread in the city.”

10 Then the king commanded Ebed-Melek the Cushite, “Take thirty men from here with you and lift Jeremiah the prophet out of the cistern before he dies.”

11 So Ebed-Melek took the men with him and went to a room under the treasury in the palace. He took some old rags and worn-out clothes from there and let them down with ropes to Jeremiah in the cistern. 12 Ebed-Melek the Cushite said to Jeremiah, “Put these old rags and worn-out clothes under your arms to pad the ropes.” Jeremiah did so, 13 and they pulled him up with the ropes and lifted him out of the cistern. And Jeremiah remained in the courtyard of the guard.
(Jeremiah 38:1-13 NIV)

As we begin Chapter 38, we immediately notice there are a lot of similarities with Chapter 37.  Some scholars have wondered if these two chapters are one in the same event, or if they are two separate events.  There is more evidence that these two chapters represent two different incidents, as Jeremiah uses different names, places, and surrounding circumstances in the text.  Also, chapter 37 indicated that the Babylonians had temporarily halted their siege against Jerusalem to fight the Egyptians, while chapter 38 shows that the Babylonians had returned and resumed their attack on the city.

Chapter 38 begins with some high-ranking government officials accusing Jeremiah of treason and demanding his execution.  Jeremiah’s crime?  Preaching God’s word.  Note that the phrases they quote are nothing new; in fact, the words they quote are nearly identical to 21:9-10.

The king, being fearful of the officials, does not oppose them.  The officials, knowing that the king has a soft spot in his heart for Jeremiah and might take retaliatory action if they do kill Jeremiah, decide to let him die in prison rather than kill him outright.  The officials put Jeremiah in a muddy cistern, where he will die a slow death.

It’s interesting to note that the same officials that demanded Jeremiah’s loyalty to Judah and Jerusalem are the same officials that had feigned loyalty to Nebuchadnezzar and are now fighting against him.  Jeremiah was not selling out to the Babylonians; he was preaching God’s Word and offering rescue to those who would obey the Lord.

Verses 7 – 13 tell of Jeremiah’s rescuer – not a fellow Jew, but an Ethiopian eunuch, a high-ranking servant in the king’s household.  Much like the story of the Good Samaritan in Luke 10:25-37, the Lord uses an unlikely hero to honor His promise to preserve Jeremiah’s life and ministry (1:8).

The Ethiopian eunuch pleads his case before the king during one of the king’s public hearings when people could settle their grievances.  The king grants the eunuch’s request and sends a group of men to pull Jeremiah out of the muddy cistern-cell-would-be-grave.

Obviously, the eunuch did not need thirty people to rescue one man from the cistern; the majority were probably sent along as protection against the officials who put Jeremiah here in the first place.

The eunuch showed much empathy and compassion toward Jeremiah, sending down rags and old clothing items for Jeremiah to put under his arms before looping the rope around him.  The eunuch knew of Jeremiah’s weakened condition, as well as the tremendous force that would be required to overcome the suction of the mud and pull him to safety.

After Jeremiah’s rescue, he returned to the courtyard of the guard, under house arrest, and safe (for the moment) from the other officials.

Like Jeremiah, may we have the strength of conviction and courage to proclaim the Lord’s truths regardless of the personal cost.

Like the eunuch, may we have the empathy and compassion to care for others who are downtrodden and abused, to have the heart of Jesus for those marginalized by society and by those who have the power to make a difference.

Blessings,
~kevin

Jeremiah 37:11-21

11 After the Babylonian army had withdrawn from Jerusalem because of Pharaoh’s army, 12 Jeremiah started to leave the city to go to the territory of Benjamin to get his share of the property among the people there. 13 But when he reached the Benjamin Gate, the captain of the guard, whose name was Irijah son of Shelemiah, the son of Hananiah, arrested him and said, “You are deserting to the Babylonians!”

14 “That’s not true!” Jeremiah said. “I am not deserting to the Babylonians.” But Irijah would not listen to him; instead, he arrested Jeremiah and brought him to the officials. 15 They were angry with Jeremiah and had him beaten and imprisoned in the house of Jonathan the secretary, which they had made into a prison.

