August 31, 2017

A Table of Lessons for September

September 1

Jeremiah 1,, Mk. 10:32-52
Jer. 2:1-19,  Rom. 2

Commentary,

Jeremiah 1
We turn now to the great, weeping prophet, Jeremiah.  He was a priest, the son of Hilkiah.  Born and raised about five miles north of Jerusalem in the town of Anathoth, he was called to the ministry of the prophet in the thirteenth year of the reign of Josiah, king of Judah (ca. 627 B.C.).  Josiah laboured to eradicate the idolatry which had almost completely eclipsed the worship of Jehovah.  For a while, his efforts were successful, and a period of revival and reformation brought many of the Jewish people back to God.  But the reformation was only partial, at best, and the idolatry, especially Baalism, continued to hold the hearts of most of the Jewish people.  Jeremiah warned of God’s displeasure with idolatry, but his preaching was rejected, and he was persecuted and imprisoned.  His life was spared when the Babylonians finally demolished Jerusalem in 586 B.C.  Later, when many Jews left the ruins of Jerusalem for refuge in Egypt, Jeremiah went with them.  Some historians believe he died in Egypt, stoned to death by his own people between 580 and 570 B.C.  Others believe he died in Babylon, being taken there by Nebuchadnezzar after he conquered Egypt.  Jeremiah’s preaching was always unpopular, and he was hated and persecuted by the Jews during his life and ministry.

Verse 13 typifies the prophet’s preaching.  The seething pot is tilted toward Jerusalem from the north, indicating that a foreign army will attack from that direction.  The army is the Babylonian army, which is already conducting raids against the Assyrians.  God will allow the Babylonians to harass Judah for years before finally crushing Jerusalem in 586.  This will be the direct result of God’s punishment for the idolatry of the Jewish people.  Naturally, the Jews hate this message, therefore they hate its messenger.  They are deep in idolatry, and are not going to return to what they consider the stern requirements of the worship of God.  They much prefer the self-indulgence and lax morality of Baal.

Jeremiah 2

Jeremiah is commanded to preach in Jerusalem, the political and cultural centre of the Jewish people.  His message recalls Israel’s faith after her release from Egyptian slavery (2).  God brought Israel into Canaan, a plentiful country (7).  But now Israel has turned away from God, and defiled the land with sin.  Even the pastors have transgressed against God, and the prophets have prophesied by Baal (8).  The pagan nations have not left their idols for God, but Israel has left God for idols (10-13).  “Be astonished, O ye heavens at this,” God says to the sun and celestial bodies.  This change of religion is so striking that even the stars must be shocked by it.

The Jews are trying to save their country by making alliances with other nations.  Egypt, especially, which has always wanted to control  Israel as a buffer zone between Egypt and the eastern empires, is sought as a defender.  But Egypt has internal problems and will disappoint Judah when the battle comes.  Nebuchadnezzar will actually conquer much of Egypt a short time after he takes Jerusalem.

Verse 37 pictures the conquered Jews, naked and with their hands tied above their heads, being taken as slaves and captives by the Babylonians.

September 2

Jer. 2:20-37, Mk. 11
Jer. 3, Rom. 3

Commentary,

Jeremiah 3

God compares the Jews’ treatment of Him to that of an unfaithful wife.  But the image soon turns to full prostitution.  Israel has played the harlot with many lovers. The comparison is especially appropriate because the worship of Baal often included temple prostitution.  The Jews openly participated in it, and sold their sons and daughters to serve as prostitutes.  The high places of verse 2 are the altars of Baal and other idols.  The whore’s forehead (3) refers to the prostitute’s practice of not covering her head, and dressing in ways that reveal her body.  Rather than feeling shame for her behaviour and dress, she is proud of it.

Yet God calls the nation to return to Him.  “Turn, O ye backsliding children, saith the Lord; for I am married unto you: and I will take you one of a city, and two of a family, and will bring you to Zion” (14).  The following verses promise good to Israel.  Yet they look beyond Israel to Christ and His Church.  The Church, which is the New Jerusalem, will be the throne of God and will be for all nations.  Jew and Gentile will no longer be enemies there, nor will Jews be enemies to other Jews.  Unity and peace will exist in the New Jerusalem.  This era of peace will be initiated when the Messiah comes to Jerusalem.  His advent is the beginning of the last days, or, final era of history before His Return.  But the peace of the last era is only a foretaste of the final peace and victory of Christ, when the promises of God are fully and finally completed.

September 3

Jer. 4:1-18,  Mk. 12:1-27
Jer. 4:19-31, Rom. 4

Commentary,

Jeremiah 4

Judaism has become a culture and national identity, not a living faith in the true God.  This can be seen in verse 4, which shows that the Jews still practice the  ceremonial rites of the Old Testament, but have emptied them of their real significance, and reduced them to mere cultural icons.  In a similar way, people used to have their children, or themselves, baptized, but never intended to devote themselves to orthodox Christian faith or life.

God sees this as breaking the covenant He has with Israel.  Since she has broken her end of the covenant, God is freed of His covenantal obligations.  This essentially means He can treat 
Israel as just another pagan nation.  He is not bound to forgive her sins, provide for her needs, protect her from enemies, or bless her in any way.  Like the Gentiles, the Jews are under His wrath and curse.  Verses 5-18 foretell the coming judgment. And yet, God laments over the people.  Here we see not the God of wrath, gleefully raining fire and brimstone on innocent people.  Here we see the God of patience and love, who pleads for His people to return and be blessed, who feels the suffering of His wrath as fully and painfully as the people do.  And did not our Lord take that very suffering upon Himself on the cross?  Did He not feel the pain of every sin, and grieve over every lost sinner?  The words of verse 29 could easily have been said by Christ himself: “My bowels, my bowels, I am pained at my very heart; my heart maketh a noise in me; I cannot hold my peace, because thou hast heard the sound of the trumpet, the alarm of war.” 

September 4

Jer. 5, Mk. 12:28-44
Jer. 6,  Rom. 5

Commentary,

Jeremiah 5

The prophet challenges the people to find a Godly person in Jerusalem.  The challenge is rhetorical, for God always has His remnant, however small it may be.  The challenge is not meant to be taken literally, but to prepare the way for the denunciation of the sins of the vast majority of the people. Instead of finding righteous people, the prophet is saying they will find people mired in wickedness.  They lie and cheat in business (2), making promises in God’s name, which they never intend to keep.  They reject God’s call to return (3), which comes through the law and the prophets.  They are adulterers, in both the physical sense (8), and in the spiritual sense of swearing by false gods.  Assembling by troops in the harlot’s houses refers to masses of Jewish people worshiping idols in pagan temples, and to the sexual practices of pagan worship.  They have rejected the word and the prophets of God (12), saying the Scriptures are not really from God, and the prophets do not really speak the truth.  Even the priests deny the Scriptures (31), and most of the prophets do speak the lies the people want to hear, rather than the truth of God.  Jeremiah, a true and faithful prophet, is a rare thing in Israel in his time.

God will not bear their wickedness forever.  The lion, wolf, and leopard (6) may refer to the Babylonians, though the lion may represent Babylon, the wolf may be Persia, and the leopard may be Greece.  Babylon used a winged lion as a, mascot, and Greece was often represented as  a leopard.  In either case, the beasts refer to foreign invasion, as verse 15 makes clear. 

It is not surprising that the people will wonder why God is allowing this to happen to them (19).  In their own minds, they are good people.  They keep the ceremonies and festivals commanded by the law, and believe that should be enough for God.  But the moral law is disregarded, as is the prohibition against idolatry.  They do not realise God wants their full love and obedience, not just dead sheep and ceremonies.  Why will God allow this to happen to them?  They have forsaken God, therefore, He will forsake them

Jeremiah 6

Ephraim is one of the 12 tribes of Israel. Its territory is north of Jerusalem, and the prophet is telling the people of that tribe to leave Jerusalem and flee to their own land.  Why? Because  “evil appeareth from the north, and great destruction”(1). This refers to the approaching Babylonian army. Israel is compared to a beautiful woman surrounded by suitors (3). In verse 4 the imagery changes from a beautiful woman to a desirable land over which the nations will fight. The destruction of Jerusalem is graphically detailed in the following verses.

Verse 14 was well known by the American founding fathers. Patrick Henry quoted it in his famous speech in Richmond Virginia. The verse means many in Israel called for peace, and believed the Babylonians would not attack Israel.  Jeremiah tells them, “there is no peace.” The attackers will come, and Jerusalem will be conquered (22, 23).

September 5

Jer. 7:1-20,   Mk. 13 
Jer. 7:21-34, Rom. 6

Commentary,

Jeremiah 7

At God’s command, Jeremiah takes a position at the Temple gate, and there begins to preach to those who come to worship and sacrifice there.  The message is a promise of God’s mercy.  “Amend your ways and your doings, and I will cause you to dwell in this place” (3).  “Then I will cause you to dwell in this place, in the land that I gave to your fathers, forever and ever” (7).  The sins of Israel are egregious. And the people have continued in them for generations, each generation going deeper into sin and becoming more hardened against the entreaties of God.  Yet God offers mercy.  God offers peace.  God offers to accept the people back into the fullness of his love as Hosea accepted back his whoring wife.  They have broken every law.  They have prostituted themselves to idols.  They have lied and cheated and oppressed one another.  Their priests and prophets have preached lies to them, and they have gladly believed them.  They have persecuted the few remaining righteous people and true prophets.  They have broken every covenant vow, and they have hated God.  Yet He still offers peace.  Truly He is the Father of all mercies, and His lovingkindness endureth forever.

He warns the people that they have believed the lies of the unfaithful priests and false prophets, who have told them that, as long as they offer the right sacrifices on the right days, according to the right liturgies of the Temple, God will keep them safe and prosperous no matter how idolatrous and immoral their everyday conduct may be (4).  This makes the House of God a den of robbers (11).  God did not save them from Egypt and give them the land of Canaan so they could be as wicked, or worse, than the pagans around them.  He did not deliver them to enable them to commit such abominations (10).

