A True Hope (Jeremiah 52:31-34)

Five years after Richard Nixon left the Washington D.C. in “tears and disgrace,” something remarkable happened. He received an invitation to attend a formal, state dinner at the White House as a guest of President Carter, to welcome Deng Xiaoping, who was coming on the first official visit of a leader of China to the U.S. Nixon, of course, had been instrumental in the two countries’ diplomatic relations. After all, “Only Nixon could go to China.” But now, given the circumstances, who would’ve expected the former president to be brought back “with all the pomp and dignity a presidency can offer?”

At the time, people speculated about how Nixon felt about it all. It’s hard to consider all the thoughts and emotions that would’ve been on his mind that night. Coming “to a stop, momentarily, atop the stairs of the North Portico…just before [entering], a reporter asked him how it felt to be returning. His response, spoken softly, had little to do with the question. ‘I’m here as a guest of President and Mrs. Carter. I look forward to seeing them again. I don’t want to comment on anything else,’ he said.”

Invitations like that aren’t common in political history, especially when your opponent is the one in power.

In the closing sentences of Jeremiah we have a similar story that’s even more extensive and astounding. It’s so unexpected because of the long chapters that precede it. It’s no surprise that a book whose musical soundtrack is Lamentations doesn’t have a lot of bright spots in it. Jeremiah is passage after passage of the failure of God’s people to believe and repent and turn to the Lord. The last section of the book, in particular, catalog the fall of the nation, the destruction of Jerusalem and the miserable, last-ditch efforts of the remnant to wriggle out of the judgment of God, only to be met by crushing blows. The tragedy is complete. But then, on the very last page we’re given four verses of hope. Hope that had been predicted by God through Jeremiah long before, but still astonishing when it arrives.

This portrait of hope stimulates us as readers to remember what’s still to come for our own lives and the world around us. And, when we find ourselves in times of confusion, difficulty, and defeat, it’s the true hope of God’s grace that we must remember, cling to and fill our hearts with.

Jeremiah 52:31 – 31 On the twenty-fifth day of the twelfth month of the thirty-seventh year of the exile of Judah’s King Jehoiachin, King Evil-merodach of Babylon, in the first year of his reign, pardoned King Jehoiachin of Judah and released him from prison.

Jehoiachin became king at age 18. He reigned for about 100 days when he was forced to surrender to Nebuchadnezzar and was taken to Babylon. He was imprisoned there for 37 years. All of Judea had been destroyed. The Temple was gone. The gold, the bronze, the people, all of it was gone.

Growing up, Jehoiachin would’ve had all the time he needed to think about his fate and how things had gone so wrong for God’s people. The prophets had been active. God’s word was still available. And yet, we’re told in 2 Kings he did what was evil in the Lord’s sight. Now, here he was, in the hopeless filth of a Babylonian dungeon, year after year, decade after decade.

But then, one day, a messenger came. Nebuchadnezzar’s son had given a pardon. In truth, it wasn’t just “one” day, but a very specific day. We see in verse 31 that God had been keeping count. The 25th day of the 12th month of the 37th year. I’m guessing Jehoiachin had long ago stopped making scratches on the wall of his cell. But God hadn’t. He is mindful of every occurrence of every hour of every day of your life. He sees and knows and has bent His thoughts and affections toward you.

Psalm 139:17-18a – 17 God, how precious your thoughts are to me; how vast their sum is! 18 If I counted them, they would outnumber the grains of sand;

In election years, candidates work hard to come across as people who care about “the little guy.” They make pledges to watch out for those they call “working class” and “average Americans.” The terms themselves betray what these politicians really think of the electorate. But, even if they are well-meaning about the citizens they represent, no fallible human can know how some of their decisions will negatively impact people. How could they keep track of such a thing?

But the Bible makes it very clear that God is ever-mindful of all the suffering of all the people of this earth. And He has made it His business to bring relief and redemption. He is not the author of our suffering. Look at Jehoiachin. He found himself in a Babylonian dungeon because of his wickedness and his nation’s refusal to accept God’s mercy. But God had still not forgotten him. Even for a crooked king like this God had grace. And the prison gates swung open. But that was just the start.

Jeremiah 52:32 – 32 He [Evil-merodach] spoke kindly to him [Jehoiachin] and set his throne above the thrones of the kings who were with him in Babylon.

Though guilty, the Jewish king had received a pardon. But then he was also given a throne, a place of honor and respect, in the court of the greatest empire on the planet at the time. Jehoiachin had no reason to expect such treatment. But look at what God was able to do: He was able to use a Babylonian king to show compassion and favor. Merodach, it seems, was genuine in his actions toward Jehoiachin. He spoke with kindness. He kept him in mind. He made it his business to grant him gifts and positions that Jehoiachin, as a conquered foreigner, had absolutely no claim to.

The analogy for us is direct. While we shudder to compare our matchless King Jesus to someone as base as Evil-Merodach, we can’t help but be reminded of the astonishing work of grace that Christ has accomplished on our behalf. We, who were in all ways guilty, we who were held captive by sin, were granted a full pardon though the personal work of the King, who paid the cost that we might not only be set free, but then given a place in His great Kingdom. He has thrones set out for His people, allowing us to rule and reign with Him in His Kingdom. We have no reason to expect such kindness. We have no right to claim such a position. But this is what God has done for us. Coming as light into the darkness of our sin so that we wouldn’t have to stay there but instead be rescued and transformed.

Jeremiah 52:33 – 33 So Jehoiachin changed his prison clothes, and he dined regularly in the presence of the king of Babylon for the rest of his life.

It’s explained in 2 Kings 25 that Evil-Merodach gave him these new clothes. And so we see that he wasn’t being brought out to be made sport of or to be mocked. In Judges 1 we learn about a king named Adoni-Bezek who had 70 kings who begged for scraps under his table. He had cut off all of their big toes and their thumbs and was entertained by their hardship. That’s not what was happening to Jehoiachin.

But he also isn’t being treated the way Pharaoh treated Joseph back in Genesis 41. Joseph was installed in power by the grace of God, but from Pharaoh’s perspective, Joseph had something to offer. He was going to be instrumental in the administration of Egypt. Jehoiachin offers nothing, yet receives liberty, a throne, new clothes, and feasting in the presence of the king for the rest of his life.

This is a pale comparison of the hope we have in Christ. We are bankrupt before Him. We add nothing to His power or His splendor. But it pleases Him to bless us. To give us a robe of righteousness. To give us thrones and crowns in His Kingdom. To feast with us in eternity. To allow us to be in His presence for the rest of our everlasting lives.

Presidential pardons are always interesting news. It’s a rare gift to have the highest office in the land wipe your slate clean. But, when people are pardoned, they don’t then become members of the president’s cabinet. He doesn’t then adopt them as sons. The more we ponder on God’s grace, the more astounding it is. He is the most kind, the most compassionate, the most generous Person to ever exist.

Jeremiah 52:34 – 34 As for his allowance, a regular allowance was given to him by the king of Babylon, a portion for each day until the day of his death, for the rest of his life.

The Lord was not only showing the power of His mercy, but also he was showing His great faithfulness. Back in Jeremiah 31, God had promised that, despite the guilt of His people, despite their refusal to obey, despite all the judgment that would have to be poured out as a result, one day restoration would come. One day, God would make a new covenant with them and remember their sins no more. And movements of God’s grace like we see here in chapter 52 are simply down payments on what God has promised. He will not forget, He will not withhold, He will not fail to do all that He has promised for us and our families and this world.

We still look forward to that time of final restoration, when God brings to completion all that He has been working on these thousands of years. It’s coming. It’s a true hope. If we find ourselves in some dark cell of suffering we can be sure of what God will do. Why doesn’t relief come sooner? Why doesn’t help come today instead of tomorrow? God’s ways are often beyond finding out. But we can be sure that He will do what He has promised and that He is working, even now, to accomplish His great purposes. Right now, in this moment, God is busy concerning Himself with your life. From the breaths you’re taking to the good works He prepared before the foundation of the world, inviting you discover and walk in, to the ultimate finish of your faith, when you step into eternity to receive an everlasting reward in His presence. God is busy accomplishing these and more in the individual lives of each of His children.

But, since that is true, why is there still so much difficulty? Why does God seem to move so slowly in some situations? Even considering Jehoiachin we think: “Once Nebuchadnezzar turned his heart over to the Lord, why didn’t he free these prisoners?” We don’t know. Jehoiachin would have to wait 37 years before these gifts were given to him.

We may have to wait much longer, but that is acceptable because know what is coming. Liberation from sin and suffering. Glorious feasting in the presence of Almighty God. It’s a sure thing. We can join with Paul and say,

Romans 8:18 – 18 For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is going to be revealed to us.

Matthew Henry wrote: “Though the night of affliction be very long, yet we must not despair, [for] the day [will] dawn at last.”

There are a lot of possible reasons why President Carter decided to bring Nixon back to the White House – a choice that was sure to offend many people. One suggestion is that it would be a political move to silence conservative critics at the time. It’s also reported that Carter initially refused the idea of having Nixon at the dinner, but that Deng Xiaoping said that if he wasn’t brought in, he would simply travel to California to meet with Nixon there.

God’s plan to work His grace and mercy in our lives has no such political motivation. He blesses us out of love. It is His love that motivates His actions and His long-suffering, His providence and His constant efforts. But these gifts of grace, forgiveness and salvation must be received in order to be effective in your life. God will not force you to receive His love or to love Him back.

Did you know that, in 1833, a man named George Wilson received a pardon from President Andrew Jackson. But, amazingly, he refused it. People didn’t know what to do. And so the case had to be taken up by the Supreme Court, who ruled that a person cannot have a pardon forced upon him, rather it must be freely accepted. And so, while records aren’t 100% clear, it seems that he hung for his crimes. It was a completely needless waste of a life.

If you’ve never been born again, you are imprisoned in your sin and your sentence is an eternity in hell. You may not feel the weight of your guilt today, but the Bible explains very clearly that the wages of sin is death. That no one comes to the Father except through Jesus Christ, who gave Himself for our sins that we might be saved and washed clean and reconciled to God. He is the gift the rescues us from hell, from this present evil age, and transforms us from the inside out.

Won’t you receive His pardon today? You can, right now, and it’s very simple. It is by grace you are saved, through faith. If you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved. If you will believe on Jesus, you will not perish but receive everlasting life. You can do it right now where you’re sitting. In the quiet of your heart call out to God and ask Him to save you and allow Him to accomplish that rescue work He’s so desperate to do in your life.

For those of us who are saved today, how might Jehoiachin’s story speak to us? Most of all, it should cause us to fill our hearts with thoughts of how great and loving our God is. Often, we’re quick to read a passage and think, “What do I need to do to be better?” But it is more important to simply meditate on who our God is and what He has done. When we do that, it causes our hearts and minds to fill of up with thankfulness and praise and appreciation and devotion. It causes us to press into Him and trust Him more and more. That’s what God wants. From there, God is the One who transforms our lives and our thinking and gives us directions and opportunities.

In the opening chapter of Ephesians, Paul reminds us of all that God has done for us. It has many parallels to these verses in Jeremiah 52. He talks about how God has lifted us up, rescued us, lavished incredible spiritual riches on us, and given us a new inheritance.

As a result, Paul says that this is what he desires for the Ephesians (and all other Christians by extension): That they would understand more the wealth of our glorious inheritance in Christ, that we would know what is the hope of His calling and that we would walk in it. Meaning, that we believe God and follow Him, receiving the extravagant gifts of grace, forgiveness, strength, peace and testimony He wants to bestow. That, like Jehoiachin, we would walk out of the darkness of sin and bring ourselves to the King’s table and spend our lives in His presence. That for the rest of our lives we enjoy the portion He’s offered us and pledge ourselves to serve Him, enjoy Him, praise Him and honor Him in whatever ways we can. That our lives would be beacons of heaven’s hope. A true hope, one that changes everything and is ready to be received today.

Don’t It Make My Blind Eyes Blue (Jeremiah 52)

One of the most inspiring quotes to come out of World War Two was Winston Churchill’s promise, “We shall fight on the beaches, we shall fight on the landing grounds, we shall fight in the fields and in the streets, we shall fight in the hills; we shall never surrender.”

More recently, “Never give up; never surrender!” was the creed of Captain Taggert, commander of the NSEA Protector.  It inspired his crew and the Thermians to defeat the evil warlord Sarris as he sought to invade the earth back in 1999.

It’s all chronicled in the film, Galaxy Quest.

Whether in fact or fiction, we don’t think too highly of surrendering.  It smacks of defeat.

Yet we robustly sing, “I surrender all,” as if it’s the easiest thing in the world to surrender everything to God.

It’s not, although it is necessary.  If you’re a believer in Jesus Christ, I know you want to surrender more-and-more until you surrender all.

Surrender plays a big part in the last chapter of Jeremiah.  Two of Judah’s kings are brought before us – Zedekiah and Jehoiachin.  One of them heeded Jeremiah’s counsel from The Lord to surrender to Babylon; the other did not.

For those kings, in that moment, surrendering to Babylon was surrendering to God.  That was His will for them.

One ran from surrender; the other walked in surrender.  You can guess already that the one who ran paid the price.  The one who walked in surrender – well, it wasn’t easy, but it was necessary, and in the end it brought God’s blessing upon him.

We are going to talk about our own surrendering to God.  I’ll organize my thoughts around two points:  #1 Run From Surrender To God And You Will Be Subjugated, and #2 Walk In Surrender To God And You Will Be Sustained.

#1    Run From Surrender To God
    And You Will Be Subjugated

Jeremiah had encouraged the nation of Judah to repent from her many sins.  His ministry spanned some forty years.

God had been trying to reach His wayward people for several hundred years prior to Jeremiah.

They refused to repent and turn back to God from idols so He determined to discipline them by making them subject to the nation of Babylon.

Jeremiah urged the Jews to surrender to Babylon:

Jeremiah 21:9 (NIV)    Whoever stays in this city will die by the sword, famine or plague. But whoever goes out and surrenders to the Babylonians who are besieging you will live; they will escape with their lives.

Zedekiah was not rightfully a king of Judah.  He was an appointed governor.  He was ruling at the time of the final siege against Jerusalem, refusing to surrender.  To make matters worse, he ran, trying to escape the Babylonians.  But as we’ve said, he was really running from surrendering to God.

Jeremiah 52:1    Zedekiah was twenty-one years old when he became king, and he reigned eleven years in Jerusalem. His mother’s name was Hamutal the daughter of Jeremiah of Libnah.
Jeremiah 52:2    He also did evil in the sight of the LORD, according to all that Jehoiakim had done.
Jeremiah 52:3    For because of the anger of the LORD this happened in Jerusalem and Judah, till He finally cast them out from His presence. Then Zedekiah rebelled against the king of Babylon.

Yes, The Lord was angry – at their sin.  At their worst they were sacrificing infants to Molech in strange and perverted idol worship.  God determined that it would require a time of captivity away from their land to turn their hearts back to Him.

Zedekiah refused to surrender.  He tried instead to escape.

Jeremiah 52:4    Now it came to pass in the ninth year of his reign, in the tenth month, on the tenth day of the month, that Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon and all his army came against Jerusalem and encamped against it; and they built a siege wall against it all around.
Jeremiah 52:5    So the city was besieged until the eleventh year of King Zedekiah.
Jeremiah 52:6    By the fourth month, on the ninth day of the month, the famine had become so severe in the city that there was no food for the people of the land.

We studied Jeremiah’s other book, Lamentations, on Wednesday nights.  The siege of Jerusalem was brutal.  To give you an example: The people resorted to necro-cannibalism.

They didn’t have to go through that siege; they should have surrendered.  It shows us how hard it can be to surrender – how much against our nature it is.

Jeremiah 52:7    Then the city wall was broken through, and all the men of war fled and went out of the city at night by way of the gate between the two walls, which was by the king’s garden, even though the Chaldeans were near the city all around. And they went by way of the plain.
Jeremiah 52:8    But the army of the Chaldeans pursued the king, and they overtook Zedekiah in the plains of Jericho. All his army was scattered from him.
Jeremiah 52:9    So they took the king and brought him up to the king of Babylon at Riblah in the land of Hamath, and he pronounced judgment on him.
Jeremiah 52:10    Then the king of Babylon killed the sons of Zedekiah before his eyes. And he killed all the princes of Judah in Riblah.
Jeremiah 52:11    He also put out the eyes of Zedekiah; and the king of Babylon bound him in bronze fetters, took him to Babylon, and put him in prison till the day of his death.

First he was bereft of his loved ones; then he was blinded; then he was bound for the rest of his life.

Subjugate means to bring under dominion or control.  It’s a very simple illustration, really.  If you run from surrendering to God, thinking you are going to be free, you end up being brought under the dominion of other forces.  Emotionally bereft, spiritually blinded, physically bound – you will be a prisoner.

Hold that thought for a while, because we need to read a large chunk of chapter chronicling the details of the fall of Jerusalem.

While I read it, answer this question: Why go into so much detail?