16 Jeremiah was put into a vaulted cell in a dungeon, where he remained a long time. 17 Then King Zedekiah sent for him and had him brought to the palace, where he asked him privately, “Is there any word from the Lord?”

“Yes,” Jeremiah replied, “you will be delivered into the hands of the king of Babylon.”

18 Then Jeremiah said to King Zedekiah, “What crime have I committed against you or your attendants or this people, that you have put me in prison? 19 Where are your prophets who prophesied to you, ‘The king of Babylon will not attack you or this land’? 20 But now, my lord the king, please listen. Let me bring my petition before you: Do not send me back to the house of Jonathan the secretary, or I will die there.”

21 King Zedekiah then gave orders for Jeremiah to be placed in the courtyard of the guard and given a loaf of bread from the street of the bakers each day until all the bread in the city was gone. So Jeremiah remained in the courtyard of the guard.
(Jeremiah 37:11-21 NIV)

As we continue the narrative from yesterday, King Zedekiah is ruler over Judah and Jerusalem.  The Babylonian army has been attacking the city but has temporarily retreated to deal with the encroaching Egyptians.  The king inquires to see if there is a word from the Lord, a last-minute reprieve from the impending doom.  Jeremiah asks of the Lord, and the answer is the same:  the Babylonians will return to take over the land and burn Jerusalem to the ground.

In today’s passage, Jeremiah tries to leave Jerusalem to attend to family business back in Anathoth, his hometown.  One of the guards recognizes Jeremiah, accuses him of desertion, and arrests him.  While Jeremiah’s objective was clear, the guard did not believe him, and understandably so.  The directions to Anathoth and Babylon were both north, and Jeremiah was leaving via the North gate of the city.

So what was Jeremiah’s family business back in Anathoth?  While the text does not say, it was likely tied to the family estate and the dividing up of the land.  This event probably preceded the visit from Jeremiah’s cousin, as recorded in Chapter 32.  At the time of Jeremiah’s cousin’s visit, Jeremiah was under “house arrest”, which corresponds to Jeremiah’s situation at the end of this chapter.  News of Jeremiah’s arrest likely made it back to Anathoth, so his cousin came to Jerusalem to close the land deal.

The guard brings Jeremiah to the government officials, who mistreat him, beat him, and throw him into a cistern “prison” cell.  This prison cell is solitary confinement, having no contact with others and likely no access to sunlight or fresh air.

Note that Jeremiah is not given due process of law according to God’s Word; he is a political prisoner in the hands of angry government officials.  Considering the message that Jeremiah had been preaching for years, one would think that the officials would be glad to be rid of Jeremiah and kick him out of the city and country.  Instead, the officials took their anger and frustration out on Jeremiah, abusing and incarcerating him.

In verses 16 – 17, King Zedekiah sends for Jeremiah again.  Jeremiah is pulled from the cistern prison cell and meets privately with the king.  The king inquires if there is any word from the Lord; Jeremiah responds that there is no new word.  Jeremiah does not give the king a great “thus says the Lord”; beaten and weak, he humbly answers the king’s question in four Hebrew words.

Notice Jeremiah’s answer; the king is only concerned about his well-being, not that of the nation or the city.  The king has an irrational connection with Jeremiah; he despises Jeremiah for his message and is unconcerned for his welfare, but still keeps Jeremiah around and inquires to see if he has a word from the Lord.

In verses 18 – 20, Jeremiah uses his audience with the king to question his treatment.  He reminds the king that he has faithfully told the truth from the Lord and has been mistreated and imprisoned for it, while the other prophets who lied and should have been put to death are still free to go about as they please.  Jeremiah pleads with the king to not be placed back in the cistern prison cell, as he knows he will die there.

In verse 21, the king orders Jeremiah to be kept under house arrest, where he will at least be given a ration of food as long as the food supply lasts.  It is here under house arrest that Jeremiah’s cousin finds Jeremiah to make the land deal in Chapter 32.

May we keep our eyes focused on the Lord in faith, and not on those who would harm or abuse us physically, emotionally, relationally, or spiritually.  May we learn a lesson from Jeremiah and treat people with integrity and respect, even when they mistreat us.

