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Day 168 – Thru the Bible
Today we start Jeremiah. Here is the overview video.
Video – Read Scripture: Jeremiah
How does this video help you understand the overall purpose and message of Jeremiah?
Jeremiah 1 – The historical timing of Jeremiah’s prophecies is significant. Ever since Solomon’s apostasy (1 Kings 11), the fortunes of Judah have been in decline because of the rebellious faithlessness of the people. King Josiah’s reforms (2 Kings 22–23) could not stem the tide of evil under his successors. Jeremiah presides over the demise of Judah and the destruction of Jerusalem, the temple, and the Davidic kingship at the hands of the Babylonians in 586 b.c. He is witness to and speaks of the destruction of all the institutions that testified to God’s election of the nation.
These introductory verses remind us that Jeremiah’s prophecy as a whole is a warning that a nation, a church, or an individual that relies on the externals of religion rather than faith in the redemptive grace of God remains under God’s wrath. But he also points to the sovereign purpose of God to save a people for Himself.
The call of Jeremiah to be God’s prophet demonstrates the sovereignty of God. Before Jeremiah was conceived in the womb, God knew him, consecrated him, and appointed him as his prophet. This foreknowledge of the man is more than foreseeing his future. It establishes a relationship between God and His chosen one that is sure and that will fulfill God’s purpose. In this it foreshadows God’s foreknowledge of His people as expressed throughout the New Testament (Romans 8:29; 11:2; 1 Peter 1:2).
Jeremiah’s timid response, echoed so often in our own hearts, is countered by the divine assurance that God’s purpose will be fulfilled. Many times in Scripture we see God choosing the weak, the aged (Abraham), the inarticulate (Moses), the morally blemished (Jacob), the obscure (Gideon), and the persecuted (the suffering servant in Isaiah)—all culminating ultimately in the true suffering servant, Jesus. The apostle Paul also had to learn that God’s power is made perfect in our weakness (2 Corinthians 12:5–10). Jeremiah needs to be assured that his words will be God’s words because his message will have universal significance and will bring both destruction and renewal. The assurance God gives him strikes a theme consistent with the gospel—that God has chosen what is weak to confound the strong (1 Corinthians 1:27), for the gospel is the power of God for salvation (Romans 1:16). This gospel, like Jeremiah’s message, speaks of both judgment and redemption.
In Jeremiah’s weakness—not despite his weakness—God will be with him and will deliver him. This is good news for weak people today who know they need God more than anything else and who cry out for His all-sufficient grace. Such are the ones whom God uses in supernatural ways.
The word of the sovereign God will achieve His purpose, and enable Jeremiah to do the same. As Jeremiah responds to God’s command to “say to them [His people] everything that I command you,” God promises, “I make you this day a fortified city, an iron pillar, and bronze walls” against his opposition. In like manner, Isaiah assured his hearers that God’s word is invincible (Isaiah 55:11). This word announces both judgment and salvation. The prophetic word foreshadows the Word made flesh, Jesus (John 1:14). He must come because of the difficult thing the word of God must also do: pronounce forgiveness over the lives of those who do not deserve it. Yet this is precisely the message of the gospel, accomplished by Jesus’ atoning work as that Word invincibly achieves God’s redeeming purpose.
Believers should be confident that Jesus cannot fail in His purpose to redeem His people and to judge evil, as the word of God does here in Jeremiah 1.
How does your confidence in the sovereignty of God motivate your daily living?
Jeremiah 2 – The covenant relationship between God and His people is often described with the metaphor of marriage, the pinnacle of human relationship (Hosea 2:16–20; 2 Corinthians 11:2; Revelation 21:2, 9). Mutual love and devotion should exist in such a relationship. Yet Israel has forsaken the Lord. The adulterous faithlessness of Judah ultimately will be removed in the perfecting of the church, the bride of Jesus. But until Jesus returns, the prophetic word is a warning against turning from God’s love. This warning is reinforced for Believers many times in the New Testament (such as Hebrews 2:1–4).
This covenant “marriage” was cemented for Israel in the exodus. How perverse that those who have received such grace—redemption from Egypt’s oppression—should forget it and turn to others for sustenance. The Christian life can also become arid and fruitless when we forget its basis in the true exodus made possible for us by Jesus’ resurrection. It is appalling when preachers and teachers forsake the truth for another “gospel” (Galatians 1:6–9).
Even pagans show greater consistency than the people of God, who find only emptiness when they turn their backs on the truth to try things other than the word of God. Cisterns that leak are no substitute for the living water (Isaiah 58:11).
When Jesus came, He announced that He is the one who gives the “living water” that God has repeatedly provided and promised to His people (Jeremiah 17:13; Exodus 17; Numbers 20; John 4:11–12; 1 Corinthians 10:4). Thus for the one who believes in Him, “out of his heart will flow rivers of living water” (John 7:38; see also Ezekiel 47:1–12). In Eden, rivers flowed from the garden (Genesis 2:10), and in the new earth, rivers will once more flow plentifully (Revelation 22:1). And it is climactically through Jesus, the One who provides forgiveness and restoration for His people, that this motif of running, living water passes. Abiding in Him, Believers today discover the true “fountain of living waters”, the only solid and lasting joy. Only in Him is spiritual thirst satisfied and the arid wilderness of sin and death replaced by eternal life with God.
The imagery of the marriage bond broken by whoredom is linked to that of the wild vine. The vine imagery is used to describe God’s people (see 8:13; Isaiah 5; Ezekiel 15:1–8; Hosea 10:1). In Jeremiah 2:21 God says that He planted Israel as “a choice vine,” yet His people have become “a wild vine.” Israel was called to bless the nations with the blessing they themselves had received (Genesis 12:1–3), yet they proved consistently fruitless in this calling. Unfaithfulness and idolatry mean that Israel is worthy only to be destroyed. Thus, Judah is a wild, degenerate vine. God’s indictment of Israel as fruitless, however, is a valid allegation not only against faithless Israelites but against all God’s people of all times, for none have been the fruitful men and women He created us to be.
In Jesus, however, this tragic history of fruitlessness is wonderfully reversed. Jesus declared Himself to be the true Vine, in union with whom fruitless and faltering men and women can once more be fruitful (John 15:1–8). Israel failed to be the “firstfruits” they were called to be, but Jesus has become the firstfruits of all those united to Him by faith (1 Corinthians 15:20–23). Acknowledging the way we too have “turned degenerate,” and looking to Jesus and being united to Him by faith, we receive the benefits of Jesus’ finished work.
The people say they have not sinned. Even the people of God need reminding of the sin “which clings so closely” to us (Hebrews 12:1–2). Israel’s lack of any sense of guilt is itself, ironically, proof of their guilt. The seriousness of sin is ever before us in the New Testament (Romans 1:18–32; 3:9–20; 1 John 1:8–10). Open, contrite acknowledgment of sin, no matter how grievous the transgression, can be fully and permanently covered by the blood of Jesus.
Knowing that all your sin—past, present, and future—has been forgiven for all who repent and believe, how are you experiencing the peace and joy of the “living water” that is within you?
Jeremiah 3 – The marriage metaphor returns in reverse. Faithlessness and a lack of true repentance are characterized as whoredom that pollutes the land. God has called His people into covenant relationship with Himself, yet they have forsaken Him and senselessly run after other gods.
Yet all is not lost. “Turning” and “returning” to the Lord is the typical way the prophets speak of repentance. True repentance is both turning from sin and turning to God with a whole heart of dependence upon the fullness of His mercy (not upon the goodness of our repentance). John the Baptist came to call the Jews to repentance, but he saw the shallowness of the response of many: “You brood of vipers! Who warned you to flee from the wrath to come?” (Luke 3:7). Because of our sinful nature, our repentance will never be perfect. But there is One who has shown Himself to be the truly repentant person—even though He had no sin to repent of—by being perfectly turned to God his Father. Jesus’ baptism of repentance justifies our repentance by fulfilling all righteousness for us, His own people (Matthew 3:13–15).
Though we have whored after other lovers, God says, “I have loved you with an everlasting love” (Jeremiah 31:3). Such love, refusing to be put off by our adulterous failures, confounds our hearts. Such love changes us.
Judah has failed to learn the lesson of Israel’s destruction in 722 b.c. The “wrath to come” (Luke 3:7) is a notion the world repudiates and the church often neglects in its preaching and teaching. Yet the theme appears often in the New Testament. God’s love, great as it is, does not mean He will take sin lightly in those who remain impenitent.
Jeremiah’s condemnations, however, are not the only word he has from the Lord. Jeremiah also declares that God is rich in mercy (Ephesians 2:4–6). When faithless Israel returns in repentance, God will delight to show His unfailing mercy. This is who He is.
The shepherd in the ancient world ruled his flock and cared for them. The rulers of Israel and Judah were often referred to as shepherds. The evil kings that have led the nation astray are evil shepherds, failing to care for the sheep, God’s people. Psalm 23 reminds us that the Lord is the true shepherd. Here God promises to provide rulers “after my own heart.” None truly satisfies and fulfills this promise until Jesus comes and declares, “I am the good shepherd” (John 10:11–14). This is a shepherd who not only rules His flock but also lays down His life for them (John 10:15–18).
Jeremiah was appointed as a prophet over nations and kingdoms. This did not mean that he was to be an itinerant evangelist going from country to country. Rather we see the appointment working out in his message of the nations being under the rule of God. God’s works of judgment and salvation will be shown among the nations. The restoration of Jerusalem means it will again become the place of God’s rule. Jeremiah here reflects the covenant promise to Abraham concerning the nations being blessed through him (Genesis 12:3). The promise will be fulfilled, as Isaiah declared, with the renewal of Jerusalem (Isaiah 2:1–4). This foreshadows the gospel going to the nations when Jesus brings in the day of the Lord and gives His Spirit.
The covenant love of God is expressed in the tender words of a loving Father’s desire for Israel’s good. God’s judgment is not at odds with His faithfulness to His covenant promises. While the impenitent will indeed be finally judged and punished, God’s fatherly hand of discipline operates on His people as “strong love,” sent for their ultimate good (Hebrews 12:5–11).
God’s people cannot be punished for their sins, for Jesus has exhausted all of God’s righteous wrath, accepting in full the penalty they deserved. The consequences of sin that we now experience are only a loving Father’s discipline. The edifying (not punitive) purpose of His discipline is restoration, righteousness, and peace (Hebrews 12:10–11). This Fatherly concern of God is echoed in the lament of Jesus over Jerusalem (Matthew 23:37–39).
How are we to show compassion for others in their sin and need, in light of the compassion we ourselves have been shown? Hint: 2 Corinthians 5:14; Ephesians 5:2; 1 Peter 3:8; 1 John 3:17.
What other thoughts or questions does today’s video and reading bring up?
Some of these notes are from the ESV Gospel Transformation Bible study notes. We highly recommend this study Bible.
Videos produced by www.TheGospelProject.com.
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