Jeremiah 52:12    Now in the fifth month, on the tenth day of the month (which was the nineteenth year of King Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon), Nebuzaradan, the captain of the guard, who served the king of Babylon, came to Jerusalem.
Jeremiah 52:13    He burned the house of the LORD and the king’s house; all the houses of Jerusalem, that is, all the houses of the great, he burned with fire.
Jeremiah 52:14    And all the army of the Chaldeans who were with the captain of the guard broke down all the walls of Jerusalem all around.
Jeremiah 52:15    Then Nebuzaradan the captain of the guard carried away captive some of the poor people, the rest of the people who remained in the city, the defectors who had deserted to the king of Babylon, and the rest of the craftsmen.
Jeremiah 52:16    But Nebuzaradan the captain of the guard left some of the poor of the land as vinedressers and farmers.
Jeremiah 52:17    The bronze pillars that were in the house of the LORD, and the carts and the bronze Sea that were in the house of the LORD, the Chaldeans broke in pieces, and carried all their bronze to Babylon.
Jeremiah 52:18    They also took away the pots, the shovels, the trimmers, the bowls, the spoons, and all the bronze utensils with which the priests ministered.
Jeremiah 52:19    The basins, the firepans, the bowls, the pots, the lampstands, the spoons, and the cups, whatever was solid gold and whatever was solid silver, the captain of the guard took away.
Jeremiah 52:20    The two pillars, one Sea, the twelve bronze bulls which were under it, and the carts, which King Solomon had made for the house of the LORD the bronze of all these articles was beyond measure.
Jeremiah 52:21    Now concerning the pillars: the height of one pillar was eighteen cubits, a measuring line of twelve cubits could measure its circumference, and its thickness was four fingers; it was hollow.
Jeremiah 52:22    A capital of bronze was on it; and the height of one capital was five cubits, with a network and pomegranates all around the capital, all of bronze. The second pillar, with pomegranates was the same.
Jeremiah 52:23    There were ninety-six pomegranates on the sides; all the pomegranates, all around on the network, were one hundred.
Jeremiah 52:24    The captain of the guard took Seraiah the chief priest, Zephaniah the second priest, and the three doorkeepers.
Jeremiah 52:25    He also took out of the city an officer who had charge of the men of war, seven men of the king’s close associates who were found in the city, the principal scribe of the army who mustered the people of the land, and sixty men of the people of the land who were found in the midst of the city.
Jeremiah 52:26    And Nebuzaradan the captain of the guard took these and brought them to the king of Babylon at Riblah.
Jeremiah 52:27    Then the king of Babylon struck them and put them to death at Riblah in the land of Hamath. Thus Judah was carried away captive from its own land.
Jeremiah 52:28    These are the people whom Nebuchadnezzar carried away captive: in the seventh year, three thousand and twenty-three Jews;
Jeremiah 52:29    in the eighteenth year of Nebuchadnezzar he carried away captive from Jerusalem eight hundred and thirty-two persons;
Jeremiah 52:30    in the twenty-third year of Nebuchadnezzar, Nebuzaradan the captain of the guard carried away captive of the Jews seven hundred and forty-five persons. All the persons were four thousand six hundred.

By the way, Jeremiah did not write chapter fifty-two.  Chapter fifty-one, you might remember, ended saying, “thus far are the words of Jeremiah.”
This chapter was written under inspiration by an unknown person; I say he was an historian due to the analytical quality and precision of the words.

So, why so much detail – especially about the articles and implements of worship?

Because God had also promised that He would return His people to their land and reinstitute their worship.  In the midst of all the destruction God saved a remnant who would return, and the things they would need when they returned.

The book doesn’t have a happy ending, but it does have a hopeful ending.  “And they all lived hopefully ever after.”

Back, now, to Zedekiah, bereft, blinded and bound, rotting away in prison for the rest of his life.  That is how I must appear to God in those areas of my life I refuse to surrender to Him.  He has grace for me to be conformed into the image of Jesus but I run away pursuing my own course.

I might end up literally subjugated.  Plenty of backsliders have found themselves bereft of family, blinded or otherwise physically debilitated, and bound by addiction or prison.

I’m not talking about some small, secret, unknown corner of my heart that has yet to be submitted to Christ’s Lordship.  I’m talking about us, as believers, rejecting God’s clear commands, directives, and boundaries.  I’m talking about willfully sinning and thinking God won’t do anything about it because I’m His child.

I’m talking about things like unbiblical divorce, fornication, adultery, and covetousness.
Don’t allow sin to destroy you.  Surrender to God in all those areas by simply submitting to His will as revealed by His Word.

Why don’t we surrender?  It isn’t easy to walk with God in surrender.  As we close out the chapter, as we look at Jehoiachin, we’ll see that walking in surrender was no walk in the park.

#2    Walk In Surrender To God
    And You Will Be Sustained

Chronologically, Jehoiachin preceded Zedekiah.  He was only eighteen years old when he became king of Judah, and he only reigned for 100 days.  He was the last direct heir of David to sit on the throne, and the last true king before the future return of Jesus Christ as King in His Second Coming.

He’s also called Jeconiah and Coniah in other passages.

Jehoiachin heeded God’s Word and surrendered to Babylon.  At first, there doesn’t seem to be too much difference between the results.  He, too, was imprisoned.  But his imprisonment and subsequent treatment was very different than Zedekiah’s.

Jeremiah 52:31    Now it came to pass in the thirty-seventh year of the captivity of Jehoiachin king of Judah, in the twelfth month, on the twenty-fifth day of the month, that Evil-Merodach king of Babylon, in the first year of his reign, lifted up the head of Jehoiachin king of Judah and brought him out of prison.

Thanks a lot, God.  I surrendered as you asked and spent the next thirty-seven years in prison.  What good did it do me to surrender to You?
I don’t mean to sound callous, but if you are Jehoiachin, your kids weren’t slaughtered before your eyes; you weren’t immediately blinded; and it doesn’t seem you were bound all the time.

I’m not saying prison was a cake walk… But those were the times. In which you lived.  Your nation had sinned and was subject to God’s discipline.

It was a best-case scenario for a subdued king; normally they’d be brutalized then murdered.

Let me be direct.  If your marriage is less than ideal, it is no excuse to refuse to surrender; it’s not a reason to run.  No; stay and walk with God.

You say you feel trapped?  Feels like being in prison?  Those are God’s walls and bars.  He wants you to experience His grace right there.

What if you’re not happy?  It should give you great joy to obey God!  If you find no joy in simple obedience to God, I suggest that is the heart of your problem.  You are the problem – your walk with God – not your spouse or any body else.

Apply the same spiritual mindset to other areas of obedience.

Look to Jesus.  He surrendered Himself completely to the will of the Father by coming as a man, laying aside His prerogatives of deity, and offering His life as a sacrifice for mankind.

Every descendant of Adam benefits from the work accomplished by Jesus on the Cross, and especially you who believe in Him as Savior.
Jesus isn’t asking you to do anything He hasn’t done in greater measure.

Besides, Jehoiachin’s incarceration wasn’t the whole story of His life.

Jeremiah 52:32    And he spoke kindly to him and gave him a more prominent seat than those of the kings who were with him in Babylon.
Jeremiah 52:33    So Jehoiachin changed from his prison garments, and he ate bread regularly before the king all the days of his life.
Jeremiah 52:34    And as for his provisions, there was a regular ration given him by the king of Babylon, a portion for each day until the day of his death, all the days of his life.

A change in administration in Babylon brought a sudden and unexpected change to Jehoiachin.  Suddenly he was elevated, exalted, treated like a king again.  He enjoyed a blessed retirement.

His name, by the way, has been discovered by archaeologists on cuneiform tablets in excavations in Babylon.

This doesn’t mean everyone who suffers a little will be released from it to coast through life.  But even if suffering is your constant lot in this life, one day you will sit with the King of kings around His banqueting table; and you’ll do it for eternity.

Surrendering is not a defeat; it is your only means for spiritual victory.  It was how Jesus conquered sin and death and the devil; and it’s how we are more than conquerors through life’s meager ups and mostly downs.
You only have two paths.  You can be Zedekiah and run; or you can be Jehoiachin and surrender.

In either case you’re going to spend some time on earth in less than desirable circumstances.

But as a Jehoiachin it won’t matter because Jesus will be there with you, sustaining you, through both buffetings and blessings, until you awake in His likeness and look full in His wonderful face.

The Original Sunk Rockers (Jeremiah 51)

Ever since Europeans came to America the idea of the United States as a land of special blessings has captivated us.  John Winthrop, the Puritan governor of the Massachusetts Bay Colony, famously drew upon the Bible to describe the early New England settlers when he said, “We shall be as a city upon a hill, the eyes of all people upon us.”

Certainly the United States of America seems to have been uniquely blessed by God.  But what if I were to tell you that every nation on the earth, throughout history, was preappointed by God for His own special purposes?

You might not believe me, but you will believe the apostle Paul.  In his famous sermon on Mars Hill, he said this about God and the nations.

Act 17:26    And He has made from one blood every nation of men to dwell on all the face of the earth, and has determined their preappointed times and the boundaries of their dwellings,
Act 17:27    so that they should seek the Lord, in the hope that they might grope for Him and find Him, though He is not far from each one of us;

Every nation has been “preappointed” as to its time to exist and the “boundaries” of both its geography and power in order to serve God’s purposes.  One of those purposes is so that men in those nations “should seek The Lord” and “find Him.”

Closing out the Book of Jeremiah are three chapters about the nation of Babylon.  Our chapter today chronicles her demise.  Her preappointed time to seek and serve God was ended.

Tucked within these sixty-four verses are two passages that can speak to us as believers in our preappointed nation.

I’ll organize my thoughts on those two passages around two points: #1 God’s Power Is Displayed So That Your Nation Will Seek Him, and #2 God’s People Are Dispatched So That Your Nation Will Serve Him.

#1    God’s Power Is Displayed
    So That Your Nation Will Seek Him

Since we are going to focus on verses fifteen through nineteen and verses fifty-nine through sixty-four, let me give you a very brief overview of the entire chapter.

In verses one through five God announced that Babylon would be defeated and destroyed for its treatment of Judah.  God had raised them up to discipline His people but they had grown proud and refused to acknowledge The Lord.
In verse six God told His people to flee Babylon ahead of the impending destruction.
In verse seven God spoke of how terrible was Babylon’s sin as a nation.
In verses fifteen through nineteen you see that both Babylon and her idols would be destroyed.
In verses twenty through twenty-four God called King Cyrus His “battle axe,” His implement of destruction to crush Babylon.
In verses forty-five through fifty-eight the Jews were told to prepare to flee with full assurance Babylon would be destroyed.
In verses fifty-nine through sixty-four you are told that God sent this message of destruction to Babylon in a scroll Jeremiah penned.  It was to be read aloud then tied to a rock and thrown into the Euphrates River to illustrate Babylon’s demise.

Look at verses fifteen through nineteen.  They transcend God’s particular dealings with Babylon and speak to us about His dealings with nations generally.

Jeremiah 51:15    He has made the earth by His power; He has established the world by His wisdom, And stretched out the heaven by His understanding.

God is the creator of heaven and earth.  We believe in what is called ‘special creation’ – the literal interpretation of the account of creation in the Book of Genesis, accepting it as an accurate historical account of the creation of the universe in essentially its present form over the course of six 24-hour days.

Creation is here described using the words “power,” “wisdom,” and “understanding.”

“He made the earth” focuses on the material aspects of creation.  In His “power” God spoke all things into being.
“He established the world” means in His “wisdom” God put the material world into an orderly system.
“Stretched out the heaven by His understanding” is interesting in that one of the meanings of “understanding” is discretion, which is the freedom to determine what should be done.  It tells us that God spoke the earth into existence, set it in an orderly universe, and is at work on the earth to accomplish something.

What is He trying to accomplish?  According to Paul, on Mars Hill, God is trying to encourage men to seek Him and be saved.

Jeremiah 51:16    When He utters His voice – There is a multitude of waters in the heavens: “He causes the vapors to ascend from the ends of the earth; He makes lightnings for the rain; He brings the wind out of His treasuries.”

Jeremiah used poetic language to say that if a person looks at the earth he or she will see that creation is speaking to them about the greatness and the glory of God.  The witness of creation is everywhere.

Psalm 19:1 The heavens declare the glory of God;
the skies proclaim the work of his hands.
Psalm 19:2 Day after day they pour forth speech;
night after night they reveal knowledge.
Psalm 19:3 They have no speech, they use no words;
no sound is heard from them.
Psalm 19:4 Yet their voice goes out into all the earth,
their words to the ends of the world.

Can it save?  Can a person be saved without specifically hearing about Jesus Christ?

Before you answer, I should tell you that there is a lot of disagreement upon that question among solid Christians.  There are three basic positions and differing views within each of them.

Restrictivism asserts that all unevangelized peoples are damned to Hell because they did not hear about Jesus Christ.  Apart from human preaching there can be no salvation.  R.C. Sproul follows a type of restrictivism.  He acknowledges that people will be judged according to the light they have, and that they have a law written on their hearts, but unless the Gospel is actually preached to them by a human messenger they are consigned to damnation.

Universalism goes to the other extreme.  It asserts that all unevangelized peoples will ultimately be reconciled to God and be saved.  For some universalists this takes place after death in some sort of second-chance scenario.  Universalism is based upon the unlimited atonement of Jesus Christ, God’s will that none should perish, and the sovereign love of God.

Inclusivism asserts that some of those who do not hear the name of Jesus can nevertheless be saved before they die if they respond in faith to whatever limited revelation of God they do have, e.g., creation all around them and conscience within them.  Salvation is only in Jesus Christ, in His death, burial and resurrection, but you need not be aware of all the specifics in order to believe in the God of the Bible.

Norman Geisler expresses a conservative inclusivist position when he writes,

Those who did not hear the Gospel could have, for God rewards those who seek Him (Hebrews 11:16).  When people respond to the light of creation (Romans 1:19-20) and/or conscience (Romans 2:12-15), God provides the light of redemption.  He knows exactly who will be where when the Gospel is preached (Acts 17:26) and He knows that no one who would have received salvation did not have the opportunity.

The passage we referenced in Acts 17 is clearly inclusivist because it tells us God has scattered nations all over the earth with the express purpose that men might seek Him.

God preappointed Babylon as a nation to discipline His people. Another one of His purposes in doing so was so they would seek Him.

Instead of seeking Him they turned to idols.

Jeremiah 51:17    Everyone is dull-hearted, without knowledge; Every metalsmith is put to shame by the carved image; For his molded image is falsehood, And there is no breath in them.
Jeremiah 51:18    They are futile, a work of errors; In the time of their punishment they shall perish.

Babylon’s idols were made of metal, stone, and wood.  An idol can be an idea or an ideal; it can be a person or a pursuit.
In Babylon’s case, God had given them creation and conscience, but He also provided His people and their testimony.

Jeremiah 51:19    The Portion of Jacob is not like them, For He is the Maker of all things; And Israel is the tribe of His inheritance. The LORD of hosts is His name.

God was “Maker,” i.e., creator, AND the Jews gave testimony to Him.

The existence of the nation of Israel is a powerful testimony to all the nations of the earth that there is a God Who is at work in history to redeem lost mankind.

God is at work, throughout history, all over the earth, in every nation that was, is or will be, to reveal Himself so men will seek Him and be saved.

Getting back to our own great nation, we have definitely been blessed, as Winthrop said, as the “city on a hill.”

What I didn’t know was that in the very speech in which he spoke about the “city upon a hill,” Winthrop qualified it by cautioning that, “if we shall deal falsely with our God in this work we have undertaken, and so cause Him to withdraw His present help from us, we shall be made a story and a byword throughout the world.”

Historian Donald Scott wrote,

In the decades following Winthrop’s speech most New England [ministers] preached less about New England’s divine mission, than issue deep laments about how far New Englanders had fallen from fulfilling the requirements of their covenant with God… “Jeremiads,” subsequent historians have called them…

And that segue’s nicely to our second point, that we be ‘Jeremiads.’

#2    God’s People Are Dispatched
    So That Your Nation Will Serve Him

Jeremiah gave his people several object lessons:

Jeremiah buried a linen belt and dug it up to show that God would save the remnant of his people (13:1–11).
He bought a clay jar from the potter and smashed it outside the city walls to show that God would destroy Jerusalem (19:1–15).
He bought a field in enemy-occupied territory to show that God would bring his people back home (32:1–44).

Now he had an object lesson for the Babylonians.

Jeremiah 51:59    The word which Jeremiah the prophet commanded Seraiah [Sa-ray-ah] the son of Neriah, the son of Mahseiah, [Ma-see-ah] when he went with Zedekiah the king of Judah to Babylon in the fourth year of his reign. And Seraiah [Sa-ray-ah] was the quartermaster.

Chronologically these events took place in chapter twenty-nine.

Against Jeremiah’s better judgment (27:1–22) King Zedekiah tried to rebel against Babylon in 594BC.  When the Babylonians got wind of the rebellion they ordered Zedekiah back to Babylon to declare his allegiance to Nebuchadnezzar.  He took his quartermaster, Seraiah, [Sa-ray-ah] with him.

When Jeremiah heard about Seraiah’s [Sa-ray-ah’s] mission he gave him the latest edition of his prophecy about Babylon.

Jeremiah 51:60    So Jeremiah wrote in a book all the evil that would come upon Babylon, all these words that are written against Babylon.
Jeremiah 51:61    And Jeremiah said to Seraiah, [Sa-ray-ah] “When you arrive in Babylon and see it, and read all these words,
Jeremiah 51:62    then you shall say, ‘O LORD, You have spoken against this place to cut it off, so that none shall remain in it, neither man nor beast, but it shall be desolate forever.’

King Nebuchadnezzar thought he was demanding that Zedekiah come to grovel before him.  From our perspective as believers we understand that God was dispatching Seraiah [Sa-ray-ah] to rebuke him.

Who was he to rebuke the world’s most powerful ruler?  He was God’s ambassador.