Blessings,
~kevin

Jeremiah 37:1-10

37 Zedekiah son of Josiah was made king of Judah by Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon; he reigned in place of Jehoiachin son of Jehoiakim.Neither he nor his attendants nor the people of the land paid any attention to the words the Lord had spoken through Jeremiah the prophet.

King Zedekiah, however, sent Jehukal son of Shelemiah with the priest Zephaniah son of Maaseiah to Jeremiah the prophet with this message: “Please pray to the Lord our God for us.”

Now Jeremiah was free to come and go among the people, for he had not yet been put in prison. Pharaoh’s army had marched out of Egypt,and when the Babylonians who were besieging Jerusalem heard the report about them, they withdrew from Jerusalem.

Then the word of the Lord came to Jeremiah the prophet: “This is what the Lord, the God of Israel, says: Tell the king of Judah, who sent you to inquire of me, ‘Pharaoh’s army, which has marched out to support you, will go back to its own land, to Egypt. Then the Babylonians will return and attack this city; they will capture it and burn it down.’

“This is what the Lord says: Do not deceive yourselves, thinking, ‘The Babylonians will surely leave us.’ They will not! 10 Even if you were to defeat the entire Babylonian army that is attacking you and only wounded men were left in their tents, they would come out and burn this city down.”
(Jeremiah 37:1-10 NIV)

Chapter 37 begins a new section that some scholars call the “passion narratives”.  Chapters 37 – 45 deal with the timeframe immediately before and after the fall of Jerusalem.  Like recent chapters, this section is grouped together thematically, not chronologically.  While chapters 30 – 33 were a beautiful picture of God’s redemption and restoration of both Judah and Israel as a reunited kingdom, this section is the darkness, suffering, and exile that Judah and Jerusalem must go through before redemption.

Chapter 37 begins by setting the timeframe for the events described.  We have fast-forwarded from Jehoiakim’s reign, past Jehoiachin’s reign, and now are at Zedekiah’s reign as the last King of Judah.

Verse 2 is very telling of the spiritual climate in Judah and Jerusalem.  Jeremiah was still actively speaking the word of the Lord, but no one was listening – not the king, not his advisors, not the citizens of the land.

Even though the king was not paying attention to the words of the Lord through Jeremiah, he still sent a small delegation to ask Jeremiah to pray for the nation and the city.  The king’s request was not for repentance and restoration to the Lord, but for peace and for saving their skin from the Babylonians.

Verse 4 zooms in a bit on the timeline.  Jeremiah records that he is still free to come and go as he pleases.  This event is before his arrest and imprisonment as recorded in Chapter 32 when Jeremiah’s cousin shows up, demanding that Jeremiah purchase a field from him.

Verse 5 further narrows the timeframe by mentioning that this event happened when the Babylonian army temporarily stopped it siege on Jerusalem to fight the Egyptians.  Pharoah had sent his army out to offer aid to Judah (and as a show of force to the Babylonians to not mess with Egypt).

Verses 6 – 9 is the Lord’s answer to King Zedekiah.  If Zedekiah was hoping that the Babylonians had gotten sidetracked with the Egyptians, or that the Egyptians would be victorious in defeating the Babylonians, then he was deceiving himself.  The Babylonians would eventually return, capture Jerusalem, and burn the city to the ground

In verse 10, the Lord puts a note of certainty and finality to the message:  these events will take place – the opportunity for deliverance has passed.

While this section we entered today is not a pleasant or happy time, may we be encouraged by Jeremiah’s steadfast dependence on the Lord, even when it means he will suffer persecution for his stand with the Lord.

May we also learn a lesson from this text regarding obedience to the Lord.  May we choose to listen to the Lord, and to obey what He says through His Word and the prompting of His Holy Spirit.

Blessings,
~kevin

Jeremiah 36:20-32

20 After they put the scroll in the room of Elishama the secretary, they went to the king in the courtyard and reported everything to him. 21 The king sent Jehudi to get the scroll, and Jehudi brought it from the room of Elishama the secretary and read it to the king and all the officials standing beside him. 22 It was the ninth month and the king was sitting in the winter apartment, with a fire burning in the firepot in front of him.23 Whenever Jehudi had read three or four columns of the scroll, the king cut them off with a scribe’s knife and threw them into the firepot, until the entire scroll was burned in the fire. 24 The king and all his attendants who heard all these words showed no fear, nor did they tear their clothes. 25 Even though Elnathan, Delaiah and Gemariah urged the king not to burn the scroll, he would not listen to them. 26 Instead, the king commanded Jerahmeel, a son of the king, Seraiah son of Azriel and Shelemiah son of Abdeel to arrest Baruch the scribe and Jeremiah the prophet. But the Lord had hidden them.

