May 29, 2015
Daily Reading: Jeremiah 42-46.
Background: Jeremiah 37-41.
Concepts and Connections.
God’s warning: At the beginning of this chapter, there is a sense that the children of Israel, or at least the remnant that was left in the land of Judah, were finally starting to come around and realize that the words that Jeremiah had spoken were from God. Those that are left after the fall of Jerusalem, the commanders of the army, come to Jeremiah and ask him to go in a pray to the Lord for mercy, and that He might tell them what they should do. After Jeremiah agrees to pray for the people, they assure Jeremiah that whatever the word of the Lord is, good or bad, they will do, calling God as their witness. We will see later that they would quickly turn back on their word, which probably was even worse than if they had not said anything at all. Jeremiah prays to God for the people, but notice the time period between his prayer and his answer. It was 10 days before Jeremiah heard an answer from the Lord. Note that God does not always work on our time frame. Nevertheless, God did answer Jeremiah with a warning to give to the people. He had heard their plea for mercy, and granted it, if they stayed in the land where they were. He even said that He would relent of the disaster that He had brought against them, and would make them find favor in the king of Babylon’s eyes, that he would allow them to stay in the land of Judah and that he would not come against them. However, if they did not trust the Lord but rather sought refuge in the land of Egypt as opposed to staying in the land, then the anger of the Lord would be kindled against them, and they would die by sword, pestilence and famine in Egypt, the very thing they were trying to avoid by going there. It is implied at the end of this chapter (and explicitly stated in the next) that the remnant of Judah, though they had said they would do anything that the Lord told Jeremiah to do, rejected this message and indeed choose to seek refuge in Egypt. This was displeasing in the sight of the Lord, and it would be the death of them.
Insincere hearts: In the previous chapter, the remnant of Judah came to Jeremiah and asked him to plea for mercy before the Lord, and they said they would do whatever the Lord told them to do, whether it was good or bad. Their hearts were not in this statement, however, as as soon as they heard the word of the Lord though Jeremiah, they immediately believed it to be a lie and told Jeremiah that the Lord did not actually say the things that Jeremiah told them He did. Denial is a common reaction to an unfavorable saying. Often we dismiss the truth simply because we don’t like it. This is what the remnant of Judah did, claiming that Baruch the son of Neriah, who had stood with Jeremiah in the past (see Jeremiah 32:12 and Jeremiah 36), had set Jeremiah against the people in a conspiracy to make Judah fall into the hands of Babylon. Thus, the remnant of Judah set their faces towards Egypt, taking with them Jeremiah and Baruch as prisoners. When they got to Egypt, the word of the Lord came again to Jeremiah and testified of His anger and judgment that He had against the remnant of His people, confirming the destruction that was coming upon them because they had not listened to the word of the Lord nor obeyed His voice. The Lord would give Egypt, in whom the remnant of Israel sought refuge, into the hands of Nebuchadnezzar the king of Babylon (who He calls His servant), and he would take captive Egypt, burning their temples with fire. The very outcome the people were trying to avoid would be their reality because they did not listen to the Lord their God.
Idolatry and disobedience: When the word of the Lord comes to Jeremiah here, we find that the remnant of Judah has moved to Egypt to take refuge there. The Lord tells the people to open their eyes to what has happened. Destruction had come upon Jerusalem just as the Lord had said it would, just as it came upon Israel, due to the disobedience of the people. They had fallen after other gods and not listened to prophet after prophet that the Lord had sent unto them. Now they could see that the words of the prophets had come true, which should have indicated to them why this destruction had come upon them- because they had forsaken the Lord their God, just as their fathers did. However, the people were blind to this. Instead of seeing their folly and repenting, they were now even sacrificing and worshiping the gods of the Egyptians! The people of God had not learned. Because of this, the Lord had set his face against His people, specifically against those who had set their faces towards Egypt, to give them to sword, pestilence and famine. None would escape, except for a few fugitives. The wrath of the Lord had come upon them because of their disobedience.
The answer that the people gave to Jeremiah, however, was a resounding “No.” Or perhaps a, “We don’t care. We aren’t going to listen to you.” They did not believe Jeremiah, for they had attributed their disaster to their lack of sacrificing to the queen of heaven. They had done this in Jerusalem, but seem to have stopped just before the disaster of the Lord had come upon them. Thus, rather than listen to Jeremiah (though everything he had told them thus far had proven to be the truth), they decided to go back to sacrificing to the queen of heaven, just as they had vowed. Jeremiah told them that this was the very reason that the Lord had set his face against them, but they wouldn’t listen. Thus, the Lord would not relent of the harm that He had purposed for them, and He would give Egypt into the hand of Babylon. The remnant that would not listen to the Lord would see disaster yet again.
Message to Baruch: This chapter would perhaps find a better placement after chapter 36, for it is the word that came to Jeremiah to give to Baruch the son of Neriah when he took dictation of the oracle. Baruch knew that the word of Jeremiah would come true, and he was anxious about it. The Lord said to Baruch that He was indeed going to uproot and bring disaster upon Jerusalem, but He would deliver Baruch wherever he went. The Lord knows who is for Him, and He cares for His people.
Judgement against Egypt: This chapter beings the final section (apart from the last chapter) of the book of Jeremiah in which are recorded the oracles that Jeremiah gave against the nations that were not God’s people. The first nation that is prophesied against is Egypt. Notice the beautiful langue that holds such a message of destruction. Egypt is called up for war against the king of Babylon, to make their army ready. But they would not succeed, for the Lord had chosen Babylon to be His instrument of judgment for the nations, those who served false gods. Though they would try, they would fall. No balm would be found from Gilead (a place that was known for their healing ointments) to heal the servants of Pharaoh, for the Lord was against him. Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon had been set against Egypt and Egypt would fall to him. The Lord would put Egypt to shame via the nation from the north (Babylon), and their punishment would be great. After the punishment, Egypt would be inhabited again as in the days of old. At the end of the oracle, the Lord addresses His people, to give those in captivity comfort, as He would deliver them from the hands of their oppressors in His time (note that these people would be different from those who set their face towards Egypt in chapters 42-44). He would not make a full end of His people, but would rather save a remnant. The situation they were in at the moment was for their punishment, not their utter destruction.
Tomorrow’s Reading: Luke 5-6.
Stand firm in the Lord.