Sabbatical 2017

Sabbatical 2017
Thames River, London

Tuesday, August 8, 2017

Canonical Reading For Aug 12, Jer 1-3

Today's readings are Jer 1-3.

Jeremiah prophesied to Judah during King Josiah's reign, in 627, until sometime after the destruction of Jerusalem in 596 BC. He dictated his prophecies to a scribe named Baruch. This means that it's entirely possible that Nahum, Zephaniah, and Jeremiah were all prophesying in Judah, calling them to repent, at the same time. Check out the time frames for the prophets sent to both kingdoms.

In Jer 1, we see that Jeremiah was ordained to be a prophet before he was born, another great example of God's absolute sovereignty not to mention a poignant commentary on the life of a yet-to-be-born baby.

In Jer 1:10, the tone for the entire book is set when we hear God say to Jeremiah, "See, I have set you this day over nations and over kingdoms, to pluck up and to break down, to destroy and to overthrow, to build and to plant." Jeremiah's ministry is one that foresees breaking down, destruction and overthrow. But it also foretells building and planting. As king Josiah heard, trouble is coming, but God will ultimately redeem His children.

A series of visions begin for Jeremiah. The vision of the almond branch is a play on words. The Hebrew word for "almond branch" sounds like "saqed." The Hebrew word for "watch" sounds like "soqed." The vision was to show Jeremiah God is watching over His word to ensure that it will happen precisely as He says it will.

Then Jeremiah has another vision foretelling the siege against Jerusalem, a heavily fortified city that will fall spectacularly.  Again, we see some word play as God declares Jeremiah to be like a fortified city, one that will not fall. Implicit in the prophecy is the promise that God will not protect Jerusalem but will protect Jeremiah, who is told not to be dismayed. That encouragement will come to mean much to the "weeping prophet" as he became known. Jeremiah’s career as a prophet will be marked by little in the way of success in getting God’s people to heed his warnings. As we will see, Jeremiah will have to remind himself, repeatedly (just as we should), that success is measured by God's standards, and the only affirmation that is important is His.

In Jer 2, Jeremiah is told that Israel, who has been taken captive by Assyria, is responsible for their own plight because of their unfaithfulness to God.

Jer 3  reveals that God calls the Northern Kingdom, Israel, to repentance with the assurance that He will forgive. He says that Israel was, at least sincere in their turning away while Judah turned toward Him with only a half-hearted gesture. Yet, God will forgive both kingdoms and establish His throne once again, if they repent.

This is another biblical principle, the necessity of a contrite heart in repentance. History will show us that Judah repented but only as long as Josiah reigned. Their repentance, like that of Nineveh when Jonah prophesied over that great city, was temporary. Jeremiah’s charge is to proclaim that God's judgment is about to fall on Judah for their faithlessness and Nineveh for oppressing Judah and Israel.

Through these incredible stories, Jeremiah’s in particular, we see that God is merciful and willing to restore if we confess our sin with hearts that grieve over the way we offended Him.

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