Archive

Archive for the ‘Jeremiah Was a Dragon-Man’ Category

Jeremiah 33: You Are Not Rejected

September 24, 2017 Leave a comment

Most Christians I know have felt rejected by God at some point in their life. Some of them struggle with this feeling on a regular basis. This is especially true when they have some sin they keep repeating or believe they have committed a sin so big God cannot accept them again. As most of us have discovered at some point, sin has real negative consequences in our life, sometimes very grave consequences, and when we are facing this difficult repercussions, it feels like God is not there with us, and thus has rejected us. The people of God in Jeremiah 33 felt this too.

23 The word of the Lord came to Jeremiah: 24 “Have you not observed that these people are saying, ‘The Lord has rejected the two clans that he chose’? Thus they have despised my people so that they are no longer a nation in their sight. 25 Thus says the Lord: If I have not established my covenant with day and night and the fixed order of heaven and earth, 26 then I will reject the offspring of Jacob and David my servant and will not choose one of his offspring to rule over the offspring of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. For I will restore their fortunes and will have mercy on them.”

The people of Israel and Judah are in exile. They are no longer under their own kings, but are being ruled at home and abroad by the Babylonian empire. Their countries and their central cities have been destroyed. Their holy places are in ruins. And they know it is because of their sin, because they neglected justice and worshiped the gods of Babylon that YHWH allowed Babylon to destroy their nation. Naturally, in their present state of despair, they conclude God has rejected them.

YHWH has always allowed for freedom to sin. Such liberty is built into the structure of Creation. Sin, because it is a deviation from the good God’s design, has negative consequences. God allows for these negative consequences because He wants human choice to have power to impact the world positively. With this power also comes the ability to impact the world negatively. When these painful consequences occur, it is tempting to, like the exiles, believe God has rejected us.

As we see, this is not the case. God is not giving up on His people. He made promises a thousand years prior and hundreds of years prior which he is not abandoning. He is faithful even when the people who claim to follow Him are faithless. The end is not the present moment of suffering, the end is instead a full restoration provided not through the faithfulness of His people, but by his own mercy. He always has a plan for good.

For those who have seen Jesus in the Scriptures and met Him in our lives, how much more does this promise ring true! Jesus puts on display mercy and acceptance even of those who have rejected Him, even of those who killed Him, in a way so clear it cannot be mistaken. Jesus is the character of God in human flesh and in the gospels we see Him reaching out to the most rejected sinners on page after page. The message of God to His people is always, ultimately one of hope. He is always standing with open arms to all, even those who run from him, waiting for them to turn and fall into His unconditionally loving embrace.

Advertisements

Jeremiah 32: You Asked For This

At the beginning of Jeremiah 32, our prophet is locked in prison because he keeps telling besieged Jerusalem that they’re gonna lose. King Zedekiah is not a fan. Jeremiah’s response while locked up? He keeps saying things which would be quite troubling to the people in Jerusalem.

Jeremiah 32.26-35

26 Then the word of the Lord came to Jeremiah, saying, 27 “Behold, I am the Lord, the God of all flesh; is anything too difficult for Me?”28 Therefore thus says the Lord, “Behold, I am about to give this city into the hand of the Chaldeans and into the hand of Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon, and he will take it. 29 The Chaldeans who are fighting against this city will enter and set this city on fire and burn it, with the houses where people have offered incense to Baal on their roofs and poured out drink offerings to other gods to provoke Me to anger. 30 Indeed the sons of Israel and the sons of Judah have been doing only evil in My sight from their youth; for the sons of Israel have been only provoking Me to anger by the work of their hands,” declares the Lord. 31 “Indeed this city has been to Me a provocation of My anger and My wrath from the day that they built it, even to this day, so that it should be removed from before My face, 32 because of all the evil of the sons of Israel and the sons of Judah which they have done to provoke Me to anger—they, their kings, their leaders, their priests, their prophets, the men of Judah and the inhabitants of Jerusalem. 33 They have turned their back to Me and not their face; though I taught them, teaching again and again, they would not listen and receive instruction. 34 But they put their detestable things in the house which is called by My name, to defile it.35 They built the high places of Baal that are in the valley of Ben-hinnom to cause their sons and their daughters to pass through the fire to Molech, which I had not commanded them nor had it entered My mind that they should do this abomination, to cause Judah to sin.

At the beginning of this passage, God says he is about to give Jerusalem into the hands of those attacking it. This is one of the main ways the Scriptures explain God’s punishment of people. He allows the choices of kings and armies to take effect and the result is the destruction of Jerusalem and the exile of the people. God performs these judgments by allowing the natural results of human action to take effect in full force. He works with exercise of free will to accomplish his purposes, even when He purposes to express His wrath.