27 After the king burned the scroll containing the words that Baruch had written at Jeremiah’s dictation, the word of the Lord came to Jeremiah:28 “Take another scroll and write on it all the words that were on the first scroll, which Jehoiakim king of Judah burned up. 29 Also tell Jehoiakim king of Judah, ‘This is what the Lord says: You burned that scroll and said, “Why did you write on it that the king of Babylon would certainly come and destroy this land and wipe from it both man and beast?”30 Therefore this is what the Lord says about Jehoiakim king of Judah: He will have no one to sit on the throne of David; his body will be thrown out and exposed to the heat by day and the frost by night. 31 I will punish him and his children and his attendants for their wickedness; I will bring on them and those living in Jerusalem and the people of Judah every disaster I pronounced against them, because they have not listened.’”

32 So Jeremiah took another scroll and gave it to the scribe Baruch son of Neriah, and as Jeremiah dictated, Baruch wrote on it all the words of the scroll that Jehoiakim king of Judah had burned in the fire. And many similar words were added to them.
(Jeremiah 36:20-32 NIV)

In yesterday’s passage, Jeremiah’s scribe Baruch read the words of the Lord at the Temple, then later to the king’s cabinet members at their request.  After hearing the warnings from the Lord, the council members know their responsibility – they must inform the king.

Today’s text details the reading of the scroll in King Jehoiakim’s presence, his reaction, and the subsequent word of the Lord to Jeremiah.

In verses 20 – 26, the cabinet members inform the king of the scroll and its contents.  The king orders the scroll to be brought to him and read in his presence.  In a cold-hearted act of defiance to the Lord’s warnings, the king cuts up the scroll as it was read and threw the pieces into the fire.

There are many similarities between the events that happened in King Josiah’s life and what happened in his son King Jehoiakim’s life, but their responses could not have been further apart.  During their reigns, both had a scroll found and read to them, and both responded.  2 Kings 22 is the account of King Josiah’s discovery of and reaction to the lost scroll.  King Josiah responded in repentance by rending (tearing) his clothes; King Jehoiakim responded by rending (cutting) the scroll and throwing the pieces into the fire.  King Josiah took the scroll and had it read in public to bring about a national reform and repentance and turning to the Lord.  King Jehoiakim took the scroll and burned it so no one else would hear God’s words of warning, despite the pleas and warnings of his cabinet officials.

The cabinet members’ concerns for Baruch and Jeremiah (v. 19) were justified; after the scroll was read and destroyed, the king sent his son and some others to arrest Baruch and Jeremiah.  We can only surmise that Jeremiah and Baruch would meet the same fate as Uriah, who Jehoiakim tracked down to Egypt, extradited, and executed for his preaching and prophecies (26:20-23).  Verse 26 shows the sovereignty of God – the Lord had hidden Baruch and Jeremiah, so there was no possibility that the king’s soldiers would find them.

In verses 27 – 32, the word of the Lord comes again to Jeremiah.  The Lord tells Jeremiah to get another scroll and write everything down again.  The Lord then pronounces judgment upon Jehoiakim and his attendants for their callous disregard for God’s word.  The Lord also pronounced judgment upon Jerusalem and Judah for not listening to the Lord.

The chapter ends with Jeremiah and Baruch beginning the dictation and writing process over again.   The two had invested more than a year in the previous scroll; there is no indication how long the second one took to dictate and record.

The last phrase “And many similar words were added to them” is a bit vague.  Was the first scroll a “highlights” document, and this time they added many details?  Or was this Jeremiah’s version of an ancient “blog”, where they re-recorded all the words of the Lord as before, then kept a running diary of the events as they unfolded?

May we remember that the Lord is sovereign over all, and despite humanity’s attempts to eliminate God’s word and influence, He rules all.