As a simple believer in Jesus Christ you possess great authority.  My favorite picture of this, in the Bible, is Phillip talking to the Ethiopian eunuch in the Book of Acts.  That man was a high ranking official in the government of Ethiopia.  He was being carried back home by slaves in a caravan.
Yet Phillip was the person with real authority to share the Gospel of Jesus Christ and bring that man to repentance and faith.

Then, as the Ethiopian was baptized, Phillip was raptured away to another city.  That’s real first class travel.

Jeremiah 51:63    Now it shall be, when you have finished reading this book, that you shall tie a stone to it and throw it out into the Euphrates.
Jeremiah 51:64    Then you shall say, ‘Thus Babylon shall sink and not rise from the catastrophe that I will bring upon her. And they shall be weary.’ ” Thus far are the words of Jeremiah.

What a great visual.  Babylon was sunk.

Did Seraiah [Sa-ray-ah] read “all these words” to King Nebuchadnezzar?  Did he read them publicly, like a street preacher with people passing by?

If he did either of those he likely was punished afterward and it therefore attests to his boldness in The Lord.

Perhaps he read these words to the Jews who had already been taken captive – like Daniel and his three friends.  If so, what an encouragement to them.

Each of us, in some small or great measure, are called to be a Seraiah [Sa-ray-ah] or a Phillip.  God dispatches us to people in order that we might let them know we are here on this earth to seek Him, to be saved by Him, and to serve Him.

We are only the “city on a hill” to the extent believers are the “light of the world.”
Matthew 5:14    “You are the light of the world. A city that is set on a hill cannot be hidden.
Matthew 5:15    Nor do they light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a lampstand, and it gives light to all who are in the house.
Matthew 5:16    Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven.

Immortal Combat (Jeremiah 50)

Some of you fans of Westerns might remember a particularly poignant scene from the 1989 miniseries, Lonesome Dove.  The two aging Texas Rangers were forced to take time away from their historic cattle drive to hunt down a gang of brutal killers.  Upon finding them they are dismayed to learn that a companion of theirs is among them.  Though he hasn’t done anything terrible, he has nevertheless thrown in with them.

The Rangers capture them and, according to their code, must hang them.  Their friend pleads for his life, saying, “I was just tryin’ to get through the territory without being scalped.”

Though they don’t doubt it, he has nevertheless crossed the line, and their remark to him is, “you ride with an outlaw, you die with an outlaw.”

Are you – and I’m now speaking spiritually – riding with an outlaw?  The devil is the outlaw god of this world and nonbelievers are said to be his witting or unwitting captives and conspirators.

God isn’t a Ranger; He’s your Redeemer.  The really good news is that even though we are all born outlaws, riding with the devil, there is hope.  A person can repent and receive Jesus Christ and, as the Redeemer, He delivers them from sin and death to live with Him forever.

What if a person doesn’t repent?  Then the Redeemer is required to act as a destroyer.  You will be left in your sin and die an eternal death with the devil and his fallen angels when they and all nonbelievers are cast alive into Hell at the end of the age.

Our passage highlights the role of God as Redeemer.  God is called the Redeemer in verse thirty-four.  In His role as Redeemer He would deliver the Jews in response to their repentance, but He would destroy the Babylonians for their rebellion.

In addition to exploring these contrasts between believer and nonbeliever we can talk about believers and our ongoing need for repentance that releases God to work in and through our lives.  You see, even though we’ve been redeemed, we are still being redeemed in the sense that “even we ourselves groan within ourselves, eagerly waiting for… the redemption of our body” (Romans 8:23) at the resurrection and rapture of the church.

I’ll organize my thoughts around two points: #1 Repentance Releases Your Redeemer To Act As A Deliverer, and #2 Rebellion Requires Your Redeemer To Act As A Destroyer.

#1    Repentance Releases Your Redeemer
    To Act As A Deliverer

The last few chapters of Jeremiah are dedicated to describing God’s judgments against the nations that most affected His chosen people.

The Babylonian Empire gets the most ink.  God had specifically raised them up to act as a discipliner of the Jews but then they grew proud and rebellious so God had to destroy them in turn.

The first section, verses one through twenty, are mostly about Israel’s repentance and return to The Lord releasing Him to deliver them from the Babylonian captivity and exile to return to their land.

Jeremiah 50:1    The word that the LORD spoke against Babylon and against the land of the Chaldeans by Jeremiah the prophet.
Jeremiah 50:2    “Declare among the nations, Proclaim, and set up a standard; Proclaim – do not conceal it – Say, ‘Babylon is taken, Bel is shamed. Merodach is broken in pieces; Her idols are humiliated, Her images are broken in pieces.’
Jeremiah 50:3    For out of the north a nation comes up against her, Which shall make her land desolate, And no one shall dwell therein. They shall move, they shall depart, Both man and beast.

Think of how this sounded to the Jews who were in captivity and exile.  God was going to topple Babylon and her gods while they – the Jews – would endure.  Talk about hopeful.

Biblical hope is the certainty that God will keep His promises. Every last one of them.  Find one and camp out on it until you see it come to pass.

Jeremiah 50:4    “In those days and in that time,” says the LORD, “The children of Israel shall come, They and the children of Judah together; With continual weeping they shall come, And seek the LORD their God.

This verse leaps ahead past our own time to the ultimate, final restoration of both Israel and Judah at the Second Coming of Jesus.  Not only would Judah endure through Babylon, Israel and Judah will see the fulfillment of all God’s promises to them.

Jeremiah 50:5    They shall ask the way to Zion, With their faces toward it, saying, ‘Come and let us join ourselves to the LORD In a perpetual covenant That will not be forgotten.’
Jeremiah 50:6    “My people have been lost sheep. Their shepherds have led them astray; They have turned them away on the mountains. They have gone from mountain to hill; They have forgotten their resting place.
Jeremiah 50:7    All who found them have devoured them; And their adversaries said, ‘We have not offended, Because they have sinned against the LORD, the habitation of justice, The LORD, the hope of their fathers.’
Jeremiah 50:8    “Move from the midst of Babylon, Go out of the land of the Chaldeans; And be like the rams before the flocks.

Adam Clarke commented, “the description that is here given of the state of this people, their feelings and their conduct, finely exhibit the state of real penitents, who are fervently seeking the salvation of their souls.”

In Jeremiah’s day The Lord used Babylon as a discipline to bring them to a heart of repentance so He could redeem them.  In the future God will use the Great Tribulation as a discipline to bring the Jews to a heart of repentance so He can redeem them.

Jeremiah 50:9    For behold, I will raise and cause to come up against Babylon An assembly of great nations from the north country, And they shall array themselves against her; From there she shall be captured. Their arrows shall be like those of an expert warrior; None shall return in vain.
Jeremiah 50:10    And Chaldea shall become plunder; All who plunder her shall be satisfied,” says the LORD.
Jeremiah 50:11    “Because you were glad, because you rejoiced, You destroyers of My heritage, Because you have grown fat like a heifer threshing grain, And you bellow like bulls,
Jeremiah 50:12    Your mother shall be deeply ashamed; She who bore you shall be ashamed. Behold, the least of the nations shall be a wilderness, A dry land and a desert.
Jeremiah 50:13    Because of the wrath of the LORD She shall not be inhabited, But she shall be wholly desolate. Everyone who goes by Babylon shall be horrified And hiss at all her plagues.
Jeremiah 50:14    “Put yourselves in array against Babylon all around, All you who bend the bow; Shoot at her, spare no arrows, For she has sinned against the LORD.
Jeremiah 50:15    Shout against her all around; She has given her hand, Her foundations have fallen, Her walls are thrown down; For it is the vengeance of the LORD. Take vengeance on her. As she has done, so do to her.
Jeremiah 50:16    Cut off the sower from Babylon, And him who handles the sickle at harvest time. For fear of the oppressing sword Everyone shall turn to his own people, And everyone shall flee to his own land.

The reason for Babylon’s destruction was they were “glad and… rejoiced” as they destroyed God’s “heritage,” referring to the Promised Land.  He says plainly they had “sinned against The Lord.”

God had raised Babylon up to serve Him but they became filled with pride.  They could have conquered Judah with a humility in recognizing themselves as merely a tool in God’s hand.

Jeremiah 50:17    “Israel is like scattered sheep; The lions have driven him away. First the king of Assyria devoured him; Now at last this Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon has broken his bones.”
Jeremiah 50:18    Therefore thus says the LORD of hosts, the God of Israel: “Behold, I will punish the king of Babylon and his land, As I have punished the king of Assyria.
Jeremiah 50:19    But I will bring back Israel to his home, And he shall feed on Carmel and Bashan; His soul shall be satisfied on Mount Ephraim and Gilead.
Jeremiah 50:20    In those days and in that time,” says the LORD, “The iniquity of Israel shall be sought, but there shall be none; And the sins of Judah, but they shall not be found; For I will pardon those whom I preserve.

These verses are rich in dual meanings.  The Jews would indeed return to their land after the Medes and Persians conquered Babylon.  They would, however, be scattered again – especially after the destruction of Jerusalem by the Romans in 70AD.

But there they are in their ancient homeland today; and there they will remain through the Great Tribulation unto the coming of The Lord to them.

Very simply put: The Jews repented and it released God to act on their behalf as their Redeemer to deliver them from Babylon.

Many of you, along with countless millions of others, have the testimony that you were riding with the devil and held captive by sin and habits that you were unable to break free from.  Then the Gospel was brought to you; your will was freed to choose and you received Jesus Christ.

When you repented, turning to God from sin, your Redeemer acted powerfully to deliver you.  You were transferred from the kingdom of darkness into the kingdom of light.  Old things passed away; all things became new.

Redemption, by the way, is a biblical term that encompasses past, present, and future aspects of your salvation.  It has to do with both the soul and the body, with the present life as well as with future life.  It has reference not only to the remission of sin’s penalty and the removal of its guilt, but also to the conquering of the power of sin and to the final removal of the presence of sin from the body.

All this summed up in Second Corinthians 1:10, “who delivered us from so great a death [past tense], and does deliver us [present tense]; in whom we trust that He will still deliver us… [future tense].”

Concentrating on the present, we’ve been delivered from the power of sin by Jesus Christ’s work on the Cross, but when we willfully yield to sin in rebellion to God, we come under its power again.  It becomes a master over us.  Repentance releases our Redeemer to deliver us again.  And again.  And again.

Is there something – anything – you need to repent of?  Do it!  Turn to God from it and let Him deliver you.

#2    Rebellion Requires Your Redeemer
    To Act As A Destroyer

Jeremiah’s full attention turns to the downfall of Babylon.

Jeremiah 50:21    “Go up against the land of Merathaim, against it, And against the inhabitants of Pekod. Waste and utterly destroy them,” says the LORD, “And do according to all that I have commanded you.
Jeremiah 50:22    A sound of battle is in the land, And of great destruction.
Jeremiah 50:23    How the hammer of the whole earth has been cut apart and broken! How Babylon has become a desolation among the nations! I have laid a snare for you;
Jeremiah 50:24    You have indeed been trapped, O Babylon, And you were not aware; You have been found and also caught, Because you have contended against the LORD.
Jeremiah 50:25    The LORD has opened His armory, And has brought out the weapons of His indignation; For this is the work of the Lord GOD of hosts In the land of the Chaldeans.
Jeremiah 50:26    Come against her from the farthest border; Open her storehouses; Cast her up as heaps of ruins, And destroy her utterly; Let nothing of her be left.
Jeremiah 50:27    Slay all her bulls, Let them go down to the slaughter. Woe to them! For their day has come, the time of their punishment.
Jeremiah 50:28    The voice of those who flee and escape from the land of Babylon Declares in Zion the vengeance of the LORD our God, The vengeance of His temple.
Jeremiah 50:29    “Call together the archers against Babylon. All you who bend the bow, encamp against it all around; Let none of them escape. Repay her according to her work; According to all she has done, do to her; For she has been proud against the LORD, Against the Holy One of Israel.
Jeremiah 50:30    Therefore her young men shall fall in the streets, And all her men of war shall be cut off in that day,” says the LORD.
Jeremiah 50:31    “Behold, I am against you, O most haughty one!” says the Lord GOD of hosts; “For your day has come, The time that I will punish you.
Jeremiah 50:32    The most proud shall stumble and fall, And no one will raise him up; I will kindle a fire in his cities, And it will devour all around him.”

Pride, pride, and more pride.  If you want to get a handle on this you can read about King Nebuchadnezzar being humbled by God thinking that he was the one who was responsible for Babylon’s position as a nation.  God caused him to behave like a wild beast for a period of seven years.  Nebuchadnezzar was brought to repentance; the rest of his nation was not.

Jeremiah 50:33    Thus says the LORD of hosts: “The children of Israel were oppressed, Along with the children of Judah; All who took them captive have held them fast; They have refused to let them go.
Jeremiah 50:34    Their Redeemer is strong; The LORD of hosts is His name. He will thoroughly plead their case, That He may give rest to the land, And disquiet the inhabitants of Babylon.

As Redeemer He would deliver the Jews and destroy their enemies.  Once they repented and God was for them, who could stand against them?

Jeremiah 50:35    “A sword is against the Chaldeans,” says the LORD, “Against the inhabitants of Babylon, And against her princes and her wise men.
Jeremiah 50:36    A sword is against the soothsayers, and they will be fools. A sword is against her mighty men, and they will be dismayed.
Jeremiah 50:37    A sword is against their horses, Against their chariots, And against all the mixed peoples who are in her midst; And they will become like women. A sword is against her treasures, and they will be robbed.
Jeremiah 50:38    A drought is against her waters, and they will be dried up. For it is the land of carved images, And they are insane with their idols.
Jeremiah 50:39    “Therefore the wild desert beasts shall dwell there with the jackals, And the ostriches shall dwell in it. It shall be inhabited no more forever, Nor shall it be dwelt in from generation to generation.
Jeremiah 50:40    As God overthrew Sodom and Gomorrah And their neighbors,” says the LORD, “So no one shall reside there, Nor son of man dwell in it.

This prophecy has not yet been fulfilled.  Babylon has been inhabited throughout her history and the government of Iraq has begun restoring some portions of the ancient city.
The prophecy about Babylon’s complete ruin awaits a future fulfillment during the Tribulation period.

Jeremiah 50:41    “Behold, a people shall come from the north, And a great nation and many kings Shall be raised up from the ends of the earth.
Jeremiah 50:42    They shall hold the bow and the lance; They are cruel and shall not show mercy. Their voice shall roar like the sea; They shall ride on horses, Set in array, like a man for the battle, Against you, O daughter of Babylon.
Jeremiah 50:43    “The king of Babylon has heard the report about them, And his hands grow feeble; Anguish has taken hold of him, Pangs as of a woman in childbirth.
Jeremiah 50:44    “Behold, he shall come up like a lion from the floodplain of the Jordan Against the dwelling place of the strong; But I will make them suddenly run away from her. And who is a chosen man that I may appoint over her? For who is like Me? Who will arraign Me? And who is that shepherd Who will withstand Me?”
Jeremiah 50:45    Therefore hear the counsel of the LORD that He has taken against Babylon, And His purposes that He has proposed against the land of the Chaldeans: Surely the least of the flock shall draw them out; Surely He will make their dwelling place desolate with them.
Jeremiah 50:46    At the noise of the taking of Babylon The earth trembles, And the cry is heard among the nations.

Daniel, taken captive to Babylon, would write of the succession of nations.  Assyria… Babylon… Medo-Persia… Greece… Rome.  All these rose and fell as prophesied.

He also was shown a revived Roman Empire in the last days – a final kingdom ruled by the devil and his antichrist before the coming of Jesus to establish His kingdom.

Meanwhile warfare rages – spiritual warfare, with real casualties in terms of human suffering.  It troubles people that God would allow the level of sin, suffering and sadness we see in the world.  I dare say it it the excuse many nonbelievers use to keep from really thinking about The Lord.  It can be equally troubling to believers.

I mentioned we are engaged in spiritual warfare.  Are you at all familiar with the military concept of acceptable losses?  It is the number of anticipated casualties  in any offensive.  For example, the Normandy Invasion in World War 2 was crucial to ending the war.  The Allied Forces knew there would be heavy casualties.  In April and May 1944 the Allied air forces lost nearly 12,000 men and over 2,000 aircraft in operations which paved the way for D-Day.

The Allied casualties figures for D-Day have generally been estimated at 10,000, including 2500 dead.  More recent painstaking research by the US National D-Day Memorial Foundation has achieved a more accurate – and much higher – figure for the Allied personnel who were killed on D-Day.  So far they have verified 2499 American D-Day fatalities and 1915 from the other Allied nations, a total of 4414 dead (much higher than the traditional figure of 2500 dead).

The total German casualties on D-Day are not known, but are estimated as being between 4000 and 9000 men.

Over 425,000 Allied and German troops were killed, wounded or went missing during the Battle of Normandy.  This figure includes over 209,000 Allied casualties, with nearly 37,000 dead amongst the ground forces and a further 16,714 deaths amongst the Allied air forces.  The losses of the German forces during the Battle of Normandy can only be estimated.  Roughly 200,000 German troops were killed or wounded.

Between 15,000 and 20,000 French civilians were killed, mainly as a result of Allied bombing.

The Allied commanders deemed these losses acceptable given the overall objective.

Yes, spiritual warfare still rages on the earth, and it will until the Second Coming of Jesus Christ and beyond that to the end of the thousand year reign of Jesus Christ on the earth, when the devil will lead one, final, desperate rebellion.