He tells them to look at Shiloh, the former location of the Tabernacle and the home of Eli and Samuel, where the people of the northern tribes worshiped God.  They, too, had given themselves to worldliness and idolatry, and they, also believed the sacrifices of sheep without sacrifices of the heart would appease God and keep them safe.  Where are they now?  Conquered, slaves in their own land, and almost completely devoid of any desire or evidence of being the people of God.  Did their insincere sacrifices save them?  Did their tabernacle save them?  No, nor will the Temple save Jerusalem.  A contrite heart is what God wants.  Not monuments.

Now the message turns to judgement.  Because they trusted in the Temple instead of God; and because they offered sacrifices instead of holiness, God is going to destroy the Temple as He destroyed Shiloh (14).  He is going to cast Judah out of His sight, just as He cast out those who trusted in their shrine in Shiloh (15).  The remainder of the chapter describes the punishment and conquest of the Jews.  The valley around Jerusalem will be called the valley of slaughter (32), and the voice of mirth and gladness will cease, because the land will become desolate (34).

September 6

Jer. 8, Mk. 14:1-25
Jer. 9, Rom. 7

Commentary,

Jeremiah 8

Bringing out the bones, in verses 1-3 shows the totality of destruction of Jerusalem, and the insatiable violence of the invaders.  Even the dead are not safe from them.  They will dig up their bodies and rob them of any valuables buried with them.  Nor will they be reinterred; their bones will be left where they fall.  This is intended as an enormous insult and humiliation to the Jewish people.

The hardness of the people’s hearts is shown in verses 4-16.  They refuse to repent.  They rush into sin like a cavalry charge (6). Unlike migrating animals, which return to their homes and birthplaces, Israel has left God, and not returned (7).  They reject the law of God (8, 9), yet they claim to be wise.  Those who reject the wisdom of God often claim to be wise and knowledgeable.  They dismiss the faithful with distain, and consider us fools.  We can hear their arrogance in their voices.  The same was true in Jerusalem, but God’s foolishness is wiser than their wisdom, and their sins will not go unpunished (10).

The priests and prophets, who hold the word of God in equal distain, and even conduct pagan ceremonies in the Temple of God, also come under God’s wrath.  They have healed the people lightly (11), meaning they have not preached the truth or called the people back to God.  Instead they have endorsed their sin, and proclaimed God’s blessings upon it.  It is as though they are physicians treating potentially terminal illness by saying they are not sick.

These same sins plague us today.  The sensual indulgences, the rejection of God’s word, the arrogance of thinking ourselves wiser than the Bible, and welcoming into the Church those things which the Bible forbids are common in the “Church” today.  Should we think we will not answer for these sins?

The chapter closes with a warning of the coming invasion.  It will come as the judgement of God.  The snorting of horses (16) signifies armies of chariots with horses snorting and stamping their feet as they wait for the signal to charge.  Dan is about 25 miles north of the sea of Galilee, and marks the northern boundary of Israel.  As Jeremiah writes, it has already fallen to invaders, who are preparing to charge toward Jerusalem.

Jeremiah 9

While Jeremiah weeps for his people (1, 2) and for their sins (3-8), God justifies His actions toward them.  “Shall I not visit them for these things? [sins] saith the Lord; shall not my soul be avenged on such a nation as this?” (9).  He details their sins again in verses 10-22.  The chapter closes with a call to return to God (23, 24), and with a warning that the Jews, though the chosen people of the Old Testament, will be punished as though they are unbelievers, which is exactly what they are at that time (25, 26).  Note that it is possible to outwardly appear Godly, yet inwardly be as lost as any other unbeliever.  Nor is this simply something found in the Old Testament Israel.  It abounds in the “Church” today.



September 7

Jer. 10,  Mk. 14:26-72
Jer. 11,  Rom. 8

Commentary,

Jeremiah 10

Israel is warned not to follow the ways of the heathen idolaters  Their gods are made by human hands, therefore they are unable to do harm or good (5).  They will perish from the earth (11).  The Lord, the God who has called and blessed Israel, who is the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, who gave the law through Moses, is the true and living God (10).  He created all things (12). He can cause drought or storms (13), but the idols are vanity and the work of errors.  They will perish in the visitation, meaning, in the coming invasion.  It was common for conquerors to destroy the “gods” of their enemies, because war and conquest was viewed as the battle of one people’s gods against another’s.  Victory meant the conqueror’s gods had defeated the gods of the vanquished.  So the victors gleefully destroyed the idols of the vanquished.  It is this kind of thing that is pictured in verses 14-16.

Verses 17- 23 warn the Jews to gather up their belongings because God is going to fling them out of their homeland.  The Babylonians will take the Jews out of Judah into Babylon, and scatter them throughout their empire.  Some will escape to Egypt and other areas.  Only a few will be allowed to remain in Judah and Jerusalem.  Jeremiah begs God to correct Israel, but not to judge her in His anger.  Instead let His anger be vented on the heathen for their part in making Israel desolate.  This desolation may be spiritual as well as physical.  The heathen have led Israel astray, and that sin will not be forgotten.  Let those who lead and entice others away from the ways of God tremble at this knowledge.  But Israel followed the pagans.  Israel willingly accepted their gods and their morals.  No matter how guilty the heathen may be, Israel is equally guilty, and must bear their own guilt.  They cannot blame the Gentiles.

Jeremiah 11

God  reminds the people of His Covenant which He made with their  ancestors when He brought them out of Egypt.  The Covenant actually goes back much further.  The deliverance from Egypt is part of the Covenant with Abraham.  It continued through his descendants, including the people of Jerusalem and Judah, to whom the prophet Jeremiah was sent.  The Covenant was all of grace.  That means God, in grace, called His chosen people back into the relationship all of mankind was originally created to have with God.  In this relationship, God would forgive their sin, and bless them with His presence and love.  He would instruct them in the ways of peace and justice, and true happiness.  He would be their joy and their protector - their Saviour.  In return, they would love Him, and live with Him as God of them.  They would be holy.  They would be righteous.

But they were like an unfaithful wife, chasing after things that are not gods, oppressing their Covenant brothers and sisters, and intentionally adopting the ways of the pagan peoples around them.  As God often chastised them, He will also chastise the people of Jeremiah’s time.  As He allowed the pagan peoples to rule over Israel during the era of the Judges, He will also allow another pagan people to rule them during the time of Jeremiah.  They will cast Israel out of Jerusalem, and scatter them among the nations.

This is the message of chapter 11.  But the people are already tired of hearing this from Jeremiah.   The men of Anathoth forbid him to preach in their village.  “Prophesy not in the name of the Lord, that thou die not by our hand” (21).  These are the angry words of a violent mob.  Justice is irrelevant to them.  Truth matters not to them.  Righteousness matters not to them.  They only want Jeremiah out of their town.  They are so angry they threaten to kill him.  But it is they who will die.  God says He will not even leave a remnant of them when the Babylonians conquer them in the visitation (23).

The world has been trying to silence the word of God from the beginning.  Even many inside the Church, like the men of Anathoth, want false gospels and lies rather than the Bible.  There is a reason why God warns us not to tamper with or change His word (Rev. 22:18, 19), for the false gospels are really not Christianity.  They are other christs and other gospels.  In other words, they are idols as surely as the Baals of ancient Jerusalem.  But God’s word will not be silenced, and His enemies will not win.  Let the men of Anathoth be warned: a visitation of God is coming, and He will deal with the ungodly.  But with the warning comes an invitation.  The whole point of the book of Jeremiah is to warn the people of their peril and invite them to return to God and live in His love and blessings.  The whole point of the Gospel of Christ is that Jesus bore our sins on the cross, and invites us to return to God and live in His love and blessings.  He tells us the life of sin is really a living death, leading to an eternal living death.  But He has come that we may have life and have it in abundance.  When Moses preached to the Hebrews in Deuteronomy, he said he had set before the people life, and death.  Obedience to the vows they had taken was the way of life.  Breaking them was the way of death.  He urged the people to choose life.  God grant us wisdom that we too may choose life.

September 8

Jer. 12, Mk.15
Jer 13,  Rom. 9

Commentary,

Jeremiah 12

Chapter 12 is a conversation between God and Jeremiah. Jeremiah is confused and depressed.  He has just been run out of Anathoth, probably barely escaping being stoned to death.  Evil people control Israel, and God has revealed that He will bring more evil people to conquer Israel with much suffering and death.  The thought of such suffering drives the prophet to his knees in prayer.  This is no short, half hearted prayer.  It is a prolonged time of prayer and fasting.  His question is no mere philosophical speculation.  It is the heartfelt cry of a man who is broken in spirit, and deep in sorrow.  Jeremiah raises a question we have already heard in Job, Proverbs, and Ecclesiastes, why do the wicked prosper?  There is discouragement in the prophet’s question, too.  He has preached and prayed and given his heart to the people of Israel.  He wants nothing from them; he wants only to do good for them.  He asks not fame or fortune, or even love from them.  He asks only that they repent and be saved from the coming disaster.

In verse 5, God begins to answer.  He tenderly asks the prophet how he will survive the coming holocaust if he is so downcast over the events in Anathoth (5).  If he cannot keep up with the foot soldiers, he will not be able to race with the horses.  If he cannot keep the faith while the land is in peace, how will he survive when the Jordan floods?  Both of these images refer to the relative peace Jeremiah now enjoys, compared to the coming storm of persecution, invasion, and conquest.

In verse 6 God agrees that evil people control Israel. The prophet’s own people have forsaken him.  But Jeremiah’s people are God’s people, too, and they have forsaken Him more than they have forsaken Jeremiah.  Therefore, God has forsaken them (7).  “I have given the dearly beloved of my soul [Israel] into the hand of her enemies,” He says.  These words convey the broken heart of God.  He has loved Israel with an everlasting love, yet she has spurned His love and abandoned His house.  He goes on to mourn over the pastors who have destroyed His vineyard, Israel.  “They have made [the land and people] desolate, and being desolate it mourneth unto me,” God says in verse 11.  We can see that the passage is not a declaration of wrath; it is the eulogy of a Father mourning over His wicked, yet beloved son.