May we remember and rest in Isaiah’s words:  “The grass withers and the flowers fall,
but the word of our God endures forever.”  (Isaiah 40:8 NIV)

Blessings,
~kevin

Jeremiah 36:8-19

Baruch son of Neriah did everything Jeremiah the prophet told him to do; at the Lord’s temple he read the words of the Lord from the scroll.In the ninth month of the fifth year of Jehoiakim son of Josiah king of Judah, a time of fasting before the Lord was proclaimed for all the people in Jerusalem and those who had come from the towns of Judah.10 From the room of Gemariah son of Shaphan the secretary, which was in the upper courtyard at the entrance of the New Gate of the temple, Baruch read to all the people at the Lord’s temple the words of Jeremiah from the scroll.

11 When Micaiah son of Gemariah, the son of Shaphan, heard all the words of the Lord from the scroll, 12 he went down to the secretary’s room in the royal palace, where all the officials were sitting: Elishama the secretary, Delaiah son of Shemaiah, Elnathan son of Akbor, Gemariah son of Shaphan, Zedekiah son of Hananiah, and all the other officials. 13 After Micaiah told them everything he had heard Baruch read to the people from the scroll, 14 all the officials sent Jehudi son of Nethaniah, the son of Shelemiah, the son of Cushi, to say to Baruch, “Bring the scroll from which you have read to the people and come.” So Baruch son of Neriah went to them with the scroll in his hand. 15 They said to him, “Sit down, please, and read it to us.”

So Baruch read it to them. 16 When they heard all these words, they looked at each other in fear and said to Baruch, “We must report all these words to the king.” 17 Then they asked Baruch, “Tell us, how did you come to write all this? Did Jeremiah dictate it?”

18 “Yes,” Baruch replied, “he dictated all these words to me, and I wrote them in ink on the scroll.”

19 Then the officials said to Baruch, “You and Jeremiah, go and hide.  Don’t let anyone know where you are.”
(Jeremiah 36:8-19 NIV)

From yesterday’s post, Jeremiah obeyed the Lord and wrote down all the words the Lord had given him over the years.  Jeremiah enlisted his faithful friend Baruch to scribe as he spoke.  After Baruch had completed the recording of Jeremiah’s dictations, Jeremiah sent Baruch to the Temple to read the words of the Lord to the people there since Jeremiah had been banned from the Temple.

In today’s passage, we see Baruch faithfully carrying out Jeremiah’s orders.  Both the Lord and Jeremiah hoped for a revival, where the Lord’s words would bring the people to repentance and confession of their wicked ways.  Unfortunately, as noted in verses 8 – 10, there was no reaction from the people.

In verse 11, there was one person in the crowd who was listening – Micaiah, the son of the man whose room and balcony Baruch was using to read the words of the Lord publicly.  In verse 12, Michaiah immediately goes to find his father Gemariah, who was meeting with the other cabinet members, including the secretary of state, Elishama.

We might wonder why Jeremiah would do all this “name dropping” in verse 12.  Was Jeremiah awed at being “heard” by these heads of state?  Probably not, as Jeremiah had been with King Josiah and had directly addressed the other kings.  More likely, it was because of the parallels and generational connections between the reading of this scroll and the finding of the ancient scrolls during King Josiah’s temple renovation (2 Kings 22-23).

So what were these relationships?  Shaphan, the secretary of state under King Josiah, was the person who brought the ancient scrolls and read them to King Josiah.  Shaphan’s son Gemariah was the person who was in charge of the room and balcony from where Baruch was reading the scrolls to the people.  And Gemariah’s son Micaiah was the one who heard Baruch reading, who recognized the word of the Lord and its warnings and went to tell his father and the other cabinet members.

Also, Akbor was one of three people that King Josiah sent to inquire of the Lord about the message of the ancient scrolls.  Akbor’s son Elnathan was in the cabinet meeting when Micaiah delivered the message to the group.   While King Jehoiakim was the opposite of his father King Josiah in his faith, he apparently did keep some of his father’s heads of state to help run the country.

In verses 13 – 15a, Baruch was summoned and requested to read the scroll.  Notice the respect they showed Baruch; this was not an inquisition; this was genuine interest in both the message and the messenger.

