Monday, August 31, 2015

It’s Not a Mistake

Jeremiah 34:1-22

The word which came unto Jeremiah from the LORD, when Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon, and all his army, and all the kingdoms of the earth of his dominion, and all the people, fought against Jerusalem, and against all the cities thereof, saying, Thus saith the LORD, the God of Israel; Go and speak to Zedekiah king of Judah, and tell him, Thus saith the LORD; Behold, I will give this city into the hand of the king of Babylon, and he shall burn it with fire: And thou shalt not escape out of his hand, but shalt surely be taken, and delivered into his hand; and thine eyes shall behold the eyes of the king of Babylon, and he shall speak with thee mouth to mouth, and thou shalt go to Babylon.” (Jeremiah 34:1-3)

Nebuchadnezzar and the Babylonian forces had invaded Judah for the third time and were systematically defeating the individual cities.  The siege of Jerusalem itself would take about two years, but this time they are frustrated enough they will not stop until the city is completely wiped out.   God sent Jeremiah with a message to King Zedekiah, warning him that God will not protect Jerusalem but will turn it over to the Babylonians, and Zedekiah will be captured as well and taken to Babylon himself. 

“Yet hear the word of the LORD, O Zedekiah king of Judah; Thus saith the LORD of thee, Thou shalt not die by the sword: But thou shalt die in peace: and with the burnings of thy fathers, the former kings which were before thee, so shall they burn odours for thee; and they will lament thee, saying, Ah lord! for I have pronounced the word, saith the LORD.

Then Jeremiah the prophet spake all these words unto Zedekiah king of Judah in Jerusalem, When the king of Babylon's army fought against Jerusalem, and against all the cities of Judah that were left, against Lachish, and against Azekah: for these defenced cities remained of the cities of Judah. ” (Jeremiah 34:4-7)

While Zedekiah would be taken to Babylon as a prisoner, he would not be executed but would die in peace and his burial would be with respect like previous kings of Judah, and the people would be reminded that it was what God had said.  When Jeremiah delivered the prophecy, only two fortified cities, Lachish and Azekah were still standing.  All the others had been destroyed. 

“This is the word that came unto Jeremiah from the LORD, after that the king Zedekiah had made a covenant with all the people which were at Jerusalem, to proclaim liberty unto them; That every man should let his manservant, and every man his maidservant, being an Hebrew or an Hebrewess, go free; that none should serve himself of them, to wit, of a Jew his brother.
Now when all the princes, and all the people, which had entered into the covenant, heard that every one should let his manservant, and every one his maidservant, go free, that none should serve themselves of them any more, then they obeyed, and let them go.  But afterward they turned, and caused the servants and the handmaids, whom they had let go free, to return, and brought them into subjection for servants and for handmaids.” (Jeremiah 34:8-11)

Under the law, God specified that a person could not be forced into bondage more than six years.  In the Sabbatical year they were to be released.  Exodus 21;2 commanded, “ If thou buy an Hebrew servant, six years he shall serve: and in the seventh he shall go out free for nothing.”  The Jews had not observed that law for a century or more. In an effort to gain support for the rebellion against Babylon, Zedekiah negotiated an agreement that the slaves would all be freed.  The wealthy agreed to free their employees, realizing people would  fight harder to protect their own stuff, but  when they realized that they would have to do things themselves or pay to have work done they violated the agreement and forced the former employees and servants back into slavery.  Giving servants freedom was a great idea but it was for other people to do. 

“Therefore the word of the LORD came to Jeremiah from the LORD, saying,  Thus saith the LORD, the God of Israel; I made a covenant with your fathers in the day that I brought them forth out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of bondmen, saying, At the end of seven years let ye go every man his brother an Hebrew, which hath been sold unto thee; and when he hath served thee six years, thou shalt let him go free from thee: but your fathers hearkened not unto me, neither inclined their ear.
And ye were now turned, and had done right in my sight, in proclaiming liberty every man to his neighbour; and ye had made a covenant before me in the house which is called by my name: But ye turned and polluted my name, and caused every man his servant, and every man his handmaid, whom he had set at liberty at their pleasure, to return, and brought them into subjection, to be unto you for servants and for handmaids.” (Jeremiah 34:12-16)

Though their reasons for setting the servants free was wrong, they were doing what he commanded, and God was pleased by their commitment.  He was angered when they then reversed themselves and forced the people back into subjection just like they had been before. 

Therefore thus saith the LORD; Ye have not hearkened unto me, in proclaiming liberty, every one to his brother, and every man to his neighbour: behold, I proclaim a liberty for you, saith the LORD, to the sword, to the pestilence, and to the famine; and I will make you to be removed into all the kingdoms of the earth. And I will give the men that have transgressed my covenant, which have not performed the words of the covenant which they had made before me, when they cut the calf in twain, and passed between the parts thereof.

The princes of Judah, and the princes of Jerusalem, the eunuchs, and the priests, and all the people of the land, which passed between the parts of the calf; I will even give them into the hand of their enemies, and into the hand of them that seek their life: and their dead bodies shall be for meat unto the fowls of the heaven, and to the beasts of the earth.  And Zedekiah king of Judah and his princes will I give into the hand of their enemies, and into the hand of them that seek their life, and into the hand of the king of Babylon's army, which are gone up from you.  Behold, I will command, saith the LORD, and cause them to return to this city; and they shall fight against it, and take it, and burn it with fire: and I will make the cities of Judah a desolation without an inhabitant.” (Jeremiah 34:17-22)

God was going to proclaim liberty for them the same way they had proclaimed liberty to their servants.  Making it seem like they were really getting free when in fact they were even more enslaved.  They will be forced into subjection by military force, by disease, by starvation, and carried away as captives to every country of the earth.  The people who had participated in making the agreement, signing and oath before God, in his name, who then broke it will be delivered into servitude to their enemies and people who want to kill them.  Their bodies will not be buried but will provide food for the scavengers.    Though the Babylonians had withdrawn the army when Zedekiah as made king, God himself will order them to return and defeat, and completely burn it down, leaving the entire land of Judah uninhabited. 

By making the commitment to free their servants, Judah had shown they were aware what they were doing was wrong.  There is no way breaking the promise and forcing the people back into subjection after promising to free them could be an accident or a mistake,  It was a deliberate and intentional breaking of God’s command and their own word.    It was inexcusable. 

Friday, August 28, 2015

As Sure As The Rising Of The Sun

Jeremiah 33:1-26

“Moreover the word of the LORD came unto Jeremiah the second time, while he was yet shut up in the court of the prison, saying, Thus saith the LORD the maker thereof, the LORD that formed it, to establish it; the LORD is his name; Call unto me, and I will answer thee, and show thee great and mighty things, which thou knowest not.” (Jeremiah 32:1-3)

Jeremiah was still in prison, accused of treason because he had preached that God said the Jews were to submit to Nebuchadnezzar and the Chaldeans rather than fighting them, when God sent this prophecy.  He starts by encouraging him, reminding him that God is the creator of all the universe, including the prison he was in.  While it might seem hopeless, if he would just call on the Lord, God would answer and show him wonderful and powerful things he couldn’t even imagine.  Verse three is one of the most popular verses in the book of Jeremiah.  Unfortunately is often misapplied, ignoring a vital part of the message.    

“For thus saith the LORD, the God of Israel, concerning the houses of this city, and concerning the houses of the kings of Judah, which are thrown down by the mounts, and by the sword; They come to fight with the Chaldeans, but it is to fill them with the dead bodies of men, whom I have slain in mine anger and in my fury, and for all whose wickedness I have hid my face from this city.” (Jeremiah 33:4-5)

About fourteen years before, Nebuchadnezzar’s army had defeated Judah and carried away much of the population.  Three years later they were forced to return to put down an insurrection, and removed Jehoiakim from power, taking him as a prisoner, aAnd making his son Jehoiachin king.   Jehoiacnin was just a child and his advisors continued the insurrection so after three months Jehoiachin was dethroned and Jehoiakim’s brother Zedekiah was made king.  For the next ten years, Zedekiah and the other leaders plotted to throw off Babylonian power and finally Nebuchadnezzar was forced to besiege Jerusalem again. 

God said that all those who had plotted against Babylon were expecting to throw off Nebuchadnezzars power, but instead they were just going to provide dead bodies to fill the houses in Jerusalem when they were defeated.   They would be killed as a result of God’s anger.  Their wickedness has lcaused god to turn his back on them.  More than a hundred years before, Isaiah told Israel , “Behold, the LORD'S hand is not shortened, that it cannot save; neither his ear heavy, that it cannot hear: But your iniquities have separated between you and your God, and your sins have hid his face from you, that he will not hear,” in Isaiah 59:1-2.  Most people choose to ignore the warnings and focus only on the final result. 

Behold, I will bring it health and cure, and I will cure them, and will reveal unto them the abundance of peace and truth.  And I will cause the captivity of Judah and the captivity of Israel to return, and will build them, as at the first.  And I will cleanse them from all their iniquity, whereby they have sinned against me; and I will pardon all their iniquities, whereby they have sinned, and whereby they have transgressed against me.  And it shall be to me a name of joy, a praise and an honour before all the nations of the earth, which shall hear all the good that I do unto them: and they shall fear and tremble for all the goodness and for all the prosperity that I procure unto it.” (Jeremiah 33:6-9)

God is going to cure the Nation, and eliminate all the sins they have committed in the past and forgive them for all the times when they have deliberately broken his law.  Then Jerusalem and Judah will have a reputation that glorifies God.  The other nations will know what God has done for them and will respect and honor him for what he does for them.  This will not happen until the old rebellious generation are dead and a new generation with a different attitude take their place.  The elimination of that wicked generation is part of God’s mighty work. 