Multiplied millions of souls will be saved during this time of spiritual warfare.  That objective would certainly justify our present suffering as acceptable.  God’s longsuffering waits, not willing any should perish, but that all would come to eternal life.

In terms of our study, God wants to act as the Redeemer who delivers rather than destroys.

Illustrations always fail at some point.  Comparing our spiritual warfare to military conflicts fails because we are never casualties in the warfare.  We are conquerors – ” more than conquerors” – as we engage the enemy in battle.

Romans 8:37    Yet in all these things we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us.
Romans 8:38    For I am persuaded that neither death nor life, nor angels nor principalities nor powers, nor things present nor things to come,
Romans 8:39    nor height nor depth, nor any other created thing, shall be able to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.

We are certainly unusual as soldiers.  Listen to this description of our equipping and strategy:

2Corinthians 6:4    But in all things we commend ourselves as ministers of God: in much patience, in tribulations, in needs, in distresses,
2Corinthians 6:5    in stripes, in imprisonments, in tumults, in labors, in sleeplessness, in fastings;
2Corinthians 6:6    by purity, by knowledge, by longsuffering, by kindness, by the Holy Spirit, by sincere love,

Don’t think of yourself, ever, as a acceptable casualty.  We are God’s accepted conquerors.

Yes, the battle rages, but it’s a battle for souls.  We know that our Redeemer lives to deliver.  But He is coming to destroy and we have work to do until that day.

Keep Your Friend Close, But Your Enemy Conquered (Jeremiah 49)

If you think of yourself, as a believer in Jesus Christ, as being surrounded by fierce enemies, you’ll get something out of today’s text.

Judah was surrounded by fierce enemies.  Ever wonder why God left those enemies in the land?

The answer in found in a passage in the OT book of Judges.

In chapter three you read, “now these are the nations which the LORD left, that He might test Israel by them, that is, all who had not known any of the wars in Canaan   (this was only so that the generations of the children of Israel might be taught to know war, at least those who had not formerly known it)…”

God wasn’t testing them to see them fail.  Quite the opposite.  It was to show them success.  It was one thing to hear stories like the one about Joshua marching on Jericho and the walls falling down by the miraculous intervention of God.  It was quite another to experience that sort of thing by faith for yourself.

We, too, are surrounded by enemies.  It is said of us, as believers,

Ephesians 2:2-3a. You once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience – among whom we all once lived in the passions of our flesh…

Our enemies are the world, the devil, and our flesh.

The “course of this world” refers to the ways of culture and society that oppose The LORD.  There are ungodly trends in the world – materialism, naturalism, desire for instant gratification, and more – that once ruled all of our passions but are now defeated in Christ.
The devil is real and he rules as “the prince of the power of the air.”  He is elsewhere called “the god of this world.”  With him are legions of fallen angels we now call demons.  He also influences nonbelievers to be against us, here called ” the sons of disobedience.”
Our “flesh” isn’t our physical body per se but rather that principle in our human bodies that remains after we are saved demanding we fulfill its sinful appetites; or that we satisfy its normal appetites in sinful ways.

These remain as enemies for us to battle so we might experience firsthand the power of God by faith for ourselves.

Revivalist and author Vance Havner probably had this in mind when he said, “The enemy surrounds us; don’t let one escape!”

Surrounded from without by the world and the devil and having an enemy within, we are not conquered but are more than conquerors through Jesus.

We will encounter six of Judah’s enemies and, for each one, I’ll organize my thoughts around two points: #1 There’s Always Something About Your Enemy That Appeals To You, but #2 There’s Always Something About God That He Reveals To You.

We start with Ammon.

Jeremiah 49:1    Against the Ammonites. Thus says the LORD: “Has Israel no sons? Has he no heir? Why then does Milcom inherit Gad, And his people dwell in its cities?
Jeremiah 49:2    Therefore behold, the days are coming,” says the LORD, “That I will cause to be heard an alarm of war In Rabbah of the Ammonites; It shall be a desolate mound, And her villages shall be burned with fire. Then Israel shall take possession of his inheritance,” says the LORD.
Jeremiah 49:3    “Wail, O Heshbon, for Ai is plundered! Cry, you daughters of Rabbah, Gird yourselves with sackcloth! Lament and run to and fro by the walls; For Milcom shall go into captivity With his priests and his princes together.
Jeremiah 49:4    Why do you boast in the valleys, Your flowing valley, O backsliding daughter? Who trusted in her treasures, saying, ‘Who will come against me?’
Jeremiah 49:5    Behold, I will bring fear upon you,” Says the Lord GOD of hosts, “From all those who are around you; You shall be driven out, everyone headlong, And no one will gather those who wander off.
Jeremiah 49:6    But afterward I will bring back The captives of the people of Ammon,” says the LORD.

By asking four questions Jeremiah focused on Ammon’s major sin.  The Northern Kingdom of Israel had been taken captive in 722BC and Ammon, assuming Israel would have no sons or heirs who would return to the land, seized it for herself.

God announced that days were coming when an enemy would attack Ammon’s capital city of Rabbah.  Rabbah would become nothing but ruins, and Israel would drive out the Ammonites who had settled in her villages.  The people of Rabbah would put on sackcloth and mourn.

Milcom might be a reference to their king or it might be a different name for their god, Molech.

Here you see the world, the devil, and the flesh all at work.  The culture surrounding the Jews worshipped a false god, Molech, inspired by the devil.  The worship was appealing to the flesh because, among other things, it involved having sex with the priests and priestesses of Molech.
What God revealed to them is unspoken but understood.  As His people they would again possess the inheritance that the Ammonites had squatted upon.  It was given them by God through Abraham and He would see to it they had it forever.

When the world and the devil appeal to your flesh to bow down to some idol, it would do you well to realize that you are promised an inheritance in Heaven.  You build your heavenly inheritance by seeking first the kingdom of God and building alongside God while you are here on the Earth.

One day you will stand before Jesus to be rewarded.  “Only one life, will soon be passed; only what’s done for Christ will last.”  Don’t allow your enemies to keep you from building wealth in Heaven with their lame appeals to temporary pleasures.

The nation of Edom was next in God’s prophetic sites.

Jeremiah 49:7    Against Edom. Thus says the LORD of hosts: “Is wisdom no more in Teman? Has counsel perished from the prudent? Has their wisdom vanished?
Jeremiah 49:8    Flee, turn back, dwell in the depths, O inhabitants of Dedan! For I will bring the calamity of Esau upon him, The time that I will punish him.
Jeremiah 49:9    If grape-gatherers came to you, Would they not leave some gleaning grapes? If thieves by night, Would they not destroy until they have enough?
Jeremiah 49:10    But I have made Esau bare; I have uncovered his secret places, And he shall not be able to hide himself. His descendants are plundered, His brethren and his neighbors, And he is no more.
Jeremiah 49:11    Leave your fatherless children, I will preserve them alive; And let your widows trust in Me.”
Jeremiah 49:12    For thus says the LORD: “Behold, those whose judgment was not to drink of the cup have assuredly drunk. And are you the one who will altogether go unpunished? You shall not go unpunished, but you shall surely drink of it.
Jeremiah 49:13    For I have sworn by Myself,” says the LORD, “that Bozrah shall become a desolation, a reproach, a waste, and a curse. And all its cities shall be perpetual wastes.”
Jeremiah 49:14    I have heard a message from the LORD, And an ambassador has been sent to the nations: “Gather together, come against her, And rise up to battle!
Jeremiah 49:15    “For indeed, I will make you small among nations, Despised among men.
Jeremiah 49:16    Your fierceness has deceived you, The pride of your heart, O you who dwell in the clefts of the rock, Who hold the height of the hill! Though you make your nest as high as the eagle, I will bring you down from there,” says the LORD.
Jeremiah 49:17    “Edom also shall be an astonishment; Everyone who goes by it will be astonished And will hiss at all its plagues.
Jeremiah 49:18    As in the overthrow of Sodom and Gomorrah And their neighbors,” says the LORD, “No one shall remain there, Nor shall a son of man dwell in it.
Jeremiah 49:19    “Behold, he shall come up like a lion from the floodplain of the Jordan Against the dwelling place of the strong; But I will suddenly make him run away from her. And who is a chosen man that I may appoint over her? For who is like Me? Who will arraign Me? And who is that shepherd Who will withstand Me?”
Jeremiah 49:20    Therefore hear the counsel of the LORD that He has taken against Edom, And His purposes that He has proposed against the inhabitants of Teman: Surely the least of the flock shall draw them out; Surely He shall make their dwelling places desolate with them.
Jeremiah 49:21    The earth shakes at the noise of their fall; At the cry its noise is heard at the Red Sea.
Jeremiah 49:22    Behold, He shall come up and fly like the eagle, And spread His wings over Bozrah; The heart of the mighty men of Edom in that day shall be Like the heart of a woman in birth pangs.

The name Edom was given to Esau, the first-born son of Isaac and twin brother of Jacob, when he sold his birthright to the latter for a meal of lentil soup.  The country which the Lord, subsequently, gave to Esau was called “the country of Edom,” and his descendants were called Edomites.  Edom was also called Mount Seir and Idumea.

Edom was a mountainous country.  Her strong natural defenses gave her a false sense of security.  You’re probably familiar with the famous city of Petra.  It was in Edom.

When the time came, God would cause Edom to fall.  In the period of time between the Old and New Testaments desert tribesmen called the Nabateans drove the Edomites from their land.  The people of Edom were forced to migrate into southern Judah where they were called Idumeans.  In 125BC John Hyrcanus I, a Maccabean, subjugated the Idumeans and made them accept Judaism.  The Edomites thus ceased to be a distinct national group.

We learn, in verse seven, that Edomites were known for their “prudent counsel” and “wisdom.”  But theirs was a worldly wisdom, a fleshly wisdom.

The wisdom of the world is appealing.  The wisdom of God can seem foolish in comparison.  Take almost any of the great characters or stories in the Bible and you have an example of this.

Abraham is as good an example as any.

He believed God and set out for a land not knowing where he was headed.
He claimed to be the father of many nations when he had no children and his wife was past child bearing age.
Once he received the son God promised him, he almost killed him in a sacrifice.

God loves to take the foolish to confound the wise.  We are the foolish He uses!

Not “fools,” but “foolish” from the world’s point of view.  That’s the reveal from God in these verses.  You are going to be called upon, as a follower of Jesus, to make choices that will seem foolish to the world’s way of thinking.

Can you think of something in your life, some choice or decision, that your nonbelieving friends and relatives consider foolish?  I hope so!  Because it is par for the course you are on in a walk with God.

Damascus is next in our text, referring to not just the ancient city but to the Aramean people who were settled there.

Jeremiah 49:23    Against Damascus. “Hamath and Arpad are shamed, For they have heard bad news. They are fainthearted; There is trouble on the sea; It cannot be quiet.
Jeremiah 49:24    Damascus has grown feeble; She turns to flee, And fear has seized her. Anguish and sorrows have taken her like a woman in labor.
Jeremiah 49:25    Why is the city of praise not deserted, the city of My joy?
Jeremiah 49:26    Therefore her young men shall fall in her streets, And all the men of war shall be cut off in that day,” says the LORD of hosts.
Jeremiah 49:27    “I will kindle a fire in the wall of Damascus, And it shall consume the palaces of Ben-Hadad.”

Damascus and two other Aramean cities, Hamath and Arpad, were to be judged.  “Ben-Hadad” was the name of the dynasty that ruled in Damascus in the ninth and eighth centuries BC.

We’re not given a reason for God’s judgment but we know from Bible history that in the days of the kings of Israel and Judah, Aramaean kings raided their villages.

What’s revealed here for us?  I think it’s in verse twenty-five.  First let’s find an alternate translation that makes more sense.  The Amplified Version reads like this: “How [remarkable that] the renowned city is not deserted, the city of my joy! [exclaims one from Damascus].”

Damascus was, and remains, the world’s oldest continuously inhabited city.  While other cities and nations came and went, Damascus seemed to survive and thrive.  It never was totally deserted.

The Babylonians came as the hand of God and “her young men [fell] in her streets, and all the men of war [were] cut off.”  But Damascus survived and survives to this day.
Damascus is as close to an ‘eternal’ city as it gets on earth.  It’s been around since at least the second millennium BC.

The appeal here, by the devil to our flesh, is to think the world will go on as before.  It can be summed up in the question of the scoffers, “Where is the promise of God’s coming judgement, seeing everything continues as it always was?”

Nonbelievers don’t understand that The Lord delays because of them. He is longsuffering, not willing that any of them should perish once He acts in judgment.

The reveal here is that we have a heavenly city to look forward to, the New Jerusalem.  The Lord is there now, personally doing the finish work on our mansions.  Set your affections there; look for that city whose builder and maker is God.

Our text mentions three more nations surrounding Judah – obscure nations – starting with Kedar and Hazor together.

Jeremiah 49:28    Against Kedar and against the kingdoms of Hazor, which Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon shall strike. Thus says the LORD: “Arise, go up to Kedar, And devastate the men of the East!
Jeremiah 49:29    Their tents and their flocks they shall take away. They shall take for themselves their curtains, All their vessels and their camels; And they shall cry out to them, ‘Fear is on every side!’
Jeremiah 49:30    “Flee, get far away! Dwell in the depths, O inhabitants of Hazor!” says the LORD. “For Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon has taken counsel against you, And has conceived a plan against you.
Jeremiah 49:31    “Arise, go up to the wealthy nation that dwells securely,” says the LORD, “Which has neither gates nor bars, Dwelling alone.
Jeremiah 49:32    Their camels shall be for booty, And the multitude of their cattle for plunder. I will scatter to all winds those in the farthest corners, And I will bring their calamity from all its sides,” says the LORD.
Jeremiah 49:33    “Hazor shall be a dwelling for jackals, a desolation forever; No one shall reside there, Nor son of man dwell in it.”

Kedar was a nomadic tribe of Ishmaelites (Genesis 25:13) in the Arabian desert known for their skills in archery (Isaiah 21:16-17), their flocks of sheep (Isaiah 60:7; Jeremiah 49:28-29), their extensive trade (Ezekiel 27:21), and their warlike nature (Psalm 120:5-6).  Less is known about Hazor, as a people; but we can assume that by their being included with Kedar they, too, were nomadic herdsmen.

We’re given no information here as to why God sent the Babylonians against them.  The Jews Jeremiah was addressing would have known their history.

We would do well to recall that God deals with all nations according to their righteousness or lack of it.

I’ve talked to you before about the current Prepper movement and their shelters and plans for survival.  Maybe they are the modern equivalent of Kedar and Hazor as they seek to get away from society and live self- sufficiently.

There is a certain appeal, even sometimes to Christians, to try to get away from it all, to live under the radar, providing for yourself and protecting yourself.

It’s up to each of us, individually, to determine how prepared we want to be for a natural disaster.  I don’t know how much Spam, or how many bullets, are appropriate.

I do know that we are to be in the world, as salt and light, spreading the Gospel.  We have the Great Commission, do we not, to be going through the world making disciples.  And I think it’s hard to do that from a bunker!

The apostle Peter said the world was about to end and he exhorted us, saying, “Therefore, since all these things will be dissolved, what manner of persons ought you to be in holy conduct and godliness, looking for and hastening the coming of the day of God, because of which the heavens will be dissolved, being on fire, and the elements will melt with fervent heat?” (Second Peter 3:11-12).

Key in on the word “hastening.”  It means to accelerate.  How can we accelerate the coming of The Lord?  The only way I can think is by sharing the Gospel more and seeing more folks receive Jesus Christ.

Be more of a hastener than you are a Prepper.

Elam is last in our text.

Jeremiah 49:34    The word of the LORD that came to Jeremiah the prophet against Elam, in the beginning of the reign of Zedekiah king of Judah, saying,
Jeremiah 49:35    “Thus says the LORD of hosts: ‘Behold, I will break the bow of Elam, The foremost of their might.
Jeremiah 49:36    Against Elam I will bring the four winds From the four quarters of heaven, And scatter them toward all those winds; There shall be no nations where the outcasts of Elam will not go.
Jeremiah 49:37    For I will cause Elam to be dismayed before their enemies And before those who seek their life. I will bring disaster upon them, My fierce anger,’ says the LORD; ‘And I will send the sword after them Until I have consumed them.
Jeremiah 49:38    I will set My throne in Elam, And will destroy from there the king and the princes,’ says the LORD.
Jeremiah 49:39    ‘But it shall come to pass in the latter days: I will bring back the captives of Elam,’ says the LORD.”

This prophecy was given early in the reign of Zedekiah, about 597BC.  God promised to break the bow of Elam which He called the mainstay of their might.  This is significant because the Elamites were known for their archery skills (Isaiah 22:6).

Elam was with the Assyrians when they attacked Israel and they assisted the Babylons in their attacks on Jerusalem.

The judgment against Elam was not fulfilled at any time in history.

The prophecy speaks of the people being driven off the land and scattered into all the world. This has never happened in recorded history.
It also speaks of the God of Israel setting His throne in Elam. This has never happened.

This prophecy, then, awaits fulfillment.

Elam was east of Babylon in what is today the country of Iran. According to one source, the actual location of Elam would be the very northern end of the Persian Gulf and down along with the west coast of Iran.

Today one of main sections of ancient Elam would include Bushehr Province with the capital city of Bushehr.

