Today’s reading: Jeremiah 23-25
Jeremiah packs a lot of rich nuggets into today’s reading. Don’t overlook these among the large load of warnings and judgments for Judah.
The King who is coming.
“The days are coming,” declares the LORD, “when I will raise up to David a righteous Branch, a King who will reign wisely and do what is just and right in the land. In his days Judah will be saved and Israel will live in safety. This is the name by which he will be called: The LORD Our Righteousness.” Jeremiah 23:5-6
Jeremiah foresees the coming Messiah, a descendant of King David, who will rule with justice and bring safety to Israel. He is Jehovah Tsidkenu, the LORD our righteousness. The prophecy of Messiah’s earthly rule and provision for Israel still awaits its fulfillment, but Jesus has already become our righteousness by paying the penalty for our sin. “He made him, who knew no sin, to become sin for us, that we might become the righteousness of God.” 2 Corinthians 5:21
Two ways to dishonor God.
Among the prophets of Samaria I saw this repulsive thing: They prophesied by Baal and led my people Israel astray. And among the prophets of Jerusalem I have seen something horrible: They commit adultery and live a lie. They strengthen the hands of evildoers, so that no one turns from his wickedness. Jeremiah 23:13-14
The idolatry of the northern kingdom of Israel was obvious. Modern Christians are more like the people of Judah. We say we follow God but then live like unbelievers. Jeremiah calls it “living a lie,” and it’s a lie that drives people away from God’s kingdom. It fuels the criticism that Christians are hypocrites. God promises to harshly punish the people who live this lie, so don’t do it!
God’s answer to the pagans.
“Am I only a God nearby,” declares the LORD, “and not a God far away? Can anyone hide in secret places so that I cannot see him?” declares the LORD. “Do not I fill heaven and earth?” declares the LORD. Jeremiah 23:23-24
God makes it plain that he is at work everywhere. The pagans believe gods are only at work locally, with different gods active in different locations. The result of God’s claim? You can’t run away from him, hide from him, or escape his judgment. On the other hand, if you need his help he’s there whenever and wherever you need him.
Distorting God’s word.
“This is what each of you keeps on saying to his friend or relative: ‘What is the LORD’s answer?’ or ‘What has the LORD spoken?’ But you must not mention ‘the oracle of the LORD’ again, because every man’s own word becomes his oracle and so you distort the words of the living God, the LORD Almighty, our God.” Jeremiah 23:35-36
God warns everyone to stop claiming that their words are God’s word. This warning is even more important today because we have God’s fully revealed word in the person of Jesus Christ and in the Bible. When someone asks, “what is the LORD’s answer?” we don’t have to guess. We just share what God has written. If we speculate or go beyond what God has written we are disobeying his command.
The 70 years of captivity.
“This whole country will become a desolate wasteland, and these nations will serve the king of Babylon seventy years. But when the seventy years are fulfilled, I will punish the king of Babylon and his nation, the land of the Babylonians, for their guilt,” declares the LORD, “and will make it desolate forever.” Jeremiah 25:11-12
Jeremiah predicted the length of the Jewish captivity before it happened. Second Chronicles 36 revealed the reason for the length: “The land enjoyed its Sabbath rests; all the time of its desolation it rested, until the seventy years were completed in fulfillment of the word of the LORD spoken by Jeremiah.” Seventy years were required to fulfill the Sabbath years that Israel did not observe during the time it resided in the Promised Land (490 years of unobserved Sabbath years). Seventy years were necessary to remove the curse on the land so that the Jews could return to it. Daniel studied Jeremiah to learn the length of the captivity as he waited in Babylon for the exile to end. When he understood that the required time had been fulfilled, he prayed effectively for the end of the captivity. God then took the concept of the 70 years and turned it into 70 weeks of years (490 years) which he revealed to Daniel as the period of time that would pass from the restoration of the temple in Jerusalem until the coming of the Messiah.
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