In verses 15b – 16, Baruch read the scrolls.  The reaction in the room was of fear; the officials knew they would have to tell the king.  There was no indication of repentance on the part of the cabinet members; one the other hand, there was no conspiracy to hide or cover up the message from the Lord.  These were men of integrity that knew what they needed to do, even if it meant bringing more bad news before the king.

In verses 17- 18, the cabinet members inquired as to the source of the scrolls.  Baruch verified they were indeed the words of the Lord to Jeremiah.  The officials then gave very specific orders to Baruch to go into hiding and take Jeremiah with him.  They likely remembered the prophet Uriah’s fate as the bearer of bad news to the king (26:20-24) and wanted to protect both Baruch and Jeremiah from the same death sentence.

May we be faithful to the Lord’s calling, even if it affects or even threatens our well-being.

May we heed the Lord’s words and have the integrity to stand and proclaim to any and all who will hear, just as Baruch, Michaiah, Gemariah, and the cabinet members did.

Blessings,
~kevin

Jeremiah 36:1-7

3In the fourth year of Jehoiakim son of Josiah king of Judah, this word came to Jeremiah from the Lord: “Take a scroll and write on it all the words I have spoken to you concerning Israel, Judah and all the other nations from the time I began speaking to you in the reign of Josiah till now. Perhaps when the people of Judah hear about every disaster I plan to inflict on them, they will each turn from their wicked ways; then I will forgive their wickedness and their sin.”

So Jeremiah called Baruch son of Neriah, and while Jeremiah dictated all the words the Lord had spoken to him, Baruch wrote them on the scroll. Then Jeremiah told Baruch, “I am restricted; I am not allowed to go to the Lord’s temple. So you go to the house of the Lord on a day of fasting and read to the people from the scroll the words of the Lord that you wrote as I dictated. Read them to all the people of Judah who come in from their towns. Perhaps they will bring their petition before the Lord and will each turn from their wicked ways, for the anger and wrath pronounced against this people by the Lord are great.”
(Jeremiah 36:1-7 NIV)

Chapter 36 is another account of the Lord working during King Jehoiakim’s reign.  While Chapter 35 was fairly vague in dates and timeframe, Chapter 36 is very particular (v. 1).

To help set the context of today’s passage, remember that Judah was a vassal nation under Egyptian rule.  Nebuchadnezzar had risen to power in Babylon after his father died.  Nebuchadnezzar sent his army and defeated the Egyptians at the Battle of Carchemish.  About the time of this passage, Nebuchadnezzar’s army also defeated the Philistines at Ashkelon.

With his political allies gone and the buffer of the surrounding nations being removed by the Babylonian army, things were not looking positive for King Jehoiakim or the nation of Judah.  The day of fasting mentioned in verse 6 was likely in response to these rapidly deteriorating political and military conditions.

In verse 2, the Lord told Jeremiah to write down all the words that He had spoken to Jeremiah since the days of King Josiah.  The Lord hoped (v. 3) that the promises of destruction would cause the nation of Judah to repent and turn back to Him.

In verse 4, Jeremiah obeys the Lord and enlists the help of his friend Baruch to act as scribe and record all the words of the Lord that Jeremiah dictated to him.   Baruch’s name means “Blessed”, and Jeremiah was truly blessed to have a faithful friend like Baruch.

After the work was complete, Jeremiah faced his dilemma.  The words were written down, but Jeremiah’s ban from the Temple prevented him from delivering the message to the people of Judah.  The text does not say why Jeremiah was banned from the temple, but it was likely due to the infamous Temple message that Jeremiah delivered at the beginning of King Jehoiakim’s reign (chapter 26).

In verse 6, Jeremiah solves the dilemma by sending his scribe Baruch to read the words in the Temple.  Like the Lord, Jeremiah hopes that the people will respond to the Lord when they hear what the Lord will do to bring the people back to Himself. (v. 7).

May we listen to and obey the words of the Lord in our day and share God’s Word with others around us.  Who knows how the Lord will work and touch the lives of others with the Good News of the Gospel?