Hmm.  Where have we heard that name before?  It’s ground zero for Iran’s nuclear ambitions.  It is feared that Iran would use this plant to help build nuclear weapons to destroy Israel and threaten other nations.  Israel has stated that it will not allow Iran to become a nuclear power, and it is very possible Israel will attack Iran to destroy this nuclear complex at Bushehr.  It is also possible that World War 3 could start over the Bushehr nuclear plant.  Ancient Elam has become a focal point in dealing with Israel and fits directly into God’s prophetic plan as the world heads toward the day of the LORD.

Lots of people watched The Bible on the History Channel. The consensus is that it was pretty inaccurate, and that’s a shame.

One thing I did hear about it was that some of the special effects were cool – like the way they portrayed the burning bush from out of which God spoke to Moses.

It’s one thing to hear about the burning bush, or in our generation to see it reenacted.  But wouldn’t you love to actually have seen it?  Or to have been there when Jericho’s walls fell?

Well, you are there for things like that in this sense.  God has left enemies for you to defeat the same way previous Bible characters defeated the same enemies – by walking by faith.
You can come into His holy presence anytime you wish without fear of being consumed by His fire.
As you march with Him, patiently walking, walls fall down and you take ground for Him.

There’s no appeal from the world, the devil, or your flesh that isn’t accompanied by some greater reveal of God – of His love, His grace, His mercy, His forgiveness.

The Days Of Wine And Posers (Jeremiah 48)

After pictures of Capri Sun juice pouches containing mold went viral on social media sites company officials released a statement.  They said, in part,

Among the many, many millions of pouches we sell each year, it does happen from time to time because the product is preservative free.  If mold does occur, we completely agree that it can be unsightly and gross, but it is not harmful and is more of a quality issue rather than a safety issue.

Regardless the relative safety of drinking moldy juice, it’s a sign something went very wrong.

Something went very wrong with the Old Testament nation of Moab.  Jeremiah will compare them to wine that has been fermenting too long in its container and has become full of dregs and lees – the unwanted sediments that settle to the bottom and can ruin the scent and taste of the wine.

As to the root problems Jeremiah will tell us there were two: The Moabites exalted themselves above God and they preferred a life of material ease to one of worshipping the living God.

I’ll organize my thoughts around two questions suggested by the text: #1 Would You Describe Yourself As Being Exalted Or As Exalting?, and #2 Would You Describe Yourself As Being At Ease Or As Emptied?

#1    Would You Describe Yourself
    As Being Exalted Or As Exalting?

Verse one reads like an announcement in that weird Public Notices section of the classified ads.

“Against Moab. Thus says the LORD of hosts, the God of Israel: “Woe to Nebo! For it is plundered, Kirjathaim is shamed and taken; The high stronghold is shamed and dismayed…”

We are in a section of Jeremiah that is a series of prophecies against the Gentile nations surrounding Judah.  Some are well known to us, like Egypt, the Philistines, Damascus, and Babylon.  Others are little known to us, like Moab and Ammon and Edom.  Some, I’d wager, are unknown to us, like Kedar, Hazor, and Elam.

The Moabites were mostly hostile to the Jews throughout their history.  A couple of memorable incidents stand out.
At the time of the Exodus the Moabites would not allow the Jews to pass through their land.
A little later on their king, Balaak, hired a prophet named Balaam to curse the Jews.  He couldn’t do it but he did give the king a strategy to wreak havoc upon the Jews.  Just send beautiful Moabite priestesses into the camp and the Jewish men would lie with them and bring a judgment from God upon themselves.  He did; they did; twenty-four thousand Israelites were killed by God in a plague before it was over.

The prophecies of this chapter mention a slew of Moabite cities:

The first ten verses of our chapter contain prophecies against certain Moabite cities.  Scanning the verses, you see Kirjathaim, Heshbon, Madmen, Horonaim, and Luhith.
Later in the chapter, in verses eighteen through twenty-five, you see Dibon, Aeror, Arnon, Holon, Jahzah, Mephaath, Beth Gamul and Beth Meon,  Kerioth and Bozrah.
Later still, in verses thirty-one through thirty-four, you read of Kir Heres, Sibmah, Eleahleh, and Zoar.

In verses twenty-four and twenty-five, you read, “On all the cities of the land of Moab, Far or near.  The horn of Moab is cut off, And his arm is broken,” says the LORD.”

His “horn,” referring to strength, would be “cut off, and his arm broken,” by Babylon.  Drop down to verses forty through forty-six.  They detail Moab’s defeat at the hands of Babylon.

Jeremiah 48:40    For thus says the LORD: “Behold, one shall fly like an eagle, And spread his wings over Moab.
Jeremiah 48:41    Kerioth is taken, And the strongholds are surprised; The mighty men’s hearts in Moab on that day shall be Like the heart of a woman in birth pangs.
Jeremiah 48:42    And Moab shall be destroyed as a people, Because he exalted himself against the LORD.
Jeremiah 48:43    Fear and the pit and the snare shall be upon you, O inhabitant of Moab,” says the LORD.
Jeremiah 48:44    “He who flees from the fear shall fall into the pit, And he who gets out of the pit shall be caught in the snare. For upon Moab, upon it I will bring The year of their punishment,” says the LORD.
Jeremiah 48:45    “Those who fled stood under the shadow of Heshbon Because of exhaustion. But a fire shall come out of Heshbon, A flame from the midst of Sihon, And shall devour the brow of Moab, The crown of the head of the sons of tumult.
Jeremiah 48:46    Woe to you, O Moab! The people of Chemosh perish; For your sons have been taken captive, And your daughters captive.

“Chemosh” was the name of the Moabite’s primary god.  Like all idols, it was powerless to save them.  God would exercise His prerogative to judge a nation for its wickedness and there was nothing they could do to stop it.

Well, there was something, but they didn’t do it.  They could have repented.  Look at the last verse of the chapter:

Jeremiah 48:47    “Yet I will bring back the captives of Moab In the latter days,” says the LORD. Thus far is the judgment of Moab.

God took no pleasure in judging them.  It was His desire to save them and He would, in fact, spare a remnant.  Commentators are divided as to whether “in the latter days” means at the time King Cyrus of Persia allowed nations taken captive by Babylon to return to their homelands, or if it is the future Millennial Kingdom.  Either way, the heart of God to save is revealed alongside His holiness that requires He judge unrepentant sin.

The mention of all these cities got me thinking.  Cities have their own characteristics.  We think of Las Vegas, for example, as “Sin City.”  New Orleans, called “the Big Easy” officially, is unofficially referred to as “the Big Sleazy.”  Some of you are given to calling Berkley “Berzerkeley.”

Moabite cities, taken together, had a distinct characteristic.  We saw it in verse forty-two and it’s repeated in verse twenty-six so we can’t miss it.

Jeremiah 48:26    “Make him drunk, Because he exalted himself against the LORD. Moab shall wallow in his vomit, And he shall also be in derision.

In both verses Moab is personified as having “exalted himself against The Lord.”

What does that mean?  Well, it can mean two things and both of them are important.

First, when you “exalt [yourself] against The Lord,” you reject God and go your own way.  It means that the Moabites thought they were self-sufficient.  They didn’t think they had any need for God.

God calls this pride.  In verse twenty-nine we read,
Jeremiah 48:29    “We have heard the pride of Moab (He is exceedingly proud), Of his loftiness and arrogance and pride, And of the haughtiness of his heart.”

Jeremiah heaps up words as if to create a literary pedestal for Moab to be seen standing upon.

Regarding their pride, one researcher wrote,

The Moabites… were a lusty people, with sophisticated tastes and strong appetites.  Moab was also financially secure… They were accustomed to plenteous harvests of “summer fruits” and an abundance of wine.  As a result of their prosperity and their skill in satisfying the lusts of the flesh, Moab became exceedingly proud.

Not to pick on it, but you could substitute Las Vegas for the Moabites in that paragraph and it would be a spot-on description.
Truth is, you could substitute a lot of cities, even whole countries, and it would be accurate.

If a nation prospers, it’s because God is blessing them.  Forget that and in His timing God will raise up another nation or nations to conquer you.

There is a second meaning to the phrase “exalted himself against The Lord.”  There’s a document called the Targum.  It is a paraphrase of the Hebrew Scriptures in Aramaic.  Jews began to use it when Hebrew was no longer commonly spoken among them.

In the Targum our words from verses twenty-six and forty-two are translated, “exalted himself against the people of The Lord.”  That is how Jews understand these verses.

The Bible does record Moab as refusing to acknowledge the unique relationship between Israel and God, arrogantly deriding Israel (Zephaniah 2:8-11) and saying that Judah was just like any other nation (Ezekiel 25:8-11).

In this very chapter you read, in verse twenty-seven,

Jeremiah 48:27    For was not Israel a derision to you? Was he found among thieves? For whenever you speak of him, You shake your head in scorn.

We would do well as a nation to acknowledge not just that Israel is our ally, but that she is in a unique relationship with the living God.

For exalting themselves above God and His people the Moabites were conquered.  Though we are not Moabites, not by physical descent, we can be by choice.  We can choose ease as our driving principle when God would have us willing to empty ourselves serving Him.

They were “a lusty people, with sophisticated tastes and appetites… financially secure… accustomed to plenty…”

Notwithstanding deficits and sequestration and the like, for the most part Americans could fit that description.

At the very least I’d have to say that the basic worldview of most Americans is skewed to secular things.  In almost any poll ever taken, when Americans are asked, “What is the number one problem in America?,” they invariably say “The economy.”

The number one problem in America is sin.  We need to humble ourselves before God.  Instead of being exalted we must return to exalting Him.

#2    Would You Describe Yourself
    As Being At Ease Or As Emptied?

Jeremiah also compared Moab to a vineyard and its wine, and the Babylonians to wine workers.

Look at verses eleven and twelve.

Jeremiah 48:11    “Moab has been at ease from his youth; He has settled on his dregs, And has not been emptied from vessel to vessel, Nor has he gone into captivity. Therefore his taste remained in him, And his scent has not changed.
Jeremiah 48:12    “Therefore behold, the days are coming,” says the LORD, “That I shall send him wine-workers Who will tip him over And empty his vessels And break the bottles.

Moabites were very proficient and sophisticated wine makers.  In verses thirty-two and thirty-three you read,

Jeremiah 48:32    O vine of Sibmah! I will weep for you with the weeping of Jazer. Your plants have gone over the sea, They reach to the sea of Jazer. The plunderer has fallen on your summer fruit and your vintage.
Jewremiah 48:33    Joy and gladness are taken From the plentiful field And from the land of Moab; I have caused wine to fail from the winepresses; No one will tread with joyous shouting – Not joyous shouting!

This is the kind of language you’d use, for example, if the Napa Valley was conquered by some invading force.

There are a ton of competing opinions on the actual process in those days of making wine.  What we can say for sure is that after the grapes had been trodden or somehow crushed, the resulting juice was poured into large storage jars which were sealed with clay, leaving only a small vent hole to bleed off the fermentation gases.

During that time certain solid byproducts of the fermentation would settle to the bottom; these were the dregs or the lees.  In order to complete the wine-making process, the fermenting grape juice was poured from its original jars into fresh ones.  This involved straining out the dregs and lees – the sediments that would ruin the wine if left settled in it.

Being sophisticated wine makers, the Moabites would never think to leave the wine fermenting on its lees indefinitely.  It would ruin the vintage and they were too good as vintners to allow it.

It’s a pretty potent illustration for folks dedicated to wine making.  They thought of themselves as a fine, perfectly aged wine.  God said they were a bottle of Ripple.

Like grape juice that had been neglected while fermenting, there was nothing to do but tip the jars, empty them out, and break them.

God intended this to communicate a spiritual truth.  They had neglected spiritual things.  They were content to live in relative ease, enjoying the bounty God provided but refusing to acknowledge that their prosperity came from God.

I especially like the phrase, in verse eleven, “Therefore his taste remained in him, And his scent has not changed.”  It’s an insightful description of a nonbeliever.

Human beings are described as being born dead in trespasses and sins.

A dead person, spiritually speaking, has certain “tastes” for sin.
A dead person, spiritually speaking, has the spiritual stench of the world.

God is not content to leave you in that natural state.  Jesus came into the world to die, then rise from the dead, to offer you the forgiveness of sins and make you a new creature in Him.  The Holy Spirit is in the world seeking to convict men of sin, of righteousness, and of the judgment to come.  Jesus, on the Cross, was lifted up so He could draw all men to Himself.  He is the Savior of all men – especially those who believe.

Remain in your natural state and you’re like grape juice left too long fermenting.  You become settled in your pride – thinking you are self-sufficient or looking to some dead Chemosh as your god.

I think we can also use this wine making illustration to encourage believers.

Dregs and lees cannot be allowed to ruin wine.  We said that as the dregs sank to the bottom, the wine makers would pour the liquid back into another vessel.  They did this multiple times.  Back and forth, from vessel to vessel, each time being careful not to pour out the dregs into the next container.  This was their method of making the most excellent wine.

God is an excellent Vintner.  We would expect, then, for Him to constantly pour us into new vessels so we are not too long settling on our dregs and lees.

Even after we are saved there are lots of ways we can become settled.  In the church, for example, we can get settled into certain traditions and be closed to trying new methods of ministry.

Or we can borrow someone else’s methods of ministry rather than seeking the direction and power of God the Holy Spirit.

Or we can utilize methods that have been developed in the world and seek to apply them to the church.

In our personal lives this settling has application to giving in to the flesh.  Pastor Chuck Smith writes,

It’s tragic when Christians get settled in the things of the flesh… At one time in their Christian walks they were shocked that people could do such evil things of the flesh.  They’d say, “I would never do that!”  After a while, you find them doing the same things and becoming settled in them.  This impurity actually begins to permeate your whole life.  Your life begins to be colored by the flesh.  Your life begins to smell of the things of the flesh.  Your life begins to… taste of the things of the flesh.

The “flesh” is that principle in our human bodies that remains after we are saved demanding we fulfill its sinful appetites; or that we satisfy its normal appetites in sinful ways.  In keeping with our illustration we could say that as long as we are in these bodies, some dregs, some lees, will remain.
Knowing this, you ought to regularly ask The Lord to pour you out.  Then don’t be surprised when something unsettles your life.

You don’t need to ask; God will do it anyway!  He’s too good a Vintner to leave you alone.  He has something better for you than the dregs and lees of the flesh.  But it’s better to cooperate.

You weren’t born again to become a bottle of Ripple.

Talk To The Sword Hand (Jeremiah 47v1-7)

When Indiana Jones encountered the sword-wielding man in Raiders of the Lost Ark, he wasted no time pulling his revolver and shooting his skilled but inferiorly armed adversary.

Superior weaponry is usually the decisive factor in any altercation.

Our text in Jeremiah is a prophecy against the Philistines.  They were an age-old adversary of the Jews.  At one point in their early history, Israel was oppressed for a period of almost 200 years by the Philistines.

One reason for their subjection was that the Philistines always seemed to have superior weaponry.  They were skilled in crafting iron into weapons when Israel was still using bronze.  When the Israelites fought the Philistines it was like bringing a sword to a gunfight.

God often used the disparity between the Philistine weaponry and Israel’s to show Himself strong on their behalf.  For example, in the Book of Judges we are introduced to a man, Shamgar, who singlehandedly killed 600 Philistines wielding only an oxgoad (3:31).

Another time we read that Samson killed a thousand Philistines with the jawbone of a donkey (Judges 15:15).

During the reign of King Saul the Philistines came against the Jews with “thirty thousand chariots and six thousand horsemen, and people as the sand which is on the seashore in multitude” (First Samuel 13:5).  The only Israelites who had any weapons at all were Saul and his son, Jonathan.  Nevertheless the Jews routed the Philistines when God caused confusion in the enemy camp.

Which brings us to the greatest Philistine encounter of all time – David versus Goliath.  Armed with only his sling, it was the power of God that gave David the victory over the 9′ 9″ tall Goliath who was armed to the teeth.

Superior weaponry was indeed the decisive factor in those altercations, but it was superior spiritual weaponry wielded by the man of God.

That will be our point of contact and interest with this ancient prophecy against the Philistines.  I’ll organize my thoughts around two points: #1 Weapons Are Being Fashioned Against You – To Plunder You, but #2 Weapons Have Been Furnished To You – To Prosper You.

#1    Weapons Are Being Fashioned Against You –
    To Plunder You

The final chapters of Jeremiah are a series of prophecies against the nations surrounding Israel.  Some we are familiar with – like Egypt and the Philistines.  Others are more obscure.

Little is known about the origins of the Philistines except what is contained in the Bible.  They were a seafaring people who came to Canaan from Caphtor (Genesis 10:14), generally identified with the island of Crete in the Mediterranean Sea.

The early Philistine settlements in the land of Canaan took on a new significance when five cities – Ashkelon, Ashdod, Ekron, Gath, and Gaza – and the areas around them were occupied by the Philistines in the 12th century BC.  Probably all of these except Ekron were already in existence when the sea peoples conquered them.  These five Philistine cities formed a united political unit.

The Philistines began to attack the Israelites in the 11th century BC.  In Samuel’s time the Philistines captured the Ark of the Covenant in battle.  Although the Ark was recovered later, the Philistines continued to occupy Israelite settlements (First Samuel 10:5).

The threat of the Philistines prompted Israel’s demands for a king. But even under Saul the nation was still menaced by the Philistines – a threat that ultimately resulted in Saul’s death.

The Philistines were infamous for their production and consumption of alcoholic beverages, especially beer.  Ancient Philistine ruins contain numerous breweries and wineries, as well as countless beer mugs and other drinking vessels.  Samson’s wedding feast, recorded in the book of Judges, illustrates the Philistine practice of holding week-long drinking parties.

