I hope you’re enjoying the tour through Jeremiah. There are so many excellent stories and lessons to draw for everyday life from these readings. For example…
Sin will have its inevitable consequence
Perhaps Zedekiah had hoped that the LORD might change his mind or perhaps even that God would at least allow Zedekiah himself to escape Nebuchadnezzar. But God’s plan for Zedekiah was different: Jeremiah 34:3 “‘You will not escape from his hand, for you will surely be captured and delivered into his hand; and you will see the king of Babylon eye to eye, and he will speak with you face to face, and you will go to Babylon.’”’” At least Zedekiah, because the LORD saw something good in him, would die in peace and would be mourned — unlike some Israelite kings who had died in disgrace. I think the lesson here is that some consequences for sin are inevitable, but if we submit to the LORD, we could be shown mercy even in our punishment.
Covenants are not to be broken (34:8ff)
Not only had God commanded that every Sabbath year (every seventh year) in the original covenant (the Mosaic covenant — Exodus 21:2), but in view of Israel’s disobedience to this command, some had made a new covenant with God (possibly in hopes of avoiding the prophesied punishment spoken of by Jeremiah and others). However, after initially releasing their slaves, they began reclaiming their former slaves! God wasn’t pleased and pretty incredulous that they had “cut the calf in two and passed between its parts” — but now were reneging on their covenant promise. Jeremiah 34:18 “‘I will give the men who have transgressed My covenant, who have not fulfilled the words of the covenant which they made before Me, when they cut the calf in two and passed between its parts–” It’s a fairly gruesome explanation so I’ll keep it brief, but covenants were often enacted by literally cutting sacrificial animals in half and then walking between their parts. The idea behind the blood ritual was to say, as it were, “If I should go back on this promise, may I also be butchered like these animals.” Ecclesiastes 5:1-7 warns everyone, “Ecclesiastes 5:1 “Guard your steps as you go to the house of God and draw near to listen rather than to offer the sacrifice of fools; for they do not know they are doing evil.”
A lesson from a tee-totaler tribe
The Rechabites were a family within the family of the Kenites. The Kenites weren’t really Israelites, even though they had come into the Promised Land with the Israelites. They were technically Midianites, the family of Moses’ wife. They had been nomads, being from Midian anyway, and Jonadab the son of Rechab, their ancestor from Moses’ time, had charged his family to not adopt the ways of the Israelites and become farmers. They were never to drink wine, they were never to till a field, they were never build or live in a house. But God, for a visual aid sort of lesson, told Jeremiah to invite the Rechabites to a wine tasting party, as it were. The Rechabites refused and explained why they had to refuse. Why, God then asked, if the Rechabites have observed their father’s rules (traditions) for so many centuries, why couldn’t Judah have observed God’s commands? Jeremiah 35:16 “‘Indeed, the sons of Jonadab the son of Rechab have observed the command of their father which he commanded them, but this people has not listened to Me.’”’” And it remains a good question for us today, doesn’t it? We have traditions, even in America, a way of living and thinking — call it Americanism, patriotism, individualism or whatever you wish — but if you violate it, you’ll be looked at like you have three heads. So why is it so hard for us to obey God’s commands?
The indestructible nature of the Scripture
When people don’t like what God has to say, they would often like to do what Jehoiakim did — cut it up, burn it, and ignore it. The problem, however, is that God’s word is simply indestructible — it doesn’t go away so easily. In fact, it doesn’t go away at all. Jeremiah was commanded to rewrite all his previous prophecies and a few more: Jeremiah 36:32 “Then Jeremiah took another scroll and gave it to Baruch the son of Neriah, the scribe, and he wrote on it at the dictation of Jeremiah all the words of the book which Jehoiakim king of Judah had burned in the fire; and many similar words were added to them.” Closed Bibles won’t excuse us, burning it won’t exempt us, it simply won’t do to ignore it — whether it’s baptism, discipleship, love, forgiveness, our words, morality, or following God’s patterns for the church, Jehoiakim’s solution won’t do.
See you tomorrow, Lord willing.