The text makes it clear why YHWH was angry and frustrated with His people. They were brazenly worshipping other gods. They worshipped these gods on their homes, they built altars and places of worship, and they sacrificed to other gods. They even sacrificed their own children to these other gods! Despite warning after warning from YHWH, they continued in these practices. They were not interested in being His people, they wanted to be the people of all the gods. YHWH doesn’t work this way. He wants people to follow Him alone or follow other gods. Not both.

In a sense, God’s withdrawal, which allowed the Chaldeans and Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon to capture Jerusalem, was exactly what the Jews wanted. God warned them what the worship of these foreign gods would lead to, and they continued in their idolatry. They wanted to worship Baal. They wanted him to have power. And guess whose god Baal is? Baal is the god of Babylon.

They wanted these gods to have power, now they do! Congratulations people, you did it. In a narrative sense, YHWH is allowing these gods to exert their power, through Babylon, upon the nation of Israel. Israel is getting exactly what they asked for in a different way than they desired. Their city is now being destroyed by the gods they worshiped and many of them will be shipped to lands where these gods are even more honored. The idols of Israel will become their rulers and ruin their lives.

Jeremiah 31: What’s In A Name?

March 9, 2017 Leave a comment

Reading chapter 31, a message from God to his conquered people who have been exiled to a foreign land, I noticed something new . The author repeatedly uses a unique name which I didn’t recall seeing so often during read throughs of previous chapters. “Ephraim,” the name for one of the tribes of Israel, is scattered throughout this passage. Here are its uses.

31.6
“For there will be a day when watchmen

On the hills of Ephraim call out,

‘Arise, and let us go up to Zion,

To the Lord our God.’”

31.9
“With weeping they will come,

And by supplication I will lead them;

I will make them walk by streams of waters,

On a straight path in which they will not stumble;

For I am a father to Israel,

And Ephraim is My firstborn.”

31.17-20
“There is hope for your future,” declares the Lord,
“And your children will return to their own territory.
18 “I have surely heard Ephraim grieving,
‘You have chastised me, and I was chastised,
Like an untrained calf;
Bring me back that I may be restored,
For You are the Lord my God.
19 ‘For after I turned back, I repented;
And after I was instructed, I smote on my thigh;
I was ashamed and also humiliated
Because I bore the reproach of my youth.’
20 “Is Ephraim My dear son?
Is he a delightful child?
Indeed, as often as I have spoken against him,
I certainly still remember him;
Therefore My heart yearns for him;
I will surely have mercy on him,” declares the Lord.

In the book of Jeremiah, the largest book in the Bible, there are seven uses of the word, “Ephraim.” Four of them are found in this one chapter. Only in this chapter is Ephraim referred to directly as an individual. All other uses are descriptive (hills of Ephraim, offspring of Ephraim). The frequency and uniqueness of the use of “Ephraim” here is a good indicator of a deliberate literary move.

After noticing this, I did some “research” (that’s a generous term for my brief internet search), on why. The first reason which came up explains the use of the term Ephraim at the outer layer of meaning. Ephraim was the strongest tribe of those which formed the northern kingdom of Israel, and thus using the name was shorthand for referring to all these tribes. I believe it safe to say the author intended to include all these tribes  when referring to Ephraim. However, it should be pointed out, there are already well established terms for distinguishing the northern from the southern kingdoms, Israel and Judah, respectively. This explanation doesn’t quite explain the why.

A few other people pointed out Ephraim is the second son of Joseph who was the second to last son of Israel (who also, as long as we’re going through this list, was the last born of Isaac who was the second born son of Abraham). These are those who were the chosen sons through whom God’s people would descend. In the ancient near east, the standard was for the firstborn son to receive the inheritance. God’s manner of choosing who would inherit his kingdom was different, unexpected, and often included those who were overlooked by others, the weak, the humble.

The implications of this are at least twofold. By focusing on Ephraim, the last born of all the patriarchs of the Israelite tribes, God is pointing out his love for the lowliest in society and his intention to elevate their status and do great things to them and through them. Certainly exiled Israel can identify with those in the lowest position at this time. This also hints at the gentiles, the latter born group of people, entrances into the kingdom of God with as much status as God’s firstborn, through the new covenant referred to in this chapter.

I will suggest it serves another purpose in the text. Full disclosure, I have a four month old son named Ephraim. So, I’m definitely inclined to pay more attention to his name than most. Conveniently, I also know what the Hebrew word Ephraim means in English. It means “fruitful.” Before we get into the implications of this, here’s why Joseph chose this name for his son.