In the end, the Philistines were assimilated into the surrounding Canaanite culture.  They eventually disappeared from the biblical record and from history altogether.

Today, the word Philistine is occasionally used as an insult.  Salman Rushdie received death threats and was forced into hiding when his fourth novel, The Satanic Verses, was said to insult Mohammed.  When India banned the novel in 1988 Rushdie wrote an open letter to the Indian Prime Minister calling him a Philistine.

The seven verses in this chapter describe God at war with this war-like people.  He used other nations as His sword – notably Egypt and Babylon.

Jeremiah 47:1    The word of the LORD that came to Jeremiah the prophet against the Philistines, before Pharaoh attacked Gaza.

To the original hearers this was a prophecy.  History bears it out as accurate.

The Bible is the only book that proves 100% accurate in its prophecies.  Of the 2500 or so prophecies in the Bible, over 2000 of them have already been fulfilled.  Can there be any reasonable doubt the remaining prophecies will be fulfilled?

Jeremiah 47:2    Thus says the LORD: “Behold, waters rise out of the north, And shall be an overflowing flood; They shall overflow the land and all that is in it, The city and those who dwell within; Then the men shall cry, And all the inhabitants of the land shall wail.

Although verse one mentioned Egypt, verse two seems to indicate a different enemy.  Since this enemy comes from “the north,” scholars identify it as Babylon.

Jeremiah 47:3    At the noise of the stamping hooves of his strong horses, At the rushing of his chariots, At the rumbling of his wheels, The fathers will not look back for their children, Lacking courage,

It would be ‘every man for himself.’  It’s pretty bad when you are willing to abandon your own children in order to effect your escape.  That’s true terror.

The Babylonians would prove to be a superior army with more and better weaponry.  Let’s face it, when your victory depends on weapons alone, you’d better have the best ones.

Jeremiah 47:4    Because of the day that comes to plunder all the Philistines, To cut off from Tyre and Sidon every helper who remains; For the LORD shall plunder the Philistines, The remnant of the country of Caphtor.

The soldiers may have come from Babylon but they were the instrument of the Lord.  He was exercising His prerogative to judge and destroy a nation that refused to repent and do good.

History can only be truly studied and understood as the story of God’s redemption of the human race.  It is God who establishes nations and sets their boundaries – all with the plan to bring Jesus into the world through the nation of Israel.  Every other aspect of history is subordinate to the one great fact that mankind needed a Savior and God provided him by becoming a man Himself.

Jeremiah 47:5    Baldness has come upon Gaza, Ashkelon is cut off With the remnant of their valley. How long will you cut yourself?

Voluntary “baldness,” that is.  It meant they cut off their hair and beards as a sign to everyone they were mourning.

“Ashkelon is cut off” means that city was destroyed.  Any survivors “cut” themselves, literally, as a sign of extreme grief.

Jeremiah 47:6    “O you sword of the LORD, How long until you are quiet? Put yourself up into your scabbard, Rest and be still!

Remember the phrase, “talk to the hand?”  Jeremiah talks to the sword!  He personifies the sword of the Lord’s judgment and asks it to sheathe itself.

Don’t pass over this too quickly.  The Philistines were enemies of Israel for most of their existence in the Promised Land.  Yet Jeremiah took no pleasure in their judgment; he would rather they turn to The Lord.

Jeremiah 47:7    How can it be quiet, Seeing the LORD has given it a charge Against Ashkelon and against the seashore? There He has appointed it.”

It’s as if the sword answered and said, “I am the instrument of God’s judgments, and He has given me a commission against Ashkelon, and against the sea shore; all the coast where the Philistines have their territories.  The measure of their iniquities is full; and these God hath appointed me to destroy.”

God is longsuffering, not willing that any should perish but that all would come to Him for the forgiveness of their sins.  His longsuffering waits… and waits… and waits.

But it also comes to an end and, when it does, His judgment is sure and swift.

There are no Philistines today; not any literal ones, that is.  As long as we are in these bodies of flesh, on this earth whose god is the devil, weapons are being formed to plunder us and, in that spiritual sense, it can seem like God’s people are still facing Philistines with superior weaponry.

A great deal of the New Testament presents the Christian as a soldier in a fierce spiritual battle against supernatural foes.  We read of principalities and powers, rulers of the darkness of this age, spiritual hosts of wickedness in heavenly places (Ephesians 6:12).

The devil emits fiery darts.  The apostle Paul called his thorn in the flesh, “the messenger of Satan,” sent to buffet him (Second Corinthians 12:7).  The devil goes about like a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour devour.

Pastor and Bible teacher Ray Stedman once wrote, “It is time we who believe in the Lord Jesus Christ accept the fact that life is warfare, and that we are engaged in a life-and-death struggle. The forces we face are not flesh and-blood enemies, nor are they human agencies.  But they are as real as any enemy who ever wielded a sword, a gun, or a flame-thrower.  Our enemy is legion a deadly pantheon of spiritual hosts of wickedness.  Though invisible, these forces are utterly dedicated to our destruction.”

Are you afraid?  Maybe Yoda was right when he said, “You will be!”

Or will you?  Not really because no weapon fashioned against you, as the child of God, can plunder you.  Remember the lesson of the Philistines: Your spiritual weaponry is always superior.

#2    Weapons Have Been Furnished To You,
    To Prosper You

My first thought was to compile an inventory of the spiritual weaponry available to us.

The first to come to mind is, of course, the Bible, the Word of God – called the sword of the Spirit (Ephesians 6:17).  It has no equal against our foes.  If you want to see it in action all you need to do is read the account in the Gospels of Jesus’ temptation in the wilderness.  Weakened physically by fasting, The Lord masterfully wielded the Word of God, answering each of the devil’s temptations with Scripture set in its proper context.

Someone remarked, regarding the Bible, that you can’t unsheathe someone else’s sword; you must have it personally strapped on.  It’s an encouragement to read and study the Bible for yourself.

Having said that, although we should be as proficient as possible in the Word, whatever you know is always superior to your spiritual enemies and is sufficient to prosper you against them.

We’d next list prayer in our arsenal.  It’s been said that the devil trembles when he sees the weakest saint upon his or her knees.  It’s been said that the Christian army marches on its knees.

When you read the description of the Christian as a soldier who has put on the armor of God (Ephesians 6), the first thing you read after the armor is “praying always.”  Someone has said that “A believer who has accepted the armor of God but does not pray, is just a person who is all dressed up with no place to go.”

At some point while inventorying spiritual weaponry you begin to encounter things you wouldn’t normally list as weapons.  Listen to this passage translated in the ESV:

2Corinthians 6:4    but as servants of God we commend ourselves in every way: by great endurance, in afflictions, hardships, calamities,
2Corinthians 6:5    beatings, imprisonments, riots, labors, sleepless nights, hunger;
2Corinthians 6:6    by purity, knowledge, patience, kindness, the Holy Spirit, genuine love;
2Corinthians 6:7    by truthful speech, and the power of God; with the weapons of righteousness for the right hand and for the left;

“Righteousness” is living right before God; not being perfect, but choosing obedience.  It includes all the things listed in these verses and more.  Each of them is said to be a weapon.

Do you normally think of “calamities” as a spiritual weapon?  They are when you meet them in the power of the grace of God by the assistance of the indwelling Holy Spirit.

I often point to a ministry like Samaritan’s Purse as an example of this.  Whether it’s their annual Operation Christmas Child that sends gift boxes to children all over the world or their mobilization of help after disasters, they show Christ’s compassion in calamities and with the Gospel storm the gates of Hell, freeing those held prisoner by the devil and bringing them to Jesus.

When we do think of some of these things as weapons, we tend to think of them as somewhat puny.  I mean, give me a healing any day over “afflictions” if you want to reveal real power, right?

In the first Men in Black, Will Smith’s character is excited when he first sees the arsenal of weaponry available to him.  K shows him the rifle-like series 4D atomizer but then hands him a tiny, palm-sized gun – the noisy cricket.  He’s disappointed but later understands it carries quite a wallop.

God is going to mostly distribute to us noisy crickets as weapons.  Why?  They make it most obvious that the power is His; they bring the most glory to Him.

You know what all this amounts to?  You are God’s spiritual weapon.  It’s not that you have weapons at your disposal; that’s true.  You are God’s weapon.  You are weaponized to walk through this world.

Think back to our example of “calamities.”  The disaster isn’t God’s weapon; your righteous response to it is the weapon as you bring the Gospel to bear upon the situation.

We read the Word and pray and put on the armor of God.  That’s our part; being ready.  We must leave it to God to choose the weapon or weapons most appropriate to the situations we find ourselves in.

If a healing will bring God the most glory and effect the greatest good, a healing will come.  But we need to honestly admit that when Jesus was on the earth, miracles didn’t necessarily bring the glory to God.  When, for example, Jesus called Lazarus back from the dead, far from bringing glory to God, the religious leaders sought to kill both of them.

Endurance, afflictions, hardships, calamities, beatings, imprisonments, riots, labors, sleepless nights, hunger; purity, knowledge, patience, kindness, the Holy Spirit, genuine love; truthful speech, and the power of God.  That’s God’s arsenal.

And you are His weapon to defeat the darkness of this age, to further the kingdom of God, to rescue those that are perishing.

Jews Of DeNile (Jeremiah 46)

Egypt has been prominent in the news.  President Hosni Mubarak was forced out of office during a movement that has been called the Arab Spring.  Since then the organization called the Muslim Brotherhood has become the most powerful political force there.  It won control of Egypt’s parliament; one of its leaders, Mohamed Morsi, became president; and the party dominated the drafting of a constitution that Morsi then pushed to ratification.

Some analysts have said that the Arab Spring quickly turned into Sharia Winter.  It’s a reference to the Muslim Brotherhood’s desire to implement Sharia law, the moral and religious code of Islam.

Among other things it makes conversion to another faith, e.g. Christianity, a crime punishable in some cases by death.  Coptic Christians are already feeling the pain of severe religious persecution.

The dominant headline lately is our governments decision to send huge aid to these guys.

I’ve got an even bigger headline.  In the future Egypt will reject Islam and turn to Jesus Christ.

Isaiah 19:19    In that day there will be an altar to the LORD in the midst of the land of Egypt, and a pillar to the LORD at its border.
Isaiah 19:20    And it will be for a sign and for a witness to the LORD of hosts in the land of Egypt; for they will cry to the LORD because of the oppressors, and He will send them a Savior and a Mighty One, and He will deliver them.
Isaiah 19:21    Then the LORD will be known to Egypt, and the Egyptians will know the LORD in that day, and will make sacrifice and offering; yes, they will make a vow to the LORD and perform it.
Isaiah 19:22    And the LORD will strike Egypt, He will strike and heal it; they will return to the LORD, and He will be entreated by them and heal them.

When, exactly, is “that Day” going to arrive?  It is after the future seven year Great Tribulation at the Second Coming of Jesus Christ to establish the Kingdom of Heaven on the earth for one thousand years.  We call it the Millennial Kingdom – millennial meaning thousand years.

In “that Day,” Egyptians will turn to Christ for salvation and the nation of Egypt will be an ally with Israel.
We are confident that human history is being directed by God to His predetermined end of the Second Coming and the Kingdom.  God is constantly working to providentially direct a world of free creatures towards His sovereignly established end.

The final chapters of Jeremiah contain a series of prophecies dealing with ten nations surrounding Israel and Judah, including Egypt.  While we may not be super interested, at first, in a prophecy against Moab or Ammon or Edom or Kedar or Hazor or Elam, we should be, because when see in history that God directed and disciplined nations just as He said He would, it proves He will accomplish in the future what He has prophesied He will do.

We start in Egypt.  I’ll organize my thoughts around two points: #1 God, Egypt & Israel In History, and #2 God, Egypt & You In Holiness.

#1    God, Egypt & Israel In History

The first verse of chapter forty-six introduces the next 600+ verses:

Jeremiah 46:1    The word of the LORD which came to Jeremiah the prophet against the nations.

Regardless the literal history of a particular nation on the earth, we are told in the Bible that “From one ancestor [God] made all nations to inhabit the whole earth, and he allotted the times of their existence and the boundaries of the places where they would live” (Acts 17:26).

In particular God established one nation, Israel, to reveal Himself to all the other nations, tribes, tongues, and peoples on the earth.

In Isaiah 43:12 God said to Israel, “therefore you are My witnesses… that I am God.”

They were the recipients of, and custodians of, God’s written revelation.  They were given the Law of God and the Tabernacle with its system of worship.  Through them God brought His Son, their Messiah, to be the Savior of all men – especially those who believe.

Their witness did not cease with the first coming of Jesus.  Their regathering in the twentieth century, in direct and I would say miraculous fulfillment of Bible prophecy, is a witness to the nearness of Jesus’s Second Coming, and the focus for the revelation of God’s power to save them from international aggression.  This will cause God’s Name to be known among all nations, and will establish Jerusalem as the capital of the Millennial Kingdom.

While at certain moments in history an Egyptian or an Assyrian or a Babylonian or a Persian or a Greek or a Roman… or an Ottoman Turk or an Englishman or even an American… might think that their nation is the most prominent one on the earth, it’s true import and impact is measured from Heaven by its relationship to Israel.
That’s the big picture.  In the sixth century Egypt and Israel’s southern kingdom of Judah were allies trying to overthrow the rule of King Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon.  God’s message to his people through Jeremiah was to submit to Babylon and not make an alliance with Egypt.  He was raising-up Babylon as an instrument of His discipline, to conquer the Jews and hold them captive for a period of seventy years.

The Jews rejected Jeremiah and his prophecies and allied with Egypt.  It seemed to be working when the Chaldean armies of Nebuchadnezzar withdrew from their siege against Jerusalem to deal with an advancing Egyptian army to their rear.

In verses two through twelve we see that boastful army of Egypt humbled by Babylon.

Jeremiah 46:2    Against Egypt. Concerning the army of Pharaoh Necho, king of Egypt, which was by the River Euphrates in Carchemish, and which Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon defeated in the fourth year of Jehoiakim the son of Josiah, king of Judah:
Jeremiah 46:3    “Order the buckler and shield, And draw near to battle!
Jeremiah 46:4    Harness the horses, And mount up, you horsemen! Stand forth with your helmets, Polish the spears, Put on the armor!
Jeremiah 46:5    Why have I seen them dismayed and turned back? Their mighty ones are beaten down; They have speedily fled, And did not look back, For fear was all around,” says the LORD.
Jeremiah 46:6    “Do not let the swift flee away, Nor the mighty man escape; They will stumble and fall Toward the north, by the River Euphrates.
The Battle of Carchemish is well-known to historians.  Jeremiah wrote this part of the chapter after the defeat of Egypt; it wasn’t a prophecy.  But it is full of the understanding that God orchestrated Egypt’s defeat to suit His purposes regarding the Jews.

Jeremiah 46:7    “Who is this coming up like a flood, Whose waters move like the rivers?
Jeremiah 46:8    Egypt rises up like a flood, And its waters move like the rivers; And he says, ‘I will go up and cover the earth, I will destroy the city and its inhabitants.’

If you went to high school in Egypt there was a good chance that your football team was called The Flood.  Like the annual flooding of the powerful Nile River, the Egyptian army compared their advance against enemies as a flood that would overwhelm them.

Jeremiah 46:9    Come up, O horses, and rage, O chariots! And let the mighty men come forth: The Ethiopians and the Libyans who handle the shield, And the Lydians who handle and bend the bow.
Jeremiah 46:10    For this is the day of the Lord GOD of hosts, A day of vengeance, That He may avenge Himself on His adversaries. The sword shall devour; It shall be satiated and made drunk with their blood; For the Lord GOD of hosts has a sacrifice In the north country by the River Euphrates.

The Egyptian army was populated with mercenaries from these mentioned countries.  No matter how many bad dudes they hired; this was a battle whose outcome was determined by The Lord.

Jeremiah 46:11    “Go up to Gilead and take balm, O virgin, the daughter of Egypt; In vain you will use many medicines; You shall not be cured.
Jeremiah 46:12    The nations have heard of your shame, And your cry has filled the land; For the mighty man has stumbled against the mighty; They both have fallen together.”

Egypt was renowned for its medical prowess and its medicinals.  Her defeat by the Babylonians would leave the Egyptians severely  wounded; her medicines would be useless.

After Carchemish the Chaldean army of King Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon returned to finish its siege against Jerusalem.  When the city fell Jews fled to Egypt in disobedience to God.

The next few verses speak of Nebuchadnezzar invading Egypt.  Nebuchadnezzar defeated the Egyptians at Carchemish in 605BC but he did not invade the land of Egypt until approximately 571-567BC.  These verses, then, were prophetic.

Jeremiah 46:13    The word that the LORD spoke to Jeremiah the prophet, how Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon would come and strike the land of Egypt.
Jeremiah 46:14    “Declare in Egypt, and proclaim in Migdol; Proclaim in Noph and in Tahpanhes; Say, ‘Stand fast and prepare yourselves, For the sword devours all around you.’
Jeremiah 46:15    Why are your valiant men swept away? They did not stand Because the LORD drove them away.
Jeremiah 46:16    He made many fall; Yes, one fell upon another. And they said, ‘Arise! Let us go back to our own people And to the land of our nativity From the oppressing sword.’
Jeremiah 46:17    They cried there, ‘Pharaoh, king of Egypt, is but a noise. He has passed by the appointed time!’
Jeremiah 46:18    “As I live,” says the King, Whose name is the LORD of hosts, “Surely as Tabor is among the mountains And as Carmel by the sea, so he shall come.
Jeremiah 46:19    O you daughter dwelling in Egypt, Prepare yourself to go into captivity! For Noph shall be waste and desolate, without inhabitant.