But all who repent will be accepted back into God’s favour (15).  Even the Gentile invaders, “if they will diligently learn the ways of my people, to swear by my name, The Lord liveth, as they taught my people to swear by  Baal, then shall they be built into the midst of my people” (16).

Jeremiah 13

This chapter gives three object lessons and a call to repent mixed with a prophecy of what will happen if Israel continues in its sin.  First is the object lesson of the linen girdle, or, sash.  The prophet was told to bury an expensive and beautiful girdle in the mud beside the Euphrates River.   The Euphrates flows through the growing Babylonian Empire, and even beside the city of  Babylon.  Thus it represents the Babylonian invaders.  It also represents the route by which the invaders will come to Israel.  Rather than traveling directly to Jerusalem from Babylon, which would take them through hundreds of miles of desert, they will follow the River north from Babylon, and sweep to the south via long established caravan routes.  The girdle represents Israel.  In its pristine state, it was clean and pure, like Israel when she walked with God.  Dug out of the mud, it was filthy, rotted, and ugly, like Israel in her sin and idolatry.  It was fit only to be  discarded, burned, as God was going to burn Israel.

Second is the lesson of the wine bottles.  The Jews are like the bottles, full of the wine of their sin.  Dashing them together (14) causes them to burst.  Their wine is then spoiled, and they are destroyed.

Third is the image of the leopard and the Ethiopian.  This image speaks of the inability of the Jewish people to change themselves.

Because of her sin, God will strip Israel of her clothing and expose her nakedness to all (26, 27).  She has played the part of the adulteress, so God will treat her as a prostitute.

September 9

Jer. 14, Mk. 16
Jer. 15,  Rom. 10

Commentary,

Jeremiah 14

Dearth (1) refers to a prolonged drought in Israel.  The drought is both physical, in the lack of rain, and spiritual, in the lack of true Godliness. The people believe the false prophets who say, “Ye shall not see the sword, neither shall ye have famine” (13).  But their sermons are lies and their visions are hallucinations (14).  Israel’s destruction is sure, and false penance (20-22) will not avert it. 

Jeremiah 15

Moses and Samuel were known for intercessory prayer.  But God now says He will not turn His mind (favour) toward Israel if both of those men would stand before Him and entreat Him.  Rather than mercy, God will send the sword to slay, the dogs to tear, and fowls (vultures) and beasts, (scavengers) to devour and destroy their dead bodies.  Manasseh was a particularly evil king, remembered for building altars to idols in the Temple, burning his own son alive as an offering to Baal (2 Kings 21:4, 6, 7), and shedding “innocent blood very much” (2 Kings 21:16).  The implication here is that the people of Israel have continued in these same sins, and no one will have pity on them when their destruction comes.  But Jeremiah cannot help lamenting and interceding for Israel (15-18).  God tells him to stop: “return not thou unto them” (19).  Stop taking their part.  Take God’s part.  Return unto Him, and He will deliver the prophet out of the hand of the wicked and the terrible (21).


September 10

Jer. 16.  Lk.1:1-38
Jer. 17,  Rom. 11

Commentary,

Jeremiah 16

The prophet is now commanded to live in preparation for the impending invasion.  He is not to marry, for families and children will die grievous deaths when the Babylonians come (4).  Not having a wife and children will spare him much grief. The shock and horror of the conquest, and the brutality and imprisonment of the Babylonians will be so great there will no time or opportunity to care for the bodies of the dead.  Nor is Jeremiah to participate in any mourning for the deceased (5-7).  This is partly due to the pagan funeral practices that have become prevalent in Israel.  Cutting, shaving the head, and tearing themselves were common features of pagan mourning, and would be done by the survivors, even if they are unable to bury their dead. Such practices were forbidden to Israel (Lev. 19:28).  It is also partly due to the fact that participation in such funerals and practices is to participate in the very idolatry that brought God’s judgement in the first place.  It would be inconsistent for Jeremiah to preach against such practices prior to the invasion, yet participate in them after it.  It would negate his entire ministry and message.  The primary reason is found in verse 5.  God has taken away peace from Israel.  Therefore Jeremiah is not to lament for the people.

Neither is Jeremiah to participate in the celebrations of the people (8,9).  Weddings and feasts will include pagan prayers and practices, in which Jeremiah cannot participate.  In addition, his presence would seem to indicate that life is going on as usual, and there is no real reason for alarm or change.  His absence is a sign that it is time to prepare for calamity.  It is especially a sign that God is displeased with their pagan revelry.

The people are incredulous at this.  “What is our iniquity? or what is our sin that we have committed against the Lord our God?” (10).  Sinners seldom see themselves as sinners.  They usually see themselves as good people who are completely worthy of any good God can bestow upon them.  They justify their sins by saying they aren’t sins, just natural and innocent human inclinations, and the indulgence of them is good and appropriate behaviour.  The lawyer who asked Christ what he must do to inherit eternal life, did not repent; he attempted to justify himself (Lk. 10:29).  The proud, self righteous Pharisee thanked God that he was not a sinner like other people (Lk. 18:9-14). The people to whom Jeremiah speaks attempt to justify themselves.  Their response accuses God of being wrong, cruel, and unjust.  If there is a problem between themselves and God, they reason, the fault must be in God, not them.  Thus, they continue in their sin, and harden themselves in their unbelief. 

The remainder of the chapter is God’s response to their refusal of Him.  Their fathers forsook God (11), but they have done worse than their fathers.  They “walk every one after the imagination of his evil heart, that they may not hearken unto me” (12).

Jeremiah 17

Verses 1-4 are like charges against Judah presented in court.  Judah, at this time, is all that is left of the 12 tribes of Israel,  The 10 northern tribes have been conquered and scattered, and the remaining people have intermarried with Gentiles, and essentially lost their identity as the people of God.  When the northern tribes seceded after the death of Solomon, they took the name “Israel.”  During that time, the remaining southern tribes were Benjamin and Judah.  Eventually, Benjamin was absorbed into Judah, and the people became known as Judah.  After the fall of Israel, Judah reclaimed the name, and is often called Israel again.

In verse 5, God shows the foolishness of relying on man instead of God.  Israel cannot save herself from the Babylonians by the strength of her arm to wield the sword.  Nor can alliances with other nations save her.  There is no power in man to save anyone from the wrath of God.  This is true spiritually, also. No person can live without sin, nor can any person atone for his sin.  No person can earn God’s favour, or earn his way into Heaven by his own works.  God accepts us because He chooses to.  He makes us acceptable to Himself through the merits of Christ given to us in grace and received by us in faith.  No man comes to the Father but by Him.

Verses 12 and 13 are worshipful affirmations of Jeremiah’s faith.  They are followed by a prayer for deliverance (14-18).  The deliverance desired is from the persecution of the Jews who hear and hate him and his message, and from the devastation and death coming with the Babylonians.  But there is a deeper deliverance desired.  “Heal me, O Lord, and I shall be healed; save me, and I shall be saved” (14) seems to desire spiritual healing.  It is as though the prophet realises that he is not without sin.  It is as though he realises that every word of condemnation spoken against the Jews, could also be spoken against him.  Perhaps he has not committed the same sins as the others.  He has not followed other gods, or joined in the sensual indulgences of the pagan lifestyle, but neither is he without sin.  He knows the law of God, and with the law comes the knowledge of sin, so Jeremiah seeks the healing of his soul that can only come from God by grace.  He is doing what his sermons entreat his people to do.  He is repenting of sins, and turning to God more fully.

The chapter closes with a lengthy admonition to keep the Sabbath. Keeping the Sabbath symbolises returning to God and keeping the whole law of God.  To remember the Sabbath and keep it holy, is to remember God and honour Him.  There is great meaning in this for God’s people in all times.  Those who cannot make themselves keep the Lord’s Day show themselves to be very far from God in their hearts. 

 September 11

Jer. 18, Lk. 1:39-80
Jer. 19, Rom. 12

Commentary,

Jeremiah 18

This chapter opens with one of the most important and fundamental teachings in the entire Bible.  It encompasses many doctrines and gathers them all into one.  It asserts that God is the creator and owner of all things, therefore, all things exist for His pleasure and His purpose (see also Rev. 4:11).  This includes man, in both the context of an individual person, and in the collective context of mankind.  He created us, and for His pleasure we exist and were created.

This teaching asserts the sovereignty of God. As Creator and owner of all things, He has the right to do with them as He pleases.  He has the right to make some stars bright and others dim.  He has the right to form some molecules into asteroids, some into planets, some into plants and animals, and some into people.  He has the right to put some people in wealth, and others in poverty.  He even has the right to take some to Heaven and send others to hell.

This is the fundamental meaning of the lesson of the potter in verses1-6.  Just as a potter has the right to form and use the clay according to his purpose and will, God has the right to form and use man according to His purpose and will.  This is part of the meaning in Romans 9:19-21, which uses the same image of a potter and clay.  “Hath not the potter power over the clay; of the same lump to make one vessel unto honour, and another unto dishonour?”

Israel has a long history of impenitent sin.  Her people do not merely sin, they seek sin.  They excuse sin.  They call sin righteousness.  They do not confess their sin and ask God’s help to live a “Godly, righteous, and sober life.”  They revel in sin.  They intentionally dwell in it.  So the question arises, does God have the right to punish them?  Because His people have forgotten Him, and given themselves to gods that do not exist, with their indulgent sexuality and oppression of the weak and poor (15), doesn’t God have the right to punish them?  The answer implied is, “Yes.”  He has the right to pluck up and pull down nations, and to build and plant  a nation like a tree or flower (7-10).  He has the right to punish the wicked, and  to have mercy on the righteous (10,11), as the potter has the right to destroy a faulty vessel and reshape the clay into a vessel he likes.  This view of God as the potter and us as the clay has almost disappeared from the contemporary Church.  Today people view God as the Great Enhancer, whose primary function is making life more pleasant for them, or at least making them able to cope with problems in a way that causes them the very least inconvenience possible.  To see themselves as clay in His hands, to be shaped and formed, or reshaped and reformed, according to His will and purpose is both foreign and repugnant to many “Christians.”