May we take some time to thank the Lord for faithful friends like Baruch who have dedicated themselves to the Lord and choose to walk with us along life’s journey.  The Lord did not intend for us to live this life in isolation.  He gives us a community to encourage and be encouraged, to multiply joys and divide the burden of sorrows, and the Holy Spirit to knit our hearts together in union with the Trinity and each other.

Blessings,
~kevin

Jeremiah 35:12-19

12 Then the word of the Lord came to Jeremiah, saying: 13 “This is what the Lord Almighty, the God of Israel, says: Go and tell the people of Judah and those living in Jerusalem, ‘Will you not learn a lesson and obey my words?’ declares the Lord. 14 ‘Jehonadab son of Rekab ordered his descendants not to drink wine and this command has been kept. To this day they do not drink wine, because they obey their forefather’s command. But I have spoken to you again and again, yet you have not obeyed me. 15 Again and again I sent all my servants the prophets to you. They said, “Each of you must turn from your wicked ways and reform your actions; do not follow other gods to serve them. Then you will live in the land I have given to you and your ancestors.” But you have not paid attention or listened to me. 16 The descendants of Jehonadab son of Rekab have carried out the command their forefather gave them, but these people have not obeyed me.’

17 “Therefore this is what the Lord God Almighty, the God of Israel, says: ‘Listen! I am going to bring on Judah and on everyone living in Jerusalem every disaster I pronounced against them. I spoke to them, but they did not listen; I called to them, but they did not answer.’”

18 Then Jeremiah said to the family of the Rekabites, “This is what the Lord Almighty, the God of Israel, says: ‘You have obeyed the command of your forefather Jehonadab and have followed all his instructions and have done everything he ordered.’ 19 Therefore this is what the Lord Almighty, the God of Israel, says: ‘Jehonadab son of Rekab will never fail to have a descendant to serve me.’”
(Jeremiah 35:12-19 NIV)

From our last time together, we saw that Chapter 35 is a story that occurred some ten-plus years earlier than Chapter 34.

As we noted last time, the story of Chapter 35 is pretty straightforward.  God tells Jeremiah to set up another object lesson.  This time, the Lord uses humans as part of the object lesson, rather than inanimate objects or animals.  The Lord uses the faithfulness of a few to a human tradition to shame the unfaithfulness of the many to the Lord throughout Jerusalem and Judah.

In verses 12 – 17, the Lord speaks a second time to Jeremiah, giving the “lessons learned” follow-up to the people of Jerusalem and Judah.  The Lord pointed out that the Rekabites were faithful to a human tradition for multiple generations, while the people of Judah were unfaithful to God over the same timeframe.

In verses 18 – 19, the Lord rewards the faithfulness of the Rekabites by having a descendant of Jehonadab serving Him.

As we noted last time, life is not always about us, and the ancients’ struggles with faith and culture were as real as our struggles are today.

So how are we to deal with faith and culture?  Many individuals and groups have chosen different methods over the millennia.  Some see faith and culture set against one another; others see faith and culture as intertwined.  Others see faith above culture, while others see faith and culture as parallel tracks.  Others see faith as an agent of change within a culture.

Our beliefs and assumptions then lead to actions.  Some withdraw or separate from culture and seek to create a monastic-style existence to honor God.  Others try to “freeze” culture at a particular point in history.  Others fully absorb culture while some choose to fight culture as if it is a battle to be won.  And others try to transform culture.

So what is the “right” answer to faith and culture?  Is there a “balance”, or even a single answer?  Rather than try to respond to these questions with a set of rules or guidelines, may we look to our Example in the life and ministry of Jesus.

Jesus engaged with the people and culture around Him, yet did not try to overthrow the government or do a “power play” to rule over others.  He met physical and emotional needs of those who crossed His path but did not heal everyone of all diseases for all time.  At times, Jesus would withdraw for time alone with the Father, then would be in the midst of the celebrations and feasts, enjoying the festivals with His disciples.

Jesus pointed people back to the Father, and to Himself, not to the Law and all the extra “rules” the religious leaders heaped on the people.  Jesus offered (and continues to offer) relationship to God through Himself as the key to life both now and in eternity.

May we see the God who transcends time and culture as the One who gives us wisdom and strength to live in communion with God in our various cultures, with Jesus as our example and model.

Blessings,
~kevin