God wanted the Jews who remained in Judah to stay put.  It would be hard to rebuild; that’s an understatement.  But He would minister to them.  They refused and fled to Egypt.  So to Egypt God sent the Babylonians.

Jeremiah 46:20    “Egypt is a very pretty heifer, But destruction comes, it comes from the north.
Jeremiah 46:21    Also her mercenaries are in her midst like fat bulls, For they also are turned back, They have fled away together. They did not stand, For the day of their calamity had come upon them, The time of their punishment.
Jeremiah 46:22    Her noise shall go like a serpent, For they shall march with an army And come against her with axes, Like those who chop wood.
Jeremiah 46:23    “They shall cut down her forest,” says the LORD, “Though it cannot be searched, Because they are innumerable, And more numerous than grasshoppers.
Jeremiah 46:24    The daughter of Egypt shall be ashamed; She shall be delivered into the hand Of the people of the north.”

Jeremiah used several illustrations to picture Egypt’s fall to Babylon.

First, he compared Egypt to a beautiful heifer.  This is especially striking since Apis, one of Egypt’s gods, was a bull.  However, “a gadfly… from the north” (Babylon) was coming to bite her.
Second, he compared the mercenaries in Egypt’s ranks of soldiers to fattened calves who had been prepared for their slaughter.  They would turn and flee when the day of disaster came.
Third, Jeremiah compared Egypt to a fleeing serpent that could do little more than hiss at her enemy as she slithered away to avoid the axes of these mighty woodcutters who had come to chop down her forest.
Fourth, he compared the size of Babylon’s army to a swarm of locusts which were too numerous to be counted.

The point of every illustration was the same: Egypt would be put to shame because God had handed her over to the people of the north.

Jeremiah 46:25    The LORD of hosts, the God of Israel, says: “Behold, I will bring punishment on Amon of No, and Pharaoh and Egypt, with their gods and their kings – Pharaoh and those who trust in him.
Jeremiah 46:26    And I will deliver them into the hand of those who seek their lives, into the hand of Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon and the hand of his servants. Afterward it shall be inhabited as in the days of old,” says the LORD.

Egypt would survive as a nation – even thrive.  That’s a true statement from history, is it not?  It’s no small thing for a nation to survive and thrive the amount of time Egypt has.  I count 26 nations which have ceased to exist in the 20th century alone.

We read in Isaiah that Egypt would be allied with Israel in “that Day,” the Day The Lord returns.  The two verses that close this prophecy “against Egypt” are set in that future “Day.”

Jeremiah 46:27    “But do not fear, O My servant Jacob, And do not be dismayed, O Israel! For behold, I will save you from afar, And your offspring from the land of their captivity; Jacob shall return, have rest and be at ease; No one shall make him afraid.
Jeremiah 46:28    Do not fear, O Jacob My servant,” says the LORD, “For I am with you; For I will make a complete end of all the nations To which I have driven you, But I will not make a complete end of you. I will rightly correct you, For I will not leave you wholly unpunished.”

This is very obviously a prophecy that has never been fulfilled.  God has not made “a complete end of the nations to which” He drove the Jews throughout their history.  It’s referring to God judging the nations at the Second Coming of Jesus to the earth.

(You can read about it in Matthew twenty-five; it’s commonly referred to as the Sheep and Goat judgment, but it is a judgment of nations that determines who will be left alive on the earth to populate the Millennial Kingdom).

As history continues to unfold we can be certain of one thing: God will not “make a complete end” of the Jews.  He will fulfill His promises to them.

Taking the end of verse twenty-six together with verses twenty-seven and twenty-eight gives you a prophecy of Egypt in the Millennium on the earth.

You look at Egypt today and think, “Egypt and Israel will never be allies!”  It seems so farfetched; so impossible.

It’s gonna happen because God is providentially working in history to bring it to pass.
As exciting as prophecy may be, we want, and need, every passage to speak to us with regard to our relationship with Jesus right now.

#2    God, Egypt & You In Holiness

“Egypt” can represent many things to our Christian life.  Probably the most obvious is our initial deliverance from sin when we receive Jesus Christ as our Savior.  The blood of the Passover Lambs was seen by God and the Jews were set free from slavery in Egypt.  The New Testament tells us Jesus is our Passover; that He is the lamb of God Who takes away the sins of the world – setting us free from sin to serve Him.

Let’s stay within the context of the sixth century Jews and their relationship with Egypt to draw a few comparisons.  God had decided to discipline them in Babylon.  They were looking to Egypt for help and fleeing to Egypt for safety.

We can wrongly look to Egypt for help and safety.  We can do this intellectually.  One of the leading Christian psychologists defends his integration of the Bible with the psychological theories of godless men by comparing it to the children of Israel when they first were delivered from slavery to Egypt in the Exodus.  He points out that the Egyptians gave them many treasures, much wealth, for their journey.  He says, in that same way, godless psychologists can give their ideas and theories to Christians so we can truly help people with their spiritual needs.  He calls it “spoiling the Egyptians,” because God’s people took their spoils.

I can only say, “That’s ridiculous.”  The Jews took gold and silver and other material goods.  They didn’t take the Egyptian gods or magical arts in order to join them to the Word of God they were to receive at Mount Sinai.  They didn’t borrow the spiritual insights of the Egyptians.

When we go after the spoils of Egypt all it does is spoil the Word of God by contaminating it.

We can look to Egypt morally; or, I should probably say, immorally.  God calls us to be separate from the world in our moral lives.  He has established, for example, that marriage, as the foundational institution of all nations, is to be between one man and one woman to last their lifetimes on earth; and that His gift of sex was only to be exercised and enjoyed only within that union.

That’s not what the world around us is saying.  Practically anything goes when it comes to marriage and sexuality.

We do a pretty good job of not looking to Egypt when it comes to, say, homosexuality and same sex unions.  We’ve made our stand and the world knows what it is.  But we are pretty Egyptian when it comes to committing adultery and getting divorced.  We are statistically not much better than the unsaved.

And if the statistics don’t lie, 50% of Christian men and 20% of Christian women describe themselves as addicted to pornography.  Not just tempted by it; addicted to it.

On a spiritual level, we can find ourselves being disciplined, or discipled, and think our help can be found somewhere other than in The Lord.  It’s very common to try to weasel our way out of our trials.

Regarding our relationship to Egypt I’ve heard it put this way: After getting His people out of Egypt, God needs to get ‘Egypt’ out of His people.

The children of Israel often wanted to go back to Egypt when things got tough.  God was each time teaching them to be sustained by His grace.  They were willing to overlook the fact they were held as slaves because they missed certain delicacies – like garlic.

What will it be for you – Grace? Or garlic?

It sounds funny, but every time you look to Egypt you’re settling for something so much less than God’s best for you.

Moses once encouraged the Jews to “Remember this day in which you went out of Egypt, out of the house of bondage; for by strength of hand the LORD brought you out of this place (Exodus 13:3).

As we close think about what you’ve been delivered from to serve the risen and coming King.

Look for the Bare(uch) Necessities (Jeremiah 45)

In the 1970 film, The Out-of-Towners, Gwen and George Kellerman arrive in New York so that George can interview for a  job promotion.

Their last name should have been Murphy because everything that could go wrong, did go wrong.  From the moment they depart their home town of Twin Oaks, Ohio, the couple suffers nearly every indignity out-of-towners possibly could experience:

Heavy fog forces their flight to circle around Kennedy International Airport repeatedly and finally to be rerouted to Boston’s Logan Airport, where they discover their luggage – in which George’s ulcer medication and Gwen’s extra cash are packed – was left behind.
Just missing the train at South Station, they chase it to the next stop by cab, board it and wait two hours for seats in the dining car, only to discover the only food left are peanut butter sandwiches, green olives, and crackers.
Upon arrival at Grand Central Terminal in New York, penniless, they discover that mass transit, taxicab drivers, and sanitation workers all are on strike.
Making their way to the Waldorf-Astoria on foot past tons of garbage in a torrential downpour, they discover their reservation – guaranteed for a 10:00pm arrival – has been given away, and the hotel – like every other one in the city – is booked to capacity due to the strikes.

Those are followed by a series of calamities that includes two muggings, kidnapping by armed liquor store robbers while the Kellermans are riding in a police car, a cracked tooth, broken high heels, an exploding manhole cover, expulsion from a church, and an attack by protestors in front of the Cuban embassy.

The only thing that goes right for George is he somehow manages to arrive on time for his interview.  Despite receiving a very lucrative offer, the two realize a move to the big city is not for them and they make the decision to return to Ohio.

Their flight home is hijacked to Cuba.  The film ends with Gwen exclaiming, “Oh my God!”

We find it humorously entertaining – until something like that happens in real life, either to us or to those we love.  Then we, too, cry out to God.

Things were going from bad to worse for Baruch (pronounced Bare-uck), Jeremiah’s secretary.  His version of “Oh my God!” is to cry out “The Lord has added grief to my sorrow!” (v3).

My gut reaction would be to say to Baruch, “No, He hasn’t; God wouldn’t do that.”  Then I read verse four:

Jeremiah 45:4    “Thus you shall say to him, ‘Thus says the LORD: “Behold, what I have built I will break down, and what I have planted I will pluck up, that is, this whole land.’ ”

God’s planned actions against His people were adding to Baruch’s grief.  Things were bad in Judah but they were going to get a whole lot worse; and it would definitely affect Baruch’s quality of life.

We all have moments like that.  It’s when you get diagnosed with a chronic, even terminal, condition.  Or when you receive the news a loved one has died.  Or when something you cherish changes forever.  Or when you come to realize you won’t fulfill your dream.

Perhaps we can learn something from Baruch to help us in those trying times.

I’ll organize my thoughts along those lines around two questions: #1 When God Adds Grief, Do You Mourn Greatness?, and #2 When God Adds Grief, Doesn’t He Multiply Grace?

#1    When God Adds Grief
    Do You Mourn Greatness?

It’s an odd question, I admit; but it’s suggested by God’s answer to Baruch in verse five, where He asks him if he was seeking great things for himself.

We’ve met Baruch before.  He was Jeremiah’s secretary, writing down the prophecies God gave him.  He’s responsible for us having these words, this book, today.

He was probably a servant to Jeremiah as well.  In their culture he would have been perceived as a disciple.  He was the Joshua to Jeremiah’s Moses; he was the Elisha to Jeremiah’s Elijah.

Along those lines the Hebrew translation of verse three, instead of saying “I found no rest,” is, “I found not prophecy.”  Baruch came to the realization he was not going to be a prophet and the successor to Jeremiah.  He was not destined to be a Joshua or an Elisha.

Hold that thought while we get into the opening verse.

Jeremiah 45:1    The word that Jeremiah the prophet spoke to Baruch the son of Neriah, when he had written these words in a book at the instruction of Jeremiah, in the fourth year of Jehoiakim the son of Josiah, king of Judah, saying,

Our chapter is out of chronological order.  These events occurred before the final fall of Jerusalem and before Jeremiah and Baruch were taken against their will to Egypt.  They occurred just after Baruch wrote down the last of Jeremiah’s prophecies to Judah predicting the final fall of Jerusalem.

It was then, as he took down that final dictation, that things hit home for Baruch.  He realized that the destruction of the city and the Temple were inevitable.  It was his “O my God!” moment when he understood that whatever desires he had for ministry, or for advancing in life, or even for living a quiet life in retirement, were over.

The Lord heard his cry:

Jeremiah 45:2    “Thus says the LORD, the God of Israel, to you, O Baruch:
Jeremiah 45:3    ‘You said, “Woe is me now! For the LORD has added grief to my sorrow. I fainted in my sighing, and I find no rest.” ‘

To say Baruch was at a low point would be an understatement.  He strung together a series of words to express his discouragement – “woe… grief… sorrow.”  It was affecting him physically; he “fainted,” could only sigh, and could “find no rest.”

You’ve been there, haven’t you?  Heard something that made you feel like you’d just been punched in the gut?  Had your heart ripped out?  Felt sick to your stomach by some terrible news?
Take comfort that God absolutely hears your cry.  In the New Testament we’re told He can hear even our unintelligible groanings and that the indwelling Holy Spirit interprets them for the Father.

The fact God hears your cries can then be coupled with one of His names to speak volumes to your heart.  The particular name I’m thinking of is found in Second Corinthians 1:3 where God is called “the God of all comfort.”

I take “all” to mean, firstly, that His comfort is inexhaustible.  He has plenty to dispense.  We may try to comfort someone and, sometimes, the only thing we can say is, “I don’t know what to say.”  Not so for our Heavenly Father.  He always knows what to say.

I secondly take “all” to mean that His comfort can come in many and various different forms.  It can come in the form of another person; or a Scripture that ministers to your heart; or a healing.  Likewise it can come as the strength to endure your hardship.

Hmm.  I like to think of comfort as the removal of un-comfort, not strength to endure un-comfort.  But that is to limit the work of God upon my heart and in my life.  I must give Him more freedom than expecting He must always resolve my suffering to my personal standard of satisfaction.

Look at Baruch.  He seemed on track to succeed Jeremiah.  That may not seem a thing to be desired, given the response of the Jews to Jeremiah.  But for Baruch it was his professional identity; it was his career.  It would make the decades of serving in the shadows worthwhile to finally have the mantle of the prophet upon his shoulders.
It wasn’t to be.

Jeremiah 45:4    “Thus you shall say to him, ‘Thus says the LORD: “Behold, what I have built I will break down, and what I have planted I will pluck up, that is, this whole land.

These words are a great summary of the previous forty-four chapters of prophecy.  They are the Cliff’s Notes version of the Book of Jeremiah.  Judah would fall and the Jews be exiled to Babylon.  There would be no repentance, no revival – only discipline and difficulty.

God put His finger on Baruch’s pulse in verse five.

Jeremiah 45:5    And do you seek great things for yourself? Do not seek them; for behold, I will bring adversity on all flesh,” says the LORD…

We can’t really say, exactly, what “great things” Baruch was thinking he would accomplish in his life.  As we’ve seen, the text suggests he might have been disappointed he would not prophesy or follow in Jeremiah’s footsteps.

“Great things” doesn’t necessarily mean extraordinary accomplishments.  One contemporary English version translates the phrase by saying, “don’t make any big plans for yourself.”

Truth is, we all have big plans; we all have things we’d like to accomplish in our lives.  I’m guessing that most of our big plans are not “great things” like achieving world peace or single-handedly evangelizing every human being.

Our plans are, however, “great” to us.  It would be “great” to live a long, quiet life loving others and being loved by them.  It would be “great” to work hard, play hard, then retire to enjoy things that we put off.

There is nothing wrong with any of those plans; there is nothing wrong with having basic dreams and desires.  However, their fulfillment is not always possible.

I came across this quote: “What screws us up most in life is the picture in our head of how it is supposed to be.”

Baruch had a picture in his head of how it was supposed to be.  His desire to “seek great things for [him]self” had to be tempered by the times in which he lived.

It wasn’t a time for a Joshua to lead the Jews to conquest in the Promised Land; or for an Elisha to double the number of miracles Elijah had done.

It was a time when God must severely discipline the Jews in ways that would negatively effect not just those in sin but those who were walking with Him.  It was a time for His servants to reveal His grace in the midst of a rebellious people who were held captive and exiled.

Baruch didn’t know it but he was going to have an amazing ministry.  Not during his lifetime, but afterwards.  Very few individuals have an entire chapter in the Bible dedicated to them; he does.  We already pointed out that he is to be credited with the writing of this amazing book of prophecy.
He’s not mentioned often in this book but when he is you see him serving God and Jeremiah faithfully.  He has thus encouraged generations of believers.

I ran across a fascinating fact about Baruch in the realm of biblical archaeology.  Baruch happens to be the only man from the Old Testament who has been fingerprinted.

Something called “markers” were the bookmarks of the ancient world.  In 1975 a group of archaeologists purchased some clay document markers from an Arab antiquities dealer.  The archaeologists did not decipher the markers until 1986.  When they did, they discovered that one of them bears the seal of Baruch son of Neriah.  Since then another document marker has been discovered that bears not only Baruch’s seal but also a thumbprint, very probably the thumbprint of the scribe himself.

God heard the cry of His faithful servant, interpreted the inner groanings of his heart, and then tenderly but firmly let Baruch know that at this time, and in this place, He didn’t need a successor to Jeremiah.  Baruch must therefore abandon the “great things” he was seeking because he would find his rest not in them but in his relationship with God.

#2    When God Adds Grief
    Doesn’t He Multiply Grace?

We’ve only a few words left in verse five but they are big words that amplify the grace of God towards Baruch and, ultimately, toward us as well.

Jeremiah 45:5    … “But I will give your life to you as a prize in all places, wherever you go.” ‘ ”

We’ve heard something like this before.  A certain Ethiopian eunuch, called by his title Ebed-melech, meaning servant of the king, intervened to save Jeremiah’s life when he had been thrown into a cistern and left to die.  Ebed-melech was told God would give him his life as a prize.  We saw that the word for “prize” really means spoils of war.

Even though the Chaldean army of Nebuchadnezzar was victorious over the Jews, God saw His faithful servants like Ebed-melech and Baruch as His true spoils of war.