Jeremiah now asks God to deliver him from those who oppose him in Israel.  We can surmise that the opposition is growing.  There has already been at least one death threat, and the people in verse18 “devise devices against Jeremiah.”  These devices could be mere rejection of his message, or they could be plots to harm or kill him.  Jeremiah has, at this point, lost his compassion for the people.  His prayer is like some of the Psalms, asking God to let His wrath fall on them.

Jeremiah 19

The Rev’d. Matthew Henry gives a particularly accurate appraisal of what God is doing in this passage, and, indeed, in the entire book of Jeremiah.  “Thus were all likely means tried to awaken this stupid, senseless people to repentance, that their ruin might be prevented; but all in vain.”  The first means used in this chapter includes a very direct sermon which specifically names the sins of the people.  The constant sin of idolatry is the primary sin.  It runs so deeply in the souls of the people they have even built altars on which they burn their children alive as sacrifices to Baal (5). Such sacrifices seem to be a common practice, and pagan altars on which they are burned are very numerous in Israel.  We can only imagine the suffering endured by the children, and the sorrow of God as His chosen children burn on the altars of Baal.

Jeremiah calls the ecclesiastical and civil leaders together in a small valley that runs around the southern and western sides of Jerusalem.  In the Old Testament, it is called Hinnom.  In the New Testament it is often called Gehenna.  Jeremiah tells the people it will be called the valley of slaughter.  These leaders, both religious and civil, have participated in the pagan sacrifices, and they receive a fiery and scathing sermon from Jeremiah.

The second means is the earthen bottle of verse 1.  It is a simple vessel, made of the clay soil around Jerusalem.  Like the Jews, it is part of the land.  Jeremiah breaks the bottle at the end of the sermon.  This is a violent action.  He does not just drop it.  He raises it high and hurls it to the ground, so that it shatters into small fragments that cannot be repaired.  Then Jeremiah says, “Thus saith the Lord of hosts; Even so will I break this people and this city, as one breaketh a potter’s vessel, that cannot be made whole again” (11).

Jeremiah then moves inside the Temple (14), where he again announces the coming destruction of Israel.  “Thus saith the Lord of hosts, the God of Israel; Behold, I will bring upon this city and upon all her towns all the evil that I have pronounced against it, because they have hardened their necks, that they might not hear my words” (15).  A horse may harden its neck and ignore the directions given by the rider through the reins.  God is saying Israel is like a runaway horse, ignoring the reins and the bit.



September 12

Jer. 20,  Lk. 2:1-39
Jer. 21. Rom. 13

Commentary,

Jeremiah 20

Pashur appears to be a title rather than a personal name.  It refers to the chief governor in the house of the Lord, a position that appears to combine police and judicial powers in one officer.  He would be considered the head of the Temple guards, the same body of men that arrested Jesus and took Him to the High Priest prior to turning Him over to the Romans.  Jeremiah is horribly abused by this angry man.  “Smote” in verse 2 probably refers to being beaten with a whip or stick, much like the Apostle Paul was beaten in the New Testament.  The stocks are instruments that force and hold a person in an unnatural and painful position.  They have been used for millennia to punish minor offences, and the offenders’ time in the stock was usually very brief.  But they could also be used as instruments of torture, putting a person in more severe positions for longer periods of time.  Beaten and bleeding, Jeremiah was left in the stocks over night, so this is no mild affliction, it is horrible and painful punishment, and it is probably increased and intensified throughout the night in a kind of torture chamber.  It is designed to break Jeremiah so he will never preach again.  It is incredible that such things were even used in Israel, and that such torture was inflicted on a man of God by a priest.  Truly Israel has forgotten the purpose and meaning of the Temple and the priest.  “When the wicked beareth rule, the people mourn” (Prov. 29:2).

Jeremiah is released the following day.  If the Pashur thinks he has broken the prophet’s spirit, he is shocked at Jeremiah’s words to him.  The Pashur and his friends (fellow governors and their henchmen) will see the fall of their city and the destruction of the Temple.  They will endure the death march to Babylon, and there, stripped of their power and broken in spirit, they will die (6).

Jeremiah 21

Zedekiah is the king of Israel, and has heard of Jeremiah.  He sends the Pashur to Jeremiah, this time in a much humbled position, to ask the prophet to tell him if Nebuchadrezzar (a more Babylonian spelling of Nebuchadnezzar) will  conquer Jerusalem.  The new respect for Jeremiah is due to the advance of the Babylonian army.  The siege of Jerusalem has already begun (4), and the king and people fear that Jeremiah’s prophecies may be true after all.  Zedekiah hopes the word from Jeremiah will be good news; that God will deal with Jerusalem “according to all his wondrous works,” and will miraculously cause Nubuchadnezzar  to leave the country.  It is amazing how these people, who had hated and tortured Jeremiah before, now come to him so humbly.  People, even today, ignore or despise the Church and her ministers while they are well and untroubled, yet humbly seek sanctuary within her doors when trouble rises against them.  Most of them return to despising the Church as soon as the trouble ends.  Their penance and prayers are false.  They only want God to help them for the moment; they don’t want God Himself.  They are rainy day Christians.  Such is the humility of Zedekiah and the Pashur.  If God were to turn the Babylonians away, they would laugh Jeremiah to scorn, and continue in their sinful ways.

But Jeremiah’s message does not change.  He does not predict relief or deliverance.  He says God Himself will fight against Jerusalem (5, 6).  The king and people have two choices.  They can resist and die in the horrors of conquest, or they can surrender and face enslavement.  Either way, horror and death await the majority.

September 13

Jer. 22, Lk. 2:40-52
Jer. 23,  Rom. 14

Commentary,

Jeremiah 22

The prophet enters into a series of denunciations of the kings of Judah.  He begins with a wonderful summary of the task of government.  “Execute ye judgement and righteousness, and deliver the spoiled [oppressed] out of the hand of the oppressor: and do no wrong, do no violence to the stranger, the fatherless, nor the widow, neither shed innocent blood in this place” (3).   We can summarise this into three points.  First, do justice.  Make the laws of the land just and equitable.  Defend the rights of the people.  Protect the poor and the weak from those who would deceive and oppress them.  The Deuteronomic code, with its principles of punishment and restitution is the standard, and the legal code of Israel.  Second, make the courts enforce the laws.  Make the criminals bear the consequences of their crimes.  Do not pervert justice in favour of those who can benefit you with their money or influence.  Third, do no wrong.  Do not join with those who oppress the poor, or gain wealth by taking advantage of others, instead, make them answer for their crimes. Do not use your position or power for personal gain.  Use it for the good of the people and the glory of God.

But the kings have not ruled justly.  Verse 17 recalls their actions.  “But thine eyes and thine heart are not but for thy covetousness, and for the shedding of innocent blood, and for oppression, and for violence to do it.”  Not only have the kings not enforced justice and protected the rights of the law abiding citizens, they have actually joined forces with the criminals and the oppressors against the innocent.  They have stolen the property and spilled the blood of the innocent.  The have become enemies of the righteous, not defenders of them.  Governments are necessary in our world, but the power they have  to do good is more frequently used for evil.

Therefore, they will feel the wrath of the Lord, the True King of Judah.  His Law is absolute righteousness, and His verdicts are absolute justice.  God will give them into the hand of Nebuchadrezzar (25) and cast them out of Jerusalem into another country (Babylon), “and there shall ye die” (26).

A short note on the kings of  the era may be helpful.  Josiah (ca. 640-609 B.C.) is remembered as a good king.  He died in battle fighting the Egyptians, who wanted to pass through Judah to battle the Babylonians.  Josiah’s youngest son, Jehoahaz, became king, but was taken by the Pharaoh and imprisoned in Egypt.  The Pharaoh had  control of Israel at this time, due to his defeat of Josiah, and he forced the Jews to make the eldest son of Josiah, Jehoiakim, king.  When the Babylonians defeated Egypt’s ally, Assyria in 605, Egypt lost control of Judah, and Babylon gained control.  Nebuchadnezzar attacked Jerusalem and forced the city to surrender the king, who was taken in chains to Babylon, along with Daniel, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego.

Jehoiachin, also called Coniah, then became king.  Refusing to heed Jeremiah’s warnings, Jehoiachin resisted the Babylonians, so Nebuchadnezzar again besieged Jerusalem, and took Jehoiachin and about 10,000 others to Babylon.  Jehoiachin died in Babylon, as Jeremiah predicted (Jer. 22:26).

The Babylonians forced the Judeans to crown Zedekiah as the new king.  At first he acquiesced to the powerful Babylonians.  But when a new Pharaoh was crowned in Egypt, Zedekiah attempted an alliance with Egypt, hoping to escape Babylonian control. Angered at Zedekiah’s actions, the Babylonians  attacked Jerusalem.  Egypt sent an army to help the Jews, which was defeated, giving the Babylonians the opportunity to begin a long and deadly siege of Jerusalem.  The city fell in 586 B.C.  The buildings were burned and destroyed, and the surrendered Jews were murdered by the thousands.  Zedekiah was forced to watch the murder of his sons and 70 other people, after which his eyes were burned out with a hot iron.  He, and most of the surviving Jews were taken on a death march to Babylon, where they lived as aliens and captives for the next 70 years.

Jeremiah 23  

Most of Jeremiah’s message has been of punishment and suffering, but here God gives him a message of hope.  Though woe is pronounced against the shepherds (religious and civil authorities) who spiritually starved and scattered the flock of Israel, leading to the devastation of the Babylonian conquest, God will give them shepherds who will feed them, meaning to lead them into the knowledge of and loving obedience to the Scriptures.  This passage refers first to the return of the Jews from Babylon, begun in 536 B.C. In its fuller sense, it refers to Jesus Christ, who is the  Good Shepherd and the righteous Branch of David (Jer. 23:5, see also Rev. 22:16).  In His first advent, Christ begins the age of fulfillment, when all of the prophecies and promises of the Old Testament begin to be understood and accomplished.  It is His atoning sacrifice that buys our pardon.  It is His Holy Gospel which calls His people from the diaspora of sin and brings us into the New Jerusalem to live in peace and harmony with Him and each other.  But even this age of the Church, or age of the end times, is not the complete fulfillment of His work.  He will return from the Father to fully establish His Kingdom of justice and righteousness.  All things will be made new, and even death will be no more for His people.

