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A Message to Baruch July 28, 2017

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Here are my thoughts on Jeremiah 45.

Summary: In this passage, God addresses Baruch son of Neriah during the reign of King Jehoiakim as he completes the transcription of the prophecies of Jeremiah. In particular, God rebukes Baruch for his display of self-pity – yet He assures him that He will preserve him during the Babylonian destruction of Judah.

Thoughts: Here, we see that God instructs Baruch to not “seek great things for” himself. Now when I perused Calvin’s commentary on this passage, though, I found no mention of Baruch’s intentions at that time. This caused me to ponder the editorial decisions that produced the Crossway Classic Commentaries, especially those originally written by Calvin. In particular, I wonder how the editors, Alister McGrath and J.I. Packer, determined which sections of Calvin’s original text would be worthwhile for the modern reader. Here, it is fair to assume that inquiring minds would ask: why God was reproving Baruch in this passage? I will also make a small leap and assume that Calvin did address this point in the original text – so why did McGrath and Packer choose to omit it? It should be noted that some of the other Crossway Classic Commentaries, especially the ones originally written by Charles Hodge, contain many detailed explanations, while the ones originally written by Calvin are terse. I anticipate meeting McGrath and Packer someday and querying them on this point.

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Jehoiakim Burns Jeremiah’s Scroll June 21, 2017

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Here are my thoughts on Jeremiah 36.

Summary: In this passage, God commands Jeremiah to record the entirety of their prior communication regarding Israel, Judah and the surrounding nations. To this end, Jeremiah enlists the help of Baruch son of Neriah, who transcribes his prophecies on a scroll.

Jeremiah then instructs Baruch to take this scroll and proclaim these prophecies in the temple. Baruch heeds this instruction; later, he proclaims the prophecies to a group of royal officials.

These officials deliver this scroll to King Jehoiakim. When he hears the prophecies of Jeremiah, he responds by burning the scroll – instead of repenting of his sins.

God then commands Jeremiah to record all of his prophecies on another scroll. He also condemns Jehoiakim for his blatant disregard of His words.

Baruch and Jeremiah prepare this second scroll.

Thoughts: Here, we see the obedience of Jeremiah and Baruch to God’s commands – in the face of persecution. Calvin offers some thoughts on this point in his commentary on verse 8:

Here Baruch’s prompt action is commended; he did not disobey God’s prophet but willingly undertook the office delegated to him. His office was not without danger, for his message was not at all popular; but he knew he had to carry out this work.

When I meet Jeremiah and Baruch in the next life, I anticipate plying them with questions about the events in this passage. Did Jeremiah recall the entirety of his prior communication with God concerning Israel, Judah and the surrounding nations? How long did it take for Baruch to transcribe those prophecies? Which sections of this book contain those prophecies? What were their thoughts and emotions when they heard that King Jehoiakim had burned the scroll that they had prepared? How long did it take for Baruch to transcribe another scroll? Which sections of this book were included in that second scroll?

We also see that when Baruch proclaimed the prophecies of Jeremiah to a group of royal officials, they responded by reporting them to King Jehoiakim. Did these officials view Jeremiah and Baruch as traitors to their nation? Also, in verse 16, we see that these officials were fearful; were they actually fearful of God and His condemnation of their actions? What were the thoughts and emotions of Jehudi son of Nethaniah as Jehoiakim continued to burn sections of the scroll that Baruch had prepared? Did Jehudi even consider the possibility of intervening and compelling Jehoiakim to consider the consequences of his actions?

In verses 27-31, we see that God condemns Jehoiakim for burning the scroll that Baruch had prepared. Calvin offers some thoughts on this point in his commentary on verses 27-28:

The prophet shows what the ungodly gain by contending against God. No matter how hard-hearted they are, they will be broken down by God’s power. This happened to King Jehoiakim.

This passage is a powerful reminder that God is sovereign over His creation – especially over those political leaders who oppose Him. Thus, modern-day believers who suffer from state-sanctioned persecution can be encouraged by the following reality: no matter how their political leaders actively – or passively – harm them, God will enable them to emerge victorious over their political leaders. As a secondary point, modern-day believers who do not suffer from state-sanctioned persecution should not lose heart in the face of stomach-churning current events. We can draw strength from the unchanging nature of His sovereignty and continue to serve Him faithfully as we anticipate His – and our – ultimate victory over those who would oppose Him.

