In Judah’s history there was a place you didn’t go. A place that hadn’t known God – Egypt. When they were in trouble someone floated the idea of going back there. The nation was dying. Judah had been set up to reach people but it became a nation of a dead religion. The warnings are over and the tragic end has come. The city is in ashes and the people are scattered.
Gedaliah seems like a good guy. He says they should listen to Jeremiah. The poor start to thrive. They begin to bless each other. Ishmael is friends with Baalis. He’s being manipulated by this foreign king. Johanan is about action. He invites Ishmael round for dinner. Ishmael stabs him and kills him. Johanan chases Ishmael down. The enemy has escaped. Things have got worse.
Johanan is cross with Jeremiah’s advice to not go to Egypt. They worshipped the Egyptian gods there. God’s promise turned out to be true.
Poor doesn’t mean right
Not having much doesn’t make you good. Poor people can be destructive too. This kingdom almost becomes a place of blessing but it’s ruined. You could bring the whole thing down. Not having much is no protection from being sinful. Our church could easily be ruined by those who don’t have much who complain and want more. The stress of not having much will bring out what’s in your heart.
No deals with Egypt just because Gedaliah is gone
You can often retreat back into pride when something goes wrong. God uses the picture of being married in the Bible. The call to Egypt in marriage is so strong. Don’t do a deal that says live for yourself.
New heart required
Jeremiah has had a message about the Holy Spirit. He’s been saying there’s a time ahead when something will change. We’d see in our hearts that what God says is right. We need to pray for God’s heart changing work so that we know him and he writes what’s right in the middle of us.
God has been revealing his plan to the people of Israel. They’ve been saying they’d rather use what God’s given them for themselves. Jeremiah has been a consistent warning to them. The king thought people won’t like him if he obeyed Jeremiah. We go to God’s words for comfort but pull away when they say something we don’t like.
Ebed-melech was an outcast and was messed up. The people tortured Jeremiah. Ebed-melech is the only person who treats Jeremiah like a human being.
Outcast: God says you are our teacher
He was treated as less than human. He had organs removed. We need to understand how much this person had been treated for someone else’s pleasure. He was the first person to take God’s word seriously. How could he have thought that he’d be the one we read about and admire? God turns the rejected into our teachers. Jesus was the most unfairly rejected person in the whole of history but he’s also the most influential teacher.
Insider: learn from the outcast
People often feel unsettled in a church because there’s people who aren’t like them. It is the outsider that challenges the king. The discomfort he felt was good.
Christian: God’s story doesn’t end with ashes
Jeremiah is told that God has recognised Ebed-melech’s faithfulness and saved him. God is always in the darkest moments. There is always hope even when everything is falling apart because God is still doing something. He is organising the world so you can call out to him if you want to.
Jeremiah is difficult to be around.
Scene 1: Jeremiah speaks, Baruch writes
God’s interest is different. He wants to forgive, to restore, to put right all the things we’ve done wrong. He became a person, a perfect word, a brilliant communication to us. If you’re not a Christian God’s anger burns against you. He wants to confront you so you can be put right with him. We get it wrong. His end is relational.
Scene 2: Jeremiah’s silent moment
Baruch has decided to become friends with the person who has no friends. He’s seemingly insignificant. Baruch reads the words in the temple. There is a moment of hope. An official takes the word to the king’s house. Doing religious things is the best way to hide from God’s words. Appear to be good.
Scene 3: In the throne room
It sounds hopeful. The king will hear the words from the scroll. It was cut after four lines. People with power always hate what God has to say. He says we’ve all got it wrong. He says only Jesus can save us. People with power hate the idea they’re accountable to God. Generally in our country we hate what God says. We burn the Bible by getting rid of the bits we don’t like. You will affect everyone around you if you ignore God. Seek forgiveness.
Scene 4: Jeremiah speaks, Baruch writes
Adapt what you are like to his in changeable words rather than try to pretend they’re not true. Don’t ignore him. Trust Jesus. Ask for forgiveness. You can only damage yourself and everyone else by ignoring it.
Does the Bible support slavery? NT slavery is nothing like human trafficking. If you’re a slave you should work hard to enable your master to become a Christian. The people of the OT did have a way of paying off debt. Imagine the seven year party. Imagine how that society would talk about the person who ruled over them. Jerusalem is supposed to be a light to the nations. There’s a cost. The rich people had to let go of their debts.
God is making a new Jerusalem and you’re invited. Keep obeying him even when it’s hard. How can we know that Jerusalem is coming? We ruin God’s generosity in a world where there’s plenty of money to keep everyone safe. Can we really be remade?
We need to be loved by a righteous ruler (v14-16)
Your success does not love you. If you’re giving your life to something does that thing love you? We should ask whether what we are serving wants what’s good for us. The people of Jerusalem found themselves trapped. God promises a new ruler. He will always do what is right. He will take charge and rule us so that we become what we should be. He dies, taking our sin, to give us righteousness. He loves to give you the best things he has. Start being loved and ruled by Jesus.