Jeremiah is led of the Lord to lament the current state of his city, with its false prophets and profane priests.  Just as the civil government becomes corrupt and abusive when the Biblical principles of justice are ignored, the Church becomes corrupt when its leaders abandon the Bible for the traditions of men.  Just as a corrupt civil government leads to crime, oppression, and poverty, corrupt Church leaders bring false doctrine, sin, and hypocrisy into the Church.  Such pastors commit adultery, walk in lies, and strengthen the hand of evil doers by blessing sin and condemning holiness, and by reducing the faith to a feeling or a show.  When the pastors do such things, the people are not told the truth or called to faith and obedience to God’s will.  Therefore, they do not turn from their wickedness.  Instead they are hardened in it, even to the point of believing their sin is righteousness.

The people may love such pastors ( 2 Tim. 4:3, 4) but God’s attitude toward them is revealed in verses 31 and 32; “Behold, I am against the prophets, saith the Lord, that use their tongues, and say, He saith.  Behold, I am against them that prophesy false dreams, saith the Lord, and do tell them, and cause my people to err by their lies, and by their lightness.”

September 14

Jer. 24,  Lk. 3
Jer. 25, Rom. 15

Commentary,

Jeremiah 24

This short chapter gives the prophet a vision of two baskets of figs.  One contains good figs, and represents the people God will bring back to Jerusalem out of Babylon, Egypt, and other places where they will have been taken.  The other contains spoiled figs, but the Bible does not use that word. It calls them naughty, evil, and very evil, which are moral terms rather than agricultural terms.  They represent Zedekiah, false prophets and priests, and impenitent Jews who will be removed into all the kingdoms of the earth.  This is done by God “for their hurt” (9).  They have left the Covenant, therefore they will not be allowed to dwell in the Covenant land or enjoy the Covenant blessings.  Instead they will be a reproach and a curse in all the places to which they are driven.  Those who remain in Judah after the conquest will still not be safe.  They will continue to suffer the sword, famine and pestilence.

Jeremiah 25

Verses 1-14 contain a specific prediction of the length of Israel’s time in Babylon.  Among the reasons for their punishment, God reveals that they will be in Babylon for 70 years (12).

It is noteworthy that God proclaims judgement against the Babylonians for their violence against Israel (12, 13).  Even though God allowed the Babylonians to conquer and afflict His people, the actions of the Babylonians were still grievous sins against God and humanity.  They were prompted by greed and arrogance.  Their empire was forged in blood, in the massacre of unknown numbers of innocent people, whose lands they invaded, whose property they stole, and whose lives they took.

Verses 15-37 show that God’s wrath expands to all nations and peoples who have captured and harmed Israel.  They will all drink the cup of His wrath, and having drunk and become drunken with it, they will “spew, and fall, and rise no more, because I will send the sword among you” (27).

September 15

Jer. 26, Lk. 4
Jer. 27, Rom. 16

Commentary,

Jeremiah 26

Jehoiakim was the eldest son of Josiah, and was king of Judah from about 609 to 598 B.C.   (see the notes on the kings of this era in comments for September 13). During this time Egypt held the power in the area, and Jehoiakim ruled only as a servant of the Pharaoh. The message in this chapter was given to Jeremiah in the beginning of Jehoiakim’s reign, which would be sometime in the years 609-607 B.C.  The prophet is commanded to go to the inner court of the Temple and preach a call to repent and be saved from the approaching Babylonians.  This is the second time Jeremiah is sent to the Temple, and the message is very similar to the first (Jer. 7).  After his sermon, the priests, and false prophets and people take him by force with the intent of executing him (8).  The civil authorities come to the Temple, probably to see why the people are shouting and threatening death to a man in the Temple (10).  This gives Jeremiah another chance to speak (12-14).

A discussion among the people and leaders follows 16-20).  One group cites another prophet who prophesied against Jerusalem a hundred years earlier.  Not only was the prophet, Micah (not the one in the book of Micah), not put to death for his preaching, but the people repented of their sin and were spared from the wrath of God (19).  This reference is intended to induce the princes to let Jeremiah go free until it is seen whether his predictions come to pass or not.  Their words prevail, and Jeremiah is released.

A second prophet is not so fortunate.  Urijah, a contemporary of Jeremiah, preaches a message similar to  that of Jeremiah.  The good princes of Judah are so angry at his words, they intend to kill him, but he flees to Egypt, where he is safe for a while.  Jehoiakim sends Elnathan, whose name means “Gift of God,” into Egypt to bring Urijah back to Jerusalem.  Elnathan is successful, and Urijah arrives in Jerusalem, probably nearly dead from harsh treatment by Elnathan.  Jehoiakim immediately kills the prophet and casts his body into the graves of the common people (23) which was intended to be a terrible insult to the prophet.

Jeremiah 27

Some readers are confused at finding two kings mentioned in regards to the bonds and yokes in verse 1. The difficulty is removed when we realise that some of the yokes and bonds are delivered in Jehoiakim’s reign (609-598), and some are delivered in Zedekiah’s reign (597-586), when the kings of the peoples named attempt to form alliances with Judah against Babylon.  God’s message to them is that all their lands have been given into the hand of Nebuchadnezzar, whom the Lord calls His servant (6). He will even punish those kingdoms that resist Babylon (8).  The kings and peoples, therefore, must not listen to those who claim to speak from supernatural revelation saying, “Ye shall not serve the king of Babylon” (9).  “For they prophesy a lie” (10).

The chapter closes with very pointed warnings to Jerusalem and Zedekiah, who will be king when the Babylonian invasion levels Jerusalem.  The word of the Lord is that Zedekiah and Jerusalem should surrender to Nebuchadnezzar without a fight.  Do not listen to prophets and priests who say God will deliver you from Babylon.  Do not count on alliances with other nations.  If they resist, they will be destroyed.  Even the Temple, in which they place so much hope, will be destroyed, and its treasures will be taken as booty to Babylon. 

September 16

Jer. 28, Lk. 5
Jer. 29, 1 Corinthians 1

Commentary,

Jeremiah 28

The events of this chapter occur in the fourth year of the reign of king Zedediah, or 593 B.C. Hannaniah is a false prophet who breaks the wooden yoke Jeremiah wears around his neck. His action is symbolic. It is a dramatic expression of his words in verses 2 and 3, which predict the fall of Nebuchadnezzar and the return of the Jewish captives and property now held in Babylon. This will be accomplished within two years, he says (3).

Jeremiah does not refute these words at first. His, “Amen,” in verse 6, shows his desire that God would actually accomplish this. But he knows this will not happen.  Hannaniah has prophesied lies, and this is how the people will know it. If the words of Hannaniah come to pass, it will prove that he is a true prophet. But if the words of Jeremiah come to pass, it is he who speaks the word of the Lord.  Jeremiah's message has two parts. First, the Babylonians will come and they will conquer Israel and the surrounding nations (14). Within seven years the Babylonians completely conquer the area, and Jerusalem is sacked and burned.  Second, Hannaniah will die because his message teaches rebellion against the Lord (16). Two months later, Hannaniah is dead.

Jeremiah 29

Jeconiah, also called Jehoiachin, is king of Judah for a few short months before Jerusalem is defeated by the Babylonians. This defeat is not the sack and destruction of Jerusalem in 586.  It is the result of an earlier battle between the Babylonians and the combined forces of Assyria and Egypt in 605. Jeconiah had sided with the Egyptians, so the Babylonians surround Jerusalem until it surrenders.  Jeconiah is taken in chains to Babylon, and the Babylonians coronate Zedekiah, to serve as a vassal of King Nebuchadnezzar. Many others are taken to Babylon with Jeconiah (2-4), including Daniel, Meshach, Shadrach, and Abednego. As part of his duties to Nebuchadnezzar, Zedekiah sends a message to him by way of a messenger named, Elasah (3). Jeremiah is able to send a message to the Jews in captivity in Babylon by the same messenger.

Jeremiah's message does not tell the captives they will be home in two years. Instead it tells them to make homes for themselves in Babylon (5-7), for they will dwell there for seventy years (10). In the meantime, those who remain in Jerusalem will suffer famine, pestilence, conquest by the sword (17), and will be scattered throughout many nations (18).  The lying prophets of Jerusalem will also be destroyed, along with Zedekiah and others who led the people to sin against God (21-32).

September 17

Jer. 30, Lk. 6:1-19
Jer. 31, 1 Cor. 2

Commentary,

Jeremiah 30

The Lord now changes the tone of His message.  Though the Jews have shown no inclination or desire to repent, God knows their bitter, conquest and bondage will tempt them to abandon even the nominal faith they now have.  Therefore, He shows them their suffering will not continue forever.  He will chastise them, but He will also have mercy upon them, as a nation, and will return them to their homeland again.  He tells Jeremiah to write the words of this prophecy in a book (2).  It will go with the people to Babylon, where it will remind them of their sins, and the reason for their suffering.  It will return with them to Jerusalem where it will remind them to return to the Covenant and the God of the Covenant, and not just to a place.  God does not need the land.  He can bless His people wherever they may be.  But He has called them to be one people, and to dwell together, and to love Him, and to be blessed by Him, as one people.  Therefore He has given them a place where they can do this, though, for a while, they will be removed from it.

While in Babylon, it will seem to the Jews that the hope of dwelling in Jerusalem as one people united in the Covenant of God, is gone forever.  It will seem as though God has taken that calling and blessing from them, forever.  Some will realise that He would be right and justified to do so.  Though God has been faithful, and patient with their sins, Israel, as a people, has broken every vow and every obligation of the Covenant, both in letter and spirit.  Therefore, God is no longer obligated to them.  If He abandons them, and leaves them in perpetual punishment, forever banned from His blessings and graces, it will be no more than they deserve.  It will indeed appear to them that this is exactly what God has done, and returning to Judah, and the Covenant, is impossible.