“ Thus saith the LORD; Again there shall be heard in this place, which ye say shall be desolate without man and without beast, even in the cities of Judah, and in the streets of Jerusalem, that are desolate, without man, and without inhabitant, and without beast,  The voice of joy, and the voice of gladness, the voice of the bridegroom, and the voice of the bride, the voice of them that shall say, Praise the LORD of hosts: for the LORD is good; for his mercy endureth for ever: and of them that shall bring the sacrifice of praise into the house of the LORD. For I will cause to return the captivity of the land, as at the first, saith the LORD.

Thus saith the LORD of hosts; Again in this place, which is desolate without man and without beast, and in all the cities thereof, shall be an habitation of shepherds causing their flocks to lie down.  In the cities of the mountains, in the cities of the vale, and in the cities of the south, and in the land of Benjamin, and in the places about Jerusalem, and in the cities of Judah, shall the flocks pass again under the hands of him that telleth them, saith the LORD.” (Jeremiah 33:10-13)

When God has cleansed the land, he will again restore it.  The areas which were considered just desert and uninhabitable will resound with the music from weddings and other celebrations.  The people will be thanking god for his eternal mercy that did not completely destroy Israel and Judah and they will bring sacrifices to show their thanks.    They will be free again, and the desert places will again support vast flocks of sheep and cattle and be traded in Jerusalem. 
“Behold, the days come, saith the LORD, that I will perform that good thing which I have promised unto the house of Israel and to the house of Judah.  In those days, and at that time, will I cause the Branch of righteousness to grow up unto David; and he shall execute judgment and righteousness in the land.  In those days shall Judah be saved, and Jerusalem shall dwell safely: and this is the name wherewith she shall be called, The LORD our righteousness.  For thus saith the LORD; David shall never want a man to sit upon the throne of the house of Israel; Neither shall the priests the Levites want a man before me to offer burnt offerings, and to kindle meat offerings, and to do sacrifice continually.” (Jeremiah 33:14-18)

The day will surely come when God will keep his promise to Israel.  When that Day comes, Christ will be king over Israel, fulfilling God’s promise to David. For a thousand years there will be peace on earth during the Millennium, as described in Isaiah and Revelation. 

“And the word of the LORD came unto Jeremiah, saying, Thus saith the LORD; If ye can break my covenant of the day, and my covenant of the night, and that there should not be day and night in their season; Then may also my covenant be broken with David my servant, that he should not have a son to reign upon his throne; and with the Levites the priests, my ministers.  As the host of heaven cannot be numbered, neither the sand of the sea measured: so will I multiply the seed of David my servant, and the Levites that minister unto me.” (Jeremiah 33:19-22)

God’s promises to David are as sure to be fulfilled as it is that the sun will come up in morning or that it will go down in the evening.  The descendants of David and the Levites that serve God will be as numerous as the stars of heaven or as the grains of sand on the seashore. 

“Moreover the word of the LORD came to Jeremiah, saying, Considerest thou not what this people have spoken, saying, The two families which the LORD hath chosen, he hath even cast them off? thus they have despised my people, that they should be no more a nation before them.

Thus saith the LORD; If my covenant be not with day and night, and if I have not appointed the ordinances of heaven and earth; Then will I cast away the seed of Jacob, and David my servant, so that I will not take any of his seed to be rulers over the seed of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob: for I will cause their captivity to return, and have mercy on them.” (Jeremiah 33:23-26)

After seeing the destruction of Israel and Judah, people thought God had broken his covenant with them because of their sin and would never forgive them or save them.  God says his promise to Abraham is as sure as his planning for the rising of the sun and the orbits of the many stars and planets.  If those break down, then God will forget his promises to Abraham, Isaac, Jacob and David.  God will deliver them from captivity and bless them.  

Thursday, August 27, 2015

Like a Rock in Your Shoe

Jeremiah 32:28-44

“Therefore thus saith the LORD; Behold, I will give this city into the hand of the Chaldeans, and into the hand of Nebuchadrezzar king of Babylon, and he shall take it: And the Chaldeans, that fight against this city, shall come and set fire on this city, and burn it with the houses, upon whose roofs they have offered incense unto Baal, and poured out drink offerings unto other gods, to provoke me to anger.  For the children of Israel and the children of Judah have only done evil before me from their youth: for the children of Israel have only provoked me to anger with the work of their hands, saith the LORD.” (Jeremiah 32:28-30)

God had made a covenant with Israel, and he has every intention of fulfilling that covenant.  Like any contract, the covenant listed the penalties for not fulfilling the terms by one party.  Because Israel had broken the contract, God was preparing to apply the penalties specified.   The Chaldean army that was surrounding and besieging Jerusalem would be victorious.  They would utterly destroy the city.  The Jews had offered sacrifices and burned incense to other gods on the roofs of the houses praying for those other gods to deliver them, instead of depending on God.   The very houses where they made the offerings seeking the other gods’ help would be burned to the ground. 

“For this city hath been to me as a provocation of mine anger and of my fury from the day that they built it even unto this day; that I should remove it from before my face, Because of all the evil of the children of Israel and of the children of Judah, which they have done to provoke me to anger, they, their kings, their princes, their priests, and their prophets, and the men of Judah, and the inhabitants of Jerusalem.  And they have turned unto me the back, and not the face: though I taught them, rising up early and teaching them, yet they have not hearkened to receive instruction.  But they set their abominations in the house, which is called by my name, to defile it.  And they built the high places of Baal, which are in the valley of the son of Hinnom, to cause their sons and their daughters to pass through the fire unto Molech; which I commanded them not, neither came it into my mind, that they should do this abomination, to cause Judah to sin.” (Jeremiah 32:31-35)

The city of Jerusalem had been a constant source of irritation for God, like having a rock in one’s shoe from the day it was built.  The only cure was to remove it completely, because the rebellion and wickedness had become systemic.   The problems were not confined to one group but included the common people, the kings, the business leaders, the religious leaders, and the various tribal groups and families.  All of them had turned their backs on God, ignoring what He taught them.  They have deliberately set the idols in the very temple like a man setting a picture of his mistress on his shelf where his wife sees it every day.  They built altars to Baal and sacrificed their children in the valley of Hinnom in direct violation of the covenant they had made with God.  It had never been God’s plan that His Holy city should lead the nation of Judah into sin.   

“And now therefore thus saith the LORD, the God of Israel, concerning this city, whereof ye say, It shall be delivered into the hand of the king of Babylon by the sword, and by the famine, and by the pestilence; Behold, I will gather them out of all countries, whither I have driven them in mine anger, and in my fury, and in great wrath; and I will bring them again unto this place, and I will cause them to dwell safely: And they shall be my people, and I will be their God: And I will give them one heart, and one way, that they may fear me for ever, for the good of them, and of their children after them: And I will make an everlasting covenant with them, that I will not turn away from them, to do them good; but I will put my fear in their hearts, that they shall not depart from me.” (Jeremiah 32:36-40)

While Jerusalem would be delivered into the hand of the Babylonians as a result of a combination of military power, starvation and disease, God will not break his covenant.  He will gather the Jews from around the world, and bring them back to Israel, where they will be protected.  In that day they will be a people devoted to God.  In exchange he will reveal himself to them fully so that they want to serve him forever because they understand everything he does is for their good. 

Throughout history, people have believed that God’s laws were arbitrary and capricious, and were just a way of showing his power.  In writing the Book, Loving God and Loving Man, I was impressed with how every aspect of the Law was or man’s benefit.  If people would just follow that Law they would avoid most Health problems by preventing the spread of disease.  They would prevent psychological problems by not doing things that caused them to feel guilty or messed with other people’s minds.   As people begin to understand that, it will make a major difference in their attitude toward God, especially as they look back and see what not obeying cost.

“Yea, I will rejoice over them to do them good, and I will plant them in this land assuredly with my whole heart and with my whole soul.  For thus saith the LORD; Like as I have brought all this great evil upon this people, so will I bring upon them all the good that I have promised them.  And fields shall be bought in this land, whereof ye say, It is desolate without man or beast; it is given into the hand of the Chaldeans.  Men shall buy fields for money, and subscribe evidences, and seal them, and take witnesses in the land of Benjamin, and in the places about Jerusalem, and in the cities of Judah, and in the cities of the mountains, and in the cities of the valley, and in the cities of the south: for I will cause their captivity to return, saith the LORD.” (Jeremiah 32:41-44)

When Judah is no longer fighting him at every step and acting like a rock in his shoe, god will rejoice over them and want to do everything he can for them.  Just as he has brought evil things on them for their rebellion, he will do wonderful things for them when they obey him.  they will re-stablish their homes, buying fields as an investment, with an expectation of making a profit, because they all have their own land and not afraid it will be taken away.    