Joseph entered Egypt as a slave, become a prisoner, and then the second most powerful man in the entire nation. He was forcibly extracted from his life and family and brought to Egypt against his will, and yet God still used him and gave him good things. In this context, when Joseph has his second son, he says they will name him ‘Ephraim, “For,” he said, “God has made me fruitful in the land of my affliction.”’

Egypt was not a place where God blessed Joseph only, but where he blessed all of the people of Israel for centuries. This foreign nation was where a small immediate family grew into a nation of people. And eventually, when this nation within Egypt were made into slaves, YHWH brought them out and blessed them elsewhere.

Jeremiah’s use of “Ephraim” should not only cause the reader to think “fruitful,” but also to think of the story of Ephraim’s naming. God has a history of making his people fruitful. He even does so when they are in a foreign land. He even does so when they were forced to come to the foreign land against their will. “Ephraim,” in a word, tells a story of hope, of God’s faithfulness to his people even when they are brought by their oppressors into a land of affliction. He has provided fruitfulness before in a similar context, he will do so again. YHWH is assuring Israel that despite their circumstances they are still his fruitful firstborn.

The hope God communicates, hope for freedom, hope for a renewed relationship, hope for future safety, brought about by a moment of complete forgiveness, is best summed up in 31.31-34.

31 “Behold, days are coming,” declares the Lord, “when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah, 32 not like the covenant which I made with their fathers in the day I took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt, My covenant which they broke, although I was a husband to them,” declares the Lord.33 “But this is the covenant which I will make with the house of Israel after those days,” declares the Lord, “I will put My law within them and on their heart I will write it; and I will be their God, and they shall be My people. 34 They will not teach again, each man his neighbor and each man his brother, saying, ‘Know the Lord,’ for they will all know Me, from the least of them to the greatest of them,” declares the Lord, “for I will forgive their iniquity, and their sin I will remember no more.”

Jeremiah 29

December 16, 2016 Leave a comment

I think I’m going to restart doing this regularly. I have a few creative outlets I’m focusing on right now, but I currently have none where I am specifically focusing on Scripture, save for sub 140 character twitter posts, but that hardly counts. This type of writing is also nice to do because it’s fairly easy and I hold it to a very low standard. These blog posts aren’t completely without thought, but they don’t require very extensive thinking either.

Jeremiah 29, huh. There are so many rabbit trails on which we could travel. I’ll work on staying focused and brief.

How about Jeremiah 29:12-14. These verses are a part of a message sent to people from Jerusalem who were taken and are now living in exile in Babylon. God chose to use this time to speak hope to His people in their time of potential despair. They didn’t heed Jeremiah’s warnings and repent, thus God chose not to prevent their conquering. So, now what. God didn’t protect them because of their sin. As covenant breakers in a foreign land, where do they stand with God? The passage in its

12 Then you will call upon Me and come and pray to Me, and I will listen to you. 13 You will seek Me and find Me when you search for Me with all your heart. 14 I will be found by you,’ declares the Lord, ‘and I will restore your fortunes and will gather you from all the nations and from all the places where I have driven you,’ declares the Lord, ‘and I will bring you back to the place from where I sent you into exile.’

The Jewish religious practices ascribe a lot of importance to objects and geography in the worship of YHWH. So much emphasis is placed on these things, the very presence of God is thought to be directly connected to them. God is where the Ark of the Covenant is. The Holy of Holies is where God’s presence is strongest. As one moves outward, the potency of God’s presence decreases. It’s next strongest in the sanctuary, less in the outer courts, still less in the city of Jerusalem, and still present, but weaker in the land of Judea as a whole. The further away one gets from the Temple, the further away one gets from God Himself.

If the presence of God is geographically related, then the exiled Jews have a problem. They’re in Babylon. They’re really far from Jerusalem and they can no longer make trips to the Temple. God directly addresses any fears about His absence. YHWH lets them know His presence extends even to Babylon. Away from home, under power of a foreign rulers, in the midst of a multitude of other gods, YHWH is with them. And He’s as available for relationship as ever. They need only seek Him truly and honestly to find Him. The promise of presence is wonderful and unexpected news to a people who thought their sin drove them away from God.

These words were penned to a very specific group (Jewish exiles in Babylon), at a very specific time (during the reign of Nebuchadnezzar – I don’t know dates people), with a very specific message (God will bring the Jewish people back to Jerusalem). How might a message of return from exile apply to followers of Jesus thousands of years later?

