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Promise of Restoration June 9, 2017

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Here are my thoughts on Jeremiah 33.

Summary: In this passage, God reiterates the main point of the previous passage: He will bring His people out of exile in Babylon; moreover, He will restore them to their homeland.

In particular, He will:

  • allow His people to get married in their homeland
  • allow shepherds to tend their flocks in their homeland
  • re-establish the priesthood – so that He can be worshiped forever.

To lend further weight to these assertions, He appeals to His sovereignty over all celestial bodies.

Thoughts: Here, we see that God continues to assert the boundless nature of His love for His people. Calvin offers some thoughts on this point in his commentary on verses 19-21:

He shows that God’s covenant with the people of Israel will be no less strong than the settled order of nature. The sun, moon, and stars are constant in their progress. This settled state of things is so fixed that in a great variety of circumstances there is no change. We have rain and then fair weather, and we have the various seasons, but the sun continues its daily course.

One thought is that this section of Jeremiah constitutes a lengthy love letter from God to His people; the language that He employs displays His ardor for them. Just as a soldier would be encouraged by a photo of a loved one during an extended tour of duty, God would want His people to be encouraged by this letter during their lengthy exile in Babylon. I hope to meet at least some of the exiles in the next life and learn how they responded to this love letter.

We also see that God will re-establish the priesthood in perpetuity. The meaning of this assertion is not entirely clear, given that the Levitical priesthood has been inactive for quite some time. In contrast, the meaning of His assertion concerning the Davidic dynasty is more clear, given that Jesus Christ is a descendant of David in His human form; moreover, we believe that the reign of Christ over all creation will never end. One thought is that while the Levitical priesthood will never be re-established, God has installed Christ as His perpetual High Priest (note that Christ is a member of the tribe of Judah in His human form). Christ always stands before His Father, having offered Himself once for all time as a sacrifice for sins; now He regularly intercedes for us with His Father. Thus, in that sense, Christ is our King and our High Priest. Now I am merely speculating here; alternate interpretations are welcome.


Jeremiah and Pashhur April 12, 2017

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Here are my thoughts on Jeremiah 20:1-6.

Summary: In this passage, the priest Pashhur punishes Jeremiah for his dire prophecies in the temple by having him beaten and (temporarily) imprisoned. Jeremiah responds to his punishment by declaring that God will punish Pashhur for his sins. In particular, Pashhur and his entire family will be sent into exile in Babylon; there, he will die and be buried.

Thoughts: I am curious as to how Pashhur responded to Jeremiah’s pronouncement of God’s judgment upon him. Was he gripped by fear, sensing that God was actually speaking through Jeremiah in this instance? Or did he dismiss Jeremiah’s words – including his declaration that Pashhur’s name had been changed to Magor-Missabib – as the ravings of a lunatic? What were his thoughts and emotions as the Babylonians ravaged Jerusalem and its populace? Did he eventually go into exile in Babylon, and if so, did he repent of his sins at that time?

Day of Disaster April 2, 2017

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Here are my thoughts on Jeremiah 16:1-17:18.

Summary: In this passage, God commands Jeremiah to refrain from marrying – and bearing children – as He will cause His people to perish via plague, famine and sword. Moreover, He will not allow anyone to mourn their deaths or bury them. Indeed, He will cause their land to be bereft of all joy and gladness, and all who remain will be exiled.

God declares that this punishment stems from their forsaking Him and worshiping other gods. This punishment will display the glory of His name to them.

He then draws a contrast between those who trust in other gods and those who trust in Him – stating that the latter group will be blessed. Since Jeremiah trusts in Him, he calls on Him for deliverance from those who oppose his prophetic ministry.

Thoughts: In verses 1 and 2 of chapter 16, we see that God commands Jeremiah to refrain from marriage and childbearing. Calvin offers some thoughts on this point:

This is a new discourse, not unlike many others, except that the prophet is commanded not to marry or have any children in that land. The instruction against marriage was full of meaning. It was to show that the people were wholly given up to destruction.

