Wednesday, February 27, 2019

Wed. or Thurs. - Jeremiah 23 - The Weight of Responsibility

EADERSHIP is an awesome responsibility. Here in Jeremiah 23 we find some rather pointed condemnations of the leaders of the Jews during the days of Jeremiah. This reminds me of Ezekiel 34. The pastors, the shepherds, the prophets, the kings, the priests; all who had rights and responsibilities as God's ministers of justice were in grave trouble because of their slackness in executing their office. The leaders of Jerusalem had served themselves at the expense of the people, rather than sacrificing themselves in service to their people. This bothered God a great deal.

One of the key truths to be reminded of here (in this passage) is that God intended to solve all problems through the sending of the Messiah (Jeremiah 23:5-6).  The contrast between failed human leadership and the perfect leadership of the Son of God is gaping. The more human leaders proclaim the soon arrival of real peace, the further we get from it (Jeremiah 23:17 & I Thessalonians 5:3). On the other hand, Jesus claimed that peace was already in existence. He brought peace with Him and offers it to us now (John 14:27). Human leaders always seem to claim to have the answers, but Jesus is the answer. Human leaders frequently claim that they are their own source of authority, but Jesus pointed to the decrees of His Father. Human leaders tend to lead people away from God (Psalm 2:1-3), but Jesus leads us to Him. The words of human agents are meandering and seasonal. The words of God are very different than that (Jeremiah 23:29).

Tuesday, February 26, 2019

Tuesday - Jeremiah 22 - A Family Astray

OSIAH’S sons, Jehoahaz (or Shallum), Jehoiakim and Zedekiah, as well as his grandson Coniah, were the last kings in Jerusalem. They were also targets of prophecy. In this chapter, it is recorded that Jeremiah had words from the Lord directed specifically at Shallum, Jehoiakim and Coniah. Now, Shallum and Coniah each ruled only briefly (about 3 months each), and their time in office was split by the 11-year term of Jehoiakim. This tells us that Jeremiah's sermon here was not meant for a specific day, but for a period of time. It was not against just an individual but was aimed at a whole system and way of living. Whoever was sitting on the throne of David and whatever the names of those men who stood around the throne, it did not matter. They were all corrupt. They all served themselves and built their own houses at the expense of everyone around them & beneath them (vs. 13).

God did warn them through the mouth of Jeremiah, but He did not imagine that they would surrender (Jeremiah 22:5).  The warning was more of an excuse or a justification for the impending judgment than it was anything else. Not that God did not sincerely want these people to repent, He did. But His knowledge is infinite. He understood their past and their future with equal clarity.  He knew of their guilt, and He knew of their coming misery. He knew fully the righteousness of their father and the unrighteousness of his offspring. His disgust, with Coniah specifically, was so intense that He even refused to use Coniah's full name, Jeconiah, because the prefix of his name "Je" was a reference to Jehovah. In other words, God refused to be associated with a man so wicked. Josiah had been a good king, but his family went after the ways of Josiah's grandfather, Manasseh and their own grandfather, Amon. The family was hopelessly lost.

Monday, February 25, 2019

Monday - Jeremiah 21 - Fight to Die, or Surrender to Live

HERE is nothing complicated in Jeremiah 21. Zedekiah (the king of Jerusalem) sent to enquire from Jeremiah to see if God would help him against the Babylonian invasion. The answer was a curt negative. In fact, the prophet's message was just the opposite of that for which the king was searching. God told these Jews to go out and surrender to the Gentile invaders (Jeremiah 21:8-9). This must have sounded so very odd to those proud Jews. Not only did God tell them that if they fought then they would die at the hands of their enemies, He warned that if they fought then HE would fight against them (Jeremiah 21:5). To some degree, they held their fate in their own hands, but their options were certainly limited. They could determine their own course of action, but they could not determine the consequences of those actions.

It is ironic, I suppose, that the same man (Pashur) who had been hard on Jeremiah was at this point inquiring at Jeremiah's feet (Jeremiah 21:1-2). I'm guessing that he was a bit humiliated by his assignment. This false prophet having to ask for the opinion of a true prophet!  Surely, he was uncomfortable with that. Pashur had been previously uninterested in the wondrous words and works of God, but now (due to the looming danger) he had to listen meekly, although the message was still not at all palatable to him.