For most of human history, the people of God have been a people in exile. Followers of Jesus are no exception. We are told by new testament authors to identify so strongly as citizens of the kingdom of heaven that we consider ourselves as strangers in a foreign land wherever we find ourselves in the world. We are told to live like those whose home is elsewhere, whose home is different, than the place and culture in which we currently reside. In our exile, God speaks a message of hope – including promises of His presence where we are and promises of a return back to where we belong.

Ultimately, the people of God then and the people of God now are waiting for the same grand return from exile. It is the sin of the world which makes followers of Jesus exiles at present. It was the sin of the Israelites which made them exiles in their time. It was sin in the garden which exiled humanity from the world as it should be. All people of God across history look forward to this final return, when redeemed humanity is brought back to the home for which their heart has always yearned.

Jeremiah 28: God will reveal what’s true

May 13, 2014 Leave a comment

It’s been a while. Instead of blogging I’ve been working on other writing projects, or at least opening up the documents and staring at them blankly. I need my brain to do something else for a while I hope. Blog posts are kind of nice because they are self-contained units of thought and I don’t have to be concerned about what I want to write a hundred pages from now. Alright. Ramble over.

Jeremiah 28.2-4
Hananiah speaking –
“Thus says the Lord of hosts, the God of Israel: I have broken the yoke of the king of Babylon. Within two years I will bring back to this place all the vessels of the Lord’s house… I will also bring back to this place Jeconiah the son of Jehoiakim, king of Judah, and all the exiles from Judah who went to Babylon, declares the Lord, for I will break the yoke of the king of Babylon.”

Jeremiah 28.6-9

and the prophet Jeremiah said, “Amen! May the Lord do so; may the Lord make the words that you have prophesied come true, and bring back to this place from Babylon the vessels of the house of the Lord, and all the exiles. Yet hear now this word that I speak in your hearing and in the hearing of all the people. The prophets who preceded you and me from ancient times prophesied war, famine, and pestilence against many countries and great kingdoms. As for the prophet who prophesies peace, when the word of that prophet comes to pass, then it will be known that the Lord has truly sent the prophet.”

So, as I’m sure you’ll remember from 10 months ago, in the last chapter Jeremiah put a wooden yoke around his neck to represent the Babylonian takeover and exile of the Israelites. A yoke is used on people and cattle so that they labor more efficiently, specifically for the purpose of carrying a heavy weight. The implication of the yoke is that Israel will be subjected to Nebuchadnezzar the king of Babylon and he will be their ruler, making them to bear his burdens and labor to his benefit. Hananiah says that God declares that this yoke will be broken in a couple years while Jeremiah has been saying that if things stay the same, Israel will be subjected to the yoke of Babylon for 70 years.

Hananiah is working against Jeremiah with his prophecies. Hananiah is countering Jeremiah’s message of the coming wrath of God through Babylon by telling the people of Israel not to be overly concerned because it won’t last long. Throughout Jeremiah’s prophetic career, he has been warning of the coming takeover and exile by foreign powers because of the sin of Israel and has been met with opposition from others who claim that everything will be fine. Hananiah is just another example among many in the book of Jeremiah of a respected person in Israel who will tell Israel what they want to hear rather than what is true.

Jeremiah knows that Israel needs to hear the truth and believe that the sin of Judah has removed God’s hand of protection from them, and as a result Babylon’s intentions of taking over Israel will be successful. At first, it was important for the people in Jerusalem to believe this so they could turn from their sinful ways so that God would turn back toward His people and save them from the encroaching armies. Then, after the point of no return, it was important for Israel to believe the message of Jeremiah so they could prepare for their exile, understand how they were to live during the period of their exile, and have hope for a return to their land. Obviously being exiled is not desirable and therefore difficult to convince people of, especially when there are others who are trying to convince people that everything is fine.

It must be incredibly frustrating for Jeremiah when Hananiah comes in and contradicts his message. Given the frustrating circumstance, Jeremiah’s response is surprising. He doesn’t argue with Hananiah. He doesn’t yell at him or debate the point. Jeremiah doesn’t even reaffirm his own prophesies. Quite the opposite. He basically says, “I hope you’re right. I hope God does what you say He is going to do. God will make it clear whether your words are true or false soon enough.” Jeremiah doesn’t need to prove that Hananiah is a false prophet.

God does that for him. Later on in the chapter, God declares that since Hananiah declared the people of Judah will be back in two years, not only will that not come to pass, but Hananiah will be dead before the end of one year. Hananiah won’t even be around to see whether he was right. Then Hananiah died.

Jeremiah didn’t have to prove to everyone he heard from God. Jeremiah was not required to act out against those who were undermining his ministry. Jeremiah wasn’t required to counter every argument those who disagreed with him put forth. Jeremiah was given God’s words and asked to speak them. It was God’s job to reveal the truth of His word. And God did, ironically using a false prophet who was spreading lies to substantiate the truthfulness of the prophet Jeremiah.