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Buying the Field of Hanameel

Jeremiah 32:1-27

“The word that came to Jeremiah from the LORD in the tenth year of Zedekiah king of Judah, which was the eighteenth year of Nebuchadrezzar.  For then the king of Babylon's army besieged Jerusalem: and Jeremiah the prophet was shut up in the court of the prison, which was in the king of Judah's house.” (Jeremiah 32:1-2)

Traditionally historians have set the date of Nebuchadnezzar’s coming to power and defeat of Judah as 605 BC.  Records excavated in Babylon between the mid 1800’s and 1960 indicate that he that he probably came to power about 570 BC instead.  About 565 BC, he defeated Judah, and for three years allowed Jehoiachim to continue as king.  When they rebelled again, he took Jehoiachim captive placing his sun Jehoiachin in power.  Three months later, because they continued to rebel, Jehoiachin was also taken captive and Zedekiah was made king, reigning eleven years, before Jerusalem was completely destroyed by the Babylonians for their continual rebellion.  It took the Babylonians about a year to take Jerusalem that last time, during Nebuchadnezzar’s eighteenth year as king, around 552-550 BC.  Zedekiah had had Jeremiah placed in prison, accusing him of treasonous behavior for what he was preaching.

“For Zedekiah king of Judah had shut him up, saying, Wherefore dost thou prophesy, and say, Thus saith the LORD, Behold, I will give this city into the hand of the king of Babylon, and he shall take it; And Zedekiah king of Judah shall not escape out of the hand of the Chaldeans, but shall surely be delivered into the hand of the king of Babylon, and shall speak with him mouth to mouth, and his eyes shall behold his eyes; And he shall lead Zedekiah to Babylon, and there shall he be until I visit him, saith the LORD: though ye fight with the Chaldeans, ye shall not prosper. “ (Jeremiah 32:3-5)

For years, Jeremiah had been warning the Jews they should submit to Babylon and not fight them because God was going to allow them to be conquered.  He continued to preach that even as the Babylonian forces surrounded the city, warning the Zedekiah would be taken captive and carried to Babylon where he would be held prisoner until the Lord freed him.  Fighting the Babylonian forces would only make things worse. 

“And Jeremiah said, The word of the LORD came unto me, saying, Behold, Hanameel the son of Shallum thine uncle shall come unto thee, saying, Buy thee my field that is in Anathoth: for the right of redemption is thine to buy it.  So Hanameel mine uncle's son came to me in the court of the prison according to the word of the LORD, and said unto me, Buy my field, I pray thee, that is in Anathoth, which is in the country of Benjamin: for the right of inheritance is thine, and the redemption is thine; buy it for thyself. Then I knew that this was the word of the LORD.” (Jeremiah 32:6-8)

With Jerusalem surrounded by the Chaldean army, the Jews were not able to harvest their crops and shortages were driving the price of food through the roof.  Under Jewish law the land could only be leased to those outside the family, and since they were unable to work their fields, no one wanted to lease them.  Jeremiah’s cousin was needing money and approached Jeremiah about buying his field, since he was family and could legally buy it.  Despite the fact that he knew they would be defeated and carried away, unable to work the fields for many years, God directed him to go ahead and buy it. 

“And I bought the field of Hanameel my uncle's son, that was in Anathoth, and weighed him the money, even seventeen shekels of silver.  And I subscribed the evidence, and sealed it, and took witnesses, and weighed him the money in the balances.  So I took the evidence of the purchase, both that which was sealed according to the law and custom, and that which was open: And I gave the evidence of the purchase unto Baruch the son of Neriah, the son of Maaseiah, in the sight of Hanameel mine uncle's son, and in the presence of the witnesses that subscribed the book of the purchase, before all the Jews that sat in the court of the prison.” (Jeremiah 32:9-12)

Because he knew it was the Lord directing him, Jeremiah bought the field.  They had the closing right there in the prison with the prison officials and prisoners to serve as witnesses and oversee the transaction and notarize the papers.   The deed was given to Baruch the son of Neriah to hold for safe keeping. 

“And I charged Baruch before them, saying, Thus saith the LORD of hosts, the God of Israel; Take these evidences, this evidence of the purchase, both which is sealed, and this evidence which is open; and put them in an earthen vessel, that they may continue many days.  For thus saith the LORD of hosts, the God of Israel; Houses and fields and vineyards shall be possessed again in this land.” (Jeremiah 32:13-15)
 Jeremiah then directed Baruch to place the deed and other records in a sealed clay pot where they would be protected from the elements for a long period.  Eventually, the Jews would again possess and work those fields

“Now when I had delivered the evidence of the purchase unto Baruch the son of Neriah, I prayed unto the LORD, saying, Ah Lord GOD! behold, thou hast made the heaven and the earth by thy great power and stretched out arm, and there is nothing too hard for thee: Thou showest lovingkindness unto thousands, and recompensest the iniquity of the fathers into the bosom of their children after them: the Great, the Mighty God, the LORD of hosts, is his name, Great in counsel, and mighty in work: for thine eyes are open upon all the ways of the sons of men: to give every one according to his ways, and according to the fruit of his doings: Which hast set signs and wonders in the land of Egypt, even unto this day, and in Israel, and among other men; and hast made thee a name, as at this day; And hast brought forth thy people Israel out of the land of Egypt with signs, and with wonders, and with a strong hand, and with a stretched out arm, and with great terror; And hast given them this land, which thou didst swear to their fathers to give them, a land flowing with milk and honey; And they came in, and possessed it; but they obeyed not thy voice, neither walked in thy law; they have done nothing of all that thou commandedst them to do: therefore thou hast caused all this evil to come upon them: Behold the mounts, they are come unto the city to take it; and the city is given into the hand of the Chaldeans, that fight against it, because of the sword, and of the famine, and of the pestilence: and what thou hast spoken is come to pass; and, behold, thou seest it.  And thou hast said unto me, O Lord GOD, Buy thee the field for money, and take witnesses; for the city is given into the hand of the Chaldeans.” (Jeremiah 32:16-25)

After closing the deal, Jeremiah prayed.  He remembered that God had done exactly as h promised, delivering them from Egypt and giving them the land of Israel, fighting their battles for them, often miraculously.  As he had warned them, their continued disobedience would result in the land being taken from them and it was in the process of happening, but God had directed him to buy a piece of land because one day they would reoccupy it.  Jeremiah is spending a lot of money for a piece of land that he cannot use at the moment.  It was a little troubling even though he believed God. 

“Then came the word of the LORD unto Jeremiah, saying, Behold, I am the LORD, the God of all flesh: is there any thing too hard for me?” (Jeremiah 32:26-27)

God reminded him that he is God and nothing is too hard for him.  Even though it seemed impossible at the time, he would enable Jeremiah and his heirs to enjoy the fruits of that field.   

Monday, August 24, 2015

The Covenant With Abraham Will Never Be Forgotten

Jeremiah 31:31-40

“Behold, the days come, saith the LORD, that I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel, and with the house of Judah: Not according to the covenant that I made with their fathers in the day that I took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt; which my covenant they brake, although I was an husband unto them, saith the LORD: But this shall be the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel; After those days, saith the LORD, I will put my law in their inward parts, and write it in their hearts; and will be their God, and they shall be my people.” (Jeremiah 31:31-33)

God made a covenant or agreement with Israel when he brought them out of Egypt,  Under the terms of that covenant or contract, Israel agreed to keep the Old Testament law.  In exchange, God promised to protect them from their enemies, make their crops and herds productive and keep them healthy.  Failure to obey would result in forfeiture of those blessings, even to the point of being taken out of their land if they went that far.  Both Israel and Judah had violated those commands, even though God had kept his part completely.  Even the assessment of the penalties had not stopped them.  Now God is promising a new contract when he restores Israel to their place as he promised Abraham in an earlier contract.  The old covenant was written in stone, and the people found it easy to ignore.  The new covenant law will be written in their hearts so they are never separated from it.  Instead of an external influence it will be internal.

It is essentially the same covenant he makes with Christians.  I John 14:26 tells us, “But the Comforter, which is the Holy Ghost, whom the Father will send in my name, he shall teach you all things, and bring all things to your remembrance, whatsoever I have said unto you.”  As a result of the Holy Spirit in their life reminding them of what God wants, and the new attitude he produce, I John 3:9 says, “Whosoever is born of God doth not commit sin; for his seed remaineth in him: and he cannot sin, because he is born of God.” 

“And they shall teach no more every man his neighbour, and every man his brother, saying, Know the LORD: for they shall all know me, from the least of them unto the greatest of them, saith the LORD: for I will forgive their iniquity, and I will remember their sin no more.” (Jeremiah 31:34)

Today, Jewish practice is largely controlled by the interpretations of the old Testament law by Rabbis and Jewish scholars.  In that day each person will know the laws themselves, thanks to the indwelling of the Holy Spirit and thus they will not be susceptible to false teachers. 

“Thus saith the LORD, which giveth the sun for a light by day, and the ordinances of the moon and of the stars for a light by night, which divideth the sea when the waves thereof roar; The LORD of hosts is his name: If those ordinances depart from before me, saith the LORD, then the seed of Israel also shall cease from being a nation before me for ever.   Thus saith the LORD; If heaven above can be measured, and the foundations of the earth searched out beneath, I will also cast off all the seed of Israel for all that they have done, saith the LORD.“ (Jeremiah 31:35-37)

Almost six hundred years before the covenant with Israel when they came out of Egypt, God had made a covenant with Abraham, that he would give them the land of Canaan forever.  God set up the forces that keep the sun burning, the earth rotating, and all the stars and planets in their proper orbits.  His promises to Israel are just as dependable as are the orbits of those stars and planets.   If man can figure out how to change the earth’s orbit or rotation and measure the universe then God could be persuaded to break his promise to Abraham because of Israel’s sin.   God will save them, despite their sin.