But God will bring them home. “Therefore, fear thou not, O my servant Jacob, saith the Lord; neither be dismayed, O Israel: for, lo, I will save thee from afar, and thy seed from the land of their captivity” (10).  It is their enemies who are without hope (12-16). 

No one familiar with the Biblical story can read this chapter without seeing the Messianic Hope depicted in it.  It is especially clear in verse 9, “But they shall serve the Lord their God, and David their king, whom I will raise up.”  In its fullest sense, this refers to the reign of Jesus Christ, the righteous Branch of David (23:5), who rules in truth and justice in the earth.

Jeremiah 31

The restoration is not for Judah alone.  In fact, the first 22 verses of this chapter refer to the 10 northern tribes, known collectively as Israel.  They are already in the bonds of cruel defeat, even as Jeremiah writes these words.  “[T]hey shall come and sing in the height of Zion… and their soul shall be as a watered garden; they shall not sorrow any more” (12).  [T]hy children shall come again to their own border” (17).

Israel divided into two kingdoms after Solomon died. The northern tribes were called Israel, and existed, more or less independently until conquered by the Assyrians (722 B.C.) and becoming assimilated into the Assyrian culture.  The Israelites, who had been guilty of the same sins as Judah, were scattered among the Gentile nations.  Some left Israel as refugees from the war devastated land.  Others were forced to move by the Assyrians (2 Kings 17:5,6). Those allowed to remain in Israel were later  known as Samaritans. Here God promises to bring them home again.  Israel and Judah will be reunited as one people.

Verse 23 begins to tell of the restoration of Judah.  After the 10 northern tribes left to establish their own kingdom (ca. 950 B.C.), the two remaining tribes of Benjamin and Judah eventually merged and became known as Judah.  This kingdom also existed more or less independently until conquered and sacked by the Babylonians in 586 B.C.  The Babylonians murdered thousands of the surrendered Jews, sacked and burned their cities and towns, and moved tens of thousands of the survivors to Babylon.  Verses 23-28 foretell the return and restoration of Judah.

Verse 29 begins to talk about a new Covenant.  By their sin, Israel and Judah have nullified the former Covenant.  The conquest and deportation of the people, the destruction of the Temple  in Jerusalem, and the destruction of the House of the Lord in Israel, are very important symbols of the fact that God has recognised that Israel and Judah have failed to keep their Covenant obligations, thereby making the Covenant null and void.  Therefore, God is released from His Covenant duties.  He is no longer the God of Israel, or the God of Judah, so the places where the people gathered to “meet” Him are not needed.  Their destruction graphically portrays the end of the Covenant.  It is important to remember here that the Covenant with Israel was conditional.  God promised to do specific things, such as giving Canaan to the descendants of Abraham.  They also promised to obey God and be His people.  If they, or their descendants ever stopped keeping their Covenant obligations, God had the right to end the Covenant and be released from His Covenant obligations.  Even the land that He gave them will be taken from them (Dt. 28:63-68).

But God will make a new Covenant with the people.  It will be a personal, rather than a national Covenant.  This means it will be with individual people who accept and live by it. This Covenant is a spiritual Covenant, and the Covenant people will be a spiritual Israel.  The New Covenant is the Covenant in Christ’s blood, and the spiritual Israel consists of those who enter by faith in Christ (Heb 8:1-9:28).

Obviously, then, much of the language in Jeremiah 31:31-40 is spiritual language.  The vast majority of the Jews did not return to Israel when Cyrus of Persia freed them from Babylon.  They preferred their new homes in foreign lands.  Even today, most Jews remain outside of the modern nation of Israel.  But a spiritual reunion, gathered around the righteous Branch of David, has already begun.  The New, spiritual Israel is no longer limited to one country, one nation, or one ethnic group.  In the righteous Branch, the New Israel embraces believers from every race, nation, and tongue.  

September 18

Jer. 32, Lk. 6:20-49
Jer. 33, 1 Cor. 3

Commentary,

Jeremiah 32

In the tenth year of Zedekiah’s reign (ca. 588 B.C.), The Babylonian army arrives at Jerusalem again.  This time it begins a siege that will cause disease and starvation, and will end in almost complete destruction of the city and the people.  During this time, Jeremiah continues to foretell the destruction of the city and the captivity of the people.  Angered and desperate, the king, Zedekiah, imprisons the prophet.  A nephew comes to the prison and asks Jeremiah to buy a field in Anathoth, Jeremiah’s home town.

Why does the nephew ask this of Jeremiah?  Maybe he wants to use the money to try to escape from Jerusalem.  Maybe he thinks the Babylonians will change their minds and negotiate peace, which will end the siege.  Maybe he is just trying to keep the law of inheritance.  But God tells Jeremiah to buy the field.  Jeremiah buys the field and has the deed sealed in an air tight and water proof vessel that will preserve the document for many years.  Why does the prophet buy land in a country he knows will soon be conquered and devastated?  Because he knows God will bring the people back to Jerusalem.  “Houses and fields and vineyards shall be possessed again in this land” (15).

Jeremiah’s prayer seems to suggest that God’s command to buy the field is foolish.  He probably expects to die in the war, or be killed by the king as a last act of revenge and defiance before the city falls, or be taken to Babylon to die there.  In either case, the field will be useless to him.  But God uses the field to show the reality of His promise.  Just as His threat to destroy the city is being fulfilled, His promise to restore it will also be fulfilled.  “I will cause their captivity to return, saith the Lord” (44).

Jeremiah 33

Amid a moving account of the mercy of God in returning the captives, comes another word about a king in the line of David, which will be established on the throne again.  This means Israel will have some form of independence, with its own king again.  Along with this the priesthood, with its services and functions will be established again in Jerusalem.  Ultimately these functions will be fulfilled in Jesus Christ, as we have seen in other passages of Jeremiah.   

September 19

Jer. 34,  Lk. 7:1-35
Jer 35, 1 Cor. 4

Commentary,

Jeremiah 34

In desperation, Zedekiah encourages the wealthy class to release their Jewish slaves, hoping this will appease God enough to save Israel from the Babylonians.  There is no serious repentance here.  This is the cry of a man attempting to barter with God, rather than seek God in loving obedience.  The same is true of the people, who release their slaves, but re-capture them and return them to their bondage almost immediately (16).  Thus, the Lord is going to give them to the hand of their enemies (20), including the king and the highest rulers of Israel (21).

Jeremiah 35

Rechabites are nomadic tribes who dwell in tents seeking pasture for their flocks.  They are in Jerusalem seeking refuge from the Babylonians (11).  One of their defining cultural traditions is the absolute refusal of any form of alcoholic beverage  (6).  Jeremiah uses their faithfulness to their human traditions as a contrast to Israel’s unfaithfulness to the Covenant of God (13-16).  The chapter closes with God’s promise to bless the Rechabites, and punish the Jews. (17-19).

September 20

Jer. 36, Lk.7:36-50 
Jer. 37, 1 Cor. 5

Commentary,

Jeremiah 36

In the fourth year of Jehoiakim’s reign Jeremiah is commanded to record the words of God in a book (2).  This is accomplished by dictating them to the scribe, Baruch (18), a fearless and faithful man of God, who reads them in the Temple (10), and to the princes of Judah (11-19).  The warnings in the book cause fear in the princes, who take it to the king.  But the king is not moved by the words.  At least some parts of the scroll are burned by the king (23), though some may have been saved (25).  The king orders Jeremiah and Baruch to be found and brought before him, probably to have them executed (26).  But God saves the king the trouble of finding Jeremiah, sending him to the king (27), with another copy of the book.

Jeremiah 37

Zedekiah is the final king to reign before the sack of Jerusalem in 586.  Shortly after the Babylonians besiege Jerusalem, an Egyptian army arrives in Judah to fight against Babylon (5).  The Babylonians leave Jerusalem to meet the Egyptians, and many in Jerusalem probably believe this battle will end in in an Egyptian victory, which will deliver Jerusalem from Babylonian domination.  But the word of the Lord comes to Jeremiah and contradicts their hope.  Egypt will be defeated, and the Babylonians will return to Jerusalem and destroy the city (7-9).

In verse 12, Jeremiah attempts to leave Jerusalem.  He probably does not want to see the horrors of pestilence and disease that will accompany the siege of Jerusalem.  Nor does he want to see the systematic execution of thousands of his people after the fall of the city.  But he is stopped at the gate of Jerusalem and accused of attempting to get to the Chaldeans (Babylonians) to aid them in their war against Jerusalem (13).  He is taken before the princes, who have him flogged and imprisoned (15).

The king secretly has Jeremiah brought to him, to ask him if he has received any word from the Lord.  The king hopes Jeremiah will prophecy the defeat of the Babylonians and the freedom of Jerusalem.  But the prophet simply repeats his message of doom.  Afterward he asks the king to set him free, lest he die in the prison.  Jeremiah is probably very sick and weak from the beating and ill treatment in prison.  The king refuses.  He sends Jeremiah back to prison, and even increases the prophet’s suffering by putting him on bread and water, essentially intending to starve him to death.

September 21, Feast of Saint Matthew

Lk. 8:1-25
Lk. 1 Cor. 6

In place of the reading from Jeremiah we look today at Matthew 9:9-13.  Though less well known than Paul and Peter, Matthew was a Godly man who gave up wealth and ease to follow Christ.  Many of the early Christian writers believe he was the first to write a Gospel, and that he wrote it in Aramaic, and translated it into Greek later.  His desire was that his own people would know and love the Messiah as he did.  To that end he lived, and wrote, and preached in and around Jerusalem during a time when some Jews hated and persecuted Christians.  He was probably still in Jerusalem when Paul appeared before the Apostles around A.D. 50 (Acts 15).  At some time after this, Matthew traveled to take the Gospel to Jews outside of Jerusalem.  It is not known exactly where he went, but many believe it was eastward into the Tigress Euphrates valley, where he died a martyr.