We need someone permanent in the gap (v17-22)
If you think you need to do something to get to God you’ll get stuck. Jesus died and came back to life to always stand before God so you can get the help whenever you want to. He brings all God’s people with him. Jesus will carry you to God. We need to stop offering stuff and accept that everything is offered by him.
Why another day? (v23-26)
As long as day and night are going, God’s creating more descendants and has compassion. What marks them out is their faith in God’s promises. In that new Jerusalem there is lots of room. There are more to be added to that countless number of family members. This day dawned to give you a chance. It may be grim in your obedience but it’s not a wasted day.
So there is hope. No one is too lost no matter what they’ve done. There is a reason. You are already as loved as you need to be. The invasion of the heavenly city has started. You can build for that. That is why we have today at all.
Often the truth about the world is that doing right isn’t rewarded. Jeremiah kept doing what was right and kept getting into trouble. We rejoin the story with him in a prison cell. Jerusalem had become the worst type of place. They were using God’s name to make the stuff they were doing look okay. God tells them to stop or he’ll bring in a nation to crush the city.
A long obedience
The people had a law to follow. God is replacing the law with him coming into your life. He’s offering to renew you and remake you into someone different. Every time you do the right thing you’ll discover the next right thing to do. God is constantly pushing you if you really know him. The more you invite God into your life the more opportunities you’ll find. If you know what that next step is, everything you need is here in what God says to Jeremiah.
An enormous promise
God is the one who sits over everything. What God says is at the centre of everything. Its beauty will move you. God is saying something very clearly. He says if you call to him, he’ll answer you. The answer might not be a lightning bolt but the God who shows himself in the person of Jesus will show you the next step and answer the feeblest of prayers. God will show you it’s not pointless.
Life comes out of death
God says he’ll bring healing and life and cleanse of them of their sin. The people will be restored to displaying God’s glory again. They did return to Jerusalem 70 years later and the situation wasn’t much better. It wasn’t quite fulfilled. Bank on this promise. He will make us safe and full of joy. Jesus’ cry still goes out across the world. The next step of putting to death your old self is not a waste. The new Jerusalem is coming.
Jeremiah gets passively aggressive with God. He’s been saying there’s no point in fighting. The king doesn’t like that. He put Jeremiah under house arrest. He was told to buy a field. He asks for very specific guidance. Jeremiah gets one thing right – God is acting in the world so that we know him. He gets a lot of things wrong.
It’s worse than you think (v26-35)
If God really can do anything why doesn’t he just change the system? The problem is that this view does a disservice to God. God says he is a personal God who offers himself to people. Therefore he will give the city away but it’ll be much worse than Jeremiah described. Total destruction. He’ll remove the city from his sight. As God reaches out, we say we don’t want him. We don’t want God interfering with our choices. We think it’s not that bad. God speaks and says it’s worse than you think.
It’s impossibly better than you think (v36-41)
God’s terrifying judgement is right. That also means he can personally commit to bringing them back. God is not just a system. When he forgives and offers a way back, he is personally delighted. Jesus does it perfectly for us. He invites us. He offers a chance for us to be adopted into his family. God is going to do something impossibly better than you think because God really is who he says he is.
It’s not always stupid to look stupid
It’s not stupid to bank on God’s promises being true. If God says he is going to do something with all his heart and soul you’re not stupid to rely on that.
A terrifying world on the surface… (v4-7)
The more you do the more you see the people who look strong screaming with inward pain. God says it’s still a world in exile. The word ‘dismayed’ can mean knocked over. We want to feel safe. God says to not be afraid. Don’t make decisions about how you engage the world out of fear.
is a promise being kept (v8-11, 18-24)
We’re always longing for it to be more like home. God says one day he will bring us home. There will be freedom from the slavery of doing what you know is wrong. Stop making decisions out of fear. The fear of not feeling at home dictates how we live. Accept the fact that it’s not your home. God will bring you home but you need to stop trying to make home here. Don’t fight to make home here, letting that fear dictate your life. The day is coming. The day of safety and freedom and home. We can begin to live with confidence now.
The sun is already rising on this dark world. The anger of the Lord will accomplish his purposes. A day will come when you understand that. That day has come. It’s here. As Jesus died on the cross in our place, his anger accomplished his purposes. We keep on living in trust of the dawn that has already begun. God’s promise is seen in v11.
Don’t live out of fear
God will bring you home. He is with you and he will save you. Stop deciding out of fear. We need to accept that we’re not at home. At the cost of our own discomfort, seek the good of those around us now, and in every way we can.
The Bible describes God as a fountain of living water. He is an everlasting relationship of love. The universe is an expression of this life giving eternal love. God says come and drink the water. We are made by him to be included in this relationship. We all reject God. We make a world of brokenness trying to find what God offers us elsewhere.
