April 17, 2015.
Daily Reading: Jeremiah 12-16.
Background: Jeremiah 7-11.
Concepts and Connections.
Jeremiah’s complaint and the Lord’s answer: Jeremiah looks out on the people in the land and sees the great evil that the leaders are involved in and complains to the Lord, asking why the wicked prosper and why the treacherous thrive. He doesn’t understand why the Lord has allowed those who were unrighteous to gain success amongst the children of Israel, and he asks the Lord that they be cut down. The answer from the Lord, however, is probably not exactly what Jeremiah wanted to hear. God tells Jeremiah that He has abandoned His heritage because they had abandoned Him. They had cast him off and not trusted in His name. They had not kept His law or walked in His presence. Therefore, the Lord had departed from them, and thus unrighteousness was prospering, for they were no longer seeking His guidance. The anger of the Lord burned against His people, however, and His judgement would soon come upon them. They would soon go into captivity, as will be a prominent theme throughout the book. Fortunately for Israel, the Lord was not going to execute complete destruction on His people, for after their punishment came, He would again have compassion on them and save a remnant. This too is a prominent theme in biblical prophecy.
1. Edgy visuals: It is very interesting at times what visual analogies the Lord choses to use to describe His people and the situation that they have gone into. He is not shy about using shocking images and ideas to get His point across, such as the sign of the prophet Hosea sent to marry a prostitute to depict what the children of Israel had done in a spiritual sense to the Lord (see Hosea 1, 3). Here the Lord uses the example of a loin cloth (and a spoiled one at that!), or what we would better recognize as underwear, to describe the children of Israel. Just as the loin cloth clings to man, so the children of Israel needed to cling to God. But they didn’t, rather they had went after other gods, and become spoiled and good for nothing, because the Lord had cut them off. And just like the ruined loin cloth that was left in the Euphrates, so would the children of Israel be as they went after other gods and did not cling to the Lord. The second edgy visual God uses is that of drunkenness, from jars filled with wine. He says that He will fill the inhabitants with drunkenness and destroy them because of their unrighteousness. The Lord’s anger had indeed been kindled against the children of Israel, and He used visuals that were very strong and pointed to get His message across.
2. Captivity: As is the case in many points of prophecy in the Old Testament, the judgment of the Lord comes through His raising up of a foreign nation to come against Israel and taken them into captivity. The ten northern tribes of Israel were the first to go into captivity, being overtaken by Assyria, but the two southern tribes of Judah were soon to follow. This is what Jeremiah is referring to in this oracle, as the Lord says that a nation from the north that will come against them. This nation would be the Babylonians, who were soon to defeat Judah and exile the inhabitants to a foreign land. Though this captivity would not last forever, it would indeed be a rough time for Israel. Only a remnant would be saved.
Disaster and lying prophets: Jeremiah often had a very difficult message to relay to the people, especially to a people who were already apt not to listen to him because of the prophets that they had that would speak to them good things, though their oracles be false. The beginning of this chapter houses one of these messages that would have been difficult to swallow for the people of the land, especially if the current state they were in was on of rest and prosperity. Jeremiah had a warning of rough times that were coming, times of drought and famine, times of sword and pestilence. This punishment was coming from the Lord for the people’s sins and iniquities. And Jeremiah is told once again not to pray for the people! The Lord had made up his mind and set it against His people, for they had not turned to Him, nor had they regarded His ways. The prophets who were supposed to be leading the people were speaking lies to them, giving them false hope and tickling their ears. Words that the people were much more apt to listen to as opposed to Jeremiah’s tough warnings. The Lord then turns the prophecy of destruction by sword, famine and pestilence onto the lying prophets. In the end, Jeremiah gives a lament and plea to the Lord at the end of this chapter, even though he was told earlier not to pray for the people. It seems that Jeremiah has a lot more faith in the people than what they were showing, for he cries out that they acknowledge their sins to Him, which probably wasn’t actually the case. Regardless, the mind of the Lord had been made up, and punishment was coming.
1. The Lord’s mind had been made up: To drive home the point of the concrete decision that the Lord had made, He says that even if Moses or Samuel were present to plead for the people, He would not relent of what He had determined to do. The use of Moses here is not accidental, when the story of how Moses pleaded with the Lord and influenced Him not to destroy the children of Israel at the bottom of Mt. Sini when they had made the golden calf after thinking Moses would not return from off the mountain (see Exodus 32:11-13). Samuel also interceded for the people many times, especially when they had made bad decisions. However, even these two would not be sufficient to turn the Lord’s anger away from the people, showing just how much they had grieved the Spirit of the Lord.
2. Jeremiah’s complaint: Jeremiah is often called the weeping prophet, and for good reason, as he has much to lament about over his people. Jeremiah raises another complaint here to the Lord. The people and the prophets of the land had turned their hand against Jeremiah, because of his hard words, and Jeremiah himself was facing persecution because of his oracles. He turns to the Lord and pleads for help, and the Almighty answers him with a promise to deliver him and keep him safe from the people as he continues to speak the true word of the Lord to the people. May we ever remember that though our way be rough and steep, the Lord is still by our side when we speak His word.
Destruction and restoration: Jeremiah is told not to take a wife or have children in Judah because of the great destruction that the Lord was about to bring on the land. God did not want Jeremiah’s family to go through what He was going to put the land through, for it was not pleasant. He was about to answer the people for all their iniquity, and the punishment would be severe. Famine, sword and death are words of vivid imagery that the Lord uses here to describe what is about to come on the people. However, His punishment would not be to the uttermost, for as we have seen in oracles past, the Lord again would have compassion on His people and save a remnant. The deliverance from exile would be compared to the deliverance that the Lord provided in the exodus from Egyptian bondage. The Lord would once again show His glory and bring His people back to their own land, the promised land that He had given to the sons of Israel, gathered once again together. But this would not come without them receiving the consequence of their sin first, however, and His punishment would be complete before He saved the remnant. The power of the Lord would once again be known among the people, and His glory would shine forth as is always should.
Tomorrow’s Reading: Mark 9-10.
All glory to Him.