September 22

Jer. 38, Lk. 8:26-56
Jer 39, 1 Cor. 7

Commentary,

Jeremiah 38

Jeremiah is nearly dead.  Severely flogged, his untreated wounds from the beating are probably, infected and painful.  He is on starvation rations and in solitary confinement in a deep cistern, where no little or no light enters unless it is opened by the guards to throw a scrap of bread and swallow of water to him.  Ebed-melech pleads with the king for his release, and finally, the king agrees.  By this time, the king must realise that the Babylonians are not going away, and Jerusalem is in real danger.  If it falls to the invaders, it means Jeremiah is right and a true prophet.  The king is probably afraid of being punished by God because of his mistreatment of Jeremiah.  There is no sign of repentance in the king.  He does not turn to God, nor does he make any attempt to help Jeremiah, nor is the prophet released from the prison; he is merely let out of the cistern.  The king is very sorry for himself, and fears what lies ahead for him, but he is not sorry for his sins.  He is like many people who are sorry they may go to hell, but not at all sorry for their sins against God and humanity.

It is in this frame of mind that Zedekiah sends for Jeremiah and asks what will happen to him.  The words of Jeremiah are not comforting.  Surrender to the Babylonians, and you will live, and you will save the city from being sacked and burned.  This will save tens of thousands of lives, and will save the city and Temple.  Much suffering will be relieved or avoided.  But the king, like many others in similar situations and positions, is willing to sacrifice all of his people and his city on the slight chance that he may escape from the Chaldeans. Such self-serving cowardice is often seen in people with influence or power.

Jeremiah 39

As God said, Jerusalem finally falls to the Babylonians.  The devastation and suffering in the city is horrifying.  Disease and famine have already killed thousands.  The Babylonian soldiers entering the city kill thousands more.  After the surrender, Nebuchadnezzar systematically executes the civil and religious leaders, the wealthy, the educated, and anyone with influence or power in the city.  The king is forced to watch this, including the execution of his sons.  After this, his eyes are burned out with a hot iron, and he is bound in chains for the journey to Babylon.

Jeremiah’s treatment is entirely different. “Look well to him” (11) refers to caring for his wounds and nursing him back to health.  At first, Jeremiah attempts to make the journey with his people, in chains as they are.  But he is too weak, so he is released after a few miles.  He is sent with Gedaliah, whom the Babylonians appoint as governor of the territory.  The chapter ends with God’s promise to the man who talked the king into releasing Jeremiah from the cistern.

September 23

Jer. 40,  Lk. 9:1-36
Jer. 41, 1 Cor. 8

Commentary,

Jeremiah 40

Ramah is about 6 miles north of Jerusalem on the road the Babylonians used to take their prisoners to Babylon.  Jeremiah, bound in chains, is among the prisoners, apparently by choice, identifying with his Jewish brethren (39:11-14).  There, the captain of the guard releases the prophet with the freedom to go wherever he chooses (4, 5).  Jeremiah goes to Mizpah, where Gedaliah has made his base of operations because Jerusalem is in ruins.  Thousand of its citizens are dead; thousands more are on their way to Babylon in chains, including the priests and government officials who were spared after the battle. Jeremiah probably intends to help Gedaliah by preaching and ministering to the people, who are still in terrible shock and mourning, in addition to their hunger and poverty.

Gedaliah is an able leader.  Soon, Jews in neighbouring areas return to Israel and begin to do the work necessary to survive (12).  The Lord grants them a bountiful harvest, thus securing their food supply and ending their devastating hunger (12).  Ishmael, king of Ammon, which, though also conquered by the Babylonians, did not suffer as much devastation and killing as  Jerusalem, plans to kill Gedaliah, probably intending to take control of the farms and produce.  Gedaliah is warned, but believes the warnings are false reports.

Jeremiah 41

Ishmael comes to Mizpah under the guise of friendship.  He is warmly welcomed by Gedaliah, and they share a bountiful meal together.  But the warnings about Ishmael are true.  During the meal, he kills Gedaliah, and all Jews presents at the meal.

Two days later, men from cities in central Israel arrive in Mizpah with the intention of offering sacrifices in what is left of the Tabernacle, which once stood at Shiloh.  Their cuttings show they have been deeply affected by pagan theology and rituals (5), but their arrival in Mizpah may also show their intention to return to the Covenant and worship God again. Their sacrifices are never offered.  Ishmael, again feigning friendship (6) murders many of the men, and takes the rest to be be slaves in Ammon.

Johannon, who had warned Gedaliah about Ishmael, gathers a coalition of warriors together, which meets Ishmael in Gibeon.  Their arrival alarms the Ammonites, and allows the captives to escape.  But Ishmael and his men also escape, causing the Jews to fear an Ammonite invasion of Israel, along with a punitive strike by the Babylonians for being involved in the fight against the Ammonites. The chapter closes with Johanan and his people camped near Bethlehem planning to flee into Egypt.

September 24

Jer. 42, Lk. 9:32-62
Jer. 43, 1 Cor. 9

Commentary,

Jeremiah 42

Johannon is the natural choice to lead the remnant of Israel.  His warning to Gedaliah, and daring rescue of the Jews held by Ishmael show skill and courage.  In this chapter, he seeks the word of God from the prophet Jeremiah.  This is both an intelligent, and a natural thing to do.  He knows Jeremiah foretold the fall of Jerusalem, and that he continued to warn the Jews of the impending disaster, even when they beat and tortured him, and even when they put him in a dark and solitary cistern on starvation rations.  And, his predictions came true.  Any wise person would now consult Jeremiah to know the word of God.

Jeremiah promises to pray, and to speak what God reveals, just as he has always done.  And the word of the Lord is, stay in Judah.  God will protect them from Babylon if they stay.  But Egypt will be conquered by the Babylonians, and if Johanan and his band of Jews go there, they will suffer through yet another brutal war and conquest, in which they will die.

Jeremiah 43

When the word of God counters the desires of Johanan and the people, they call Jeremiah a false prophet.  Their minds were probably already made up to go to Egypt before they asked Jeremiah’s prayers and words.  They did not really want him to tell them the truth, they wanted him to endorse their plans and desires.  Things haven’t changed much in the last 2600 years.  People still want ear tickling sermons that endorse their preconceived ideas about God and their choices in life.  They still honour the entertaining crowd pleasers, and deny those who attempt to preach the word.  “Make me feel good about myself,” seems to be their motto.  “Don’t warn me about hell; promise me peace on earth, and Heaven forever.”

“So Johannan the son of Kareah, and all the captains of the forces, and all the people, obeyed not the voice of the Lord, to dwell in the land of Judah” (4).  “So they came into the land of Egypt” (7).

Jeremiah goes with them.  He does not go in disobedience to God.  He goes because it is his calling to preach the word to the people.  While in Egypt, the word of the Lord comes to Jeremiah again (8-13).  The message is not about inner peace, or feeling good about themselves, nor does it promise health and wealth.  It is an announcement of the coming doom of Egypt.  The king of Babylon will come to Egypt, and will smite it, and “deliver such as are for death to death; and such as are for captivity to captivity; and such as are for the sword to the sword” (11).  The very thing the Jews hoped to escape by going to Egypt, will happen to them there.  And they could have escaped, if only they had trust God instead of Egypt; if only they had stayed in Judah.

How very contemporary this sounds to us.  We run from God’s commandments because they require faith, self control, and the denial of the desires of the flesh.  We run to fulfill the desires of the flesh because we believe there is happiness and peace in them.  But, instead of happiness, we find sorrow and meaninglessness.  The very thing we seek to escape becomes our fate forever.

September 25

Jer. 44 Lk. 10:1-24
Jer. 45, 46, 1 Cor. 10

Commentary,

Jeremiah 44

When Johanan and the other Jews go to Egypt, they not only turn away from God’s prophet, they also turn away from God.  Though it appears for a while that they want to turn from their idolatry and sin (42:1-6), in Egypt they continue their idolatry, and may even expand it to include Egyptian idols (8).  The first 14 verses of this chapter are an indictment of their sins, and an announcement of the coming judgement of God on Egypt, and them, at the hands of the Babylonians.

We would think  such predictions from the mouth of the prophet who predicted the fall and captivity of Jerusalem, would move the people to fall to their knees in true and humble repentance.  But such is not the case.  Instead they boast about their intention to continue in sin.  “We will certainly do whatsoever thing goeth forth out of our own mouth, to burn incense unto the queen of heaven, and to pour out drink offerings unto her” (17).  Such are many today who mock the Bible and wish to be free of its outdated and “hateful” morals and values.  They boast about their sins.  They call sin “good’ and holiness “evil.”  

Johanan and his followers even believe that when they worshiped the “queen of heaven” they had peace and plenty, but when they stopped worshiping her they were conquered and consumed by sword and famine (17,18).  It wasn’t the God of Abraham who brought this calamity upon them, they claim.  It was the queen of heaven, and she did it because they stopped worshiping her.  This is essentially the same as saying their idol brought them out of Egypt, gave them the land of Canaan, and blessed them in it.  It was her, not God.

Verse 26 begins God’s response.  It is well stated in verse 27, “all the men of Judah that are in the land of Egypt shall be consumed by the sword and by the famine until there be an end of them.”  As for Egypt, “I will give Pharaoh-hopra king of Egypt into the hand of his enemies, and into the hand of them that seek his life; as I gave Zedekiah king of Judah into the hand of Nebuchdrezzar king of Babylon, his enemy and that sought his life” (30).  The Jews have come to Egypt for protection from the Babylonians.  But Egypt will be conquered by them, and the Jews in Egypt will die with the Egyptians.  Only a few will be left alive to return to Judah (28).

Jeremiah 45

This short chapter is addressed to one person, Baruch, who worked as a scribe for the prophet Jeremiah, and read the words of Jeremiah to the people.  His association with the prophet placed him in constant and grave danger.  This chapter is written to cheer and encourage him, and to relay God’s promise to protect him in time of danger.  The heart of the message is in verse 5.  The man is told not to seek great things for himself.  At the same time, God promises to preserve his life.  Great things for himself would be things like fame and fortune, the respect of others, and the wealth that accompanies great success.  All of this would be gladly given to him by the people of Judah if he would renounce Jeremiah.  Poverty, derision, and suffering could be his fate if he remains with the prophet.  The message of this chapter is that it is enough to serve God faithfully.  Wealth and the praise of men will fade, but the grace of God endures forever.