“Behold, the days come, saith the LORD, that the city shall be built to the LORD from the tower of Hananeel unto the gate of the corner.  And the measuring line shall yet go forth over against it upon the hill Gareb, and shall compass about to Goath.  And the whole valley of the dead bodies, and of the ashes, and all the fields unto the brook of Kidron, unto the corner of the horse gate toward the east, shall be holy unto the LORD; it shall not be plucked up, nor thrown down any more for ever.” (Jeremiah 31:38-40)

In the Last Days, Jerusalem will be rebuilt and dedicated to the Lord, from the central defensive tower to the outermost corner of the wall. And it will be measured out to include even the old battlefields and graveyards outside the walls, from the brook Kidron and including all the fields that once surrounded the city.  Where once only the Temple was dedicated to God, in that day the entire city will be dedicated to hi.  It will never again be destroyed or conquered.  

Friday, August 21, 2015

A Beloved Child

Jeremiah 31:10-30

“Hear the word of the LORD, O ye nations, and declare it in the isles afar off, and say, He that scattered Israel will gather him, and keep him, as a shepherd doth his flock.  For the LORD hath redeemed Jacob, and ransomed him from the hand of him that was stronger than he.   Therefore they shall come and sing in the height of Zion, and shall flow together to the goodness of the LORD, for wheat, and for wine, and for oil, and for the young of the flock and of the herd: and their soul shall be as a watered garden; and they shall not sorrow any more at all.

Then shall the virgin rejoice in the dance, both young men and old together: for I will turn their mourning into joy, and will comfort them, and make them rejoice from their sorrow.  And I will satiate the soul of the priests with fatness, and my people shall be satisfied with my goodness, saith the LORD.” (Jeremiah 31:10-14)

God has no intention of breaking his promise to Abraham.  Though he has caused them to be scattered throughout the countries of the world because they have broken their contract with him.  One day the world will see God bring Israel back, defeating the nations that defeated them.  They will enjoy an abundance of food and drink, with healthy flocks and flourishing businesses.  When he does, they will never again face deprivation or sorrow.  The churches will not be struggling financially, and the people will be satisfied with what they have. 

“Thus saith the LORD; A voice was heard in Ramah, lamentation, and bitter weeping; Rahel weeping for her children refused to be comforted for her children, because they were not.  Thus saith the LORD; Refrain thy voice from weeping, and thine eyes from tears: for thy work shall be rewarded, saith the LORD; and they shall come again from the land of the enemy.  And there is hope in thine end, saith the LORD, that thy children shall come again to their own border.” (Jeremiah 31:15-17)

This prophecy was fulfilled with Herod’s killing of the babies in an attempt o Kill the messiah, as described in Matthew 2:16-18. “Then Herod, when he saw that he was mocked of the wise men, was exceeding wroth, and sent forth, and slew all the children that were in Bethlehem, and in all the coasts thereof, from two years old and under, according to the time which he had diligently inquired of the wise men.  Then was fulfilled that which was spoken by Jeremy the prophet, saying, In Rama was there a voice heard, lamentation, and weeping, and great mourning, Rachel weeping for her children, and would not be comforted, because they are not.”  It has been fulfilled repeatedly since the destruction of Jerusalem, with pograms, and attempted genocide of the Jews in country after country. 

“I have surely heard Ephraim bemoaning himself thus; Thou hast chastised me, and I was chastised, as a bullock unaccustomed to the yoke: turn thou me, and I shall be turned; for thou art the LORD my God.  Surely after that I was turned, I repented; and after that I was instructed, I smote upon my thigh: I was ashamed, yea, even confounded, because I did bear the reproach of my youth.  Is Ephraim my dear son? is he a pleasant child? for since I spake against him, I do earnestly remember him still: therefore my bowels are troubled for him; I will surely have mercy upon him, saith the LORD.” (Jeremiah 31:18-20)

God views Israel as a beloved child, who has demanded their own way and run away from home to get it.  When they recognize they have made a mistake, and ask forgiveness, all God will remember is how much he loves them and the wonderful times they had together.  There is no question of his forgiveness, even though they had completely rejected him for years. 

“Set thee up waymarks, make thee high heaps: set thine heart toward the highway, even the way which thou wentest: turn again, O virgin of Israel, turn again to these thy cities.  How long wilt thou go about, O thou backsliding daughter? for the LORD hath created a new thing in the earth, A woman shall compass a man.” (Jeremiah 31:21-22)

Like a runaway daughter, all Israel needs to do is map out their way and start home.  The only thing keeping them from their blessings is the own pride and refusal to give in.  When they do, they will find their attitude has changed and they simply just want to show their love any way they can. 

“Thus saith the LORD of hosts, the God of Israel; As yet they shall use this speech in the land of Judah and in the cities thereof, when I shall bring again their captivity; The LORD bless thee, O habitation of justice, and mountain of holiness.  And there shall dwell in Judah itself, and in all the cities thereof together, husbandmen, and they that go forth with flocks.  For I have satiated the weary soul, and I have replenished every sorrowful soul.  Upon this I awaked, and beheld; and my sleep was sweet unto me.” (Jeremiah 31:23-26)

Like the runaway daughter who realizes how much she had and returns home, Judah will be talking about how good they have it with God’s blessing instead of griping about what they can’t have.  They will live in their own country and have their own farms and herds.  They will find themselves satisfied completely and be happy.  This is God’s dream for them, and he happy, knowing one day it will happen. 

“Behold, the days come, saith the LORD, that I will sow the house of Israel and the house of Judah with the seed of man, and with the seed of beast.  And it shall come to pass, that like as I have watched over them, to pluck up, and to break down, and to throw down, and to destroy, and to afflict; so will I watch over them, to build, and to plant, saith the LORD.  In those days they shall say no more, The fathers have eaten a sour grape, and the children's teeth are set on edge.  But every one shall die for his own iniquity: every man that eateth the sour grape, his teeth shall be set on edge.” (Jeremiah 31:27-30)

In the future a time will come when, instead of destroying then and punishing them, God will bless, making the population grow as well as their flocks and herds.  He will work just as hard to protect and strengthen them as he has worked to punish them, and they will no longer have to suffer the consequences of their ancestor’s actions.  They will only have to deal with the consequences of their own actions.      

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

God Still Loves Israel

Jeremiah 30:11-31:9

“For I am with thee, saith the LORD, to save thee: though I make a full end of all nations whither I have scattered thee, yet will I not make a full end of thee: but I will correct thee in measure, and will not leave thee altogether unpunished.  For thus saith the LORD, Thy bruise is incurable, and thy wound is grievous.  There is none to plead thy cause, that thou mayest be bound up: thou hast no healing medicines.  All thy lovers have forgotten thee; they seek thee not; for I have wounded thee with the wound of an enemy, with the chastisement of a cruel one, for the multitude of thine iniquity; because thy sins were increased.” (Jeremiah 30:11-14)

In the last days, God will restore Israel to the land and they will worship him forever.   He has chosen them as a special people, and promised that he will never destroy them completely, even though he will completely wipe out the nations that have hated and taken advantage of them.    They would not get by with their sin, however, because God loved them, he would correct them.    Hebrews 12:6-8 tells us, “For whom the Lord loveth he chasteneth, and scourgeth every son whom he receiveth.   If ye endure chastening, God dealeth with you as with sons; for what son is he whom the father chasteneth not?  But if ye be without chastisement, whereof all are partakers, then are ye bastards, and not sons.”

The shame and embarrassment of being caught is often worse than any punishment for  sin, and harder to get over.    It is even worse for a person who left or betrayed their mate for someone who then dumped them because they feel both the rejection and the guilt and that is where Judah was.  They had dumped God for the power of other nations and gods, who then forsook them when thing went wrong and God has not pretended they did nothing wrong. 

“Why criest thou for thine affliction? thy sorrow is incurable for the multitude of thine iniquity: because thy sins were increased, I have done these things unto thee.  Therefore all they that devour thee shall be devoured; and all thine adversaries, every one of them, shall go into captivity; and they that spoil thee shall be a spoil, and all that prey upon thee will I give for a prey.  For I will restore health unto thee, and I will heal thee of thy wounds, saith the LORD; because they called thee an Outcast, saying, This is Zion, whom no man seeketh after. “ (Jeremiah 30:15-17)

Judah’s problem has been their own sin.  Like many people they cried and blamed God for their problems but it was their own actions that had resulted in what they were going through.   Because of their deliberate and ongoing sin, God has done things they don’t like to them but he hasn’t forgotten them.   The others who have hurt them will be taken captive by others and abused in the same way they abused Israel and Judah.  God will give them back their joy and blessings , though the world has called outcasts and said no body would ever want them. 

“Thus saith the LORD; Behold, I will bring again the captivity of Jacob's tents, and have mercy on his dwellingplaces; and the city shall be builded upon her own heap, and the palace shall remain after the manner thereof.  And out of them shall proceed thanksgiving and the voice of them that make merry: and I will multiply them, and they shall not be few; I will also glorify them, and they shall not be small.  Their children also shall be as aforetime, and their congregation shall be established before me, and I will punish all that oppress them.  And their nobles shall be of themselves, and their governor shall proceed from the midst of them; and I will cause him to draw near, and he shall approach unto me: for who is this that engaged his heart to approach unto me? saith the LORD.  And ye shall be my people, and I will be your God.” (Jeremiah 30:18-22)

God will not punish the nation of Israel as much as they deserve, but will bring them back to their own land.  The city of Jerusalem will be rebuilt on the rubble from the original city.  They will have their own ruler and will rejoice and give thanks for what god has done.  The population will grow and they will worship god, and He will punish all that oppose them.  Their leaders and governor will be Jews themselves, and will turn to the Lord.  For a short time after they returned from Babylon, Judah experienced these blessings as Ezra and Nehemiah describe, but they are only a sampe of what will be received at the end of time.   