Judgment Against Evil Kings April 22, 2017

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Here are my thoughts on Jeremiah 22.

Summary: In this passage, God speaks through Jeremiah, condemning the actions of these kings of Judah:

Indeed, He charges them with a litany of sins, including:

  • withholding the wages of the workers who built the royal palace in Jerusalem
  • flaunting their wealth
  • shedding innocent blood.

Thus, he will punish them by:

  • destroying the royal palace in Jerusalem
  • banishing Jehoahaz and Jehoiachin from their native land
  • bringing shame on Jehoiakim after his death
  • cutting off their royal line.

Thoughts: In verses 13-17, we see that God condemns King Jehoiakim for his actions towards the workers who constructed his palace. Calvin offers some thoughts on this point in his commentary on verse 14:

The prophet reproves the ambition and pride of King Jehoiakim. He was not content with the moderation of his fathers but indulged in extravagant display and built for himself a palace in the clouds, so to speak, as if he did not want to live on the earth. Splendid houses are not in themselves condemned, but since they nearly always proceed from insatiable ambition, the prophets condemn sumptuous houses.

These verses remind me of one of the controversies that swirled around last year’s presidential election in the United States. Perhaps modern-day believers who reside in First World countries should assess our lives in light of this passage. For example, do we leave a proper tip for our server at the local eatery that we frequent? If we happen to own a business, are we properly compensating our employees? Do we – either consciously or unconsciously – flaunt our wealth?

Recently, our small group has been strolling through the Gospel of Luke; some have termed that book “the social concerns Gospel” due to its emphasis on less prominent characters – and God’s desire that they be lifted up. Over the last few years, I have given more thought to the role of Christians in advancing the principles of justice and fairness in this broken world; thus, these simultaneous strolls through Jeremiah and Luke have served to reinforce that point. I am curious as to whether these principles will play a prominent role in the rest of Jeremiah, though.

Here, we see that King Jehoahaz and King Jehoiachin – along with the queen mother, Nehushta – will be banished from their native land; moreover, they will never return to it. This spurred me to consider the possibility of banishment from my native land. I have never lived in another country for an extended period of time, and it is difficult for me to contemplate life as an emigre. If I were ever exiled from my country and barred from returning to it, I wonder how I would respond to that trial. Would I ever grow accustomed to life as a foreigner? Would I actually embrace my new country and completely divorce myself from my native land? Would I retain some attachment to my native land – and harbor a sense of regret concerning life in exile? Indeed, as a citizen of a First World country, I should be more thankful that God has shown His grace to me in determining the time and place of my birth.

Strolling Through the Book of Jeremiah January 25, 2017

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I’ve recently started reading through the Book of Jeremiah with the aid of a commentary by Calvin. I should note that I’ve previously read through Jeremiah. As in my recent stroll through the book of Acts, I hope to comprehend Jeremiah as a whole. Regular readers of this blog will also know that this is my first stroll through a book of the Old Testament; thus, I am eager to acquire a greater understanding of God’s unchanging nature.

I plan to blog about this experience as I read through both the book and Calvin’s commentary. Each post will correspond to a specific section in the NIV translation.

For starters, here are my thoughts on Jeremiah 1:1-3.

Summary: In this passage, we see that God called Jeremiah as His prophet. Jeremiah’s ministry encompassed the reign of at least three kings of Judah:

God spoke through him until the people of Jerusalem were exiled by the Babylonians.

Thoughts: In verse 3, we see that Jeremiah’s prophetic ministry concluded when the people of Jerusalem were forced into exile. Thus, it would appear that his ministry concluded on a disappointing note – as he was ultimately unsuccessful in compelling his countrymen to heed God’s warnings. Yet this raises a salient question: was his ministry a failure in the eyes of God? Did he accomplish all of the tasks that God had assigned him? I shall have to continue my stroll in order to answer that question…