Jeremiah 46

Chapters 46-51 contain prophecies of judgement on the Gentile nations in the area around Israel (1).  Most of them are enemies of Israel.  The prophecy against Egypt begins by foretelling the Egyptian defeat at Carchemish in 605.  There, Egypt, allied with the Assyrians, met the Babylonian army on battle on the banks of the Euphrates River, about 300 miles north of Jerusalem. The Jews tried to prevent the Egyptians from getting there by meeting them in battle near the Mediterranean coast.  This was a mistake because an Assyrian/Egyptian victory at Carchemish may have prevented the Babylonians from advancing their empire.  It was also a mistake because Israel lost the battle, and their king, Josiah, who died in the war.  After defeating Israel, the Egyptians advanced to Carchemish, where they were defeated by the Babylonians. Thus, the Babylonians gained control of the area, and Jerusalem was left open to a Babylonian invasion.

The Babylonians would not stop at Jerusalem.  Egypt was too rich and powerful to ignore, and Nebuchadnezzar intended to make it part of his empire. Verses 13-26 predict the Babylonian invasion and conquest of Egypt.

September 26

Jer. 47, Lk. 10:25-42
Jer. 48:1-25, 1 Cor. 11

Commentary,

Jeremiah 47

The Philistines were some of Israel’s fiercest enemies, and competitors for the land of Canaan.  They controlled most of the Mediterranean coast, especially Gaza, where they were wealthy traders and powerful warriors.  Goliath was a Philistine.  The word of the Lord foretells their defeat, which probably happens just after the Egyptians defeated Judah and killed Josiah on their advance toward Carchemish around 605 B.C.  This prophecy is given before the Philistines are defeated.  This means the people of Judah knew of this word through Jeremiah.  They knew his prediction that Gaza would be conquered by Egypt, and they saw it happen.  Yet they refused to believe God and repent.  And they still persecuted Jeremiah.

The same things still happens today.  The Bible is more available than ever before in history.  People in most of the world have at least some knowledge of it.  We hear it quoted in TV shows and movies.  Even politicians quote it regularly.  Yet few act on it, and many blatantly deny and hate it.  And yet, the truth of one of the Bible’s most basic doctrines is undeniable; man is a sinner.  As the Bible itself says, “all have sinned.”  The evidence of this truth is everywhere there is, or ever has been a human being.  Sin has not been educated out of people.  It has not been ameliorated by charity.  Politics and utopian political dreams have not eradicated it.  None of our attempts to perfect mankind has removed sin because sin is part of human nature.  Therefore, only a change in human nature can remove sin, and only God can do that.  Yet we persist in rejection of the word of God, just like the Jews who saw Egypt crush Gaza.

Jeremiah 48

Moabites were descendants of Lot.  Conceived through incest (Gen.19:38), they lived on the southeast coast of the Dead Sea, but their influence and control extended far beyond their borders.  Fearful of, and aggressive toward Israel,  Their king, Balak asked Balaam to curse Israel (Num. 22-24). Moab will also fall to the mighty Babylonians.

September 27

Jer. 48:25-47, Lk. 11:1-28
Jer. 49:1-22, 1 Cor. 12

Commentary,

Jeremiah 49

Ammonites were  also conceived through the incest of Lot’s daughters (Gen. 19:38).  At this point in Jeremiah, they have sent Ishmael to murder Gedaliah and enslave other Jews (Jer. 40:14).  This is only one  of many aggressive acts toward Israel.  1 Samuel 11 records an Ammonite attack in which they would allow the Israelites to surrender only if they allow the Ammonites to “thrust out” their right eyes.”  They were idolaters, and led Israel into idolatry with them (Judges 10:6).

Therefore God will drive them out of their land (Jer. 49:5)  The Babylonians will conquer them, as they take the entire area around the Jordan and the Dead Sea.  Yet God promises to allow them to return (6).

Edom is the subject of verses 7-22.  Descendants of Abraham through Esau, their king refused to allow Israel to pass through Edom on their journey to Canaan (Num. 20:14-20).  They continued to be aggressive toward Israel, and also enticed the Jews toward idolatry. God will make their land a desolation (17) through the Babylonian invasion.

Damascus (23-27) is a city-state north and east of the Sea of Galilee.  After the battle of Carchemish, the Babylonians continue to push the Egyptians southward toward the Nile, intending to invade Egypt itself. They are forced to abandon the invasion when many of the city-states in Canaan attempt to reassert themselves.  Jerusalem is among them, as is Damascus.  These city-states could band together into a powerful army and attack the Babylonians from behind. This would trap the Babylonians between two armies, which they would have to fight on two fronts simultaneously. The Babylonians cannot afford to risk this, so they temporarily stop fighting Egypt to return to Canaan.  It takes several campaigns and many battles, but the rebellious city-states are ruthlessly crushed and nearly annihilated, including Damascus. God, through Jeremiah warns that the city’s young men will fall in her streets and her men of war will be cut down (26).  When the Jews see this happening they should realise Jeremiah’s words are true.  This will give them yet another opportunity to repent.  But they will say it is just coincidence, and continue in their sin.

 Today, taking this passage out of context, many believe it predicts an event that will occur near  the “rapture.”  In reality, it refers to Nebuchadnezzar’s conquest of Damascus. All of the prophecies in chapters 46-49 centre around, and are fulfilled in the Babylonian invasion and conquest of the area in the 7th and 6th centuries B.C.  Babylon and Nebuchadnezzar are even named as the means by which these prophecies will be fulfilled (Jer. 49:28).  Chapter 49 ends with similar prophecies about other peoples in the area.  Kedar and Hazor are south east and south west of Damascus, respectively.  Elam is on the north east bank of the Tigris River, and may refer to Assyria, which was crushed in 605 B.C.

September 28

Jer. 49:23-39, Lk 11:29-54
Jer. 50,  1 Cor. 13

Commentary,

Jeremiah 50

Even mighty Babylon will not last forever.  Chapters 50 and 51 foretell the empire’s demise and fall.  As Jeremiah writes these words,  Babylon is the master of a vast empire.  But soon it will be a subject in another nation’s empire.  Chapters 50 and 51 go to great lengths to describe the devastation and destruction of the city.  “A sound of battle is in the land, and of great destruction.  How is the hammer of the whole earth cut asunder and broken! how is Babylon become a desolation among the nations” (22, 23).  “Therefore shall her young men fall in the streets, and all her men of war shall be cut off in that day, saith the Lord” (30).  You will remember  that this is exactly what God said Babylon would do to Damascus (Jer. 49:26).  What Babylon has done to others will also be done unto her.

A nation, and a coalition of nations, will rise up against Babylon (9).  These nations will come from the north (3, 9), and their invasion will punish Babylon for destroying God’s heritage, Israel (11).  God used Babylon to punish the Jews, but their invasion and crimes were still horrible sins and wickedness, for which they will pay by being conquered as they conquered others.

By contrast, God will bring Israel again to Jerusalem and Judah (19).  The sins of the Jews will be forgiven (20).  “Weeping they shall go, and seek the Lord their God” (4).  “They shall ask the way to Zion with their faces thitherward, saying, Come and let us join ourselves to the Lord in a perpetual covenant that shall not be broken” (5).  These verse describe the Jews being released from Babylon and returning to Israel, determined to keep the Covenant of God.

Here again, we must clarify the meaning of this passage due to a popular misunderstanding of them that is very prevalent today.  This misunderstanding interprets the formation of the modern state of Israel as the fulfillment of the prophecies about Israel returning to her home (see vss. 4 and 5).  People holding this view have various interpretations of the identities of Babylon, and of  kings of the north who conquer it.  Russia and China have often been named as the kings of the north.  Iran is the current popular recipient of Babylon’s identity, though some people also believe Babylon is the United States.

In reality, the kings of the north are the Medes (Jer. 51:11).  In Jeremiah’s time, the Medes are part of the Babylonian Empire.  But, in the very near future, they will gain power as Babylon declines.  In 70 years from the time of the Jewish deportation to Babylon, Cyrus will rule the former Babylonian Empire.  Cyrus will give the Jews freedom, and money to return to Jerusalem and re-establish their nation.  This, not modern Israel, is the fulfillment of verses 19 and 20.  As an added note, the “Babylon” of Revelation 17-19 is ancient Rome, the city on seven hills (Rev. 17:9), not the literal Babylon.

September 29,  Saint Michael and All Angels

Revelation 12:7-12, Mt. 18:1-10
1 Cor. 14

There is an unseen realm that both permeates and lies beyond the physical universe.  It is populated by those who have lived and died before us, and by supernatural creatures we know as angels.  In some cases, the angels in the Old Testament seem to be appearances of God (Gen. 22:15-18), but usually they are supernatural creatures sent by God.  “Angel,” in both Hebrew and Greek, means messenger, and the Bible often shows angels bearing messages to people from God (Lk. 1:26-37).  In Revelation, angels often execute the judgements of God.

They are clearly not the cute, cuddly creatures, or voluptuous figures that decorate Christmas trees and bookshelves today.  Michael is a fierce warrior., and Biblical people who saw angels were stricken with fear.  Yet, angels are often charged with caring for, and watching over us (Ps. 91:12).  Therefore, the Collect for today prays:

“O Everlasting God, who hast ordained and and constituted the services of Angels and men in a wonderful order; Mercifully grant that, as thy holy Angels always do thee service in heaven, so by thy appointment, they may succour and defend us on earth; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.” 

September 30

Jer. 50:21-46, Lk. 13
Jer. 51:1-34, 1 Cor. 15

Commentary,

Jeremiah. 51


This chapter continues the threats against Babylon.  The city will be punished for its cruelty and bloodshed against others, especially Israel (24).  Therefore, Babylon will will become heaps of rubble, as the Babylonians made Jerusalem rubble (37).  “The broad walls of Babylon shall be utterly broken, and her high gates shall be burned with fire; and the people will labour in vain, and the folk in the fire, and they shall be weary” (58).