Saturday, September 4, 2010

Thoughts on Jeremiah

I’ve been doing a lot of thinking lately on a topic that I hope to develop more for my own study in the weeks to come. Until then, I thought I would share a few of those thoughts and see if anyone else has any thoughts along this line.

Over the past few months I’ve been studying the book of Jeremiah in my devotions, and also reading through several books in the Old Testament. Often there is a prevailing thought that sticks out to me in these Old Testament books. That is the area of obedience to God’s commands and boundaries. Reading about the children of Israel on their trek to the promised land, I always wonder, “How could they complain and disobey the Lord when he told them so plainly what they were supposed to do?” The same idea is brought up again and again in the book of Jeremiah. Over and over the Lord, through Jeremiah, tells the people what they are to do to receive blessing from the Lord, and what will happen if they disobey. And every time they disobey, and exactly what the Lord said comes to pass. Take this example from Jeremiah 42, verses 9-17:

“And said unto them, Thus saith the LORD, the God of Israel, unto whom ye sent me to present your supplication before him;

If ye will still abide in this land, then will I build you, and not pull you down, and I will plant you, and not pluck you up: for I repent me of the evil that I have done unto you.

Be not afraid of the king of Babylon, of whom ye are afraid; be not afraid of him, saith the LORD: for I am with you to save you, and to deliver you from his hand.

And I will shew mercies unto you, that he may have mercy upon you, and cause you to return to your own land.

But if ye say, We will not dwell in this land, neither obey the voice of the LORD your God,

Saying, No; but we will go into the land of Egypt, where we shall see no war, nor hear the sound of the trumpet, nor have hunger of bread; and there will we dwell:

And now therefore hear the word of the LORD, ye remnant of Judah; Thus saith the LORD of hosts, the God of Israel; If ye wholly set your faces to enter into Egypt, and go to sojourn there;

Then it shall come to pass, that the sword, which ye feared, shall overtake you there in the land of Egypt, and the famine, whereof ye were afraid, shall follow close after you there in Egypt; and there ye shall die.

So shall it be with all the men that set their faces to go into Egypt to sojourn there; they shall die by the sword, by the famine, and by the pestilence: and none of them shall remain or escape from the evil that I will bring upon them.”

Ok, so I think you would agree with me that the command is pretty clear, the benefits of obeying are clear, and the consequences of disobedience are clear. All clear? :) So now lets drop down to Jeremiah 43:2:

“Then spake Azariah the son of Hoshaiah, and Johanan the son of Kareah, and all the proud men, saying unto Jeremiah, Thou speakest falsely: the LORD our God hath not sent thee to say, Go not into Egypt to sojourn there:" (Emphasis mine)

Yup, I’ve done this. “Lord, thats not really what you meant. Let me explain to you why I am an exception to that commandment.” Admit it, you’ve done it too. Why do we bother to try this trick? It’s obviously as old as The Book. But when we read it so clearly written down on the page, it seems to blatant and foolish to us. And guess what? They got the punishment that the Lord promised, in Jeremiah 44:3-8:

“Because of their wickedness which they have committed to provoke me to anger, in that they went to burn incense, and to serve other gods, whom they knew not, neither they, ye, nor your fathers.

Howbeit I sent unto you all my servants the prophets, rising early and sending them, saying, Oh, do not this abominable thing that I hate.

But they hearkened not, nor inclined their ear to turn from their wickedness, to burn no incense unto other gods. Wherefore my fury and mine anger was poured forth, and was kindled in the cities of Judah and in the streets of Jerusalem; and they are wasted and desolate, as at this day.

Therefore now thus saith the LORD, the God of hosts, the God of Israel; Wherefore commit ye this great evil against your souls, to cut off from you man and woman, child and suckling, out of Judah, to leave you none to remain;

In that ye provoke me unto wrath with the words of your hands, burning incense unto other gods in the land of Egypt, whither ye be gone to dwell, that ye might cut yourselves off, and that ye might be a curse and a reproach among all the nations of the earth?”

I think they got more than they bargained for. Look at verse 12:

“And I will take the remnant of Judah, that have set their faces to go into the land of Egypt to sojourn there, and they shall all be consumed, and fall in the land of Egypt; they shall even be consumed by the sword and by the famine: they shall die, from the least even unto the greatest, by the sword and by the famine: and they shall be an execration, and an astonishment, and a curse, and a reproach.”

I know that was a really long example, but I wanted you to see clearly what I noticed. This is only one example out of the many, many examples through the book of Jeremiah alone.

So after all that, what are my thoughts?? I’m glad you asked.

So often we look at examples like this and think, “What was their problem?? It is so obvious what they were supposed to do, and they didn’t do it!” What morons!”

But before you treat them too severely, look at these verses:

Ephesians 6:1-3

“Children, obey your parents in the Lord: for this is right.

Honor thy father and mother; which is the first commandment with promise;

That it may be well with thee, and thou mayest live long on the earth.”

You knew those verses without me having to even quote them, didn’t you? These are some of the first verses we all learned, and we know exactly what they mean. But do we always obey our parents?? (Even as adults??? Oh ouch...) It is so obvious, and we know exactly what we are supposed to do and what the consequences and blessings are!

How about this one, Proverbs 3:5-6:

“Trust in the LORD with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding.

In all thy ways acknowledge him, and he shall direct thy paths.”

Another one we all know well. And again, here is a direct command with a promise. All we have to do is trust in the Lord, and not trust ourselves, and He promises to direct our steps. Simple! So if we were to not do it, do we view ourselves as morons?? Cause I’m pretty sure that sometimes I fail miserably, in case you were wondering.

Here’s one more example. Watch out, this is a long one. I Thessalonians 5:16:

“Rejoice evermore.”

But do we? No, we complain, just like the Israelites did in the wilderness. Even though they knew the promises of God, they knew that He would provide for their needs, they knew that nothing would happen that He wouldn’t know about. But they complained. Just like we do. And they rebelled against His commandments and their God-appointed leadership. Just like we do.

So how do we view ourselves in these examples? I don’t know about you, but I don’t feel so hard on the people of Jeremiah’s day any more.

I know this was a really long post, but I am hoping that some of you will have some feedback for me, more things for me to take into consideration here. Because I am searching for answers to the serious problem I have of a sin nature just like you are, and just like the people of Jeremiah’s day were.

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