“Behold, the whirlwind of the LORD goeth forth with fury, a continuing whirlwind: it shall fall with pain upon the head of the wicked.  The fierce anger of the LORD shall not return, until he have done it, and until he have performed the intents of his heart: in the latter days ye shall consider it.  At the same time, saith the LORD, will I be the God of all the families of Israel, and they shall be my people.”  (Jeremiah 30:23-31:1)

Like a tornado, God’s anger will go out and strike the wicked with no concern for who they are or how bad they are hurt.   Nothing will be able to stop his anger until it has run its course.  At the last days, God will again be the God of Israel and they will serve him. 

“Thus saith the LORD, The people which were left of the sword found grace in the wilderness; even Israel, when I went to cause him to rest.  The LORD hath appeared of old unto me, saying, Yea, I have loved thee with an everlasting love: therefore with lovingkindness have I drawn thee.  Again I will build thee, and thou shalt be built, O virgin of Israel: thou shalt again be adorned with thy tabrets, and shalt go forth in the dances of them that make merry.  Thou shalt yet plant vines upon the mountains of Samaria: the planters shall plant, and shall eat them as common things.” (Jeremiah 31-2-5)

In the past God delivered those of Israel who survived and were protected by God.  He has an everlasting love and will do the same thing again, drawing them to him.  Once again they will celebrate his blessings with music and dancing, they will again plant vineyards and reap the crops. 
For there shall be a day, that the watchmen upon the mount Ephraim shall cry, Arise ye, and let us go up to Zion unto the LORD our God.  For thus saith the LORD; Sing with gladness for Jacob, and shout among the chief of the nations: publish ye, praise ye, and say, O LORD, save thy people, the remnant of Israel.” (Jeremiah 31:6-7)

In the end days, when God re-establishes Israel, They will worship God wholeheartedly.  The watchmen’s job will be to remind them to go to worship rather than warning them of the approach of their enemies.  They will once again be an important nation, and will be praising God and calling on Him, as we have seen in  previous chapters.

“Behold, I will bring them from the north country, and gather them from the coasts of the earth, and with them the blind and the lame, the woman with child and her that travaileth with child together: a great company shall return thither.  They shall come with weeping, and with supplications will I lead them: I will cause them to walk by the rivers of waters in a straight way, wherein they shall not stumble: for I am a father to Israel, and Ephraim is my firstborn.” (Jeremiah 31:8-9)

About twenty years before,  during Josiah’s reign, in Jeremiah 3:17-Jeremiah prophesied, “At that time they shall call Jerusalem the throne of the LORD; and all the nations shall be gathered unto it, to the name of the LORD, to Jerusalem: neither shall they walk any more after the imagination of their evil heart.  In those days the house of Judah shall walk with the house of Israel, and they shall come together out of the land of the north to the land that I have given for an inheritance unto your fathers.”

Twenty years later they have been defeated by Babylon and are under attack again, and God repeats the prophecy, making it clear He has not forgotten his promises or turned his back on israel, even though they had turned their backs on him.

Monday, August 17, 2015

Jeremiah’s Prophecies to Be Preserved For the Future

Jeremiah 30:1-10

“The word that came to Jeremiah from the LORD, saying, Thus speaketh the LORD God of Israel, saying, Write thee all the words that I have spoken unto thee in a book.  For, lo, the days come, saith the LORD, that I will bring again the captivity of my people Israel and Judah, saith the LORD: and I will cause them to return to the land that I gave to their fathers, and they shall possess it.  And these are the words that the LORD spake concerning Israel and concerning Judah.” (Jeremiah 30:1-4)

Jeremiah had prophesied for twenty years before Judah went into captivity, and time after time they saw his prophecies fulfilled.  He prophesied for about twenty more years after Judah went into captivity and though almost no one acted on his prophecies, time after time the prophecies were fulfilled, demonstrating that they were from God.  Finally, Jeremiah was directed by God to put all the prophecies God had given into a book to prepare for a future time when Israel and Judah will be reunited and return to the land of Israel as a free country.  

Today, there are many questioning whether many other books should be included as part of scripture.  In Ecclesiastes 12:12-14, Solomon warned, “And further, by these, my son, be admonished: of making many books there is no end; and much study is a weariness of the flesh.  Let us hear the conclusion of the whole matter: Fear God, and keep his commandments: for this is the whole duty of man.  For God shall bring every work into judgment, with every secret thing, whether it be good, or whether it be evil.”  Quite simply, there are more books written than can ever be read, and trying to follow all of them will just exhaust a person and lead to confusion.  We need to focus on doing what God has said, not trying to live according to everything that has been written. 

The test of whether a prophet is from God or not is whether his prophecies are clear enough to be verified, and whether the short term prophecies  came true, to indicate whether the others could be trusted.    Some of the criterion for including or excluding writings from the canon of scripture were that the purported writer is named in other known records at the time he professes to be writing, that the writing style and information contained is appropriate for a writer to have known, in that time frame, that the writings do not contradict other writings that are known to be from God, and that they provide useful information about god and his working.  Thus, though the Chronicles of the Kings of Israel is not included, because it is strictly the historical record of what those kings did, even though it is mentioned several times in I Kings.  The book of Judith is an interesting story, but its claims cannot be verified.  Others are historically inaccurate, indicating they were not written at the times they purport to have been and some contradict the teachings of known scriptures, indicating they were not directed by the same mind that directed the writing of other scriptures.
II Peter 1:21 tells us, “For the prophecy came not in old time by the will of man: but holy men of God spake as they were moved by the Holy Ghost.”  Real scripture was directed by God, not just the author’s own ideas, and thus should agree with the other things that God has directed. In verse 20 of II Peter 1, Peter states that the first thing that must be considered.  “Knowing this first, that no prophecy of the scripture is of any private interpretation.”  Quite simply, no scripture can be interpreted except in light of other scripture.  Passages that contradict other scripture cannot be valid, and passages or interpretations which are not supported by other scripture cannot be trusted.  Is it possible that some book or writing has been excluded that is in fact scripture?  Perhaps, but thanks to the way scripture has been written, with every valid teaching occurring repeatedly, even leaving out one or more writings would not prevent our having a complete understanding of all scriptural doctrines.   At most such a passage or writing would only provide support for what the Bible already teaches.  It would not provide any new doctrines.  Jeremiah’s statement demonstrates what Peter said. 

“For thus saith the LORD; We have heard a voice of trembling, of fear, and not of peace.  Ask ye now, and see whether a man doth travail with child? wherefore do I see every man with his hands on his loins, as a woman in travail, and all faces are turned into paleness?  Alas! for that day is great, so that none is like it: it is even the time of Jacob's trouble; but he shall be saved out of it.” (Jeremiah 30:5-7)

Jeremiah describes the situation just before the restoration of Israel and Judah as being like a woman in labor, in pain and distress.  Daniel 9:24-27 tells us that there are seventy weeks or sevens of years, a total of four hundred ninety years that God will deal specifically with Israel.  “Seventy weeks are determined upon thy people and upon thy holy city, to finish the transgression, and to make an end of sins, and to make reconciliation for iniquity, and to bring in everlasting righteousness, and to seal up the vision and prophecy, and to anoint the most Holy.   Know therefore and understand, that from the going forth of the commandment to restore and to build Jerusalem unto the Messiah the Prince shall be seven weeks, and threescore and two weeks: the street shall be built again, and the wall, even in troublous times.  

And after threescore and two weeks shall Messiah be cut off, but not for himself: and the people of the prince that shall come shall destroy the city and the sanctuary; and the end thereof shall be with a flood, and unto the end of the war desolations are determined.  And he shall confirm the covenant with many for one week: and in the midst of the week he shall cause the sacrifice and the oblation to cease, and for the overspreading of abominations he shall make it desolate, even until the consummation, and that determined shall be poured upon the desolate.”

The first seven sevens or forty nine years refers to Judah’s return from Babylon and rebuilding of Jerusalem and the temple under the Persian Empire.   Sixty two sevens or four hundred thirty four years after that Christ would come, and eventually be executed and another group would take control of Jerusalem.  History proves that to have been the Roman Empire.  Finally there will be a seven year period where a powerful ruler will first make a treaty with Israel, then break it and attempt to destroy them, and they will be miserable.  At the end of that seven year period, popularly known as the Tribulation, God will restore Israel and Judah to their homeland and fulfill his prophecies.   
“For it shall come to pass in that day, saith the LORD of hosts, that I will break his yoke from off thy neck, and will burst thy bonds, and strangers shall no more serve themselves of him: But they shall serve the LORD their God, and David their king, whom I will raise up unto them.  Therefore fear thou not, O my servant Jacob, saith the LORD; neither be dismayed, O Israel: for, lo, I will save thee from afar, and thy seed from the land of their captivity; and Jacob shall return, and shall be in rest, and be quiet, and none shall make him afraid.” (Jeremiah 30:8-10)

At the end of the Tribulation, God will free Judah and Israel, reuniting them as a single nation as described in Ezekiel 37:21-22.  “…Thus saith the Lord GOD; Behold, I will take the children of Israel from among the heathen, whither they be gone, and will gather them on every side, and bring them into their own land: And I will make them one nation in the land upon the mountains of Israel; and one king shall be king to them all: and they shall be no more two nations, neither shall they be divided into two kingdoms any more at all.”