We swap the glory of God for something untrue and unsatisfying and empty. We are supposed to have a very special job. We are made by God uniquely to display what he is like. People tend to create a world where some people are less worthy than others. We take the good stuff God gives us and abuse it. God’s judgment is that he gives us what we ask for. He lets us do it. It’s a sign that God is angry. We live in a world where we’re told to decide our own destiny. We want that free choice without the limit of a God who shows us what he’s like. We crash into each other.
This seems like a just punishment. We’re bad at choosing. If people choose to get rid of God he lets them go. The heart is deceitful. Trying to use feelings as guidance isn’t a good idea. The people Jeremiah was talking to sensed there was a problem.
Jesus makes us an offer. He wants to welcome you back into the closest relationship of belonging to him. He’s never far away. God says he will forgive your sins and remember them no more. Jeremiah is in the end a book about Jesus. This invite is for anyone.
Sometimes these chapters are called the book of hope. There is anticipation because of what God will do. God promises to restore the people to the land (30) and then promises to restore the people to himself (31).
It begins with an instruction to Jeremiah to write a book. It seems to have a particular purpose, to instruct the people when they come back from exile. A time is coming when they will understand.
God will restore the people to the land
God will break the yolk of enemy oppressors. God promises to put them under David their king. The southern tribe is transported by Babylon in 586. God promises that his people will live under David. That wasn’t fulfilled when people returned to the land. The Persians were overthrown by the Greeks. God will be with his people and save them out of a distant place. God will restore their health. He’ll restore their honour.
God promises to restore the people to himself
He’s a God of eternal love. Even when they sin, he chases them not so much as to judge them but to discipline them. At the end of the exile God says to Israel she’s his virgin daughter. This is a way of God saying he’ll restore the years the locusts have eaten. The theme is recurring. Ephraim was the largest sector of the northern tribes. As the shepherd of the flock he ransoms them from those stronger than they are. God’s scattered weak people are brought back. As the God of compassion he takes pity on the desperate state of the people. There is a sense in which the exile continues.
What God will do is so new, so novel, that it will scarcely be believable. He ends their weariness and exhaustion. He chooses to build them up and create a stable society. He writes a new covenant (v29-37). Sin always has social ramifications. The old covenant was a tribal representative system. When these people sinned judgement fell on the whole people. The nature of the new covenant is that it isn’t a tribal representative system.
God will put his law on their hearts and minds. He will be their God and they will be his people. What’s new? The same words are used but the meaning gets ratcheted up. Jesus inaugurates the new covenant by his death. The abolition of mediating teachers. They’ll all know him. There’s no king but Jesus. There’s no special priestly class. All of God’s people speak prophetic words. He’ll forgive their sins and remember them no more.
There’ll be no cancer in the resurrection. There’ll be no more sin or entailments of sin. This is the fruit of the new covenant.
There are six prayers scattered through these chapters. Jeremiah feels crushed between the rebellion of his people and the justice of God.
Jeremiah’s complaint and God’s response
His complaint is seen in 12:1-4. Why do the wicked prosper? How long will the country of Judah suffer? God’s response comes in three parts. You haven’t seen anything yet. God isn’t explaining why the wicked prosper. More judgement is coming. Jeremiah’s sense of being abandoned correlates with God’s sense of being abandoned. This is a pattern not infrequent in scripture. There is a whisper of hope. The end is not yet.
Hope and despair
Smugness of arrogance is distasteful (ch.13). Jeremiah is told to bury the garment and then dig it up. God explains the message. His covenant people are pictured like a posh garment. Now they’ve become hopeless and useless. God doesn’t need our praise. He doesn’t need our adoration. Before anything was created, God was perfectly content. The Bible insists that God doesn’t need us. Why does he demand this exclusiveness? That’s for our good. He doesn’t need to be praised as he’s sufficient. He knows full well that we need him. Unless we acknowledge him as Lord, we are the ones who are blind. God bound the people of Israel to himself.
All of the wine bottles have made the leaders drunk. The sheer pride and arrogance. Jeremiah weeps.
God’s ‘no’ to the prayers of his people
Drought. Prayer. God’s ‘no’. God is weeping for the judgment that he’s carrying out on his people.
God looks for total repentance. A culture can go so far that eventually God is determined to bring it down. Even when Jeremiah intercedes God says it’s too late. It’s the inevitable result. Christian leaders are never mere professionals. A preacher who works hard on a sermon mustn’t view it as art to be admired. A sermon, if it’s doing its work is re-speaking God’s word. The purpose of the sermon is not to draw attention to the sermon. It’s an act of re-revelation.
While we are called to stand up for the gospel in our day, it must be with tears. Weep with a sense of betrayal that God himself feels as we are betrayed. You cannot win Muslims if you don’t love them. You cannot win adulterers if you don’t love them.
Hope keeps peeking through. This is part of a larger pattern in the OT. There is the threat of judgement on one hand and on the other, a promise of blessing and forgiveness. Categorising God as different in the OT compared to the NT is wrong. Who is it that speaks so often of hell? Most of us are more afraid of sword and famine than we are of hell. The only place where we will be secure from the wrath of God is at the cross.