When I meet Jeremiah in the next life, I plan to query him on this point. Had Jeremiah contemplated the prospect of marriage before he heard God’s commandment in this passage? Was he actually betrothed to anyone at that time? Did he wrestle with God after receiving His commandment, asking Him for mercy on this point? Did he inform his family of this commandment, and if so, how did they respond to it? When did he comprehend God’s higher purposes for him?

In verse 10 of chapter 16, we see that the people of Judah responded with incredulity to Jeremiah’s dire prophecies. Calvin offers some thoughts on this point:

God shows here that the people indulged themselves so much in their vices that nothing could make them repent. It was great blindness, even madness, not to examine themselves when they were struck by God’s hand.

As a modern-day believer, I readily fall into the trap of condemning the people of Judah and wondering, “how could they be so ignorant regarding their sins? Didn’t they know that child sacrifice, deception and idol worship deeply offended God?” Yet I should remember the context of this passage. The spiritual state of the people of Judah was tied to that of their sovereign – and King Manasseh had revived these vices in their land. While they may have initially recoiled at these sins, they eventually became inured to them. We should consider any parallels between our society and that of Judah at that time. We should identify our modern-day vices, using Scripture as our guide, and view them as abhorrent and repulsive.

In verses 5-8 of chapter 17, we see that God contrasts the fortunes of those who do not trust in Him and those who do trust in Him. Calvin offers some thoughts on this point in his commentary on verses 7 and 8:

The prophet points out the difference between God’s true servants, who trust in him, and those who are inflated with their own false imaginations, so that they seek refuge either in themselves or in others. The faithful are like trees planted by water, sending their roots out to the river. God’s servants are planted, as it were, in a moist soil, irrigated continually by streams of water.

This passage reminded me of Psalm 1 and its declaration that God will bless the one who trusts in Him. One thought on this point is that a genuine trust in God is displayed during trials – when one is confronted with the following questions:

  • should they approach the difficulty at hand by placing their trust in God?
  • should they ignore God and attempt to solve their problem entirely on their own?

This is why I found the reference to “a year of drought” in verse 8 to be apt. Trials are inherent to this life, and as believers, we must ask ourselves: how will we respond to them? Will we still be able to bear fruit, or will we wither and grow spiritually useless? Clearly we need God’s strength and wisdom to remain fruitful at those times.

Threat of Captivity March 26, 2017

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Here are my thoughts on Jeremiah 13:15-27.

Summary: In this passage, God speaks through Jeremiah, declaring that He will send the people of Jerusalem and Judah – including the king and the queen mother – into exile for their sins. This stems from the fact that they are spiritual adulterers – they have worshiped idols and consorted with other nations. They have aggrieved God, who is their husband; thus, He must bring shame on them.

Thoughts: In verse 18, God instructs Jeremiah to rebuke the king of Judah and the queen mother. Calvin offers some thoughts on this point:

The prophet is now told to address his discourse directly to King Jehoiakim and his mother. By showing that he would not spare even the king and queen mother, God hoped to arouse the community in general.

Now the sidebar note in my NIV Study Bible for this verse states:

Who were the king and the queen mother? Jehoiachin and his mother, Nehushta…Jehoiachin, who began and ended his reign as an 18-year-old, likely looked to his mother for advice.

I was confused by these conflicting explanations, and so I was spurred to peruse the notes for this verse in Bible Hub. Those notes reveal some disagreement among commentators as to whether this verse references Jehoiakim or Jehoiachin. When I meet Jeremiah in the next life, I hope to query him on this point and settle the matter.

In verses 26 and 27, we see that God plans to bring shame on His people for their acts of spiritual adultery. Calvin offers some thoughts on this point:

God assumed the character of a husband to his people. As he had been so shamefully despised, he now says he was ready to punish them by throwing the skirts of his people over their faces, that their reproach or baseness might appear by exposing their private parts.

While I cannot bring any personal experience to bear regarding this passage, I assume that if a lover’s significant other were unfaithful to them, they would feel a deep sense of shame. Moreover, I assume that the aggrieved lover could be filled with a desire for retribution. In these instances, though, could their sinful nature distort that desire for justice? In contrast, we see that God displays a holy jealousy and a righteous desire that sin be punished appropriately. Indeed, I believe that He is the only “lover” who can properly respond to an adulterous “significant other” and properly punish them.