Thursday, August 13, 2015

Circumstances Didn’t Change God’s Word

Jeremiah 29:1-32

“Now these are the words of the letter that Jeremiah the prophet sent from Jerusalem unto the residue of the elders which were carried away captives, and to the priests, and to the prophets, and to all the people whom Nebuchadnezzar had carried away captive from Jerusalem to Babylon; (After that Jeconiah the king, and the queen, and the eunuchs, the princes of Judah and Jerusalem, and the carpenters, and the smiths, were departed from Jerusalem;) By the hand of Elasah the son of Shaphan, and Gemariah the son of Hilkiah, (whom Zedekiah king of Judah sent unto Babylon to Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon) saying, Thus saith the LORD of hosts, the God of Israel, unto all that are carried away captives, whom I have caused to be carried away from Jerusalem unto Babylon; Build ye houses, and dwell in them; and plant gardens, and eat the fruit of them; Take ye wives, and beget sons and daughters; and take wives for your sons, and give your daughters to husbands, that they may bear sons and daughters; that ye may be increased there, and not diminished.” (Jeremiah 29:1-6)

After  Nebuchadnezzar carried Jehoiakim, also known as Jeconiah away as a captive, the Israelites made his eight year old son Jehoiachin king, and rebelled against Babylon.  Nebuchadnezzar returned there months later and carried away Jehoiachin and most of the rest of the leaders as well.  making Zedekiah king instead.  Jeremiah was left in Judah, but he sent a letter to the people who had been carried away when Zedekiah sent messengers to Babylon.  In the letter he instructed them to establish homes and lives among the Babylonians, and flourish there. 

“And seek the peace of the city whither I have caused you to be carried away captives, and pray unto the LORD for it: for in the peace thereof shall ye have peace.  For thus saith the LORD of hosts, the God of Israel; Let not your prophets and your diviners, that be in the midst of you, deceive you, neither hearken to your dreams which ye cause to be dreamed.  For they prophesy falsely unto you in my name: I have not sent them, saith the LORD.” (Jeremiah 29:7-9)

They were to actively seek to strengthen the land of Babylon, because the their own prosperity and peace would be depend on the peace and prosperity of Babylon.  They were not to allow the prophets and leaders to stir up resentment and cause conflict with the Babylonians, claiming to have a message from God or a dream of freedom.   Such prophets and leaders were false prophets, lying to and deceiving the people.  They were not from God.    

“For thus saith the LORD, That after seventy years be accomplished at Babylon I will visit you, and perform my good word toward you, in causing you to return to this place.  For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, saith the LORD, thoughts of peace, and not of evil, to give you an expected end.  Then shall ye call upon me, and ye shall go and pray unto me, and I will hearken unto you.  And ye shall seek me, and find me, when ye shall search for me with all your heart.  And I will be found of you, saith the LORD: and I will turn away your captivity, and I will gather you from all the nations, and from all the places whither I have driven you, saith the LORD; and I will bring you again into the place whence I caused you to be carried away captive.” (Jeremiah 29:10-14)

God’s desire for Israel was only for their good, not the evil they expected.    If they will trust him and live for him in Babylon without rebellion or resentment, they can expect Him to keep His promises and to listen to their prayers.  When they devote their energies to pleasing God, he will reveal himself to them, and deliver them from captivity, enabling them to return to Judah.  It is very similar to what he commanded Christians in Romans 13:1-7.  “Let every soul be subject unto the higher powers. For there is no power but of God: the powers that be are ordained of God.  Whosoever therefore resisteth the power, resisteth the ordinance of God: and they that resist shall receive to themselves damnation.  For rulers are not a terror to good works, but to the evil. Wilt thou then not be afraid of the power? do that which is good, and thou shalt have praise of the same: For he is the minister of God to thee for good. But if thou do that which is evil, be afraid; for he beareth not the sword in vain: for he is the minister of God, a revenger to execute wrath upon him that doeth evil.  Wherefore ye must needs be subject, not only for wrath, but also for conscience sake.  For for this cause pay ye tribute also: for they are God's ministers, attending continually upon this very thing.  Render therefore to all their dues: tribute to whom tribute is due; custom to whom custom; fear to whom fear; honour to whom honour.

Any prophet advocating civil disobedience and violence is not sent by God and is rebelling against the powers God has established.  This does not mean we follow their orders instead of God’s, but that we trust God to take care of us and do not deliberately antagonize them. 

Because ye have said, The LORD hath raised us up prophets in Babylon; Know that thus saith the LORD of the king that sitteth upon the throne of David, and of all the people that dwelleth in this city, and of your brethren that are not gone forth with you into captivity; Thus saith the LORD of hosts; Behold, I will send upon them the sword, the famine, and the pestilence, and will make them like vile figs, that cannot be eaten, they are so evil. And I will persecute them with the sword, with the famine, and with the pestilence, and will deliver them to be removed to all the kingdoms of the earth, to be a curse, and an astonishment, and an hissing, and a reproach, among all the nations whither I have driven them: Because they have not hearkened to my words, saith the LORD, which I sent unto them by my servants the prophets, rising up early and sending them; but ye would not hear, saith the LORD.” (Jeremiah 29:15-19)

Since being taken into captivity there was a new generation of prophets and leaders coming to the fore.  Their natural instinct would be to look back at Judah and to want to return.  They needed to understand that those who had been left behind were not the ones who were blessed.   They would become like spoiled figs to God, and would be killed in battles, die of starvation, and of various pandemics, eventually being  almost totally wiped out because they refused to listen to God’s word and God’s preachers.   The few survivors would be despised wherever they went.    
“Hear ye therefore the word of the LORD, all ye of the captivity, whom I have sent from Jerusalem to Babylon: Thus saith the LORD of hosts, the God of Israel, of Ahab the son of Kolaiah, and of Zedekiah the son of Maaseiah, which prophesy a lie unto you in my name; Behold, I will deliver them into the hand of Nebuchadrezzar king of Babylon; and he shall slay them before your eyes; And of them shall be taken up a curse by all the captivity of Judah which are in Babylon, saying, The LORD make thee like Zedekiah and like Ahab, whom the king of Babylon roasted in the fire; Because they have committed villany in Israel, and have committed adultery with their neighbours' wives, and have spoken lying words in my name, which I have not commanded them; even I know, and am a witness, saith the LORD.” (Jeremiah 29:20-23)

Two of the new prophets and religious leaders were Ahab the son of Kolajah, and Zedekiah the son of Maaseiah.  They would be arrested and burned in the fiery furnace because they were claiming to be from God and were using their position to take advantage of others and seduce the women.  Their very names would become a threat to others that they would suffer the same fate, because God knew exactly what they were doing. 

“Thus shalt thou also speak to Shemaiah the Nehelamite, saying, Thus speaketh the LORD of hosts, the God of Israel, saying, Because thou hast sent letters in thy name unto all the people that are at Jerusalem, and to Zephaniah the son of Maaseiah the priest, and to all the priests, saying, The LORD hath made thee priest in the stead of Jehoiada the priest, that ye should be officers in the house of the LORD, for every man that is mad, and maketh himself a prophet, that thou shouldest put him in prison, and in the stocks.  Now therefore why hast thou not reproved Jeremiah of Anathoth, which maketh himself a prophet to you?  For therefore he sent unto us in Babylon, saying, This captivity is long: build ye houses, and dwell in them; and plant gardens, and eat the fruit of them.” (Jeremiah 29:24-28)

Another of the new prophets had sent a letter to Zephaniah the son of Maaseiah saying that God had ordained Zephaniah to become the new high priest and force out Jehoiada.  He said that God had called them to be his officers and to arrest and imprison anyone who claimed to be a prophet and went against their ideas.  He said they should have already arrested jeremiah for claiming to be a prophet and telling them they should submit to Nebuchadnezzar and plan on staying in Babylon. 

“And Zephaniah the priest read this letter in the ears of Jeremiah the prophet.  Then came the word of the LORD unto Jeremiah, saying, Send to all them of the captivity, saying, Thus saith the LORD concerning Shemaiah the Nehelamite; Because that Shemaiah hath prophesied unto you, and I sent him not, and he caused you to trust in a lie: Therefore thus saith the LORD; Behold, I will punish Shemaiah the Nehelamite, and his seed: he shall not have a man to dwell among this people; neither shall he behold the good that I will do for my people, saith the LORD; because he hath taught rebellion against the LORD.” (Jeremiah 29:29-32)

While Shelemiah’s message would resonate with patriotic Jews, it was a lie.  God sent a message that he had not sent Shelemiah, and that he would punish him, so he wouldn’t have any descendants in the nation, nor would he get to see the blessing God would one day do for Israel, though many others would survive and return to the land.  He was teaching the people to go against what God had actually said.  

Wednesday, August 12, 2015

Hananiah’s False Prophecy

Jeremiah 28:1-17

“And it came to pass the same year, in the beginning of the reign of Zedekiah king of Judah, in the fourth year, and in the fifth month, that Hananiah the son of Azur the prophet, which was of Gibeon, spake unto me in the house of the LORD, in the presence of the priests and of all the people, saying, Thus speaketh the LORD of hosts, the God of Israel, saying, I have broken the yoke of the king of Babylon. 