Saturday, February 23, 2019

Saturday - Jeremiah 20 - The Smiting of the Prophet

EREMIAH had said enough. He had stepped on too many toes, condemned too many movers and shakers and annoyed more than his quota of consciences. So, who finally stood up against him with violence and vitriol? The chief governor in the house of Jehovah (who was also the son of a chief priest). Who else would want to silence the mouthpiece of God (all suspected cynicism intended)! He smote Jeremiah and locked him up (vs. 2). He only detained the prophet overnight, but it was one night too many. Not that Jeremiah was so much worse for the wear, although I believe he was indeed, but this governor (named Pashur) earned for himself a very dim future that night (vs. 3-4). Pashur was a prophet as well; a false prophet (vs. 20:6). Smiting the true prophet of God was the smaller of Pashur's crimes. Misrepresenting Jehovah's heart was His gravest infraction.

Now, talk about being smitten: in Jeremiah 20:7-18 we get to see into Jeremiah's heart a little bit. What we find there is that he was a man in a great deal of emotional pain.  What man of God begins a prayer to the Almighty by calling Him a deceiver? But, Jeremiah did just that (vs. 7).  Not that he really considered God to be a liar, he only meant that when he had surrendered to the prophet's call, he had possessed absolutely no idea of how difficult it really would be to fulfill it. He even tried to escape from his spiritual burden; to quit preaching altogether (vs. 9).  But even in this, he found misery and difficulty (vs. 9). He truly felt damned either way. He yet struggled with accepting his own plight.

Friday, February 22, 2019

Friday - Jeremiah 19 - Pottery Lesson #2

N chapter 18 we found the spiritual meaning behind the wet clay in Jeremiah's sermon illustration. In this chapter, the clay Jeremiah uses is already hard and dry. Naturally there is nothing wrong with clay being set and rigid. Once a piece of pottery has been formed just as was intended, it must be fired in an oven in order to become useful. Yet, what is to be done when clay has already been baked, and only afterward are the fatal flaws in the vessel discovered? In such cases, the clay becomes useless. Such was the plight of the Jews in Jeremiah's audience. They were only worth dashing in pieces like so many broken and worthless clay flowerpots.

As per God's instructions, Jeremiah went before the leaders of Jerusalem just to break "a potter's earthen bottle" before them as a spiritual lesson to them (Jeremiah 19:10-11). His message was, "Jehovah, the head of all armies, says this, 'In this way I will break this people and this city, as one breaks a potter's vessel, that cannot be made whole again: and they shall bury them in Tophet, till there be no place to bury."' It was a message of warning. God wanted them to realize that His threats were real, genuine, sincere and severe (Jeremiah 19:3). To describe what He had in mind for them, He chose the word "slaughter'' (Jeremiah 19:6) - Yikes! Was He being hyperbolic? I think not! He spoke of feeding them their own children (Jeremiah 19:9) and of feeding them to birds and to beasts (Jeremiah 19:7).  Their idolatry and stiff-necked rebellion were hatching out into a venomous serpent. The only solution was to break Jerusalem's neck.

Wednesday, February 20, 2019

Wednesday or Thursday - Jeremiah 18 - Pottery Lesson #1

OTTERY involves making objects from moist clay and then baking those objects to harden them, thereby giving permanence to their form and purpose. How absurd it would be to say that clay has a right to make demands of the potter. The potter is the one in charge. He is the creative one.  He is the owner of the clay. He is the one with energy, intelligence, strength and authority. Although it may sound dumb to say it: clay is just clay. A potter can choose to make a fine tea cup, a cheap spit cup, a doorstop, a flower vase or any number of items from a lump of clay. The clay really is just material in the hand of an artist.

Israel was clay in the hand of the Great Potter. And, they were still moist. This was part of the wonderful message of Jeremiah in this chapter. Their past did not guarantee their future.  Just because the potter starts making one type of piece, that doesn't mean that he can't change his mind. Jeremiah watched an actual potter who was working on a particular piece. Somewhere along the way in that process (perhaps because of the weakness of the clay that the potter was working on), the potter smashed the clay before him and started all over; making something different (Jeremiah 18:3-4). God's message for His people was that what He did with them depended not only upon His expertise and purposes, but also upon their willingness or unwillingness to yield and surrender to His hands.