We sometimes use the expression, “I feel like I’ve been in a war,” to describe life when it’s not going our way.  Well, you are in a war; or, at least, in a war zone.  Spiritual warfare is raging all around you.  There’s a battle for the souls of men and women and children.

Although the ultimate outcome of the conflict was settled at the Cross of Jesus Christ, where the devil was definitely defeated, he fights on to rob, kill, and destroy until the return of Jesus to the earth to fully claim what He purchased by His death and resurrection.  We serve The Lord on that battlefield.

Who’s your favorite superhero?  Whoever it is, they either have super powers or super gadgets that elevate them above the average human being.  We see our heroes and heroines as being bigger, faster, stronger, smarter.

No matter your favorite superhero, the greatest superhero of all time… Is Jesus Christ.  He is a kind of antihero to our way of thinking, meaning He lacks conventional heroic attributes.  After all, He is described as laying aside His divine power and living as a man in total submission to God the Father.  When they came to seize Him in the Garden of Gethsemane, He said He could command legions of angels; but He didn’t.  He let Himself be taken all the way to the shame of His death on the Cross.

Jesus once described the attributes of a true hero.  He did it in His Sermon on the Mount in the passage we call the Beatitudes.

Matthew 5:3    “Blessed are the poor in spirit, For theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
Matthew 5:4    Blessed are those who mourn, For they shall be comforted.
Matthew 5:5    Blessed are the meek, For they shall inherit the earth.
Matthew 5:6    Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, For they shall be filled.
Matthew 5:7    Blessed are the merciful, For they shall obtain mercy.
Matthew 5:8    Blessed are the pure in heart, For they shall see God.
Matthew 5:9    Blessed are the peacemakers, For they shall be called sons of God.
Matthew 5:10    Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, For theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
Matthew 5:11    “Blessed are you when they revile and persecute you, and say all kinds of evil against you falsely for My sake.

We invent Superman or Batman when God says the true hero is Meek Man.
It sounds funny, doesn’t it?  “If only Meek Man were here!  He’d save us!”

You know what?  He was here and he did save his people.  The Bible says of Moses, “now the man Moses was very meek, more than all people who were on the face of the earth” (Numbers 12:3).

What did Meek Man do?  He led millions of God’s people free from slavery and destroyed the most powerful army on the earth at that time.  He received God’s Law and applied it to a stubborn and disobedient people.  He struck a rock in the wilderness and torrents of water came out to refresh the people.  Those who opposed him were swallowed up by the earth.

All the while God, from Heaven, could say, “There; that’s my prize – the spoil of spiritual warfare.  A man who will simply walk with me in meekness.”

Baruch was a man like that; so are you.  Looking down upon Baruch from His throne in Heaven, God could say “I will give your life to you as a prize in all places, wherever you go.”

In every circumstance of Baruch’s life – whether in Judah where he currently was or in Egypt where he would be taken against his will or in Babylon where some scholars believe he ended up – God would look upon Him and exclaim to anyone with ears to hear, man or angel or demon, “That’s my prize!”

When you find yourself in a circumstance that lends itself to crying out to God, to groanings that cannot be uttered, God can multiply His grace to you and bring forth the true spoils of war – poverty of spirit, mourning, meekness and the rest of the beatitudes, as well as the fruit of the Spirit.

It may not be the “great things” you had in mind; but if it reveals the grace of God it proves that you are His great treasure on this earth.

A Good Day To Die Hardheartedness (Jeremiah 44v1-30)

Diamonds might still be a girl’s best friend but they are no longer the hardest material on earth.  There are at least three things that are harder than diamonds.

Number three on the list is Lonsdaleite.  It is formed when meteorites containing graphite strike the Earth, so it is pretty rare.  It is translucent, brownish-yellow in color and the purest form of it is more than 50 percent harder than diamond.

Number two on the list is Wurtzite boron nitride.  It is also extremely rare because it is only produced during volcanic eruptions.

What do you think is number one, the hardest material on earth?
While you’re thinking, factor in that this is a Bible study and we are thinking in a spiritual sense.  The answer to the question is something that God says is extremely hard.

Number one on the list, the hardest thing on earth, is the human heart.

One such reference to its hardness is found in Ephesians 4:18.  Describing nonbelievers the apostle Paul writes, “(ESV) they are darkened in their understanding, alienated from the life of God because of the ignorance that is in them, due to their hardness of heart.”

Of course we’re not talking about the heart beating in your chest – that wondrous pump that might beat 3 billion times over the course of your lifetime.  The Bible uses the heart to describe the whole person in all of your distinct activities as a thinking, feeling, worshipping, social being.  “Heart” means your total response to the world around you with special regard to God’s will for your life.

One reason I say it is so hard is that hardness of heart can do a great deal of damage.  Consider the Pharaoh of Egypt who defied God as Moses sought to deliver the Israelites out of slavery.  Fifteen times, in the Book of Exodus, we are told he hardened his heart.  He was so hard that he was willing to keep an entire people enslaved.  If that’s not hard enough, he subjected his people to the ten plagues.  Harder still, he sent his army in their chariots to their watery graves as the Red Sea engulfed them.

Hardest of all, it cost him his own firstborn son as the death angel came on the night of Passover.

Our text in Jeremiah shows a people with hard hearts harden them all the more.  It’s a good place for us to search our own hearts for hardness and for hardening.

I’ll organize my thoughts around two points: #1 The Hardness Of Your Heart Can Be Penetrated By God, and #2 The Hardening Of Your Heart Can Be Prevented By You.

#1    The Hardness Of Your Heart
    Can Be Penetrated By God

The Bible seems to differentiate between the hardness of the human heart in general and the hardening of a human heart in particular.

We are all born with the general condition of hardness of heart.  Paul said as much to the Ephesians.

God, by grace, seeks to penetrate every heart and bring salvation.  Theologians argue whether His grace is resistible (as I believe) or irresistible, but all agree that the human heart is impossibly hard until the operation of grace works upon it to penetrate it.

What about hardening of the heart?  How is it different?  Whereas you inherit hardness of heart, you choose whether or not to harden your heart further.

Allow me to quote from an article in Baker’s Evangelical Dictionary of Theology.

The heart… is hard, but not necessarily hardened.  Hardening of the heart goes beyond the [tragedy] of our inherited condition.  So, working upon the fertile ground of our innately hard hearts, sin may harden them further.  People may harden their own hearts, in sinful rebellion, in bitterness over circumstances, or in sheer self-will…

Examples help, and we have one in our text – an example of the hardness of the human heart and its further hardening.

In the first part of this chapter God is seeking to penetrate the hardness of the hearts of the Jews who had disobediently fled to Egypt.

Jeremiah 44:1    The word that came to Jeremiah concerning all the Jews who dwell in the land of Egypt, who dwell at Migdol, at Tahpanhes, at Noph, and in the country of Pathros, saying,
Jeremiah 44:2    “Thus says the LORD of hosts, the God of Israel: ‘You have seen all the calamity that I have brought on Jerusalem and on all the cities of Judah; and behold, this day they are a desolation, and no one dwells in them,
Jeremiah 44:3    because of their wickedness which they have committed to provoke Me to anger, in that they went to burn incense and to serve other gods whom they did not know, they nor you nor your fathers.
Jeremiah 44:4    However I have sent to you all My servants the prophets, rising early and sending them, saying, “Oh, do not do this abominable thing that I hate!”
Jeremiah 44:5    But they did not listen or incline their ear to turn from their wickedness, to burn no incense to other gods.
Jeremiah 44:6    So My fury and My anger were poured out and kindled in the cities of Judah and in the streets of Jerusalem; and they are wasted and desolate, as it is this day.’
God’s people were guilty of sin – wicked, abominable, habitual sin.  They set up idols in the Temple.  They participated in crazy immoral sexual rituals worshipping false gods.  They murdered their own infant children in sacrifices.

God patiently, graciously, “sent… all [His] servants the prophets…” but God’s people refused to “listen or incline their ear.”

God had mounted a decades-long campaign to penetrate the hardness of their hearts.

That’s the point we want to derive from these verses – that God goes to great lengths in order to penetrate the hardness of the human heart.

Jeremiah 44:7    “Now therefore, thus says the LORD, the God of hosts, the God of Israel: ‘Why do you commit this great evil against yourselves, to cut off from you man and woman, child and infant, out of Judah, leaving none to remain,
Jeremiah 44:8    in that you provoke Me to wrath with the works of your hands, burning incense to other gods in the land of Egypt where you have gone to dwell, that you may cut yourselves off and be a curse and a reproach among all the nations of the earth?
Jeremiah 44:9    Have you forgotten the wickedness of your fathers, the wickedness of the kings of Judah, the wickedness of their wives, your own wickedness, and the wickedness of your wives, which they committed in the land of Judah and in the streets of Jerusalem?
Jeremiah 44:10    They have not been humbled, to this day, nor have they feared; they have not walked in My law or in My statutes that I set before you and your fathers.’

One reason the Jews fled to Egypt was so they could continue to sin.  They had learned nothing from God’s discipline. If that’s not hardness of heart, I don’t know what is.

Jeremiah 44:11    “Therefore thus says the LORD of hosts, the God of Israel: ‘Behold, I will set My face against you for catastrophe and for cutting off all Judah.
Jeremiah 44:12    And I will take the remnant of Judah who have set their faces to go into the land of Egypt to dwell there, and they shall all be consumed and fall in the land of Egypt. They shall be consumed by the sword and by famine. They shall die, from the least to the greatest, by the sword and by famine; and they shall be an oath, an astonishment, a curse and a reproach!
Jeremiah 44:13    For I will punish those who dwell in the land of Egypt, as I have punished Jerusalem, by the sword, by famine, and by pestilence,
Jeremiah 44:14    so that none of the remnant of Judah who have gone into the land of Egypt to dwell there shall escape or survive, lest they return to the land of Judah, to which they desire to return and dwell. For none shall return except those who escape.’ ”

It’s a warning.  By it God was still seeking to penetrate their hardness of heart.

Warnings are for your good, are they not?  If you’re traveling and you see a sign that says, “Bridge Out,” do you put the pedal to the metal thinking that CalTrans is just messing with you?

It wasn’t just that God was offended by their sin.  A lot of times people think of God as being a prude; a cosmic killjoy who wants to keep them from having any fun.  Truth is, God knows you are a spiritual being who was created to be in a relationship with Him.  If your heart remains hard you will never be whole.
Sin might be pleasurable for a season but you will be left empty and, in the long run, it will destroy you.

The Jews could not survive in Egypt; it was a spiritual death camp for them.  It was in their best interests that God intervene – even though His intervention may seem harsh on its surface.

Speaking to nonbelievers, Charles Finney said,

How astonishing is the long-suffering of God? How many ways have you hardened your hearts against him!  How many times have you betaken yourselves to the most absurd, unreasonable, provoking reasons for girding yourself and resisting the claims of God!  And God’s forbearance is still lengthened out, even to this long-suffering!  Will it not suffice you thus far to have resisted the mercy and compassion of God?  I beseech you, now let the controversy cease.  Lay down your weapons; accept God’s claims; humble yourself under his mighty hand; lay down your sins, and accept the offer of eternal life.

The real question for most of us, gathered this day, is, “As a Christian, can I still have hardness of heart?”

Sadly the answer is “Yes.”  In Mark 6:52 and 8:17 Jesus described His disciples as having hearts that were hardened.

Mark 6:52    For they had not understood about the loaves, because their heart was hardened.
Mark 8:17    … [Jesus said to them] “Do you not yet perceive nor understand? Is your heart still hardened?”

After His resurrection from the dead Jesus had to point out their hardness of heart.
Mark 16:14    Later He appeared to the eleven as they sat at the table; and He rebuked their unbelief and hardness of heart, because they did not believe those who had seen Him after He had risen.

Three times in the book of Hebrews we are told, “harden not your heart” – Hebrews 3:8, 3:15 and 4:7.  In two of those passages you read, “today if you will hear His voice, harden not your heart.”

Christians can have hardness of heart.  We must therefore allow His Word to penetrate our hearts to ask, “Is your heart still hardened?”

It’s usually not either/or – either you’re hardened or you’re not.  You might have a soft heart, a tender heart, towards God in most areas.

But are there any areas in which you might still have hardness – maybe towards a person, or a perspective, or a prompting from the Holy Spirit?  Maybe an area of disbelief; or a bitterness?

Let The Lord show you.  It’s for your own good.  You can’t survive a spiritual Egypt.

#2    The Hardening Of Your Heart
    Can Be Prevented By You

The Jews in Egypt were warned and it was a genuine warning.  By that I mean they could act upon God’s Word.  They could let it soften their hardness of heart; or they could harden their own hearts even further.

Knowing their history, what do you think they did?

Jeremiah 44:15    Then all the men who knew that their wives had burned incense to other gods, with all the women who stood by, a great multitude, and all the people who dwelt in the land of Egypt, in Pathros, answered Jeremiah, saying:
Jeremiah 44:16    “As for the word that you have spoken to us in the name of the LORD, we will not listen to you!
Jeremiah 44:17    But we will certainly do whatever has gone out of our own mouth, to burn incense to the queen of heaven and pour out drink offerings to her, as we have done, we and our fathers, our kings and our princes, in the cities of Judah and in the streets of Jerusalem. For then we had plenty of food, were well-off, and saw no trouble.
Jeremiah 44:18    But since we stopped burning incense to the queen of heaven and pouring out drink offerings to her, we have lacked everything and have been consumed by the sword and by famine.”
Jeremiah 44:19    The women also said, “And when we burned incense to the queen of heaven and poured out drink offerings to her, did we make cakes for her, to worship her, and pour out drink offerings to her without our husbands’ permission?”

If I’m reading this correctly, Jeremiah confronted the people as they were busy celebrating a feast to the moon goddess – the “queen of Heaven.”  He talked to them red-handed, as it were.

These people had already heard the words of verses one through fourteen.  This, then, was their decision – to go on, to go even deeper, into idolatry.  Or, as we are describing it, to harden their already hard hearts.

Jeremiah 44:20    Then Jeremiah spoke to all the people – the men, the women, and all the people who had given him that answer – saying:
Jeremiah 44:21    “The incense that you burned in the cities of Judah and in the streets of Jerusalem, you and your fathers, your kings and your princes, and the people of the land, did not the LORD remember them, and did it not come into His mind?
Jeremiah 44:22    So the LORD could no longer bear it, because of the evil of your doings and because of the abominations which you committed. Therefore your land is a desolation, an astonishment, a curse, and without an inhabitant, as it is this day.
Jeremiah 44:23    Because you have burned incense and because you have sinned against the LORD, and have not obeyed the voice of the LORD or walked in His law, in His statutes or in His testimonies, therefore this calamity has happened to you, as at this day.”
Jeremiah 44:24    Moreover Jeremiah said to all the people and to all the women, “Hear the word of the LORD, all Judah who are in the land of Egypt!
Jeremiah 44:25    Thus says the LORD of hosts, the God of Israel, saying: ‘You and your wives have spoken with your mouths and fulfilled with your hands, saying, “We will surely keep our vows that we have made, to burn incense to the queen of heaven and pour out drink offerings to her.” You will surely keep your vows and perform your vows!’

I want to keep pointing out that the Jews were making a choice.  God was graciously seeking repentance.  They hardened their hearts.

Jeremiah 44:26    Therefore hear the word of the LORD, all Judah who dwell in the land of Egypt: ‘Behold, I have sworn by My great name,’ says the LORD, ‘that My name shall no more be named in the mouth of any man of Judah in all the land of Egypt, saying, “The Lord GOD lives.”
Jeremiah 44:27    Behold, I will watch over them for adversity and not for good. And all the men of Judah who are in the land of Egypt shall be consumed by the sword and by famine, until there is an end to them.
Jeremiah 44:28    Yet a small number who escape the sword shall return from the land of Egypt to the land of Judah; and all the remnant of Judah, who have gone to the land of Egypt to dwell there, shall know whose words will stand, Mine or theirs.
Jeremiah 44:29    And this shall be a sign to you,’ says the LORD, ‘that I will punish you in this place, that you may know that My words will surely stand against you for adversity.’
Jeremiah 44:30    “Thus says the LORD: ‘Behold, I will give Pharaoh Hophra king of Egypt into the hand of his enemies and into the hand of those who seek his life, as I gave Zedekiah king of Judah into the hand of Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon, his enemy who sought his life.’ ”

God ramped it up.  Terrible things were in store for all but a tiny remnant of them.  They needed to get out of Dodge.

Remember, being in Egypt was no good for the Jews.  It would only further corrupt them.  Life in Judah – tough as it would be – was the answer but they would have none of it.

We’ve learned that there is undoubtedly still hardness in our hearts.  Even as believers, indwelt by God the Holy Spirit, we can remain hard to certain things.

God is gracious to reveal those things to us – to penetrate our hardness of heart for our own good.

For our part we need only admit we tend towards hardness and hardening.

Think of it this way.  If your physician diagnosed you with blocked arteries, and recommended surgery, you’d probably agree – desiring to live and have a better quality of life.  Before you go under the knife, you must sign a stack of wavers giving the doctor and his agents permission to operate.  Until you sign he or she is powerless to intervene.

It’s a little like that with God, Who is, of course, the Great Physician.  His Word provides the diagnosis; but we won’t hear it if we’re not allowing Him to examine us; and we may not receive it even after He does.  We have a tendency to hear God but then seek a second opinion – usually our own!

It’s better to be compliant and sign-off each time Dr. Jesus reveals something to us.

Wave your will and let His will prevail.