Within two full years will I bring again into this place all the vessels of the LORD'S house, that Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon took away from this place, and carried them to Babylon: And I will bring again to this place Jeconiah the son of Jehoiakim king of Judah, with all the captives of Judah, that went into Babylon, saith the LORD: for I will break the yoke of the king of Babylon. ” (Jeremiah 28:1-4)

Four years after Judah was invaded by the Babylonians, just after  Jeremiah had made the yoke described in chapter 27 and Zedekiah had assumed the throne,  in the fifth month of the year, Hananiah, one of the prophets, approached Jeremiah in the Temple.  He proclaimed before the people and the priests that God had said that he had set them free from Babylon’s power.   He stated that within two years, all the things that had been taken from the Temple would be returned, and that Jehoiachim would return and take his place as the rightful king of Judah.  All the captives would be returned as well because god was going to break the power of Babylon. 

“Then the prophet Jeremiah said unto the prophet Hananiah in the presence of the priests, and in the presence of all the people that stood in the house of the LORD, Even the prophet Jeremiah said, Amen: the LORD do so: the LORD perform thy words which thou hast prophesied, to bring again the vessels of the LORD'S house, and all that is carried away captive, from Babylon into this place.

Nevertheless hear thou now this word that I speak in thine ears, and in the ears of all the people; The prophets that have been before me and before thee of old prophesied both against many countries, and against great kingdoms, of war, and of evil, and of pestilence.  The prophet which prophesieth of peace, when the word of the prophet shall come to pass, then shall the prophet be known, that the LORD hath truly sent him.” (Jeremiah 28:5-9)

Upon hearing Hananiah’s prophecy, Jeremiah said he hoped it turned out to be true, and that everything would be returned as he said.  Unfortunately, in most cases in the past the prophets had warned about bad things such as pestilences or wars.  When a prophet prophesied about something good, they should hold him to the same standard as a prophet who prophesied about something bad , as described in Deuteronomy 18:20-22.  “But the prophet, which shall presume to speak a word in my name, which I have not commanded him to speak, or that shall speak in the name of other gods, even that prophet shall die.  And if thou say in thine heart, How shall we know the word which the LORD hath not spoken?  When a prophet speaketh in the name of the LORD, if the thing follow not, nor come to pass, that is the thing which the LORD hath not spoken, but the prophet hath spoken it presumptuously: thou shalt not be afraid of him.” 

When a prophet claimed to be speaking for God, if the prophecy didn’t happen it proved the prophet was not from God and they were to execute him.  Wonderful as Hananiah’s prophecy sounded, they should check it out before believing it. 

“Then Hananiah the prophet took the yoke from off the prophet Jeremiah's neck, and brake it.  And Hananiah spake in the presence of all the people, saying, Thus saith the LORD; Even so will I break the yoke of Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon from the neck of all nations within the space of two full years. And the prophet Jeremiah went his way.” (Jeremiah 28:10-11)

Hananiah took the yoke off Jeremiah’s neck and broke it, stating that God had said he would snap the power of Babylon in the same way, and that within two year’s time, all the nations would be free.  Jeremiah just walked away.    

“Then the word of the LORD came unto Jeremiah the prophet, after that Hananiah the prophet had broken the yoke from off the neck of the prophet Jeremiah, saying, Go and tell Hananiah, saying, Thus saith the LORD; Thou hast broken the yokes of wood; but thou shalt make for them yokes of iron.  For thus saith the LORD of hosts, the God of Israel; I have put a yoke of iron upon the neck of all these nations, that they may serve Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon; and they shall serve him: and I have given him the beasts of the field also.” (Jeremiah 28:12-14)

God directed Jeremiah to tell Hananiah that while he had broken a wooden yoke, by his prophecy and encouraging the Jews to continue to rebel, he was forging an unbreakable yoke of iron for them like the yoke all the other nations had.  God had given Nebuchadnezzar his authority and they were not going to be released from it.    

“Then said the prophet Jeremiah unto Hananiah the prophet, Hear now, Hananiah; The LORD hath not sent thee; but thou makest this people to trust in a lie.  Therefore thus saith the LORD; Behold, I will cast thee from off the face of the earth: this year thou shalt die, because thou hast taught rebellion against the LORD.  So Hananiah the prophet died the same year in the seventh month.” (Jeremiah 28:15-17)

God had not sent Hananiah, and he was lying about what God had said.   By causing the people to believe a lie, that God would overlook their sin, he was encouraging them to rebel against God.  He would die that same year for having taught the people to disobey God.   Just two months later, Hananiah died, proving again that Jeremiah was a prophet of God and Hananiah was not.  

Tuesday, August 11, 2015

Warning To Yield To Babylon

Jeremiah 27:1-22

“In the beginning of the reign of Jehoiakim the son of Josiah king of Judah came this word unto Jeremiah from the LORD, saying,  Thus saith the LORD to me; Make thee bonds and yokes, and put them upon thy neck, And send them to the king of Edom, and to the king of Moab, and to the king of the Ammonites, and to the king of Tyrus, and to the king of Zidon, by the hand of the messengers which come to Jerusalem unto Zedekiah king of Judah; And command them to say unto their masters, Thus saith the LORD of hosts, the God of Israel; Thus shall ye say unto your masters; I have made the earth, the man and the beast that are upon the ground, by my great power and by my outstretched arm, and have given it unto whom it seemed meet unto me.” (Jeremiah 27:1-5)

Jehoiakim would be dethroned by the Babylonians, and the Jews would make his son king, but Nebuchadnezzar would make Zedekiah king instead.   God commanded Jeremiah to make yokes and bands that were to be placed around his neck symbolizing slavery.  Like the slave collars and leg irons of early America.  When Zedekiah became king, the neighboring countries would send representatives to establish relations with him.     The messengers were to be sent back with the symbols of slavery to be sent to the king of Edom, the King of Moab, and the king of Ammon, the king of Tyre, and the king of Zidon with a message from God, that he had created all of them and he has decided who should control the various lands.    

“And now have I given all these lands into the hand of Nebuchadnezzar the king of Babylon, my servant; and the beasts of the field have I given him also to serve him.  And all nations shall serve him, and his son, and his son's son, until the very time of his land come: and then many nations and great kings shall serve themselves of him.” (Jeremiah 27:6-7)

God had chosen to place all the countries in the region under Nebuchadnezzar’s control.  They will be subject to him and his son and grandson until their time is up.  Once their time runs out, Babylon will become subject to other nations.  Neriglissar and Labashi Marduk were his son and grandson,  Later and Assyrian called Nabondius, took control of Babylon, placing his son, Belshazzar as regent to rule Babylon itself.  Belshazzar’s mother appears to have been a daughter of Nebuchadnezzar.  It was during his reign as regent that the Medo-Persian Empire and Darius the Mede ascended the throne.  Upon Darius’ death, Cyrus took control of the entire Medo-Persian Empire and it became known as the Persian Empire.  Although there were brief periods of independence, Babylon was ruled by numerous groups until the present day. 

“And it shall come to pass, that the nation and kingdom which will not serve the same Nebuchadnezzar the king of Babylon, and that will not put their neck under the yoke of the king of Babylon, that nation will I punish, saith the LORD, with the sword, and with the famine, and with the pestilence, until I have consumed them by his hand.  Therefore hearken not ye to your prophets, nor to your diviners, nor to your dreamers, nor to your enchanters, nor to your sorcerers, which speak unto you, saying, Ye shall not serve the king of Babylon:  For they prophesy a lie unto you, to remove you far from your land; and that I should drive you out, and ye should perish. ” (Jeremiah 27:8-10)

Most of the prophets, not only in Judah, but in the other countries as well, were seeking to encourage the people in fighting for their freedom.   God warns then not to fall for what those prophets and soothsayers say because they are lying and listening to them will result in the loss of their lands and total destruction of the nations. 

“But the nations that bring their neck under the yoke of the king of Babylon, and serve him, those will I let remain still in their own land, saith the LORD; and they shall till it, and dwell therein.” (Jeremiah 27:11)

Nations which submit to Nebuchadnezzar would escape with minimal punishment and be allowed to continue as nations under the Babylonian Empire.   When Nebuchadnezzar invaded Egypt, they did not resist, but submitted willingly, and as a result, the prophecy in Ezekiel 29:1-12 was never fulfilled, just as Jonah’s prophecy against Nineveh was not fulfilled.   They paid attention to Jeremiah’s prophecy.

“I spake also to Zedekiah king of Judah according to all these words, saying, Bring your necks under the yoke of the king of Babylon, and serve him and his people, and live.  Why will ye die, thou and thy people, by the sword, by the famine, and by the pestilence, as the LORD hath spoken against the nation that will not serve the king of Babylon?  Therefore hearken not unto the words of the prophets that speak unto you, saying, Ye shall not serve the king of Babylon: for they prophesy a lie unto you.  For I have not sent them, saith the LORD, yet they prophesy a lie in my name; that I might drive you out, and that ye might perish, ye, and the prophets that prophesy unto you.” (Jeremiah 27:12-15)

Jeremiah made a special effort to warn Zedekiah to yield to Nebuchadnezzar so Judah would not be destroyed.  He advised him not to listen to the prophets that were telling them to fight the Babylonians.  They were not from God, and were prophesying a lie to get the people to make god angry and drive them out and destroy them. 