Jeremiah 27: Seeking Those Who Lie

July 12, 2013 Leave a comment

“But if any nation or kingdom will not serve this Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon, and put its neck under the yoke of the king of Babylon, I will punish that nation with the sword, with famine, and with pestilence, declares the Lord, until I have consumed it by his hand. So do not listen to your prophets, your diviners, your dreamers, your fortune-tellers, or your sorcerers, who are saying to you, ‘You shall not serve the king of Babylon.’ For it is a lie that they are prophesying to you, with the result that you will be removed far from your land, and I will drive you out, and you will perish. But any nation that will bring its neck under the yoke of the king of Babylon and serve him, I will leave on its own land, to work it and dwell there, declares the Lord.”

Even as Israel insists upon its own rebellion and the armies of Babylon loom outside the gates, YHWH gives Israel a way out. YHWH pleads with Israel to take the way out. There’s no need to die. There’s no need to suffer the destruction of the city and the the destruction of people. Bend to Babylon and live. Certainly this isn’t a pleasant way out. Submitting to a foreign ruler isn’t a great way to live, but it is the way to live. Israel refuses to accept it.

They don’t have to accept, because everyone else they look to, prophets, diviners, dreamers, fortune-tellers, and sorcerers, tells them its not true. They seek for another opinion from a different presumed authority on the matter, and they find people willing to tell them what they want to hear. The truth of impending destruction is too distasteful, so they look for others to tell them lies which are more palatable. Their refusal to trust YHWH’s difficult truth is their undoing.

Telling people unpleasant truth is neither a fun business nor a profitable one. It’s not fun hearing it either. Telling people lies they want to hear is a much more enjoyable experience and lots of people, even in churches, are willing to pay to hear it. People want to hear lies when the truth is irksome and will look for others to confirm their sweet deception.

The problem is lies don’t do any good. Living in a pleasant false reality is fine for a moment but will bring destruction in the end. Surround yourself with those who speak the truth, even, maybe especially, the truths that are tough to swallow. Those who telling you only what you want to hear are leading you into darkness and destruction. Those who speak truth will guide you into light and life.

Oooh Jeremiah: YHWH is the Jesus I Know

June 3, 2013 Leave a comment

Then the priests and prophets said to the officials and all the people, “This man deserves the sentence of death, because he has prophesied against this city, as you have heard with your own ears.”

Then Jeremiah spoke to all the officials and all the people, saying, “The Lord sent me to prophesy against this house and this city all the words you have heard. Now therefore, mend your ways and deeds, and obey the voice of the Lord your God, and the Lord will relent of the disaster that he has pronounced against you. But as for me, behold, I am in your hands. Do with me as seems good and right to you. Only know for certain that if you put me to death, you will bring innocent blood upon yourselves and upon this city and its inhabitants, for in truth the Lord sent me to you to speak all these words in your ears.”

– Jeremiah 26:11-15

We’ve been through this again and again, and we will continue to, because it is beautiful. The people of Israel, as a whole, are doing some very destructive things. They are worshipping wood and stone. They are treating the poor with contempt. They are falsely accusing the innocent and letting the guilty go unpunished. They are in a constant state of hypocrisy by trying to follow the conflicting  rules and rituals of multitudinous religions. They engage in killing each other, and sometimes sacrifice their own children to idols.

YHWH still won’t give up on them. God still longs to bless them. When Jeremiah is facing potential capital punishment for speaking against these heinous behaviors, God doesn’t use this time to speak a final curse upon Israel. God uses Jeremiah to speak of repentance. YHWH speaks words of forgiveness for the past if His people would stop destroying their relationship with God and others. YHWH speaks of protecting Israel from the violent destruction they are on the cusp of.

The reason God’s patience is so striking is because YHWH has no need for Israel. God was never in need of humanity at all, and He certainly didn’t need one small tribe in the middle east. YHWH certainly could have found another group of people to accomplish His purposes in the world. He had no debt to Israel. He owed them nothing and He needed nothing from them, but He wanted to relent, He wanted to bless them, because YHWH loved them so much. So so much.

I too infrequently discover Jesus in the God of the Old Testament. But in passages like these, I see Messiah Jesus. I see a YHWH whose arms are constantly outstretched toward humanity even when their backs are turned. I see a God who refuses to stop caring no matter how much He is ignored. YHWH humbles Himself to humiliation in His pleas for relationship. YHWH will do all He can to draw His children into a restored relationship with Himself and with each other. YHWH is the Jesus I know.

%d bloggers like this: