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Day 169 – Thru the Bible
Today we continue in Jeremiah.
Jeremiah 4 – The true repentance of Israel would have global results. God promised Abraham, “In you all the families of the earth shall be blessed” (Genesis 12:3; 18:18). Israel’s election is God’s way of bringing salvation to all nations. Jeremiah 4:2 echoes this but shows that the blessing is in the Lord; that is, the goodness and glory are ultimately His, not Israel’s. The New Testament shows us that the truly repentant Israel, the One who is perfectly turned to God and through whom the nations are blessed, is actually Jesus (Matthew 2:15; 3:15; Exodus 4:22). Through Him and His astonishing work of redemption, the gospel can be proclaimed to all the nations of the world (Matthew 28:18–20; Luke 24:45–47; Revelation 7:9–12).
The people of Judah are called upon to circumcise their hearts. Later on Jeremiah will complain that their ears are uncircumcised (Jeremiah 6:10). Circumcision, as the sign of God’s covenant promises, was an outward sign in the flesh that achieved no blessings unless it signified the circumcision of the heart. This inner spiritual circumcision results in revering the Lord and walking in His ways, loving Him and serving Him with heart and soul.
Even in Moses’ day, however, it was recognized that compliance with this ideal was impossible unless God Himself performed the miracle of renewal (Deuteronomy 30:6). Ultimately, therefore, the Old Testament foreshadows our union with Jesus as our spiritual circumcision—that is, our internal transformation (Colossians 2:9–15).
Jeremiah’s anguish over his people reflects his perception that destruction is coming to them because of their foolishness. They are clever only in evildoing. His constant theme is that Judah’s idolatry and attempts to find ways of staving off the threat of Babylon show a godless mind-set. False gods and unwise political alliances demonstrate that the leadership is prey to a worldly way of thinking that is at odds with faith in the Lord.
Such folly persists today. What the world calls wisdom is actually folly, while the gospel as the wisdom of God is written off by the world as foolishness (1 Corinthians 1:18–30). As Believers, we are transformed by the renewing of our minds through the true wisdom of the gospel (Romans 12:1–2).
When Adam and Eve sinned, they were exiled from Eden into the wilderness of a world fallen on their account. Exile and wilderness go together in the imagery of the Old Testament.
Here Jeremiah goes further in describing the judgment of the Lord as returning the world to the primeval void at the beginning of creation. He uses the same Hebrew phrase—translated “without form and void”—to underline the horror to come. It is a description of “un-creation” and is echoed in other references to desert and wilderness in relation to the world that awaits its redemption in the new creation (see Isaiah 65:17; 2 Peter 3:10–13). Israel and Judah are perpetually in the wilderness of exile until the day of the Lord brings both final judgment and ultimate renewal.
This judgment and renewal could never, in fact, be accomplished by God’s people. This is why Jesus came. Jesus underwent an exile for His people by coming into our fallen world and dying in order to bring in the new creation for us. Until the consummation of the gospel, Believers continue as exiles in the world (Philippians 3:20; 1 Peter 1:1; 2:11; 2 Peter 3:11–13; 1 John 2:15). Remembering this frees us from needing to be comfortable in the world and accepted by our neighbors. Our true home is coming. We are not there yet.
While we are still here, God has a purpose for our lives—to reflect Jesus to those around us.
While we look forward new bodies on a new earth, how do you continue to reflect Jesus to this world?
Jeremiah 5 – Truth and justice are constant themes in Scripture. Yet the prophet declares that in Judah there is only lip service to truth. Truth is usually the casualty in this world. Even among some who claim to be Believers, truth is sacrificed in the name of tolerance or unity. Jesus warned against those who claim His name but to whom He must say, “I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness” (Matthew 7:23).
Jeremiah returns to the metaphor of the vine. Israel and Judah are together a wild vine, and the branches that do not “abide” in the Lord will be cut off from bearing fruit (John 15:6; Matthew 21:43). The great delusion of the world is that there is no real wrath from God or judgment to come. There are many false prophets in the church who repudiate any suggestion of sin’s consequences, hell and permanent separation from God. Yet no one spoke of the consequences of sin or the horrors of hell as seriously as Jesus (Matthew 5:22–30; 10:28; 23:33; John 5:14; 8:34).
Given the apostasy of the people, the prophet’s words must be consuming words of judgment. This judgment will come in the form of invasion by a powerful and ruthless enemy, yet it will not mean the end of all things.
Throughout Jeremiah there are clear indications of the faithfulness of God to His covenant: there will be a people of God forever. But the idolatrous and unrepentant ones will not be part of this people who remain in God’s covenant of blessing. Isaiah too spoke of a remnant of the faithful that would return from exile (Isaiah 10:20–23; 11:11, 16; 46:3). Jeremiah will go on to construct a major part of his teaching on the fact of the faithful remnant.
Paul recalls this concept from Isaiah as he deals with the problem of Jewish unbelief in the gospel (Romans 9:27; 11:5–7, 25–32). The remnant is the faithful Israel/Judah. Since genuine faithfulness was exhibited finally only by Jesus as the true Israel and Son of God, only those united to Him can know God’s covenant blessings. The dynamic of salvation in the New Testament can be stated thus: Jesus is the true spiritual Israel, the remnant of God’s people; the elect Jews believe in Jesus and are thus also joined to the remnant; the Gentiles who are elect come to the restored Israel, that is, they believe in Israel’s Savior and are also joined to Him.
This section of Jeremiah is like a drama in which the principal player is God, who speaks to His chosen people through the prophet Jeremiah. There are false prophets who speak lies and the people’s hearts are hardened in sin. The agent of God’s judgment, a foreign power, is at hand to wreak destruction. Still God will graciously preserve a remnant from which will come a Savior for many more. This drama will be played out definitively when not a rebellions son but a true and faithful Son will give Himself into the hands of wicked men and will suffer the full weight of God’s wrath against sin—to deliver many more sons into glory (Romans 5:6–11; 2 Corinthians 5:21; Hebrews 2:10).
How does knowing that Hod will be faithful to bring His people home reassure you of your future with Him?
Jeremiah 6 – This extended word of disaster contains several important themes. The impending destruction of Jerusalem and the temple, a threat barely averted when the Assyrians failed to take the city a century before, was to most people unthinkable. The city and its temple were symbols of the presence of the God and Lord of all the earth. All the promises of God to His people were represented in them and in David’s dynasty.
Tragically, the people are complacent and have refused to hear the Lord’s words of warning. Worse, the corruption has spread to the religious leaders, who blatantly lie, telling the people that all is well. “Peace” (shalom; v. 14) is much more than tranquility or lack of conflict. It is the well-being of the whole person in relation to God. It is what Adam and Eve enjoyed in Eden and what will be enjoyed in the new earth. In the end, only the Prince of Peace can heal the wounds of sin and assure His people of peace, since He has made the only peace that matters (John 14:27; Romans 5:1; 8:6). So Paul begins all his epistles with the greeting “Grace to you and peace” (Romans 1:7; etc.). But when church leaders follow Jerusalem’s leaders and deceive their flocks with words of easy acceptance by a “loving” God, while condoning heresy, immorality, and gospel-neglecting religiosity, things are bad indeed.
“Rest for your souls” here is the very phrase repeated by Jesus: “Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. . . . I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls” (Matthew 11:28–29). God invited the people of Jeremiah’s day to walk with Him and enjoy rest for their souls. God is always the source of His people’s rest. And in Jesus, this rest is decisively secured. Those who do not pay attention to God’s warnings and ways will find not rest but destruction. Such warning is also gracious, because if God did not love His people, He would not so warn them of the consequences of their waywardness.
How does knowing that Jesus has secured true rest for His people affect your life today?
What other thoughts or questions does today’s reading bring up?
Some of these notes are from the ESV Gospel Transformation Bible study notes. We highly recommend this study Bible.
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