“Also I spake to the priests and to all this people, saying, Thus saith the LORD; Hearken not to the words of your prophets that prophesy unto you, saying, Behold, the vessels of the LORD'S house shall now shortly be brought again from Babylon: for they prophesy a lie unto you.  Hearken not unto them; serve the king of Babylon, and live: wherefore should this city be laid waste?  But if they be prophets, and if the word of the LORD be with them, let them now make intercession to the LORD of hosts, that the vessels which are left in the house of the LORD, and in the house of the king of Judah, and at Jerusalem, go not to Babylon.” (Jeremiah 27:16-18)

Jeremiah gave the same warning to the priests and the people, that the prophets who claimed Babylon would set them free were lying.  If they listened to those prophets and resisted they would be destroyed.  If the prophets were legitimate, they would be praying that God not allow the rest of the Temple furnishings to be taken to Babylon instead of telling them that they didn’t have to worry. 

“For thus saith the LORD of hosts concerning the pillars, and concerning the sea, and concerning the bases, and concerning the residue of the vessels that remain in this city, Which Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon took not, when he carried away captive Jeconiah the son of Jehoiakim king of Judah from Jerusalem to Babylon, and all the nobles of Judah and Jerusalem; Yea, thus saith the LORD of hosts, the God of Israel, concerning the vessels that remain in the house of the LORD, and in the house of the king of Judah and of Jerusalem; They shall be carried to Babylon, and there shall they be until the day that I visit them, saith the LORD; then will I bring them up, and restore them to this place.” (Jeremiah 27:19-22)

When Nebuchadnezzar conquered Judah the first time under Jehoiakim, he had carried off the king and a lot of the gold and silver.  Judah then set up his son,  Jehoiachin as their king in an act of defiance.  Three months later, the Babylonians came back and took Jehoiachin captive and carried off a great deal more of the treasure, but left the Temple furnishings so that they could continue to worship god as they should.  Jeremiah warns them that rebellion will result in Nebuchadnezzar coming back and taking everything form the Temple, including the brazen sea and it bases it sat on.  They would  be kept in Babylon until the captivity ended, and would be returned when the Jews returned to rebuild the Temple

It is sad that the Egyptians would heed jeremiahs prophecies and yield to Nebuchadnezzar, thus escaping part of the Judgment, but Judah, who claimed to believe God would not, and were destroyed. 

Monday, August 10, 2015

An Attempt to Silence Jeremiah

Jeremiah 26:1-24

“In the beginning of the reign of Jehoiakim the son of Josiah king of Judah came this word from the LORD, saying, Thus saith the LORD; Stand in the court of the LORD'S house, and speak unto all the cities of Judah, which come to worship in the LORD'S house, all the words that I command thee to speak unto them; diminish not a word: If so be they will hearken, and turn every man from his evil way, that I may repent me of the evil, which I purpose to do unto them because of the evil of their doings.

And thou shalt say unto them, Thus saith the LORD; If ye will not hearken to me, to walk in my law, which I have set before you, To hearken to the words of my servants the prophets, whom I sent unto you, both rising up early, and sending them, but ye have not hearkened; Then will I make this house like Shiloh, and will make this city a curse to all the nations of the earth.” (Jeremiah 26:1-6)

Jehoiakin was originally made king of Judah by Pharaoh Necho of Egypt.  Eleven years later Judah was conquered by Nebuchadnezzar and he was carried away captive.  Shortly after he became king, God directed Jeremiah to deliver a message to the people of Judah who came to worship at the temple, warning them of the consequences of their disobedience.  He was to give them every detail, and if they would change their behavior, God would still change his plans and have mercy on them.

If they refused to listen to him or to obey the law, and continued to ignore the warnings from the prophets he had sent them, then the temple would be like Shiloh, and Jerusalem would be a curse to the rest of the world.  When Israel first conquered the promised land, under Joshua’s leadership they had set up the Tabernacle at Shiloh.  In Eli’s day in I Samuel, The ark of  the Covenant was take away by the Philistines who conquered the land and controlled Israel for several years.  Though Samuel continued to minister there, the ark was never returned and Shiloh lost most of its influence.  A hundred years later, David moved the Tabernacle to Jerusalem and Shiloh was completely deserted. 

In Psalm 78:56-61, David describes what happened.  “ Yet they tempted and provoked the most high God, and kept not his testimonies: But turned back, and dealt unfaithfully like their fathers: they were turned aside like a deceitful bow.  For they provoked him to anger with their high places, and moved him to jealousy with their graven images.  When God heard this, he was wroth, and greatly abhorred Israel: So that he forsook the tabernacle of Shiloh, the tent which he placed among men; And delivered his strength into captivity, and his glory into the enemy's hand.”  God would do the same thing to Jerusalem and the Temple if they continued in their sin.

“So the priests and the prophets and all the people heard Jeremiah speaking these words in the house of the LORD. Now it came to pass, when Jeremiah had made an end of speaking all that the LORD had commanded him to speak unto all the people, that the priests and the prophets and all the people took him, saying, Thou shalt surely die.  Why hast thou prophesied in the name of the LORD, saying, This house shall be like Shiloh, and this city shall be desolate without an inhabitant? And all the people were gathered against Jeremiah in the house of the LORD.” (Jeremiah 26:7-9)

Because Jeremiah was speaking publicly in the Temple courtyard to those who came to worship, the religious leaders of the day heard his message.  They didn’t like his message and challenged his statements.  They were sure they were God’s people and pronouncements that Jerusalem would be abandoned like Shiloh were considered treasonous. They wanted to execute him. 
“When the princes of Judah heard these things, then they came up from the king's house unto the house of the LORD, and sat down in the entry of the new gate of the LORD'S house.  Then spake the priests and the prophets unto the princes and to all the people, saying, This man is worthy to die; for he hath prophesied against this city, as ye have heard with your ears.” (Jeremiah 26:10-11)

The civil authorities were contacted and a hearing was called to decide Jeremiah’s fate.  The religious leaders declared he ought to be killed for contradicting what they stood for and accusing them of wrong doing, referring to what the people had heard him say.  

“Then spake Jeremiah unto all the princes and to all the people, saying, The LORD sent me to prophesy against this house and against this city all the words that ye have heard.  Therefore now amend your ways and your doings, and obey the voice of the LORD your God; and the LORD will repent him of the evil that he hath pronounced against you.  As for me, behold, I am in your hand: do with me as seemeth good and meet unto you.  But know ye for certain, that if ye put me to death, ye shall surely bring innocent blood upon yourselves, and upon this city, and upon the inhabitants thereof: for of a truth the LORD hath sent me unto you to speak all these words in your ears.” (Jeremiah 26:12-15)

Jeremiah was permitted to speak for himself as the Law required and he reminded them that what he had said was that if they would make the changes and do what the Law required they would be spared.  He went on to make it clear that executing him would not change God’s plans, except to add another layer of judgment to them.  He knew it was God who had sent them and killing him would not change that.    

“ Then said the princes and all the people unto the priests and to the prophets; This man is not worthy to die: for he hath spoken to us in the name of the LORD our God.  Then rose up certain of the elders of the land, and spake to all the assembly of the people, saying,  Micah the Morasthite prophesied in the days of Hezekiah king of Judah, and spake to all the people of Judah, saying, Thus saith the LORD of hosts; Zion shall be plowed like a field, and Jerusalem shall become heaps, and the mountain of the house as the high places of a forest.  Did Hezekiah king of Judah and all Judah put him at all to death? did he not fear the LORD, and besought the LORD, and the LORD repented him of the evil which he had pronounced against them? Thus might we procure great evil against our souls.” (Jeremiah 26:16-19)

Jeremiah had not actively tried to destroy the city or hurt anyone and the political and civil leaders concluded he had not committed any crime justifying a death sentence.  They reminded the people that a little over a hundred years before Judah had been threatened by the Assyrians, and a prophet names Micah had delivered a similar message to the people.  Instead of having Micah killed. Hezekiah listened to the message and turned the nation to God, becoming one of Judah’s greatest kings.  As a result, the destruction Micah had prophesied was avoided.  To ignore Jeremiah or kill him might well result in making his prophecy come to pass.  

“And there was also a man that prophesied in the name of the LORD, Urijah the son of Shemaiah of Kirjathjearim, who prophesied against this city and against this land according to all the words of Jeremiah: And when Jehoiakim the king, with all his mighty men, and all the princes, heard his words, the king sought to put him to death: but when Urijah heard it, he was afraid, and fled, and went into Egypt; And Jehoiakim the king sent men into Egypt, namely, Elnathan the son of Achbor, and certain men with him into Egypt.  And they fetched forth Urijah out of Egypt, and brought him unto Jehoiakim the king; who slew him with the sword, and cast his dead body into the graves of the common people.  Nevertheless the hand of Ahikam the son of Shaphan was with Jeremiah, that they should not give him into the hand of the people to put him to death.“ (Jeremiah 26:20-24)

About the same time Jeremiah made his prophecy, another man by the name of Urijah made a very similar prophecy.  King Jehoiakim and the civil leaders gave orders to have him killed and he fled to Egypt to escape them.  A unit was dispatched to Egypt to arrest him and return him to Judah where he was executed.   That Jeremiah was not killed was largely due to the influence of a powerful political leader named Ahikam.